So much to cover ...
I've never attended any enthusiast/forum gathering such as this. I've attended audio trade shows and met a small handful of AVS'ers/individuals in professional capacities, but I've never got together with a group like this, I strongly recommend it. I have met fellow forum members individually, and have had extended listening sessions.
Prior to this GTG, I'd not met any of the fellow attendees other than Mark Seaton.
Andrew, I'm so appreciative for your hospitality and the monumental effort you poured into this killer event. I realize plenty of others also helped in countless ways such as assembling and DJ'ing the listening material, the food and drink and assuring we "ate and drank like kings all day", also all the system measuring and physical change-over of the loudspeakers involved, everything just seemed to go off without a hitch, and the day absolutely flew by from my perspective.
Also, a huge shout out and expression of gratitude to those involved supplying the loudspeakers for this GTG, what a huge commitment for sure ... and we're all better for it.
It was a really pleasure meeting the fellow attendees. My only regret is not getting the opportunity to spend even more time visiting with everyone. What a solid group with an entire mixture of talents. Seriously, to me it seemed like we were just getting started and it was time to wrap up. Others have mentioned fatigue, listening fatigue or otherwise, but I was ready for more.
During my trip back home I took the opportunity to collect my thoughts even more. On one of my return flights, I remember thinking it's truly remarkable the amount of forum contributions and the myriad of knowledge spanning a variety of HT related topics. that is directly attributable to the GTG group. Again, I just wish I could've had the opportunity to spend a lot more time visiting with the fellow attendees.
I know several enjoyed experiencing popolock's system the night before, and having an early Sunday morning flight, I was disappointed to miss the CraigJohn Sunday excursion. I know many AVS'ers do get together on occasion, we all enjoy the forums ... but there's way too much bench racing, and not enough gatherings, big or small, going on. I highly recommend it.
As I understand it, nearly everyone else in attendance had previous opportunities to get to know each other, and the camaraderie was evident. I did enjoy meeting and visiting with those I did hang with, albeit quite brief, and that's what I enjoyed more than any other aspect of the GTG. Regrettably, there were a few attendees I really didn't get much of an opportunity to visit with aside from simple greetings ... just simply too much going on.
None of these systems could ever be mistaken for modest size or weight. They're all robustly constructed, dense and damn heavy! So again, to those involved in bringing these speakers to the GTG, thank you for allowing us to experience all these systems, in the same room, in the same event.
No dogs here, all five systems were outstanding, and all four offer high performance in different ways. Despite radically differing approaches taken by their respective designers, the playback experience I enjoyed during the course of the GTG, illustrated that each speaker's tonal characteristics and dynamic capability were seemingly much more alike than different. After all, these were the heavyweights, no?
Granted, the room's influence is everything, and it should be no surprise that these badass systems, EQ'd and experienced thru the room interface, bass managed w/the same sub system, it's not at all surprising the resultant sound is tough to distinguish from one another. The room, even as much as it is pointed out, the room's influence cannot be overstated.
The GTG was great, no doubt. But a big component of the success of the GTG ... is this results thread, and everyone discussing/rehashing what was experienced. Sharing my thoughts about what I experienced in an unfiltered manner is important, as anything else would really be a dis-service to the blind listening aspect and what was gleaned from this GTG. Everyone wants their speaker to perform well. If there's any perceived disrespect or disagreement, I understand, ... but know it's certainly not the intent. My only intent is for the community to grow as a result of all the effort involved in such an epic GTG.
I flew from Indianapolis to Philadelphia, via a connecting flight caught in Chicago. I left Indy Friday afternoon, and got to Philadelphia just before dusk. Two of the legs I had were typical, intermediate size aircraft. But for short regional flights like the other two legs, it's always a pleasure to have seat A when flying alone. It's the single seat (in the 3 wide, 1-2 config), you've got the window and an aisle. Now it's not the upper deck of a 747, but it is nice.
