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Mini KEF R3 vs Philharmonic BMR review

Kachda

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#1
I was one of the lucky ones who managed to be a part of the BMR road show. Over the past week, I had the pleasure of auditoning and comparing the Philharmonic BMR against my KEF R3. Both were driven by MiniDSP SHD -> March Audio P502 amps with Spotify as source. Just in case any one has any doubts, obviously I am not paid in any form for this review and I did not 'pre-clear' this with @Dennis Murphy in anyway.

@Steve Dallas has done quite an extensive review of this speaker already which you can read here -> https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...semi-objective-review-road-show-stop-1.18828/ . I will just do a brief post with my measurements and review. Word of warning - I am not an expert tester, listener or reviewer, so please take this in any way you want to.

I tried to match levels using REW SPL meter. By luck, both speakers seem to have very similar output for a given volume. Measurements shown below were done when the REW SPL meter was around 70db using Pink Noise. I can't go much louder because I live in an apartment. The room modes are generally similar, but because I had the speakers beside each other, there will be some differences due to that. Something that stands out is that the BMR has about 10db more bass below 40Hz, this can be felt in music with lots of sub-bass, though it won't be the same impact as a subwoofer.

The main difference comes around the 800-1k range. The KEF R3 is about 5db louder in this region, though I didn't feel like this impacted anything in songs. The BMR seems to stay flat and even rise a bit between 1k-2k and then drops off similar to the R3. In songs, this came through to me as some of the female voices being a bit clearer, though it was never jarring.

r3vsbmr.png


I carried out listening tests in mono first, with left/right channel connected to the BMR/R3. I used the minidsp to route the same signal to both speakers. I also switched them around to make sure room positioning wasn't affecting my impression. Initially, when I had the BMR on my left and the R3 on the right, the R3 seemed harsher and more piercing while the BMR was bassier and more enjoyeable on tracks like Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence, Daft Punk - Get Lucky. The R3 seemed to do slightly better on live music. However, this difference completely went away when I switched their positions, which to me is an indication that the speakers are actually quite similar to my untrained ears and the differences I was hearing were due to room position.

In stereo, I can't do quick A/B test, but did my best by switching speakers and listening to the same track on both right after one another. Overall, my impression was on many songs I couldn't really make out any material difference between them. However, on songs with deep bass (Cirez D - Glow, Daft Punk - Get lucky), the extra bass from the BMR definitely made the songs more enjoyeable. The foot tap-ability co-efficient was higher on the BMRs. Other than that though, I couldn't put a big difference between them. In my small apartment with lot of hard surfaces, I couldn't really make a out a big difference between the comparatively narrower directivity of the R3 vs wider directivity of the BMR (or maybe I just don't know how to listen :) ).

Conclusion
If I was buying speakers today with a budget of <2k, and after hearing them side by side in my room, I would probably choose the BMR on pure music enjoyeability. Given that I have already invested money in my R3s though, I am not sure there is enough of a difference to justify selling the R3s at second hand price and paying full price for the BMR. It is a very tempting thought though.
 
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Kachda

Kachda

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Thread Starter #3
Hmm if the main difference is bass, have you considered getting a sub?
I am always tempted to get one, and would prefer one even with the BMR. However, given the size of my apt and layout, I would have to carry the sub on my head :)
 

amper42

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#4
The BMR will grow on you if you keep them for awhile. I discovered this when I installed my BMRs and compared them against the Canton Vento Reference 9.2 bookshelves (I had in my office for months before the BMRs arrived). At first, the elevated mid-range punch of the Canton lured me to it's sassy beat. But after I removed them and listened to the BMRs for a month with the RAAL tweeter at ear level I was surprised how much more definition the BMR added.

The BMR with its flat frequency response and amazing bass response down to 30Hz beat out the Vento Ref 9.2 in any music with hefty bass. The BMR offers a clarity and definition that I grew so accustomed to that when I put the Vento Ref 9.2 back in after a month of using the BMR -- I couldn't stand the Vento Ref 9.2 anymore. It was night and day. The BMR was so much clearer and crisp sounding, I had to go back to them immediately. It was the difference between high definition and silky mush. The BMR is definitely my drug of choice for my office.

