Thanks to the hosts and organizers of this event. Thanks to Terry's wife and daughter for sharing their home! Randy and I both really enjoyed the opportunity to drive up from KC and audition so many fine speakers - we arrived home about 9:30PM tonight. This was my first real foray into high end speakers. For just over a year I've been intensely diving into the world of subwoofers. I hosted a couple subwoofer meets in KC (linked in my sig) and have attended a third subwoofer meet hosted in Omaha. Thus far, Subwoofers are my key interest in audio - I believe a good subwoofer is absolutely essential to having an impressive and fully enjoyable system at the volumes I most enjoy. Following this meet, I subjectively subscribe to this theory all the more. All of these main speakers auditioned are surely better than the mains I own -- of that I'm quite sure. Still, I actually think I'd prefer listening to my home system with my current pair of 13 year old Wharfedale towers with my pair of Captivator subwoofers engaged with solid EQ and crossover over anything I heard this weekend played without subs. In my opinion a good quality sub pair matters!
My taste in music varies from blue grass, to hip hop, to top 40, to funk, to dubstep, to vocal talents like Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. I typically enjoy nearly any type of music -- with the exception of heavy metal. That said - few of the demo tracks auditioned at this meet would be on my normal day to day playlist, yet I didn't hate anything I heard. I'll admit I'm not the typical audience for this type of high end speaker gathering. I felt a bit like a fish out of water with some of the initial discussion on Friday night and Saturday morning. I don't know all the audiophile two channel speaker terms, moreover I don't know many of the players involved. To illustrate this, I discovered I was spelling Salk wrong, previously never heard of Philharmonic (outside of the orchestra), and was familiar with Ascend only vaguely by name. In short, I'm not your typical dyed in the wool two channel speaker enthusiast. Thus without a background in two channel audio I tried to listen astutely and take pretty decent track by track notes of my observations.
I've just decided to attach the scans rather than re-write my comments. I didn't alter the comments at all from their initial scribing during each audition. I didn't have anything to write on - except my lap - so I apologize that my writing is especially poor. If you can't read something and need clarification - just let me know. I sat on the floor in the front left center - you can see me in many of the pictures with the gray long sleeve shirt. I heard every speaker from the same spot for most of each audition because I desired to have a standard position from which to judge. I didn't comment much on soundstage or sweetspot because I didn't hear every speaker from the sweetspot nor move around enough to judge soundstage. I didn't fill out a score on every blank - when left a score field blank I didn't have a clear opinion. I do have a good set of ears my audiologist tells me - with no atypical degeneration - despite enjoying music and home theater at louder levels than most. I'll legitimize that claim partially by noting I was the one to notice and point out the SoundScape10s were distorting with the failed driver, where others stated they didn't hear the issue -- be that my position closer to the left speaker or not - - it seemed very apparent to me from the very first track on the SS10.
My opinion is surely as subjective as the rest of the groups' -- and it goes without saying I have my own set of unintended biases based on my history in and tastes in audio. I haven't changed mains often like many of the other auditioners - I've owned my current towers, Wharfedale Sapphire SP-89, since 1999 I think. Biases can't be easily avoided - they can only be revealed, so with that in mind I expect I most enjoyed the sound that mostly mimics or improves upon what I know. I do have a musical background - I played in the band in High School, and played in Marching Mizzou as well. I also sang in Chamber Choir in High School, and sang in choir groups in college, and lead worship teams at church. I do hold an appreciation for musical instruments and how they should sound. That said - I enjoy music and home theater loud. I don't like hitting or hearing limits of speakers. I value clarity and lack of distortion at volume. I am willing to give up just a hair of quality for quantity -- NOT much -- but just a hair. I'm the guy that likes to turn a demo movie clip up to reference with the subs 3dB hot and enjoy the tactile vibration as well as the sound. Feel free to skip the rest of my review if you don't like the same things I do - because you probably won't find my subjective opinion of much value. Terry, I know your and my tastes are vastly different - so thanks for putting up with me this weekend.