Having flown into Philadelphia before, I recall the rental car areas are in a little corral adjacent to the terminal. I caught a shuttle to the rental car facility, and painlessly picked up a sweet little brand new Chevy Impala, ... with only a couple thousand miles on it. Every time I rent a car, I'm reminded of some of the primary reasons why I like owning/driving a big vehicle; superior vision. We own a Town and Country, and a four door F150-FX4, and getting my butt down into that cabin was a bitch. Then just the overall ability to see .. the tiny car size mirrors, the low seated visibility and not being able to anticipate braking situations as well as in up higher in my truck. Navigating my way out of the airport area and toward the Hampton Inn Chadds Ford was a piece of cake, ... despite the rush hour gridlock the entire way.
The following morning, I headed out to find Andrew's place. Once close, it wasn't hard to see which place it was, cars lined the street in front of his beautiful home. It seemed as if nearly everyone had already arrived. I'm not sure but I believe I was greeted and shown around a bit by Austin (popalock), and quickly met several others. What an easy going and fun group, this should be good day!
There were guys both on the main floor, and down in the lower level HT. Those downstairs were busy tuning and tweaking, measuring etc. I met Andrew and some others down there. Upstairs on the main floor, there was a small group setting up some measuring gear and getting ready to measure some of the four or five sets of smaller two-ways. This was in the large, high ceiling "family" room. The room is wide open to the dining and kitchen area behind. Looking around, it's hard not to notice the multiple distributed subs around the room, and the variety of two-ways being auditioned thru this way cool custom speaker level switcher, switchable speaker-to-speaker via remote.
Despite some peaky FR issues, auditioning these smaller designs up here on the main-floor was fun, and these really represented huge potential and high value/bang for the buck for such a modest amount of cabinet size. There were three coaxial designs, a pair of tiny two-way mini-monitors and what appeared to be some big, vented, diysoundgroup SEOS based mains. I only heard the coaxial designs, and each exhibited significantly
different tonal perspectives, but I love the theoretical benefits inherent to point source type approaches, these were fun. It should be noted at least one of these had a stock, off the shelf X-over.
Andrew's main-floor is cavernous, from a cubic volume perspective. I mean it's huge and open to everything, with a double height ceiling, open to the second floor and an open back to the dining and kitchen areas and more,...yeah, mammoth amount of cubes. I can see why he's rocking these multiple 18"s around the room. I also see and immediately recognize this gargantuan 24" driver from SI laying on the floor, wow, what a monster. We all examined it closely and pondered the possibilities.
Essentially having just got there, I introduced myself to everyone around, and a handful of attendees began to discuss measuring these two-ways, they where experiencing what may have been an Allison effect type of quarter-wave cancelation off the floor. We were interrupted when we were just starting to get into measuring and cause/effect of the FR dip, and examine the overall FR, ... interrupted, to go downstairs to begin our day of listening and assessing these great loudspeakers.
Can't wait to get started with the big stuff, let's go ...
So proceeding down into the lower level of the home, what a treat.
Andrew's HT is great, it's truly a solid platform for both an ideal family home theater, and perfectly suited for such a GTG as this. Earlier, I met Andrew as he was working with Matt and Jake, they were setting up and tuning the monster SEOS-R set. Andrew and his wife have the ideal home for such a GTG. This HT area, even though it's not overly large, still there's ample room to never feel crowded, even when everyone was down there at one time. The bar and surrounding parts really compliment the seating area.
I found some coffee behind the bar, and took my place up in the front row readying ourselves for the first session. Looking around, I'm checking out all the relevant aspects of the space. Viewing online submitted pics is one thing, but it doesn't always portray the area accurately. That holds true here, and I shared this with Andrew. In my opinion, his HT seems much
larger in person than what I had envisioned.
Anyway, it's a solid space. It's a good platform to slowly transform ... better and better with time, ... just as he's been doing. The L-R symmetry up front is the best aspect in my opinion. And in a retro-fit HT, you either got it or you don't (if you don't, you need it
). It all starts with symmetry, and for a retro-fitted space, transformed into a performance HT, it's a great attribute. There is a small window cut out on the right side, but other than that all's good 'til past the second row.
There is some acoustic treatment in the HT, but the room could really benefit from more. A careful strategy with additional treatment, would really elevate the performance to the next level. Regardless, upon meeting Andrew one can quickly tell he's a great guy, and his place is great too, ... both possessing ideally suited characteristics for hosting such a GTG.
