This is from Thursday. Funkmonkey gave me the go-ahead to post. I don't know if anyone is interested in my musical selection, but I will likely provide some links. I will discuss music with anyone, so feel free to ask. Music in Motion - Revel Ultima Studio1 w/all Lexicon Front
I got to a late start, but I arrived in the greater Chicagoland area around 11:30am local time. This was the closest stop and so I began here, knowing they carried both Dynaudio and Revel. Sadly, they had nothing in Dyn to really shake things up, so I listened to the Ultima Studio1.
When Dead Can Dance Host of the Seraphim started
I was standing in the corner of the room next to the gear and immediately noticed how unusually centered the sound was. It was uncanny, considering I was nowhere near on axis for the stereo pair. I had to look, and sure enough the Lex was doing its crazy Logic7 magic. Switched to 2-channel and got in position. In short, that was an impressive showcase of Logic7. In two channel I was immediately impressed with how much added depth I was hearing compared to what I am accustomed to (GS60 Monitor Audio). The whole soundstage was pushed much further behind the speaker plane. But there was a really unhealthy quality to vocals which I did not notice in the DCD song. It took the next track to expose this. On Dr. Feelgood
Aretha's voice was not what I would call natural in any sense. It had a hollow almost cave-like echo effect to it. I played a few other songs with the same impression. Surely this wasn't the speaker. Sure enough, the sales person came back in the room and for the first time we spoke inside this room. It was almost an echo chamber for my voice. I think I did not notice it on the Dead Can Dance because it was recorded in a church and the track is not inhibited by further reverberation. On everything else I tried, however, vocals specifically had a very unnatural quality. It is too bad, and I will certainly try and audition some Ultimas in another environment some day.Audio Consultants - B&W w/Rotel
Started off with the 804. Started out with Come Together
. Bass was boomy and in no way defined to these ears. The sound quality was good, overall, it sounded like it was coming out of good speakers. The illusion of being in the room with the Beatles just never got pulled off. I brought a sibilance checker with me, Cowboys
, off of Portishead's self titled second album. It was pretty bad and I did not last more than 30 seconds with it, failing the sibilance check. Moved on to Balamouk
off Les Yeux Noirs' CD of the same name. This is a Klezmer band with some very talented musicians I have seen perform live twice at a world music fest. This particular track has some heavy bass and it muddied up everything else, which is likely somewhat to do with the room, but I am not positive.
Moved on to the 803 (no pic, sorry) with the same Rotel CDP and separates
On Last Goodbye
from Jeff Buckley's Grace
, everything shaped up really nicely. This is not a bass heavy track and by this point I had gotten the ports plugged which helped tighten the bass up as well. The presentation of Buckley's voice through the 803 gave the impression of a live performance much better than the 804, IMO. On Balamouk
the bass was tighter and deeper, but still not quite where I am used to it in either respect. I asked about hearing the 803D and the dealer suggested I should move straight to the 802D paired with Ayre Evo UDP and McIntosh C2200/MC402. Who was I to argue?
My first impression of this setup can be summed up in three words: heaviest remote ever. My impression of the 802D: bowling ball. Seriously though, I really felt like I had found something that improved notably on what I have had the past month. Nothing against the 804 and 803, but they just did not do it for me that much more than my GS60s. This setup was something special. Maybe it was the Ayre, maybe the McIntosh tubed Preamp, maybe the huge honkin' output Transformer in the MC402. Frankly I didn't care. I put in Abbey Road
with the intention of listening to a track and skipping here and there. I hit Mean Mr. Mustard
about the time the dealer re-joined me and I hadn't once thought about moving on until then. I don't have a lot of notes on this one, but the sound is not likely to leave me for awhile. After listening, I took a minute and jotted down some quick thoughts. The bass was a little tubby. It was very full but on Balamouk
the bass almost consumed an accordion that I normally make out without difficulty. On Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, op14; IV - March to the Scaffold
dynamics were just about everything I could ask for out of a speaker. I will admit on the same track there was not pinpoint precision for each instrument, but again this is a small chink in good armor. I noticed similar on Ellington's Festival Junction
from Newport '56
but they both sounded so good and got me excited to be listening. Even the Kinks' Shangri-La
was a great listen for me, and they did not get a Beatles budget. Very musical system. And that is what this should be about.
Aesthetically, a bowling ball on a nice wood column.
Thiel CS2.4 with the same Rotel from the 803/804
These performed a better disappearing act than the 804, but after the 802D I was spoiled. Soundstage width was on par with the 803, but a bit deeper. Beck's voice on Little One
was huge, almost filling the wall. I was really impressed with the tightness of the bass on these, probably the best I had heard today so far, but on the other end it seemed to lose a little air that everything else had had. This speaker was only the second of the day to pass my sibilance test (see above, e.g. Portishead) but it definitely seemed to be rolled off in the upper register to me. Nothing felt alive, but it all sounded good. In short, these speakers did not excite me. They played beautifully and I think a lot of people would really like them, but for me they just didn't have any spark. Aesthetically, I found them utterly average and I find my GS60 to be more pleasing all around. I hope this offends no one.Decibel Audio - Dali Helicon 400 MkI with Cary 98/CD300 and Parasound A21
It took no time whatsoever to figure out why so many people are Dali fans. These are speakers that tell you how they will sound just by looking at them. Refined, beautiful, perhaps a bit stately.
