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  • A3rx-c Initial impressions

    Hey folks. It's been a while. Been busy with work and personal stuff.

    I have been listening to the A3rx-c's for about a month now. As you all know, I'm a pretty big fan of the A5's :D and was excited to get a chance to really get a taste for the revised A3 design. Jon warned me it would sound very different from the outgoing A3's.

    Different indeed.

    My first impression during setup was that the midrange has a completely different character than the previous A3's. Whereas those could be described as having a recessed midrange presentation, these do not at all share that. The A3rx-c's share the A5's midrange character, if not the A5's presentation. The rx-c's are smooth, reveal more detail, and throw a wider, yet better defined soundstage than their predecessors.

    First thing I notice during unboxing and set up was that they like a LOT of toe-in...and that this helps widen the soundstage while simultaneously anchoring the center image most strongly. So, they differ from the A5's in this regard, which I have found to want some toe-in, but not preferring the tweeters aimed directly at your ears as the rx-c's do.

    When I employed too little toe-in, I found that the soundstage collapsed and was clearly confined to the outside edges of the cabinets and that the center image, while well defined, wasn't very crisp (no "phantom center" effect like I've known the A5's to provide). Adding toe-in as stated above fixed all these problems and transformed how they sounded in my room. Listening to old blues recordings went from sounding like I'm listening through a window to actually being in the room. Jon would later tell me that he spent quite a long time getting these right....and it shows.

    Properly set-up, it was time for break in. Man, do these need break in time. I know that Jon has told you guys about the Arx midwoofer having an extremely long travel motor and suspension......please don't ignore his advice for break in. The rx-c's didn't really start to resolve those finer things in the midrange (like directional and spatial cues) very well until I had almost 50 hours of play time on them. As a refresher, I did NOTHING special for break in. Nothing. I just had the wife watch TV/Netflix/Amazon through them as much as possible, in addition to my usual music listening sessions. I just prefer to not abuse them at high volumes until this time has passed. I feel the same way about car engines. It's my OCD and I don't have much of any science to back that up....just personal preference.

    As for the change in tuning, the new tweeter isn't what you're hearing (it sounds nearly indistinguishable from the previous gen planar driver...which is a VERY good thing). You'[re actually hearing the crossover tuning and the same-ole Arx midwoofer being allowed to stretch its vocal chords. This really cemented my observation and belief that the Arx midwoofer is one of the best MIDRANGES available for anywhere near it's price point. It's just incredible. No changes to it whatsoever, yet it sounds like a different driver altogether. This is partially due tot he fact that the new tweeter allows Jon to use more of the tweeter's natural low-end roll-off in the driver summing....and also allowed him to eliminate some components in the crossover (simpler is better). So, electrically, there are fewer components between the sound and the drivers and, mechanically, the drivers in the A3rx-c actually play better together with their own native responses.

    So, after about 50-ish hours, what am I hearing?

    Well, these have a very similar sonic character to the A5's now. Very similar midrange...which is where the improvements lie. Having the two speakers side by side (and also switching them out so they occupy identical positions in the listening room), the tweeters sound so nearly identical that most listeners couldn't tell the difference. The new tweeters have even lower distortion and even better power handling (and a different native frequency response roll-off), but they are damn near twins. Again, this is an excellent thing.

    The rx-c's now have a very clearly represented midrange that is both less-harsh and more detailed than the outgoing A3, especially at higher volume levels. The imaging is also much better. Much like the A5's you can listen to a violin all day with no listener fatigue, but now with added detail (you don't feel like you're missing anything, either). The image is not quite as big as the A5's (which are more expensive and have a dedicated midrange driver...they SHOULD be better)...but the performance gap has closed. The imaging greatly improves, as with every Arx model, when you get the loudspeaker out INTO the room. The rearmost top-corner of the A3rx-c's are 28.75" from the rear wall and even further from side walls. They are almost 9ft apart and I am just over 10ft away at my listening position.They really light up he room now and, with proper toe-in, the phantom center effect is there. Even watching movies or TV in 5/6/7.1 downmixed to stereo, vocals remain clearly defined in the mix, yet anchored on the screen. Always intelligible, but never crowded out. The old A3's couldn't do that....that used to be a 'trick' relegated to speakers of the A5's ilk (or better). You could call the A3rx-c's an A5-lite when comparing them to the first-gen A5.

    In fact, I'm going to say something that most won't expect: if you don't listen to music critically (i.e. you are mostly TV/movies/videogames/background music), save yourself the money and grab a pair of A3rx-c's. They're that good. Holy crap are they good!

