OK guys, time to try and put some thoughts together from my latest round of auditioning yesterday. The three speakers I listened to where the Monitor Audio PL300's, the Revel Ultima Studio2's, and the Dynaudio Sapphires (2nd audition on these). If is rare in this day to find a dealer who stocks so much wonderful gear as well as being generally nice and helpful guys. All gear was listened in the same large semi-treated room. The associated gear was the Halcro EC800 disc player run to a Musical Fidelity A1008 integrated all connected with top of the line Synergistic Research Tesla cables.PL300
My first listening session was to the much recently discussed Monitor Audio Platinum PL300's. The fit and finish of these speakers is well beyond even their $9,000 MSRP. The Rosewood finish is a beautiful color leaning more towards a rich brown and not overly red. The wrapped leather on the front was perfectly executed and really a unique look. They are shorter than most other speakers and although the appear kind of squat looking when viewing them on-line, there is no sense of that in person. Hats off to the design team at Monitor.
However, one does not buy a speaker based only on how it looks (at least I dont
). The sound of the PL300's may appeal to many people; however, I do not emotionally connect with it. I find it to be nearly identical to my experiences with the Focal 1037. If you enjoy the sound of the Focals you owe it to yourself to hear the PL300's for $4,000 less. The PL300's had nice nice clean bottom end and for the most part a pretty neutral tonality. However, I felt there was an unnaturalness to the upper mid-range that did not sit well with me. To be honest, the longer I listened the more and more it began to wear on me, clear sign of listening fatigue for me. I also did not get a great sense of the placement of each instrument and found the imaging somewhat 2 dimensional. Again everyone is different and may have totally different experiences. For me, these speakers are not the step up from my Dali that I am looking for.Revel Ultima Studio2
This was a huge pleasant surprise to me as these had only come in just a few days before my arrival and I was unaware they would be there. They were finished in the piano black and are far more attractive in person than I would have expected. I have always kind of turned my nose up at the look of them, but they really started to grow on me throughout the day. They are pretty short and have a fairly unabtrusive overall demeanor. They are also bottom ported which is nice for my room setup. They also have some very cool tweakability on the back of the speaker, such as tweeter adjustments, to help facilitate room integration as much as possible. Revel has perhaps the most state of the art R&D facility in the world, and it shows in these speakers.
Upon the first note I knew I was in business. Now we were listening to a serious speaker
They carry a much larger price tag than the PL300'S, with an MSRP of $16,000, but in this instance you could clearly hear and justify the extra money. The Studio2 is a three-way system utilizing two 8-inch woofers, a 5¼-inch midrange and a 1-inch tweeter. There were two immediate things that drew me to this speaker. The first is the tweeter integration. Revel uses a tweeter with a dome of pure beryllium. The tweeter is set in what looks like a shallow depression but is really a sophisticated waveguide. I might have to say this is the best implemented tweeter that I have ever heard; it truly did not exist. Not being able to distinguish the tweeter and what sounds are coming from it through me for a bit of a loop, it was almost very freeing in a sense. It just allowed me to hear the musical presentation in a way I am not accustomed to. Again, a nod to the engineering that has gone into the speaker. The next most immediate thing I experienced was the incredible soundstage they speakers produce. These two speakers truly filled the room with music in a mannor unlike anything I have ever heard. It is almost as if there is no sweet spot. You can stand 6 ft to the side of the speakers, 4 ft behind them, and even right between them and there is virtually no difference in the sound. This is totally nuts! Having a large open room as I do, this is a significant feature. Even people seated outside the speakers will have nearly as enjoyable an experience as some seated directly in the sweet spot. In a more narrow room this would not matter, but it is a pretty unreal thing to hear. This even brought the owner of the place out to listen, and he was totally amazed as the sound these speakers could create. There is also a clean, transparent sound that is really addictive to these speakers. You feel like you can hear further into the music with such ease. Unlike the PL300, the more I listened to these speaker the more I enjoyed it. Kuddos Revel!Dynaudio Sapphire
A few of you are already well aware of how much I enjoyed this speaker the first time I heard it. This second audition was critical for me as sometimes you can have a bit of a honeymoon the first time you hear a speaker and so it is so important to listen again at a different time, in a different mood, etc. Thanks to Charles' pictures I do not need to sit here and type about the magnificant cabinet design of the Sapphires. For me, this is one of the best looking speakers ever, period. You cannot understand how intricate the cabinet work is until you see them in person.
We fired these up right after the Revels, and I was really curious if my feelings on them would continue or change. Immediately I was drawn right back into this speaker, equally as impressed as I was the first time. Phew
Dynaudio hit it out of the park with this speaker. Much of this section will probably more of a back and forth about this speaker versus the Revel, as that is really where my head was at. This speaker also retails for $16,000, so this is a far comparison. The Sapphire has a slightly more forward midrange presentation than the Revels. If you are a strict listener of Jazz, the Sapphire is the speaker for you no question about it. I listened to an unknown saxophone track and the Sapphire gave you a true sense of sitting in a small club listening to a musician, the Revel on the other hand sounded more like a well reproduced sax. The Dyn just gave you a sense of realism that was amazing. It had the sax way forward and in your faced, but not edgy or harsh in any way. It was more back in the mix on the Revels. The Sapphires also have perhaps the most excellent reproduction of a piano I have heard. However, the Revels gave a more realistic drum presentation. There was a point on a Medeski, Martin, Wood track that I had that I could actually hear when Billy Martin switched from hitting his snare drum to tapping the stick on the side of the rim, awesome! Bass is also very different on these two speakers. It is almost as if the base is on two different frequencies. The Revel extend further and have a deeper bass; however, the Sapphires have midbass impact that truly punches you in the chest. I like that feeling. The soundstage on the Sapphires is much more like a traditional speaker with a sweet spot and rolls offs when you begin to get outside of it. It still produces a very wide soundstage in comparison to any speaker but the Revel. Also when listening to something like dub music or indie rock where there is a lot of different instruments and ambient noises, the additional transparency of the Revels is noticeable. The Sapphires in now way sound congested or muddy, the Revels just take it a little further.
The good news and bad news is that I could live with either the Revel Studio2's or the Dynaudio Sapphires for a VERY long time. Unfortunately, short of these two speakers getting together and having a baby speaker there is no clear choice. The "perfect" speaker does not truly exist because every speaker has positives and tradeoffs. At least with these speakers, as a good friend of mine like to say
we are dealing with flavors of ice cream. One is chocolate and one is vanilla, there is no right answer but both are good. I can tell you that I am narrowed down to two speakers, but have absolutely no idea what the hell I will choose
I will have to go back for an additional listen and see if that helps. Ok, I am sure you guys are totally sick of my babbling at this point and tired of reading, so I will end here...