I posted these initial impressions over a year ago (March 2005). I've since moved to a much smaller space, but the Panoramas are still with me. And yes, I still love them. The Maestro subwoofer is in storage for now as well, but I'm dying to get re-integrated into the system. It now looks like I'll be moving again in the near future, but I'll try to post some updated findings as soon as things settle down a bit.
If any prospective buyers have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
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)!