So I received the speakers last Friday evening. My wife watched the first few minutes of the unpacking process, then gave-up and went outside to garden. Basically by the time she decided to go outside, I had "undressed" one of the speakers. All she said was "wow, those aren't what I expected." My wife's been extremely patient with me over the course of my home theater dealings--Klipsch were the first, then Ascend Acoustics, then a full set of Quads, followed by some Orb Audio speakers--which, while fine, were likely the worst performance-wise in comparison to the others listed (I have a rather large room and the speakers were mounted straight out, rather than toed in, which admittedly probably limited their performance). I did however enjoy their stay in my home and was impressed by their performance for their size; my wife however, did not.
So a little about my Lovely Bride. She sang in high school, was "the best high school female vocalist in California" at least one of the years, opened the Monterey Jazz Festival (for Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie... you get the idea). Needless to say she has over the years, developed a "golden ear" of sorts, and I place a great deal of weight on her opinion of my audio gear. She enjoyed my initial foray into home theater with a Technics amp and processor (yet another, separate processor for digital decoding!), Toshiba DVD, and Klipsch speakers. These were of course nothing to write home about--just really good, solid performers with the characteristic horn sound.
After several years I upgraded to a Pioneer Elite receiver, which produced great results, but I also found I had reached a point of diminishing returns for my speakers, and sold them in favor of Ascend Acoustics. This was my first taste of what was available; my wife really liked them for movies--I LOVED them for movies. They also sounded remarkably good for DVD-Audio. She enjoyed the Ascends as much or more than I did--which is something--they excelled at home theater with crystal clear voice reproduction. We were quite happy with the Ascends and I had no plans to upgrade from them. I eventually traded out the Pioneer Elite for a Sherbourn 7 channel amp with an Outlaw 990 processor and this made the Ascends absolutely sing--I think I got the most I could out of them at this point, and we were VERY happy.
I found a great deal on Quads and couldn't help but trade out the Ascends. The Quads turned out to be an excellent purchase--they are amazing for music, not so much for home theater (in comparison to the Ascends). The center channel was terrible--I could never seem to make voices sufficiently clear or audible, no matter where it was placed or how it was set-up by the processor--it was lacking. I sold the center with a pair of 12L2's (these are the standouts of the set, in my opinion--they beat the 22L2's I kept!).
I bought a Blu-Ray player, sold the Outlaw 990 in favor of a Onkyo Professional Unit (believe it was the 886P). Great unit--very clear, extremely versatile... was fantastic--no complaints.
I tried to go out on a limb and buy an Orb Audio set because they are easily wall and ceiling mountable and could be placed "out of the way" for my wife's peace of mind. I also ended up selling the Sherbourn and Onkyo at this point in favor of a Pioneer receiver--trying a more cost-conscious approach to home theater. I described the Orbs to my wife, showed her pictures, it was all good until I installed them. The Lovely Bride didn't appreciate the aesthetics once wall and ceiling mounted, she didn't like the sound, either. I found them to be sufficient, but certainly nothing to compare (long term, at least) to the Quads or Ascends for music (HT was pretty solid!), which I was incredibly happy with... so I started looking. In the mean-time, I figured I should give the Orbs a better shot with more power, so I bought the Onkyo's Integra-equivalent, a new Blu-Ray player (Denon), and an Emotiva UPA-5 amplifier. The new set-up with extra power (and separates) helped the little Orbs eek out a bit more power, clarity and oomph, but their inability to travel into the low-frequencies was just killing me. The crossover on my HSU Subwoofer was maxed-out and I still had a bare spot in the frequency range.
Long story shor... well, this has become a long story. I found an astounding deal on a pair of PBN SPi's and pounced on it from a great, honest seller... it took a while for them to arrive (not his fault--he was FANTASTIC), but they finally got here. Each package weighed in at around 90 pounds and they were about 4.5 feet high--exciting box-porn. The SPi's were wrapped in commercial plastic wrap, about 4 inches thick of bubble wrap, and surrounded by an additional 2 or so inches of packing peanuts; it was rather labor-intensive and time-consuming to unwrap them... but oh, was it worth it!
As stated at the outset, my wife, who's not a huge fan of large speakers, said "oh they're not what I expected." I felt a little bit of me died inside, but asked what she meant; she said she thought they were going to be finished like the Quads, in birdseye maple... a little bit more of me died... and then she said "I really like the look of this one!" Needless to say, this was the last thing I had expected while unpacking these monoliths of sound, but I was ecstatic... they are significantly larger than anything I've ever had, but she thinks they're great!!!
I plugged them in and listened to a few select tracks... and loved the sound, but the wife wasn't terribly impressed. I re-worked the wiring a bit and brought her back into the room... she still wasn't sold. I couldn't believe it--she loved the looks of these hulking beasts, but not the sound! WHAAAT? So I tinkered some more and toed them in very slightly more and gave it another whirl with her seated directly in the middle. "Well this is great--night and day better than anything I have ever heard before... what'd you do?!" She's actually ASKING to watch movies with me... the other night she watched one by herself after I went to bed! These things have completely revitalized our catalog of music, DVDs, and Blu-Rays. They are great... and I think we've only yet scratched the surface.
I have already contacted PBN for a center channel... and am likely to pursue bookshelves for surround duty. I can't imagine better sound coming out of a couple of speakers. The clarity and imaging from these things is astounding. I am not a huge fan of The 5th Element, but I (finally) made it through the entire movie last night--I usually only use it as a reference disk, but once I started it, I just had to sit in awe and finish the thing. I don't wish to over-state this, but just the pair of PBN's perform home theater duty better than any 5.1 or 7.1 systems I have had or heard in a home--while they can't make sound seem to appear from behind you, they certainly provide an amazing soundscape, and of sufficient quality for surround channels not to be missed (that's not to say they won't be there eventually, of course!). I can't wait to get all channels firing! My excitement for home theater and music is completely renewed... I want to see what different electronics will do!
Frankly, I'm left wondering why PBN didn't just call it quits with the SPi's. I have yet to hear any of this company's higher-end models, and understand the Sammy's may be something else entirely (other worldly, perhaps)... but it seems like it would be to their detriment to offer this much quality within the "lower" 1/3 of their product offering.
I can't say much more, except that I am (quite honestly) going to go watch another movie right now... and I know whatever I watch will be like the first time, but better. Thanks for making speakers Peter
"The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals."