Review Title: Rocket 750 vs Paradigm Studio 100 -- The Shootout!
I must admit that it was with no small ammount of trepidation that I ordered a relatively new and undocumented model of speaker from an internet based retailer in another country. I won't even discuss how I felt about shelling out thousands of dollars in advance for speakers which I had never even heard! The glowing opinions on this board, and more importantly, av123's trial policy were the only things that convinced me to even give the rockets a try. From the very moment I sent the money wire to av123 I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just blown 400 bucks on shipping for no good reason. Even if they were excellent speakers, what were the odds that I would actually prefer them to something I could find locally? There are some very high quality Canadian built speakers available for prices which have been drawing yankees across the boarder to do their audio shopping for quite some time after all! Before they even arrived on my doorstep I resolved to conduct at least one good A/B comparison against a worthy Canadian competitor just to give me a good idea of their real value. Then I would decide whether or not to keep them.
When the rockets did finally arrive I must admit that I was impressed with their cosmetic appearance. They do look even better in the flesh than their pictures would suggest! But how did they sound? Within moments of feeding them their first signal I knew these speakers were by far the best speakers ever to see the inside of my home. That isn't saying much however, since my prior system was a JVC mini-system that hasn't been able to play a CD since 1997! (I have been using a PC for a source for quite a long time.) Even so, I had been listening to systems in high end stores quite intensively for the previous month or two so I immediately knew the rockets were in the running. I wouldn't know how they stacked up until I got something else right beside them to compare.
Last week I got a friend with a *large* van to help me move some Paradigm Studio 100's (v2) on loan from a local dealer to my place. The paradigms cost about the same as the rockets for those of us in the great northern land of igloo's and flying hockey pucks. In fact, once you figure in shipping to Canada, duties, and the required UPS extortion fees the rockets are a tiny bit more expensive! Despite their similar price tags the paradigms really are a totally different animal than the rockets. First of all, they outweigh the rockets by a factor of almost 2 to 1! They are significanly bigger as well. While the rockets are slim and curved the Paradigms possess a much more blocky monolithic bulk. Side by side they look like Marilynn Monroe and Bubba Smith. Again I can't stress how large, black, and square the paradigms are. I had the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey running through my head the whole time. I almost picked up the avm20's rather bulky remote and brandished it around the room like a club, destroying furniture and electronics alike! (Okay, I didn't really. So I lie now and then. What of it?)
Amp: Bryston 9BST
Preamp: Anthem AVM20
Source: A rather cheap sony DVD player via toslink. My HTPC and projector are pretty far from silent at the moment, so we decided to use a standalone player as a temporary test platform for stereo music.
Cables: Balanced Cardas Crosslink interconnects. El-Cheapo oxygen free 12 gauge speaker cable from Revy.
The source and perhaps the cables are the achilles heel of my system from a gear viewpoint. I will be improving the source later, but for this test we felt the sony DVD player was more than enough to show what these two sets of speakers are capable of. The differences between the 12-gauge cheapo wire and something more exotic should be subtle enough (if it exists) not to impact the results greatly. I am anal retentive so I will be ABX testing some better cables out another day.
In honor of the eighties we set the rockets (A) and paradigms (B) up in an AB BA pattern. We tried moving the paradigms around as much as we could to improve their soundstage. While the paradigms were not as widely spaced as the rockets, the rockets had to deal with two small skyscrapers separating them. We knew this was not the ideal test setup, but nobody was willing to trot the paradigms in and out whenever we switched speakers. (Note to self: Make friends with some Austrian bodybuilders before the next speaker shootout)
While the avm20 is capable of some pretty good A/B switching between zones on analogue inputs, the digital inputs are unfortunately tied to the main path. Even the ability to mute the main path without muting all other zones which the digital inputs have been copied to would have made on-the-fly switching possible. Muting the main path mutes everything however, so we were forced to swap interconnects whenever we wanted to switch speakers. XLR plugs are a bit easier to swap than RCA plugs fortunately.
One final note and then we can get on to the testing... Speaker break-in: Some believe in it, some don't. The paradigms were the stores actual demo units which I had heard hooked up in the store. They had some miles on them. By the time we conducted the listening test the rockets had about 3 weeks of heavy use on them.
Many people look for very different qualities in home theatre and music speakers. Some even go as far as to suggest that good performance in both HT and stereo are mutually exclusive! It is certainly true that different genres of music will sound better or worse on different speakers. My musical tastes are somewhat eclectic. I listen to everything from classical to metal to jazz to peruvian folk with healthy smatterings of electronica and movie soundtracks thrown in. Needless to say, a versatile speaker is a priority for me. If a speaker can handle all my musical tastes at least somewhat credibly then they will have no problem with movies.
