OK, I've lived with the new Red Cherry Catalysts for a while now, listening to a fairly wide variety of source material such as 5.1 BD concert videos, MC SACD's, standard CD stereo (2.0 and 2.1 used), BD films and even AIFF downloads from my iphone.
First, let me say the build quality of the veneered Catalysts is beyond reproach. This was not surprising as I already owned a SubMersive and a pair of Sparks but those are not veneered which requires a whole different standard to "get it right." Mark puts a great deal of effort into the finishing process including restrictions against using non-volatiles. Believe me, this may sound easy but it is not. FWIW, I make my living dealing in very high-end American antique furniture so my comments here are not casual or uninformed. I'm an accomplished conservator/cabinetmaker so I've seen it all. There are no shortcuts here; they are the real deal.
The large chamfered edges (which helps with diffraction problems) also transform the looks from a "plain rectangular box" into something beautiful, especially with the very slick magnetic grilles attached. Yes, these speakers are large but not the least bit awkward IMO.
Now onto the really important stuff...The Sound!
I have not found these speakers to be the least bit bright, harsh, warm or tubby. Even at reference levels they are not fatiguing at all. What they do present is what I will call a "Full" sound. What do I mean by that? The Cats seem to present every last ounce of detail possible, in ALL frequencies except those beyond their intended use (below 55hz). While I dislike admitting to the old cliche, I did in fact hear things in recordings I had not noticed before. Example: In Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" there is a loud passage toward the end of the recording (AIFF ipod btw!) where lots is going on at once and I could hear soft harmonic vocalizations emerge just after the crescendo. That was news to me and I've heard that song many dozens of times. A number of Queen songs from "A Night at the Opera" were good test cases for critical listening with the Cats as they feature all sorts of gimmicks to showcase things like dispersion and separation.
My first love is music so I put the Cats through their paces with some pretty diverse material. The Beatles monaural set I picked up last year was surprisingly interesting. I've been a huge Beatles fan since before their breakup so again, I know the material. The "fake stereo" mixes are tiresome at this point but the remastered Mono? Wow. Clarity was a big strong suit for the Sparks but the Cats take it to a whole different plane. Paul and John's voices are stupendously clear and very immediate. If you close your eyes you would swear you were in the studio with the band. Everything is right there. Nothing weird, colored or fake about it at all. With many recordings (at least any fine/well mastered ones) the Catalysts present an extremely potent "LIVE" feeling. I keep coming back to that idea. They reproduce the LIVE performance with uncanny ease.
The Moody Blues BD I played last night was another example of reproducing the live effect. It was astonishing! A crystal clear, visceral, almost overwhelming wall of sound. All without a hint of distortion no less.
Fugueness and others have said the active DSP-controlled Catalysts have great immediacy that can only be appreciated when heard. I agree. The two words that kept coming to my mind when demoing material was (1) LIVE and (2) BIG. When I first started hunting for loudspeakers I kept telling people I was looking for a big sound. They looked at me like I was nuts
but this is exactly what the Cats impart. Gravity. Raw Power. Delicate Finesse.
Other recordings demoed included:
Pink Floyd DSOM SACD (obligatory, I know
). I enjoyed listening to DSOM a lot and it was everything it's cracked up to be over the Cats. Having said that, I much prefer "Wish You Were Here" even in 2.1 and this was extraordinary. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" is a particular favorite. Again, I felt like I was in the studio sitting next to poor Syd. Just exhilarating.
Alan Parsons Project "Time" was next. Lush, detailed, smooth. What else can I say? I never enjoyed it more.
Steely Dan "My Old School" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" were a revelation. The piano, vocals and horns in My Old School" were just so damned beautiful. In fact, I was sitting right next to the horn section.
LIVE, once again. Rikki Don't Lose that Number was interesting for the same reasons but with one other benefit. The passage between the marimbas at the opening into the instrumentals was DEAD QUIET. I was a little worried a powerful active speaker might produce some hiss just when that's the last thing I want. No worries. There was nothing to take me out of the moment. I was getting some hum when I first set up the Cats but quickly isolated the problem (my fault) and everything's been whisper quiet since.
Film and TV have been equally gratifying but very different of course. Running through Star Trek TNG lately and it's totally immersive. The Kuro Pro 111FD plays a big part here (although now it's feeling small @ 50") but dialogue intelligibility is off the charts. No more rewinding to hear something you missed. One quibble I have is that I'm using one of the Cats as a CC turned on its side and angled up. It's much better than most (no significant lobing) but it still feels like dialogue is coming from under the screen. Of course this is not the fault of the speaker, rather my poor placement combined with a small room. The only way around this for anyone not using a FP and AT screen is Trinnov processing. As that's not readily available yet I'll try to play with it some more to see if it can be optimized.
Final conclusion: If you are interested in "pro-based" loudspeakers and it's remotely in the budget, you owe it to yourself to give these a listen. I find they are exemplary with music and I've owned and heard lots and lots of high-end audio. The hype is true. Catalysts are king in my book!!