Subjective Listening TestsBackground Info
I am by no means an audiophile. These are all subjective listening tests. I have no means of measuring frequency response. I am pretty much a computer guy with a hobby for Audio
. My first set of compute decent computer speakers were Logitech Z-5500s. Afterwards, I moved onto budget bookshelf speakers from JBL, Athena, Energy. Despite being budget bookshelves, they were a huge improvement over any computer multimedia speaker. Since then, I have been steadily upgrading my setup. My last few speakers have been KEF IQ3s, Tannoy Reveals, and Acculine A2s.
I have no affiliation with TAI. I really enjoyed the original Acculine's so naturally I have to give the new Arx a good listen. Just wanted to share my opinion on these since new buyers and previous Acculine owners may find them helpful!My Setup
This is where I differ from a lot of people here. I am using a Computer based setup. My speakers are placed on my desk, on each side of my LCD display. Speakers are toed in slightly to form a triangle shape between myself and the speakers. The distance from my listening position to the Speaker is less than 4 feet. This is a nearfield listening setup. The speakers are close to the wall, which is why I will be using the included Port Plugs. The port plugs give a shallow bass rolloff and is recommended for boundary setups, but of course YMMV.
Sound Card : HT Omega Claro (Coax Out) > External Matrix Mini 192KHz DAC > Virtue Audio ONE.2 Integrated Tripath Amp > Speakers + Energy S10.3 Subwoofer Crossover: 80Hz
My Virtue ONE.2 is powered by a 130W Power Adapter. It should supply around 55wpc at 4 ohms. It should not be underpowered for a Nearfield setup. I am listening < 4 feet away and don't need to fill a large room, so I am not going to be blasting my Arx A2s.Acculine A2 & Arx A2 Side-by-sideHarshness Tests - Glee Soundtrack
Alright, I admit I am a Gleek, but in all seriousness this album can make bright speakers sound painful, fatiguing, and downright harsh. That can be said with a lot of mainstream Pop albums that are 'hot' by default
Acculine A2: What attracted me to this speaker 3 years ago was the brilliant detailed treble due to the BGC Neo3 Planar Tweeter. When listening to the first track of Glee, 'Don't Stop Believing', the Acculine A2s really brought out Lea Michele's voice. While there was tremendous presence, I found it to be simply way too bright after a few listens. I had to adjust the toe in angle of the Acculine A2s. I had to shift the speaker about 30-35 degrees off-axis for it to be tolerable in my Nearfield listening position.
Arx A2: Since the Arx does not use the Bohlender Graebner Neo3, I really didn't know what kind of voicing to expect. After listening to the tracks 'Don't Stop Believing', 'Taking Chances', 'Defying Gravity' of the Glee soundtrack, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the new Planar tweeter retain that detail I loved about the Neo3, but it does so without the 'in-your-face-ear-bleeding'. High notes didn't come across as overly harsh and I didn't notice excess sibilance like I did while listening to the Acculine A2s on-axis. The Arx A2 is definitely detailed like the Neo3, but I found it acceptable on-axis. For long listening sessions, I decided to move the Arx A2 slightly off axis about 5-10 degrees to cut down slightly on some treble. To characterize the Arx A2, it seems to be fairly neutral sounding with attention to detail and a forward presentation. These are not laid-back sounding speakers.Female Vocals - Sarah McLachlan
Mostly listened to her album Fumbling Towards Ecstacy. I like this album a lot because it has a nice mix of acoustic instruments and soothing female vocals.
Acculine A2 - Excellent detail and makes her voice stand out. I really have to emphasize how well these Planar tweeters bring out female voices. I experienced no harshness or edginess when listening to this album, probably because Sarah is not really that high pitched compared to the previous tracks on the Glee soundtrack with Lea Michele. I suspect that the Neo3 is comfortable listening to as long as the vocal range is not too high or falls below Soprano
Arx A2 - Voice's were just as enjoyable, but Acoustic Instruments were a noted improvement through the Arx A2. Acoustic Instruments, plucks and bass were more full-bodied and more enjoyable to listen to. The SplitGap drivers seem to address the lack of bass of the original Acculine A1/A2. The improvement in bass is apparent without listening to bass heavy music.Various Metal Tracks and Video Games
Acculine A2 - Probably my biggest complaint with the Acculine A2 is that it does not do a good job at all handling the impact and speed of doublekick drums. There is some bass, but it sounds dull and flat. When firing automatic weapons in video games like Battlefield Bad Company II, I felt like my sub was doing most the work.
Arx A2 - Definite improvement in bass response! Drums have more "slam" to them and doublekick drums are distinctly more pronounced. Explosions and gunshots in games give a nice midbass kick. Without the port plugs, it seemed slightly exaggerated, but I suspect that has more to do with placement very close to the wall on my desk. Even with the port plugs inserted, the bass/midbass is still an improvement over the original Acculines.Soundstage / Imaging - Tracks from Chesky Ultimate Demo Disk
Acculine A2: Soundstage and Instrument seperation are quite good on the original Acculines. The BGC Neo3 is fairly directional, so you do have to sit in a sweet spot to fully appreciate them. Unfortunately, there is also a possibility that the sound is too bright when listening on-axis in a nearfield listening environment, like I noted on the Glee tracks. Adjusting them off axis alleviates the brightness, but also loses some soundstage.
Arx A2: I was extremely impressed on how transparent these speakers sound. I was able to really appreciate tracks like Spanish Harlem, and was surprised how much depth a pair of these A2s offer. The Arx A2 seemed to offer an improved soundstage over the Acculines, especially since I was able to remain in the sweetspot without having to toe-out the speakers to prevent harsh notes. I felt that Jazz tracks were much improved due to the better bass response of the SplitGap woofers. The Arx handled the transitions between the quiet and loud passages without a problemConclusion
Based on my initial listening impressions (less than 8 hours), I can safely say that the Arx A2 is a vast
improvement over the Original Acculine A2 (non-r version). The Arx A2 addresses my major criticisms of the Acculines, such as weak bass, and the unforgiving nature of the Neo3 tweeter on bright tracks such as mainstream pop music. If you were impressed by the original Acculines, you'll be thrilled to hear the improvement of the Arx line.
The Planar tweeter and SplitGap woofers work exceptionally well together. If you enjoy listening to Female vocalists and have never had the opportunity to listen to a Planar Tweeter, you owe it to yourself to give the Arx a try. They are probably the most affordable assembled speaker with this level of technology crammed into it. The addition of the port plugs is a great simple addition that makes it easier to cross the Arx A2 with a sub, or if it needs to be placed close to a wall. Not everyone has the ability to place their speakers out on stands and at least 3 feet away from the walls. I've only listened to these for about 8 hours, but I suspect that the woofers will only get better after break in.
All this technology does come at a cost though. To deliver the Arx at its price point, the cabinet and finish comes in your typical black ash cabinet. There are no color options currently...so those who might want a fancier Rosewood, Maple, or glossy type finish are out of luck. The cabinet itself seems sturdy, but I can't comment on any internal bracing ( or lack of ) since I have not torn apart the cabinet yet. The cabinet also lacks dual binding posts for bi-amping, which might be a factor for some people. Overall, if looks are equally important than sound quality, the Arx probably will not make your short list. I would have liked a few knicknacks to be included in packaging....like Instruction Manual, Rubber standoff feet, Warranty Information, but really I am just nitpicking now. These are really small nuances.
I think that Jon Lane and the folks at TAI have a definite winner on their hands. A big kudos to you at releasing this speaker at this price point. The Arx are a definite win for the value-oriented audio enthusiasts.
Thanks for reading!