I wanted to take a few moments to share some thoughts about my DA-1.1’s now that they have had the AP crossover upgrade. First, a few caveats in order to put my comments in proper context. We recently moved and my system now resides in a somewhat smaller listening room. My old room was 14 X 22 X 9 and opened into the lower level of the house in several places. I had the system set up on the short wall with my entertainment center between the speakers, which were 8 feet apart and 2’ from the front wall. My listening chair was 11 feet from the speakers. The new room is 13 X 17 X 8 and I’ve got the speakers set up on the long wall about 15” from the front wall 8 feet apart and with about 9 feet from the listening chair. I’ve ditched the big entertainment center and have an open rack for my gear between the speakers. So, different room and different configuration to be sure. I’ve also changed my electronics from an Audio Research LS26 and SD135 to a Modwright LS36.5 and KWA150. And instead of complete Empirical Design cabling I’m now using a mix of Empirical Design, Stringcable and Dynamic Design cables (as well as stock power cords) while I figure out what is going to work best in my new system. Finally, since my DA-1.1’s were from the first production run Lou kindly swapped out the internal wiring and installed the Cardas binding posts to bring everything up to current spec. So obviously what follows is not going to be an honest comparison of the DA-1.1’s before and after the AP crossover upgrade as it is quite difficult to attribute the sonic differences I am hearing (and they are HUGE) to the AP crossovers alone. Having said all that let me say at the outset that with only about 80-100 hours on the system I am absolutely stunned by what I am hearing. In fact, I would have to say that the sound I am getting in my listening room is some of the best, if not THE best I’ve ever heard…PERIOD, regardless of cost, and I’ve been at this for 25 years.
What I find difficult is to translate what I am hearing into words that will adequately do justice to what Lou has done with these speaker systems. In a nutshell, the new system is simply more organic and musically involving and the listening experience has been brought infinitely closer to the most breathtaking live performance. The new system retains the tonal accuracy and realistic warmth of real instruments but adds a layer of dynamic contrast and detail that simply makes things sound more real and alive. Acoustic instruments possess proper vibrancy and decay. The interplay between musicians is brought to light in a way that allows the listener to have a greater appreciation and understanding of the players’ virtuosity and the musical intelligence of the composition and arrangements. Though it sounds cliché, what I am finding is a renewed appreciation for my entire music collection and when I’m listening to my system I am fully transported by the experience.
What follow is some observations of the typical audiophile criteria but I hope to have made it clear that each of these performance gains are really part of a larger something (an essential musicality) that is present in the new design in a way that simply makes the AP crossover version of Lou’s speakers something extraordinarily special.
First, the new design pushes the boundaries in terms of frequency extremes—particularly in the bass. In fact, what becomes most apparent with the new crossover is just how powerful, effortless and precise the bass has become. I’ve been having some fun with favorite recordings that feature well recorded drums and let me tell you I am absolutely floored with the power and accuracy of the bass. It is like I added a sub without having to contend with the potential downsides (i.e. loss of seamless coherence in the bass). The improvement in the bass response is worth the price of admission alone for those who are considering the AP crossover option. I mean it—I’m no bass freak but you have simply got to hear these speakers reproduce the lowest octaves with the new crossovers. The ability to pressurize the room (without bloat) is simply awesome!
There is also a completely effortless quality to the presentation. Dynamics, which were always a strong suit with Lou’s designs, are vastly improved. The music simply leaps from the speakers. This has the effect of adding greatly to the realism of the entire system. The other day I was listening to “Just a Little Lovin’” from Shelby’s Lynne’s new CD and the rim shots on the snare were simply “there”. I’d heard her live a few months ago performing the same song and there is simply very little difference in the way the recorded performance is rendered on my home audio system. With the new crossovers the system has a “jump factor” that can startle you and then make you smile from ear to ear.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the music is completely liberated from the speakers themselves. Voices and instruments are suspended in three dimensional space in a way that was not true before. This is simply mesmerizing. I love the way each instrument has it’s own place within the stage and is properly proportioned and balanced with the rest of the mix. There is also much more body, texture and detail—an ability to hear into the mix in a way I couldn’t before, all of which makes for a much more musically compelling experience.
I’m sure there is a lot more I can say—I’ll certainly have to report back after the system has been thoroughly broken in and I’ve got proper cabling throughout. I also have yet to set up my vinyl rig so things could get really interesting! Nonetheless, I have to say I am simply devastated by the improved sound I am getting. I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the synergy between the Modwright gear and Lou’s speakers but the ARC stuff I had was no slouch and, if anything, the room I was in was better than the one I’m in now. So, while it would be foolish to speculate just how much credit to give to the AP crossovers (and new wiring and binding posts) I’ll go out on a limb and say that the revisions to my speakers deserve the lion’s share of the credit. These are simply not the speakers I sent to Lou last month. They look the same for sure and Lou has managed to retain all the strengths that his designs are known for (tonal authenticity, lack of listening fatigue, coherence and dynamics) but has pushed things to a whole other level in terms of resolution, dynamic power, bass response and soundstaging.
Truly remarkable. Lou, I am truly grateful for your efforts!