Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with the Swans 2.5 and 6005 speakers at Cleveland Plasma.
The 2.5 is a visually imposing but beautiful speaker, with a side firing 15" subwoofer at the base along with four 6" midbass drivers, 16 1.25" dome tweeters, and 16 1x2" planar supertweeters in vertical arrays on the front (driver size is nominal as measured by me; as expected, actual radiating surface of the sub and midbass speakers is smaller). The tweeter and supertweeter line array is 4' 3" long, with the top drivers being about 57.5" high.
They are rated at 88dB sensitivity at 2.83V/1M and 10-500 watt power handling at the nominal 8 ohm impedance. There are 3 sets of heavy duty binding posts for tri wiring or passive tri amping. Care should be taken that all 3 sets of posts are very firmly tightened down; otherwise contact between them can be broken when single wiring, leading to very poor sound.
Due to the size of the speakers and the listening room, there was very little room for experimentation with placement. I have a feeling that will be the case in many setups. The room was not exactly small; but with the huge size of the speakers, unless the room is quite large, flexibility will be limited.
They were positioned with the bottom back of the base 9" from the back wall, 103" apart, and about 13' to the listening position. The room is fairly live; although carpeted and having a sofa and loveseat, the room has a noticeable ring with the hand clap test. The speakers were powered by the Red Dragon Audio M-1000 monoblocks and Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks, both fed with the balanced outputs of a new Onkyo flagship processor. No equalization or tonal manipulation was used in the Onkyo. Source components included a Panasonic Blu Ray player using an HDMI connection and a Panasonic DVD player using a coaxial digital connection.
The first thing that struck me about the 2.5's sound was the bass. Most people like a lot of bass; as I do home theater audio calibrations, I find it necessary to boost the bass beyond a few decibels (which helps to account for room gain) to satisfy most of my customer's taste. Bass is often heavily boosted in car audio systems as well, both to compensate for engine and road noise and to give the tonal balance most listeners prefer. In fact, the first impression I got of the 2.5's bass was that it was balanced like my car audio system, when the car is turned off: lotsa, lotsa bass! The bass had a nice quality; while heavy, it was not exactly slow and plodding as may be expected. Actual bottom octave, air moving bass was there, but the majority of boost sounded like it was in the range most people consider low bass but is actually closer to mid bass.
There was an excellent and stable center image, and the soundstage was surprisingly extremely wide. The overall soundstage seemed less deep than wide, though that could be due to the somewhat close placement to the rear wall. I felt the imaging was very precise. However, I was initially bothered by a slight hardness and sharpness to the upper mids.
Because of the 2.5's vertical line array, listening height doesn't change much as long as your ear is within the height of the array. But the line array height is below ear height when standing, even for someone on the short side; therefore, the sound is very hollow when standing up. I found the lateral axis to also be fairly critical; with the speakers toed in straight at the listening position, the upper mids had a sharp, hard quality. However, reducing the toe-in so that the back of the sub cabinet is slightly visible on the midbass side gave a better balance. In fact, after I lessened the toe in, I was rewarded with much smoother upper mids and low treble.
With the toe in tweaked, I settled in with more familiar program material. The smoother tonal balance encouraged me to keep inching up the volume, and the 2.5's effortless dynamics was putting a big smile on my face. Yes, the bass was too heavy, but it had that live rock concert feel. The upper range was very clean at extremely high volume. Again I was treated to a wide, precise soundstage, though depth was a bit on the shallow side. The top end sounded very realistic, with great upper octave extension. There was a natural sparkle to go along with the delicate (in a good way) sounding highs. Occasionally, I heard sounds coming from way beyond the physical spread of the speakers. Listening to a wide variety of music including rock, country, smooth jazz, and more, I got tastes of that pant-flapping bass that normally only comes with the most powerful subwoofers. Moreover, these speakers produced a very cohesive, seamless sound that I found seductive.
Pulling out my trusty analog Radio Shack SPL meter with Family Force Five's "Ghostride the Whip" rocking through the speakers, I was amazed to find clean 121 dB C-weighted peaks; and if I didn't mind a bit of fuzziness in the bass, peaks of over 124 dB came through at the listening position. That was the loudest I've ever heard or measured in a home stereo system. While it's common for high powered aftermarket car stereos to hit or exceed such levels with the help of huge cabin gain, it's almost unheard of in home systems. This system had an exceptional ability to recreate the volume and power of a live rock concert.
Though I did not experiment with either of these two options, there are a couple of ideas that came to mind to help control the bass balance. One would be to plug one or both of the dual rear bass reflex ports with acoustical foam. While this would reduce the output capability in the midbass, it would reduce the bloat and add a bit more bottom octave extension. The second would be to utilize a bass equalizer. However, if you like a little extra bass in your music, you'll be in audiophile heaven with the 2.5's sound unmodified.
wide, spacious soundstage
pinpoint imaging, with vocals firmly anchored at center stage
exceptional power and volume capability
clean, smooth, and airy upper range
pant-flapping bass capability
cohesive and seamless from midrange to treble
beautiful appearance and finish
sounds very hollow when standing up
soundstage a bit shallow in this setup
The first 2 attachments use the PsychoAcoustic response, which greatly reduces the effect of the listening room's acoustics. The response appears more uneven than expected due to a line array being measured at a close measurement distance; therefore, these are meant to show just the differences, not the actual balance. They are intended to show the change in balance moving up and down and side to side.
The last attachment is a 10 reading spatially averaged response of both left and right speakers centered at the listening position, spanning a window a few feet wide, a couple feet deep, and about a foot high. It shows the room response of the speakers; in other words, how it sounded in this room.
attachment 1: Vertical response
Measuring distance: 1 meter
Curve 1 (gray): 36 high
Curve 2 (green): 42 high
Curve 3 (cyan): 30 high
attachment 2: Horizontal response at 1 meter distance, 36 height
Curve 1 (gray): on axis
Curve 2 (green): 1 foot to the midbass side
Curve 3 (cyan): 1 foot to the tweeter side
attachment 3: Spatially averaged in-room response, both L and R speakers, centered around listening position
Edit: I meant to include a review of the 6005 as well, but due to time restraints, that will have to come later.