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Discussion Starter #1
I'm currently mid-way through an upgrade of the audio portion of my home theater. Given the amount of useful information I’ve found in these forums, I wanted to give something back. I apologize in advance for the length of this first post. My hope is that knowing where I’ve been and where I’m going will be useful. Future posts will (hopefully) be briefer.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
For the record, consider all of this as IMHO, in my room, with my ears, etc. Bottom line here is YMMV.


In November, the audio part of home theater consisted of a Denon AVR-3300 receiver, a Pioneer Elite DV-05 DVD player, Snell E-IV mains, a Snell E.5 center channel, Snell SR.5 surrounds, and a Velodyne FSR-12 sub. Cabling consisted of: a DIY “Silver Bit Transfer†digital cable (as described by Greg Weaver, Soundstage), MITerminator2 bi-wired speaker cable to the mains, MITerminator2 to the center, MITerminator5 to the surrounds, and an inexpensive Monster cable for the sub. This has been a pretty good system, but with most audio material and some DVDs, it quickly results in listening fatigue. Having fought this for too long, I finally lost my mind in December and started down the upgrade path, taking no prisoners!


The Denon was first to go. It was a decent receiver considering the price, but it was underpowered, a bit bright, and didn’t do 7.1 or the newer surround formats. Also, a cold solder joint failed on this unit shortly out of warranty (of course). After getting it repaired, it performed as before, but the bloom as off the rose, so to speak, and I wanted something better. After evaluating lots of flagship receivers, it was replaced by the B&K AVR507 in early December.


The DV-05 was a decent DVD player for its time, but it doesn’t do progressive scan, SACD, DVD-Audio, or the plethora of newer disk formats. I wanted a good universal disk player. This was a tougher upgrade and decision process. Late in December, it was replaced by the Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi.


The Snells are decent speakers for the price, but they also have some limitations. They tend to be a bit bright, and sound best at lower volumes with less complex material. At higher volumes, they sound crowded and a bit boxy. And lastly, there are parts of the mid-range that just don’t sound accurate to me. After listening to a lot of speakers and spending time on the forums, I decided to give ACI a try. This is only a potential solution since I plan to use the 30-day trial period for a critical evaluation.


Now, there are people on this forum that have dropped a lot more money on a single upgrade than I will in my lifetime, but this is a big set of upgrades to me. As such, my expectations are very high. I’m very happy with the new receiver and DVD player, and I can comment on them for anyone interested, but the primary focus of this thread is on ACI.


As for the Velodyne sub, it’ll stay for now. It’s on probation until the other speaker issues have been resolved.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
For the record, consider all of this as IMHO, in my room, with my ears, etc. Bottom line here is YMMV.


My original order consisted of a pair of Panoramas, an Essence center, and a pair of Emerald On-Walls. After realizing that the Essence weighed 53 lbs and had to sit on top of my RPTV, that just seemed like too much stress on the set frame. I discussed it with Mike D, and he suggested going with Sapphires and a Protégé center. The latter weighs 35 lbs, which is probably more suitable. My Snell E.5 center weighs 18 lbs.


The equipment now on order from ACI consists of a pair of Sapphires, a Protégé center channel, 2 pairs of Emeralds On-Wall, DH Labs T-14 speaker cable for the center and mains, DH Labs ST-100 for the surrounds, a DH Labs D-75 digital cable, 3 pair of DH Labs BL-1 interconnects for SACD and DVD-Audio, and Atlantis Pro stands for the Sapphires. Yeah, it was one-stop shopping.


All but the Protégé were ordered with a custom stain to match the woodwork in my house. The center is “architectural blackâ€, which should probably look fine on the black RPTV. They got my trim sample on 12-26. The order shipped on 01-27. IMO, that’s not bad for a custom order, especially considering that I changed the order 3 times.


ACI also offered to ship the order in two parts: everything but the Sapphires in the first shipment, and then the Sapphires. I decided to get everything in one shipment instead just to keep it simple. I heard on Friday that my order is in transit.


About all I can say about ACI right now is that they’ve been responsive to my phone calls and email, supportive and friendly. Nice people. That’s a good start.
 

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OK Bill

Right here with Ya!

I'll be working with proto Sapphires and Protege. I've got B&K envy. My HK 630 will have to do but should serve as a nice counterpart on the amp front. Half the power - 1/3 the price(or less?) and just inside the power range of the ACIs.

My source player is a 2 year old RP91K with a BCSS coax and Bluejean 6pr for DVDA.

My Spkr Wire is basic Marshal Sound Runner - 230strand 10G


Mike & Brenda were very nice to me as well.

