Salk SoundScape 10 Review

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 9116 times.

fsimms

Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« on: 27 Sep 2010, 12:07 am »





What I love most about my Salk HT1’s is the ability to capture the excitement of a performance.  This is illustrated best by the LP trilogy “The Other Side of Midnight” by Linda Rhonstadt and Nelson Riddle.  When Linda projects her voice out, it can knock you out of your chair.  It is with some nervousness that I put on the “What’s New” LP from that trilogy on my new SoundScape 10’s.  I have the “Lush Life” CD from that same set and play it on other speakers when I get the chance, but usually find the other speakers failing.  It was with great relief I heard Linda really belt it out on the SS 10’s.  Her voice was fleshed out more than I have ever heard.  The background music was extremely real and three dimensional.  The instruments were spread out behind her.  The soundstage was very wide and deep.  Glorious!  With great excitement, I hurriedly dashed off a glowing email to AliG.  Whether it is as dynamic as the HT1’s, I don’t care!  It is certainly as close as I can tell.

After playing the LP “A New Album” by Mel Torme, I have said that the Salk SongTowers had a soundstage similar to being at a live concert.  I said that the HT1’s give the impression that Mel was right there in front of you in the room.  The SS10’s were similar to the HT1’s in that Mel was right there in front of you in your room, but the room was sitting on the stage!  The walls surrounding the speakers vanish and the stage appears.

The bass starts at 18 Hz and starts pulling strong at 22 Hz.  The bass has no fat, “thwapp” or fuzz.  The bass is just like the midrange.  It is just there with all the reality recorded.

The HT1’s, with my SVS sub and TACT crossover, isn’t nearly as clear or clean in the bass as the SS10’s were.  I was surprised at how well my SVS sub held up in comparison.  I guess it helps to have more power and sit on the sub.  I will never use my sub with the SS10’s for music, but think they may work well with movies.

I listened to the SS10’s, without a sub, to the blu-ray movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.   My inexpensive Panasonic digital 100 watt receiver shook the room.  Still that was not really enough power.  My McCormack 225 has enough power.   Since my 225 has soft limiting, I don’t have any real concerns.  I plan to keep the 225 but if I was to buy a new amp for my SS10’s then I would lean toward 400 watts to make sure that I had enough headroom.  The SS12’s are more efficient so I think 200 watts would be more than sufficient.

The SS10’s have plate that is attached with magnets that can be taken off the back of the midrange chamber to project sounds back of the speaker on the room walls to add ambiance.  Vandersteen and Von Schweikert sometimes do something similar with a separate midrange driver behind the speaker.  The SS10’s worked much better at Jim Salk’s large home theater room than it has so far in my condo with the removable back off. 

Because the SS10’s are so near my hard sheetrock back wall, I needed a good amount of dampening material in the midrange tunnel.  Dampening material reduces the loudness of the ambiance and improves the tone of the ambiance wave.  I didn’t have any poly fill, so I used small kitchen hand towels.  This helped, but it will take me longer to figure how to optimize the ambiance best for my room.  Luckily, I can use the back plate with the midrange chamber.   With the back on, I have a conventional speaker that I know how to optimize.

Since am 64, I was not planning to make any comments about the tweeter but the RAAL is so clear, smooth and transparent that I can’t help myself.  It is a wonderful addition to the Salk lineup.

Some people have said that they get listener fatigue listening to most speakers with Accuton midranges.  I can and do listen all day to the SS10’s and I just want to listen more.

The SS10’s are extremely well built.  The finish is a fine satin piano finish.  The Top is very solid and has the feel of very high quality.

As you know, I have had a love affair with my HT1’s.  Even though the SS10’s sound better in every way I have had resistance in falling in love with these speakers.  The heart is slow to change.  Luckily, the reverence that I give my HT1’s is finally moving to the SS10’s.  I will miss my HT1’s.  They have given me several years of wonderful excitement and great memories.  If I kept them also, I know I would never want to use them now that I have my SS10’s.  It is time for Jim to find them a good home.

PS.  I made notes from day one so that I could cut and paste a review from my notes.  I sure am glad I did it that way.  As the SoundScapes have seeped into my soul over the last week, I have become dumb struck.  I haven’t done all that I was planning to do for this review but words are useless in describing the SS10’s.  I could probably quit listening to the speakers and recover, but what good would that serve.  Maybe if I quit listening to LP’s and just listened to CD’s…….