    Now the caveat: are the A5's "better"? IMHO, yes. But, unless you have a large room to fill or are a critical music listener, the additional money that WOULD have been spent over the A3rx-c's might be wasted. Not quite as much fine detail. Not quite the holographic imaging. Not quite the enormous soundstage (though still with some stereo effects wrapping themselves around you.....just not as enveloping and not as often as with the A5's). But close. Damn close. And for less money.

    Now, the A5rx-c's are still gestational...and will have to be better than the A5's or Jon just won't release them. But they will also move up in price for both the base model (and for the possible upgraded finish model). There is simply no other compact tower that I have yet heard for under $850 that can compare to the A3rx-c's. None.

    The A3rx-c's ARE the new value leader for compact towers under $850 (and possibly for much more than that). Period.

    -Collin

    EDIT: All listening was done with grilles off on both the A3rx-c and the A5.

  • #2
    Collin - Well written! Thanks for sharing your impressions, and also for the set up advice imbedded in your review.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by craigsub View Post
      Collin - Well written! Thanks for sharing your impressions, and also for the set up advice imbedded in your review.
      Happy to contribute and thank you. The best setup advice is probably Jon's recent post here:

      http://www.chanemusiccinema.com/foru...740#post659740

      "I'm less concerned with height than I would be axis. If you hear the speaker roughly between any two adjacent drivers - preferably the upper two - you should be just fine. Then start your tuning with them square in the room - parallel to side walls if the room is rectangular or square.

      Then adjust their toe angle inward a degree or two at a time and listen for the upper midrange to fill in. Aimed right at you they're going to become bright and more forward, and in many cases this will prove to be a little too much of a good thing. Twist them back out a little but not so much that you collapse the image and focus.

      I've never personally cared much for tweeters at ear level, so assuming the speaker images, which these do, having them down slightly - and maybe even tipped back a little, to taste - actually helps throw the image up and over each speaker. It's fun to get a 40" speaker making a vocal image seven feet high - this is the studio mix you're hearing, and when it completely detaches from the two (or three, etc) speakers it tells you you're getting things projected where they should be."


      Jon and I do tend to have similar views on things, so our advice usually dovetails very well.

      I have heard through the grapevine that you have some exciting new sub designs in the pipeline. I look forward to seeing them. :)

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      • #4
        The subwoofer projects are moving along nicely - with production having already started. Jon's Chane Arx speakers and our subwoofers make great music together. I look forward to getting some Chane subs in your hands for a review. :)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by craigsub View Post
          The subwoofer projects are moving along nicely - with production having already started. Jon's Chane Arx speakers and our subwoofers make great music together. I look forward to getting some Chane subs in your hands for a review. :)
          My HSU VTF-15h sure would like a big brother to show it the low-ropes...if only for a few weeks of eval. ;)

          I generally find that the Arx line to be especially easy to blend with subs. If only for the well-damped bass alignment and the effective port plug (which, when combined with cabinets that are not grossly oversized, gives a nice bass rolloff that almost approximates a sealed alignment and a very minimal peak when the plug is inserted).

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          • #6
            After an hours-long listening session last night, more impressions for the A3rx-c's.

            Listened to the following albums in their entirety:


            Tron: Legacy CD soundtrack ripped to 44.1/16bit FLAC via Media Monkey (compression level 1)

            Town and Country Blues CD rip with the same settings

            Trombone Shorty 'For True' CD rip with the same settings

            Justin Timberlake 'The 20/20 Experience Part 2' CD rip with the same settings

            Dave Brubeck 'Time Out' 192/24bit stereo FLAC download from HD tracks

            Led Zeppelin 'Mothership' CD Rip to 44.1/16bit FLAC via MM



            Just general musings...the A3rx-c's reveal more flaws in recordings than did the original A3's. So, some recordings become even sweeter and more enjoyable while others begin to lose the luster they once had. As an example, Trombone Shorty's 'For True' really shines and its production value comes through here. The horns have had some really clean compression applied that very rarely has any negative effects where "crunch" is added, but preserves detail and openness. However, as much as I love the Tron Legacy soundtrack, the distortion on many of the transient peaks (and horn crescendos) becomes plainly evident. What a shame, because those effects are not present on the BD movie itself. Possibly a limitation of the CD appears in the down-mixing and mastering process? Who knows. This means more listener fatigue at higher volumes for a speaker that is actually capable of revealing such flaws.

