This is my first review. More than a review, this is more like documenting my experience. I was looking for a detailed review on Arx A1 when I was searching for speakers in this category but could not find one. So, I hope this information will be useful for others in future.
I had the same 5.1 audio system since 13 years and I like it even today (Paradigm Mini Monitors, Atoms, CC-170, PDR-8, Marantz-5000). We moved to a different house where the placement of the speakers became challenging because of the layout of the family room. The 65" TV got moved to a corner of the room because of the fireplace and cabinets. The place to put speakers on either side of the TV is pretty small (7" wide x 9" high x 9" deep) and my mini monitors would not fit. Room size is 16x18 and the room opens into dining/kitchen area which is 20x20.
I wanted to replace/update all my HT audio components starting with speakers. I was looking for speakers in small footprint - Satellites or small bookshelves which give neutral and clean sound with a big soundstage. Looking for these parameters in small speakers was a big challenge. I was also concerned about the capability of small size speakers filling up a room of this size.
My usage is about 60% movies, 40% music (Wide variety of music: heavy metal, grunge, mainstream pop, trance, alternative, new age...) Budget for the speakers was $1,500 to $2,000 for 5 speakers.
I started going to different retail outlets and speciality stores and auditioning speakers: Deftech Pro Cinema series, Martin Logan Motions, Paradigm MilleniaOne, NHT Verve, B&W M1B, Energy CB-5. I was leaning towards Paradigm MilleniaOne.
Then I posted in this forum asking for suggestions. I got some excellent suggestions. Based on the suggestions, I continued doing more research. One of the suggestions was to look for speakers from an ID company. The concept of an ID company was scary to me at first. Slowly it grew on me. You get to audition speakers for 30 days in your room setup. How can you beat that?
I started doing research and educating myself on different ID company speakers. It's challenging as there are not many reviews. Maybe a lot of people are scared about the concept like me? I started calling different companies to discuss my requirements. I have to tell about a funny incident. I called one company and someone answered. After the initial chat, I asked "The space behind my front speakers is pretty limited. Can your speakers run in sealed vs ported?" The response - "What do you mean by that? Ports? I don't understand."
After some suggestions and research, I narrowed down to Arx A1 speakers. They are sold by Audioinsider and I called them. Jon Lane who is the founder of Arx speakers answered the phone. What a pleasure to find someone that knows the stuff inside out. I was very impressed by his knowledge. More an engineer than a sales person.
Next day, I ordered two A1 speakers. If I liked them, then I wanted to complete the HT system, otherwise return them. The order was processed pretty fast and the speakers were shipped next day by ground. The speakers arrived after 4 days. The documentation on the website says to inspect the package in the presence of the driver. I did and found a small tear on the box. We opened the box and found that the tear was superficial and did not affect the speakers inside. In fact, the inside packaging was solid.
The speakers look decent but will not win any awards for best looks. What counts for me is that they passed the wife's blessing. She was also thrilled with the cost!
There was documentation on the "Break In". All I can say is that they were not kidding. At first, the speakers sounded so puny that I was really disappointed. If I did not read about the break-in process, I would have returned them immediately. I let the speakers run on radio while I was at work. After about 20 to 30 hrs of use, slowly the speakers started to sound better and I started to like them.
Others say that I am very picky about audio. Also, I've biases. I am a HUGE Paradigm fan and absolutely love my 13 year old mini monitors. Over the last decade, I listened to several speakers under $1,000 (for a pair) in various settings. I can't think of a system that impressed me. Even in Paradigm, I am not impressed by some of their lines like Millenia-200/300, even though they are Paradigm Reference series. They look awesome but don't sound good, especially for their cost.
My old Marantz allows only preconfigured crossovers. Setup the front speakers as "Small". No Center. No Surrounds. Sub ON. The speakers can be run in sealed mode by the provided foam plugs. I tried both sealed and ported modes and prefered the ported.
The treble is crisp but not bright and the bass is tight. The A1 speakers defy their small size. They can be played really loud. Sound seperation & sound stage are also very good. When I close my eyes, I prefer the speakers to disappear in the background and I should not be able to pinpoint the location of the speakers. A1s do this well.
My varied music tastes are pretty tough on the speakers. Metallica, Enya, Armin Van Buuren, Adele, Mozart...everything has to sound good. Maybe that is why I prefer neutral speakers. The bass guitar, trance sounds, classical violin, male and female vocals, they all sound natural without modification.
If I can point out an immediate factor that I notice with small bookshelf and satellite speaker systems, it is the integration with the subwoofer. It's very important for me that I should feel that the bass is coming from the speakers and not from the sub. Remember that I have PDR-8 which is a low end 13 year old sub. There is a cross over setting on the sub (50Hz to 150Hz). I played around with different settings and I liked the setting around 100Hz. A1s integrate very nicely with the sub. I do not notice any "hole" between the speakers and the sub.
I did not get a chance to test lot of movies but whatever I tested sounded good. I'll give detailed update after I complete my system - A2 as center. A1s for fronts and surrounds.
Before I started my research, I set realistic expectations that I have to compromise on the quality because of the small speaker size. Now, I am realizing that I don't have to compromise. There is no comparision in the sound quality between A1s and all the other small speakers that I auditioned. I can't believe that I am saying this - A1s are as good as my all time favorite Paradigm mini monitors.
A1s are the cheapest speakers that I auditioned. I am planning to use the money saved to buy good quality sub/receiver. If you are one of those who are big on return on investment, you should definitely try Arx speakers.