I really should try to post my impressions first - going after the stellar postings so far really is going to make mine seem blech.
One thing that was definitely not blech - David pulling this all together. Nicely done mate.
Up front - I am a predominant HT guy with a small percentage of music listening - probably about a 70-30 split so take that in to account with my thoughts.
First up was the Bamberg Series 5 TMWs which were run full range. They have a very unique design - definitely a shift from the standard rectangle and the finish on them was very well done.
They had a very open, airy sound that I enjoyed very much - they image beautifully which was especially evident on one of the tracks which was a female duet - you really could visualize each person's position when the track was recorded. That said, I do believe that they were being run a bit too loud as I felt that some female vocals just sounded shrill - as well as one specific track with a solo horn. When horns were mixed as part of an overall orchestra, they sounded much better. Male vocals sounded excellent with great dynamic range.
Midrange was spot on - the snap of a block being struck or the snare drum - it just did not matter the Series 5s just played them so crisp and clean. The detail was excellent as well - from the audible breaths to the sound of the cymbols on Hells Bells.
There was a slight degradation in soundfield off-axis - just barely noticeable though. As far as the low end, they did pretty well here, but I felt that the cannons on the 1812 track lacked impact.
Where these really stood out for me was in the aesthetics, midrange, and dynamic range (especially male vocals). If I were in the market for a 2 channel system, I would definitely give these a second, longer audition.
Next up was the SVS Ultras which were initially crossed to subs and at the end (with requested tracks) were run full range.
Another beautiful speaker - the piano black finish was exquisite and the cabinets have enough contouring to give it some character. The soundstage for this speaker was excellent - there was no noticeable degradation off axis. That said, they did not image very well for me - I never felt that there was any point where I could forget the speakers were there.
Vocals sounded OK, but I felt they were just a little flat - they just did not engage me at all. They also lacked the detail I crave - not being able to hear those minute details like breaths almost makes me wonder what else I am missing that I missed.
Midrange was OK, but I did not hear the noticeable snap that I was able to hear on the Bambergs on the same tracks. Low end was good - I did not notice the effect that the NE group was talking about where they felt the bass was too boomy. The cannons on the 1812 track sounded good - slightly more impactful than the Bambergs.
The characteristics that stood out most for me on these were the aesthetics and the soundstage. A saying brings itself to mind with these speakers - jack of all trades, master of none. They did everything well, but there just was not that one thing that made them stand out from the rest.
Next up was the Seaton Catalyst 12Cs which were intially crossed to subs and then Mark switched them to run full range and played requests.
This is the third chance I have had to hear the Cat 12s, and they have not disappointed on any of those occasions. Directly from my AXPONA experience:At AXPONA, I had a chance to hear the entire system together. First off, the Red Cherry finish is beautifully done - every speaker just really popped out. As with the previous audition, detail and clarity were phenomenal and vocal dynamics were handled really well. They imaged really well - it really felt the vocalist was right dead center. I think the biggest difference was that with the entire system, it just all blended so much better. And, I did not feel the same sense of fatigue that I did the last time I heard them - and this was after all day Friday as well as most of Saturday of listening to other systems.
Another interesting feature - the Catalyst 12Cs can be set up to crossover to subs or they can be run full range. It only takes a push of a button and a power cycle to switch them over.
Nothing at the GTG changed any of that - every instrument I specifically listen for - horns, piano, and cymbols - sounded amazing. Vocals were clean, incredibly dynamic and no sense of them struggling with the female vocals at the top end. They are incredibly detailed - this is the first set of speakers that I noticed a male "vocal" on the last track (Janet Chapin - sounded like he was huffing or something like that
They image wonderfully - locked dead center and seemed right on a line with the speakers. I also noticed more detail with the cannons in the 1812 track - you could hear what almost sounded like the powder flash.
When swapped to full range, they had a nice, impactful low end. It may have just been my hearing, but I thought that the mids may not have had the same snap. However, we did not play the same tracks so I would take that with a grain of salt.