Here is a short intro video that shows the room and some of the people who made the event.http://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...rent=Intro.mp4
Let me forward my subjective reviews by saying I'm going to be mostly critical, but I don't think these speakers are bad. I think they were overdriven and pushed beyond their means in full range. I liked the sound when they weren't pushed too hard in the dynamics. I think every single speaker except the JTR and Seatons were overdriven and most made multiple bad noises. Bad noises ruin an audition for me. None of these speakers (save the JTR or Seatons) were capable of playing full range at those volumes - this is my opinion based on what I heard from my front and center left listening position. I heard distortion on many of these that could have been avoided had they been turned down a smidge, or not run full range and crossed over to a sub setup. Terry has a big room and IMO we asked too much of these speakers to keep them clean. In moments outside of the big dynamics I could hear what these speakers should sound like - and liked them! -- but in the dynamics most failed to reproduce clean sound IMO. Philharmonic 2:
I didn't like the look one bit. I am told it is a function over cosmetics design to avoid rectangle box refractions, but these and the Salk SS10's look like droid robots out of a 1980's science fiction movie to me. As for sound, I didn't feel these were the least desirable - despite the lowest price tag. This setup seemed overwhelmed by some of the dynamic peaks at the volumes we auditioned at. I can best describe this effect I heard as listening to a busy music track at 128kb or 160kb mp3 bit rate rather than a 192kb or 256kb bit rate. I understand only lossless audio track demos were used - but the speakers couldn't keep up with the demand and it just sounded messy in dynamics swings. I know it wasn't the tracks because later speakers didn't sound that way on all of the dynamic peaks. In my opinion they needed to be turned down or crossed over to a sub --- just as nearly every other auditioning speaker did. On a positive note - I did get chills with these speakers on the Fanfare for the Common Man track at places. Instruments sounded really good! When you get chills with a speaker you know it's doing something right!Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...lharmonic2.mp4ScoreSheetSalk SongTower RT:
I thought these speakers were way overdriven. I noticed quite a bit of distortion through many of the tracks on the peaks. For example, during each of the dynamic peaks in Red Rain the orchestra would blur together, and the mids seemed to cut out The same problem occurred with the phils -- only worse on these. This problem was repeated in every speaker except the JTR for this particular track. It was like as the bass swelled, the mids cut back and sounded distorted. I also thought the voices in the big dynamics sounded a bit harsh or strained on the Song Towers at this spl level and in full range. They needed to be turned down, or crossed over to subs. I felt they distorted the worst of the day. I didn't get any chills with these speakers. I didn't really like them compared to the other auditions - most likely because I just felt they were pushed too hard. I actually thought they were on the edge of damage during the Black Eyed Peas track - the sound they produced was not how that song's bass is supposed to sound!!!Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...ongTowerRT.mp4ScoresheetAscend Acoustics Sierra Tower with RAAL ribbon:
Of the first three auditions - these were my favorite. less distortion than the previous two. The speakers sounded a bit smaller - this is hard to describe, but the sound seemed to come from a smaller speaker than the first two auditions on several tracks. I thought the bass was generally the best yet - outside of the Black Eyed Peas track which I thought the Phils bested to this point. These speakers gave me chills again on Fanfare for the Common Man --- more so than the Phils. A good speaker.Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...ierraTower.mp4ScoresheetJTR Triple 12-LP:
Talk about bringing a machete to a knife show...
These speakers were the opposite end of the spectrum from the Salk speakers. If the Salk are designed to sound refined within limits, the JTRs seemed designed to represent live audio sound without limits. I liked them 3rd best. These speakers had the least bass of the day which hurt their review for me. The cabinet naturally rolled off - I thought Jeff or Mark said around 60hz or so was the design cutoff, but Jeff stated today when we toured his shop on the way back through to KC that the Triple 12 isn't actively cut off with a 60hz crossover so perhaps we can get some clarification on this? At the time of the audition I was thinking Jeff said it had a 60hz crossover - but I was apparently wrong. At any rate it had the least bass by design choice because it is meant to be complimented by a sub. I never saw the drivers move - they produced sound effortlessly with their sensitivity rating of 101dB. They were the only sub of the day that didn't make any distortion noise to me on any track. The JTRs made me have chills on the Red Rain track which the previous auditioned speakers had loaded with distortion and they were the only subs to do so all day. They had a bit too bright sound generally, but without the complement of full range it is somewhat expected. They were not the same type of sound as the other previously auditioned speakers, but they excelled on the live sound from AC/DC so much that they actually put a forced smile on my face. Electric guitars were awesome. Dynamics seemed very strong. I had to keep trying to ignore the fact they weren't full range. I think perhaps the lack of full range both hurt and helped them because they didn't have any of the dynamic overwhelming issues that the others encountered when trying to reproduce full range frequencies at once. As to other's distaste for these speakers???? What can I say? - I love live audio sound. one of my comments during this demo was "Just dang clean" ***Yes, I asked for the Justin Bebier track from the new SuperLeo BluRay on the post meet play time because I wanted to hear these things in their element. I don't care for Justin Bebier especially - I just wanted to hear a modern song in a rock concert setting and that was the only like demo material available. These speakers were very impressive and effortless on that track -- sounded just like a live concert. The cabinets are not that attractive by comparison but are imposing and solid.Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...riple12-LP.mp4ScoresheetSalk Veracity HT2-TL:
