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HTD Level THREE Review (Bookshelf Speaker)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the HTD Level 3 bookshelf speaker. I got talked into buying it by members due to its popularity in home theater forum. For you all's sake, it better perform! :D I don't remember what it cost me but the current price in black is US $429 from the company direct.

I must say, I am very pleased with the way they look:

HTD Level THREE Review Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.jpg


I guess I have a soft spot for white woofers. I also like the rather serious look of that tweeter.

Back panel shows a couple of screws which should make it much easier to hang this from walls for your side and rear channels:

HTD Level THREE Review Back panel bi wire Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.jpg


Screw binding posts are too close together making it a pain to tighten or loosen them.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Using computational acoustics, far-field response is computed and that is what I present. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber.

I performed over 1000 measurement which resulted in error rate of about 1%. Clean high frequency response is responsible for ease of measurement in this regard.

Reference axis is approximately the center of the tweeter. Grill was not used.

HTD Level Three Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:

HTD Level THREE Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


The only word that comes to my mind is "wow" as is "wow, that is bad!" There are so many problems here. First and foremost is the peaking tweeter response as frequencies climb. The overall response is so jagged and we have some sudden anomalies. Sensitivity is also quite low as evidenced by me having to turn up the gain to measure the speaker by some 4 to 5 dB above average speaker. For some clues as to why the response is so bad, I disconnected the rear binding posts from upper and lower halves and measured the tweeter and woofer independently:

HTD Level THREE Near Field Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


We clearly see some of the issues behind our frequency response errors. The port is letting out some nasty resonances and the tweeter response is anything but smooth and flat.

Even the impedance measurement shows us something seriously is wrong:

HTD Level THREE Impedance and Phase Response Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


One can say that getting proper frequency response is difficult for smaller companies but impedance measurements are dead simple. Whatever is going on around 260 Hz should have been found and dealt with. While on this graph, unlike many speakers, the minimum impedance is ht around 2 khz to the tune of 3.6 ohm. For bass frequencies it is above 6 ohm which is good.

Back to our "spin" information, let's look at the early and strongest reflections in a typical room:

HTD Level THREE Early Window Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


We see many of the same problems here. As noted, if you put an absorber behind your seating position (your back wall, speaker's "front wall"), it may help with the extra brightness.

Predicted in-room response smooths out some of the problems but leaves a lot:

HTD Level THREE Predicted in-room Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


There is some good news in the form of very good directivity control of the tweeter in the horizontal dimension:

HTD Level THREE Horizontal Beamm width Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


HTD Level THREE Horizontal Directivity Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


Vertically is a mess but so are many 2-way speakers:

HTD Level THREE Vertical Directivity Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


Getting proper distortion measurements is hard because the frequency response is so wild. I adjusted it for mid-range levels and got these:

HTD Level THREE THD DIstortion Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


HTD Level THREE DIstortion Measurements Bookshelf Home Theater Speaker.png


These are some of the worst distortion measurements on record but note that many of the issues are narrow peaks so audibility will not be as bad it may look.

HTD Level 3 Listening Tests
The immediate reaction was the extreme shrillness of the highs. It is over the top unless you have lost all of your high frequency hearing in which case, it sounds fine. :) This "showroom sound" can sound appealing -- for a bit at least -- so please don't write that you don't think it sounds bright. Measurements say so as do my ears. But the overall feeling of clarity that such overboosted highs present is hard to deny.

There is some cleverness in the bass response in that this speaker can play very loud without bottoming out. It simply filters out deep bass that it can't play so fits its intended usage of home theater sound with subs and such.

At times, I enjoyed listening to them despite all the flaws there. This may be due to controlled horizontal directivity.

I did not bother to develop an EQ. There are just too many issues here to deal with. Best to get a better speaker that doesn't require so many fixes.

Conclusions
Objectively the HTD Level 3 is a disaster. Clearly no measurements were performed to verify efficacy of the design. That said, while some aspects like high frequency boost are clearly audible and annoying, the rest of the response hurt the eye more than the ear. Bass tuning is clever to keep the speaker from distorting and hence allowing it to play quite loud. And there is something to that wide and controlled horizontal directivity that I can't quantify but I think contributed to sound that is not nearly as bad as measurements show.

We could look at this speaker as a puzzle given the huge number of flaws in its design but yet, not so horrible sound and try to figure out what is going on. Me? I just rather get a good speaker that doesn't make me spend this kind of effort on it. :) The designer should do more than is delivered here so my work is touch up and no more.