The test consisted of about 4 hours of music listening. We would listen to all or part of a track once, switch speakers, and then repeat it. We revisited a few tracks that showed marked differences between the two sets of speakers. There were four of us present but we made no serious attempt at a double blind test. Speakers of this caliber do sound very similar simply because they come so close to the origional source, however, there were enough differences to easily tell them apart when compared side by side. There just wasn't any good reason to conduct a double blind preference test in this situation. My friends each brought some of their own CD's so that everyone got a chance to listen to material they were familiar with. Later on in the evening our discussions in between tracks ranged a bit and I found myself searching my CD racks upstairs for long forgotten bands that were popping up in conversation.
Okay. Enough foreplay! How do the Paradigms and Rockets compare?
Bass: The Paradigms produce prodigously pounding bass that can only be described as generous. The Rockets also produce excellent bass, but they don't go as low as the paradigms. They are substantially tighter and faster though. The Paradigms definately sounded boomier even when both sets of speakers were crossed over with a sub. Overall I prefered the rockets both with and without a sub, but i think many would prefer the Paradigms' bass, especially without a sub. I think it depends a lot on what you are used to and what you listen to.
Midrange: The Rockets and Paradigms were neck and neck here. The verdict kept flipping back and forth. I would call it a tie.
The Highs: This was the big upset of the evening. The paradigms got flat out smoked here! Those Vifa XT Tweeters have gobs of clean detail that the paradigms just couldn't match. The paradigms don't sound bad mind you, they sound awesome in fact. However, we found ourselves picking out a lot more detail with the rockets than with the paradigms. Certain instruments in some recordings such as cymbols or horns sounded like disembodied notes on the paradigms. Listening to them was like listening to synth. The musical note was conveyed but the source was an abstract concept. The Rockets on the other hand resolved real instruments that felt like they were present in the room rather than unreal musical notes divorced from their origins. ;
** Just let me stress something here. I'm not saying the highs on the paradigms sounded bad. They didn't. It was only that side by side the Rockets sounded better. It would have been much harder to notice the differences if you had to hear them set up in different hifi stores with even just a couple hours between auditions.
Soundstage and Imaging: Our setup wasn't exactly ideal. I believe it was compromising what both speakers are capable of. For what it's worth, in our tests the rockets definately produced a much broader soundstage. The imaging seemed pretty good for both speakers. The way we had them set up the rockets were doing better but given the huge differences placement can make to imaging i don't think its a good idea to make a serious comparison here.
Detail: In general we found the rockets to be more revealing than the paradigms. There was a ton of stuff that we could hear on the Rockets clearly that we never really noticed on the Paradigms. This is probably a direct result of the vifa tweeters.
Case studies: Here are some of the tracks that helped us reach the above conclusions the most.
Seal - Kiss from a Rose: This is a wonderfully dynamic and richly detailed piece with smooth, silky vocals. In general we prefered the rockets. The highs and midrange just seemed more detailed, full, and musical. There is a horn of some sort (I am not an experienced orchestral musician. Perhaps someone else could identify it... an oboe maybe?) that comes in near the beginning and is present in the background throughout the track. On the Paradigms this didn't really feel synthetic, but I don't think I could have identified it as any particular real instrument. On the rockets it was a completely different instrument! Namely, one that i *have* heard before and could pick out from an orchestra. (but one that i still can't name sadly! ) The lows on the paradigm seemed a little boomy to me on this track.
Ministry - One more Fix: This track is heavily distorted at the source level. It sets a punishing beat from the word go and plays hard and heavy the whole way through. This is the sort of song where fidelity to the origional source is difficult to judge at best. None of the voices or instruments would sound remotely the same live and unaltered by electronics. We unanimously preferred the Paradigms here. The extra boom to the bass just added that much more kick to the track. (Edit: Had this as Pantera before. Oops.)
Basil Poledouris - Conan the Barbarian Soundtrack - Mountain of Power: Conan was a mediocre movie with one of the alltime greatest classical movie scores ever recorded. Don't get me wrong, I love this movie. It is mostly because of Poledouris's music however! This track has deep pounding drums, brazen horns, melodic chimes and crashing cymbols throughout. On this track it sounded almost like someone had thrown a towel over the tweeters on the Paradigms. The cymbols were not identifiable as real instruments. They sounded more like they were being produced by a drum machine when compared to the rockets. On the Rockets, the instrument was there before us, almost real enough to reach out and touch! Without a sub the Paradigms might have had the advantage with some of the low drum notes, but with a sub it was the rockets across the board. I actually preferred the tight bass of the rockets even without the sub for this track.
