After 3 months with arrival of our newborn babygirl and some time at home away from work to also enjoy my new speakers, its time to share back especially to those of you guys that helped me along the journey, incl. Foot Tapper, Bodger and Polarbear.
In short, I was very happy with Kudos Super20 until we move to a new place with a much larger living space. They could not fill the room and sound became bright, as bas/mid lacked in new setting. At same time, I wanted to find a speaker that allows my system to show more of its potential, so time for a major upgrade.
Last time I got speakers, I home demoed 7-8 pair ending with S20. This time, unexpectedly, I had one homedemo, which was simply a slamdunk. I ended up with a very small short-list based on this forum and reviews, as WAF, white color, unfuzzy close-to-wall placement, appearance and size where key to get right. Great speakers I excluded include Kudos Titan (tall dark baffle), Magicos (tall towers), B&W 803d3 (tech-looks), AudioVector SR6 (despite also Danish), Vivid Giya (no way to wife). All of this very subjective, and only because the speakers are very visible in the space where we live our everyday life. I seriously considered Wilson Sabrina (WAF ok), but 1) their load seems more for larger AMPs, and 2) they seem to work best away from the wall. I also considered that speakers with 8' are special to me, and always liked speakers with SEAS units, e.g. Audionote and my old Snells. Thus, I was very intrigued by ART speakers that I learned about on this forum.
Derek from ART is a very special guy. I explained my ideas and what we were looking for based on his alnico reference speaker in white on the home-page, and as explained about the WAF situation. He remarkably offered to not just send his normal Alnico 8.3 demopair to Denmark, but went to produce a speaker bespoke as his first ever in white with grey grills and many other specialities. He also mentioned a new game-changing diamond tweeter from SEAS that they were starting to use. Essentially, my pair is the first production model with this tweeter, I think. Totally outstanding customer service even for a premium product.
Long lead-in, now to the music. The ARTs blew my mind from Day 1. Firstly, wife and guests really liked them visually, as do I. Its 1 meter tall, 3-way speaker, bottom-fired bass, high-grade alu baffle, wonderful. So these could actually go into the living room. More importantly, music was utterly amazing. Terrific room integration close to the walls and room-filling magic (8 meters long, 5 meters wide, 3.5 meters tall room). A few highlights
- Natural signature sound - very versatile speakers and rock rocks, female singers like Agnes Obel/Toni Mitchell incredibly fragile, Johnny Cash sounds like a bottle of whiskey, lots of my synth/disco has incredible speed and nerve, lots of warmth/charme with e.g. Sade, Jazz such as Brubeck with lots of musicality, Michael Jackson off-the-wall album by Quincy Jones (one of my key test albums) totally aced with musicality and speed of e.g. rhythm and horns, amazing interplay and headroom on the instruments, and most importantly they dont sound hifi, but authentic as they should. No coloring and very coherent.
- Low volume is great and engaging - 50% is family listening and also this is very good. In my experience, this comes mainly comes with sensitive speakers like these with an AMP that is well ahead of what they need.
- They MAJOR in PRAT - this is the most engaging system I have personally heard in a home environment, its on beat, very engaging, communicates the nerve and you follow the bass-line and instrument interplay effortlessly. Very funky and the feet never stand still
- Bass and drums are amazing - I never had (close to) full-range speakers before. The play from top-to-bottom in great balance with no boom. Massive Attack teardrop, Blue Monday, or Gorillaz Stylo etc that really operates at the low-end, are well mastered with no boom. I even clearly hear vibrato on deep bass-strings
- Voices are very natural - the tweeter resolved in an incredible natural way. With s20 and others, I always felt that voices were not as if the singer was in the room, it did not match the levels of the human voice, now everthing sounds very live and natural.
- Live sound - the size of the speaker now moves much more air, and its a great live feeling when you sense the physical impact when acoustic guitar strings are played. Also I like the balance of background detail.
- Wide soundstage - they really fill the room and speakers cannot be heard directly, just a big live music stage.
Well, hard to put into words that mean a lot to others. These are some of my main observations. Am just truly happy with these speakers that work well in our living space. So after 3 weeks of uncommitting homedemo, I pulled the trigger and bought the new speakers that Derek built bespoke for us. As one example of what he did, he essentially found a paint-shop that could use the same satin-white as my old Kudos Super 20, as that goes well with my hifi-rack.
I also auditioned new cables with a surprising result. I use SL interconnect, and NACA5 now. Full look SL was really not good. Too much focus on background details the PRAT and Nerve was gone. Then tried Chord S-Sarum full loom, which was better than SL. As it warmed-up, I missed PRAT, and used SL IC with rest in Sarum. This was best alternative to NACA5, but in the end, I always missed the highly engaging sound of SL IC and NACA5, so no upgrade there.
I will try to post some pictures. Again many thanks to this forum for all the sharing that was invaluable for me to get to these.