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5.2C First Impressions (Am I really the first to get one??)

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  • 5.2C First Impressions (Am I really the first to get one??)

    I'm surprised no one else has posted anything about this speaker yet considering the hype and how many people have been posting here asking about them. I took a long time posting my review of the 5.2Fs so I'll try to redeem myself a bit by being the first to post my impressions of the 5.2C. I had good reasons though... I wasn't able to get much time with them at first due to circumstances beyond my control, plus it was my first Swans experience and I wanted to really get to know the speakers before posting anything about them. Now that I know (and love) the 5.2Fs rather well, evaluating the 5.2C is a much simpler proposition.

    In case you're wondering if the 5.2C meets expectations and holds its own with the 5.2Fs, the answer is a very serious YES!! Yeah baby, it does indeed. :D

    It's Tuesday night 9/12/06 and I've now had the new 5.2C since Friday. To my shock and delight, FedEx delivered early Friday afternoon instead of the estimated date of Monday! UPS has NEVER done that for me. Naturally I immediately and mysteriously developed a stiff neck, forcing me to cancel my evening plans and run out to Ikea to buy an appropriately sized shelf for the 5.2C. :wink: By late Friday evening it was up in its new home (took me a couple hours, I'm not very handy with stuff like hanging shelves and of course Ikea didn't have the necessary mounting hardware to go with the shelf so I had to drop by Home Depot...).

    Per Jon Lane, all Swan speakers want ~ 100 hours break-in before really sounding their best, so this is just my first (pre-break-in) impressions of this speaker to go with my LONG review located here of the 5.2F mains. I'll be needing to update that review soon too since the 5.2 mains are now in their more or less permanent home (til I move) in my 11' x 11'9" x 7.5' bedroom. The space is too small for this system but it's cosy and sounds awesome so I'm good for now.

    First let me answer a couple of the important questions we've all been asking Jon but for some reason he's been unable to answer (couldn't be a bit hyper-focused on the Aspen series, could he? ;)). The new 5.2C center channel speaker is a 2-way, 3-driver MTM design featuring a pair of the same 6.5" paper/kevlar mid-bass drivers used in the 5.2F mains, plus a center/flush-mounted (NOT top-mounted) silk dome tweeter. I assume it's essentially the same as the top-mounted tweeter used throughout the rest of the x.2 line, only flush in the baffle rather than top-mounted. I was a bit disappointed in this, though it is a big, beautiful speaker nonetheless. I was hoping (though not expecting) they would have decided to make this a 3-way speaker and fit the 5.25" midrange in there (wouldn't have been too hard if they'd made it a few inches wider and gave it the top-mounted tweeter design rather than a baffle-mounted one) but they didn't.

    Of course the 5.2C features the same beautiful curved rosewood sides as the mains, with the black matte plastic baffle and rear piece. Mercifully, the binding posts are REAR-mounted! Woooo!! Of course it would have been even more stupid to bottom-mount this speaker's binding posts than it was on the mains. They are however the same rather undersized gold-plated binding posts used on the mains, and the speaker, like the mains, is not bi-ampable. I was rather hoping against hope that Swan would have realized this design was unpopular and (IMO) inadequate, but apparently not. (Sorry Jon, you know the binding post design is one of my few pet peeves about the x.2 series.)

    The 5.2C is rear-ported with two small ports. I didn't measure them and I'd have to take the speaker down to do it, but I'm guessing they're about 2" wide.

    Dimensions: 22.5" W x 12" D x 9" H. Shipping weight was 38 pounds. I did not weigh the speaker (too anxious to get it installed!) but I'd guess 35 pounds or less out of the box.

    The speaker includes no feet of any kind, even little rubber stick-on joints. Since I have it mounted over my monitor (a 32" Westinghouse LCD HDTV), I tilted it down towards the listening position by simply propping up the back with several empty CD jewel cases. To keep it from sliding around I placed a piece of non-slip rubber matting under the leading edge, which works nicely. Were I a really handy type, I probably would have trimmed the shelf down to just the right size for the speaker, but since I'm not, I didn't. I could always do it in the future, since it's an unfinished shelf.