Tom Waits - Better off without a Wife: Tom Waits has a distinctive, gritty voice that he imbues with incrediable passion. The piano, other instruments and crowd in this recording all fade into the background when he sings. This was a live recording so there was some hiss and crowd noise. The rockets resolved a lot more detail in the high piano notes and I swear that I heard stuff coming from the crowd like glasses clinking etc. that just wasn't there on the paradigms. However, Tom's voice was coming over the rock solid Paradigm middle woofers. Tom sounded just a tiny smidgeon better on the Paradigms than on the rockets despite the fact that everything else in the recording was sounding better on the rockets! Waits voice is so pivotal to this track that we had to give the paradigms the victory by a hair's breadth. A very close call.
Other artists we listened to: Morcheeba, Sarah Mclauchlin, Soundgarden, Saint Germaine, Faith no More, Danzig, Bad Religion, Huevos Rancheros, Bach, Ravel, and many more that I've already forgotten.
Overall, we all preferred the rockets. There were a few tracks where the Paradigms barely edged out the Rockets, but the Rockets won the majority of the time and on many tracks beat the Paradigms by a wide margin. We all agreed that both Paradigms and the Rockets are simply fantastic speakers. I would be a happy man with either of them! For any canucks out there these two speakers are definately worth AB'ing against each other in your own homes. they cost about the same and are very similar performers. For americans paying american prices I think the rockets have a much clearer lead for most people.
P.S. There has been some noise about studio 100 v3's coming out sometime in the near future. If Paradigm tightens up the bass a bit and puts a better tweeter in they could be very interesting!
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Review Title: New Rocket Loudspeakers by Onyx Review after ten days
Model: RS 750
Model Description: RS 750 is a narrow floorstander that has a Vifa ring-radiator tweeter (XT-25?) and four small aluminum 5.25 inch woofers. They weigh about 55 lbs. each and stand about 4.5 feet tall (estimated). Speakers come with real rosewood veneer, brass spikes and heavy-duty binding posts.
Manufacturer Website: Rocketloudspeakers.com
Before I begin my official �review� of the Onyx speakers, I must make a confession. Actually I have to make TWO confessions. First, I am a skeptic by nature (as many of you know!). I was �sure� these speakers were poorly constructed, inferiorly designed, equipped with cheap drivers and only made to look like expensive speakers (they kind of reminded me of some expensive Sonus models). My �logic� was based on the assumption that no company could put so much into the looks of a speaker and make it sound good for so little money.
When Mark Schifter (founder of AV123, Audio Alchemy, Perpetual Technologies, etc.) heard about my on-line comments, he issued a challenge. He offered to let me listen to a set with only one caveat: I had to write about my listening impressions, good and bad.
Here is where my Second confession comes in. I was totally ready to slam this guy and his speakers! The �mini� review was already half written in my mind before I received the speakers. My wife can attest to the things I was ready to say. I was CERTAIN that no speakers could look and sound this great for these prices. I even suggested to my wife that the pictures on the website were probably touched up, before I actually saw a pair in person. I could not have been more wrong...
Fast-forward to August 4th
Large truck pulls up to the house and burly man delivers two large packages. I was taken back by the size and weight of the boxes. The speakers come double-boxed and very well packed. They are also �sheathed� in a cotton stocking type material. Luckily my father was at the house to help me unpack the speakers. He is a retired carpenter who is an expert woodworker. I pictured the two of us laughing at the poor craftsmanship of these speakers! Nothing could prepare us for what we were about to see when we removed the cotton sheaths. The speakers were wrapped in a rosewood veneer that was absolutely stunning. It literally rivals the rosewood on my Martin D-28 Guitar.
The following describes the specifics of the speakers and what happened next:
Foreplay Preamp (fully modified with active load circuitry, stepped attenuators, Doc�s magnet wire, and NOS 50�s era Tung Sol NOS tubes), Alpha Core Goertz MI1 bi-wire cables, Goertz Micro purl IC�s, DIYcable superlatives, QDS-15 CDP (nOrh was sold out of CD-1!), Marantz SR 7000, Stratos amp (non-cap upgrade), 24� Atacama stands filled with sand and buckshot.
I didn�t want anyone complaining about not giving them sufficient �break-in� time so I played Sade, Lover�s Rock on repeat mode of my CD player. It has a lot of bass to loosen up those little aluminum woofers. After about 5 hours, I sat down and gave them a listen. I was very impressed with the overall tonal balance, the high frequency response (I am very familiar with this tweeter and have never heard it sound bad) and, probably most of all, the bass. I forgot how much I absolutely love powerful yet tight bass. The bass was the best I have ever heard in my home. I immediately started thinking about how much I could get for my subwoofer on the used market. To make sure I wasn�t just hearing things, I called my mother, father and wife into the room to listen to some Diana Krall music. They all loved the music these speakers were �making�.
