Mini review of Budget Speakers


Bronze Member
Username: Ca_convert


Post Number: 78
Registered: Jan-05
My findings of a search for a pair of speakers for a 2 channel system based around the following system:

Vinyl: AR EB101 / Linn K9
CD: NAD C542
Tape: Sony TC-KE400S
Amp: NAD C352

I recently upgraded the amplifier from an ancient but loved NAD 3130, and a Sherwood CD5010R (was what hi fi player of the year in 1993...enough said). The original speakers were a pair of AR 18BX's that had a touch of Martin Colloms hand in them (reknowned UK hi fi journo).
The 18BX's shed their surrounds about 3 yrs ago...enter stage left a pair of B&W DM303's. I bought them after demoing them against KEF Cresta 3's, and AE109's aswell as some KEF standmounter of the day (Coda 3?? who cares..:-))

So, having upped the ante on the amp and cdp front, time to perhaps change the speakers, you know how this virus spreads.
I have spent last 48 hours auditioning several pairs of speakers, here are the conditions and hardware:

Average furnished listening room 15ft x 12ft
Speakers on Atacama SE6 toed in slightly
NAD C352
NAD 542
All speakers bi-wired

I listened in a fairly informal indded even chaotic manner to following discs:
Keb Mo - Slow Down (its HDCD encoded which is interetsing)
Simply Red - Stars
Pearl Jam - Ten
Norah Jones - the first one whatever its called
AC/DC - Back In Black

Speakers auditioned:

1. Control sample - B&W DM303
I already have these, so to set my calibration of the room. These babies really sing, and rock like hell. They have a great budget compromise in that the bass is deep, yet very well damped so that unruly amps dont lose it. Yet you can really drive it hard and it thumps along with real slam. The midrange is quite forward, but also well damped which gives it a warm sound. Upper mids and treble are forward which gives a real lively feel to the music. Overall, the excellent damping, and well matched bass port tuning lends a real sense of scale and size to the sound. So far so good.

First up, pair of B&W DM602 S3, same system and stands.
Immediately, the bottom end was much deeper, and musical. The impact was as great, but somehow you could feel the bass player just hanging onot to the note when he was, which you could miss with the 303's. There is evidently a much deeper response as expected, but there is a less damped sound, which if the amp has less control could run riot, but the 602's are easy to drive, and the NAD is fine with them even at obscene levels. Midrange is as inviting as the 303's but clearer, with better detail. There is a slight sense of reverb compared to the 303's, maybe because of the less (artificially) damped sound of the 602's.
The tweeter is the same driver as the 303, although in this cabinet it has a slightly harder presentation, but the tonal balance is spot on for thie price level. You can easily follow the crash cymbal decay on Keb Mo's Slow Down with ease. I really warmed to the 602's since they are a larger sounding version of their smaller brothers.

Nest up, the Dynaudio Audience 42's

Smaller than the 303's, they possesed a very stron bass for ther size, with a great sense of pitch. Not a massive leap over the 303's just better. The midrange and top end however are a step up from the 303's, with a sense of dynamics and clarity that was reall involving. A match for the 602's in this area, and a sweeter top end than the latter.
Rega R3...stunning speakers for the price. I havent got the patience/time/ability to write what I heard in those 15 minutes, suffice to say they were a step up from the 602' and the 42's in a very obvikous way. Suddenly the mid top end came alive with a real sense of dynamics. The way a hi hat sibilance was conveyed was much more convincing, it was loud and bright very much in your face as the real thing is, but yet was not painful, just made you sit up and think wow who is playing the drum kit.. £450 was beyond my budget and also possibly the amp, though they would easily stand the next upgrade.

Next up a pair of AE Aegis Evo 3's
Read good reports on these (some in here), and they are widley available for £250 which is at least £100 less than their RSP. I auditioned the 602's first since it was a different shop using the Rotel 02 amp and cdp, which sounds as I expected, very nice. Normalised to the 602's, I listened to the Evo3's expecting fireworks, and was disappointed. They sounded much more closed in, boxy even. The bass was quite ill defined and even boomy, a real peak at around 2-300Hz at aguess which slowed everything down. Simply Red's version of "Air That You Breathe" which starts off with a bass synth was completely lost, alhtough the compressed recording of the vocals was well conveyed. Pearl Jam's Alive sounded thin, which the 602's managed to open right out. "Black" and "Given to Fly" were really lost on the evo 3's: the scale and complexity seemed to disappear into mush.

I eventually bought the 602's for £270 which is a veritable bargain. They are a useful improvement over the 303's, and compare in my opinion to the more expensive dynaudio 42's. Bass heads will love the 602's , the level and depth of LF is bordering on silly for the price, the only drawback is that they are not a pretty speaker; grilles off or on. If that bothers you then you are doomed to either B&O or a divorce.

Happy Listening


Bronze Member
Username: Ca_convert


Post Number: 83
Registered: Jan-05
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