ACI Customer Reviews

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Mike Dzurko

ACI Customer Reviews
« on: 28 Apr 2005, 01:30 pm »
We have had requests for one thread where those who heard or own ACI products can post their impressions/reviews. This will be that place. Let's try to keep the postings focused on this. For other issues, questions, etc. please post in the appropriate thread or start a new thread. Thanks!
« Last Edit: 19 Jun 2009, 01:15 am by Mike Dzurko »

Eric

ACI Jaguar / LFM's
« Reply #1 on: 28 Apr 2005, 03:25 pm »
This review is for the ACI Jaguar / LFM speakers

My gear is:

Amp:             Bryston 4BSST
Preamp:         SAS 10-A Linestage
DAC:             Dodson DAC-263
Transport:      Stello CDT-200
De-jitter:       Camelot Dragon Pro 2 Mk II
IC's:              Sonoran Plateau Cactus
PC's:             Sonoran Plateau Lightning and TG Audio SLVR
SC"S:            Sonoran Plateau Desert
Power COnd:  Monster HTS-3500
Isolation:       Symposium Roller-balls and Svelte Shelves
Speakers:      ACI Jaguars and LFM Modules

In terms of looks, the speakers are gorgeous. The LFM's weigh in at near 140 pounds each and the Jags are near 60 I believe. They are built like tanks and are very inert.

Bass: The LFM's excel in this area. Because they are powered I am basically biamping my system. The bass is in the tradition of ACI subwoofers: tight and musical. The power of the LFM's is the ability not only to set the bass level, but also to equalize out peaks that are room related. I am hearing bass runs on songs I never knew were there. On Lyle Lovetts Joshua Judges Ruth, there is a song called, Church. In the back ground there is a Gospel quartet. I am hearing the bass vocalist for the first time.

Midrange: The Jags excel in this area. Female vocals like Alyson Krauss and Nora Jones are simply magical.  Guitars have pluck as well as the vibration of the strings.

Highs: Are extended but not clinical or etchy. If I had to place the Jags on a continuum of bright or warm, they would definitely land on the warmer side (but not overly so). Bells sound natural and float in space.

The tonality is awesome. You get the right blend of chest and voice in vocals. You hear just the right amount of bite on strings. There is good separation on instruments in ochestral works. I am also hearing more of the decay on instruments than I did before!

Imaging is good and the sound stage easily extends outside the speakers and above them. Instruments are placed accurately on the soundstage. Even intruments that are nextr to the speaker remain there (They are not absorbed into the speaker like many do). Bottom line is they are musical. They are not the type of speaker that excites you at first listen. But you find yourself listening to music for longer periods and enjoying it more. Frequently I find myself tapping my toes without being aware of it

Mikes customer service is second to none. He and Klaus Bunge are champs in this area. Mike has sent me emails since receiving the Jags to make sure I am happy.

My only sadness is that the Jags are out of production. I hope they come back again some day. They are truly a great speaker.

Rklepl

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 19
My ACI Maestro Experience
« Reply #2 on: 29 Apr 2005, 04:05 am »
The following is my experience with the ACI Maestro:

It’s been a very long and bumpy road that has led me to the Maestro. So I’d thought I’d share some of my “subwoofer history” so you can see where I’ve been. Since I seriously started this hobby about six years ago (to a lesser level I’ve been in it for about 20 years), I’ve had more trouble finding a subwoofer that I’m completely happy with then any other single component in my audio/HT system. No doubt much of this was due to my trying to find that perfect subwoofer that was both small and inexpensive, yet still did it all. Throw in the fact that I have never had an ideal room and my initial ignorance of how to properly setup a subwoofer, and it’s no wonder I had so much trouble. :)
Going on memory, here is a list of the subs I’ve owned in the past six years (you’ll probably think I’m nuts, my wife sure does :D ):
My first sub ever was an Audio Source (10” can’t remember the model # bought from Costco), Yamaha YST (two models one 8” and one 10”), Infinity 12” (model # ?), Velodyne CT100, Velodyne CT120, Def. Tech. ProSub100, Hsu VTF-2, Earthquake MKIV12, Def. Tech. SuperCube II, Paradigm PW-2200, SVS PB12-ISD (I think it actually was a different model # back then), Pinnacle BabyBoomer (2 of them), Pinnacle Sub-Sonic, Built-in subs in Phase Technology Teatro 10.5’s, ACI Force, Mini-Thunder (with Stryke AV12 driver), Mini-Thunder (with Rythmik Direct-Servo amp/driver), AND now……..the Maestro! I think that’s it. So the Maestro is my 20th subwoofer in about 6 years. Oh my…., I really don’t want to think about the time and $ I’ve invested here. Obviously, none of these subs are quite in the class of the Maestro (though cost wise the Earthquake was fairly close).

So now that you see how crazy I am, let’s get on with my impressions on the Maestro! ;)
I was almost completely happy with the Rythmik DirectServo Mini-Thunder sub I had, but for music it left me wanting just a little more, and I didn’t think I needed anything more for movies. With music being my main interest now, I wanted to try a sub that I thought was near the top of the line in this area. After 19 subwoofers in 6 years I was tired of “nickel and diming” around, it was time to step up to the plate and stop the subwoofer “merry-go-round I was on! Even though I knew the Maestro had the potential to stop this madness, I would have never imagined how much it was going to surprise me and how much of an extremely enlightening experience it would be setting up and testing it!

