The Sapphire XLs, for me, have been a learning exercise in using the right tool for the job. Basically, my Legacy Focus 20/20s are just over the line for being too big for my room. Were it not for a support beam right in the middle of the room and if my ceilings were just a little taller, the story might be different.
The Sapphire XLs allow me to set the listening area at about a 25 degree diagonal with plenty of space around the speakers, and plenty of walking space in the room while keeping the support post behind the plane of the front baffles. Previously, this setup put me way too close for all the sounds from the individual the drivers to integrate. Alternately, I could have placed the speakers very near the wall and into the corner – not ideal for many reasons, either. With the much smaller Sapphire XLs, no problem.
Lately, I really like The Great Lake Swimmers albums. There is a sense of space and warmth which is much more evident in my system now then I’ve ever heard. There is some reverb, but instead of smearing the sound it adds to the grand sense of spaciousness in the recording, and none of the detail is lost.
Some reviews seem to point to the Sapphilre Xls as being relatively laid-back, perhaps lacking the high-frequency sizzle of a more neutral speaker. If that’s true, then I think most other speakers are just too forward sounding, because these sound *exactly* right to me on that scale. I remember listening to “Placemat Blues” by Slobberbone in my Grado SR80 headphones. This song has splashy cymbals all over the place, but I noticed that in the headphones it didn’t dominate the whole thing. In just about every other speaker I’ve ever heard, the cymbals seem to be way too prominent. Well, the Sapphires presented more like the headphones, with the added benefit of better spacial separation, detail, and energy.
What other reviews have been correct about is the naturalness with which sibilants and strings are rendered. Sibilants don’t sound so much like spray cans, nor do they sound like they’ve been through a studio de-‘s’-er. (The Donald Fagan Kamakiriad album seems to me like the sibilants have been surgically reduced on every system I’ve heard it. I really like this recording, actually.) In R.E.M.s Talk About the Passion, I think the string instruments vary greatly in how clear, fast, and rich they sound from system to system. They sound real enough to give me goose bumps with the Sapphire XLs. Speaking of R.E.M., I just recently noticed the drumsticks clicking at the beginning of Find the River.
On some recordings, like Modern Guilt by Beck, at loud levels, I do worry about the crazy-long excursion of the little woofer. I have never heard it distort at levels I personally consider as loud as I would ever like to listen. I have never tried to push the speakers to my UCL (uncomfortable loudness) limit; there’s just no good reason to do that. They play plenty loud.
They also go deep enough to be satisfying. I could see how a subwoofer would be beneficial, but I’m certainly not in a big hurry to get one. I have a sub in my car which I finally have dialed-in, so I have a fairly good handle on the subwoofer setup basics.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the addition of the Sapphire Xls in my system. My wife agrees. I left out some of the standard review fare: fit and finish, buying experience, trying different equipment, how they sounded as they broke in, which kind of wine to drink when listening to them....
It’s getting late so I’ll leave it here. Oh, one more thing, kind thanks, Mike and everyone at ACI, for getting this speaker so completely right.