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First Arx A2 Review! Comparison with Acculine A2

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  • cporter
    replied
    Originally posted by Jon Lane
    The A5, which is under development, will not actually go lower. The third bass driver does not extend the bass tuning frequency, but it will add sensitivity and loudness. The A5 is the "larger" A3 sound, but not enormously so. I still like the A3 for the majority of front main speaker options in the Arx line. They're lots of fun.
    What is the design goal of the added midrange? If I prefer localization of voices and soundstage depth, will I benefit from waiting?

    I have a technics SA-GX790 which is "h+" class (really ab modified) amplifier. It will drive 4 ohms easily. It produces a lot of heat but has reasonable specs and "warm" output for a non-tube amp. I bought it maybe 10 yrs ago because it was considered a diamond in the rough for budget audiophiles. I like it in particular because it has 3 speaker stereo mode that just sounds good. For many years I had it hooked up to PSB Image T6s and a C1, but those are now in a HT setup hooked up to an Onkyo TX-SR806.

    If I want to listen to music, I have to get in line with kids playing wii or watching tv, so I wanted to find a reasonable (sub $1000) 3-speaker setup for my main living area for music. I am very pleased so far with the A2 in testing, and will order the A3s unless a) the A5s would be better suited to what I am seeking and b) the A5s are reasonably close to availability, maybe inside 3-6 months.

    Thanks!

    Leave a comment:


  • Chane M&C
    replied
    Originally posted by stsimtsos
    TAI recommends you give those woofers some run it time till they smooth out. You may not realize their potential for a while.
    This bears repeating: These drivers have medium compliance suspensions and treated cellulose cones and the combination likes a goodly amount of break in. Once they're settled they sound clear and natural.

    Leave a comment:


  • Chane M&C
    replied
    Originally posted by cporter
    Just want to echo your views on the need for the plug. I'm not any sort of expert at all in how to build or tune cabinets, but without the plug I think the mid woofer drivers can hit their free air resonance (I'm guessing 50 - 55) and distort badly due to excessive excursion.
    The A2, like the A1 and A3, uses a classic maximally flat bass reflex system and tuning, which gives all three models better - not worse - excursion control and distortion numbers above their respective bass cutoff frequencies.

    The nature of a bass reflex system is to use the slug of air in the port - which in the case of all three models is substantial - as a second diaphragm that takes over nearly all of the system's excursion at system resonance. This action holds the cone in place, and at higher volumes continues to do so, actually reducing cone excursion.

    In short, the A2's woofers do not distort badly unless pressed to a very high output indeed, they being only 5.25" in diameter but having the virtually doubled linear excursion of the special SplitGap XBL2 motors. The Arx 5.25" will substantially outplay a conventional woofer of the same size, meaning virtually everything anywhere near Arx's price category.

    I did it the first day of ownership. I bought one A2 to test drive, and hooked it up to an older 110 watt technics receiver on the right channel. I turned the balance completely over to the A2 and put the volume at 10:30, and it did not distort at all. The solo A2 was producing sound near my pain threshold, very clean and articulated mids, bass with clarity I have only heard in NHT, and treble with no "sufferin succotash" slurs on the voices.
    The comment about excellent bass control fits with Arx's design goal: We simply didn't add the usual bass bloat so many popularly-priced systems use, and this decision grants the user great freedom to take the Arx speakers to dynamic levels their low cost wouldn't indicate. Arx is an unusual brand because it includes economy finishing with neutral tunings - what Affordable$$Audio called "sophisticated" sound for music lovers.

    But one of the songs in the playlist was an over-mixed techno with a lot of bass, and to my horror I could see the midwoofers vibrating like crazy and could hear the over-excursion noise!
    Two things happened here: First, at very high levels the Technics clipped and second, it did on the bass fundamentals below the Arx's bass reflex tuning, where the drivers are unloaded by the bass reflex tuning. The result is just what you report: The amplifier loses control and the drivers are over-modulated. More and cleaner power would solve this.

    After putting the plug in it sounded just as clean but without the problem of the uncontrolled excursion. But it still had great low-end! amazing.
    The risk of running a sealed system at high levels is that the restorative bass reflex action is lost. For sealed Arx setups we therefore recommend using the 80Hz highpass setting in the AVR. There's a lot more info in the Arx User Guide, free to download (PDF).