    By the way I've been running the 5.2s with grilles off due to the vibration at high volumes others have noticed, so I did the same with the 5.2C. I plan to try the fix another user cleverly posted a few months ago, using stick-on felt dots on the grille braces.

    My equipment includes an Onkyo TX-SR702 100 watt/ch. receiver which I'm using as a pre-pro and to power my center and surrounds. I'm using a Blue Ice Z-5000 power amp to drive the 5.2Fs. Rated at 350 watts/chan. at 8 ohms, this pro DJ amp might not have quite the sweet polished sound that something upper mid-fi like a Rotel amp would have, but it's a good match for the 5.2s and quite reasonably priced. It sounds clean and provides plenty of clean power, something the 5.2s require. I found pretty quickly that the Onkyo's built-in amps weren't quite able to bring out the real potential of these big speakers; they would start choking a bit when I started pushing the volume. The Blue Ice utterly eliminated that problem. However in my weekend of listening, the Onkyo did just fine powering the 5.2C.

    My DVD player is your basic Toshiba progressive scan whatever, connected with optical digital cable (plus 6 channels of Dayton Audio RCA cables from PartsExpress for multi-channel analog DVD-As, which I don't use too often). I also have my iPod hooked up to the receiver using a nice 3rd party "hifi" dock (meaning not the Apple one) that features gold-plated RCA connectors and no volume control (straight line-level connections) for listening to MP3s, which I pretty much exclusively do at 320 kbps VBR encoded with LAME for music listening. It's a nice, good-sounding solution for keeping my large music collection in one portable device while maintaining a high enough level of sound quality to satisfy me. However for the purpose of reviewing the 5.2C, I only used DVDs.

    For sub duty I have an SVS PB10-ISD and a Hsu VTF-2 Mk 2 hooked up with a Dayton Audio Y-connector and cables from the receiver's sub output. Crossover is set at 80Hz, all speakers set to "small." I originally bought the Hsu for use in my mixing room and the SVS for my HT system, but now my recording gear and HT system are all integrated in this one system so it's a bit redundant considering the size of my little room. Yeah it's cool watching War of the Worlds or Poseidon or Lord of the Rings with TWO hot subs in one tiny room, but it's total overkill for music, plus the SVS really handles the bottom end quite nicely by itself in this room even on seriously heavy movies. I'm considering putting the Hsu, which is almost brand new in glossy piano black, on eBay and using the cash to pick up another set of bookshelf speakers... Another set of CBM-170SEs or maybe the Swans 2.1BC... :)

    Prior to receiving the 5.2C, I was using one of my Ascend Acoustics CBM-170SEs as a center, and my SVS SBS-01s (small bookshelf speakers) as surrounds. This was fine for movies, not great but fine, but of course having the center located off to the side was distracting. Plus the CBM-170SE is a GREAT bookshelf speaker but just different enough from the sound of the Swans to notice it. Incidentally, while I like the SVS SBS-01s and think they would do fine in a complete 5.1 or 7.1 system in a small room as a cheap HT system that blows away any HTiB solution, I've never been thrilled with them as surrounds. I have to push them a lot hotter in the receiver's setup to get them loud enough due to their rather low sensitivity, plus they never really create a believable sound field behind me. I could always hear things happening in the left or the right rear speaker. This would mirror my impressions of them as mains, that they're really nice small cheap speakers but just don't image very well.

    After I received the 5.2C, I decided to try the Ascends in the back as my surrounds instead of the SBS-01s. Getting the 5.2C up on its shelf centered above the monitor and the CBM-170SEs in back... Well, how shall I describe the improvement in my system performance? I traded in my very nice Toyota Camry for a brand new Mercedes? Yeah, something like that. :) I now have a beautiful, realistic soundfield all around me, not just in front. The Ascends (I know this is a Swan forum but I do love my Ascends) eliminated the distractions from the rear, where I'd hear one SBS-01 or the other doing something, and gave me a sweet, realistic surround field behind me, freeing me up to focus on the performance of the 5.2C.