I can't recommend the HTD Level Three and curse all of you who made me buy it. :)

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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temps

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We need a super good speaker through as a palette cleanser after this one...
 

franspambot

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The original version of these were the first speakers I ever bought for myself when I was a senior in college, so this brings back some foggy, foggy memories. When I got my first real job a few years later I upgraded to Meadowlark Swifts, which were pleasant enough speakers. In my opinion this was a low point in terms of the history of audiophilia, when social media was taking on a recognizable form (remember friendster?) and message boards were already sites of mass psychosis with audiophile bullshit structuring it. I remember clearly buying VH Audio RCA and power cables back then. I'm still mad about this.

Anyways, I am a bit disappointed that people peer-pressured Amir into buying these. I was young, knew next to nothing about audio engineering, and bought into a lot of crap (mostly cables), yet I knew that I needed to upgrade from HTD as soon as I could! lol.

Edit: All these years I have been deeply curious as to how the Swifts measured. All I had access to was snippets of Art Dudley's review. This review made me look them up one last time and Stereophile seems to have recently added it to the site!!! And, yup, it's a mess. Art's bullshit got me again! What an era!
 
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MZKM

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This is the company’s description FYI:

The low and mid-range is reproduced by a 6.5" driver. FCD stands for Fabric, Ceramic, Doping. A lightweight fabric is used to create the cone's shape. A ceramic coating is then hand applied, heated, and hardened to give the cone its stiffness. Finally, a slightly sticky polymer coating (doping) is also hand applied that helps increase bass response and add warmth to the overall tone. Bottom line: it provides the best sounding mid-range drivers we've ever produced.

A third order, high slope crossover (18dB/18dB), seamlessly directs the highest frequencies into the Kapton ribbon tweeter. Kapton, a material invented by Dupont, has been around a while but has only recently become affordable for home audio use. Kapton is an ideal material for reproducing high frequencies because it is very strong and extremely heat resistant, even at only .01mm thick (the human hair is about .07mm in diameter). Aluminum powder is carefully layed out and "fused" directly on to the ribbon (similar to the way a printed circuit board is "etched") to create the .02mm thick "voice coil" that interacts with a pair of neodymium magnets mounted both in front, and behind, the ribbon.

The result is a tweeter that does an incredible job of reproducing the highest frequencies (up to 40 kHz) without distortion and without sounding harsh or "in your face". Dialogue in movies is extremely natural sounding and music can be enjoyed for hours without the listener experiencing any fatigue.

Cabinets are cut using computer-controlled machines and made of quality 3/4" MDF with internal bracing to minimize unwanted cabinet resonance. Unlike many of our competitors, we never cover our cabinets in cheap imitation-wood grain vinyl. Instead, our cabinets are painted black with mid-gloss lacquer or expertly covered in gorgeous real wood veneers.

As opposed to a simple port tube, our Level THREE speakers include a tuned port with a 1/12 wave internal transmission line. This allows our speakers to produce a warmer tone with more bass than other speakers of similar size.

As with all of our speakers, our Level THREE speakers include a 5-year warranty and 30-day no-risk guarantee.

First heard about them from Zeos:

I own an older gen model of the L3 (soft dome tweeter with no waveguide) and it and it’s matching center were my mains for my living room for years, they sounded fine with room correction. I now run I finish R263 & RC263 and if I had to guess I’d say dialogue is a better more intelligible, but the center was a regular MTM, so that’s be expected (I sit off-axis).
 
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Sonny1

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Wow! My expectations were low but these were worse than I imagined. After the review, I was hoping for a 0 score. Close enough!

Amir, you should send your review and measurements to this company and see if they will give you a refund. Your measurements should let them see how bad their speakers measure and perform. They should be embarrassed for selling a broken design.
 

enricoclaudio

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FrantzM

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A preference score of just .2, wow a new high in lows. A headless panther isn't enough for this. Let's get one that was run over by an F-150. thank you @amirm for knocking another fairy tale into the weeds.
+1


That's likely the Lowest low , a "record" low :D
 

anphex

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But it provides bi-wiring terminals lmao. This speaker looks to me like they weren't sure about what target group to choose. Allthough it looks like this is a design to tick as much boxes as possible. Ceramic woofer... bi wiring terminal... ribbon tweeter....
 
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