See what happened after a year long ordeal modifying this speaker.
By: Gary DeRoy (GTX_SlotCar)
about $500. These speakers were one of the first sets available as satellites with a separate subwoofer. Stereo Review compared them to their favorite set of speakers (that cost over $5000) by saying that the only way they could tell which speakers were playing was to look at the position of the switch (unless the speakers were driven to extremely high levels, in which case the expensive speakers did sound slightly better). It wasn't just the quality of the sound they produced, but their almost unparalleled imaging, left/right, front/back, up/down, that made them great. I still have these speakers today. I've upgraded the crossover components (same values, just better electronics and wiring) and replaced some of the drivers (original drivers are still available). 3D Acoustics was one of those companies that had a great product and poor marketing. The company only lasted a few years. The 3D6's imaged so well that I could put a dummy center channel speaker on my TV, put the surround in 'phantom center' mode (left and right speakers produce the center channel) and people would swear the center channel was working. In fact, they had to get within 6 inches of the center speaker before they realized there was no sound coming from it. That's great imaging.
I was fortunate that friends in local stores could loan me some to try. I also
bought and returned some from other local dealers (agreements made before
purchasing) and even bought a couple online. There were a few that sounded
great, but they weren't a perfect match with the 3D6's and they were $700 or
more. That price was out of the question. Finally, I came across a BIC DV62 CLR-S
at a reasonable price online. I paid about $80 for it including shipping. This
speaker really surprised me even though I'd read about it on audioreview.com and
had seen it's highly favorable ratings. I played it for a few hours to break it
in before doing some real testing and comparing it with the 3D6's. The sound was
so clear, airy and detailed that I couldn't help but like it, but it still
wasn't a great timbre match for the 3D6's. I did more reading and found that a
guy named Ed Frias was offering a modified crossover at a reasonable price that
was supposed to make these speakers sound even better. I contacted Ed to get more
information and found him to be personable and knowledgeable.
found a good musical passage that he was familiar with in the Eagles DVD
"hell freezes over", the intro to 'Hotel California'. It's great
acoustic guitar and the type of music I listen to most. Volume controls were set
to strongly emphasize the right speaker, which is the one we tested. Before he
came over, I used a db meter to set volume levels for each speaker. First up was
the 'other popular' speaker. After about 15 seconds he said "Next". I
agreed, although it was a good center channel speaker for movies and reasonably priced, it didn't handle this music very well. Next up was the 3D6. As expected, it performed almost flawlessly with clear, clean and snappy notes with all the overtones. We listened to it several times and made comments about what a great deal these speakers were, and are in
today's market. They would be hard to beat. Finally it was time for the BIC. I had covered the logos with tape so he couldn't tell what it was. He asked me how much I paid for it, but all I told him was that I probably paid too much. I didn't want him to dismiss it because of the price. After the first few seconds, he was almost floored. He said
that not only was the sound detailed,
dynamic and clean like the 3D6, but it also had a certain airy quality or transparency to it that's hard to explain. It was almost like the speaker wasn't there at all. We listened to it several more times, then swapped back and forth between the 3D6 and the BIC a few times. Hands down, the BIC was the winner. I then hooked it up as the center channel and we listened to other music such as female vocals from Linda Ronstadt's "Sentimental Reasons" and Norah Jones' "Come away with me", and more acoustic guitar from Nina Gerber's "not before noon" and selections from John Fahey and Laurence Juber. When I finally pulled the tape off the logos, he couldn't believe it. He wanted to bring the BIC to the store and do the same type of blind test with the salespeople there.
I probably had 40 hours on the original BIC when the other two arrived. I connected one of them and soon noticed that it didn't sound quite as good as the old one. Thinking it might be a bad speaker, I tried the other new one and that yielded the same results. Even a good sounding speaker can sound much better when it's been played for a few hours. I removed the crossover network from my original BIC and sent it off to Ed Frias. In the mean time, I connected the 2 new ones to the left and right channels, used a 3D6 as the center, and played them several hours each night.