The next day I invited my audio enthusiast neighbor to take a listen. When he saw the speakers, he thought I finally went over the edge and shelled out $10,000 for some exotic speakers. Two and a half hours and two or three bottles of wine later, we were stunned (and a little buzzed) with the beautiful music coming from these speakers. The soundstage is HUGE, the highs were detailed but never harsh and you could actually FEEL the bass as much as hear it. Demo CD�s included: Sade: Lover�s Rock, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss, Van Morrison, New Order, Paul Oakenfold, Kate Wolf, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Johnson, Ryan Adams, Nora Jones (wow!) and my favorite Sara Vaughn.
A couple things really stood out with these speakers. They were not sensitive to placement, they never sounded compressed or harsh, and they were able to play VERY loud and clear. My ears gave out before the speakers did. Those little aluminum woofs can move a lot of air and create bass that you FEEL, not just hear. This was perhaps the biggest surprise.
We decided to do a side by side comparison of the Rockets, nOrh 6.9 SM, and my personal Ellis 1801�s. I would not call this a �shoot-out� because each speaker was so different. I have recapped some of my primary observations of each model. Please note, after hearing all three side by side, I can understand how it would be possible for a person to choose any of these models. They are all well designed and solidly constructed. I took some pictures and will try to post them also. The general observations are as follows:
�Ellis 1801: Very smooth midrange and overall tonal balance. Great off axis response. Still the best midrange I have ever heard. Beautiful craftsmanship and design. They were noticeably less efficient than the other speakers, however my system has more than enough power to make them �sing� beautiful music. Did not sound as good (without the Stratus) with my Marantz SR7200 receiver. (The positives and negatives are detailed in my Ellis 1801�s review.)
�nOrh SM 6.9�s: Same tweet as the Rockets but voiced very differently. The nOrh�s were decidedly more �foreward� in their presentation and lacked the deep bass of the Rockets. They were slightly brighter but not in a bad way. The soundstage was considerably smaller than the Rockets�. Along with the Rockets, the nOrh�s played very loud with no signs of distortion. I really like the sound of drums on these speakers (probably something to do with the cabinet design.)
�Rocket RS 750: Very versatile speaker that is equally at home in a two channel system with separate components as it is with an HT setup that uses a receiver. The Rockets sounded very good with my Marantz receiver. Not quite the same authoritative bass that it has with the 150 WPC separate amp, but still very good. If I only had a receiver, this would be my speaker of choice, hands-down. Also, best Home Theater speaker of the group. Very dynamic, great dispersion on the tweeter, and very small, narrow footprint. These would look really nice aside a big screen TV!
�Very easy to place with large �sweet spot�. Excellent vertical and horizontal dispersion.
�Rockets really have excellent build quality. Cabinets are solid as rock and drivers are all very high quality. They pass the ol� knuckle on the side test.
�Tight, powerful bass. Patent pending design that allows these little woofs to crank out very impressive levels of bass and still sound very tight. I have never heard a reasonably priced speaker with a large woofer put out this type of bass. Certainly nothing within a mile of the RS 750�s $1,399 SRP.
�Tweeter, Vifa XT-25. I am very impressed by this tweeter. It is very smooth (especially in this particular design) and plays very loud without signs of compression.
�Play Loud. Ask my next-door neighbor�
�Looks: My wife absolutely loves the looks of these speakers. It seems strange writing these words because she usually does not notice the looks of my audio stuff as much as she notices the cost�
�Work well with Receivers: You don�t need a big amp to get big sound from these speakers. However, if you have a powerful amp, they should sound even �bigger�.
�Cost: I know of no better, more versatile floorstanding speaker for less money.
�Company. Mark Schifter is a real gentleman who will do just about anything to take care of his customers. Over the last week I have gotten to know him enough to know that I trust him and that I will be an AV123.com customer. He gained my respect by NEVER trying to influence my opinion of these speakers. His only instruction was to write what I heard, nothing else. I was shocked because if I owned a company, I don�t think I would trust the opinion of a stranger with one of my new models!
�Break-in: I thought this was a load of BS, but they actually sounded much better after about 20 hours of bass heavy music.
�Side-to-side �Tipsy�: No this is not me after a couple bottles of red! They are very narrow and deep, and although they come with spikes and are heavy, they are a bit wobbly to the touch when pushed on their sides. My carpet is pretty thick and probably requires longer spikes. Doesn�t effect performance at all and cannot be made to wobble by cranking music to near-deafening levels (I tried for scientific purposes). Mark says they are developing some �outrigger� type supports. I think Sonus Faber uses these types of supports.