    Just to get a handle on whether the low end was sufficient, I brought up a subwoofer and put it at flat, cutoff at its lowpoint of 40. I could hear only an occasional deep kick that wasn't present before. I had to turn it up to 50-55 before there was a noticeable doubling effect. So yes, a sub does help - crossed over at 45ish!!!!
    That sounds about right as the Arx models cutoff at roughly that point. Nice find.

    So to get it straight - I am listening to a single A2 speaker, volume knob at 10:30 and sound is loud enough I can't go higher without pain, and there is no muddy spot, no distortion, no treble breakup, and it only needs the ultra-low-low supplemental subwoofer. Wow.
    They do get the job done!

    I am going to order a pair of A3s I think, and use the A2 as a center. I really have come to love listening to music in 3-speaker stereo, and will keep the subwoofer connected also.

    I keep looking for more detail on the A5s though. I might hold out for those and possibly put the sub away.
    The A3 will probably deliver a slightly more specific stereo image, whereas the A2 can generate the larger soundstage. That said, a trio of A2 is a HUGE front stage. A classic A3/A2 three-speaker front combo is a very dynamic, dimensional sound, but remember to rotate the A2's tweeter to vertical in all applications, whether horizontal or vertical. They come shipped for use as a horizontal speaker.

    The A5, which is under development, will not actually go lower. The third bass driver does not extend the bass tuning frequency, but it will add sensitivity and loudness. The A5 is the "larger" A3 sound, but not enormously so. I still like the A3 for the majority of front main speaker options in the Arx line. They're lots of fun.

    Leave a comment:


  • stsimtsos
    replied
    Arx A2 Review

    Can you tell me what size room you had the A2's in? How much space did you have around the A2? What size stand were you using? Is the A2 20 inches in length vertically?

    I am thinking of demoing the A2 as well though I wonder if the A1 would suffice in a mid to smaller living room as fronts. It sounds as if you thought the A2's sounded better with the plug inserted rather than used as a bass reflex speaker (w/o the plug)?

    Do you think the A2's would make great front left an right speaker in 4.1 or 5.1 system? TAI recommends you give those woofers some run it time till they smooth out. You may not realize their potential for a while.

    Leave a comment:


  • cporter
    replied
    Just want to echo your views on the need for the plug. I'm not any sort of expert at all in how to build or tune cabinets, but without the plug I think the mid woofer drivers can hit their free air resonance (I'm guessing 50 - 55) and distort badly due to excessive excursion. I did it the first day of ownership. I bought one A2 to test drive, and hooked it up to an older 110 watt technics receiver on the right channel. I turned the balance completely over to the A2 and put the volume at 10:30, and it did not distort at all. The solo A2 was producing sound near my pain threshold, very clean and articulated mids, bass with clarity I have only heard in NHT, and treble with no "sufferin succotash" slurs on the voices. But one of the songs in the playlist was an over-mixed techno with a lot of bass, and to my horror I could see the midwoofers vibrating like crazy and could hear the over-excursion noise!

    After putting the plug in it sounded just as clean but without the problem of the uncontrolled excursion. But it still had great low-end! amazing.

    Just to get a handle on whether the low end was sufficient, I brought up a subwoofer and put it at flat, cutoff at its lowpoint of 40. I could hear only an occasional deep kick that wasn't present before. I had to turn it up to 50-55 before there was a noticeable doubling effect. So yes, a sub does help - crossed over at 45ish!!!!

    So to get it straight - I am listening to a single A2 speaker, volume knob at 10:30 and sound is loud enough I can't go higher without pain, and there is no muddy spot, no distortion, no treble breakup, and it only needs the ultra-low-low supplemental subwoofer. Wow.

    I am going to order a pair of A3s I think, and use the A2 as a center. I really have come to love listening to music in 3-speaker stereo, and will keep the subwoofer connected also.

    I keep looking for more detail on the A5s though. I might hold out for those and possibly put the sub away.

