Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?

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rcouch

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Gents and ladies,

Classical music reviewer and longtime audiophile here. Current system is exaSound e62 DAC, BAT VK-90 preamp and Rex 3 monoblocks. For many years I've favored von Schweikert speakers; currently I have VR-44s upgraded from the VR4 Gen III platform. I like the combination of delicacy, naturalness, spatial presentation, and full-range heft they offer. But I am thinking that both the SA M3 sapphire and X5 series have the potential to significantly surpass them in important ways. I'd love to hear them in a good system—especially the X5, since its controlled directivity is likely to yield a very different listening envelope than the von Schweikerts with their extremely wide power response, and the texture/blend produced by the Beyma AMT tweeter and 12" mid will be crucial to their character and suitability for my listening habits.

Are there any X5 owners in the Philadelphia or Wilmington, Del. areas who would be willing to host a listening session at a mutually convenient time? If so, please PM, and thanks in advance.
 

newzooreview

Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #1 on: 7 Aug 2022, 12:50 am »
I don't know if you've gotten any help yet, but Linear Tube Audio in Takoma Park, MD is two hours from Wilmington.

I listened to the M3 Sapphires there, and they were very helpful and happy to cue up the music files I brought.

I do not know if they have a pair of X series speakers, however. They've been exhibiting at audio shows with Spatial Audio using the X4s recently, but I don't know if those speakers are with them or back with Spatial Audio. You might give them a call or e-mail to check.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Linear+Tube+Audio,+7316+Carroll+Ave,+Takoma+Park,+MD+20912,+United+States/Wilmington,+DE,+USA/@39.3477079,-76.5580935,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x89b7c6269544c00b:0x2ecae9f71aaf406e!2m2!1d-77.006004!2d38.978567!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c70f185c46af6f:0x8516da5077308c00!2m2!1d-75.5483909!2d39.744655

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #2 on: 7 Aug 2022, 03:21 am »
Thanks, I will follow up with them. I should have included the X4 in my post as being of interest as well - it would have some advantages logistically in my setup. Ideally it would be great to be able to compare all three, but I recognize that may be difficult given the direct sales paradigm. So I'd still be interested in hearing the different models, even if in different places.

newzooreview

Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #3 on: 7 Aug 2022, 04:52 pm »
One thing I found when moving to the Sapphires is that open-baffle bass is as beneficial as treble purity when listening to classical music. The texture, timbre, and spatial cues in the lower octaves really bring a symphony to life.

So, even if it is hard to find a pair of X-series speakers to listen to, the Sapphires at Linear Tube Audio should give a fair indication of what the speakers can do. By reports, the X4s offer a bit more detail and perhaps more alacrity overall (especially in the bass where the new, more expensive drivers are supposedly a bit faster than the already excellent ones used in the Sapphires).

Good luck with it!

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #4 on: 7 Aug 2022, 09:27 pm »
Many thanks for these impressions and good wishes, newzooreview. The texture, timbre, and spatial cues are precisely what attract me (in principle and by reputation) to the SA products, so I'd just need confirmation on those points. The three areas I particularly want to audition involve the tonal character/voicing of the AMT tweeter, the subjective depth of usable bass, and the differences in the "on-axis" and "outside the sweet spot" balance (between the M and X series, and from what I'm accustomed to with my von Schweikerts0. I don't expect them to be similar, but I want to be sure that I'm comfortable with how they'll work in my house, and which tradeoffs appeal most.

For instance, the rated low-end extension on the X4 is 32Hz according to the web site. I expect that Mr. Shaw is conservative, and I presume that rating is the -3 dB point. I expect the bass to be fast, tight, and tuneful. Is there usable bass down into the high/mid 20s or does it drop off sharply? I would want to be comfortable that the opening to the Mahler 5 or the last movement of the Saint-Saëns 3rd etc. have the appropriate perceived weight. Though I listen to all kinds of music, I don't need club-level electronica bass impact, but my von Schweikerts play cleanly down to 20Hz so I would want to evaluate the bass quality vs. extension tradeoff carefully. I probably listen to more baroque orchestral, all-era chamber music, and jazz than big Romantic orchestral, so I'm not fixated on one aspect, but I don't want to live to regret a limitation.

All else being good, I prefer passive rather than active for several reasons, some simply to do with power management in my listening room, which is my living room.

And I very much want to hear the Beyma AMTs as spec'd for SA. I have high expectations, but again want to make an informed evaluation for my space (very unusual shape) and listening scenarios.

Thanks again!

