Caveat: Consider all of this as IMHO, in my room, with my electronics, with my ears, etc. Bottom line here is YMMV.
After lots of listening and a bit of consideration, I made the following changes to my ACI order:
- 2 pr
of Emeralds on-wall
- 1 (slightly abused by UPS) Protege center channel
- 200' of DH Labs ST-100 wire + banana connectors
- Atlantis Pro Stands
- 3 T-14 15' + bananas (L/C/R)
- 3 pair BL-1 interconnects
- 1 D-75 digital cable
- Panoramas (with a custom finish)
- Essence center
- another pair of Atlantis Pro Stands
- Sound Anchor center channel stand
So, what's wrong with the products that caused them to be returned? And why did I keep some items, and why do the new products look like the right way to go?
ACI has speakers at a lot of different price and quality points. With better companies, spending more usually means you get a better product. After taking a cold, hard look at the products on hand, it was clear to me that the Protege and Emeralds On-Wall were a cut below the quality level of the Sapphires in audio performance. They are good values at their price point, but after listening to the Sapphires, well, let's just say that the Sapphires are very persuasive. They made me question whether I'd ever be happy to settle for anything less, and I decided to push the cost envelope a little. Once the decision to return the EOWs and Protege was made, that 200' of ST-100 was no longer needed to run wire for surrounds, so it went into the pile of returns, too.
As for the Sapphires, it's hard to ignore just how good these speakers are. 'Nuf said. I'm probably preaching to the choir, and MikeD will start blushing soon. The stands look great, too, and that helps with the SAF. I haven't used a lot of stands, so there are likely others that would work as well. But as I said, these look great.
Let's talk wire for a moment. I compared the DH Labs T-14, MITerminator2 and 12ga Home Depot speaker wire. The results were more subtle but the sound was best from the T-14, next best was the MIT2, and coming in last was the 12ga wire. I'd been using a variety of old interconnects for the 6 wires needed for SACD and DVD-Audio connections and a DIY "Silver Bit Transfer" for the digital connection. The BL-1s and D-75 were a convenient, value proposition that do the job better and clean up a small mess. At the price, with the discount, with the return policy, it was a fairly painless choice. More comparisons are in the queue, and I'll post the results soon.
Lastly, the story on the new purchases is simple: I'm looking for performance that's a cut above. As the Sapphires outperform the Emeralds, the Panoramas seem likely to outperform the Sapphires. And hopefully the Essence will best the Protege.
Now for the hard part. It'll be 3 to 4 weeks before the new equipment is ready. Then there's shipping, delivery (not "drop off", thanks -- see post on initial delivery) and break-in. Looks like it'll be 6 weeks before this story gets close to the finish line.
Meanwhile, I have some packages to return. In the interim, living with just the Sapphires doesn't seem like too big of a sacrifice.