E
 

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Bill-99

I hope you are as happy as I am. I also have Sapphires for Front L&R, a Protege and 2 prs of on-wall Emeralds in my system.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
nhparrot,


If you don't mind, could you tell us your source and amp? I think people will be most interested in what make successful combinations of equipment with the ACIs. I know I was. It'll save'm from digging thru other threads for that info. Thanks.


E,


"will be working"... I assume that means you're either waiting for ACI deliverables or you're still breaking them in? Lastly, what do you mean by "proto"?


And to you both, welcome to the thread!


-Bill
 

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Primary sources are a CAL CL-10 CD and Denon 900 DVD into a Denon 3803 Receiver. The CAL is a transplant from my 2 channel room, the 2 Denon's are my entry-level start into HT. Already plans are underway to replace the DVD player with something better for video and probably in the next year or so will be an upgrade to seperates. My HT roorm is just that, 95% HT use very little audio. I have a 2-channel audio system in another room, that I use when listening to serious music.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the info.


Separate rooms for HT and audio? That must be great. I think my second room would likely be the garage or the back yard, and neither is particularly warm this time of year here in the mid-west.


Good luck on the new DVD player search. Personally, I found it frustrating. It always seems like the DVD player you really want will be out in a year or two. I consider the 59AVi something of a compromise between quality and price, and even as I write this, I know it's on borrowed time. HD DVD is coming...


-Bill
 

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B

The center is here and the Sapps are on the way. No big opinions yet other than I like the way it's crossed. I did slam it with the Big Fat Band DVD audio (lots of center solos) and it was impressive on a clarinet solo(trk2) and a trumpet solo left me trying to find a weak point, but I could not. It's surrounded by strangers, so I'll wait till the Sapphires are in before making comments about film voice, etc.

Mine is a test unit with an unfinished box & no side panels, but same drivers/crossover as the shipping units, I.E. Prototype.

It seems smaller than it's dimentions would lead you to believe. Weight is even across the 12 inch depth of a very rigid box.


E
 

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Thanks gang for all the kind words, good way to start the week off:) Please do keep us up to date with all your impressions. I think a lot of people appreciate that.


I'm feel like a kid with new toys myself since I bought a projector and screen a month ago. Got to spend quite a bit of time this weekend working on my HT. Finally have it pretty functional. Next up is painting which my wife has graciously volunteered to do most of. Wire runs are temporary, will start finalizing those now that the equipment is pretty much where I want it.


Got to watch a couple of movies and last night my son and I had the house to ourselves and watched several hours of the Led Zepplin DVD at a pretty healthy volume level. I've decided I should work less and spend more time in my HT:)
 

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Another burst of love for ACI Sapphires and Force. The longer I have them, the more I appreciate them. They have that fine ability to disappear and get out of the way and just let the music in the room.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
My order was shipped via UPS in 6 packages. It's always a worry whether they will all arrive together, but they did -- they all came today, on time, as expected. What was not expected was for the UPS guy to drop the box containing the Protege onto my concrete front porch. You can only imagine how it felt as I watched the box hit, bounce, and roll 180 degrees.


The UPS guy quickly left and I started opening boxes. Yeah, the Protege was damaged. There are 4 posts on the speaker grill that stick into holes in the speaker to hold the grill in place. All of the posts snapped off. The right edge of the speaker also took some abrasions. Nuts. Still, the speaker does work. ACI suggested that I use it until they can get a replacement shipped to me. As I said before, nice people.


The other boxes took some abuse in shipping. The box containing the Sapphires was torn on one side exposing the interior padding, but there was no speaker damage. Packaging overall was pretty good, but there are clearly limits to the amount of abuse any package can sustain without the contents being affected.


There were also a couple of small problems with the order. One of the pairs of interconnects was the wrong type, and one set of documentation was missing. I consider these small problems and anticipate that they will be quickly resolved.


Visual inspection of the other speakers showed no damage. Fit and finish is quite nice. The custom stain used is also a very good match to the woodwork in our home. Many speakers use a veneer finish. ACI uses wood panels that, to my eye, are a step above fine quality oak cabinetry and furniture made by Amish craftsmen here in the mid-west. It's different from the veneer on my Snells, and the result is pleasing.


The Atlantis Pro speaker stands consist of a bottom plate, 3 posts, and a top plate. Condition is excellent. Spikes are included, and it looks like the posts can be filled with sand, if desired.


The interconnects, digital cable, speaker cable and bananas all look fairly conventional -- nice looking, not particularly obtrusive.