 
« Last Edit: 7 Aug 2022, 11:34 pm by rcouch »

RonN5

Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #5 on: 7 Aug 2022, 11:05 pm »
You should definitely audition the Ms and Xs. More than likely you will hear strong bass with great tone but you will likely not get the same type of pressurization as you get from a box speaker….But the overall sound will be big and very open…Also, I suspect that if you are only able to hear the Ms, you will be quite surprised by the tone and realism the sapphire mid tweeter is able to convey.

Good luck with your audition/s and please report back what you hear.

Mr. Big

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #6 on: 7 Aug 2022, 11:35 pm »
Many thanks for these impressions and good wishes, newzooreview. The texture, timbre, and spatial cues are precisely what attract me (in principle and by reputation) to the SA products, so I'd just need confirmation on those points. The three areas I particularly want to audition involve the tonal character/voicing of the AMT tweeter, the subjective depth of usable bass, and the differences in the "on-axis" and "outside the sweet spot" balance (between the M and X series, and from what I'm accustomed to with my von Schweikerts. I don't expect them to be similar, but I want to be sure that I'm comfortable with how they'll work in my house, and which tradeoffs appeal most.

For instance, the rated low-end extension on the X4 is 32Hz according to the web site. I expect that Mr. Shaw is conservative, and I presume that rating is the -3 dB point. I expect the bass to be fast, tight, and tuneful. Is there usable bass down into the high/mid 20s or does it drop off sharply? I would want to be comfortable that the opening to the Mahler 5 or the last movement of the Saint-Saëns 3rd etc. have the appropriate perceived weight. Though I listen to all kinds of music, I don't need club-level electronica bass impact, but my von Schweikerts play cleanly down to 20Hz so I would want to evaluate the bass quality vs. extension tradeoff carefully. I probably listen to more baroque orchestral, all-era chamber music, and jazz than big Romantic orchestral, so I'm not fixated on one aspect, but I don't want to live to regret a limitation.

All else being good, I prefer passive rather than active for several reasons, some simply to do with power management in my listening room, which is my living room.

And I very much want to hear the Beyma AMTs as spec'd for SA. I have high expectations, but again want to make an informed evaluation for my space (very unusual shape) and listening scenarios.

Thanks again!

As far as the bass response for the M or X, it will be impacted by your room and its acoustics. Folks will say that a Quad Electrostatic speaker cannot go that low, well if you owned one in a well-treated room you would not say that low 30's and some output to 28Hz, but they would be a speaker you would not want to overdrive and risk damage to the panels, but in most rooms, they would play as a loud as a given recording would need. Having said that I enjoy my M3s because I can just let them go without worry about volume levels even though I don't rock out with them, but if a sudden bass dynamics hit or say a trumpet recorded weel going off I don't have to worry about panel damage if a given recording increases it dynamics 2-3 fold in a snap, like Harry James Sheifield Lab recordings can. I call it peace of mind, though I miss the Quads at times, no speaker can do what they do I enjoy the Spaital as well.
« Last Edit: 8 Aug 2022, 02:42 pm by Mr. Big »

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #7 on: 8 Aug 2022, 12:09 am »
Thanks, RonN5, I'll definitely report if I succeed in auditioning. My room's medium sized, roughly 17 x 18 x 10, but with a window bay and corner fireplace on the shorter wall, and a diagonal staircase cut and large arched doorway where the corner would be on the other side opposite. This results in a surprisingly-good sounding space because there's really only one proper corner and lots of leakage, so room nodes/nulls are pretty evenly distributed and low in amplitude. My listening triangle is offset from the long wall's center due to the fireplace cut and currently speaker drivers are about 54" from front wall, about 9 feet apart and 8.5 feet from midrange acoustic centers to my ears. Speakers are on Townshend seismic bars, which completely transformed their clarity on my sprung 1934 hardwood parquet floors. Behind the speakers is a 7' high by 10' wide fully loaded bookcase, with book spines pushed in from the front edge at irregular depths to create a kind of pseudo-Schroeder diffuser. All to say that I don't think I need a lot of bass pressure in my room, but big and open sounds just right (as at most live concerts I attend). When I heard Mr. Shaw describe the specs of the m3's mid-tweeter in Jason's 2hr + interview, I already knew what to expect in theory. So I won't be surprised at the quality, and the benefit of being able to cross it so low to the coherence of the sound. But that doesn't mean I may not be impressed to hear it in person! I'm likewise quite interested in this AMT, and in that comparison re tone/realism between the two approaches.
« Last Edit: 8 Aug 2022, 02:31 am by rcouch »