Real quick I’ll list my equipment and room dimensions:
L/C/R speakers = Phase Technology PC 3.1II’s
Rear surrounds = Phase Technology V-Surrounds
Processor (and amp for rear channels) = Pioneer 56TXi
Amp for front channels = Odyssey HT-3
DVD/SACD/CD = Pioneer 47Ai (i.Link connection used with 56TXi)
I’ll leave out the video side as it does not pertain to the sub evaluation.
Now for the room……... Right off the bat you should know it SUCKS! The listening area is in a 12’ x 15’ corner of a “Great room” that is about 25’ x 30’ x 13’ (vaulted ceilings). There are only 2 solid walls in the listening area, in back and to the right. The wall in front (where the L/C/R and TV are is a short 7’ false wall, to the left opens into Kitchen, Dining, etc. There is actually a 2’ x 8’ “nook” at the back wall where the subwoofer sits behind the couch and primary listening spot. That’s not all. The majority of that right wall is three bay windows that stretch from a foot off the ground, to the ceiling. I’ve treated it as best as I could with drapes, carpet, and some absorption and diffusion material. Believe it or not with the Phase Tech. Speakers and using the Advanced MCACC on the 56TXi, it sounds pretty sweet I must say. The lower freq. Are all over the place though! Nothing many hours of tweaking won’t solve though! ;)

Anyway on to the Maestro! When I first received it, I just wanted to plug it in and see how it sounded placed in my usual spot (and only option in my room) in the “nook” behind my couch. With the same EQ settings I used for the Mini-Thunder, I fired it up to see what she would do, adjusting the level by ear. Funny, after doing this so many times I’m usually spot-on with the level when adjusting by ear, and this time was no exception. I was immediately struck at how “perfect” it sounded integrated with my mains for music, I thought wow this is going to be easy. More on the music testing later! I then figured it would be best to use a SPL meter to officially set the level and optimize the phase and delay, which I did. Note: that I did not try different positions or run a sweep test and adjust the PEQ yet (which turned out to be a huge oversight on my part). Afterwards, I figured I’d see how the Maestro faired with some LFE pumping through it. So I popped in a couple of my old favorites for room shaking bass, the beginning scenes of Armageddon and ID4. My first thought was “my 12 Mini-Thunder shook my room much more than this, what’s up?” OK, so I bypassed my PEQ to see if that would help. It did, but it seemed like I had to pump up the sub output level of my 56Txi much more than I’m used to. So I moved the Maestro around to see if I could find a better spot for it, thinking that with it’s sealed design that the optimum placement might be different than my past Ported/PR designed subs. That didn’t cut it either. I was puzzled at this point, so I contacted Craig C. (craigsub) and asked for some advice (knowing he’s owned and tested the Maestro a lot). He suggested taking the bottom plate off and facing it toward the listening position. Well that was better for movies but IMHO not so good for music in my room. Then I contacted Mike Dzurko hoping he knew what was going on. After talking with Mike we both thought the only logical explanation was something might be wrong with the amp. But, while I was waiting for the replacement amp (backordered), I thought I should start from absolute scratch and see if I could figure out if it was a setup problem. This is where the “Enlightening” part of this experience really started.

So I setup my RS SPL meter on a tripod (mic facing up) in my seated position and ran a freq. Sweep with my PEQ bypassed to plot my FR. To my surprise FR was down 13-15dB from 60-80Hz. With my Mini-Thunder PR sub it was 5-8dB placed in the same position. Long story a little shorter, I had to move the Maestro inch by inch in all my possible positions (behind the couch) to get the best output 20-80Hz with PEQ bypassed. Once I found that location (about 2 feet away from the previous spot), I optimized the FR curve with the PEQ, AND the two crossovers on the Maestro amp. The latter adjustment totally took me off guard. Since the amp does not have a bypass and I like to use the internal crossover of my 56Txi (set at 80Hz), I usually just turn the crossover on the subwoofers I use all the way up in attempt to essentially bypass them. But something that Mike D. said just kept creeping back into my mind, and that was a lot of ACI customers found that they attained the best results by setting the amp crossovers at 80Hz. I just figured that was for people that only used the ACI x-over and not the one in their pre/pros. Anyway, I thought what the hell, I’ll try it. By setting the first x-over at about 145Hz and the second at about 155Hz, the FR was much smoother from 40Hz-80Hz, compared to turning the x-over to max. By the time I finished that particular night (or should I say the next day) at about 2AM, I was able to attain a very slight “house curve”. The FR varies only 5dB between 30-80Hz (I have one very narrow dip at 28Hz of about 7dB after EQ) and an overall rise of another 5dB from 25Hz to 18Hz. OK, so what did all this do for my movie testing……? Night and Day! Here is a graph of the FR before (pink) and after (blue) EQ. With the pre-EQ I did not turn the x-overs on the Maestro all the way up again or move the sub back to where my old sub placement was:



Now onto the real impressions after a complete and proper setup!
First up was ID4 with the “Spaceship flyover” at the very beginning. When the footprints on the moon started to shake, let’s put it this way, I “felt” like I was standing there on the moon as the Maestro shook my concrete foundation, hitting peaks of about 105dB at my seated position! (it easily would have gone louder, but that was enough for my ears).  I will tell you this, it did not sound/feel the same as the other subs I’ve had in my room/system. All the other subs that I’ve had with pretty good SPL in my room (Earthquake, PW2200, PB12-ISD, Mini-Thunder, and to some extent the Supercube and VTF-2) would cause the pictures on nearby walls to rattle like crazy, yet none of them came close to pressurizing my room full of bass like the Maestro did. With the Maestro I “felt” it much more all around me and under me, but it did not make the pictures hardly rattle at all…..very weird! I don’t know a lot about it, but it seems the ported/PR subs I’ve owned must have interacted with my room in such a way that they aided in resonating the walls at just the right freq. so that pictures and other things would rattle. It’s really weird too, with the Maestro I can hear and feel the walls surrounding me shaking like I’ve never experienced before, yet hardly any picture rattles on the walls in the adjacent room that I have become so accustom to. When I hear/feel some Thunderous LFE tracks with the Maestro, that's basically all I'm hearing/feeling now! Very little of the distracting rattling noises……. Sweeeet!!
Anyway on to the next movie demo, next up was Apollo 13! With the Lift-off scene, I felt it hit hard and sustained through my chest and body with the couch rocking and a rolling (again picture rattling was practically non-existent). No sub I’ve ever owned pressurized my room with chest pounding visceral bass like this (without sounding “boomy”), not even close. When they cut back briefly to the command center, the bass stops on a dime! No rumbling overhang.
Next test, “Atlantis Lost Empire” the scene where the “Leviathan moves”. The couch, the back left wall, and me shook violently. But again, no picture rattle! The wave a bass just swept right through me! The “Space Truckin” scene from “Contact” was next. Let’s put it this way, I’ve seen this particular scene over 30 times, and I’ve never been transported to that movie like this before. Kind of corny, but it was like I was Jody Foster traveling through time! For my last LFE test (at least for these purposes) I used the infamous “Sock detonation” from “Monsters Inc.” It literally bounced me in my seat as the short DEEP vibration shot through my body. The visceral impact was instantaneous, then the Maestro again, stopped on a dime. I really could not believe what I experienced, one moment the bass was there filling my room with a huge shot of bass, and the next instant......... gone, and with more power than I’ve ever felt with this particular scene. Very cool……