I don't think you will really appreciate the BMRs until you spend a month with them and then try to move your old speakers back in. The difference is vast and overwhelming. I can't imagine letting the BMR go. There is something about great bass designed to be flat and crystal clear vs a sub that tries to compensate for a speaker that just doesn't have the low range. It's a cleaner, more open bass sound that matches the highs much better than a sub trying to offer a substitute for a genuinely lacking bass design.
 
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Kachda

Kachda

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Thread Starter #5
The BMR will grow on you if you keep them for awhile. I discovered this when I installed my BMRs and compared them against the Canton Vento Reference 9.2 bookshelves (I had in my office for months before the BMRs arrived). At first, the elevated mid-range punch of the Canton lured me to it's sassy beat. But after I removed them and listened to the BMRs for a month with the RAAL tweeter at ear level I was surprised how much more definition the BMR added.

The BMR with its flat frequency response and amazing bass response down to 30Hz beat out the Vento Ref 9.2 in any music with hefty bass. The BMR offers a clarity and definition that I grew so accustomed to that when I put the Vento Ref 9.2 back in after a month of using the BMR -- I couldn't stand the Vento Ref 9.2 anymore. It was night and day. The BMR was so much clearer and crisp sounding, I had to go back to them immediately. It was the difference between high definition and silky mush. The BMR is definitely my drug of choice for my office.

I don't think you will really appreciate the BMRs until you spend a month with them and then try to move your old speakers back in. The difference is vast and overwhelming. I can't imagine letting the BMR go. There is something about great bass designed to be flat and crystal clear vs a sub that tries to compensate for a speaker that just doesn't have the low range. It's a cleaner, more open bass sound that matches the highs much better than a sub trying to offer a substitute for a genuinely lacking bass design.
Thanks. I am not familiar with the Vento, but the R3 is a pretty great speaker by itself (though I do prefer the BMR slightly more because of the bass). The difference between these speakers isn't that material to me except in bass.

Unfortunately I can't keep them for very long because it needs to be sent to the next person on the tour and is scheduled to leave on Monday.
 
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Kachda

Kachda

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Thread Starter #7
The R3 puts out more energy in the 60-100 hz, did you not hear the difference?
It wasn't noticeable to me. Also, in that region the nulls are due to the positions of the speakers (can't put the R3 and the BMR in the same physical space), so I wouldn't worry too much about dips and peaks below 500Hz. However, the higher levels below 35Hz are definitely noticeable in A/B tests on bass heavy modern music.
 

Dennis Murphy

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#8
Thanks for your impressions Kachda. The R3 racked up perhaps the best set of Klippel measurements for a passive speaker, so I'm pleased that the BMR's at least held their own overall in your listening sessions. Without saying which is "right" or "wrong," I think you would have heard more of a difference in the sound staging on large orchestral music and./or in a larger room.

Let me take this opportunity to try and clear up one issue that's been bugging me in commonly posted REW measurements. Room measurements are important, but they do tend to make comparisons between two sets of speakers a bit difficult to interpret. Just looking at Amir's R3 measurements and my anechoic measurements of the BMR, it's hard to believe that there really is a 5 dB difference in the response just below 1 kHz. I do use more baffle step compensation than is invoked in a lot of other commercial speakers, and that will show up in the 1 kHz region, but the Klippel measurements show the baffle step to be almost completely absent in the R3. So my question is, posed as a non-REW owner, isn't there a way to change the gating and measurement distance on REW so that it can produce a standard 1 meter quasi-anechoic measurement above 300 Hz or so? That would make the inherent response characteristics of the speaker easier to assess, at least in terms of early arrival.
 

amper42

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#10
So my question is, posed as a non-REW owner, isn't there a way to change the gating and measurement distance on REW so that it can produce a standard 1 meter quasi-anechoic measurement above 300 Hz or so? That would make the inherent response characteristics of the speaker easier to assess, at least in terms of early arrival.
In my use of REW I have not found a way to obtain a "1 meter quasi-anechoic measurement above 300 Hz" without measuring the speaker outside. When I measure two or more speakers in the same room and compare them in REW the results illustrate the characteristics of the room more than the speaker. I see some variation in frequency response between tested speakers but the majority of the curve is room related.