We all know, an axiom that's often mentioned related to loudspeaker design, it's all about compromise. Comparing this particular group of highly capable loudspeakers is just that; an exercise exhibiting various compromises.
These designs span quite a bit across the spectrum of choices and approaches in loudspeaker design. Active, passive, coaxial compression, coaxial cone/compression, co-entrant band-pass horns w/coaxial compression, and finally the CBT design that exhibits it's pattern invariant w/freq and essentially no nearfield (being close, you're more off axis, farther you're more on axis). Yeah, that's quite the mix of offerings considering it's an enthusiast GTG with volunteer driven samples. What a community!
When the superb BMS coaxial loaded JTR is arguably the most simple/modest design, that's quite the assortment!
Taking notes and assessing these loudspeakers blind;
Having never heard anything in Andrew's HT, it's tough to form relative comments. My most recent base of reference is my Cat12C based system. As I share my listening impressions, I will place them un-edited, and in the order in which I wrote them down. I'll also elaborate with some additional comments for clarification of my original comments.
As we were seated, yet prior to beginning the listening sessions, I inquired about what's expected of us, etc. Andrew gave a brief overview and off we went. There were six seats up in the primary seating area, we rotated seating positions extensively. Whenever possible, I tried to be up in the front row for reasons I'll discuss later.
Everyone has somewhat different tastes relative to playback levels, house curve FR tilt/sub level. It sounded great, period. I would've liked more overall level, maybe that would've subjectively raised the LF up to my preference too. In hindsight, I had zero fatigue, so maybe this was the right level.
The music tracks we used seemed well put together, a nice varied selection groups with some palette cleansing transitions. I always appreciate possible exposure to music I wouldn't otherwise come into contact with, and this was no exception.
I discovered pretty early to try to tune out various comments trying to sway us one way or the other, because I remember hearing two such statements that fully contradicted each other. Also, some participants wanted to visit during the tracks, which I tried to tune out too. But it was all good, a fun and loose atmosphere with a lot of open discussion of our thoughts between segments. I tried to stay focused on my perceptions of what loudspeakers may be behind the screen. I took a lot of notes, primarily on the supplied sheets and I had a small handheld digital recorder too.
Here we go! As soon as first track began, and I began to make some assessments, my very first notes;
Tracks #1 and #2, "lacking full extension up top", "a touch too much ~200hz, but nicely resolving of image".
Track #5, Spanish Harlem, "superb, very nice, no excessive 200hz here".
Track #6, Hotel California, "smooth guitar without edge, nice kick drum leading edge, but needs boom".
(boom is a kick drum EQ term, ie, boom, smack, click... boom is down around the 55hz-65hz range, the smack being up in the 2khz-5khz range, helping detail the initial transient of the kick drum. In a well executed time aligned system, the smack delineates each individual hit. Up around 7khz is the click, some complex mixes may benefit from a bit extra up top to force the transient to cut sharply through a dense mix.)
Track #8, Soul of a Man, "great center image, maintained and solid"
Track #10, Home, "poor spectral balance"
Track #11, Madonna, "compression", "decent but vocal lacks clarity"
Track #12, Fleetwood Mac, "edge - 2k-4k"
Track #14 The Cars, "no impact whatsoever"
Track #20 Blake Reary, "significant punch increase moving front center, yet spectral balance maintained, telling", "nice music w/clean decay tail"
Track #23 Somewhere, "difficulty resolving massed vocals"
Track #24 Tool; Jambi, left front seat, "needs more clarity 100hz-300hz"
Track #25, Tool Undertow, "nice bass transient detail, but still needs "100hz-300hz clarity"
Track #27, Classical, "again lacking in full top end extension"
Track #28, Trent Reznor, "Killer track, amazing transients"
Track #31 Pink Floyd, "unfamiliar w/ this version"
Track #39 Atreyu, "very nice, good clarity thru 100hz-300hz, like a different speaker"
(several different tracks/moments, seemed as if there may have been some integration issue, somewhere, but with this last track it seemed as if it wasn't an issue)
Comments; blind, this may have been a non-blind listen for some, for me I wasn't told nor was I even sure until at least midway thru ... I began overhearing others re-assuring Jake that this will work out once it's fully tuned, etc. I didn't hear Jake express reservations or concerns, but I can fill in the blanks. I wasn't suprised it was the SEOS-R, but I was suprised of the open discussion. Granted, I did see the amps thru the AT screen, but didn't know these would be moved after this demo.