            Town and Country Blues was a CD I snagged off of the counter at Buckstars...and it is surprisingly clean and enjoyable. None of the "digitally remastered" harshness of CDs in the late 80's and 90's. It's mainly old blues recordings. Ambiance and room cues are surprisingly well preserved and hiss is kept to a minimum. This is the kind of album that you pour a glass of your favorite drink and slowly sip it with the lights dimmed or off. The A3rx-c's revealed the detail without a hint of harshness, really making this a delight. Songs that were recorded in small rooms sound like they were recorded in small rooms. Same goes for those made in larger studios. No fake "huge soundstages" that were not actually present in the original source material. I've heard speakers that do that...they can actually inflate the sonic image artificially. This has always come with a smearing effect with regard to the imaging (the placement of the instruments as heard on the master recording). Not so here.

            Justin Timberlake's newest is also very good and clean, but it sounds so compressed that I think it does his work injustice. This is a perfect candidate for being released in 192/24 lossless. Regardless, the tunes are catchy and the A3rx-c's really anchor the bass lines with authority in my listening space. Very enjoyable. However, you can tell that Justin's vocals were iso'd during recording (as per usual, these days) and all his instruments were iso'd as well, and recorded dry. I do miss the days where pop music was recorded like, say Led Zeppelin...all individually mic'd but picking up the room as well. Either way, I like the album.

            Next, Dave Brubeck. What else is there to say? This might be the apex recording of this album. I have heard none better in any format. The A3rx-c's give you the impression that you could get up and walk around in the room, with the gentle strokes of the snare head and the sympathetic vibration of the piano's sound board painting a large picture, yet with the instruments pinpointed within that image. The floor tom (what you hear on the downbeat of 'Take Five') sounds both authoritative and works to expand the size impression that the song makes. The A3rx-c's really sing with quality recordings like this one. Can't say enough about it.

            Led Zeppelin's remaster 'Mothership' is simply outstanding. Some songs benefit more than others, but it is largely a success. Additional detail over any previous release I have heard, but also extremely smooth (for rock). That's what we get when Mr. Paige and Mr. Plant go back to the analog master tapes. Kashmir, what Robert Plant refers to as Zeppelin's seminal recording, sounds as good as ever. The strings of that song really come to life with the A3rx-c's, but without being strident. The gentle pitter-patter of the unknown instrument in the intro of 'Ramble On' sounds as clear as ever....yet the near-screams of the chorus do not hurt. You can hear Plant's voice crack without it sounding like you're about to donate a tweeter to the audio gods. A good thing.


            To sum it all up, the A3rx-c's have become dangerously close to the ability of the A5's to disappear into the music. Never once did I get the impression that I was listening to two quasi-point-sources...more the impression of a cohesive field of sound with a depth that seemed to extend past the back wall and a soundfield that extended past the edges of the speaker cabinets. Also, a height that seemed appropriately tall and grand when it needed to be.

            I can't emphasize enough the midrange improvements that Jon has brought to bear in these versus the last gen A3. Not just an addition of a new tweeter, but a completely new midrange tuning that has definitely been influenced by the success and reception of the A5. I told Jon when I first heard them that he could have changed the model number and it wouldn't have been marketing fluff....that they really were that different (and improved). You can call these the 'A5 lite' and your nose won't grow an inch. ;)
            Last edited by BufordTJustice; 02-07-2014, 03:55 PM.

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            • #7
              What an eloquent, poetic painting of an experience my mind could sink into and almost touch the sound you are experiencing. Makes me feel like a beer drinker in a wine connoisseur's world of audio.

              Superb reviews, enjoyed it thoroughly!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by sbdman View Post
                What an eloquent, poetic painting of an experience my mind could sink into and almost touch the sound you are experiencing. Makes me feel like a beer drinker in a wine connoisseur's world of audio.

                Superb reviews, enjoyed it thoroughly!
                Speaking as a music lover, this is an enjoyable read because it's not about elements of the sound nearly as much as it is about the life in the performance.

                Speaking as an audio person, that doesn't actually have to cost a great deal of money.

                Stay tuned...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sbdman View Post
                  What an eloquent, poetic painting of an experience my mind could sink into and almost touch the sound you are experiencing. Makes me feel like a beer drinker in a wine connoisseur's world of audio.