I liked these second best - perhaps the most refined sounding speaker I've ever heard. I enjoyed their private audition on Friday night more than the meet audition on Saturday because on Friday night I didn't hear distortion when we had the LMS-5400 pair of subs engaged and the towers crossed over at 70hz with an FMOD inline resister. On Saturday we had no subs, the towers were run full range and I heard a bit of distortion on a couple of occasions. Again - they needed to be turned down, or not run full range - just like the other speakers aside from JTR thus far. Despite hearing a few distortions from these speakers as noted on my comment sheet - these speakers have just amazing bass for so small a driver. I believe Terry said they are 7" - I was floored to hear just how much bass they have -- unfortunately I heard a bit of distortion when pushed beyond their limits in full range with the Black Eyed Peas song as well as a few other tracks with large dynamic swings. Not only do they have phenomenal bass, they had very clear and realistic audio. The flute sounded like it was in the room with us. I got chills again on the Fanfare for the common man track. I did think they lacked some dynamics immediately following the JTR audition - but they have a beautiful sound! Fantastic male and female voices. Had these been crossed over at 60-80hz and the lows passed off to the subwoofer I may have liked these the best. Hard to know. I did think these were without a doubt the best looking cabinets of the meet. The look of these towers next to the very sharp looking LMS-5400 driver cabs was sexy indeed!Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...HT2-TL-BEP.mp4http://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...-TL-Chorus.mp4ScoresheetSeaton Catalyst:
These were my favorite at this meet. Right after the HT2-TL audition I felt it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the HT2 and the Seatons in the first three tracks. I thought the audition may be a tossup -- I didn't get chills on the Fanfare track which I had gotten three other times in previous auditions - not good for the Catalyst - but I did feel clearly that the Seatons had more headroom than the HT2-TL in dynamics. Mark had adjusted the DSP prior meet to give them full playback to 20hz so they could be more competitive at a full range meet, rather than sticking with the normal rolloff at 55hz. That change worked to his favor. The xylophone based track was excellent on this speaker - best so far. There was a bit of distortion again on the Red Rain track again. I would have thought it was just the track - but I didn't hear it with the JTR. It could be the fact that the JTR was the only speaker that didn't attempt full range - at any rate the distortion sound was there. AC/DC was fun - (2nd best live sound). And then it happened. A female vocal track auditioned and I had chills for the entire track -- WOW! First time of any of the speakers I had chills with that track, and it lasted the entire time clip! What's more -- when the track was replayed by request at the end of the full audition - I immediately got chills once more through the duration of the track. That won the nod for the Seatons from me. FANTASTIC! I thought the hand claps on the Spanish track stood out more than any of the other speakers for some reason. Excellent representation of Black Eyed Peas track. Massive headroom and long lasting chills during the female vocal tracks won me over. The Seaton's seemed to me a balance between the refined sound of the Salks and the live sound of the JTR. It is a good balance to find! Dynamics are still available, and there is still a strong element of refined balanced sound.Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...talyst-BEP.mp4http://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...emalevocal.mp4ScoresheetSalk SoundScape 10:
I don't really want to review these. I didn't like the looks one bit, and there was a problem with one of the drivers. To me they were distorting nearly the whole time outside a couple clips in the middle of the demo session. I was sitting closest to the left speaker, which was determined to be damaged. From the very first track I thought something was wrong. I didn't know whether to interrupt the audition or if I should just wait and confirm it wasn't just being overloaded like some of the other speakers. By the third track I knew something was up and tried not to make much commotion as I asked Terry to come outside and talk to me about what I was hearing. Terry agreed something seemed off. Brandon and Terry both sat next to me on the floor to hear what I was hearing (closer to the speaker on the floor). We all agreed something was up. We sought out Pete and Jim Salk -- the next few demo tracks didn't exhibit the problem, and the speakers sounded great - but the last track of the Black Eyed Peas clearly exhibited the problem once again. It was a warble in the tone - it sounded terrible from my seating position. That does not represent the sound of these speakers and so I didn't finish my review of the speakers, and I'm not sure you should credit anyone's review of this speaker unless they were sitting immediately in front of the right channel - because the left channel was distorting pretty badly at places. When I stood by the right channel as we were trying to figure out the problem - it sounded fantastic. I'm sorry we missed a solid audition of these speakers in stereo.Videohttp://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...10-Cymbals.mp4http://s1191.photobucket.com/albums/...ape10-ACDC.mp4Scoresheet
PS --- Terry I really liked your LMS-5400 drivers and cabs. Excellent compliment to your very nice Salk HT2 towers. Friday night's audition including LMS-5400 subs was excellent. You need to loosen up the old volume control - give it a strong spin to the right and enjoy! Oh and should you listen to the Justin Bebier track on the SuperLeo Bluray --- I give you permission to not feel ashamed!