As I’ve gotten older (notice I didn’t say matured :D ), I have found that my audio tastes have changed dramatically. When I first got into HT, in my early 20’s, all I wanted to listen to was loud action and Sci-Fi movies. And music, well…. I wanted LOUD Rock and Roll and that was about it. Jazz and classical I could do without. Fast-forward 15 + years, and Jazz is what I primarily listen to, though some classical, pop, and classic rock slip in there every once in awhile. I only convey this as a prelude as to how important music is to me now with regards to my system. Currently, if I’m lucky I’ll watch one movie a week, while I listen to Jazz almost every night in a dark room with eyes closed.
Enter the Maestro and my listening tests with some of my favorite bass tracks! First disc was the Telarc SACD Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Russell Malone. I have never heard Ray Brown’s Bass sound so real. On the “Blues for Junior” track it was like I could see Ray plucking away right there in my room. The Maestro was so articulate and defined, no bloated overhang, just Ray doing his thing! What really amazed me in all my music tests is how well the Maestro blended with my mains and just plain disappeared. Quite an amazing accomplishment if you ask me, considering it’s placed right behind me, while my mains are 9.5’ in front of me. With it crossed at 80Hz, the bass seemed to float effortlessly out in front with the rest of the music. Simply amazing! Anyway, I thought I’d see how the Maestro would fair with the opening to Hotel California on their DTS concert DVD. This song is one of my all time favorites, and with this versions rhythmic drum at the beginning, it just begs to be played LOUD! I just had to oblige! :D
The bass on those drum hits struck with authority, but again without even a hint of overhang, yep I have to say it….. just “stopping on a dime” (by now I’m sure you are seeing a pattern here ;) ).  The Maestro is simply the tightest, most articulate sub I’ve owned or heard, period. On to one of my favorite disks, just chalk full of “kick drum” bass! FourPlay’s “Between the Sheets”. Track one “Chant”, can easily make a lot of subwoofers sound “muddy” (as some notes last longer than normal), you guessed it the Maestro handled it easily. When the bass was supposed to be there it was, without any “boom” or overhang. When the note was over the Maestro was dead quiet! Back to some classic rock (ok, maybe more like pop-rock) for the next disk with the Elton John SACD “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Track two: Candle in the Wind”, track three: “Bennie and the Jets”, and track four: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, all have excellent Kick drums. The Maestro was again powerful yet tight. It really took all this music to another level! I had to put in the Blue Man Group DVD just for kicks, all I can say is I “felt” every hard hitting note, and the Maestro sailed through the disk effortlessly! Lastly, but certainly not least was Stanley Clarke’s “1,2, to The Bass” disk. I just bought this disk and my jaw just dropped when I heard Mr. Clarke through the Maestro! You’ve got to hear track #9 on a quality sub like the Maestro. I have never heard someone play bass sooooo fast! And I just could not believe how easily the Maestro kept up, at no time were the notes ever “blurred together”, each note was clear, defined, and articulate. This was especially cool because some of the notes went way above 80Hz and were being played mostly by my mains, and the Maestro integrated seamlessly with my PC3.1II’s all the way through, it’s ability to keep rhythm and pace is nothing short of amazing! Through it all, the Maestro never called attention to itself, but when the bass needed to be there, it was there, and better then I could have ever imagined! Why, why…….. did I wait so long to get a quality sub?????? :confused:

One note I have to say that really is not that important, but should be said anyway. When we watch some standard sitcom that has some decent bass in it, with my other subs either I didn’t hear it or it seamed unnatural (like “boomy” for instance). With the Maestro, when some good upbeat hip-hop tune comes in the background of one of these shows it sounds incredible, totally disappearing in integration with my mains. I shouldn’t be surprised though, that’s exactly what I experience with everything I throw at the Maestro!

I learned a lot this time around! Not all sub designs sound the same, they interact with rooms differently (at least with mine), and ALWAYS re-calibrate from scratch when putting a new (especially a different designed) subwoofer in your system!!! Also something that should be noted and I cannot emphasize enough, Mike Dzurko, Brenda, and the whole ACI Company is an absolute class act! I have never been so pleased with customer service and support than I have with ACI. When the owner sends you his own personal amp because others are backordered, what else can you say?

My subwoofer journey is finally over! Time to just enjoy! :)

Best Regards,
Patrick

budyog

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #3 on: 29 Apr 2005, 05:16 am »
Rklepl,
  There is no way I can top your review.  What a fun read, as I also own a Maestro. All I have to say to all AC people is "DIDO" about the Maestro and ACI! What a super review. :beer:

I am not an Eagles fan, but I love stuff that sounds good and your review included the Eagles DVD. Many other people have used that DVD in there reviews of audio products and now I have to buy it, along with Stanley Clark. I am a big Stanley and RTF fan :D

budyog

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #4 on: 29 Apr 2005, 04:53 pm »
I must also make a few comments about my Panorama's. I have only heard other brands of speakers at the only 2 upper hi-fi store's in town. I also have only owned ACI products since around 1990 and have not heard ANYTHING that would want to make me change speakers systems in any price range the store carried. Tha Panorama's/Maestro do everything I expect from a speaker system and do it extremely well.  