While REW is great for measuring freq. response, it doesn't tell me the quality of sound. I can take a speaker that offers crisp, detailed audio reproduction and compare it in REW to another speaker that sounds dull in comparison and the resulting REW graph can look very similar.

With all the speaker reviewers posting REW graphs some might think you can just look at the REW graph to find the best speaker? While I want a good frequency response, I also need a speaker with amazing clarity and a tight sound at low listening levels as well as high. There is more to selecting a speaker than looking at a REW chart. :D
 

napilopez

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#11
So my question is, posed as a non-REW owner, isn't there a way to change the gating and measurement distance on REW so that it can produce a standard 1 meter quasi-anechoic measurement above 300 Hz or so? That would make the inherent response characteristics of the speaker easier to assess, at least in terms of early arrival.
In my use of REW I have not found a way to obtain a "1 meter quasi-anechoic measurement above 300 Hz" without measuring the speaker outside. When I measure two or more speakers in the same room and compare them in REW the results illustrate the characteristics of the room more than the speaker. I see some variation in frequency response between tested speakers but the majority of the curve is room related.

While REW is great for measuring freq. response, it doesn't tell me the quality of sound. I can take a speaker that offers crisp, detailed audio reproduction and compare it in REW to another speaker that sounds dull in comparison and the resulting REW graph can look very similar.

With all the speaker reviewers posting REW graphs some might think you can just look at the REW graph to find the best speaker? While I want a good frequency response, I also need a speaker with amazing clarity and a tight sound at low listening levels as well as high. There is more to selecting a speaker than looking at a REW chart. :D
You can absolutely gate measurements in REW! I do it several times a month.:D

@amper42 I'm not sure if you're fully aware what a quasi-anechoic measurement is? It quite literally means removing the effects of the room from the measurement, so by definition, it can't have room influence in it.:)

The actual gating part is super easy. First position the speaker as far from reflecting surface as you can(that's the hardest part). Then just do a sweep, go to the impulse tab, tap IR Windows, set the gate(right window) to a time right before the first reflection hits. This reflection is visible as a blip in the impulse response (you may need to adjust scaling in the IR tab for a clear view).


Snag_56dc037e.png


Above you can see how the impulse response is clean until a blip at 7ms -- this when the first reflection hits. So I gate the data a little before that and now anything after and including that first reflection are not 'counted' in the data.

More REW specifics in this post from Mini DSP. You can even set gating to be the default behavior in preferences. I wrote a brief overview on quasi-anechoic measurements here. (Obviously you already know this Dennis).

The only 'difficult' part is the setup: positioning the speaker as far away from any walls or large reflective walls as possible. But you should definitely be able to get a gate for 300Hz ish+ from 1 meter so long as you can keep the speaker 4-5 feet away from a wall, including the the floor and ceiling.

Not tooting my own horn or anything, but just to drive the point home of how useful and close to anechoic results some simple gating can be, here is the Spinorama I created for the D&D 8C compared to the one Erin/hardisj did with the Klippel. Creating a spin requires 70 measurements, and I did all of them completely indoors.

1614986762117.png


Here is my on-axis of the KEF LS50 Meta against the NRC's anechoic chamber used by soundstage network:

LS50 Meta On-Axis me vs soundstage.png


Here's my measurement of the Focal Chora 806 against the NRC:
1592426225049.png


And the PSB Alpha P5:
1592426366831.png


And the Q acoustics 3020i:
1592426291990.png


Here's my spin of the Neumann KH80 against one made by Klippel (as in, Klippel, the company itself):

1592419099005.png


Each of these measurements except for the LS50 meta was made 100% indoors, at a distance of 1m and about 5-6 feet of distance from the nearest reflecting surface(I did have high ceilings). The LS50 meta was done outdoors because I moved to a new place with a back yard, but I could've still done the measurement indoors if need be.

Point is, quasi-anechoic measurements are just as "room-free" as anechoic ones, they simply lack resolution in the lower frequencies, which you can get around or evaluate in other ways.
 
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Dennis Murphy

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#12
Thanks napilopez for taking the time to lay all of that out. The close tracking of the NRC measurements is very impressive. It would be very helpful to me if you could lay out exactly what your measurement setup is in terms of hardware and software so that and perhaps others could try and replicate it. I use Praxis for design work because it deals with driver offsets and locations automatically, but it's XP-based and won't run on Windows 7-10, so I can't use it in my listening room.
 

napilopez

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#13
Thanks napilopez for taking the time to lay all of that out. The close tracking of the NRC measurements is very impressive. It would be very helpful to me if you could lay out exactly what your measurement setup is in terms of hardware and software so that and perhaps others could try and replicate it. I use Praxis for design work because it deals with driver offsets and locations automatically, but it's XP-based and won't run on Windows 7-10, so I can't use it in my listening room.
I've had a an outline 'how to do quasi-anechoic measurements' guide sitting in my drafts for a while, so I'll try to get that out soon.

I'll start here posting some of it here though. In terms of hardware and software, it is supremely basic (and cheap). :)

Hardware:
  • Microphone: CSL calibrated MiniDSP Umik-1
  • Dac: Fiio K3. usually. Sometimes I just use my Surface Book's headphone out. No FR difference.
  • Amp for passives: Emotiva PA-1
  • Speaker spinotron: The speaker goes on top of a regular speaker stand (currently this one, but I've used others), which goes on top of a plastic lazy susan, which I've labeled with angles at. That all goes on the edge of a table. Basically I try to get the speaker 5+ feet off the ground. It's a little precarious at times, especially for vertical measurements, but it's worked so far.
  • A couple of cam or ratchet straps are invaluable for keeping speakers in place during vertical measurements. I use these for their minimal footprint.
Note that I've found it is best for the speaker's baffle to be flush with the stand's support pillar otherwise some small reflections seem to affect the measurements in the mids (you can see some messiness in the LS50 Meta's measurements caused by my stand, for instance). so I've modified my stand to allow that. The setup is basically what's suggested in the CTA-2034A, minus the anechoic chamber and measuring at 1m instead of 2m.

1615063475905.png



1615063503308.png


Software:
  • Windows 10
  • Whatever the latest REW beta is for taking the measurements.
  • VituixCAD, can automatically generate a spinorama upon importing the polar measurements (and will automatically mirror missing angles).
  • Jeff Bagby's Baffle Diffraction and Room Boundary simulator. VituixCAD can do this too, but I find Bagby's sheet to be easier and faster for most speakers.
Previously, I'd manually cut off the spin data below 200Hz for the off axis measurements, as I couldn't perform a nearfield sum for every single angle. But nowadays I use vituixcad to simulate what happens below 200Hz off axis, and it's usually close enough.

One important setting in the 'measure' window for REW sweeps for those using a Umik-1 or other setup without loopback:

1615064800837.png


By default REW sets t=0 at IR peak, but this causes problems once you go more than 90 degrees off axis on a speaker, (often the wall reflection will then be louder than the direct sound once you're so far off axis).

If you already know your setup well and know when you should be gating measurements

Then it's basically:
  1. Measure all the angles I want to, set gates
  2. Do the nearfield woofer and port measurements
  3. Calculate Baffle step correction in the Bagby sheet, import that into rew
  4. Sum and correct the nearfield measurements.
  5. Import the polar measurements and corrected nearfield bass measurement into VituixCAD's merger tool, make sure the corrected nearfield measurement lines up properly with the on-axis response
  6. VituixCAD autogenerates the spinorama
  7. Import back into REW to present the data as I want to.
Obviously, it's a lot easier if you only want to do one angle. I'll see if I can finish that guide soon!
 

sweetchaos

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#14
Thanks @napilopez
Consider creating a new thread about your process.
I’ve seen you mention your process in various separate posts, but never in a single thread.

As you can tell, I like to create my own threads and share with the forum.
I believe this is the best way to share information because I can continuously modify the original post, as I learn something new.
Other members can bookmark my threads and can feel confident that the information is always up to date.

As always, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with the community. :D
 

napilopez

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#15
Thanks @napilopez
Consider creating a new thread about your process.
I’ve seen you mention your process in various separate posts, but never in a single thread.