EDIT:  I added a part II and part III later in the thread after recovering.
« Last Edit: 24 Nov 2010, 08:13 pm by fsimms »

DMurphy

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 1490
    • SalkSound
Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #1 on: 27 Sep 2010, 01:03 am »
Let me be the first to thank you for that review.  It's been a very long road, and I was a little worried about how you might react to the rear wave ambience and the RAAL sound in comparison with the HT1's.  These speakers are all about eliminating things that shouldn't be there (like any false emphasis or artificial detail) and just letting a natural voicing and soundstage emerge unscathed.  They may well require a little experimentation to hit upon the right amount of rear wave information, but that should be easy enough to do. Thanks again for taking the time ot post your impressions. 

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #2 on: 27 Sep 2010, 01:11 am »
Quote
These speakers are all about eliminating things that shouldn't be there (like any false emphasis or artificial detail) and just letting a natural voicing and soundstage emerge unscathed.

You did all that and more.  I wouldn't have believed it possible.  Thank you, Jim and Jeff for such an incredible gift.

Bob

Rocket

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #3 on: 27 Sep 2010, 01:17 am »
Hi,

I'm glad that you like the soundscape speakers.  I'm wondering if you are able to provide me with a comparison between the raal ribbon and the ribbon tweeter used in your veracity ht1's.

I presume that these are the last pair of speakers you intend to ever buy?

I'm currently using veracity ht2's which sound great.

Regards

Rod

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #4 on: 27 Sep 2010, 01:28 am »
Quote
I'm glad that you like the soundscape speakers.  I'm wondering if you are able to provide me with a comparison between the raal ribbon and the ribbon tweeter used in your veracity ht1's.

Thankyou.  The RAAL is much more transparent than the G2 ribbon.  The G2 is good but the RAAL is just not there.  Almost as good as an ION tweeter.

The RAAL sounds smoother than the G2 and seems to sound the same all over the room.

Quote
I presume that these are the last pair of speakers you intend to ever buy?

LOL,  I can’t imagine a better speaker but I couldn’t have imagined this one.

HerculePirate

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #5 on: 27 Sep 2010, 11:46 am »
Hi,

Any listening was done with or without the TacT. I can it ON in the picture.
Can you share with me your Target curves you use for the diff genres of music.
Await the PM.

Regards

HP

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #6 on: 27 Sep 2010, 12:01 pm »
Quote
Any listening was done with or without the TacT. I can it ON in the picture.
Can you share with me your Target curves you use for the diff genres of music.
Await the PM.

All the serious listening was done with the TacT. The Panasonic receiver does fantastic on TV though.  I tried listening curves with the SS10's but the bypass mode just sounds better.  The curves work fine with my HT1's and always use them but the SS10's are too good the way they are.  I think the extreem clarity of the SS10's is the problem.  Once in a long while the music might hit the room bass node.  I will then put it in the room correction mode but then I take it off after that song.

Bob

AliG

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #7 on: 27 Sep 2010, 01:13 pm »
As good as the ion tweeter!!!??? :o :drool: :drool: :drool:

Well Bob you know how I have been 'ooozing' over the ion tweeter of those big Acapella speakers, if you now tell me that the RAAL is as 'juicy', that might just seal the deal for me. :wink:

Thankyou.  The RAAL is much more transparent than the G2 ribbon.  The G2 is good but the RAAL is just not there.  Almost as good as an ION tweeter.

The RAAL sounds smoother than the G2 and seems to sound the same all over the room.

LOL,  I can’t imagine a better speaker but I couldn’t have imagined this one.

Nuance

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #8 on: 28 Sep 2010, 05:32 pm »
Thanks for the review; it was awesome!  I never get tired of this stuff.

Side note, what's up with the stupid "your ip has posted in the last 90 seconds" garbage?  It's been a lot longer than 90 seconds, and I still get the error.  Lame-O

OgOgilby

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #9 on: 28 Sep 2010, 07:19 pm »
Thanks for the great review Bob!

Hmmm.... I just need to win the lottery so I can get some SoundScapes!

fsimms

Salk SoundScape 10 Review part II
« Reply #10 on: 24 Nov 2010, 07:44 pm »
As I stated earlier, I didn’t finish the SS10 review because I became too emotional to write any more due to a severe case of awe.  I wouldn’t have been able to write anything that I considered adequate nor anything that you would consider interesting or useful.  Not knowing when or if that would pass, I posted what I had.  Posting also relieved the pressure that I put on my self to let people know how they sounded so I have been able to take my time to write the types of things I wanted to say.  The reason that I was in awe was that I could hear so much more detail and transparency in my LP’s.  I probably have a couple of hundred LP’s.  It was as if I owned a big ranch and I discovered a very large pool of oil in the center of it.  The LP’s sound so very different and transparent from what they did before.  Not that they were less than awesome with my HT1’s though.  Simply recorded LP’s such as the Best of Peter Paul and Mary are jaw dropping.  It is just like they are in my condo.  I have regained my composure so I thought I would finish the review.  All listening was done after the speakers were set with Sumiko Master Set placement procedure.  The SS10’s were toed in to a point a few feet behind my head.  This part describes the SS10’s with the midrange back on.  The open baffle mode is described in the next section.

My best friend came over and we watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing”.  He is not into HIFI but he is into movies.  We were listening to the movie in stereo.  Half way through the movie I asked him if he could tell any difference with the SS10’s over the HT1’s and he said:  “The sound is all over the room.”  What he referring to is the SS10’s capability too collapse the walls of the room and the front half of the room to become the event.  I don’t know how you can face the speakers and the sound can come from the side of the room.  That seems impossible to me, but it does.  Jim chose the perfect name for the speakers - SoundScape.

I plugged in my 35 watt tube Fisher 500C receiver to see how well it did with tubes.  Yes, I know that 35 tube watts are not enough!  I was surprised at how well it did work though.  The bass was even tight.  My McCormack amp is clearer than the antique receiver’s amp.  A quality high power tube amp would be a wonderful match with the SS10’s.  I connected the receiver’s amp to the top modules and the McCormack solid state amp to the woofer modules.  I was able to get a little more volume before overloading.  The sound was wonderfully smooth and natural.  I just did it for fun but later may configure it again for an extended stay when I have more room in my rack. 

The only areas that I thought that the HT1’s could compete with the SS10’s are in vocal performance and general excitement of the music.  Dennis does a fantastic job on vocals on all the Salk speakers that I have heard.  The vocals on the HT1’s are very striking and compelling.  The vocals on the SS10’s have more detail and have a transparent natural sound without losing excitement.   I could see people preferring either one.  I much prefer the added transparency of the SS10’s on vocals, although sometimes that transparency can be brutal.  Although the HT1’s are very good in other areas of the music, the SS10’s are clearly superior.  The SS10’s are more natural in the bass, treble and midrange.  They image much better.  Running the SS10 in the open baffle mode is a step even higher.  The HT1’s capture the excitement of the performance but the SS10’s capture the performance itself.  I was extremely grateful and completely satisfied with just the excitement of the performance.  To have even more now is staggering.

The SS10’s sound on vocals is closer to my Stax electrostatic earphones than the HT1’s.  At first I thought the Stax was a little bit clearer, but at similar volume levels, the SS10’s seem to beat the Stax.  The SS10’s retrieve low level detail better and are more dynamic than the electrostatics.  When played loudly, the SS10’s do so with seemingly less effort than my HT1’s.  The imaging is as precise as I have ever heard with the exception of the $60k MBL 101E’s.  The sound field is very broad and goes beyond the walls of the room.  The soundstage is very deep.  On appropriate material, the sound field even reminds me of the MBL’s.  Pink Floyd’s DSOTM LP has a holographic soundstage.  It is like a 3D IMAX movie for the ears.

The speakers don’t seem to project a “sweet spot”.  They have a large sweet area with a width of over half the distance the speakers are apart.  If you walk to the left wall of the room, the left side of the image that is well outside the speakers collapses into the left speaker.  The image between the speakers will shift some but you will still have the same image outside the right speaker.  At least, that is the way they are with the placement that I gave the speakers.   

fsimms

Salk SoundScape 10 Review (Open Baffle) Part III
« Reply #11 on: 24 Nov 2010, 07:45 pm »
With the back on, I hear more detail when I listen to small ensembles than I can hear in a live setting.   Although the extra detail is not like live music, it can be very seductive.  I think Jim and Dennis consider the SS10 to be an open baffle speaker so they usually run it with the back off.  The open baffle mode is my favorite too.  One thing that was surprising to me is that the extra detail, without the ambiance, can divert attention from the real performance.  With some music it is much easier to get lost in the performance in the open baffle mode.  The 24/96 Gershwin DAD can make your eyes water.

The open baffle mode sounds more live and real.  The image is more spacious in width and depth.  With the midrange back on, the speakers sound clearer and vocals are more forward.  Both modes sound fantastic so you can’t make a mistake.  The open baffle is the star when it comes to large ensembles and large live halls.  The ambiance gives a gentle natural bloom to the music.  With the midrange backs on the speakers, they are one of the best speakers that you can buy at any price.  Running them in the open baffle mode, they are even better.

