So, a little later than I had hoped, but here are my impressions from the GTG!
Let me just say - not a one of these speakers was a bad experience for me. I thought each one was impressive in specific areas and ok in others. I moved around the room to hear from different points. Apologies for not having this done sooner - been a crazy week so far.
Aesthetically speaking, I liked the unique look of these (as well as the Soundscapes) as I tend to get tired of seeing the same ol' rectangle box shape. As far as soundstage, I felt the it was wide with a slight degrade in quality once I got outside about 30 degrees. When I sat in the sweet spot, I closed my eyes for a while and then opened them and tried to focus on Terry's Panasonic to see how well the speakers "disappeared" for me (I did this with all speakers). I struggled to get past the feeling that I could point to which speaker was producing specific sounds - is this what some refer to as imaging? To me, it performed very well on orchestral tracks with an emphasis on horns - probably one of the best in this regard. Vocals - both male and female - sounded good to my untrained ear - the only highs I did not care for were the flute in the one track. However, this was true for every speaker but two for me. One thing I noticed with some of the other speakers I had listened to prior to this GTG was that vocals were overpowered by the instruments - this was not the case with the Phils - the vocals were very prominent. This was my 5th favorite of the day, but so close to another that I had them interchangeable.
Aesthetically, the finish on Nuance's speakers was quite impressive. I am leaning toward a black finish as mine will be in a dedicated HT, but if I was doing a living room, I would love to get this finish. These had a nice wide soundstage with a slight degradation in the soundfield again outside of 30 degrees with no degradation when I was standing behind the sweet spot. I felt they imaged pretty well but just felt that they were overmatched for the space they were trying to fill as they just did not seem to have a lot of pop. Orchestral tracks were very triumphant with crisp horns; however, the flute sounded very distorted to me. Vocals were not overpowered at all. I felt vocal dynamics were handled incredibly well until it hit higher female notes where I felt there was some distortion - much like with the flute. This was my 6th favorite speaker of the day yet was so close to the Phils that I would make them interchangeable.
Ascend Sierra Towers
These had the high gloss black finish on them - very nice finish and more than likely the finish I will be doing in whichever speaker I choose - provided it is available of course.
The soundstage was very wide with no degradtion standing and a slight degradation when I got to about 40 degrees. These disappeared completely for me and I was able to focus in on Terry's TV without issue with a nice, enveloping sound. Orchestral tracks were handled really well - I liked that I could almost "point" to where each section was - with very crisp horns. The flute came across OK - it distorted for me on the highest notes. These were the 1st speaker that I really enjoyed the symbols on the Hells Bells track. Vocals were not overpowered at all and I felt vocal dynamics were handled really well. All in all, I felt they had a very natural sound with this room size probably being right at their limit. These were my 3rd favorite speaker of the day. They were very close to the Seatons for me with a slight edge to the Ascends.
JTR Triple 12 HTs
Aesthetically, these had a nice flat black finish but the 3 same-size driver cavaties did not jump out for me. These were the first set of speakers where I did not notice a degradation in the soundstage off axis or standing up, but I also did not feel they disappeared as effectively or had an enveloping sound. The soundstage did feel forward and slightly fatiguing - this was the first of two speakers that I could tell I was getting tired toward the end of the audition. Orchestral tracks played really well - horns were crisp and the flute came across better than all but two other speakers. The Hells Bells symbol was very clean - I felt it was slightly better than the Ascends. This was the first speaker I was really impressed with how the piano sounded - I just felt I could hear the stroke of the key. I felt the same about the guitar - Rubina came across very well. Vocals were not overpowered, but there were a few instrumental notes that I did feel were (noticed this mostly during Red Rain track). Male vocal dynamics were handled well - the female vocals were where I really noticed the fatigue factor as they were just a bit overwhelming. Once all the speakers were auditioned and we set these up with Terry's subs, I felt that if I were looking for a speaker that I used for 100% HT, this speaker would perform very well. This was my 7th favorite speaker of the day. Note - Jeff's shop is very close to where I live so I am going to see if I can get there to give these a listen with his setup.
Aesthetically, I really liked the look of these - they had a very nice black finish and had a bit more shape than your standard box. The soundstage was very wide with no degradation off axis or standing and was the first speaker that did not feel forward. These also disappeared completely - I remember actually thinking this was the 1st speaker that disappeared with eyes closed and open. The sound was very enveloping and was not fatiguing at all. This was the 1st speaker that I felt the bass performed well - mids had good punch and low end did not feel muddy. Orchestral tracks were extremely impressive - crisp, natural-sounding horns, nice, clear flute and piano - this was the first speaker I just sat back and smiled on they were so good here. Sound subtleties and vocals were not overpowered at all and were very detailed. Male and female vocals sounded very smooth. At about the 7th or 8th track, I wrote "so far, this is the one" at the bottom of the page - they just sounded that good to me. This was my 2nd favorite speaker of the day.
The black ash finish on this speaker was well done, but as with the JTRs, they did not have a wow factor for me. The soundstage was nice and wide with no degradation standing and slight degradation outside 30 degrees. They disappeared well (although not quite as well as the HT2s) and had a very enveloping sound. They did seem a bit forward to me - this was the other speaker that I could tell I was getting fatigued toward the end. Now, in both cases this may have been due to the SPL - they just seemed so much louder than the others. These are designed to, when shipped, go to about 50 hz but can be adjusted for lower extension and get to 20 Hz anechoic. Orchestral tracks were great - horns sounded incredible with the piano and flute sounding clean as well. The symbols in Hells Bells were very crisp as well. This was the another speaker that stood out for me in bass - most especially in the low end. Sound subtleties and vocals were incredibly detailed - I thought both male and female vocals were a treat. All in all, I think this is a great speaker - but, for my use, I had a concern about fatigue and am not sure I have need of the LFE you can get from this speaker. The guys had just set this up with Terry's subs as I was leaving so I cannot comment on how they did in that setting. This was my 4th favorite - I actually had it above the Ascends as far as performance, but at almost 3 times the price, I did not feel I was getting 3 times the speaker so I had those two almost interchangeable.
Salk Soundscape 10s
The finish on this speaker was exquisite and I personally like the unique design - I would have loved to see these in a high gloss black finish. Now, right off, I pretty much spent most of this audition near the right speaker with a small amount of time in the sweet spot so I did not hear the issue that Jonathon did. I will just say right now - if I could afford these, these would be my speakers. The soundstage was amazing - wide, no degradation, absolutely no fatigue at all. I felt the bass was the cleanest of the day by far even though they do not dig as deep as the Catalysts. Orchestral tracks were incredible - so triumpant while maintaining a mellow sound. Sound subtleties and vocals were so detailed and dynamic capability was the best of the day. The best way to describe them - they were just smooth as butter. There was not a thing I did not like - except the price.
This was my favorite speaker.
Again, I want to stress - these were all really good speakers and I felt none was a bad experience. But, at the end of the day you gotta rank em
so, for me, my "pecking" order was:
1. Salk Soundscape 10s
2. Salk HT2s
3a. Ascend Sierra Towers
3b. Seaton Catalyst
4a. Philharmonic IIs
4b. Salk Songtowers
5. JTR Triples (this may change after I arrange for that demo)
Let the comments begin!