Saturday, July 6, 2013

ASoNAudiophiles - June 2013

ASoN Meeting –  June 2

Small Speaker Shootout

Proving that size doesn’t matter?


At the June meeting we decided to put some small speakers to the test. Nothing over 5” woofer, and all under $1,000.


Source was a CAL California Audio Labs CD player – one of a few to still use a parallel DAC (Philips chip) rather than the more common delta-sigma DAC’s prevalent today.

Rather than use the internal volume controls, a Lightspeed attenuator (passive pre-amp – I hate that term) was used.

Amplification was courtesy of an Elson Silva designed and built Cymer tube amplifier, putting out about 90Watts per channel.


The speakers were listened to in 2 rounds, of 3 tracks each; in the second round, we reversed the order, to try and rule out the effect of sequence, and to help comparative scoring.

Speakers tested:

Round 1: MartinLogan Motion 4, JBL Studio 530, Xavian Bonbonus, Silverline Minuet, Grover Notting CR-11

Round 2: the reverse order

Tracks included:

Dave’s Story – “Like a Rock”
Damian Rice – featring acoustic guitar, violin, female voice
Tommy Emmanual – “Amanda’s Room” – electric guitar, sax
Hilary Halin – classical violin

My overall impressions ( sitting front centre, and noting that with small speakers they may have struggled a bit depending where you were sitting – although in this respect they were often surprisingly good).

Martin Logans – consistently good – nice clean treble, surprising amount of clean fast bass
JBL’s – sounded boxy, and smewhat disjointed, as if the horn top was not well integrated with the woofer (via the crossover)
Xavian – somewhat restrained treble – even somewhat veiled
Silverline – sounded like a much bigger speaker, surprising bass, treble perhaps a bit hard and sibilant, but a lot of speaker for the size and money
Grover Notting – lacked body, almost as if there was a “hole” in the mid-range – however, these are not designed to be used on stands, but on the bridge of a mixing console in a studio. As the “Cross Reference” name implies, it is intended to allow mixing engineers to get an idea of how it sounds on “typical” home equipment.

Having said all that, expecting such small speakers to work at all satisfactorily in such a large room, which requires about ten times the power we would use at home, is a tough ask – to that end, none could be said to have failed.


 And the winner is (the envelope, please)….

Results – total score:

Round 1: ML 284, JBL 249, Xavian 234, Silverline 287, GN 239
Round 2: ML 262, JBL 242, Xavian 239, Silverline 272, GN 208
Totals---: ML 546, JBL 491, Xavian 473, Silverline 559, GN 447


1. Silverline
2. MartinLogan
3. JBL
4. Xavian
5. Grover Notting

A big Thank You to Richard Wong, George Stanscheff, Edgar Kramer, Elson Silva and all who helped organise this meeting.

Morris Swift