Caveat: This notes are IMHO, in my system, in my room, with my ears, etc. Bottom line is YMMV.
03-05 Break-In Total: 0h
Out of the box, the Panoramas sounded kind of thumpy in the mid bass and bass. Treble sounded very good and hasn't changed much. The Essence clarity was a mess initially, with kind of an overall fizziness. Over the period of an hour or two, some of this faded. By the end of the evening, the Panoramas were sounding much better and the thumpiness changed to fullness and punch. It seems to be following the pattern of the Sapphire break-in and, if so, it should continue to evolve. They sound bigger, richer, fuller than the Sapphires, with a higher degree of presence. They don't sound dark or heavy, which happened on the Von Schweikerts and the PMCs to a lesser degree.
The Essence sounds a lot like the Protege right now. Only more break-in will tell if it will turn the corner.
03-06 Break-In Total: 5h
Ack! Schedule conflicts, didn't get much play time.
03-07 Break-In Total: 8h
See yesterday -- too many other time conflicts. Not much to report.
03-08 Break-In Total: 18h
I spent some time listening to the Panoramas more critically, and even this early, one thing is obvious: this is a much better speaker than the Sapphire. Take what the Sapphires can do, add fullness, presence and detail, and that starts to describe how they sound. They expose things in recordings that I've never heard before, recordings that I know well, things that just weren't there with the Sapphires. Detailed, non-fatiguing, you can listen into the music more getting you closer to the music. I've read about this kind of thing in very end reviews, but I've never experienced it in my own home before. It'll be 12 more hours to the half-way mark on break-in. epiney said that they really need 60 hours of break-in. What the heck will these sound like after 60 hours?
I tried substituting MITerminator2 speaker cables for the DH Labs T-14 tonight. Being a frugal (ok, cheap) kind of guy, I really, really wanted the MIT cables I own to sound as good as the cables being auditioned, but they don't. It wasn't even close. The MIT2 inserted a layer between the music and the listener that obscured detail. Nuts. Now I'm trying to avoid listening too closely to the MITerminator5 connected to the surrounds. That could lead to a wallet hemmorage.
At epiney's suggestion, I removed the grills in search of a grill vibration issue that he experienced. While I'm not sure about the vibration issue (still investigating), it was a shock to hear how much better the speakers sounded without the grills. I should know better. Even ACIs doc says to do this.
As for the Essence, I just don't know yet, but I'll go the distance on break-in. It definitely sounds better without the grill, though.
03-09 Break-In Total: 29h 15m
Short on time again, so the listening sessions wasn't very long. For the 30 minutes I did listen, the sound was essentially unchanged. That makes sense. With the Sapphires, the biggest change occurred in the first 20 hours of break-in, then it was more of a gradual evolution out to the 200 hour mark.
One observation -- These speakers seem to encourage you to listen at higher volumes. When I pulled out the sound level meter, I was surprised to find that I was up 8 to 10db over my normal listening level. Gotta watch that!
It looks like the right room position for the Panoramas may differ from the Sapphires. In their current location, the Panoramas aggravate a bass / mid-bass room resonance. I'll try adjusting the location after the 60 hour mark.
03-10 Break-In Total: 34h 10
Short changed again on break-in time today and probably for the next couple of days. No significant change to report, but it's been less than 5 additional hours.
Spent some time listening to / surveying a variety of music in my collection. There's a lot of stuff on my rack that is simply unlistenable -- bad recording, bad transfer, whatever the cause, it doesn't cut it. The sound coming out of the speakers is irritating. ACI speakers are reputed to be forgiving for most material, but it looks like they can't cure the ills of terrible recordings. No reason they should, really. That said, some of my oldest recordings sound superb, but they were also wonderful sounding albums. It shouldn't be surprising that a better master produces superior sounding CDs. It does make me consider acquiring more SACDs and DVD-Audio disks. One would expect them to be a cut above.
This is one darned expensive hobby.
03-11 Break-In Total: 42h 30
After a 45 minute listening session, I have no keen insights. I'm having trouble finding differences between days at this point. I did hear something I've never heard before on one of my test tracks. Bizzare. I thought I knew these tunes really well.
The mid-bass hump is still present. Gotta get to moving the speakers around and doing some of receiver and DVD player parameters. The latter is likely to make it more difficult to directly compare the Panoramas and the Sapphires since optimal settings for each may vary.
The Essence still has me worried.
03-12 Break-In Total: 49h 30
Spent quite a bit of time trying to tame that mid-bass hump. After 2 hours of screwing around with parameters on the receiver, everything sounds really whacked out. Time to give it a rest for the evening! One note -- these changes seem to have affected how the Essence sounds. All of a sudden it now sounds more like a center channel should. Looks like I stumbled across some relevant parameters.
03-13 Break-In Total: 58h 30
No time today for much of anything but break-in. Fortunately, we're near the finish line.
03-14 Break-In Total: 60h
OK, break-in is done. And BTW, the 60 hours was the total on an FM station. In off times, there was a good bit of TV viewing and a couple of DVDs were watched, too. Actual hours is likely 75+.
I spent a couple of hours with Stereophile CD #2 and the warble tones trying to dial in speaker position and deal with any remaining humps. That turned out to be time well spent. The B&K has a couple of filters that can be applied -- think of it as a limted graphic equalizer -- and they tamed a hump in the bass and another in the treble. It isn't perfect, but it's a lot better. The Panoramas and Essence are dialed in now. The boxy, fizzy sound from the Essence has at last been tamed, and now it sounds... well, more "right". What exactly was the problem? Too much bass routed to the center? Not sure, but I don't miss the old sound.
It seems likely that more tweaking is in the cards. I'm still not happy with the final sound in the sense that I'm pretty sure I can get more out of the equipment. But at this stage, I'm very happy with the Panoramas, and looking hard at the Essence. With both TV and DVDs it's now sounding more natural.
Overall opinion at this stage is favorable pending additional tests.
- Continue dialing in the position
- Continue tweaking parameters
- Directly compare Panoramas and Sapphires
That's it for this round, everyone. Hope someone finds this useful.