But seriously, I could have listened to this setup all afternoon, and I nearly did. The midrange is a lot more laid back and has a warmer quality than on my GS60, similar to... I guess the Thiels, but I liked listening to these a lot more. Not as full a soundstage as the 803, and certainly did not seem to have as much bass. What was there in the deep end, however, was cleaner and more well defined than on that B&W again similar to the Thiel. If you asked what I liked about these that made them different than the Thiel, I would point to two non-aesthetic qualities. First - the air I felt was missing in the Thiels was here in abundant detail. Good separation of instruments on the Ellington and on Carnaval de Sao Vicente
by Cesaria Evora. The latin percussion was perfectly placed, the brass was all nicely rendered if a bit on the soft side from natural. If I had a complaint on this system, it would be that I could not hear anything else from Dali in the store. Also, the midrange, as lush and warm as it was left a little to be desired from a clarity standpoint. In the strictest of terms, the mids were a tiny bit muddy for lack of a more fitting term. I left wanting more, though... so I am going to say I would certainly forgive them this complaint.Saturday Audio, NAD M3 & T585
PSB Synchrony One with above front. These are remarkable little speakers and I never had them on my list. Reminded me a lot of the Dali, with a little less warmth and a little less top end detail and air. They were also a little polite to my ears, but not in a bad way. I did notice there seemed to be a lift to the upper mids, maybe in the 1000-1500Hz range. It became a bit distracting because otherwise there was nothing to indicate a major deviation from neutral. They also were a little frustrating because on a few occasions one speaker would draw attention to itself, let its presence be known. I hadn't expected this, since I hadn't heard it since the 804 and according to my sales guy, these compete with speakers north of 15K. Overall, that is mostly a nickpicking point, since these had a nice natural sound to them. Also, tight bass with good extension, a bit more output than the Dali in the low sector. Lively, but didn't glue me to the chair like the Dali or the 802D.
PL300 with the same NAD M3/T585
Wow, this really took a long time to get here. I have only listened to two pairs in the price range of this one, but everything else I listened to retail for roughly what these are go for "used". I know it's unfair, but it will be how I would go about justifying this purchase in the event I make it. I suppose to be completely fair, I should really try and find some Dali Euphonias, some Revel F52s, and some Dynaudio Contour S5.4, amongst others that will sell used for what the PL300 are. I tried today, but I was mostly unsuccessful. Getting to the point, here are some impressions:
I have little to add to the discussion of the PL300, as I believe most of this is just rehashing. It was bar-none the most detailed speaker I have ever heard without any high-end harshness. They were certainly more forward than the 802D or the Studio1, but I would liken it to sitting in the 6th row at an accoustic event compared to sitting maybe 15th. Regardless, I was very impressed with them. I still found the sound to be very holographic and very deep. The best analogy would be to say you have a cube of sound. On the Studio1 the cube was all behind the speakers, on the 802D I would say it extended beyond the speaker plane by a bit, on the PL300 the cube extended just a little further yet. I would not say any of the three had more depth, the depth just happened to be in different places relative to the speaker drivers. Warpdrv said the character of the PL300 was similar to the 802D. I am inclined to agree, with some minor points of contention which may be more room related than speaker. I found the PL300 to have more defined bass. As an example Nude
by Radiohead, a song I have listened to plenty of times since December. I have never heard the bass the way I did tonight on the PL. I actually got the deep note, but also the texture of the bass guitar. It was totally unexpected. When listening to Come Together
I heard the same effect and also noted how fricken great Paul plays on that song. I further noticed a moment when some fingers ran over electric guitar frets right before starting their holding pattern for notes. That almost made me fall out of the couch. Listening to Hunted
by the Kodo Drummers of Japan, the PL300 left any sense of excess bass completely out of question. These are DEEP playing drums, but I could have pointed to each drummer in line and I even noticed some playful trade-offs between drummers I had not noticed before. This effect was absent in the 802D, but that could be in part the fault of the room. The PL300 were in a very damped room, whereas the 802D were in an open room with only a couple of bass traps in the upper corners. What I would LOVE to have a chance to do is have both speakers running on the Mac gear in the damped room along with the Revels from earlier in the day, since I am sure their room killed them for me. One other thing in might have noticed that I think was entirely psychological, but I will mention just in case I am not insane. When listening to Invisible Ink
by Aimee Mann, I could have sworn she was singing into the room from the right. The voice was centered, but it seemed to have an angle to it. I assumed it was a weird toeing issue with the left speaker. Then I listened to Shangri-La
and Davies' voice seemed to be angled in from the left. At this point I was sure I was crazy, but on to Joanna Newsom and Cesaria Evora and both of their voices were coming straight at me. It was as if.... somehow.... the PL300 managed to convey the way a singer sang into their respective mic. Again, I am certain I imagined this all, but in the event anyone here has experienced the same it would be nice to know of my sanity. On to the Ellington; just as lively and wonderful as it was on the 802D and Dali, but with better separation than at least the Dali. Then I get to Cat Anderson's solo on the trumpet and I can hear the guy tonguing his notes. Holy fricken crapola.
One thing I did learn today. The GS60 really are a fine speaker and hold up nicely against their direct competition. Only the Dali would have earned a place in my home over the GS60 if I were looking for speakers in this price bracket. And even then I am pretty sure I don't prefer the Dali, I just think they are great great speakers. Much like I feel about the GS60.
Secondary edit: Let Down
from Radiohead's OK Computer
on the PL300. This is a bit harder to describe and I may not be entirely correct about the process used in production/mixing, but this track has Yorke's voice split left and right and I believe out of phase. I have never heard it sound the way it did on the PL300 before with exception of some nice studio grade headphones. The effect the PL300 pulled off left me pretty well stunned as his voice projected out far from the speaker plane. This wasn't mere inches, either. It pulled off the illusion of the vocalists being well into the room. It floored me.