As a first-timer on AudioCircle, I'm required to start a new thread. Herewith my review of some great speakers that are discussed on some other AudioCircle threads.
I’ve been listening to a pair of Lii-15 full-range drivers mounted in Caintuck open baffles for about seven months on a daily basis. These speakers can provide a lot of musical satisfaction for a very reasonable price, so I’m writing them up in detail here.
The Caintuck baffles are barrel-shaped and place the large (15”) drivers just a few inches above the floor. Hence the speaker profile is low, wide and rounded. The Lii-15 drivers are notable for their large size and high efficiency, which is about 100 dB in this configuration. I imagine any amp could drive them well.
These speakers are extremely fast and detailed, with excellent transient performance, strong transparency and tone, and good dynamics. What most distinguishes the Lii-15s from other speakers that I’m familiar with is the fullness and density of sound in the sweet spot. Subjectively I’d describe that sound as full, warm and enveloping, but also as vibrant and immediate.
Given the large and unobstructed back wave, getting these results seems to require treating the area immediately behind each driver. I use a mix of diffraction and absorption on patches of the lower wall and the floor, with great results. I also use a good sub-woofer (SVS SB-3000) placed beside the listening position; it integrates beautifully.
The sonic image floats just above the top of the speakers (at about two feet) and thus presents as low compared to most speakers. I found this to be a bit of an adjustment but not annoying. Perhaps due to the driver size, instrumental images tend be somewhat larger than life. These might not be for those who value image and soundstage above all else; but I find them acceptable in those respects.
As a dipole speaker, the Caintuck Lii-15 throws a narrow swath of sound, so that the fullness and the focus of sound diminishes quickly as one moves away from the sweet spot. This is an inherent characteristic with pros and cons. For me it has proved more advantageous than otherwise. My large living room is asymmetrical in all three dimensions, and the ‘beaming’ dispersion pattern of the Lii-15s results in fewer wall reflections and a sound that’s more coherent and involving than other speakers I’ve tried here.
As an apartment-dweller, I also like the fact that the volume of sound was higher in the sweet spot, imagining that less sound went through the wall to my neighbour. At the same time, the large drivers seem to do a better job of energizing the room – at least in the sense of creating a fuller and livelier sound – than other speakers I’ve used here. I realize these statements may be contradictory. With my limited knowledge of these matters, I can report but not explain these findings
A notable limitation of the Lii-15 drivers is in their frequency response, which rolls off below 50Hz and above 15Hz. But don’t write them off just yet! Mid- and upper-bass are really satisfying, and some listeners won’t require a sub-woofer. The treble doesn’t offer real air or sparkle, but it does bring a rich brilliance to violins. Although my ears are very familiar with what super-tweeters bring, Lii-15 treble doesn’t strike me as truncated or missing something essential. Going back to normally-extended (20 kHz) or highly-extended (35 kHz) treble certainly registers as a difference, but isn’t experienced as a huge relief. Perhaps this is because the Lii-15 communicates so richly and powerfully in the mid-range: certainly more than most speakers.
On that note, I get considerably better results with my tubes (Sophia Prodigy, 12 wpc) than solid state (Yamaha A-S2100, 90 wpc). The greater power of my solid state amp is superfluous with these uber-efficient drivers, and tone and transparency suffered.
My Caintuck Audio baffles are made of veneered plywood, but principal Randy Rash now makes only hardwood baffles. His premium (“plus”) version – with concealed driver mounting – is utterly gorgeous. Speaking of aesthetics, it’s worth noting that because these speakers sit so low to the floor, they intrude visually less than most other speakers, despite their width, and notwithstanding some judicious rear-wave treatment.
There’s no doubt that Caintuck’s Lii-15 offering represents a very serious value proposition. Summit-fi they are not. End-game speakers for those who prize connection with the music’s vital impulse above all else? Quite possibly. Excellent sound for a very reasonable price? Absolutely.