Hey guys –
Please excuse my absence for the day, I just needed to decompress a bit after yesterday’s all-day auditioning. I simply pushed things too far and got myself into analysis paralysis again. At least this time both speakers sounded so good that I came away appreciating both, rather than having to pick the lesser of two evils. But still, the whole experience was rather laborious because I had to manually change cables every time I wanted to listen to the other set of speakers and the note taking did not allow me to just listen and relax. In addition, by the time I made the cable switch, I was questioning the qualities I thought I heard in each set of speakers.
With that said, at the end of the day yesterday, the Sapphires were the winner. They sounded a bit more natural than the Revels, the instruments within the soundstage were larger, and the bass had more warmth and punch. The Revels had better separation between sounds and better clarity, but the instruments seemed smaller. The Revels also sounded a bit dry in comparison to the Sapphires. I don’t want to give the wrong impression of my experience with the Revels the first day. I would gladly take them over any of the other speakers I have recently owned / auditioned, but the Sapphires edged them out in the areas above.
But wait just a moment, because today all of that changed. Today, the Revels were the clear winner. First, I was able to significantly lower my stress level by rewiring my system to make fast switching possible. I simply ran one set of speakers off of the main L/R outs and the other off of the Zone 2 outs. I keep one muted while I listen to the other, making it just the press of a button to switch between them. Thank God, because that manual switching crap is for the birds. I also took no notes today, I listened to some fresh tracks (I was growing very weary of listening to my compilation audition CDs), and I limited my listening to just a couple of hours. All of these changes made the whole process much more enjoyable and less like a chore.
I don’t know if it was just my reduced stress level, or break-in, but I swear the Revels sounded like much different speakers today. The images were just as focused as yesterday, but they grew in size and the overall soundstage became noticeably more expansive. The mids also sounded noticeably more open than the Sapphires while at the same time sounding more relaxed (less forward than the Sapphires). The bass was tighter, more punchy, and deeper as well.
Some of the qualities that I admired in the Sapphires yesterday also did a flip-flop on me today. The larger image of the instruments within the soundstage almost sounded too diffuse in comparison to the Revels now. I also noticed that when playing anything with a larger number of instruments playing simultaneously, the soundstage became a bit too crowded—like the instruments were overlapping a bit. Not enough to call the sound congested, but the Revels had better separation of instruments. The other issue was with the bass. Yesterday, I liked what sounded like some added warmth / fullness in the mid-to-upper bass. Today, the mid-bass sounded a bit overdone and less defined than the Revels. I was a bit disappointed by the bass of the Revels yesterday, especially considering all of the positive comments made by Rydenfan and others about their superior bass quality. Today, I could not be more satisfied. The bass was tight, tuneful, articulate, punchy, and powerful without sounding overdone.
Overall, the clarity, the instrument separation, the broad soundstage and the tight extended bass of the Revels really brought a smile to my face. In fact, it pretty much covers all of the key areas that I value (in addition to a neutral and transparent midrange). I don’t believe in extended break-in periods for speakers, but it would seem that Revels did need a little time to open-up and fill out. In the past I always expected to hear tonal changes during the break-in period (in addition to the bass filling out), but I think I have been looking in the wrong area this whole time. While I was right about the bass (it has gotten better with break-in on every speaker I’ve owned), the other changes were not tonal at all, but rather an expansion and smoothing of the sound.
Who knows what tomorrow has in store for me.
Oh there was one other issue that came up with the Sapphires today. When I was rockin’ out and pushing them fairly hard, the treble became spitty and borderline aggressive, whereas the Revels remained composed at all levels. This alone could be a deal breaker for me. I like to listen loud at times (don’t we all?
) and because I plan to build an HT system around the speakers I choose, they need to handle the demands of high-volume, explosive action flicks along with the subtleties of music.