�I don�t own them�yet!
I am certain there are several people on HD who will be happy to hear that I admit I was wrong about these speakers. Okay, my original assumption could not have been more wrong. The Rockets are beautiful, well made, great sounding and are an absolute steal at the asking price of $1,400 bucks.
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Review Title: Confessions of a Rocket Beta Tester
As an avid Diva owner, the author of the Unofficial Diva FAQ, and one of the Beta-testers for the newly announced Rocket Loudspeakers by ONIX, I thought I would post my thoughts on the future of Diva and my impressions of the new Rocket line.
When Mark Schifter first contacted me about being a Rocket Beta tester, I immediately became very defensive about my beloved Diva speakers. Why was he introducing a new speaker line? Hadn�t Diva been well received? Weren�t Diva sales booming? In what ways would the Rockets be different or (gasp) *better* than Diva?
Mark has alluded to some of this in his announcement post, but what I learned over the course of various conversations and email exchanges is that the task of managing the day-to-day operations of Diva sales and post-manufacture quality control has apparently been much more difficult than I had envisioned. It has become my opinion that AV123 had a much more involved role in the Diva line than simply as a reseller for Swans. It is also my guess�my unsubstantiated hypothesis�that Swans was extremely hard to work with. When you factor in the threatened trade dress lawsuits, it is no wonder that Mark and his partners wanted to be able to have the complete control that only a proprietary speaker line would give them. Additionally, it would allow them to improve upon all of the things that have made Diva such a popular brand.
Several weeks before my Beta Rockets arrived, Mark shared some of his design goals with the Beta testers, among which were improved drivers and cabinets and the assistance of Dick Pierce to design the crossovers and spec the drivers from the ground up. I was impressed by what the Rockets �sounded like� on paper, but wondered how this would translate to �real� sound and how Mark and his partners would achieve their goals without creating a speaker line that would be prohibitively expensive to the same market that had embraced Diva.
When the speakers finally arrived (man-oh-man, the anticipation was fierce!), I was immediately floored by how good they looked. From what I knew of the work Dick Pierce had done with the Rockets, I figured they would sound better but I wasn�t expecting to see any improvements over Diva in the cosmetics (wrong). I liked the darker color better and the cabinets are extremely sleek. What�s more, the fit and finish is obviously made to a higher cosmetic standard of quality. I was expecting the RS750 tower speakers to be at least as big as the Diva 6.1 (wrong!); I was expecting the RSC200 center channel to be only marginally larger than the Diva C3 (wrong!) and I wasn�t expecting with my limited experience in A-B speaker testing to be able to immediately hear a marked improvement (wrong again!!). To my ears, the Rockets sound phenomenal.
The one area in which I thought I might be disappointed was the bass extension on the 750 compared to the Diva 6.1. On paper it appears not to extend quite as deep (although the Diva extension spec is likely an �in-room� number and my understanding is that the RS750 spec is an anechoic number), but to me the 750 sounds much better in the bass. It�s just tighter and cleaner. I can�t really describe it but it also sounds like the 750 goes lower, though I doubt an SPL meter would say so. My fellow Beta testers have referred to this phenomenon as �slam� and I can�t think of a better word right now.
So, anyway, I underestimated the Rockets to be sure� But what impressed me most was how Mark, Dick, et al continued to meticulously scrutinize and tweak things even after that first Beta shipment arrived. Their attention to detail and near-obsessive adjustments in the weeks and months prior to the �official launch� made it obvious to me that Mark views the Rockets as *much* more than simply a Diva replacement.
Part of me can understand why some Diva owners have expressed angst at the release of a new speaker line. Knowing what I now know, if I were not a Rocket Beta tester I would now be in the unenviable position of having to try to convince my wife that I need a new set of speakers. But companies must continue to improve their products if they wish to stay competitive (SVS comes to mind) and AV123 is no exception. Although current Diva owners can still feel very good about what they have purchased, I�m optimistic that AV123 will provide some assistance or incentive to those who wish to upgrade.
Kudos to Mark and the rest of the Rocket team.
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Review Title: Maggie 1.6 vs. Rocket 250s: and the big loser is...
i was able to take out a Magneplanar package (MG1.6. MGCC1 center) from the dealer i saw them at earlier this week.
i also have a 1/2 sized rocket package consisting of 250s for the mains and the 200 center.
i was planning on sending the Rockets back either monday or tuesday, no matter what i found out, as i'm going to have to push the upgrade off a couple of months.
unfortunately this will mean losing the shipping both ways, but i really need the time to get my finances more in line, and give a little more thought to just what it is i want in this upgrade.
i have only listend to the Maggies a couple of hours, with various cds and dvds.
this was all done pretty much in the dark (no video was on).
i have severe limitations in my HT.
the maggies are fairly obtrusive and while i fiddled with placement for about an hour, there really isn't a whole lot of choices in this area, especially in regards to HT where the maggies could easily end up obscuring the screen.
they sounded very good anyway.
on good sources, they sounded excellant as a matter of fact, very close to what i heard in the store.
the dealer also gave me an NAD reciever to drive them with.