For now, the focus is on getting through the break-in. The T-14 speaker cable is in place and driving the mains and center. The surrounds currently are running on 12ga Lowes speaker wire and MITerminator5. Speaker position is less than optimal, but that's OK for now. The ACI doc recommends a break-in period of 60-70 hours. The game plan is to operate in 7 channel mono, tuned to a classic rock FM station at about 75db, and just let it crank.


I'll be back. For now, I have to go and mope about the Protege.

:-(
 

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I can't wait to hear your impressions. Sorry to hear about the Protege.

Here is what FedEx did to an Ascend center I previously owned. They (FedEx) refund 100% of my money but it took a while to get.


I also got to keep the speaker (woo hoo). If anyone is interested it is for sale. :)
 

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Yikes Kendrid and Bill.


Almost too painful to hear. Anyway, glad ACI did right by you Bill, even if it was the fault of delivery. Where do they get those guys? :confused:


Hoping you love your speakers as much as I love mine too. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Kendrid,


Wow, bet that was no fun to settle. Glad to hear that things eventually worked out. And I thought FedEx was better...


Kendrid, danbry39,


Thanks for the sympathetic ear. It could have been worse, like your Ascend center issue. Fact is, even with the damaged grill, the Protege and all of the other speakers still play, and that's a good thing.


IMO, this is one of the less obvious tradeoffs when buying audio products online. The better local b&m's will be certain that a quality product is in your hands at point of sale. By contrast, online vendors are at the mercy of their shipping companies, and sometimes that turns into a hassle for everyone. No doubt, the b&m's have the same kind of hassles though that's hidden from the consumer (usually).


As for ACI doing right by me, that's a work in progress. Based on my conversation with them and their reputation on this forum, I'm not worried, and I'll post progress here. Bet they've been down this road a few times.


My plan for posting listening impressions is to take a few notes at different intervals during the break-in, and then post them all at once. The idea is to give others some idea of how the speaker sound changes. For now, I'm going to not comment since that hardly seems fair.


Well, time for less moping and more break-in. Be back soon.


-Bill
 

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Darn It B!

My Protege arrived in great shape - it had no grill, but they shrink wrapped a foam pad to the face and surrounded the speaker with 2 inch foam. My box was in near perfect shape. UPS has been known to trash a few things around here, so I was lucky with this one.

I remember a 21 inch monitor box that reminded of the intro of Ace Ventura. Sounded like a shaker. Good for latin music I suppose ..... Might have been the one Letterman tossed off the building years ago?


Looks like ACI will take care of you. Looking forward to your first impressions.

E
 

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Bill:


I am sorry to hear about the incident with UPS. We will do everything in our power to take care of you. Our people will take care of the claim, they'll arrange replacement etc.


It is frustrating to think of it being okay to just drop a package on a customer's concrete porch. On a side note, purchasing from a local B&M doesn't necessarily mean no hassles. I remember a few years a ago taking a couple of hours to drive to a town 30 miles away to pick up a camera. Of course I wanted to buy "sealed box" because I didnt' want a demo etc. Made the mistake of driving home before checking it. Yep, it was damaged in the sealed box. Another drive up and back . . . and then I had to wait for them to order a new replacment, and make the drive again! At least we should be able to help you out without you needing to drive anywhere:)


Thankfully, damages are relatively rare, but they there's little that can be done about someone just plain dropping a speaker or shoving one off the back of the truck. In the last few years we've switched to using an expensive foam to fully encase the speakers and this has helped a lot. We hate to see our customers have any kind of hassle. And we don't exactly like losing money because of someone else's mistakes. But, it's part of the cost of doing business and we just want to make sure to minimize your hassle and maximize your enjoyment.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
E,


Sounds like your packaging was similar to mine. I like the 2 inch foam. The speakers themselves were wrapped in plastic, more like saran wrap instead of a shrink wrap.


Keeping things in perspective, replacing the grill on the Protege will likely hide most of the abrasions, so maybe MikeD can touch it up and sell it as a broken-in b-stock center channel.


MikeD,


Care to share what does the audio part of your HT looks like from the source through the speakers? So, the Zep DVD is pretty good, eh? Gotta give that one a listen. Perhaps after the break-in is over.


-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #20
MikeD,


Certainly I hold ACI faultless in this. Bad things sometimes happen despite your best efforts.


Re: the b&m, yeah, that has happened to me, too. It's rare, but shrink wrap doesn't guarentee a functional product.


Oh well. As I mentioned before, I have no doubt that ACI will take care of my problem. IMO, it's good for others to see how your company handles this kind of situation. Your responsiveness in dealing with problems other customers had was a contributing factor in my decision to try your company, though personally, I'd rather have skipped this more personal, first-hand experience. :)


-Bill
 
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