Sound systems come in all shapes and sizes, and vary widely in terms of capability. For those who want to go big, Seaton Sound is there to scratch the AV enthusiast’s itch for unrestrained dynamics, detail that’s as clear as outer space, and bass that is effectively bottomless.
AXPONA 2017 gave company founder Mark Seaton an opportunity to show exactly how powerful a performance his gear can deliver. The demo room was labeled “Grand Ballroom C” and it is undoubtedly the largest space within which I have auditioned a system that’s ostensibly designed for residential use. How big? How about 80′ (deep) by 47′ (wide) by 23′ (high). Wow, right?
So, what was in the AXPONA 2017 Seaton demo system? Everything needed to make a 87,500 cubic feet of air throb in the service of emulating what was on screen.
And what was on screen represented another “wow” for the show demo. A 14 foot wide, 2.35:1 Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130 micro-perf screen was reflecting the output of Sony’s flagship VW5000ES ($60,000) 4K laser projector! That’s 5000 lumens of 4K, HDR, WCG-capable projection lighting up one of the best screens in the business.
Anyhow, the sound system is the focus of the show demo, and nothing less than two gargantuan towers of power—a pair of complete F18+ subs ($2395 each), each one outfitted with three F18-Slave subs ($1195 each).
The idea behind the F18+ is one can power up to three F18-Slave units. Operating on its own, the F-18 plus draws 1300 watts. But the amp is actually capable of outputting 4000 watts of power, which is how it can handle powering the F18-Slave units as well.
By stacking the 23.5″ (wide) x 18″ (deep) x 24.25″ (high) subs into two towers of sonic power, Seaton packed a monstrous amount of bass into less than six square feet of floor space!
When packing that much subwoofer firepower, you need speakers that can keep up. With Seaton, that’s no issue at all because his designs are made to be a perfect match for Seaton subs. I’ve heard these before, not only in show demos but more importantly at AVS Forum get-togethers where I could spend hours with them.
The main thing to know is that all Seaton Sound speakers are intoxicating and addictive. Hear a song you love playing on Seaton Catalyst active or Spark passive speakers, and you instinctively pay attention, not wanting to miss the experience. You turn up the volume and instead of unpleasantness, it sounds even better. That’s the magic.
So, to fill Grand Ballroom C with sound, Mark deployed his Catalyst 12C ($3995 each), a 3-way design the marries a new 8″ coaxial driver (with a shared Neodymium magnet that Seaton improves off-axis behavior) with dual 12″ Acoustic Elegance woofers. Three 12Cs handled the front stage (left, center, right) in the 7.2 surround system.
The Catalyst is an active speaker—no external amp needed—and the drivers are fed a total of 2000 watts from ICEpower amps, 300W for the tweeter, 700W for the midrange, and 1000W for the bass drivers.
The Catalyst 12D is rated for an intended range of use of 55 Hz to 21 kHz and acts as a super-satellite when working with Seaton’s F18+ subs. At the show, these speakers were demoed both operating full-range and with a 50 Hz crossover used with the subs.
Side and rear surrounds utilized the Spark unpowered loudspeaker ($1395 each) that features an 8″ 2-way coaxial driver as well as dual 8″ passive radiators. This speaker is 30″ (high) x 11.5″ (wide) x 6″ (deep). that shallow depth is intentional, it’s designed for wall-mount or even ceiling-mount using a custom U-bracket that allows for precision aiming of the speaker.
With 500-watt power handling and a 6-ohm impedance, the Spark is ready to rock-and-roll. Seaton rates its ‘operating range’ as 70Hz to 20kHz, so it’s suitable for use in a system with an 80Hz crossover. 94 dB @2.8V/1m sensitivity means these speakers will turn electricity into sound with reasonably high efficiency. These are speakers I would really like to review—if only for the selfish reason of rocking out to them for a few weeks—and therefore I have requested a pair from Mark.
Processing for this system was performed by a Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100 preamp/processor. It’s nice to hear a consumer-focused mainstream pre/pro drive a system of this size and capability, it reminds me to pay no mind to the 2-channel anachronists who fear things like HDMI and bass management. Mainstream AVRs and pre/pros remain the best bang-for-buck audio solutions out there.
So, how did this system sound? I heard it in a movie context where it kicked ass like a blockbuster movie action hero. I checked out one of my favorite flicks for sound: Tron Legacy. The LightBike scene, with its accompanying Daft Punk score, was weighty and profound and quite physical, thanks to those beastly subs. Any system that can ace the soundtrack of Tron Legacy is a great system, period.
While it’s certainly true that Mark Seaton takes ownership of his setup—I’ve seen him sweating the sonic details—what he showed at AXPONA 2017 is a complete experience. Ken Whitcomb of Calibrations, Inc. provided the projection system, and made sure that it looked picture perfect in the blacked-out demo space that sat up to 30 attendees. Furthermore, there were acoustical treatments from Jeremy Feigen of Accurate Acoustics, who contributed treatments for the projector stand and the columns used to elevate the speakers in the system.
Seaton’s system takes no prisoners and executes perfect moves, hitting every performance target and then obliterating it. It can be tender and it can be brutal, and either way you love it! Yes, this is the system for folks who don’t want limits. This is for folks who nod “yes” when asked if they really need eight 18″ subwoofers to be happy.
And guess what? That’s right, there’s more! In addition to showing off the monster rig, Seaton brought some other products to the show such as the Ember 630 and the compact Spark XC.
The Ember 630 ($895 each) is an in-wall / in-ceiling loudspeaker based on a 6.5″ high-efficiency coaxial driver that’s mounted at a 30-degree angle. It’s a ported design that can get down to 70Hz. It has 6 ohm nominal impedance and 92 dB @ 2.8V/1m sensitivity. Dimensions are 15.5″ (high) x 15.5″ (wide) x 6″ (deep) and it requires a 11″ x 14.25″ cutout for mounting.
The Seaton Sound Ember 630 in-wall / in-ceiling speaker.
Meanwhile, the Spark XC ($995 each) features an 8″ high-efficiency 2-way coaxial driver in a sealed enclosure. Nominal impedance is 6 ohms, and sensitivity is rated as 94dB @ 2.8V/1m sensitivity. Spark XC dimensions are 17″ (high) x 11.5″ (wide) x 6.5″ (deep) – Like the spark, a precisely aimable wall mount bracket is available.