A little background before we begin:
My first review of these speakers was done in January 2013, and was the reason for starting this site. The performance that I heard from a speaker that was hailed by Stereophile and all of the industry as "an acceptable audiophile speaker" was pretty much the worst speaker I had ever heard. You can read my previous review here. Well, after taking a public lashing and everyone in utter denial of my measurements and findings, I did get my redemption when 5 months later it came out that there was a major manufacturing flaw in the speakers. Parts Express pulled the speaker and made some changes, once the revised version came out I repurchased a "fixed pair" to test, those were broken as well. I was done at this point. Fool me twice, well I'm no fool, etc. etc..
Until recently when I got a pair of B652's for free as a part of a make it right campaign that parts express is doing. If you bought B652 speakers from October 2012 to July 2013, please contact Parts Express and yell at them softly until they send you a fixed pair. They didn't even want my pair back so you may not even need to do anything accept pick up the phone.
So starting fresh with the Brand New 100% fixed Dayton B652 - let's do this thing:
Dayton Audio B652 Bookshelf Speaker
Initial configuration - Grills off flat on desk
Right away the dispersion pattern of the diffuser is bothering me, everything is a reflection, there is no direct sound.
The lower treble is over done, and it hurts my ears, causes me to keep turning them down.
A sax does not sound like a sax, it sounds some kind of glass horn full of metal shavings.
Feels like too much reverb on everything. This primarily is a tonal issue, but also I think it is an issue with the reflected sound and distortion of the drivers.
Configuration attempt number 2 - Grills on flat on desk
Putting the grills back on helps a good bit with tone, but now the image is smashed or gone completely.
They definitely sound like big speakers, much larger than they are and they are pretty large speakers compared to many of the micro speakers I've reviewed.
There are some obvious tone issues here, With the grills off they sound very hot in the lower treble which is the most sensitive band as far as detecting loudness, which is why they sound so damn loud.
There is a cone break up in the tweeter or something going on in the upper treble, it's making the cymbal hits ring.
Time to try some female vocals.
This is just not getting any better. damn, I need to practice what I preach.. time for some speaker stands.
Configuration attempt number 3 - Grills on, on stands
I'm just nuts about avoiding early reflections.
Sounds almost like the channels are reversed.. there is a center image, but it's all behind me. Backing up helps, but it's still goofy. Seems like the image is made up from wall reflections instead of from the speakers. I've got them less than 2 feet apart, but they sound like they still need to be closer together.
Configuration attempt number 4 - grills off, on stands:
This tone is the sound of cheap, loud and upper midrange heavy.
Stevie Nicks sounds like a chipmunk - all of the body was sucked out of her and she has a tiny little head that can't reach the lower octaves.
Tone strikes again with guitar picking sounds getting pushed up to interfere with snare drum hits, makes of a confused mess.
My ears are getting used to this now, my brain has adjusted to most of the sharpness that causes pain. Time to try a run through of Come with us by the chemical brothers - at volume.
Compression nightmare - These tweeters are garbage, total trash.. nothing can save them.
Configuration attempt number 5 - grills off, upside-down on stands
The woofer is still sounds the same as the one as the original set and has the same issues, rising response to cone break up coupled with a massive drop in response. I still can't run far enough away from these tweeters.
I knew there was a reason to buy a 24oz can.
Bass sounds good and clear.. most people would see the top end as a reference point and say the speaker lacks bass, but honestly bass is the only thing I like about these so far. Nice acoustic suspension design that provides a pretty good lower mids and upper bass.
Configuration attempt number 6 - speakers on stand upside-down, grills on:In this configuration they lack excitement, sounds like I'm listening to a woofer with a nasty tweeter somewhere in the room. Also almost sounds like phase issues with sound coming from the room.
Configuration attempt number 7 - Speakers upside-down, grills right-side-up covering the majority of the woofer, and letting the tweeter have more space.
This is getting silly now. I might just point them face down at the desk next. No one can accuse me of not trying hard enough to like these speakers.
Surprisingly this is an improvement in tone, but honestly it's such a mess like this it's hard to tell what is really happening other than I put a block of wood in front of the woofer.
I would not call this a good speaker, because I want to keep turning it down instead of up.
I think for a home theater you might be able to use these to some effect in conjunction with a Audyssey enabled receiver, but for near field don't think about it.
Maybe I can do something with the DSP correction, parts express says this is the final build and no more changes are expected. Hopefully that is true and they are built consistently enough to apply a standard filter to them.
Rising response and cone break up of the woofer are really the only issues here.
Corrected listening impressions
Driver distortion is a problem at volume with the tweeters, nothing can be done about that. These are better speakers with the correction, but they are still garbage.
The problems with this speaker are inherent to the driver selection which is a direct reflection of the limited budget. On the plus side I think this is probably as good of bass performance that you can get for the money as far as bass clarity, but once the woofer cone break up is taken care of the tweeter is the biggest problem here. A replacement driver may do something for you, but honestly it's not going to count for much if you can't match them up with a decent crossover, and no a premade off the shelf crossover is never a viable solution. If you dump any money into this speaker you are probably better of just starting over and getting something better as a starting point.
There is something to be said for getting sound on the cheap, but If you start out your audio life with these speakers look for a replacement as soon as you can possibly afford it. A little bit of perspective here, we have a $40 pair of speakers.. they sound like $40 speakers. In comparison to what they were 8 months ago when the tweeter was broken and crossing over to early this is a huge improvement. If you buy these you are getting what you pay for, but not a penny more. These are not the saviors of budget hi-fi, they are cheap in sound and performance.