Ed had the modified crossover back to me within a few days. I installed it and played the speaker immediately. My first impression was that the modified speaker
did sound better. The tonal quality was similar but the brightness of Linda's voice at high volume levels was gone. The timbre was still not a good match for the 3D6's, but at this point it didn't matter to me anymore. I listened to a variety of music and movies for the next couple evenings with the modified BIC as center and the others as left and right. I was trying to decide if I should send the other crossovers to Ed or just duplicate the components myself. As much as I liked the modified BIC, by the time the weekend came around I felt like something was missing. It was time to start comparing again. The first thing I did was to put the
emphasis on the right speaker and listen to the same Eagles' passage that I played when my friend auditioned the speakers. Once again, the sound was great. Maybe there was no problem and it was just my imagination. Then I swapped the right speaker for the Frias modified center speaker. Within seconds of listening to the modified BIC, the problem was apparent. The most charming aspect of this speaker, it's airy, transparent sound, was missing. Well, not completely, but enough so that I noticed the difference right away. It was like it's soul had been taken.
(I use a Shiva sub-woofer and my receiver controls
the crossover). I did, in fact, accomplish this to a great degree, but the
results were not spectacular. What I mean is, the speaker sounded good, but
certainly not great. I moved the setup outdoors to check the results, but except
for the very low and very high ends, the response measured about the same. I was
curious about this and tested the response of the 3D Acoustics 3D6 and another
high end (about $700) speaker which sounded very good. Much to my surprise,
neither of them produced a flat response. By that I mean a response that was
within 3db from 200 to 10,000 Hz. I summarized that even though some great
sounding speakers may have a flat frequency response, it isn't necessary to have
a frequency response that flat in order to have a great sounding speaker. (In
fact, I later found out that many highly acclaimed, expensive speakers do not
have particularly flat frequency responses.)
change the crossover frequency. A casual listener might not notice the difference in the way the speakers sound, but a true audiophile certainly would. Depending on the music, the voice coil in the midrange driver may not heat up much compared to the voice coil in the tweeter, or less likely, the reverse could be true. Theoretically, a speaker could sound great at one volume, not so good at a louder level, and pretty good again at an even louder level, depending on the type of music at each volume. This could explain why Linda Ronstadt's voice seemed a little bright, but only at very high volume levels. It also explains why two people can describe the same speaker differently. And finally, it explains why Stereo Review said the $5000 speakers sounded better than the 3D6's at extremely loud volumes. Hopefully, very expensive speakers have expensive drivers with voice coils that handle heat better and so, they'll sound better than a great pair of cheap speakers under certain listening conditions. (Naturally, the environment the speaker is in will make a big difference. Most of us don't have acoustically dead listening rooms. Mine is a little bright as it slightly
emphasizes the higher frequencies).
switch them. All the speakers produced the same db level at 1000 Hz and with white noise so it wasn't necessary to adjust the volume. The first round of tests was between my mod and the Frias mod. I closed my eyes (and didn't peek) and held the remote in my hand with my finger on the song track button so I could reset it easily. No matter how she tried to throw me off track, I picked my mod as the best sounding each time. When it came for the standard BIC and my mod, things were more difficult. On 2 or 3 passages I admitted that I couldn't make a choice
because they sounded the same. On others, like the intro to 'Hotel California', the choice was easier. In the end, although all 3 speakers sounded good, there was a clear winner, a 2nd and 3rd place. The standard BIC came in first, my mod 2nd and the Frias mod 3rd. Yes, I was surprised at the results and almost devastated. I don't know what happened. Maybe it was because the speakers had over 100 hours on them by now. I'm not sure. The fact is that in each test between the speakers with the Frias mod and my mod, I picked mine each time, and in the tests between my mod and the standard BIC, I picked the standard one each time I was able to make a choice. My daughter didn't know which speaker was which, only that I was picking the same one each time. So in that respect, it wasn't even close.
The winning speaker wasn't chosen a majority of the time; it was chosen every
time. All that work, all those modifications and all that time
- and I ended up right where I started.
(1) The standard BIC speaker sounds great. It's airy, dynamic and transparent.
(2) It doesn't image as well as the 3D6's, but except for a pair of Magnepans and a couple other $2000 plus speakers, I haven't heard anything else that does.