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #8 on: 8 Aug 2022, 12:15 am »
Thanks, Mr. Big. You're right, Quads are very special speakers. I've heard many iterations over the years, and they do some things as well as anything I've heard. For my applications they just aren't versatile enough. I take your point about bass and rooms. I've described mine generally in my response to RonN5. I expect that if I move to SA speakers, some adjustments to placement and room treatment will be entailed.

jnschneyer

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #9 on: 8 Aug 2022, 08:12 pm »
Many thanks for these impressions and good wishes, newzooreview. The texture, timbre, and spatial cues are precisely what attract me (in principle and by reputation) to the SA products, so I'd just need confirmation on those points. The three areas I particularly want to audition involve the tonal character/voicing of the AMT tweeter, the subjective depth of usable bass, and the differences in the "on-axis" and "outside the sweet spot" balance (between the M and X series, and from what I'm accustomed to with my von Schweikerts0. I don't expect them to be similar, but I want to be sure that I'm comfortable with how they'll work in my house, and which tradeoffs appeal most.

For instance, the rated low-end extension on the X4 is 32Hz according to the web site. I expect that Mr. Shaw is conservative, and I presume that rating is the -3 dB point. I expect the bass to be fast, tight, and tuneful. Is there usable bass down into the high/mid 20s or does it drop off sharply? I would want to be comfortable that the opening to the Mahler 5 or the last movement of the Saint-Saëns 3rd etc. have the appropriate perceived weight. Though I listen to all kinds of music, I don't need club-level electronica bass impact, but my von Schweikerts play cleanly down to 20Hz so I would want to evaluate the bass quality vs. extension tradeoff carefully. I probably listen to more baroque orchestral, all-era chamber music, and jazz than big Romantic orchestral, so I'm not fixated on one aspect, but I don't want to live to regret a limitation.

All else being good, I prefer passive rather than active for several reasons, some simply to do with power management in my listening room, which is my living room.

And I very much want to hear the Beyma AMTs as spec'd for SA. I have high expectations, but again want to make an informed evaluation for my space (very unusual shape) and listening scenarios.

Thanks again!

I don't know if you have any need or inclination to visit Salt Lake, but, if you have either, that might be your best chance at hearing the various iterations of SA speakers.  I know, easy for me to suggest you drop untold amounts of money on a flight, then willingly insert yourself into the viper pit that is air travel currently.  Bon voyage! 

On the other hand, I can, and will, offer you more essentially useless anecdotal opinion that allows me to indulge in bragging on my speakers while leaving you in exactly the same quandary in which you began.  It's always good to begin without illusions.  He who has never hoped can never despair, or so says Julius Caesar according to George Bernard Shaw.  Annnyway.  I own the X5s, purchased relatively recently.  I won't bore you with the details of my entire system, but it's good enough, both digitally and analoguelly, to warrant an expectation of a fairly high level of performance.  My room is not ideal, as it is an open plan living room, dining area, and kitchen, roughly 15'w x 30'l x 9'h.  It has some some quirks that prevent it from being exactly symmetrical, and it has a large window behind the speakers and an obscenely large tv on the wall to the right of the right speaker.  It is theoretically (mathematically?) outside the first and second reflection points, but its mere glassy monolithic presence in the room with my hifi causes my more audiophilic sensibility to wince.  But what're you gonna do.  As I say, it's a living, etc room.  Also, the room is entirely untreated.  I mention these details not because I think you'll find them fascinating, but because they, according to what little I know of sound propagation, must necessarily have some effect on the music, so, the quality of the music I hear from the X5s is what it is in spite of the room's deficiencies, which (spoiler alert), in this case, redounds considerably to the X5s' credit.