First thing i did was unhook the Onkyo 600 and connected the NAD to the Rockets to get an idea of how much better i wanted the maggies to sound (to justify the cost of going 'planar).
well, what i heard surprised the hell out of me.
next to hearing the maggies in the store, the sound of the humble 250 rockets was the best i'd heard in all my speaker auditions in the last few weeks.
this was a dramatic difference over the way the Rockets had sounded with the Onkyo.
i had suspected that the Onkyo was a harsher sounding reciever and here was the proof.
Not only were the Rockets much cleaner sounding, the Dynamic range was obviously increased, the bass seemed tighter, imaging was clearer, and there was just a more fuller, more rounded sense to the individual sounds.
in short, the sound was what i was expecting to have to step up to the 550 or 750's to hear.
i only played a couple of tracks on the rockets as i was eager to get the maggies hooked up.
the sound of the planars was generally very good to excellant, but i definitely need more time with both to see/hear.
i fully expected the maggies, from what i heard in the store, to smoke these little rockets.
in fact, i would have felt foolish posting a thread on a 'shoot-out' between them.
i also didn't mean for this to sound like another rah-rah rocket post.
The maggies are more than likely worth every penny.
i'm sure they would sound even more incredible with an even better power source.
everthing i've read so far tells me they rise to the occasion of the upstream components.
the thing is though, so it seems do the Rockets.
and at about 1/3 the cost.
yeah, im still a little surprised.
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Review Title: A Present From the Truck Driver
Review Title: Sorry�Could not resist
The rockets actually arrived earlier, but after setting up had to go out of town. First time I have had a chance to post. (Will post pictures later this week)
Received: 2 RS750, RSC200, 2 RSS300, 2 VTF-3
The packaging was as described for the Diva�s. Please note I have never owned or heard the Diva�s. (Was considering � never worked out � ordered Rockets!)
While the packaging was incredible�the speakers themselves are just beautiful aesthetically. They are finished in an almost mahogany satin finish on rosewood veneer. The end caps are beautifully polished�similar to a baked piano finish. Every speaker was perfectly finished without a single mar. They all matched. As the speakers look so good with their grills off � we are now having arguments on this! Okay � looks are great, the center is HUGE. We built a center �box� about 1ft over the TV and it just fits! The towers are magnificent, they have a very sleek look, one could almost say �sexy�. The surrounds are 5 sided, with a center panel of rosewood, the two speaker sides and then two more rosewood sides. They are also very heavy, although there is a mounting bracket and we were able to mount them in the drywall, carefully! Did I mention the subs? I skipped my workouts, lifting those subs and speakers are all you need to do!
The looks are great�now onto the sound�.Some caveats..Am not an �audiophile expert�, however have a strong musical background and am able to discern good, bad, great and extraordinary sound! The room that the system is in is a large rectangle (18*20) opening to another rectangle of similar size. Floors are all hard and the ceilings are 12ft. This is a very �hard� room and sounds tends to bounce and echo. While I auditioned many speakers the following are the ones that made it into the room as well as being auditioned in the audio shops. M & K 150�sand matching center/surrounds, Boston Acoustics VRM90�s � matching surrounds/center, Paradigm Studio 100�s same match up. (Used a Velodyne Sub/and Silver)
Musically the 750�s are very articulate. Used in pure direct (off a denon 5803) instrumentation was crisp, natural and from the lowest volumes to reference level was smooth with every sound being distinct. (Music used was Vollenweider, Streisand, Pocahontas Orchestration, Andrew Lloyd Weber � as this was used on all the auditions as I know the music well). The tonal quality was true and immaculate to the recording. After speakers were calibrated, the soundstage was full, somewhat forward and enveloping. The sweet spot for this sound stage is huge and accommodated almost all the seating; peripheral seating had very little localization effect. Vocals were clear, again natural and non-fatiguing. I define bright as somewhat shrill and high ranged (fatiguing). The rockets appear to be warm, although not overly so. Was concerned about the sound bouncing through the rooms. With a little speaker movement, achievement of �theatrical soundstage� level was done. When I finally stopped fiddling, moving speakers etc and listened to the whole orchestration, there were tears in my eyes. The sound was wonderful. I do believe that the mid range is not quite as full�I�m sure that is due to break-in and is more noticeable because the bass (yea!!) and extension everywhere else is well done. In comparison on Music, the Boston Acoustics had much the same qualities, however tended to be slightly boomy, did not have the same bass extension and the sound stage was smaller. From a music standpoint, there simply was no comparison to the M & K's, the best way to articulate that would be, natural to almost a digital quality. Very hard on the room. The Studio�s were close and in fact, at this time felt the mid range was better. This was particularly noticeable in piano pieces. Played with some of the other modes etc, 5.1 stereo, dts and the sound was just incredible. Those rear surrounds are some of the best musically I have heard. Prefer 2 channels for most music.