(3) The fact is, the BIC's do image OK, but speaker
placement and angle are critical (as they are with most speakers). Imaging is not a problem if you're sitting in the "sweet spot". In stereo mode, I can still place Linda Ronstadt's voice ("Am I Blue" and "Sentimental Reasons") in the center of the stage and the trumpet / sax behind her and a little to the right. It's a little more vague than the 3D6's, but it's there. I've heard expensive speakers that didn't image well at all. When listening to DVDs like Paul Simon's "You're the One" in 5.1 or DTS, the imaging is great.
(4) None of the modified crossovers affected the imaging at all.
(5) On a couple songs, with female vocals at loud volumes, I thought the BIC's were a little bright; but not everyone agreed. Of course, my listening room also sounds a little bright.
(6) In the end, none of the modified crossovers
could improve on the sound.
expected, but the one on the TV would sometimes give a slight resonance or buzzing sound. This didn't happen often and it was subtle, but it did happen sometimes at loud volumes. My first thought was that it was reflections inside the cabinet, so I bought some fiberglass acoustic insulation from Radio Shack. It was 1 inch thick, so I peeled it in half making it 1/2 inch thick because I didn't want to change the values inside the cabinet too much. I pulled out the standard acoustic fill and lined the back, bottom and one side with the new material. That would eliminate any internal reflections. It didn't sound worse, but it also didn't help. The BIC's are made from half inch MDF, which should be plenty for eliminating cabinet resonance in a speaker this size. You can feel slight vibrations on the outside of the cabinet, but not much. I should have realized right away that the objectionable sound was coming from my TV cabinet, not the speaker. My HDTV, like any other, is basically a large, hollow, thin plastic box with a screen that acts like a passive radiator. It's the worst possible place to mount a speaker. To isolate the center channel from the TV cabinet, I first used small rubber feet at the front of the cabinet and rubber door wedges (door stops) at the back so the speaker would tilt down. This worked well, but I eventually just folded small strips of the fiberglass insulation and used them for the speaker legs. The ones in the back are thicker than the ones in front, so the speaker still tilts down. They hardly show and do a pretty good job. You can buy Isolators (often used for turntables), but I'm not sure of the cost. I would
prefer to mount the speaker to something solid instead of trying to "float" it, but this is easy and it works.
In reading other reviews, I've noticed people mentioning the use of acoustic fill to eliminate cabinet resonance (boom). I know that some acoustic fill makers would like you to load your speakers with their product, but it's not the right way to fix this problem. Acoustic fill, used properly, is good for eliminating sound reflections inside the cabinet. To stop the resonance, make the cabinet out of thicker MDF (or wood), or install internal bracing. MDF (or wood) glued between the walls of the cabinet would work fine. Glue them at the walls and where they cross each other. Speakers are engineered to work with a certain cabinet volume. On ported speakers (like the DV62 CLR-S), the ports are tuned to the cabinet size and driver characteristics. Adding acoustic fill has the effect of increasing the cabinet volume (size). While this is more critical on a sealed system, it
affects the engineering of all speakers. Psycho-acoustics may make your poly-stuffed speakers sound better to you, but in reality they'll probably sound worse. If you don't know how to tune the enclosures to the resonant frequency of the drivers (or don't even know what I'm talking about), don't stuff the BIC's with acoustic poly-fill. If you think you hear a booming or hollow sound and the speaker is sitting on top of your TV, that could be the problem.
For what it's worth, and after all I've been through, I haven't even used the L-Pads to control the sound in over 2 months and they don't seem to sound bright anymore. My hearing hasn't changed. I still hear up to almost 17,000 Hz in my right ear and just over 14,000 in my left. At least I know the L-Pads are there if I need them.
Every time I turn on my home theater system, I'm impressed with the sound of these speakers. I couldn't be happier with the choice I made and I know I wouldn't have been satisfied if I hadn't tried the modifications. So, it wasn't a complete waste of time.
If you'd like more information about BIC America speakers, you can visit them on the web at www.bicamerica.com.
March 24, 2003