As you can tell, I like to create my own threads and share with the forum.
I believe this is the best way to share information because I can continuously modify the original post, as I learn something new.
Other members can bookmark my threads and can feel confident that the information is always up to date.

As always, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with the community. :D
Working on that right now, actually! Just a longer process and I wanted to give dennis a specific answer in the meantime =]
 
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Kachda

Kachda

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Thread Starter #17
You can absolutely gate measurements in REW! I do it several times a month.:D
Point is, quasi-anechoic measurements are just as "room-free" as anechoic ones, they simply lack resolution in the lower frequencies, which you can get around or evaluate in other ways.
Funnily enough, I was thinking of tagging @napilopez when I saw the post above saying gating cannot be done in REW :)

Unfortunately my rooms don't have enough space for me to get them 5ft away from all reflective surfaces. I need to move to a bigger place!
 
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Steve Dallas

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#18
You can absolutely gate measurements in REW! I do it several times a month.:D

@amper42 I'm not sure if you're fully aware what a quasi-anechoic measurement is? It quite literally means removing the effects of the room from the measurement, so by definition, it can't have room influence in it.:)

The actual gating part is super easy. First position the speaker as far from reflecting surface as you can(that's the hardest part). Then just do a sweep, go to the impulse tab, tap IR Windows, set the gate(right window) to a time right before the first reflection hits. This reflection is visible as a blip in the impulse response (you may need to adjust scaling in the IR tab for a clear view).


View attachment 116614

Above you can see how the impulse response is clean until a blip at 7ms -- this when the first reflection hits. So I gate the data a little before that and now anything after and including that first reflection are not 'counted' in the data.

More REW specifics in this post from Mini DSP. You can even set gating to be the default behavior in preferences. I wrote a brief overview on quasi-anechoic measurements here. (Obviously you already know this Dennis).

The only 'difficult' part is the setup: positioning the speaker as far away from any walls or large reflective walls as possible. But you should definitely be able to get a gate for 300Hz ish+ from 1 meter so long as you can keep the speaker 4-5 feet away from a wall, including the the floor and ceiling.

Not tooting my own horn or anything, but just to drive the point home of how useful and close to anechoic results some simple gating can be, here is the Spinorama I created for the D&D 8C compared to the one Erin/hardisj did with the Klippel. Creating a spin requires 70 measurements, and I did all of them completely indoors.

View attachment 116604

Here is my on-axis of the KEF LS50 Meta against the NRC's anechoic chamber used by soundstage network:

View attachment 116605

Here's my measurement of the Focal Chora 806 against the NRC:
View attachment 116607

And the PSB Alpha P5:
View attachment 116608

And the Q acoustics 3020i:
View attachment 116609

Here's my spin of the Neumann KH80 against one made by Klippel (as in, Klippel, the company itself):

View attachment 116606

Each of these measurements except for the LS50 meta was made 100% indoors, at a distance of 1m and about 5-6 feet of distance from the nearest reflecting surface(I did have high ceilings). The LS50 meta was done outdoors because I moved to a new place with a back yard, but I could've still done the measurement indoors if need be.

Point is, quasi-anechoic measurements are just as "room-free" as anechoic ones, they simply lack resolution in the lower frequencies, which you can get around or evaluate in other ways.
Thanks, @napilopez . You saved me lots of words with this post!
 

Steve Dallas

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#19
I was one of the lucky ones who managed to be a part of the BMR road show. Over the past week, I had the pleasure of auditoning and comparing the Philharmonic BMR against my KEF R3. Both were driven by MiniDSP SHD -> March Audio P502 amps with Spotify as source. Just in case any one has any doubts, obviously I am not paid in any form for this review and I did not 'pre-clear' this with @Dennis Murphy in anyway.

@Steve Dallas has done quite an extensive review of this speaker already which you can read here -> https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...semi-objective-review-road-show-stop-1.18828/ . I will just do a brief post with my measurements and review. Word of warning - I am not an expert tester, listener or reviewer, so please take this in any way you want to.