    So how does the 5.2C sound? Well, unsurprisingly, to my professional ear it's a perfect match to the 5.2Fs. Pans across the front are seamless and a perfect tonal match. I can hear, when I focus on it, that the speaker is a bit higher over the LCD monitor than I'd like in a perfect world, but that was unavoidable due to the acoustic panel I have behind the monitor (mainly for studio mixing purposes). Otherwise, dialog in movies is crystal clear with no sibilance or harshness, just like the 5.2F mains. Voices are natural. It's easy to just watch the movie and get swept up in it without noticing the speakers at all. SMOOTH and FULL are two appropriate adjectives. Obviously the 5.2C has a much bigger sound than the Ascend CBM-170SE, as you'd expect.

    I have been noticing a hint of boxiness on male voices, especially baritones, like when a male narrator with a deep voice is speaking, but again this doesn't surprise me at all and should soon be rectified. I've been reading extensively about acoustic treatments, and have mine almost but not quite finished. The 5.2C is located on a wooden shelf about 29" down from my ceiling, right against an untreated wall. I have a pair of 2' x 2' x 1" acoustic panels suspended about 5" from my ceiling between the Swans 5.2Fs and my studio monitors (the Ascends) which are located on small built-in shelves at either end of my desk (the LCD monitor sits on the desk), but these don't provide any coverage directly over or in front of the center channel speaker. There's another panel, 2' x 4' by 1", on the wall under the 5.2C shelf behind the LCD monitor, but that wouldn't do anything to help the sound of the 5.2C above it. I couldn't do anything to treat the top part of this wall until I had the 5.2C and its shelf installed. Now I'm planning to suspend another panel, probably 2" of rockwool wrapped in poly batting and burlap, at a 45 degree angle over the 5.2C so that it'll cover part of the ceiling and the wall behind it. I'm hoping it'll function as a mini bass trap to eliminate the slight boxy sound (which would be an emphasis in the upper bass region caused by the location with the ports blowing right into that back wall). Once I've ordered the rockwool and burlap I'll be finishing my 3 large DIY bass trap/broadband absorption panels too, which should clean up the bass and imaging even more in the room, which already sounds really nice (dead, but still nice). I'll treat the underside of the shelf too with more 1" acoustic paneling to keep my studio monitors from sounding boxy. For the moment I've dropped the 250Hz and 80Hz a dB or two on the 5.2C with the Onkyo's built-in 5-band EQ just to smooth the (very slight) problem out in the meantime. Placement and room acoustics are critical folks! :)

    BTW here's what I've listened to (and watched) so far this weekend to test the 5.2C:

    - Diana Krall, Live In Paris DVD concert. OMG does this sound AMAZING!!!! I've watched some of it several times before in various phases of my HT system setup, but I never finished it. This time I finished it. :) It's very easy to get utterly swept up in this DVD. The sound is so incredible and the performances are just so breathtaking, even if jazz isn't your favorite genre (it's not mine), and it's very difficult to get this concert to sound bad on any system. However with my Swans across the front and the Ascends in the rear with the SVS and Hsu subs both on, WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW. Yeah, it was that good. :shock: BTW, in the past with other center speakers (a BIC Venturi DV-62CLR-S with Ed Frias' crossover mods then the Ascend CBM-170SE), I've loved this concert but felt that there was just the slightest hint more sibilance on Diana's vocals than I'd prefer. I believe her mic was either a Neumann hand-held or a Beyer Dynamic, both great mics, but of course she's at the mercy of the engineer. However with the 5.2C, she still had all the clarity and detail that characterizes her voice, but the sibilance was almost entirely gone. Nice. I have a Phil Collins concert I need to rewatch now... Great sound but he uses a Shure beta wireless, a mic I HATE with a passion for its harsh sound. Should be a bit better on the 5.2C.

    - The Butterfly Effect. Love this movie. Honestly I just got swept up in the movie, which I haven't watched in quite a while, and utterly ignored the speakers, including the 5.2C -- which is a very good sign. :) (Of course I did cast my PB10-ISD an affectionate glance or two during Ashton Kutcher's ventures into his past, hehe.)