Everytime I listen to my system it is so enjoyable, weather I am playing it soft, watching a movie, or blasting the stucco off my home's exterior.

The quality of the product and the service ACI provides ( I must clarify "service", shipping, return of e-mails, phone calls etc. and I know if I ever had a problem, it would be solved with the higest of professionallism) just gives me "NO" reason to even look elseware.

Anyone in the market for any size or price range of speaker system should also include "ACI" in their search. You will not be dissapointed in anyway.  :D

thugh

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #5 on: 30 Apr 2005, 10:53 pm »
Mike,

If you are creating an archive, here are a series of posts from AVS that I did documenting my purchase of my Panorama and Essence bases system:

A little background on my decision to bring these bad boys into my HT system (please remember that these are my views of the world and they might not necessarily reflect the opinions of others, actually I pretty much guarantee that).

This year has been a little crazy as I have completely revamped my theater. It all started innocently enough as I went looking for a bigger TV as my 32 inch Wega was just not cutting it anymore (plus my GF kept saying that I would need to upgrade as her TV (43 inch RPTV) was bigger than mine. Well I ended up with a 43 inch Pioneer Plasma. At the same time Lexicon's expiry date on their trade in offer from a MC1 to a MC12 was ending so of course I had to do that. New Processor and new Plasma beg for a new universal source so old reliable base Sony DVD gave way to a Denon 2900. My girlfriend caught my bug a little bit and she ended with a full Energy Connoisseur series 5.1 system anchored by the C9s. Well of course I liked her speakers a little better than my Klipsch Reference series and the hunt was on for a new 7.1 system (lets just say that the Klipsch have amazing theater impact but I want more now).

I feel that it is important for you to understand where I am coming from and that is why I will give you insight into my opinions on many of the speakers I have listened to recently. This will allow you to benchmark my opinions and use it to gauge your tastes in accordance with mine. For example, I can say that I find Brooke Burke to be almost a perfect example of hotness, you might not agree and that is fine (less competition he he). So continuing with my ramble…

All my auditioning started with 2 channel on the mains and then progressed to theater if I liked them. I figured good music speakers would be great at theater as well. My hunt started with B&W Nautilus (803s/804s/805s and HTM1). These are amongst the best looking speakers out there and I found myself really wanting to like them. The B&Ws imaged really well but and to tell you the truth I found them too “detailed” for my tastes as I found myself wincing on more than one occasion during the demo (not is bright as my Klipsch but then again that’s why I was looking). The HTM1 is an amazing center by the way and I really dug it but alas I’m looking for a full system.

Next were Thiel 1.6s, again these were very “detailed”, more so than the B&Ws and not my cup of tea. When the sales guy saw my face contort with the Thiels, he immediately suggested I try the new Dynaudio Contours 3.4s that he immediately setup. Wow, opposite end of the spectrum, very laid-back yet still dynamic, amazing soundstage and imaging. These were amongst the best I have ever heard but I wondered if they were a little too laid back for me. The center was not available to demo and when I did the quick head math ugh, man this hobby is not cheap!

I then went to check out Monitor Audio Golds and found that I liked the mains quite a bit (GR20 and GR60s I think). The sound was not as “detailed” (bright) to me as the B&Ws and definitely not like the Thiels; but where things fell apart for me was with the Center. For some reason I was always aware of the fact that sound was coming from a box in front of me. Especially when compared to the HTM1.

I then checked out the Energy Veritas line (I am Canadian, so I had to). The Energy reminded me of the Dynaudios, very laid back. In fact, so laid back that I found myself constantly feeling like I needed to turn the volume up. (I walked out of the listening room and everybody was looking at me wondering why I was listening so loud) ;-).

So given my auditioning experience combined with insight gleaned from various sites including here, I decided to give ACI a try. All the good things I have read about Mike are true. He walked me through his product line, made suggestions and was truly helpful. So here I am breaking in a set of Panoramas. Not going to get too deep as they have not broken in yet and setup is not yet complete (plus this post is long enough). But lets just say that so far so awesome for these big boys (these things are big and heavy; not Sony Wega TV big and heavy but 53lbs for a stand mount is huge!). They sound great right out of box, imaging is amazing and detail is great without being “brassy” as my Girlfriend says. When I was listening to the Trinity Sessions by the Cowboy Junkies, I had to double check that Music Surround was not on. But lets just say that so far I am happy with the Panoramas and I can’t wait for UPS to drop off the Veritas. (The Titan could not fit in my car and I had to leave it at work). Oh well, can’t wait for the other 2 pairs of Panoramas to show up as well.

Will update as they break in.

_______________________________________ ______

So pink noise has been going through the Veritas and the Panoramas since last night and all day today. So these are my latest impressions. The Panoramas continue to impress. They just disappear into the room, leaving nothing but clear detailed sound with no fatigue; especially when I pull them out from beside the plasma and position them for two channel. I actually played around watching scenes of some of my favorite movies in phantom mode and immediately switching back to the using the center and found it hard deciding whether I liked the Veritas in or out of the mix, the Panoramas are just that good! The best way I can describe it is dialogue was either "anchored to the screen" versus "just there" in phantom mode. However off access it was definitely better with the Veritas.

I listened to a few songs from Norah Jones, Cowboy Junkies and the Panoramas just really sing with female voices. Male voices (Stone Temple, Sting & Tool) seemed a little laid back out of the box but they are definitely opening up with a little break in.

As for the Veritas, I played around a little bit with setting up AWS but right now it sounds best just where Mike intended. Did not have time to fully flatten out the curve but there did not seem to be any huge peaks or valleys to begin with.

_______________________________________ ______

Figured I would give an update now that I have installed the Titan sub into the system and I have a couple minutes before I head out.

I was waxing my board and I put some music in (Sarah McLachlan Touch) and I found myself stopping to listen. Those who have not experienced Lexicon Music Surround modes combined with really good speakers are missing out.

