A few weeks ago, I was hanging out in my bedroom, reading and listening to some music — probably solo Keith Jarrett or early Weather Report. And I marveled, as usual, at these remarkable and dirt-cheap speakers that I’ve been listening to for some years — thanks to HP (not the sauce). It occurred to me to write something about them.
Let me describe the set-up and how I use it first.
In my main system, two rooms away, I’ve got a networked Mac Mini running Roon, and I have the Roon “app” on my telephone. When I select the bedroom on my phone, Roon streams music to a Sonos “Connect”, and from there to a Sprout (a giant-killer if ever there was one).
I generally leave the Sprout volume turned up halfway, and control whatever source I’m using to get to it — television, or radio via a Sonos plug-in, or Roon. (I’ve begun to use the Bluetooth position for streaming Brian Eno and Peter Chilver’s iPhone application, Bloom.)
That’s it for electronics: Sonos and Sprout, two little boxes. The modern world.
And then my speakers, which Harry Pearson gave three and a half stars to, in recognition of their musicality, and despite they’re being extremely inexpensive: Sound Dynamics 300ti. It’s almost easier to describe the few things they don’t do right.
They won’t go very low, like not real bass — my kind, anyway — but they go plenty deep enough. Annie Stela’s “Carry It All”, with me playing a Guild Starfire II bass through a Telefunken V-72 and a Versatone amp, has everything on them that the recording of the song has on my big speakers. But, reaching waaaay into the past, Jon Hassell’s “Tikal”, from City: Works of Fiction, has a bit of buildup in the bass — that is, it’s there, but it doesn’t go on out to sub-30 Hz like I’m used to. It sounds as if it’s bunching up a bit an octave up.
And I can imagine these speakers might sound a little bit improved with one of those ribbon super-tweeters sitting on top. But what wouldn’t?
There might be a little bit of a dip in the upper-mids, like the BBC dip that Paul McG. recently talked about. Hi-hats sound ever-so-slightly recessed on certain records — but that’s ever so slightly. You won’t hear it with Ringo and the Fabs. Apparently, speakers that do that, that upper-mid dip, sound very musical.
But other than that, I think HP steered me right. For a pair of almost 20-year-old, $600 speakers, they’ve performed consistently and well. I bought them as pair of monitors for my home-studio-that-used-to-be, mounted them on some very heavy M&K stands, and used them that way for a number of years, when they were retired to my bedroom.
They throw a pretty good stage too, especially as the way they’re positioned in my bedroom isn’t too great for imaging. And when someone needs proof that you can get sound comparable to my main system for a WHOLE LOT less money, I bring them in here.
I can imagine that now the function that they fill might be filled by some ultra-reasonably-priced ELACs, so if I had to replace these, that’s where I’d look. But 20 years ago, these were the ones to beat,