I tried to match levels using REW SPL meter. By luck, both speakers seem to have very similar output for a given volume. Measurements shown below were done when the REW SPL meter was around 70db using Pink Noise. I can't go much louder because I live in an apartment. The room modes are generally similar, but because I had the speakers beside each other, there will be some differences due to that. Something that stands out is that the BMR has about 10db more bass below 40Hz, this can be felt in music with lots of sub-bass, though it won't be the same impact as a subwoofer.

The main difference comes around the 800-1k range. The KEF R3 is about 5db louder in this region, though I didn't feel like this impacted anything in songs. The BMR seems to stay flat and even rise a bit between 1k-2k and then drops off similar to the R3. In songs, this came through to me as some of the female voices being a bit clearer, though it was never jarring.

View attachment 116514

I carried out listening tests in mono first, with left/right channel connected to the BMR/R3. I used the minidsp to route the same signal to both speakers. I also switched them around to make sure room positioning wasn't affecting my impression. Initially, when I had the BMR on my left and the R3 on the right, the R3 seemed harsher and more piercing while the BMR was bassier and more enjoyeable on tracks like Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence, Daft Punk - Get Lucky. The R3 seemed to do slightly better on live music. However, this difference completely went away when I switched their positions, which to me is an indication that the speakers are actually quite similar to my untrained ears and the differences I was hearing were due to room position.

In stereo, I can't do quick A/B test, but did my best by switching speakers and listening to the same track on both right after one another. Overall, my impression was on many songs I couldn't really make out any material difference between them. However, on songs with deep bass (Cirez D - Glow, Daft Punk - Get lucky), the extra bass from the BMR definitely made the songs more enjoyeable. The foot tap-ability co-efficient was higher on the BMRs. Other than that though, I couldn't put a big difference between them. In my small apartment with lot of hard surfaces, I couldn't really make a out a big difference between the comparatively narrower directivity of the R3 vs wider directivity of the BMR (or maybe I just don't know how to listen :) ).

Conclusion
If I was buying speakers today with a budget of <2k, and after hearing them side by side in my room, I would probably choose the BMR on pure music enjoyeability. Given that I have already invested money in my R3s though, I am not sure there is enough of a difference to justify selling the R3s at second hand price and paying full price for the BMR. It is a very tempting thought though.
Thanks for sharing. These results look a lot like mine. The room dominates under 1KHz, other than the terminal bass extension of the BMRs. Above 1KHz, you are measuring similar in-room response to mine. It's great to see such excellent correlation.

As a bit of an aside, I had a lot of speakers in rotation in my office. I sold all of them except the R3s after buying a pair of BMRs. I kept the R3s for the rock solid center image created by the narrower directivity, and their monitor flat response, but they have not been back on the stands in over 2 months. The BMRs are thoroughly enjoyable speakers, and I have not changed my mind about any of my comments in my review thread. (Except that I no longer bother to EQ them over ~1KHz for 90+% of program material, although I covered how to do that in several posts.)

So, yeah, if you already have R3s and like them, the value proposition probably doesn't work to switch, but I sure do like having both [in theory]!
 
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Kachda

Kachda

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Thread Starter #20
Thanks for sharing. These results look a lot like mine. The room dominates under 1KHz, other than the terminal bass extension of the BMRs. Above 1KHz, you are measuring similar in-room response to mine. It's great to see such excellent correlation.

As a bit of an aside, I had a lot of speakers in rotation in my office. I sold all of them except the R3s after buying a pair of BMRs. I kept the R3s for the rock solid center image created by the narrower directivity, and their monitor flat response, but they have not been back on the stands in over 2 months. The BMRs are thoroughly enjoyable speakers, and I have not changed my mind about any of my comments in my review thread. (Except that I no longer bother to EQ them over ~1KHz for 90+% of program material, although I covered how to do that in several posts.)

So, yeah, if you already have R3s and like them, the value proposition probably doesn't work to switch, but I sure do like having both [in theory]!
Yeah, I neither have the space or interest to have two pairs of speakers. The BMRs definitely are slightly more 'fun' due to the deeper bass. It really depends on the size of the wash I would have to take on the R3s, and to be honest the extra bass only becomes noticeable in a few modern tracks. At least I’m not stuck with a bad pair of speakers either way. Decisions decisions!
 
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