Thought you guys here in Salk town might want to read this too.
I took a trip to Chicago to listen to some speakers, as this is a Salk thread my impressions of the first three have been left out, but they do get referenced. The Avalon Acoustics Indra, Dynaudio Sapphire and Magico V3. For anyone that wants to read those impressions, you can find them http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...4#post14895914
AVA Transcendance 8, AVA Ultra DAC, AVA FET Valve 550, Sony Blu as Transport
So, my intention on this trip was to listen to some speakers that will sell used for somewhat more than the Salks retail for. Namely Revel StudioII, KEF Ref 205/2, ProAc D38, perhaps even Paradigm S8v.2. I utterly failed in this regard. The cheapest speaker I listened to Friday is selling for 13000 on A'Gon, with the Avalon Indra and Magico V3 nowhere to be found, but likely in the same ballpark since neither are limited production even though more expensive. So, maybe I set up the HT3 for failure. Maybe I didn't want to like it and I filled my head with sound from such expensive speakers to keep myself in the Monitor Audio GS60s for a little while longer. Or maybe I was offered a chance to listen to some speakers that cost as much as my Benz on gear that made the system quite a bit costlier. I thought on this while I waited to get on the highway. An hour later I arrived at the home of the hugely hospitable owner of the aforementioned and pictured system.
DISCLAIMER - Before replying with hate mail read all of this. This audition was a long one and both myself and my host went on a bit of a journey.
We started off with some Diana Krall on DVD. I am not at all familiar with Ms K, but this was a nice piece that showcased her non-singing talent. Decent arrangement, good band and excellent recording. We talked a bit while Abbey Rd sat in the transport waiting to be played. Marty (my host) mentioned it was one of his favorites and how he wished it sounded as good as it could.... Uh Oh.
I played it, as this disc has to work. If Abbey Rd doesn't work through a system I might as well walk away. Instead of just letting the disc flow, I basically went straight to "You Never Give Me Your Money" since I had noted harshness in Paul's voice (intended harshness that can get painful) on multiple speakers, including the Dynaudio Sapphires and Monitor Audio PL300. I think this song should be a bit edgy, but this was painful territory. I paused, turned and asked if that edginess was common. I was told, nope. Now, I was sad. We play a little while longer, getting a bit into the Medley and it became time for Chinese. While we break from speaker-talk, I want everyone to know that Martyo is an excellent host and lover of his Salk/AVA gear as he well should be.
Needless to say, during dinner I was berating myself internally for spoiling my ears with Magicos and Indras. I mean, when Sapphire Dynaudios are outclassed, how can't a monitor retailing for 1/3 their price also be completely outclassed?
Back from dinner we listened to an array of music, most of it wonderfully rendered. No magic tricks for the Kinks, but I didn't expect it either as these are not warm or laid back speakers. Neutrality in spades, with possibly a touch of edginess in the mids. Enormously similar to my take on the PL300, from reviewing my impressions. Some point shortly after dinner, Marty made a comment about toeing in and its effect on the soundstage. Added depth at the sacrifice of some width seemed a respectable trade as I found these to have a somewhat forward presentation. Not as far as the Dyn's but closer to stage than I had fallen for with the Magico and Indra. For perspective, the Indra and V3 put you about 20th row, the Dyns 4th row, and the HT3 were somewhere in the middle.
Toe-in is something I really would not have expected to change much. Change it did though. Suddenly I had depth for yards beyond the speaker plane, and it really seemed like there was a LOT more bass without sacrificing detail and the mids seemed more in-line with what I wanted. This was further unexpected. I made almost no notes during any of this listening because I was just loving it so much, but I remember getting chills regularly, particularly on Tom Waits' "Take it with Me" from "Mule Variations". If you know Waits you know his voice is utterly unique. Suddenly on a pair of speakers I could afford now instead of in 10 years, I was hearing all the density and nuance of this man's wonderfully evocative voice. I was impressed. Same thing with Jeff Buckley on "Last Goodbye" off of "Grace". So, at some point I thought I should look into the female voice. I started the women off with Madeline Peyroux (thanks Mark!) and her nearly perfect performance of Elliot Smith's "Between the Bars". She has a very Lady Day quality and it was reproduced to maximum effect through the HT3. Aimee Mann and Cesaria Evora, who are polar opposites vocally were also both mesmerizing. Score 1 for Salk on Vocal tracks. Score one for affordable listening. Score one for Tom Waits through Salk and AVA.
The Neil Young at Massey Hall CD made another spin, with a couple new tracks to listen to. The Salks did not quite have that perfect sense of space I got with the Magico V3, but his voice and guitar were rendered without excess or recess, sounding really excellent. Jazz was brilliant here as well. Not quite up to the Dyn's probably, though I would have to have both in the same room on the same gear to actually make that call. "Festival Junction" was great, solos were great, everything was great. The Mingus was again full bodied and wonderful, tugging at my brass heartstrings. Speaking of brass, "Dr Feelgood" was very close to sounding like I remembered on the Indra from the brass standpoint, which is a big kudos to the Crossover. The brass sounded like a small group of players rather than a speaker. Twice in one day. I moved on to Nick Drake's "From the Morning" and immediately noticed how intimate these speakers can get. This is off "Pink Moon" and was recorded by Drake in a friend's personal studio shortly before his suicide. If you know the track I think it is quite poignant. The Salk/AVA system brilliantly captured the intimacy of a basement recording. The soundstage was appropriately smaller than on previous tracks. I moved from that back into brass territory with "Life in a Glass House" by Radiohead. I have always described this as a New Orleans funeral dirge and I think that is probably a common desciptor. Soundstage immediately opened back up and had all the depth you could ask for with layers of texture and some beautiful brass and clarinet to top it off. Impressive that a system in this price range is so able. I was finding less to be concerned about, and more to be excited about. It never gave the kick to the chest bass that I like, but everything else was nearly as good as I could ask for. We moved back to Abbey Road and the midrange was still a little hot, but FAR more under control than before. This second appearance of Abbey sounded like I think it should on "You Never Give me Your Money". Paul's voice had bite to it without feeling like he was biting my brain.
I will say that these have to be about the best new speakers you can buy at their price. I would further posit that not many speakers that sell used for what you can get these for new would be a significant improvement. I have not heard any 10-12K loudspeaker so far that produces a better soundstage that also seems to recreate the recorded environment, which for the record, is my personal idea of what "air" means. The recreating of the air space a recording took place in, be it a garage or concert hall. Studio recordings can do all kinds of cool things through good speakers that can pull this trick off. Radiohead was decidedly big and expansive on the Glass House and on "Nude" whereas I found "Last Goodbye" to be slightly less surround-sounding. And the Salk HT3 ROCKED OUT on Cheb I Sabbah!
Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique, Mvmt IV - March to the Scaffold" was the classical that came along for these auditions. I think this piece has some nice moments in it with some wonderfully bombastic instant dynamics. I was really impressed with how well the HT3 and AVA setup dealt with the instant demands put on it by this piece. I never once thought it sounded like it couldn't deal with a bit more volume had I wanted any more. This is a hugely dynamic system, moreso than several others far more expensive have been.
Anyway, that is all for now.