    - Brother Bear -- twice. hehe. OK laugh at me, I love Disney movies, and I think this one's really beautiful. A fine example of surround mix engineers who actually have a clue what to do with all those channels! All sorts of cool things happening all around you, great natural ambiance sounds, etc. Once again the 5.2C completed the seamless front soundstage while the Ascends perfectly filled in the rear. Not an abundance of bass effects on this movie, but it was OK. (The avalanche and stampede scenes really should have had MUCH heavier LFE effects but what can ya do. Maybe they figured all that rumbling might scare the kids too much...)

    - Brother Bear 2. Too short dammit! I didn't realize it was only an hour long, being a direct-to-video release. Sad story but quite beautiful and again, wonderful surround mix (if a bit light on bass).

    - Star Trek Nemesis. I'm a Trekkie, I admit it (though I've never attended a Trek convention or felt compelled to dress up as a Klingon, hehe) and I loved this movie. I was very disappointed in the soundtracks of several of the previous movies including Insurrection, but this one was vastly better. I do think the Trek audio engineers seriously need to watch Master and Commander, Terminator 2 and 3, Lord of the Rings, The Lion King Platinum Edition, any Pixar movie and a few other choice selections to really get schooled on what to do with your LFE track, but still quite good (but IMO, the highly paid engineers at Lucasfilm need to attend the same classes, dammit).

    - Master and Commander, though I only watched a few of the opening scenes. I've watched this movie so many times, I just wasn't in the mood to see the whole thing again, much as I love it. With the 5.2C, it sounded better than I'd ever heard it before. I feel there are very few engineers who truly understand how to use the full potential of multichannel audio soundtracks; whoever mixed Master and Commander is one of those few. (Hopefully this will get better as the technology continues to mature.)

    I'll update this review in time as the 5.2C gets broken in and I get my acoustic treatments finished. I'm already VERY pleased with this speaker though and I have no doubt that it's just going to get better and better. :)

    For size reference, the LCD screen you see in this picture below the 5.2C is a 32" LCD monitor. The shelf is 31" x 14.25" from Ikea.

  • #2
    Nice review einstein. Wow, I was really surprised how close the 5.2c looks matches the c3 (with speaker covers on), a good thing imo :) . I think your on the right track w/ putting some sound absorbtion behind and above the 5.2c. Will be looking forward to your update...


    • #3
      Originally posted by garys
      Nice review einstein. Wow, I was really surprised how close the 5.2c looks matches the c3 (with speaker covers on), a good thing imo :) . I think your on the right track w/ putting some sound absorbtion behind and above the 5.2c. Will be looking forward to your update...
      Glad you enjoyed the review Gary. It's gotten a number of views but considering how many people were begging Jon for info on this speaker I'm really surprised no one has replied with questions before now. (Maybe I was just that thorough? hehe)

      The speaker does sound really good as-is but you're right, the additional treatments will undoubtedly help. Actually the Swans sound pretty amazing right now even without my planned treatments finished. It's my studio monitoring setup that needs the most help, the Ascends on the desk. They're wonderful when set up right, but the desk is giving me a similar boxy midrange emphasis while using them even worse than the wall and ceiling are doing to the 5.2C. I'm sure the panel behind the monitor is helping but I need to do more. I haven't even tried the Ascends yet with the 5.2C's shelf above them but I know it's going to make it worse so I have to treat the underside of it. I'm even considering covering the surface of the desk with a piece of the acoustic material I used on the rest of the room. It'll feel weird but should sound better. (Maybe I'll wrap it in cotton cloth or something softer than the burlap I've been using so it won't be irritating.)

      My bigger concern right now is the mounting of the shelf itself. I used ordinary plastic drywall anchors (4 of them, 2 per bracket) from Home Depot and the shelf seems to be quite sturdy and in no danger of coming loose, but my friend who's a carpenter advised me it's probably not strong enough considering the 30+ lb weight of the speaker and the fact that it's sitting on the leading edge of the shelf quite a bit out from the wall, which will put a lot of stress on the anchors. I'll most likely either replace the plastic anchors with stronger mollies or something, or just add another bracket in the middle which I can screw directly into a stud. For now just keeping my fingers crossed and checking the shelf frequently. :)


      • #4
        Sorry einsteinjb. I have been neck deep in C# code these days and haven't been positng as much as normal. I will probably be ordering my 5.2 soon (if Jon still has them).

        So you think the 5.2C is a good match to the 5.2F ? I was concerned about the larger woofer not really mating well to the 6" mid that is in the 6.2Fs,5.2Fs,and 4.2(F,C,R)s. But when you think about it the 6s in the 4.2C is having to pull woofer duty as well which will affect it's sound characteristics.

        Anyway. Great review. Thanks for the effort getting it to us.

        BTW -- Where the heck is Themanthatisi. That dude was posting like 1000 times a day then got his 5.2s and vanished. Anyone know if he turned it up too loud or something.? :shock:


        • #5
          Originally posted by cveale
          Sorry einsteinjb. I have been neck deep in C# code these days and haven't been posing as much as normal. I will probably be ordering my 5.2 soon (if Jon still has them).

          So you think the 5.2C is a good match to the 5.2F ? I was concerned about the larger woofer not really mating well to the 6" mid that is in the 6.2Fs,5.2Fs,and 4.2(F,C,R)s. But when you think about it the 6s in the 4.2C is having to pull woofer duty as well which will affect it's sound characteristics.
          Hey C. Hey at least you're working right? :)

          I absolutely feel that the 5.2C is a fantastic match for the 5.2Fs. I was hoping it would have the 5.25" mid and be a 3-way system, and was curious to find out how well it matched if it didn't have it, but it turns out it's just fine without it. I believe the 6.5" midwoofer is a very capable driver whether dedicated to bass frequencies or to mids, and since it's always crossed over to my sub at 80 Hz it never needs to handle any deep bass so it's free to cover the midrange. Of course it does have a very nice full sound since it does have plenty of extension below the crossover freq. -- so no rolloff over and above what your AVR does on purpose.

          Originally posted by cveale
          Anyway. Great review. Thanks for the effort getting it to us.
          No problem. Jon's been good to me, least I could do. Plus I know how frustrating it can be wondering if a new speaker's right for you or not, so I always appreciate it when those who take the chance on them jump in and give us their thoughts about them.

          Originally posted by cveale
          BTW -- Where the heck is Themanthatisi. That dude was posting like 1000 times a day then got his 5.2s and vanished. Anyone know if he turned it up too loud or something.? :shock:
          LOL. Well if he likes them as much as I like mine, he's probably firmly planted on his couch right now in his boxers, couple weeks' worth of beard growth, empty beer cans and pretzel bags all over the floor... LOL. :D


          • #6
            Ok, I've been waiting patiently for your follow-up review, and I'm sure you've broken it in by now. Do you have anything new to add? I'm probably going to be picking one up for Christmas, but I'd like to hear your follow-up for reassurance. Nice review, by the way!


            • #7
              Thanks. I actually spent half an hour typing up a detailed response to this a couple nights ago then accidentally closed my browser before I posted it thanks to not being used to the new IE 7's tabbed interface. :x I'm now writing this response in a text editor. :)

              I don't have much to add regarding the speaker itself. It's excellent and matches the 5.2Fs both visually and sonically. Right now I'm in the middle of a quest to find the right amplification for my system. At the moment I'm on hold waiting to hear from someone regarding a lightly used Emotiva UL (Ultra Theater Series) combo. If I don't end up getting that I'm just going to order the LPA-1 multichannel amp from

              Currently I'm driving the whole system with just my Onkyo TX-SR702 receiver and it's OK but not very exciting due to the lack of balls I described in my huge review of the 5.2Fs. There's nothing overtly "wrong" with it, but it has little life, and dynamics are rather flat. Imaging and soundstage aren't quite what the Swans are capable of powered by the receiver. When listening or watching a movie I can hear 3 distinct speakers across the front rather than a cohesive and seamless soundstage.

              As I also noted in my big review, for a while I had a cheap DJ amp, the Technical Pro (or Technical HiFi) Blue Ice Z5000 amp (rated 350 watts/chan. @ 8 ohms) powering the 5.2Fs, while the Onkyo drove the other 3 speakers. The mains with this setup had plenty of raw power and dynamics, but the sound just wasn't as clean and polished as I've heard when the Swans were powered by other amps such as my engineering partner Mike's Rotels. It also didn't match sonically with the Onkyo so I could always hear the transitions from mains to center or surrounds. That amp was OK for what it was but it destroyed the timbre matching between the speakers.

              As an experiment I hooked up an old favorite of mine, an '80s era Luxman R-113 receiver rated at 60 watts/chan. @ 8 ohms. It's only a basic 2 channel receiver but I've always loved the sound of this thing and it has an incredible amount of power and dynamics for the low power rating. I actually drove a huge old pair of JBL Horizon L-166 3-way speakers with this thing back in the day, with 12" woofers, 3.5" (I think) midrange drivers and metal dome tweeters, and it absolutely rocked. Well, I hooked it up to the 5.2Fs and just plugged my DVD player's analog LR outputs into it, and within the first 60 seconds I packed up the Blue Ice and never used it again. It was on eBay a couple days later. The Luxman brought the Swans to life and made them sound exactly the way I wanted them to, except for the fact that it's a bit noisy and flaky due to its age. There's something wrong with one of the channels so I have to jiggle the volume knob to get the channel working sometimes, the poor old thing. If I could get that sound in all 5 speakers minus the noise and intermittent problems, I'd be in heaven. Ah, if only Luxman still existed.

              Next I ordered an 8-channel T-class amp from Italian company AudioDigit. I knew I was taking a chance here but I have heard so many good things about the amazing sound of T-class amps, I had to try it. This amp is rated at a higher power than the well known T-amp since it uses a newer, multi-channel chip (two of them actually). The site claims up to 100 watts/channel at 4 ohms, but that's quickly disproven by the graphs posted on their own site. Sure it can produce 100 watts -- at 10% THD!! Yikes. However it does produce a respectable 45+ watts/channel @ 4 ohms at .01% THD, so that's not bad for an efficient amp. I still wouldn't have bothered except Daniele, the chief tech (and I think owner) at AudioDigit, assured me via several emails that the channels on each chip of this amp could be safely bridged (or paralleled as she called it), so I figured I'd get some 90 watts/channel at 4 ohms, or maybe 60 - 70 watts/chan. at the 6 ohms the 5.2Fs are rated at. Not bad.

              Long story short, it didn't work out. The amp I received looked awesome, very nicely put together, but channels 1 and 2 were actually wired out of phase. After I figured this out and fixed it (I knew this wasn't a good omen), I followed Daniele's instructions explicitly for bridging 3 pairs of channels to cover the mains and center and used the last two individual channels to drive the Ascend surrounds. This sounded beautiful -- when it worked. Half the time I'd turn the system on and have no sound in the right speaker, and once or twice I had no sound at all. Problem is, the company officially does not accept returns from overseas! They were perfectly willing to service the amp but wanted me to pay shipping both ways to get it done, which was going to cost me a small fortune.

              Anyway I complained and whined (via several emails) until finally the fulfillment company, Autocostruire, refunded me half the cost of the amp to cover return shipping. Once they had it back in their facility, they determined it was in fact defective and agreed to refund me the balance of what I paid for it. I'm still out $250 shipping charges, but at least I got most of my money back. The gentleman at Autocostruire was very helpful.