I decided to put in a couple of heavier bass tracks (Godsmack) to see how successful my sub setup was. Lets just say I ending listening a little bit longer than I intended and I was not listening to the Sub but to the music. Everything just seemed to meld together nicely, Bass is just there and not booming. I guess this is what the audiophiles call "musical".

Harry P

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 220
ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #6 on: 2 May 2005, 09:18 pm »
This thread is a GREAT idea!

Proteges, Sapphires, Force

Obviously they're darn good or I wouldn't have kept them. I think the 30 day in home trial is a wonderful thing. I will never again purchase most types of audio gear unless I can try at home. I've had some weird experiences taking speakers into stores to do compares. I've actually caught salespeople tyring to cheat with levels and stuff like that. I don't need that. I'll let my own ears decide thanks!

I first did about 70-90 hours breakin. Then I set uip the Protege Vs in place of my Sapphires in my stereo setup. Although I expected them to beat the Sapphires in dynamics, I figured the Sapphires would pretty much beat them otherwise. Well it was tough to work out a way to just compare them above 80Hz since this makes a big difference. So I eventually came up with two setups using my Force subs. One sub was adjusted to the Sapphires, and one was adjusted to the Proteges. This made it pretty easy to go back and forth. Here's the shocker, the Protege easlily holds its own with the Sapphires! In fact, besides better dyynamics, we found it more open and for whatever reason, the soundstage seems to go as deep, but actually also come more forward when required. Vocalists are rendered very well with both speakers and it is pretty close to call overall. I think the highs on the Prots have a bit more extension and air, but aren't quite as silky smooth, but darn close. Mike D is always saying that even his HT speakers are deisnged to do music right, and this is certainly true here. What is interesting is that the Proteges are physically quite a bit larger, more drivers, considerably more dynamic range, and cost less! Of course you do have to have a sub, and with the Sapphires a sub is optional.

Moving into the HT, and adding the Protege center has giving my soundtrack capability that just makes me want to keep trying new movies. For now, I've stacked my two Force subs and am using the Sapphires as rears. When funds allow, I plan on using the Emerald inwalls for sides and rears 7.1 and adding the Maestro. The Sapphires and Force will go back to a separate stereo setup. A friend has Emerald Onwalls and we've tried them in my system at 5.1 and they are really terrific.

I guess I'm surprised to not see more on the Protege, they just might be the ultimate ACI sleeper. I've listened to some really nice setups with Aerial LR5s and CC3s and CC5s etc., and I'd love to sometime do a really direct compare with my Proteges, I think they'd hold their own quite well at less than a 1/3 the cost. Good job ACI!
_________________
Harry

stevekim

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 15
ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #7 on: 5 May 2005, 12:55 am »
This post is a copy of my "Panorama Initial Impressions" post I made elsewhere in the forum. I'll place this here, just for convenience. In my initial post, I promised to write a follow-up once the Maestro was placed in the system and everything was broken-in. I still haven't done that follow-up, but I'll post those impressions here as well once I've compiled my thoughts.
Suffice it to say, I'm still loving my ACI setup - I'm listening to more music, discovering new details and dimensions in all my recordings, and my appreciation of these speakers is growing even still!


Introductions
First, a little bit about me. I've been playing the audio game for a few years now, beginning as a college student in 1989. I was started down the path after hearing a set of B&W 801's powered by some big Melos tube amp. That system had a certain magic that I think all of us chasing the "audio dragon" know about - that cohesive expression of a musical event that goes beyond the frequency charts, impedance curves, and waterfall plots. Since then, I've hoped to recapture some of that magic, and I'm happy to report that with my ACI Panoramas, I think I've finally found a set of speakers that will be staying in place for a long time!

First off, thanks to all in this forum for all of your assistance and guidance. The enthusiasm, support, and knowledge provided here in the forum is one of the reasons I decided to give another set of speakers a trial. I first posted to this group a few months back with a VERY open-ended request for recommendations for my room and listening habits. Please refer to this thread if you're interested.

In short, I was looking for a system that would do both music and movies well, with musical tastes running all over the map. After not a small amount of discussion with Mike@ACI, I was guided towards the following: 1 pair Panoramas; 1 Protege center; and 1 Maestro sub.

Presale Impressions
Mike is a great guy, and gave really down to earth advice on putting together the above system. It was really nice to talk with someone in the audio biz without "The Attitude"! I was torn between the Sapphire XL's and the Panoramas, but Mike listened to me really closely and I'm almost positive that he made the right suggestion for me.

After a few weeks of painful waiting, the shipment from UPS came. These speakers are definitely heavier than they look! The speakers were all very well packaged and arrived in good condition, except for broken grill grommets on the Protege. Also, somehow the UPS folks must have dropped the Maestro amp unit, and managed to bork it despite ACI's great packaging. Now, if anyone reading this is in any way fearful for doing online business with ACI let me tell you how this issue was resolved:

Two very cordial emails to Mike resulted in a new Protege grill and Maestro amp being sent via UPS 2-day to my door at no expense to me! ACI's response to this was above and beyond ANY response I've ever received from a brick-and-mortar retailer.

OK, so ACI is a great company. But how do the speakers sound? Well, in a word, FABULOUS! Since only the Panoramas have had anything resembling sufficient time to break in, I'll limit my observations to them for this post. I'll also try to add more comments later as all the speakers get more play time, but can't make any promises that I won't be too busy listening to music and movies to remember to come back!

Initial Impressions
My immediate impressions after initial setup (before break-in) were pretty startling to me. The Panoramas exhibited a smoother and more cohesive top end, with a nice, round bass that was not flabby or poorly defined at all. In fact, they had more satisfying bass response than my Paradigm Studio 100v2's! A very small and narrowly isolated upper-bass "honk" largely smoothed out after about 30 hours of break-in, and the top end continued to sweeten and gel with the rest of the frequency range. I have to admit that performing critical evaluation of these speakers has been hard, because when I sit down to listen, I find myself getting carried away by the music and not taking good notes! This is truly a first for me in all my years of audio. In order to present my findings in a somewhat structured manner, let me try to break things down into categories.

