X5 for classical music?

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Desertpilot

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X5 for classical music?
« on: 15 Apr 2021, 04:43 pm »
Hi all, looking for advice.  I am interested in the X5 (or maybe M3 Sapphire) for classical music.  Ron at NRD is VERY enthusiastic about these speakers.  Most reviewers are focused on Rock & Jazz, likely the greatest audience.  But, I listen to SACD orchestra, opera, violin solos and string ensembles.  Vocals are of special concern (soloists and choirs).  How would these speakers handle hirez classical?

My situation:  listening space is part of a great room.  Specific listening area is 14 feet wide and 15 feet deep to our recliners.  But the actual room length is 30 feet.  Actual room width, including dining area, is 40 feet.  Ceiling is 11 feet to 14 feet.  I do have some GIK room treatments.  I use JRiver to play music via HDMI to my Marantz AV8805 pre/pro then to my Parasound A52+ amplifier then to my current speakers (multichannel home theater system).

I will keep my current setup for home theater (SVS Ultra bookshelf system).  But, I am considering switching to stereo X5s for classical listening and then move the speakers out of the way for movie watching.  See photos.

Thanks, Marcus







geerock

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #1 on: 15 Apr 2021, 06:00 pm »
Regarding the room size, I would give Clayton
a call to get his opinion.  As for the X5's, the thing that really stands out for me is the beauty of the AMT driver.  The true sound of a piano's hammers hitting the strings.  The resonance of strings being plucked on a guitar.
And the beauty of the voices where you can hear the breaths being taken on live performances.  I've been at this hobby a long time and these are the finest sounding speakers I've owned, and I'm not a young man.
Definitely try a pair out.  You get a trial period.
« Last Edit: 15 Apr 2021, 08:47 pm by geerock »

Desertpilot

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #2 on: 17 Apr 2021, 05:16 pm »
Not a lot of classical music listeners here (LOL).  I am on vacation and will be back home next week.  I'll give Clayton a call at that time.  Tracks I want to test out from my collection are all DSD 64 to 256 or PCM 24/96 to 192.  All are available (lower resolution, of course) on YouTube:

1.  Arabella Steinbacher - Fantasies, Rhapsodies and Daydreams (Foster, 2014), DSD 64.  Vaughn Williams: The Lark Ascending (Violin and Orchestra).  YouTube version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIXQZkvNAAE

2.  English Music For Strings (Wilson, 2020) PCM 24-96.  Bliss: Music for Strings (String Ensemble).  YouTube Version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lmzd5Bc9zg&list=OLAK5uy_l-yYfkNZCIl-Ra75uiZCGpLDWsObFyZ5U&index=17

3.  Beethoven - Symphony No 9 (Honeck, 2019), DSD 256.  Finale (Choral).  YouTube Version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAKPgbjSE54

4.  Berlioz - La Damnation de Faust (Rattle, 2017) DSD 64.  YouTube has the entire concert which would include lots of solo parts and choir.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73IcKxhM118&list=PLTjZ3o6K-BOk2-_nlS8BZFygg-HMSJDt-&index=3

5.  Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Lieutenant Kijé Suite (Fischer, 2019) DSD 256.  Song about Alexander Nevsky.  One of my all time favorites, Choir and Orchestra.  YouTube Version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iApqXH4tT0&list=OLAK5uy_mYxHJpbUWF4EDeIx9VfO5qWtqLyyrUYxg&index=2.

Each of these would give the speakers quite a workout.  Heck, maybe Clayton would let me visit his place for a listen.

Thanks, Marcus.

Tyson

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #3 on: 17 Apr 2021, 05:25 pm »
I haven't heard the X5 specifically but I've many other speakers that Clayton makes, as well as I run OB speakers from GR Research that are very similar in design.  I'm about 90% classical in my listening. 

IME, there's nothing better for classical than a great OB speaker like the ones Spatial makes.  Because classical music is often on such a huge scale compare to other types of music, you really need speakers where the sound breaks free of the speakers and fills your whole space.  OB speakers do this better than anything.  In addition, I've heard the tweeter used in the X5 and X3 in several other speaker designs (including the X2 that Spatial makes) and it is one of the very best tweeters for classical, period.  From creating the hall ambiance of a performance, to allowing through the modulated passion of tenor and soprano voices, to following the intricate interplay of a string quartet, it's absolutely incredible.

So if OB speakers are so great, why aren't they more popular?  Well, because historically they've had a big weakness.  Bass.   But Spatial (and I should mention GR Research) have solved this very elegantly by having powered bass sections.  This allows you to have very strong punchy bass that can be dialed in to a given room, while at the same time keeping all the beautiful qualities of the mids/highs that OBs are known for.  It's a very smart speaker design.

Desertpilot

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #4 on: 17 Apr 2021, 05:42 pm »
Tyson, awesome.  Thank you so much for your insight.  I'm actually now considering the X3 after watching a huge number of YouTube videos.