You and I seem to share, at least in terms of genre, a taste in music.  I listen primarily to classical and jazz, both whopping categories which, left at that, give only the vaguest notion of what we might in fact listen to.  You mentioned you had concerns about the SA speakers fully realizing or reproducing the opening of Mahler's 5th with the appropriate weight, heft, depth, aplomb, or, in audiophile terms, sufficient bass extension.  Obviously, I can't know what is sufficient to you.  Nor should you take it on faith that what is sufficient to me is sufficient, etc.  You get the point.  This, of course, is where the all but useless nature of shared opinion comes in.  However, all of that said, I will plunge ahead and say, to me, the X5s, even in my compromised untreated room, delivered the opening to Mahler's 5th, not to mention the rest of it, with all the weight, depth, breadth, and sense-battering excitement it deserves.  As another poster on this forum described it, the X5s allow you to hear the chaos as well as the order underlying the chaos.  The layering, the texture, the scale, all the annoying audiophile buzzwords more than earned their keep.  It was hair raising.  I'm not going to say it sounded like the orchestra was in my room - an audio system that can accomplish that sonic feat may exist, but I've never heard it - but it did a good enough job to temporarily displace my own sense of self and fill me entirely with Mahler, and that, I think, is the highest compliment one can pay to a system's ability to reproduce music.  Did they image well?  Yes.  Did they resolve well?  Yes.  All of that.  But mostly, primarily, the music they made moved me, took me over (which reminds me, have you read Tolstoy's The Kruetzer Sonata?  It deals with, in a much different fashion, this ability of music to take over one's senses and judgement.  It's a totally nutty story, but still very good.  Tolstoy was himself apparently very susceptible to music).  This experience (not Tolstoy's, thankfully, but the one I described) has held true for all the music I've listened to through the Spatials.  I listen to a lot of opera, and the speakers continually show that same ability to render the forest and the trees.  I also listen to a lot of smaller ensemble jazz, and the X5s are equally deft at rendering the sweet seeming simplicity and delicacy of Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby and the pounding drums, blood curdling horns, and bombastic dynamics of The Jazz Messengers' Drum Thunder Suite.

All right, I could go on.  And on.  And on.  But I have to go to work, so you're spared further slogging.  I hope you get a chance to try them.  If you do decide it's worth braving the skies to have a listen at Spatial's shop, be sure they have what you want to demo on hand, as they tend to keep the speakers around long enough to make sure they're good, then ship them out.  You'd be welcome to give the X5s a listen at my place, but it's also in Salt Lake, so that's probably no help.  Anyway, I see I'm still talking and will soon be late for work.  Good luck. 

Josh         
« Last Edit: 8 Aug 2022, 11:09 pm by jnschneyer »

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #10 on: 10 Aug 2022, 09:38 pm »
Thanks, Josh. As you say, it's hard to transfer experiences from one listener and setup to another, but still valuable to hear. Thanks for taking the time. Part of my "weight" decision is as between the passive X4 and active X5. I'm going up to the NY Audio Show in about a month, and I understand that LTA plans to be there with X4s. Pure Audio Project is also scheduled to be there, as is Beyma, so a chance to get more OB context.

RE Mahler 5, the recording I use (so far) for sonic evaluation is the Channel Classics DSD64 with Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orch. The interpretation is quite decent as well. Which one(s) do you lean toward?



rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #12 on: 11 Aug 2022, 02:50 am »
Thanks for posting the link. I had not noted the quoted excerpt from Fischer before. I like the idea of a world in which people hum tunes "like those in Mahler's Fifth Symphony."

jnschneyer

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #13 on: 11 Aug 2022, 09:18 pm »
Thanks, Josh. As you say, it's hard to transfer experiences from one listener and setup to another, but still valuable to hear. Thanks for taking the time. Part of my "weight" decision is as between the passive X4 and active X5. I'm going up to the NY Audio Show in about a month, and I understand that LTA plans to be there with X4s. Pure Audio Project is also scheduled to be there, as is Beyma, so a chance to get more OB context.

RE Mahler 5, the recording I use (so far) for sonic evaluation is the Channel Classics DSD64 with Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orch. The interpretation is quite decent as well. Which one(s) do you lean toward?