Bass Response
As I said, the bass response of these speakers is more satisfying in my room than my previous Paradigm Ref 100v2's. It's definitely a full bass sound, but not bloated or loose. The bass lines have more "purr" to them. This is especially noticeable on stringed instruments as the sound which "surrounds" the bass fundamental and provides much of the decay signature. This is bass that is definitely more satisfying to me, and is richer than the stereotypically "dry" British sort of sound. While some speakers I have heard create this warmth by trading off bass "speed", the Panoramas are quite fast and capable of delivering a real bass punch.

Midrange Response
The midrange is very clear on these speakers. After about 60 hours of break-in, these speakers are still smoothing out. One major difference from my previous speakers in the midrange is the lack of prominent sibilance that I am getting from the Panoramas. I find this very refreshing - overall, the midrange on the Panoramas is smoother yet very detailed. I feel like I'm hearing more detail in the entire midrange region, both in the primary- and over- tones. Acoustic space information on these speakers is incredible, which makes me believe the transient response in the midrange is really excellent.

Treble Response
Oh my, the move from metal domes to the fabric domes in the Panoramas is welcome relief! Again, the word "smooth" comes to mind. The top end is seamlessly integrated with the midrange. These tweeters are really forcing me to revise how I've thought of "detailed treble". Since having these in my home, I'm aware that I've been confusing a "clear as glass" sort of treble for "truly airy" clarity. Glass is clear and sharp; air is simply clear without any real perception of "sharpness" – just simply details, without any hint of harshness. To not mince words, I know that I am playing well-recorded music at louder levels than ever before due to a total lack of harshness. And of course, as the volume goes up, more details are being revealed to me - again without harshness. It's a spiral towards some fairly loud yet entirely satisfying listening sessions!

Overall Frequency Response
Satisfying and purring low end, clean and full midrange, and a smooth extended top end - put it together for very seamless speakers from top to bottom. It's hard for me to express how much no one part of the response of these speakers stands out, yet as a whole they are truly exceptional in my experience. Transition between the frequency ranges is truly seamless, and the bass-midrange-treble continuity is even more remarkable when I realize it’s all coming from two reasonably–sized enclosures.
I can't pinpoint the cause, but these speakers are making me rediscover my whole music collection and also bringing smiles the whole while. I'm listening through whole albums more than ever before. I know it sounds like ad-copy, but my Panoramas are really letting me get to the emotional content of the music.
I know it’s been said before in this forum, but the Panoramas in my setup are providing me with really smooth and continuous performance. The music is being presented not just as a collection of sonic components, but with its musical context and meaning intact.

Imaging
Sitting fairly close (~6 feet), I get a super image from these speakers. In my setup, I've never heard imaging far outside any speakers. The Panoramas are suffering the same setup limitations here, but they truly do disappear as distinct sources. With the speakers pointed straight ahead, the stereo image is wide and solid, and dispersion is broad enough to give everyone across the couch a good image. Even though the speakers aren't what I would consider small, they definitely are not locatable as boxes pushing out the voluminous sound they do.

Appearance/Construction
The speakers are definitely deeper than I thought they would be, but also narrower. I wouldn't call them small speakers, but their overall dimensions do give them an elegance that is neither floorstander nor bookshelf. Construction is first rate, and the cherry panels I have on my Panoramas are really well done. I'm eager to see how these redden up in the Arizona sun. That last sentence may be the first time I've ever expressed interest in keeping speakers for a long term! The cabinets are heavy, and do a really good job of damping vibrations.

In Closing
Big thumbs up for these speakers and ACI! I really want to thank everyone here that shared their thoughts with me during my initial inquiry, and Mike for giving absolutely fabulous support and guidance. These speakers have satisfied both the audiophile and the music lover in me, and that's something special in my experience. While I tried not to wax poetic about the individual audiophile-approved aspects of these speakers, it's also hard for me not to gush a little bit. My Panoramas have made me proven to me what I've known in my heart for a long time - even though I may not be an audiophile "expert", and my speakers may not appear on some published list, when it comes to my own audio system, I AM the only expert whose opinion really matters, and I can write my own happy ending (with a LOT of help from ACI, that is)!

Rich Carlson

ACI-based home theater
« Reply #8 on: 19 May 2005, 11:57 pm »
Well, I can't top some of the great reviews of current products, but ... I am constantly rearranging things among multiple systems, and finally set up all my Sapphires in a home theater system.

The system:
Front L/R - Sapphire III LE
Center - Sapphire III
Rear L/R - Sapphire III
Center rear - Emerald
Subwoofer - Cambridge Soundworks Powered Subwoofer (My Titans are in another system right now, a topic for another time).

Bryston BP-25 & Rotel RSP-1066 preamps/processor
Bryston 3B-ST, PowerPac 60, Hafler P-1000 amps
variety of sources

This setup has completely convinced me of the value of closely matched speakers in a home theater setup.  I run all but the Emerald full range, and the sound is great.  So far, I've watched only a few movies with this setup - I Robot, Chocolat, Star Wars IV, V, VI, part of Lord of the Rings (just to hear it!).  Very clear, excellent image - the most enveloping home theater soundstage I've experienced.  This is a difficult room (corner of a big basement room) so the speakers are at various distances and angles, but it all works very well.  The system integrates very smoothly around the room.  Moving from Emeralds to Sapphire III's for the rear L/R was a useful step, mostly for the better bass.  (Now have a pair of Emeralds driven by vintage electronics in an office system).  Honestly, it is hard to know what else to say about the sound - it just works, with excellent clarity, imaging, and midrange.  Given what others have said about the newer ACI speakers, I can only imagine how good they must be in a similar setup.  Someday I'm sure I'll get the upgrade urge, but I'll hate to break up this system.

