Righto, I'll kick it off with a somewhat unorthodox speaker recommendation. If I had your healthy budget (or less!), I'd get a pair of these in a heartbeat:
■ Internally tri-amplified (1,000W-700W-300W) loudspeaker
■ 115V/230V selectable, appropriate PowerCon power cord for destination address is included.
■ 8" coaxial midrange w/Neodymium magnet 1" HF driver
■ Dual 12" sealed woofer
■ Intended operating range: 50 - 20,000 Hz
■ 38" H x 16" W x 14" D
■ $3,595 each + shipping
■ Weight: 116 lbs
■ Packed for shipping: 21" W x 19" D x 44" H, 132 lbs
This from a Cat 12C owner says a lot about active speakers in general and Seaton Catalysts in particular:
Originally Posted by fugueness
Originally Posted by thedeep
wrt the front end, I'm probably going to go with separates.
I'd recommend otherwise.
Once you go active, you can't go back. Active DSP makes a HUGE difference. The whole active vs passive thing is often overlooked.
There is a reason why music and motion picture sound editing/mixing/recording professionals use active speakers aka studio reference monitors. They come closest to recreating reality. They are more accurate and have less distortion. That's why I've been using Mackie active monitors in my post production studio for years. That's why every post facility and mastering suite that I've been in uses active monitors. That's why concert speakers tend to be active.
Active DSP is a big part of why Seaton Sound and Genelec shine - better treble dispersion and a flatter frequency response, minimized phase shifts and distortion, and greatly improved damping of "back EMF." Why does this matter? Professional monitors "direct" sound to the listening position with controlled sound patterns, taking a good chunk of the room out of the equation - less reflections and better clarity. thedeep, I'd wager that a set of Catalysts or Sparks would still sound fantastic in your glass-walled living room. They will actually help you minimize reflections and give you a tight and transparent image. The much improved phase response (time delay) results in much snappier and articulate percussive sounds; dialog is crystal clear and neutral.
Most passive designs have time smear from a lack of time alignment in the drivers. This tends to cause mids and lows to lag the highs. So many sound characteristics and "color" for passive speakers can be attributed to the dips and peaks in their frequency response (and radiation patterns). In active speakers like the Seaton Sound Catalysts or Genelec 1037/8, everything operates in their most linear ranges so the sound character never changes with playback level or dynamic peaks. Tri-amped with ample power, you'd be hard pressed to run out of reserves.
I keep saying, once you go active, you can't go back.
You want snap, clarity, immediacy, and effortless dynamics and power? Headroom, headroom, headroom?
Then go active and don't look back.
But maybe you wouldn't appreciate it unless you first blew gobs of time and cash in hifiaudiophileland like I did...
The Cat 12C's featured at the NE Spring Speaker Shootout. Attendees impressions can be found in the results thread
Check in with owners on The Official Seaton Sound Speaker Thread
The Cat 12C's can be run "full range" with great authority or with subs via (as I understand it) user selectable DSP programs. Top notch subs would be required to run with the high output capability of the Cats however.
LOUD? Hell yeah! Here are the in-room SPL measurements from the speaker shootout linked above. This is for a pair of speakers playing program material measured with an omnimic at a distance of 18 feet.
Here are the reports from another speaker GTG
earlier in the year. From what I've read, many Seaton owners are happy to demo their speakers.
Perhaps some Cat 12C owners will join in to post their thoughts...
In terms of a quality 2 channel preamp recommendation, that's well beyond my knowledge comfort zone, so I might leave that to others more knowledgeable than me. Having said that, my first thought would be to get the class leading Oppo BDP-105
and drive the Catalysts directly off it's balanced XLR stereo outputs (level: 4.2Vrms at 0dBFS). (The Catalyst's amps are balanced XLR inputs.)
Dedicated Stereo Output with XLR Balanced Connectors - The BDP-105 features a dedicated 2-channel analog output with specially optimized ES9018 DAC and output driving stages. The stereo output offers both XLR balanced and RCA single-ended connectors. The balanced output features a true differential signal path all the way from the DAC to the 3-pin XLR connector. By transmitting a pair of differential signals, the balanced output provides better common-mode noise rejection and improves signal quality.
This setup would effectively give you a very comprehensive media player, preamp, amps (4000W!) and speakers for $8400
plus shipping.Edit: As dumb luck would have it, another member just posted a nice review of his Seaton experience.