              But the one thing I learned from this experience (other than to buy from companies who ship from within the US and have return guarantee policies!) is that when the whole system is powered by the same type of quality amplification, there is magic here. The AudioDigit never had a lot of power and couldn't be pushed to insane levels, but when it was working it did perform quite well and sounded absolutely amazing. I had that wonderful seamless soundstage not just across the front but all around that I was looking for -- thus my current quest to find a high quality multi-channel amp in my very small budget that has enough current and power to drive the Swans with no clipping or compression or loss of transparency or dynamics. I've considered multiple 2-channel pro amps, but for several reasons I'd prefer to go with one multi-channel amp. My room is very small so space is at a premium, plus most pro amps don't feature unbalanced RCA inputs. The fan noise from 3 pro amps might also get out of hand in here. I briefly considered 3 of the Behringer A500s (and I'd still like to hear them) but I'm gun-shy about Behringer thanks to the bad rep they enjoy in the pro audio industry. Without hearing them first I'm not ready to spend more money on more gear that might not sound the way I want it to! That's why I settled on the Emotiva. For $500 brand new shipped, the LPA-1 seems to be a steal and has gotten excellent reviews all around. I'll be thrilled if I can pick up the used combo of the LPA-1 amp and the LMC-1 pre/pro for a good price.

              One other thing I should note. I mentioned in the original review above that I noticed a slight boxy sound in the low mids from the 5.2C, but attributed it to the placement on a wooden shelf against an untreated drywall, close to an untreated ceiling, directly over a desk no less. The AudioDigit amp arrived packed rather thoughtfully between a pair of pyramid-type acoustic foam panels, with another flat acoustic panel at the bottom. (I confirmed with Daniele that they were in fact genuine acoustic foam.) How cool. I immediately placed the two pyramid ones behind and on either side of my center channel speaker, and stuffed the flat panel up under the shelf. This made quite a difference -- the center image was cleaner and the boxy sound was pretty much gone. Of course some of the improvements in sound I heard with this amp may be partially due to these acoustic panels, but I heard the improvements all around, not just with the center. This did, however, confirm my belief that I do in fact need some acoustic treatment behind and below my CC shelf. I'm working on that. :)

              Oh BTW, I never noticed any dramatic change from break-in, either of the 5.2F mains or the 5.2C center, though the mains do seem to have a bit more dynamics now and can play absolutely as loud as I like, whereas my buddy Mike and I did find they had a limit right out of the box in his bigger room on his Rotel amps. I have heard break-in improvements in other speakers but these sounded great out of the box and only sound if anything slightly better now with maybe slightly tighter bass response -- but take this with a grain of salt. Any of these "improvements" could be the result of different rooms, amps and other upstream components, etc. I haven't noticed any changes in the 5.2C but I haven't put nearly as many hours on it yet as I have on the mains.

              Anyway I guess the short version of my response to you is, it's a great speaker, so if you have the amp(s) to feed it the way it deserves to be fed, go for it. Are you using x.2 mains now? No matter how good a center channel speaker is, it's always wise to buy a timbre-matched center for your mains.

              I will post another follow-up after I get my new LPA-1 amp in here. :)


              • #8
                Great review! Thanks a lot! Yes, I'm using the 5.2F mains and I'm driving them with a Crown XLS-402. I'm really looking forward to a matching center, and I understand what your saying about the multi-channel amp. I'm going to look into different forms of amplification in the future, but for now I'm sure my H/K receiver will do the job if the Crown messes with the timbre matching. Thanks again for the review!


                • #9
                  Quick update. It's Xmas Eve and I have loads to do but I thought I'd drop by and say I'm now driving my system with the Emotiva UL combo, the LMC-1 pre/pro and the LPA-1 7-channel power amp, from

                  Let me just say WOW. I can't get into specifics or I'll sit here typing all night but I can HIGHLY recommend this stuff. The LMC-1 pre/pro is LIGHT on features, seriously barebones, but it has nice bass management, a fairly simple user interface, a nice simple remote, and OUTSTANDING sound quality. Sure it'll be obsolete in a year when HDMI becomes virtually required, but for my needs and the price I got it (I bought used) I seriously cannot complain.

                  And the LPA-1 amp, holy ****e. There is no way an amp should be this good for $500 new. If I didn't know what it cost I would have put it at least at $1000. Rated at only 125 watts a channel, it performs like it has WAY more than that. Tons of headroom, beautiful sound... Well I could go on. :) My Swans are singing... They and I are both very happy.

