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Monday, May 26, 2008

My new Ascension Speakers

I recently bought a new amplifier and speakers to upgrade my aging HIFI system. I am so pleased with the outcome it has glued me to my stereo and everything old is new again! Some of the people who influenced my choice are interested to hear about the speakers in particular, so I have decided to post some photos for all to see and also a little information. Some of what follows can also be read at onwards.
My choice of Amplifier was an NAD 355BEE to go with my older NAD C541 CD player. The speakers were custom made by Edward at Adelaide Speakers. As you will read, I discovered him a few years back and it seems his speakers are now gaining a national reputation for being both very good and good value for money! Because they were custom made I had to wait for them. While I did I posted the following entry at Stereonet...
Entry 1.
Well I have to wait three weeks for mine too and it is going to be a difficult wait. I sat down with Edward last Thursday and we talked and listened for a couple of hours comparing the few speakers he had ready to go. (The rest of his house is filled with components) It was a real pleasure. I re-discovered the long sleeping audiophile in me. I was impressed with the clarity and detail of the sound across the frequency range and his willingness to tweak the speakers to meet my wishes. The ones I have ordered are not exactly on the web site but are non-ported 3 ways and stand 900 by 240 wide and 320 deep. Not too big but hopefully big enough. The price / value equation was the decider. I have listened to others including the VAFs which are impressive but for my budget the Ascensions are too tempting. Guess I will have a more considered opinion in a few weeks. Ahh.
Entry 2
Well, I have had my Summoner 3 way Floor Standers from Edward for over a week and half now and I think I should say something. The problem has been in part, dragging myself away from them! And people suggest they may get better with age! As mentioned above, I am finding listening to my music collection is like they are all new again. The presence of the music and the level of detail surpasses what I have had before and I am frequently amazed. Not that my set up was very bad. Old but I liked the sound from my Luxman L80V and the Kef Concerto Kit my father made so long ago. With a NAD 541 cd player I was happy to enjoy the music rather than worry about the high fidelity. However the amp was beginning to hum and the speakers distort at times (something Edward helped prolong the life of about 4 years ago - this is when I first met him). So now it was time to update, but on a budget. I think it important to talk about this because if nothing else I have learned, it is that the word "system" is the critical part of "hi-fi-system". The amp I bought is the new NAD 355Bee (80w/ch) which I discovered when the old KEFs were attached, is a crisp clean musical amplifier which by itself gave more life to the music than the aging Luxman was able to. I began to wonder if I really needed new speakers. I needed not worry. I have set the Summoners up along side the Concertos so I can flip fro A to B for comparisons. The Summoners win hands down. They are very dynamic, clear and well detailed with plenty of clean bass for me. The imaging is very good as well. The only area I could possibly say that the Concertos might have an edge is by way of a weakness in that they are in fact less revealing of imperfections in the recordings. For example sibilants are a little more buried in the cluttered sound stage. Perhaps I should mention that Edward and I sat through and later worked through by phone some minor cross-over adjustments to improve some initial high frequency harshness of his new design. The results of our communications brought a wonderful naturalness to the vocals and even to finger rasping on strings. This was an entirely rewarding experience. Now when I have any doubts about the sound, I switch back to the Concertos - but not for long because they just don't cut it anymore. One last thing for now, I will mention that I find them absolutely NOT fatiguing to listen to. I am looking forward to many hours of listening enjoyment and I will get back in a few weeks to report on progress. I certainly can't say everyone will find these speakers to their taste but I have noticed my wife and teenagers have been quietly impressed. Give Edward a call if you can.

Entry 3
People have told me I should wait until my speakers have "burned-in" and now it is a couple of weeks further down the track I have no idea if they have "burned-in" or my hearing has changed but my perceptions are more informed. I have certainly moved them around the room a little and this does make a noticeable difference. I have also listened to heaps of music and I have found immense differences between recordings. To me, the best recordings in my collection sound magnificent. CDs like Radio Tarifa's Temporal, YoYo Ma's Silk Road Journeys, Jan Garbarek and Anouar Brahem's Madar (Anouar Brahem's everything in fact) and evergreen Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch have amazing clarity, detail, soundstage and dynamism... I really don't know if they could sound better. More electronic stuff like Hector Zazou, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, Michael Brooks have more life than ever before. On the other hand there are some cds like David Byrne's "Eyeball" and others which I can barely listen to because of high frequency noise that irritates me. This even though the sibilants I mentioned before don't seem as prevalent as I heard them initially. It seems to me that many rock albums now seem too bright and possibly too compressed where as well recorded ones like Dylan's Modern Times still sound good. In short, music I liked before but may have sounded a bit muted often sounds awesome while some that was noisy now sounds irritating. I put this down to the production values, particularly since reading this post on What HIFI. The system seems to amplify the differences in quality between the recordings. So listening to my collection is a new adventure. As I said before, I find them absolutely NOT fatiguing to listen to and I have difficulty dragging myself away from them. I think I can speak for my wife too because for the first time in a very long time she often chooses to sit listening as well. HIFI heaven. Excellent speakers Edward. Very good value for money all round.
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