Mikeyb

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #9 on: 3 Jun 2005, 10:35 pm »
My system now consists of:

Panorama fronts
Essence center
Titan II LE sub
Phase Technology Teatro rears
Emotiva DMC-1 pre/pro
Emotiva MPS-1 7-channel amp (using 5 channels)

I started off with 25th Anniversary Sapphires, and while I really liked them, I am always curious as to what I might add in an upgrade.  I took a chance and upgraded to the Panoramas.  I am not a pro, nor even a particulary savvy listener.  I would like to be though (maybe that's a curse I don't need...I don't know).  What's most important is that I flat enjoy all my ACI's.

The differences between the Sapphires and Panoramas were very difficult for me to distinguish.  In a blind test, I'm not certain I could tell the difference much of the time.  What I do notice is that the Panoramas seem to play more effortlessly at higher volumes.  That's not to say I hear strain in the Sapphires, but the Panny's are a step up some how?  I think I may be noticing the Panoramas are a smidge tighter in the bass area where the Sapphires actually seems to play deeper.  I think the control in this department the Panoramas exhibit could be an explanation for this.

What the Pannys do give me that is easy to explain is they look more menacing in the room - in a good way.  They fit the height (on my original 23" stands) of my room better too.  The grills are way cool in that they attach with magnets that are not seen in the cabinet or the grill - they come off and go back on almost magically....very cool!  And they do play louder more effortlessly.  Was the upgrade worth it?  For my purposes, I would say yes.  If I were expecting a night and day difference, the upgrade would not have been worth it at all.  But I'm pretty reasonable and did not expect there to be a huge difference going from speakers I already really liked.

Other qualities I like about both the Sapphires and Panoramas include the way they disappear, audibly, into the room.  A better explanation is that I'm not constantly aware that the sound is coming from two distinct sources.  Even when I don't have them setup particulary well.  I have noticed that moving the speakers into the room more does make a difference.  But this difference wasn't apparent to me until I moved them back towards the back wall and closer together (flanking a TV).  I guess I am learning to be picky!  Something else I noticed more with the Panoramas than with the Sapphires is that after adding in the Titan, the sound really changed (duh).  The sound became more full (obviously), but the staging and evelopement increased to a degree I did not expect.  I don't know why this would be more so than with the Sapphires.  Maybe the Panoramas are more dynamic, and when crossed over to the sub their dynamics really shine?

Everything I have written here that attempts to show differences between these two fine sweakers took several months of quite a lot of listening to be able to make any critical perceptions.  And even with the differences I have stated, I am still not sure I could successfully identify which speaker was playing in a blind test.  So take my comments with whatever grain of whatever.  Do know though, that either of these speakers does nothing to make listening irritating or anything less than real enjoyable.

As for the Essence, now here I can say this thing has got to be one of the finest centers around.  While dialog is always as good as any center I have ever heard, the musicality it exhibits (especially in movie scores) is above just about anything else I have ever heard.  It matches extremely well to both the Sapphires and the Panoramas, and there is nothing on the planet that makes me feel I need an upgrade.  This thing is huge though!  Unkowing people walk in and say "Oh my, what the hell is that?".  I just laugh knowing it's amongst the very best center channels availabe!

I feel the same way about the Titan sub except ACI nailed it completely when they designed it's looks.  Beautiful, great sub, never boomy even when mis-calibrated, and when it's dialed in (I am probably not anywhere near close really), music and movies are as enjoyable as I always hoped.  Maybe I should try RDES out.

In summary, I LIKE all my ACI's!

dean_man

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 5
Little V
« Reply #10 on: 9 Jun 2005, 06:06 pm »
Folks,

Been lurking a little while.  I'm a longtime ACI fan, and have catalogs back to 1988.  I've been using ACI Little V mini monitors since 1992 and they still sound great.  Terrific imaging and soundstage, excellent openness and clarity, accurate, dynamic, fast.  An incredible bargain, too, since I purchased them as a kit about 13 years ago.  For the first 8 or so years of my using them I had them with a passive Gold Sound subwoofer I made but have since gotten rid of (2-12" drivers with 60-oz magnets in an Isobarik configuration--WOW).  Since moving to our current house five years ago or so I've used them by themselves, for music only--and continue to be amazed at the bass response they have as well.  Amazing.

I was surprised that the Little V has not been mentioned in here--until now anyway.  I wrote to Mike a few days ago for some advice about these speakers and was astounded that he actually wrote back!  And fast, too!

In any case I've been following this company for a good time, and am very pleased that it has continued to be so successful.  Kudos.

Jim

Mike Dzurko

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #11 on: 14 Jun 2005, 08:29 pm »
Jim:

Good to have you here!
« Last Edit: 25 Nov 2006, 07:57 pm by Mike Dzurko »

Mike Dzurko

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #12 on: 14 Jun 2005, 08:38 pm »
A dozen recent ACI reviews available on the Internet:[/color]

#1 Sapphire XL

Talk about a rave review!
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/ACI/xl.html

#2 Force Sub
Secrets of Home Theater review Arvind Kohli finds his reference sub:
http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_2/aci-force-subwoofer-4-2004.html

#3 Sapphire XL
When a reviewer decides to order his own pair . . .
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=547059&highlight=aci

#4 Maestro Sub
This s one of the longest review threads in audio history. 17 pages long with over 480 replies!
http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htforum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=208592

#5 Sapphires, Protégé Center, and Emerald On-Walls
Over 12 pages of great info on a variety of ACI products:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=357318&highlight=aci

#6 Titan Sub
Five Blue Notes For  ACI's Titan Subwoofer from EnjoyTheMusic.com
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0405/acititan.htm

#7 Maestro Sub
After trying 20 different subs, he finally found the keeper 
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=517330&highlight=aci

#8 Force Sub
Questions are asked about the Force and owners chime in:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=421682&highlight=aci

#9 Titan Sub
Reviewer’s Choice Award
http://www.hometheatersound.com/equipment/aci_titan_ii_le_subwoofer.htm

#10 Maestro Sub
This thread starts with a link to review #4, but has over eight pages of additional info:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=451639&highlight=aci

#11 Emerald
Scott Faller reviews the Emeralds for TNT Audio:
http://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/aciemerald_e.html

#12 Force Sub
Hometheatersound gives the Force high marks:
http://www.hometheatersound.com/equipment/aci_force_subwoofer.htm[/i]

Zero

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #13 on: 14 Jun 2005, 11:16 pm »
Mike,

Hell, I just wish I caught the Sapphire XL's during introduction pricing! Congrats on the positive feedback!