Track #20, Black Reary, I was very close on the floor, dead center, the off axis of the MF/HF was nicely handled. When the visceral punch increased up close, yet the spectral balance was adequately maintained, this was quite telling and maybe the best hallmark characteristic of a huge waveguide.
This design will be a world beater once fully optimized to it's final environment, no question, as it's got all the ingredients needed, and the right people involved.
(A)- Seaton Catalyst (blind)
Track #1, Classical, "a bit brighter than the previous"
Track #2, Classical, "significantly brighter and extended than the first (seemingly)"
Track #5, Spanish Harlem, "like a singer in the room, very dimensional and smooth mid-band"
(this was very, very nice, the first speaker didn't do this)
Track #6, Hotel California, "detail galore, superior mid-bass clarity and coherence"
Track #7 Leaving on a Jet Plane, "again, better than first speaker, clarity"
Track #8, Soul of a Man, "vocal image similar to first speaker, yet better integration overall"
Track #12 Fleetwood Mac, "less 2-4k edge, or maybe same but overall spectral balance is better (best of both worlds)
Track #14 The Cars, "? ... anemic"
Track #15 Nils Lofgren, Keith don't go, "very nice, detail"
Track #16 Collective Soul, December, "such a good song"
Track #19, Blake Reary, "very smooth w/ample detail, a small bit better than first loudspeaker"
Track #20, Blake Reary, " ... interesting, very compressed but retains character, not common, transients etc."
Track #23, Somewhere, "similar difficulty w/massed vocals" ... the recording?
Track #24 Tool, "very nice not lacking in any way"
Track #25, Tool, "just killer, needs more LF (more system LF, or higher playback level)"
Track #26, Pendulum, "best moment of the day so far, this speaker works with this track"
Track #28 Trent Reznor, Carbon Prevails, "superb track"
Track #31 Pink Floyd, "strange, uninvolving, mastering?"
Track #33, Boz Scaggs, "vocals - powerful"
Track #39, Atreyu, "executed nicely"
Right away the experience seemed to subjectively indicate this had better extension, or maybe a different balance to make it seem to have superior extension. Either way, a win imo.
The Spanish Harlem track imaging indicated a high degree of coherence, especially for my close, "more speaker than room" listening position. Imaging was good.
Hotel California track highlighted many of the same traits, strong detail, mid bass clarity and coherence.
Similar findings thru the remaining tracks, powerful speaker, nice LF capability with this one, great clarity and detail, yet smooth spectral balance and integration, smooth yet detailed and coherent with great mid-bass.
Mid bass clarity/capability; like "this is my Kung Fu and it is strong
(B) Selah Game Changer (blind)
#2, Classical, "Very subtle harshness on peaks toward end of track, maybe it's the recording"
#3, Classical, "Authority! Nice mid-bass, very nice"
#5, Spanish Harlem, "Superb vocal, similar to others but better, advantage this one"
#6, Hotel California, "proper power response, good transient attack"
#8, Soul of a Man, "similar to "A", but some subtle differences"
#11, Madonna, "(production) compression heard before - no problem (subjectively)"
#12 Fleetwood Mac, "nice, no excessive edge, again clarity is still great despite lack of over-brightness or harshness edge"
#16, Collective Soul, "Love this track! It's got everything, so does this speaker!"
#18, Puscifer, "Strong! So clear, headroom to spare"
#19, Blake Reary, "nice and clear, so few differences"
#20, Blake Reary, "(again) nice and clear, few differences"
All three tracks above; "transients, so well behaved in complex and demanding material"
#28 Trent Reznor, Carbon Prevails, "really strong, (tonally) hard to differentiate between speakers"
(this track possesses some unique energy down low, thus for me it's tough not to focus on the sub range, enjoying the sub system each time this track plays, craving more volume)
#31 Pink Floyd, "?"