                  Happy Holidays to all!


                  • #10
                    I'd really like to hear a little more about that amplifier. As expected, my Crown amplifier messed with the timbre matching. When powered with my H/K receiver only I have a seamless soundstage, though, which makes me itch for a quality multichannel amplifier. My question to you is how does the new LPA-1 stack up with the other amplifiers you tested. I'm not so much interested in the Blue Ice (no offense :wink: ), but how does it compare with the Audiodigit, and most importantly, the Rotel? Thanks a lot!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cool Mr Steve
                      I'd really like to hear a little more about that amplifier. As expected, my Crown amplifier messed with the timbre matching. When powered with my H/K receiver only I have a seamless soundstage, though, which makes me itch for a quality multichannel amplifier. My question to you is how does the new LPA-1 stack up with the other amplifiers you tested. I'm not so much interested in the Blue Ice (no offense :wink: ), but how does it compare with the Audiodigit, and most importantly, the Rotel? Thanks a lot!
                      No offense taken! I'm no longer interested in the Blue Ice either. I sold it a while ago.

                      I can't in good conscience recommend the AudioDigit for anyone other than DIYers. For one thing, IMO even the higher powered MC 8x100 doesn't have enough power to drive Swan speakers (T-class amps seem to be suited strictly for extremely efficient speakers and/or low volume listening at this point). Perhaps more importantly, I like the company, good people doing a nice job making cool, unique audio products, but shipping between Italy and America is a nightmare. They don't officially take returns, and shipping it back for service is a mess and very expensive (they want you to pay for it). I spent $100 getting the amp here and another $150 getting it back to them! :shock: 2 channels were internally wired out of phase with the other 6 when I took my unit out of the box, and it was defective besides that and worked only intermittently. The sound quality was very good when it worked, but as I said it was ill-suited to the Swans which needed more power.

                      I can't recommend the Emotiva LPA-1 highly enough. I'm seriously loving this amp!! I still smile ear to ear at how little I paid for it every time I look at it (or fire it up). It's a beautiful piece of gear aesthetically, built like a tank, and absolutely sounds incredible. There is ZERO hiss or noise from my speakers when it's powered up (like, put your ear ON the tweeter and you'll still wonder if the thing is even powered on). Unlimited dynamics, smooth, clean, neutral... I just couldn't justify spending another dime on a "better" amp for these speakers (the Swans Classics 5.2F and 5.2C with Ascend surrounds), at least in the small room where my stuff currently is. I've tried finding the amp's volume limits but haven't managed to make it clip before my head started to ring first.

                      I'm quite sure a day will come when I'll invest in higher end speakers, and at that time I'll try different amps, but quite likely even then I'll try a better Emotiva amp on them before anything else.

                      I never had the chance to hear the Emotiva side by side with a Rotel or any other good amp so I can't draw any accurate direct comparisons. I heard the Swans right out of the box on Rotel amps in a different room and they sounded outstanding, plus they sound amazing on the B&Ws and Dalis and other speakers my friend has (or has had) in his room, so I am familiar with them. Without hearing them side by side I can't say one sounds better than the other for sure, but my educated guess is the sound quality would be equal and very similar (taking into account the different rated power levels). I would LOVE to take the Emotiva to my buddy's house to try it on his Dalis, but it's installed now and there is no chance I'm dragging this 75 pound beast out of here until I have to. :)

                      Bottom line is I love this amp and I feel it's an incredible value. Much as I like Rotel amps and think they're outstanding products at very good prices, I think comparable products from Emotiva are better values for the dollar and sound every bit as good. Plus the guys that run Emotiva are great people and take really good care of their customers.

                      If you want to read a lot more about this amp, check out the AV123 forums at Tons of Emotiva user reviews and discussions there (since AV123 sold Emotiva products until late last year). You'll have a VERY hard time finding someone who's tried it and doesn't like it (unlike the matching LMC-1 pre/pro, which has gotten mixed reviews, though so far I like it very much for the amazingly low price).