                  Superb reviews, enjoyed it thoroughly!
                  Thank you, kindly. I can't speak for people at other forums, but Jon, Craig and I are in this hobby because we just love music and cinema. We love the emotional experience that music and cinema can bring. This enjoyment is what it's all about.

                  I am glad you enjoyed it! :)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jon Lane View Post
                    Speaking as a music lover, this is an enjoyable read because it's not about elements of the sound nearly as much as it is about the life in the performance.

                    Speaking as an audio person, that doesn't actually have to cost a great deal of money.

                    Stay tuned...
                    Thank you, Jon. I know you and I have had many a conversation about music as a journey, a snapshot, or a window into a time or place that is not HERE AND NOW. It's an escape. It's not about the intellectual aggrandizement of knowing that your loudspeaker's crossover is phase-coherent, or having an image of the frequency response graph in one's head. That is knowledge and, ultimately, music (and cinema) isn't about knowledge....it's about emotion and visualizing what you're hearing as if you're there and having your own mini-experience right in your listening space.

                    I agree that it doesn't have to cost a bundle and that is what originally brought you and me together several years ago....that great sound does NOT have to cost a second mortgage.

                    Welcome to Arx and Chane, folks. :)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You are making my ears itch. Looking forward to finally having my first real pair of speakers that are not bargain bin or hand me downs. Already making my list of eclectic listing. maybe a rainy afternoon with Keith Jarret, a morning of coffee and Vivaldi, A weekend of Mozart and some evenings Of renaissance, pink Floyd and early genesis. May have to start off with some bluesy funky horns from Waiting for Columbus. I am so looking forward to rediscovering the music I have been missing. My cowan and headphones are ok but even in FLAC it just does not match sitting in my chair with my eyes closed. Thanks for letting me share.

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                      • #12
                        Thank you so much for the review & your follow up... some good stuff there! And here I had my mind made up I was going to get a trio of the A2rx-c's. :)

                        Your speaker width placement & LP roughly measures out the same as mine, other than I can't get my towers 28" out from the front wall. On your commentary about the phantom center, was there any movie dialogue that strayed away from center? How wide was the sweet spot? Do you think you would gain much going with a dedicated A2rx-c for center?

                        Thanks again! :)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I am very pleased with my Arx set-up as well.
                          Travis

                          Buying Arx speakers is like Heinz ketchup. Good things come to those who wait!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by fish View Post
                            Thank you so much for the review & your follow up... some good stuff there! And here I had my mind made up I was going to get a trio of the A2rx-c's. :)

                            Your speaker width placement & LP roughly measures out the same as mine, other than I can't get my towers 28" out from the front wall. On your commentary about the phantom center, was there any movie dialogue that strayed away from center? How wide was the sweet spot? Do you think you would gain much going with a dedicated A2rx-c for center?

                            Thanks again! :)
                            The voices stayed anchored on the screen regardless of material. However, I always recommend a dedicated center speaker unless you have an 80% or 90% music setup.

                            The sweet spot was slightly less than the width of the speakers themselves.....which is pretty darn wide. Beyond that and both the stereo image and the phantom center effect would collapse toward the closest speaker.
                            Last edited by BufordTJustice; 02-08-2014, 11:49 AM.

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                            • #15
                              I'm just below 90 hours and the A3rx-c's are continuing to divulge additional detail and spatial cues as compared to how they sounded out of the box.

                              Jon and I were talking earlier today and I kept reiterating how impressed I was by the additional midrange detail that I was hearing as these run-in. You can say what you want folks, they sound different (and better) than when I first connected them. They sound "bigger" in the midrange and more open....more effortless.

                              Personally, I'm going to say that the A3rx-c's will benefit from 80-100 hours of break-in time.

                              And, before somebody starts this "internet wisdom" about how loudspeakers don't need a break-in...just STOP. Spare me.

                              I think Totem Acoustics (a classy loudspeaker maker, if I do say so myself) sums it up best on their product pages:

                              http://totemacoustic.com/en/hi-fi/co...pecifications/

                              "The speakers require several hours of actual music playing time as a minimal break-in period. During this time, refrain from playing them at very loud levels. You will notice a definite gradual improvement in the cohesiveness of the music reproduction as this occurs."

                              So, if anybody "doesn't believe in" a loudspeaker break-in, start your own thread about it. I've got too much real-world experience to waste my time debating whether the sky remains blue.

                              But, back to topic: The A3rx-c's soundstage has grown so perceptibly that even my wife has noticed it.
                              Last edited by BufordTJustice; 02-14-2014, 06:52 PM.

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