It looks like I'll be working out a home office, again. However, unlike the last time, the work space is going to have a proper, yet inexpensive, sound system to help keep the daily grind cheery and fun.
The trick is that I'm just a tad bit spoiled: the main audio-only stereo system in the main listening room features a pair of classic, mint-condition ESS amt 1b speakers; the HT surround system in the familty room uses Paradigm Mini-Monitor IIs; and, the bedroom HT surround system consists of the bargain-priced, but highly accurate BIC America DV62s. From system to system, the sound quality is consistently accurate, clear and airy with excellent imaging.
The electronics selections were easy. I had a spare Samsung DVD player laying around to handle CDs for audio and DVDs for video on the home office TV. I picked-up an Onkyo TX8222 stereo receiver brand new with manufacturer's warranty for a whole $150 including shipping. Although it is only rated at 50 watts RMS into 8 ohms both channels driven from 20 Hz to 20kHz, it's a real 50 watts being produced by a massive power supply and discrete circuitry cooled by die-cast heat sinks -- i.e., the traditional Onkyo build quality. And, the FM tuner is pretty good, too, even here in a fringe reception area.
So, all that was left was the selection of speakers. About a year ago a coworker was given a stereo system by an old flame, who happen to be upgrading his audiophile system. The system consisted of a Cambridge Audio CD player, a Jolida hybrid tube/solid state integrate amp, and a pair of no-name made-in-China mini-towers that looked suspiciously like many of the products in Fluance's line. Once I set-up the system and played a few demo jazz, classical and new-age CDs through it, I was impressed by the clarity, apparent accuracy and imaging of the speakers.
It was on that basis, plus my experience in auditioning a few high-end products of a similar configuration at the local golden-ear shop, that I decided to give the Fluance AV-F3s a chance. There is simply nothing like them at their price point. Plus, because they are mini-towers, I didn't have to spend another 80 to 100 bucks on stands.
They were delivered intact in their 60+-pound carton by a grunting UPS delivery man a week after ordering. Set-up was a breeze with the 5-way, gold-plated terminals that accept proper banana plugs.
Despite the otherwise conservative and sensible design and build quality, I was amused to see that the terminal block is set-up for biwiring -- in contrast with bi-amping -- as a sop to those who flunked physics and don't know any better. To quote Peter Aczel, editor of the now defunct "The Audio Critic": "Biwiring is pure voodoo. If you move one pair of speaker wires to the same terminals where the other pair is connected, absolutely nothing changes electrically." Aczel goes on to explain that the "superposition principle" of physics states that any number of voltages applied simultaneously to a linear network will result in a current which is the exact sum of the currents that would result if the voltages were applied individually. Even though biwiring does no harm, it doesn't do anything at all. Oh, and while ranting-and-raving, oxygen-free copper wire simply means that the copper doesn't have any blue-green corrosion as a result of oxidation. In other words, any crud-free copper-colored wire is indeed oxygen-free.
So, enough of this. How do the Fluance AV-F3s sound? in a 12' by 14' room positioned 6-feet apart, 6-inches from a wall and 3-feet from the nearest room corners, they are clear with well-extended highs and smooth transitions from the high-bass up to the shimmer of cymbals. Imaging is very good thanks to the rear-firing bass-reflex ports on the backs of the cabinets bouncing acoustic energy off the rear wall into the room. These impressions are based on listening to such demo-quality recordings as Jesse Cook's "Montreal", the soundtrack from "All the Pretty Horses," Loreena Mckennitt's "The Book of Secrets", DiMeola/McLaughlin/DeLucia's "Friday Night in San Francisco," and several baroque-era pieces performed by Andrew Manze and Academy of Ancient Music.
Where these speakers with their little 6.5-inch woofers exhibit a bit of weakness is in the mid- and low-bass. However, this is only a weakness if one's musical tastes run to bass-heavy material such as rock, blues, pop, CW or hip-hop. For example, on the Roomful of Blues CD, "There Goes the Neighborhood," the "I Smell Trouble" track showcases an incrediblly powerful and punchy mid-range electric bass performance. Although the performance is clearly audible, its playback lacks the strength of the ESS's 12-inch woofers and the two HT systems sub's. Is that any sort of surprise? Of course not, especially considering the woofer-size and price differentials. In fact, iit is because of these differentials that the Fluance AV-F3s shine. The ESSs and the HT systems cost far more by factors of 5x to 15x, yet, the inexpensive Fluances exhibit most of their positive performance characteristics, save the extended bass. Rather than sweat it, pop a little subwoofer into the system and the bass weakness goes away.
Overall, for anyone searching for outstanding sound quality on a tight budget, you've got to check these out. If you must have "thump," be sure to buy a sub, too.
Outstanding speakers. I was originally going to buy the SV-10s or the SM-938s, but changed my mind after realizing the frequencies produced by the 8"/10" speaker would be wasted since I have a sub.
Given enough time to break in properly, they will deliver clear mids and highs without even a hint of harshness. They sounded very muffled and muddy for the first couple of weeks, but after the first month of use, the sound blossomed and is now absolutely outstanding.
I do need to say, the sound was good but not great when these speakers were left to produce the full range of frequencies. They just don't have the ability to move enough air for the low frequencies, and tended to sound like they were getting overwhelmed/or some were simply missing. By setting the receiver's cross-over to send all frequencies below 150Hz to the sub and all others to the AV-F3s, the receiver and speaker did not have to compensate for the big power required to produce the low frequencies, and that certainly helped. I also chose to bi-wire, but frankly, have not noticed a significant difference in the sound quality when single wires were used. I am using 12 guage oxygen free wire, and that may have something to do with it.
These speakers are the absolute best available for the money. In fact, they are equal to at least the Klipsch towers costing $2200.00. I added them to my new 7.1 home theater system as the front left and right speakers. They are also coupled with the Fluance AV-SC center channel speaker. I burned them in using my Sony 7.1, 700W receiver for a few hours then watched the DVD "Independence Day" in THX sound to test them. I also have a Sony powered subwoffer and 4 6.5" infinifty ceiling mounted speakers. Well, the sound belew me away! It is nearly perfect!! The voice, high and low frequencies from the front speakers and the center speaker are excellent across the spectrum. My home became the movie theater I always wanted! It is truely a heart pounding experience to listen to these speakers while watching an action DVD. Music from the receiver if exquisitely reproduced. I highly recommend these speakers for any high end home theater system.