From a HT perspective� used the Red Violin, StarWars (because we love the Pod Race scenes!), Pearl Harbor and Jurassic Park. All were dvd�s we had seen too many times to mention, especially Star Wars! I need to mention the subs here, forgot to mention above how beautifully they mated with the rockets, was stunned at the musicality of them and simply LOVE my subs�nothing I have heard has come close! Okay�back to HT�obviously love bass � look at my selections!!! The rockets were wonderful musically � but they really shine in HT. Now y�all are going to pick me apart and say I didn�t like them musically, I cried for Pete�s sake, just that for HT they are superb! Left the BA�s in the dust, no more need said, Paradigms were a weak second cousin, I would say a close tie with the M & K's, with the M & K�s getting the slight edge in non musical movies. The rear surrounds are stunning in their clarity and ability to replicate a theater experience of many speakers. It�s hard to believe there are only 2. The center is crisp and images well. The sound is so enveloping, it is difficult if not impossible to localize any of the speakers. During the Pod race scenes, you literally felt as if they were going right around the room and you were there�okay a bit of a stretch, but had it been the Daytona 500, you would have felt as if you were there! In scene 41, during the Darth Maul fight, there is sub vocalization I have never heard before. On the rockets, it was as if I never had watched/listened to the whole movie before. Even the M & K�s were not comparable at this level of clarity. While Pearl has lots of boom, noticed on many systems that it was often difficult to hear the dialogue over the war � no problem with the rockets. The red violin was simply great. Now I have to go get all the movies I�ve rented and seen and watch them again!!
Overall, I am a Rockets Fan! They are great speakers, and AV123 deserves much credit, not just for the products but also for their customer service. Steve, Sean and Mark have been helpful beyond any of my expectations and that this is coupled with an outstanding product makes me wish they sold more than audio equipment! I apologize for the long read, but wanted to give some impressions on these out standing speakers.
Thanks � Therese
Systems Used: 2 RS750, RSC200, 2 RSS300, 2 VTF-3, Denon 5803, Panny RP91, Sonance 1230, Onix Cable/Interconnects. HTS5600
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Review Title: Rocket Review
This is a preliminary report on my first week with the Rockets. They�re still settling in, I think. I have on hand a pair of 750�s, a pair of RSS300�s for the rear, and the RSC200. The level of fit and finish that everyone raves about is no lie. The book matched veneers, the smoothness of the wood, and the fit and finish of the individual components is amazing, and not just �for the price�. I could not imagine better quality woodworking at any cost.
The individual drivers also exude quality, and that Vifa tweeter is a sight to behold. Now, �fit and finish� only goes so far. For me, sound is what it�s all about. If the beauty is only skin deep, then it won�t satisfy this audiophile. So how do they sound?
Initially I was a little (ok, a lot) disappointed. The sound was rather harsh and lacking in body; to the point that I thought there was no way these would be salvageable. Those who have read my posts know that I am not a believer in �break in� per se. I�ve always believed (encouraged by reading Dick Pierce�s posts over the years) that the ears break in more than the speakers. Since I had my M&K; S-150/250 system as a reference, it was unlikely that my ears would break in too much. In discussion with the guys at AV123 (and Dick) it was determined that my room was rather live (it is) and that I needed to position the speakers so they weren�t �seeing� the hard wood floor at the point of first reflection.
To accommodate this situation, I needed to do some minor room re-arranging/speaker repositioning. The Rockets were originally placed about 2 feet from the rear wall and 2 feet from a wool rug that is on the oak hardwood floor. By pulling out the speakers another foot and moving the rug a foot closer to the Rockets, I was able to �dial-in� the sound. The highs now were in better balance with the rest of the frequencies: they maintained sparkle but were now more approachable; and the overtones of instruments, oboe and flute for instance, sounded live, while the instruments� texture (the midrange) was full bodied and accurate. I�m talking about two channel here not home theater, which is what I listen to the most. Moving down the scale to the low end, the bass the 750�s produce is superb: tight, tuneful, deep, and �big�, more than enough for the music I listen to. But here�s the best part: if you want to add a subwoofer (typically a bit harder with a ported main with good extension), the 750�s mate seamlessly. In switching from full range to the 750�s with sub the only difference I heard was increased extension -- which works very well for organ music, techno, etc. And of course, output capability down low is also increased with a good sub.