Fascinating, oddly the Spanish Harlem litmus test was strong suit here, yet the first distortion I'd detected, occurring on peaks on early classical tracks. Drivers or amplification?(after the fact and knowing what speakers these were, my guess, amplification, just spit-ballin, these aren't the least capable displacement wise of the group)
Spanish Harlem was slightly better here, interesting considering perceived non-linearity above ... interesting, with this apparent improvement, maybe suggests a level of refinement and design approaches/differences, hmmm, interesting.
Ideal mid-band clarity without any excessive edge, tough to pull off (especially w/Lindsay Buckingham acoustic/electric solo). Difficult to achieve ample MF/HF clarity and resolution without over-brightness or edginess.
After the Collective Soul track, this thing really won me over. Clear, over and over, clear comes to mind, clear. Seemed well behaved on demanding transients with complex material.
Tonally, tough to tell speakers apart, but this one is unique when sitting up close.
(C) Danley SM60F (blind)
"Like this speaker" (noted across top of sheet)
#2, Classical, "somewhat less capable dynamically" "I like this speaker"
#5, Spanish Harlem, "wow! pinpoint imaging, very good"
#6, Hotel California, "has a more pinpoint quality, great top to bottom"
#14, The Cars, "unique clarity heard front center"
#16, Collective Soul, "killer, something different"
#18, Puscifer, "less capable, something different"
#20, Blake Reary, "clean, tough and busy material, could be better"
#25, Tool, "very good"
#26, Pendulum, "outstanding, maybe this is just as good or better"
#27, classical, "palette cleansing transition"
#28, Trent Reznor, "damn, just a good track on all (speakers), common denominator-SUBS!"
#31, Pink Floyd, "peaks @-10dB ? So many versions"
Like this one, despite it being less capable dynamically. Clearly, this is different, it's unique clarity with pinpoint imaging, top to bottom.
Could be better with the Blake Reary, "tough and busy material", why?(after the fact-away from the meet, knowing identity etc, I'd love to hear exactly what made me write "pinpoint" the few times I did, the cats shouldn't be markedly different)
(D) JTR Noesis (blind)
Tracks #1 thru #4, "nice, smooth, entirely different"
#5, Spanish Harlem, "super stable image"
#6, Hotel California, "sounds great, but a bit less capable than (some) others, still very nice"
#7, Leaving on a Jet Plane, " ? weird - image height, cool effect (reflected ceiling energy?)
#10, Home, "(again) sitting up close, no real (excessive) penalty for being up here"
#12, Fleetwood Mac, "very nice and listenable, lacking some of the edgy clarity"
#18, Puscifer, "missing something, detail, but still love it"
#20, Blake Reary, "love this track"
#25, Tool, "around 17:05 trouble w/vocals and guitars"
#40, Oblivion, "stable imaging"
Slightly compressed/congested with the massed vocals, HF loses detail on big, complex moments.
The others all make sense, this one confuses me. Common theme is image quality, stable imaging, etc., but slightly less detail, less edgy clarity, seems less capable but still very nice. Noticed some detail blurring relative to previous speaker, specifically associated with massed vocals and other complex parts of the material we're using.
Sitting very close elicits no significant penalty, but expected spectral differences do emerge, lessening MF/HF clarity further. Toe angle important with this one.
A = powerful, coherent, detailed, great bass capability and clarity. cats, maybe jtrs
B = encountered some type of limits/non-linearity, but on Spanish Harlem, a refinement level others don't have, 50/50-danley or arrays. then ideal mid-band clarity/resolution without any brightness or edginess, clear, clear, clear, little difference in FR, but sitting up close reveals uniqueness, 60/40-prolly arrays, maybe danleys, not likely the other two (hit limits)
C = Like this speaker, it seems less capable dynamically, pinpoint imaging, top-to-bottom, could be better on complex bass centric, high impact EDM, almost has to be danleys, unless amp is limiting noesis, then noesis
D = (no notes, I had additional notes somewhere, but somehow misplaced)
(after the fact, my impressions seem odd wrt the Danleys, I mean less capable dynamically? I'd think the components could hang with the levels we auditioned at with no issues, two pro 8"s at those modest levels should be fine, ???)