All in all, a fantastic speaker. The characteristics that stood out most for me were the aesthetics (gorgeous cherry finish), clarity, instrument handling, midrange, and vocals. Definitely speakers I would not mind owning at all...
On to the LS6s - these were run full range. They have 8 6.5" mids and 6 tweeters and are about 6' tall - crazy! These have a gorgeous Brazilian Rosewood veneer and, even though they have the standard rectangle shape, the fact that they are that tall with all those drivers presents a uniqueness all its own.
Throughout the audition, I kept wondering if the subs were actually engaged - these just had that much presence in the low end. The only time I felt they struggled was on the very lowest notes - they sounded a bit muddy down there. However, very little music reaches that low so it is not a deal-breaker at all to me. On the 1812 track, you could definitely hear the detail of the blast, but it lacked the impact of the Cat 12s.
Instruments sounded fantastic - piano was just so pure and you could hear the strike of the cymbols. I just LOVE that level of detail. They image beautifully - on that female duet track, you could again visualize their location. As I expected, there is no noticeable degradation off axis.
Vocals were crystal clear and very dynamic - the male vocal track (was a group - do not remember the name) showed this to a T for me. Midrange was utterly insane - they just SNAPPED right off and had that "punch" sound I just adore.
The characteristics that most stood out for me were the midrange, aesthetics, imaging, soundstage, and vocals.
I remember thinking about 2/3 of the way through the playlist about whether or not I could tackle building these on my own. At $2,000 for the kit, they would present excellent value if you can manage the build. However, for at least $5,000 for them already built, I would probably look for something that managed that low end a bit better for a 2 channel system.
Time was starting to be of the essence, so the Salk Veracity HT2s audition was cut a little short. They were run full range. While they have the standard shape, there is nothing standard about the finish - beautifully done.
I have heard several different Salk speakers, and one thing stays consistent - the RAAL tweeter is a fantastic performer. Vocals are so smooth and warm and detailed - breaths are plainly audible as is every nuance of the vocals themselves. Female vocals were splendid - no shrillness at all.
This was the other speaker I was not sure if the subs were running - very nice thump. However, I did feel that these also struggled with the very lowest notes. Great midrange punch - and so clean! I cannot recall the specific track, but there is a point where there was a repititive striking of the snare (?) drum, and you could hear each and every strike - awesome!
They imaged beautifully - all the speakers except the Ultras did IMO - and the soundstage had just a slight degradation off axis.
The characteristics that stood out most for me were the midrange and vocals. Would I like to own Salks? You bet I would - but I have a new love, and they will be along shortly... :bigsmile:
Last up was the JTR Noesis 212s - these are created to be crossed to a sub so running full range really changes the sound (as I discovered quite well during the blind audition). I heard them earlier in the week as Jeff's shop is 40 minutes from me - I spent a solid 2 hours there and was very impressed. I was looking forward to hearing them in a different room to see how they performed.
From an aesthetic point of reference, these are finished for home theater use - they have a very dark finish and have a little texture to them. In my opinion, they are designed to disappear. Note - I am pretty certain that we were running these louder than any other speaker - maybe 5 db higher if I had to guess.
From the outset, I was enthralled. On the very first track, I heard a midrange note that I did not notice on any other speaker. That just continued throughout the playlist - midrange notes just popped and were just so clean. Instruments - again, piano, horns, cymbols - were just so engaging and pure. Low end was very impactful - as expected since they were crossed to a pair of S2s :bigsmile: - which was very evident when we hit the 1812 cannons.
They also image really well - that female duet track was a fantastic choice to show how well each speaker imaged. There was a slight degradation in the soundstage off axis.
Both male and female vocals were very dynamic and engaging - no shrillness or flatness at all. The detail of the selected tracks came in clear as a bell - I especially noticed the plucking of the guitar on the Eagles track and the male "vocal" in the last track.
I was all set to save up for Salk Soundscape 8s, but after reading through reviews, the impressions from the New England area GTG, and hearing these in two different rooms, I am sold.