Imaging is also superb, the sound taking on a nice 3-dimensionality that is beguiling, while the sweet spot, as has been mentioned by others is BIG. No head in the vice needed to appreciate these speakers. Efficiency is a little lower than my reference, I�d estimate around 88db, so a good 100 watts drives them quite nicely.
Moving on to home theater, the 5 speakers work very well together. The center is very clear with dialogue intelligibility excellent. Timbre match with the 750�s is very good --not as good as the M&K;�s which use the same speakers for all 3 fronts (thus timbre match, is essentially perfect) but as good as I�ve heard using different speakers for the fronts and center.
The surrounds are what AV123 calls adaptive-dipoles, but I find they work more like direct radiators. Surround effects are pin-point precise -- not as �diffuse� as a true dipole, but they never call attention to themselves as some direct radiators can. Maybe this is the benefit of the adaptive-dipole.
Overall, the home theater experience is Movie Theater like, and sonic blockbusters like T2 and The Fast and the Furious come through in all their glory, particularly when the system is mated to a good subwoofer (or two).
I�ll have more to say in a bit, but I must say Mark was right � this system competes with systems costing two or even three times their modest cost. I urge anyone who is in the market for a 5-channel system to have a listen to the Rockets.
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Review Title: Rocket Review
Okay, this is waht I have to say, stay away from big companies like M&K;, B&W;, Dynaudio (Don't get me wrong, nothing, NOTHING, beats their Master speakers but they are 75k a piece I think). I noticed you were considering the Nautilus 800 series, they are some great speakers, but they are not the best for the money. If you are considering somethingn of such quality, I would recommend the Onix Rocket Loudspeakers (http://www.rocketloudspeakers.com/) these things are amazing, and their crossovers are to die for.
Now, I am going to go ahead and assume since you were looking at the top of the line speakers, that you want a top of the line setup, so I am gonna set you up with my little home dream system.
Preamp/Proc: Outlaw Audio 950 (It may not be shipping currently, but you cannot beat it for the money, just wait a little while)
Front Channel Amplifier: Klipsch Aragon Palladium 1K Monoblock 2-Channel Amplifier (HELL YES BABY!)
Center, Surround, and RS Amp: Outlaw Audio 755
Front Speakers: Rocket RS750s
Center: Rocket RSC200
Surrounds: Rocket RSS300s
Rear Surrounds: RS550s
Front and Center: Onix Thunder
All other speakers: Onix Sp-200
Now, you might be saying, "Damn, thats a lot of stuff!". Or, "DAYUM!" This stuff is simply put as amazing. The sound quality of those speakers is nearly 99% of the Nautilus line, at a much lower cost. The Preamp is simply to die for, they cannot produce enough for the demand. The Preamp has a Cirrus Logic 7-channel surround processor (Which produces ungodly sound), and has just about any other audio setting you could ask for (From DTS Neo 6 to Pro Logic 2). That subwoofer is amazing, you could compare it to the popular Sunfire subs, but when I demoed the subs, I thought Sunfire distorted way too much at higher levels (And it did not take the power too well), so I lean towards the VTF3. This is not a cheap audio system, and I am well aware you will be paying nearly 2k for a Pioneer Elite DVD player, but thats life. If you cannot afford this system, save up, you bought yourself a plasma screen, so I figure you have a nice budget. If this system empties too much cash, take a look at Axiom Loudspeaker (http://www.axiomaudio.com). They tend to be a little over bright for my tastes (Considering I like the horn tweeters Klipsch makes, that fact surprised me), and I am not, repeat NOT, a fan of Axiom's subs, but they are okay.
As for what my other contemporaries have said in this thead, what they say is true, and this is simply another option. The only thing I can say is, for the love of GOD, DO NOT BUY BOSE! BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD! Bose couldn't reproduce the sound of its own speakers exploding. If you have any Bose speakers laying around, I sudgest you take them, get some standard zipcord speaker wire, and wire em up. Then, stick the other end of the zipcord into a power socket. Those Jewel Cube speakers have gotten the best distance of any speaker I have done this too (Those little hemp paper speakers get damned good distance). I have blown everything from Yamaha's to some crappy Definitives (Don't buy definitives either, good sound, way over-priced). Either case, look at this speaker system as a project, and the second its not fun anymore, don't work on it for awhile. Audio was meant to be fun, if its not fun, there is no point in it.
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