I got to demo the HB1-MK2's and the VTF3-MK3 and ULS15 at Hsu Research today. Very cool!
Pete was great. He was very easy to talk to, and answered all my questions.
My first impression of HB1's was "These are HUGE!" in a really good way. They have a muscular-aggressive look. A kind of "we're here to make a lot of sound in a big way" look. I saw several of the available veneers and they were all really nice looking. I think they look nicer than Ascend's offerings, even the piano black Sierras. The speakers in the demo room were of the espresso variety in a 5.X setup with a HC1 as the center channel. I say 5.X because Hsu's entire lineup of subs are setup right behind the main listening area with the ports firing into the back of a couch. They were driving everything with a pioneer 1018 and a Samsung Blu Ray player I believe. The room itself was pretty simple, with no bass traps in the corners and only some minimal acoustic foam treatments along the side walls.
The first audio sample was the scene from the X-Men movie in which Jean/Phoenix lifts a house and drops it. Pretty darn impressive was my initial reaction. The HB1's were very impressive. They look and sound great. I really can't express how much presence they have in person. It's hard to get a sense of scale of the speakers from the shots on Hsu's website, but these things really look great. We watched clips from several other movies, most notable were The Hulk (pulse guns scene) and Lord of the Rings (escape from moria).
I say notable because these were the two scenes that most obviously demonstrated the differences between the ULS15 and VTF3. I was curious if I would even be able to hear a difference given that this was the first time I had ever heard "real" subwoofers at work. Well, no problem telling the difference. The first subwoofer A/B material we sampled was a pipe organ concert with some 19Hz - 16Hz tones in it. The VTF was loud and shook the couch. The SPL from the ULS seemed much lower and the score didn't have the same impact as when played on the VTF. I was a little surprised/disappointed at first, but still curious and wanting to hear more samples. So up came Hulk and LotR. In these two scenes the differences between the two subs were clear. When the Hulk jumps out of the glass foot bridge and lands on the ground followed by a few heavy footsteps the bass from the VTF was hard hitting, had a lot of slam and impact. Then we switched over to the ULS and I heard a completely different sonic presentation. It was really like hearing two different versions of the same song. The impact of the Hulk landing on the ground was a distinct moment in time, separate from the shattering of the glass footpath and subsequent foot falls. Each foot fall was discrete, separate from the one before and after. The low frequency sounds were more detailed and nuanced coming from the ULS. I started to appreciate the subtlety of sound engineers' work on LFE tracks. This was a symphony of individual frequencies orchestrated in time to reproduce the impact of a giant's footfalls on grass with yielding soil underneath, and I could really hear it! Also impressive was the sound of the 50 caliber rifle shots. Very clear and distinct, each one unique and individual.
The escape from the mines of Moria scene from LotR was the real eye opener, though. The part of the movie where the fellowship are caught on a massive stone stair case that begins to crumble, slide and teeter as they jump over a chasm from one section to another was the single most salient moment comparing sound between the two subs. Again, the VTF went first and it was terrific! Loud, chest-pounding bass, timed perfectly with the cracking of stone and toppling stairs. I was truly in awe
. Then we switched over to the ULS. In the scene where the stair case breaks and Frodo and Aragorn are struggling to keep their balance as it teeters back and forth and then slides forward I felt that I could hear or feel that there were two different textures of stone grinding together as the stairs fell forward. It sounded/felt like I could perceive that what was happening was that a rough craggy portion of stone was sheering or dragging over a smoother piece of stone sometimes grinding over uneven spots. What I'm trying to explain is that I could feel the texture of the surfaces that were supposed to be generating the low frequencies that were filling the room. It was simply amazing.
Pete was great, easy to talk to, willing to answer all of my questions, even the foolish ones
and generally just really enjoyable to spend time with. He was patient, didn't hurry me at all, and humored all of my requests to see "one more scene" from this or that movie.
I didn't buy the speakers on the spot because I thought I was going to be picking up a set of Ascend Acoustics CMT340's or Sierras today, but due to an oversight on my part that didn't happen. I did get to visit the Ascend Acoustics location in Gardenia, CA, which was very cool. Dina was really great, considering I caught her completely by surprise by just showing up at the door to her office, but that's a story for another post.
I got to see both the CMT340s and Sierras in person, and I have to say that I was more impressed by the looks of the Hsu HB1s. The CMT340's are really big and really plain. The Sierra's in Bamboo were attractive as well as in piano black. I can't wait to hear the Sierras coupled with the Rythmik D15 after being so totally impressed by the HB1's and ULS15!
Today was exciting and enlightening. I can't believe Klipsch and other similar companies can get away with charging what they do.
The quest continues...