Regarding passive vs active, philosophically, the more Buddhist side of me (had I a more Buddhist side) would argue for passive, but the more, well, me (incorrigibly western) side of me argues for active.  In all seriousness, assuming "all seriousness" is possible, the obvious advantage, or at least option (I suppose some might consider it a kind of gimmick) to active, is that you're able to adjust the bass, add weight, according to your taste.  I've heard it argued that this is tantamount to the sin of tampering with what the music was intended to sound like, but I find that argument specious at best.  The recording we finally listen to has, by the time it reaches us, already gone through the conductor's interpretation, the musicians' interpretation of the conductor's direction, and the engineer's interpretation of the musicians' interpretation of the conductor's direction, not to mention the inevitable corrupting influence of whatever medium by which the music is being rendered (which reminds me of Toscanini saying God bless the arts that need no interpreters!).  Given all that, I see no reason why we shouldn't be allowed to add a bit of bass here or there as we see fit.  My main concern with the active woofer wasn't that a volume adjustment might stain the purity of the artist's or engineer's original conception but that the added bass would sound unnatural, boomy, blowsy, or flabby, or that it would stand out, not properly blend.  Some of this will no doubt be determined by your room's ability to handle bass.  My untreated room, though it has a good-sized carpet and some soft furniture (sadly, none of it tuned to any specific frequency), still has a lot of hard surfaces, is not overly large, and can be a bit of a resonator.  Despite that, I've found that, even turned up a bit, the bass from my X5s sounds natural, blends well, and, unless I really crank it, does not overpower the room or the music.  I suspect this may have something to do with the open baffle design.  Where I've found the volume control most useful is not in turning it up but in turning the bass down on some smaller ensemble jazz recordings.  Though, come to that, I really don't mess with it too much.  I went with the active speakers because I'm interested in switching to tubes, and the active woofer greatly opens up the possibilities for very low watt amplification.  Though, when I first demoed the Spatials, I listened to a pair of X4s, which are theoretically more difficult to drive (4 ohm 93Db) than the X5s (8 ohm 97Db), driven by a Don Sachs Vahalla, which is approximately 30 wpc, and they sounded phenomenal.  So, opening up the full range of amplification options may not be that critical or matter that much to you.  All this is a longwinded way of saying active speakers give you some control over the amount of bass you can employ in a given recording, an option I'm sure you didn't need me to point out.  I've read some say they find the quality of the bass of the X4s better, tonally more accurate, than that of the X5s.  I've also read people saying the opposite.  I can't say the difference, if there is one, was noticeable to me.  Again, people's opinions, unless we trust one person's or another's and are simply willing to be guided by faith, while sometimes interesting, are largely useless in helping us come to a final determination of what is going to suit us best.  What's undeniable is, whatever bass the X4s are capable of, you're stuck with across the panoply of your recordings, while the X5s give you the option, for better or worse, of experimenting and possibly finding a level of bass that better suits your notion of how a particular recording should sound.

As for Mahler's 5th, my favorite of the recordings I've heard is the Decca recording of Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony.  Another poster on this sight highly recommends Gary Bertini's recording on EMI, part of an 11 disc box set of Mahler's symphonies 1-10. If I remember right, he was pretty lukewarm about the quality of the symphonies other than the 5th, but he felt Bertini had one of those seemingly out of nowhere inspired performances with the 5th and said it is far and away his favorite version.  I can't find it on any of the streaming sights, and haven't been willing yet to invest in the box set, so I can't give you an opinion of it.  I don't know the Fischer version, either, but I will certainly give it a listen.  I'm curious; you say you use Fischer's version for sonic evaluation.  Does that mean you like it solely or mostly as a tool for evaluating gear and less for its quality as a performance?  That's it for now.  Good luck with the audio show. 

Josh     

Tyson

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #14 on: 11 Aug 2022, 09:36 pm »
The whole Bertini set is great, a reference set for me.  You can find certain performances of individual symphonies that are better elsewhere (like Klemperer for the 2nd, Bruno Walter for the 9th, Abbado for the 7th, etc).  But for a box set, the Bertini is hard to beat because ALL the symphonies are performed at a very high level, no real weaknesses.  And of course the sound quality is first rate.

rcouch

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Re: Audition X5s in the Philadelphia or Wilmington areas?
« Reply #15 on: 11 Aug 2022, 10:46 pm »
Thanks, gents, for the recommendations. I don't know Bertini's version, though I've heard good things about his Mahler generally. I'll look out for it. I've heard Tennstedt, Solti, Bernstein, Karajan, Abbado, MTT, Gergiev, Jansons, Haenchen, Yannick, Termirkanov, Zander and several I'm forgetting, in addition to Fischer. Some in red book resolution, some in greater bit-depth PCM, some in DSD. There are things to like about many different visions of the piece, of course, and a few just not worth re-hearing. I did single out the Fischer for its sound quality (Jared Sacks and his team do a tremendous job for this ensemble with their pure DSD recording chain), and I like the pacing and modulation of long lines well enough to find the combination of interpretation and sound compelling. There's a textural clarity and sense of transparent space that, along with Fischer's fondness for gently pointing details of sonority, make it a good disc for evaluating finesse, delicacy, speed, and dynamics of components and systems. That's true of many of Channel's efforts, but I think this one will be good for understanding how the drivers integrate through the musical spectrum in each of the two speakers (X4, X5) and how each renders the musical qualities above—and how those change at different listening positions.

I have all-tube amplification, but plenty of power, so I should be able to get as much bass extension from the X4s as they can offer. So the question on that criterion is simply whether I'll sense any foundation missing in the music on listening through them compared to my current speakers or the X5s if I get to audition those eventually. Given the different quality OB bass has, I look forward to learning how the tradeoffs play out. I'll let you know what I find in NY.