In the open baffle mode, the holographic image is softened but there still is a wider and deeper natural holographic image remaining.  It gives the “you are there” experience.  I have a 2008 Von Schweikert demo CD and the depth of the church behind the choir is astounding.  The stereo image of the church, choir, singer and drum is amazing.  With your eyes closed, you would have a very difficult time in telling you were not there.  Only if you were clever enough to notice that there wasn’t any sounds coming from behind you could you guess that you were not there.  Since it seems like there is sound coming from your sides it would be hard to notice.  My room is actually two rooms which open up to each other.   The speakers are in one room and I sit in the other.  I expect that the speakers would sound a bit different in another room.

When I listened to the Eagle’s Hotel California on the Hell Freezes Over LP, the large tom tom was bloated on large Sound Lab electrostatic A1’s.  The large tom tom is natural sized on the SS10’s in the open baffle mode.

I did a lot of tweaking in my condo in the open baffle mode.  I varied things hanging on the wall and used objects to deflect the back wave.  I also varied the poly-fil in the midrange chamber.  All you have to do is stand near the back of the speaker to tell that a dash of poly-fil, in the midrange chamber, improves the tone of the ambiance back wave.  Listening to Janice Ian’s Stars LP, some of the songs are greatly improved with just a puff of poly-fil in the midrange chamber.

In general open baffle theory, you give the open baffle plenty of room to breathe.  I gather that it is heresy to jam them as close to the wall as I am trying to do.  The reflection off a near wall is too close to the front sound wave of the speaker for the ear to separate that reflection as ambiance.   There is not enough of a delay between the sound from the front and the quickly reflected sound from the back.  The reflection just adds distortion to the front sound.  That immediate reflection needs to be absorbed or deflected to an angle that will cause the sound to reach the ear later.  Absorption or deflection is easy to do.  However, this shouldn’t be an issue if you can have the speakers away from the walls.

The SoundScapes are so clear that you can hear much more when you play a song.  Poor or antique recordings are even more apparent in their limitations but it is not as bothersome as with the HT1’s.  I think that is due to two beneficial effects.  The first is that you can hear more of the event that they were recorded in and that adds a lot of charm to the recording.  Vocals and instruments often sound so real.  The SS10’s image so well that sometimes it sounds like the music is in a real space.  I listened to an early Shirley Temple recording on a music cable channel and she sounded so very different from what I had ever heard.  She sounded just like a real little girl just in front of me.  I felt I could reach out and touch her.  I could see her through the detached mist of the antique recording.

The second beneficial effect is that the open baffle often adds a beauty to the music as well as a live natural ambiance.  It helps the illusion of a real space.  It even makes CD’s sound good.  Did I just say that!?

Words are inadequate to describe how the speakers sound.  There is a great likelihood that you haven’t heard a speaker this transparent so you wouldn’t have a reference that words can relate it to.  I heard speakers, of this level, at the 2008 RMAF audio show in Denver but it was only for a brief time under show conditions.  I can’t be exactly sure how they compare to the SoundScapes.  All the likely candidates were north of $50k.  I never did spend much time listening to speakers in this league since I would never be able to afford them.  Also, they were all too large to fit into my condo. 

With the HT1’s it was easy to describe the sound.  I could just say they capture the excitement of the music and are very clear.  The HT1’s are wonderfully transparent with the singing voice.  I think that sums the HT1’s up pretty well.   The SoundScapes do capture the excitement of the music and are very clear.  They are even more transparent with the singing voice.  However, that is only the beginning of the SoundScape story.  Everything else they do is special too!  People will see the word “everything” and think that “everything” means “nothing”.  See, they are hard to describe! 

With the SoundScapes, “transparent” is probably the most descriptive word, however, the word just doesn’t convey the magnitude of the listening experience.  I will give another example:  While walking aside a sports stadium, some actors went by a tunnel into the stadium.   High quality speakers will give plenty of aural clues that they are next to the tunnel, but the SoundScapes will give you the experience itself.  I was in awe.  I could even hear the sound waves from the crowd bouncing off of the concrete walls.

Bob

highfilter

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #12 on: 24 Nov 2010, 08:30 pm »
Great write-up, Bob. Lots of good feedback in there, but you're making it even harder for me to wait for mine!  :lol:

My SoudScape 10s are on their way and should be here within 2 days. I can't wait. Thanks for a taste of things to come.  :)

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #13 on: 24 Nov 2010, 08:32 pm »
Quote
Great write-up, Bob. Lots of good feedback in there, but you're making it even harder for me to wait for mine! 

My SoudScape 10s are on their way and should be here within 2 days. I can't wait. Thanks for a taste of things to come. 


Thanks!

Don't forget to take a picture of the truck!