Thanks again!  Marcus

Tyson

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #5 on: 17 Apr 2021, 05:51 pm »
If I didn't have my Super 7 speakers, the X3's would be my next choice  :thumb:

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #6 on: 17 Apr 2021, 06:32 pm »
X3 owner and classical fan here.

I second what Tyson said. X3's (and presumably OB speakers from GR Research) are superb at recreating the scale and splendor of large scale classical music. With X3s in the house for last 15 months (and after fine tuning the the system), I have been gravitating to music with large choirs ---Requiems, Masses, Mahler symphonies, etc. Never enjoyed them as much with my earlier setups.

My previous speaker for a decade was also an OB but I'd say it excelled more at smaller scale classical music --- e.g. chamber music   http://musicanddesign.speakerdesign.net/NaOMini.html

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #7 on: 17 Apr 2021, 06:44 pm »
ps Another plus for my X3-based setup is that old recordings also sound utterly gorgeous. Some examples from 1960s

Klemperer's German Requiem (Brahms) and Mass in B Minor (Bach), and Kertesz's Dvorak Requiem (London Philharmonic).  Karajan's early 1960s recording (including his Beethoven set).

An amazing (and unique) recording session featuring Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington "The Great Summit"

Most classic jazz recordings of late 1950s and early 1960s.

Tyson

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #8 on: 17 Apr 2021, 07:21 pm »
sarora9, you are so right!  With really great OB speakers, they really open up older recordings and make them much more enjoyable to listen to.  In fact it wasn't until I got my Super 7's that I really 'got' Billie Holiday.  Before that, I always felt like she was over-rated in the jazz community.  But in reality it was the poor quality of the recordings and my use of box speakers that really constrained my ability to hear what a genius she was.  It helps that after I got the Super 7's, many of her recordings were also remastered on to DSD.  Still not 'great' sounding, but now they sounded good enough that I could actually hear what she and her band were doing.  I love that.

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #9 on: 17 Apr 2021, 08:30 pm »
Right, Tyson, it helps that the old recordings have been remastered in recent years from the original tapes.

I guess I was reacting to the O/P's insistence on hi-res modern recordings for system evaluation.

So many things have to fall in place for a good recording of large scale choral music: the right conductor, the right choir, the right symphony musicians, the right soloists, and good recording engineers. MQA/Hires seems a minor factor. 

I sampled many modern (digital era) recordings of the German Requiem and nothing comes close IMO to the Klemperer of 1960s (except Karajan's version from the same period). Klemperer wipes the floor with his precision, a choir from UK's golden age of choirs, all-time great soloists like Fischer-Dieskau and Schwartzkopf. The recording quality actually sounds better to my ears than modern recordings (e.g., Abbado 1993 with BPO).

In 2020 Lincoln Center orchestra released a modern version (hi-res, needless to say) of Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige. Presumably the performers are today's top musicians. It is a pale shadow of the Ellington/Mahalia Jackson album from 1958 (remastered), which also sounds glorious on my X-3's.

ps Possibly the choice of DAC matters too here. Mine is Bricasti M1SE. But I suspect many DACs  will be fine.

« Last Edit: 17 Apr 2021, 09:40 pm by sarora9 »

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #10 on: 17 Apr 2021, 09:43 pm »
Sorry duplicate post (removed)

Tyson

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #11 on: 17 Apr 2021, 11:05 pm »
Agreed, a great recording is a great recording, regardless of when it was recorded.  It's funny you mention Brahms' Requiem as that is the exact piece of music that really got me hooked on to hifi back when I was younger.  For me it was the Tennstedt recording that I'd brought to a hifi shop & when I heard to opening, the voiced expanded in to space in a beautiful way that I'd never heard before.   I was like "oh, I want more of THAT please!" And the rest is history.  I know a lot of people say his pace is too slow but for me it's just majestic.  I love it. 

The Karajan and Klemperer recordings you mention are also exceptional, I've had them in my collection for many years.

Desertpilot

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #12 on: 17 Apr 2021, 11:23 pm »
Thank you everyone.  I'm sold on the X3.  The information is exactly what I was wanting.  Regarding new hirez or older music, I do not own the older albums.  My collection is some SACDs, BluRay audio but mostly downloads from Native DSD or eClassical.  I read all of HRAudio.Net's reviews and they almost always comment on sound quality and name the sound engineers.  They also compare with older music and make quality judgments/comparisons.  With the X3s, maybe I'll be persuaded to invest in older music.

Thanks again everyone.  Very happy classical music lovers and Spatial Audio exist here!!!

Marcus

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #13 on: 18 Apr 2021, 12:40 am »
Desertpilot,

Sounds good! BTW the music I listed is all on Qobuz, which I use for all listening now (via Roon ROCK).

I have downloaded hi-res tracks from some sites and they do sound excellent. But the music choice seems very limited.

