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5.1 Speaker Systems That Don't Break the Bank: Wrap-Up
September, 2002

Brian Weatherhead

 

Set 1: Atlantic Technology System 170

Set 2: Canton Movie MX-10

Set 3: Klipsch Quintet

Set 4: Polk Audio RM7200

Set 5: PSB Alpha 5.1

Set 6: RBH Compact Theater

Set 7: Velodyne Deco System

I got a chance to test a lot of systems over the past few months. Each system was given a week of general use, then measurement, then more listening. Here is my tally sheet. Please note that every system here did a great job. You couldn't go wrong with any of them.

Best Dressed:

I don't want to cop out, but it's a tie between the Polk and the PSB. The black piano finish on the Polk is almost unheard of at this price point. The light wood grain finish on the PSBs is one of the nicest I've seen, especially at this price point.

Best Form:

The Velodyne Decos are certainly going to get the most attention. They styling is simply . . . different. At first I was a little put off, but I really have grown to like it. Everyone who saw them commented on how cool they look.

Best Sound:

To me the PSB were the best sounding speakers here. Now, they didn't have the lowest THD, but measurements aren't everything. The speakers are much larger than some here, so if the PSBs are too big for you , I would choose the RBHs or Polks. 

Tech Specs:

After all the computer crunching this is where the chip fell:

Manufacturer

Size Ranking 

THD @ 90 dB - 2"

THD @ 110 dB - 1 Foot

Frequency Response 200 Hz+

Velodyne Deco

4

7

2

5

Atlantic Technology 170

6

2

6

4

Canton Movie MX-10

~1~

5

7

3

Klipsch Quintet

2

3

~1~

6

PSB Alpha

7

6

3

~1~

RBH Compact Theater

3

~1~

5

7

Polk RM7200

5

4

4

2


110 dB Torture Test

Ok, so no one really listens to their movies at 80 dB right? While listening to a movie, I placed an SPL meter at the speaker location, and recorded the maximum dB at the speaker (6"). It was right around 113 dB. Considering a 6 dB drop for 3 feet, that's a 12 dB drop for 6 feet and a 24 dB drop at 12 feet, so it's not as loud as you think (however, room gain plays a factor at the listening position). Even though putting out a single sine wave is much more stressful than the same loudness for the complete spectrum, I decided to see what these speakers could do full bore. I tested them all with 1 kHz sine waves, 110 dB, at 1 foot distance from the speaker. You will notice how well the Klipsch did here. The horn speaker is reknown for volume, and the Klipsch easily reached 110 dB.

Manufacturer

THD @110dB/ 1ft

110 dB Reached?

Velodyne Deco

1.52 %

Yes

Atlantic Technology 172

4.16%

Yes

Canton Movie MX

5.4 %

No (102 dB max)

Klipsch Quintet

0.798 %

Yes

PSB Alpha

1.94 %

Yes

RBH Compact Theater

3.02 %

Yes

Polk RM7200

2.67 %

Yes

Average

2.79%

 

As you can see, THD changes drastically with decibels. At about 3% THD, you can really notice the ringing in the adjacent harmonics. You can see now the advantage the Klipsch has with the horn loaded tweeter. This is a good demonstration of the difference between larger speakers (towers) and your average bookshelf speaker. The average THD at 110 dB was 2.79%.

This is one of the reasons why reading off the frequency response from the package isn't the end all. Listen to the speakers at the volume that you plan on listening to them. Size does make a difference.

Enjoy, now maybe I can have the guest room back?


- Brian Weatherhead -

Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Speaker Primer

Misunderstood 0.1 LFE Channel

Nature of Equipment Reviews

A Big Dig into Bass Reflex

What we Hear

Big Bass in Small Places

High Fidelity

Equalizers

Accuracy, Distortion, and the Audiophile

Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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