(On the flight home, I find notes questioning this, related to some type of band-pass effect, having less out of band energy, yes they have the least LF displacement, but again-dual, professional 8"s can represent
... in a bass managed HT. Of all four, this one I'd like to experiment more with, to flesh out differences and characteristics more accurately)
What a lot of fun! I experienced no fatigue and thought we could've continued even longer. The guesses I submitted weren't what I intended.
I thought tonally, the four systems had more similarities than differences, as they should. But being up front, I mean right up front closer than where one would ever listen, really helped formulate my comments. I recall other attendees asking why I was so close, but necessity is the mother of invention, it worked out well. At about 7', I sit relatively close at home (nothing like the GTG). But at the GTG, wanting to be dead center as much as possible, not wanting to unfairly keep the front/center money seat longer than my share, I had no problem sitting on the floor way up front.
A cool side effect, I could somewhat control the perceived balance and impact of the mains, and lessen the amount of room influence I heard, relative to the direct sound, simply by being way up close with these somewhat constant directivity systems. It actually sounded fantastic way up there, just not all that comfy for a dude that gets AARP mail on a regular basis.
Also, I'd like to hear Andrew's system at a full tilt level, I was way back in the rear when they cranked it up the only time. He's got ample subwoofage, maybe I'll get the opportunity to check that out sometime.
More comments after some pics.
Just for fun, I'm going to include a lot of pics from my trip, everybody always loves pics, so wth
I've taken thousands and thousands of pics while flying over the years. I always enjoy them, so I'm including several images I caught out the window too. It's funny, I've got pro gear, used to have a business doing wedding, etc, but pared down to a cell phone for this little trip, the resolution isn't so good, but certainly handy only carrying my phone.
(these all open up with much more size)
Below, leaving my constant companion, Daisy, my female pit;
Below, lifting off in Indianapolis on a bitter cold day;
These next few below, we broke thru the clouds and bam, we were over Lake Michigan, just north of d'town Chicago, descending into O'Hare.
Below, these next several are main-floor pics from GTG;
Nice high ceiling room;
Below, downstairs from my initial LP;
Below, illustrates how close I was in my "more speaker/less room" position.
Below, the staging area;
Below, the gun show;
Below, departing Philadelphia on a busy Sunday AM, our pilot joking around, having fun acting like he's cutting in line, of all the departing planes queued up and taxi-ing to takeoff. We needed the levity, after a lengthy delay after we boarded.
Below, see ya bitches;
Below, Philly take-off on the way to Cleveland, ... maybe someone could confirm, but looks like huge de-icing area, pretty cool I thought;
Below, at altitude, hitting constant 91dB, I wear Hearos HiFi earplugs;
Below, beautiful above the overcast cloud base, damn, what a tough winter it's been;
Below, descending into Cleveland;
Below, the bitter cold wide open Cleveland grounds;
Below, another similar regional jet, I feel for these ground crews on these coldest days;
Below, departing for Indianapolis, seems like every terminal in the country is building new control towers;
Below, descending into Indianapolis, this over the Geist area;
Below, looking South over N. Meridian toward downtown Indy;
Below, looking SE, White River, IUPUI med center and campus, with Lucas Oil Stadium in the distance;
I still utilize my pro gear for quality imaging, but I take cell phone images all the time. It's amazing what you catch by having a cam ready all the time. Yeah, the image can be better, but you've got to capture the scene .. and that takes having a cam with you.
These are all just from a beat up S3 Samsung, it's been entirely submerged, with me, in a filthy creek. I've tore it apart and put it back together so many times.
I've got a lot more audio and previous GTG comments I'd like to discuss, but one thing at a time
Thanks for reading. If you're contemplating one of these for purchase, they're all representative of solid engineering effort. Each situation, room/system has differing requirements.
It's all about the room. Yeah, it's all about the room (and the off topic pics