Some time ago I discovered on Qobuz recordings of Mahler by Eliahu Inbal and Tokyo Symphony on some Japanese audiophile label. Sounded excellent and I listened for a week or two. Then I noticed Klemperer had recorded Lied von der Erde from 1960s, and realized it sounds almost as good in SQ and of course is a superb performance as well. (Klemperer didn't record too much Mahler unfortunately.) The sound engineers in 1950s and 1960s did a very good job.

RonP

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #14 on: 18 Apr 2021, 01:06 am »
Right, Tyson, it helps that the old recordings have been remastered in recent years from the original tapes.


I hope this goes without saying, but watch out for dynamics getting smashed down in remasters. Hopefully this practice isn't happening as much with classical music.

https://dr.loudness-war.info/ is your friend

(Background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war )

sarora9

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #15 on: 18 Apr 2021, 01:36 am »
I would be surprised if they monkeyed with classical music recordings, especially the legendary ones mentioned above. That said, I don't have LPs to compare to.

S Clark

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #16 on: 18 Apr 2021, 02:23 am »
I do have many of the great RCA and Mercury pressings from the 50's and 60's.  There may be some remasters that are improvements, but I'd say the originals are usually better.  I've compared several Classics Records remasters to the original pressings and they usually don't compare well.  The Analogue Productions reissues are a nice step up. 

radarnyc

Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #17 on: 18 Apr 2021, 12:58 pm »
Hi all, looking for advice.  I am interested in the X5 (or maybe M3 Sapphire) for classical music.  Ron at NRD is VERY enthusiastic about these speakers.  Most reviewers are focused on Rock & Jazz, likely the greatest audience.  But, I listen to SACD orchestra, opera, violin solos and string ensembles.  Vocals are of special concern (soloists and choirs).  How would these speakers handle hirez classical?

Does this mean that your music source is a SACD player and you only listen to SACDs and maybe CDs? I know that you've got a lot invested in your HT system and I had a HT system for years too. Once I got my X3s in-place, I found that I liked movies and TV better with my two channel system (X3s, LTA Z10, MicroRendu, and "DACs"---I keep trying new ones!!). You don't have Tom Cruise flying behind you, that's true, but there is a ton of 3 dimension space with a proper 2-channel setup and most content in movies/TV is "front" focused anyhow and, again (for me), this sounds way better in my 2-channel setup.

I don't know the details of your player but it's safe to say that even modestly priced DACs these days would blow away that player. With that in mind, I think that you might be "leaving a lot of sound quality on the table" by not having a "proper" DAC in your chain. Your amp is crazy powerful for the X3s. To put it in perspective, my amp is 12 watts into 8ohms and it way more than enough for the X3s given that the amp is only driving the mid driver and tweeter.

I worry that you're going to have a bit of mixed system here with HT grade components and one of the best 2-channel speakers on the market. It will still sound great but it could be better if you abandoned all of your HT components and switched to a pure 2-channel focus. I'm totally OCD too and the thought of moving my speakers on a regular basis makes me very uncomfortable.

For sure, buy the X3s and get it in place with the current gear. Watch TV and movies through the HT speakers and the X3s and see if you're missing something. If you could get your hands on friend's decent quality DAC (say $700 and up), give that a try. Unsolicited advice...ends here but there could be more!

ric

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #18 on: 18 Apr 2021, 01:56 pm »
Even though I have the earlier M3, the expanse of an orchestra, with the sense of string section here, basses, tympani, etc. can be thrilling. Dynamics are great as well as imaging. For myself, since I play records as well as stream (innous zen mini) I tend not to listen to classical except from vinyl. I find vinyl superior to my current setup for digital.
Everything else, (jazz, rock, soul, blues, world music) sounds great, and the Spatials and OB's have an openness that when you hear a band (or orchestra) it sounds more like being at a live concert--amplified guitars sound like amplified guitars, etc. The "richness" of strings or bass or orchestral sounds, I think will be determined by your amplification and dac, which is in itself another journey.
   Good luck!

Desertpilot

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Re: X5 for classical music?
« Reply #19 on: 18 Apr 2021, 02:09 pm »
Radarnyc:  Thank you for the advice.  I will consider all of it.  But, the WAF may be too huge a factor to overcome.  She's content listening to Reggae on her ear buds.

I have an older OPPO BDP93 but never use it anymore.  All of my music is on a NAS which feeds a dedicated PC.  I use JRiver which converts DSD to PCM and sends it to a Marantz AV8805.  Supposedly the pre/pro has a decent DAC.  Will I invest in a new DAC and Amp for music?  Maybe.  I have to try the speaker upgrade first.

Aside from improved music reproduction, I want to be able to listen at lower volume levels in the evening.  Supposedly, the X3s give me that option.  it's true that my current speakers really need higher volume to sound decent.

I am currently subscribed to Amazon HD music.  I'm not sure I will keep it.  I also did a free trial to Primephonic (classical only).  Either of these would likely give me exposure to older music.  We'll see how they sound with the new speakers.

Ahhhhh, audiophile quest for music nirvana.  It never ends.

Marcus