Bob

DMurphy

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 1490
    • SalkSound
Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #14 on: 24 Nov 2010, 10:08 pm »
Boy--I'm glad we agreed to pay you a flat $500 for that review, and not by the word.  Thanks for taking the time to report so thoroughly.  The soundstaging characteristics of the SS with the back closed are something of a mystery.  You would think that most of the spaciousness is coming from the rear wave, but I agree they throw a wider and more open sound field with the back closed off than other front-radiating speakers do.  I've tried to replicate the sound of the SS using a high quality dipole planar midrange and the commercial version of the RAAL tweet.  You would think the planar would be as clean and open as the more conventional Accuton, and even more suited to an open back, but things always close in and get a little murky by comparison when I switch from the SS to the wannabe.  I'm thinking that the cabinet shape might be playing a role.  I wasn't sure that minimizing the baffle for the tweeter would make any difference--I just knew that it measured best that way.  But the upper module shape that Jim developed does seem to help the cabinet get out of the way of the drivers.

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #15 on: 25 Nov 2010, 12:51 am »
Quote
Boy--I'm glad we agreed to pay you a flat $500 for that review, and not by the word.


The supplemental bill is in the mail.


Quote
Thanks for taking the time to report so thoroughly.

You are welcome.  Thanks for doing such a great job on the speakers.

I was happy about the SongTower review that I did and wanted to do it again.  I don’t know if I would have volunteered if I knew how much more difficult this review would be.  Once I was into it I wanted to finish it.  I am hard headed that way.

Quote
The soundstaging characteristics of the SS with the back closed are something of a mystery.  You would think that most of the spaciousness is coming from the rear wave, but I agree they throw a wider and more open sound field with the back closed off than other front-radiating speakers do.  I've tried to replicate the sound of the SS using a high quality dipole planar midrange and the commercial version of the RAAL tweet.  You would think the planar would be as clean and open as the more conventional Accuton, and even more suited to an open back, but things always close in and get a little murky by comparison when I switch from the SS to the wannabe.  I'm thinking that the cabinet shape might be playing a role.  I wasn't sure that minimizing the baffle for the tweeter would make any difference--I just knew that it measured best that way.  But the upper module shape that Jim developed does seem to help the cabinet get out of the way of the drivers.

Whatever mojo you, jeff and Jim did worked!

Bob


Saturn94

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1218
Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #16 on: 26 Nov 2010, 12:31 am »
Great review! :thumb:

Sure makes it depressing for those of us without the SS budget. :cry:

fsimms

Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #17 on: 27 Nov 2010, 09:56 pm »
Quote
Great review!


Thanks!

Quote
Sure makes it depressing for those of us without the SS budget.


Cheer up!  I haven’t heard the HT2-TL but judging from my HT1 you have very special speakers.   As I said in my review, the vocal performance is on par with the SS’s.  I am not sure which you would prefer.  Your speakers probably capture all the excitement of the live performance.  These two elements are very rare.  On small songs with a singer, you are in great shape.  Only when you listen to large orchestras, TV or movies would you be sure to pine for the SS10’s.  Of course this is a vague ggeneralization and there are exceptions!  :lol:

Bob

oneinthepipe

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1381
  • Trainee
    • Salk Signature Sound/Audio by Van Alstine two-channel system
Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #18 on: 27 Nov 2010, 10:46 pm »
fsimms-

don't forget to update your systems description in your profile

Saturn94

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1218
Re: Salk SoundScape 10 Review
« Reply #19 on: 28 Nov 2010, 05:27 pm »


Thanks!
 

Cheer up!  I haven’t heard the HT2-TL but judging from my HT1 you have very special speakers.   As I said in my review, the vocal performance is on par with the SS’s.  I am not sure which you would prefer.  Your speakers probably capture all the excitement of the live performance.  These two elements are very rare.  On small songs with a singer, you are in great shape.  Only when you listen to large orchestras, TV or movies would you be sure to pine for the SS10’s.  Of course this is a vague ggeneralization and there are exceptions!  :lol:

Bob

Thanks Bob.  I do need to clarfy something.  I do not own any Salk speakers.  I am still looking for something to replace my ADS L1290 that I've had since 1986.  I've been searching since January of this year and have finally narrowed my choices down to the HT2-TL and another non Salk model.

I've heard the HT2-TL and SoundScape at Dennis's and the SongTower at an owner's house (Richard S.).  Richard warned me about listening to speakers I cannot afford (ie - SoundScapes) and he was right! :o

However, even if I could afford the SoundScapes, I'm not sure how they would do in my limited space (the bass cabinet would be within a couple inches from the wall behind them and I would only be sitting about 8ft max from them).  Jim suggested they might be a bit overwhelming in my situation and suggested I seriously consider the HT2-TL instead.