Mike Dzurko

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #14 on: 15 Jun 2005, 02:57 pm »
Quote from: A6M-ZERO
Mike,

Hell, I just wish I caught the Sapphire XL's during introduction pricing! Congrats on the positive feedback!


 8)

Maybe it will make you feel better to know the current price will likely rise again by late Summer or early Fall. The consensus of all who've heard them is that they are a steal at $1500 . . .

mdubrow

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 20
ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #15 on: 29 Jul 2005, 02:15 pm »
ACI Sapphire XL's - Initial Impressions

I’ve put close to 70 hours on my Sapphire XL’s, so I thought I’d give some “first impressions,” particularly since I haven’t seen any other user comments on the XL’s yet.  I’m not a professional reviewer, and this isn’t meant to be an in-depth look, so please be gentle in your comments!

First, my equipment.  My components are an HK AVR-7200 and a Denon DVD-2900 universal player.  Before getting the Sapphires, I had 5 Emeralds (3 across the front and 2 in the back) plus a Force subwoofer.  Let me state upfront that I think the Emeralds are probably the best kept secret out there.  I got them because of their size and the handful of favorable reviews about them, but they really are special little guys: very musical, good with dialog in the home theater setting, and impressively wide soundstage.  But after reading all of the good things about the Sapphire 25th Anniversary speakers, I was dying to know what kind of improvement I’d get stepping up from the Emeralds.  We live in a NYC apartment, so stand-mounted speakers wouldn't fit our room and the 25th Anniversaries didn’t fit our cabinetry.  But the newly designed Sapphire XL’s do, and with the special pricing ACI offered when they were first announced, I decided to take a chance.

The XL’s arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I was pleased with what I saw.  The XL's were carefully packed and arrived unblemished and undamaged.  As is the case with all ACI speakers, they’re MUCH better looking in person than on the website.  (Mike D., you should fire your photographer.)  I replaced the front Emeralds with the Sapphires, turned on the receiver and tuned it to an FM classical station, and let them get get acquainted.  My wife and I went away last weekend, and I left the system on while we were away.

So now that the speakers are partially(?) broken in, I wanted to address the question that’s been on my mind from the beginning: how do they compare to the Emeralds?  Unfortunately, I’m not equipped to do an A-B comparison (even if I could, it wouldn’t be a blind test), so I’m comparing the XL’s to my memory (not so distant) of the Emeralds.  Short answer is that the XL’s are a definite step up from the Emeralds, but I wouldn't describe it as a giant leap.  The soundstage is deeper (i.e. front to back), I believe I can hear additional detail that I couldn’t with the Emeralds, and imaging--which was very good with the Emeralds--I think is even better with the XL’s (I kept checking to make sure not only the center channel but even the surrounds were turned off, because when I closed my eyes to listen I could swear the sound was coming from all around me).

Having said that, when I switched to Logic 7, the front was pretty darn seamless with the XL left-right and the Emerald center.  Those Emeralds held up very well in the system and were by no means embarrassed by the Sapphires.

I'm pleased with what I'm hearing so far in 2-channel, and I suspect the XL's will continue to improve over the next 50 or so hours of use.

Mike Dzurko

ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #16 on: 30 Jul 2005, 07:35 pm »
Mdubrow:

Thanks for taking the time to put together and post your impressions. Well done! Wait, there's more, I believe you're just getting started with these.  As to firing the photog,  I guess that means I have to go now :(

Well I only have done some, probably the worst ones, and we're definitely looking to do better with our photography.

BayonneSue

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 1
Sapphire XLs--First listen
« Reply #17 on: 1 Aug 2005, 02:29 am »
Hi All,

Mike at ACI asked me to cut and paste an (unsolicited email) to this site.  It's not a proper review, and I know my initial impressions will change as we upgrade the rest our systems. I'm new to all of this, but we ordered our speakers at the beginning of the year and were expecting them by the Ides of March...


"All day at work yesterday, my husband kept emailing me about how good specific songs sounded on the new speakers.  I was on the edge of my seat all day just dying to leave.  But on my way home, the Transit Gods and Mother Nature conspired to make my wait even longer for my first listening session.  I'm happy to report it's been worth the wait.

Finally at 9 p.m. chores done, I was able to sit down and listen, the first song turned into 2 hours of listening. Nessun Dorma was beautiful and better then I thought it would be with our limited system, but I think my favorite song was "Famous Blue Raincoat" (Tori Amos's version on Tower of Song), or wait maybe it was "Caramel", from Suzanne Vega's 8 Objects of Desire, or maybe it was...

And that's without a new pre-amp.  Now I have to wait for us to take care of the other new equipment and I'll have to re-listen to all of the songs.  Good thing I took notes."

mdubrow

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 20
ACI Customer Reviews
« Reply #18 on: 1 Aug 2005, 11:20 am »
Quote from: Mike Dzurko
Mdubrow:

Thanks for taking the time to put together and post your impressions. Well done! Wait, there's more, I believe you're just getting started with these.  As to firing the photog,  I guess that means I have to go now :(


Mike, I meant no offense on the product photos!  I am well aware how difficult product photography is!

As to your comment that I'm "just getting started" with the XL's, well, let me just say that I'm now close to 100 hours with the XL's, and the gap between them and the Emeralds is widening markedly.  The XL's are now exhibiting much more detail in the mid-range than the Emeralds (the question is no longer if I can hear more detail but how much more detail can I hear).

I'm now starting to wonder if I should replace my center channel Emerald with a Sapphire XL....

ksie

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 23
Another XL review
« Reply #19 on: 2 Aug 2005, 01:30 pm »