Here's my own review of Carver AL-II speakers I wrote back in 2007 when I obtained a pair:Carver Amazing Loudspeaker III
The model pictured iscustom finished in a bleached oak. The original finish was available in honey oak or black only.
Here's a short video of these in action:
LENGTHY PREFACE: I purchased these babies on eBay in February 2007 for about $850.00 with less than 200 hours total use on them (claimed by the first & only owner). I attempted at that time to use them with a cheap Onkyo amplifier which failed miserably (it would heat up & shut down within 5 seconds of turning the speakers up to anything louder than conversational volume). For a while, I thought I there was a problem with the speakers. I checked them for continuity/resistance with a multi-meter & found no issues. They sat for a while until I acquired a Carver M1.5t amp which had the "oomph" to drive them better, but one channel began overloading (turned out to be shipping damage to the output transformers), so at that point I was really wondering whether I had wasted my money. My initial observations from the M1.5t amp session was that the speakers sounded somewhat "muffled" to me and had muddy sounding bass. Later experimentation with that amp on a pair of Klipsch KLF-10 speakers led me to the realization that the muddiness from the bass had been imparted by the AMP, not the speakers.
Fast forward to the purchase of a Sunfire Tube Control preamplifer & Sunfire 300x2 amp. This combination sounded LIGHT YEARS ahead of what I'd hear from these speakers to this point, although I still couldn't shake the "muffled" sound from the ribbons. I played this combo for about a month at relatively high volume levels and the sound began to open up & become more natural ("burn in" time). These speakers need god-awful amounts of power to really come into their own! That said, however; the more I played them the better they sounded at low volumes. This is one of the VERY few speakers I've found keeps its composure & flat response from very low volume levels to incredibly high volume levels.
I was still a little concerned about a perceived "boominess" in the lower bass of the AL-IIIs at this point & decided to go with jimmyneutron's Infinity woofer upgrade, but went one better and used the Infinity Kappa 10.1 Perfect woofers over jimmy's Infinity Reference 1030 woofer; I'd used the Perfects in my car audio system for quite a while & was extremely happy with them. In fact, the Perfect 10s share a closer sensitivity level with the original AL-III woofers, making them more suited for the correct match. The experiment worked out famously as i found the bass to be much more agreeable to my ear.
I've since replaced the SunfireTube preamp & 300x2 amp with a Sunfire Theater Grand IV preamp & 400x7 amplifier, which has the juice to really put a hurtin' on the AL-IIIs if you're not careful. I couldn't be happier with the AL-IIIs at this point. I've experimented with speaker placement a lot and found it to be CRITICAL to getting an impressive soundstage & is the difference between having the Sonic Holography sound weird or sound great.
Specific observations about the AL-IIIs:
- Use plenty of power to drive them. Remember when choosing an amp that these are FOUR OHM (overall) speakers. They have to be the most inefficient speaker I've ever heard, but when you run lots of clean power into them, they sound FANTASTIC!
- Allow for a relatively long, moderately-high volume break-in period (took me months, but consider the amp issues I had).
- AFTER BREAK-IN with a sufficient amp, the soundstage on these speakers is almost a religious experience. They absolutely require a moderately large room setting and proper speaker placement to get the best sound. Mine currently reside in a 11x12 room and it quite simply doesn't do them justice. These are LARGE speakers (a full 6 feet) and require "room too breathe." They were MADE for Sonic Holography; it sounds magical through them!
- The connection hardware on the back is of a nice quality & very robust. You can really crank 'em down on the connectors. It's also nice to have the option of bi-amping/bi-wiring with the four posts. There are separate 4-amp slo-blo fuses for ribbon/woofer, but use them mainly to keep from frying the crossover (the weakest link in the system).
- I wholeheartedly recommend the Infinity Kappa Perfect 10.1 upgrade. While you're at it, think about upgrading the wires inside the speaker/crossover (very small for a speaker capable of handling up to 600 watts continuously). The Infinity Reference 1030 is not a good replacement as it is too inefficient and drops the response off too much for my taste.
-You absolutely need to biamp these speakers for best effect. I'm currently running the ribbons thru the mains channel of my 400~7 amp and the woofers thru the Surround channels, with the inputs daisy-chained into the amp (read the amp review for details). This gives me 800 watts available power into EACH of the ribbons/woofers. MORE than enough to blow fuses!
- My personal preference/room required settings for the three potentiometers on the back of the AL-IIIs are as follows (your preferences/requirements may vary)
- Low: full maximum
- Midrange: one notch above "Room Average Flat" setting
- High: one notch below maximum
- Except for the very lowest of bass notes, the response on these speakers is outstanding. I've played around with a Klipsch RT-12d subwoofer below 40 hertz & it does help supplement the bass down to below 20 hertz. I've found there to be very little material in that range in most music. If, like me, however--you enjoy the impact from the occasional notes you "feel" rather than hear--it's a nice addition.
-Bela Fleck & the Flecktones bassist, Victor Wooten, plays some ULTRA LOW notes on the song "Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo" from their CD of the same name and these speakers really shine on that song. I wouldn't have thought one 10" woofer in a small, ported enclosure could produce the extension that it does, and generally without sounding muddy even at monstrous power levels (600 watts+).
- I own a complete Klipsch RF-83 surround system ($6,400.00 retail), and, while fantastic for HT and many music applications, I find myself doing my critical two-channel listening on my "old" AL-IIIs....