    Leave a comment:


  • Miwo
    replied
    Just a quick update:

    Have had these for nearly 2 months now, and my Arx A2 setup continues to impress me. Now that they are broken in, the Splitgap woofers are tighter and offer more speed and impact. With the plugs installed under 'sealed' mode, they cross extremely well with my Energy S10.3 subwoofer. For music, this combination is fantastic. I am getting the best of both worlds... tight controlled bass, and that fantastic Planar tweeter at a great price. I love how finding a great speaker makes you listen to your entire music colleciton all over again :) . Clearly a substantial improvement over the Acculine models 3 years ago ... almost a no-brainer upgrade if you enjoyed the original models.

    The only thing I have to do now is figure out what to do with my 'old' Acculine A2s!!!

    Mike

    Leave a comment:


  • Miwo
    replied
    Subjective Listening Tests

    Background Info

    I am by no means an audiophile. These are all subjective listening tests. I have no means of measuring frequency response. I am pretty much a computer guy with a hobby for Audio :) . My first set of compute decent computer speakers were Logitech Z-5500s. Afterwards, I moved onto budget bookshelf speakers from JBL, Athena, Energy. Despite being budget bookshelves, they were a huge improvement over any computer multimedia speaker. Since then, I have been steadily upgrading my setup. My last few speakers have been KEF IQ3s, Tannoy Reveals, and Acculine A2s.

    My Setup



    This is where I differ from a lot of people here. I am using a Computer based setup. My speakers are placed on my desk, on each side of my LCD display. Speakers are toed in slightly to form a triangle shape between myself and the speakers. The distance from my listening position to the Speaker is less than 4 feet. This is a nearfield listening setup. The speakers are close to the wall, which is why I will be using the included Port Plugs. The port plugs give a shallow bass rolloff and is recommended for boundary setups, but of course YMMV.

    Sound Card : HT Omega Claro (Coax Out) > External Matrix Mini 192KHz DAC > Virtue Audio ONE.2 Integrated Tripath Amp > Speakers + Energy S10.3 Subwoofer Crossover: 80Hz

    My Virtue ONE.2 is powered by a 130W Power Adapter. It should supply around 55wpc at 4 ohms. It should not be underpowered for a Nearfield setup. I am listening < 4 feet away and don't need to fill a large room, so I am not going to be blasting my Arx A2s.

    Acculine A2 & Arx A2 Side-by-side


    Harshness Tests - Glee Soundtrack
    Alright, I admit I am a Gleek, but in all seriousness this album can make bright speakers sound painful, fatiguing, and downright harsh. That can be said with a lot of mainstream Pop albums that are 'hot' by default

    Acculine A2: What attracted me to this speaker 3 years ago was the brilliant detailed treble due to the BGC Neo3 Planar Tweeter. When listening to the first track of Glee, 'Don't Stop Believing', the Acculine A2s really brought out Lea Michele's voice. While there was tremendous presence, I found it to be simply way too bright after a few listens. I had to adjust the toe in angle of the Acculine A2s. I had to shift the speaker about 30-35 degrees off-axis for it to be tolerable in my Nearfield listening position.

    Arx A2: Since the Arx does not use the Bohlender Graebner Neo3, I really didn't know what kind of voicing to expect. After listening to the tracks 'Don't Stop Believing', 'Taking Chances', 'Defying Gravity' of the Glee soundtrack, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the new Planar tweeter retain that detail I loved about the Neo3, but it does so without the 'in-your-face-ear-bleeding'. High notes didn't come across as overly harsh and I didn't notice excess sibilance like I did while listening to the Acculine A2s on-axis. The Arx A2 is definitely detailed like the Neo3, but I found it acceptable on-axis. For long listening sessions, I decided to move the Arx A2 slightly off axis about 5-10 degrees to cut down slightly on some treble. To characterize the Arx A2, it seems to be fairly neutral sounding with attention to detail and a forward presentation. These are not laid-back sounding speakers.

    Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
    I like this album a lot because it has a nice mix of acoustic instruments and soothing female vocals.

    Acculine A2 - Excellent detail and makes her voice stand out. I really have to emphasize how well these Planar tweeters bring out female voices. I experienced no harshness or edginess when listening to this album, probably because Sarah is not really that high pitched compared to the previous tracks on the Glee soundtrack with Lea Michele. I suspect that the Neo3 is comfortable listening to as long as the vocal range is not too high or falls below Soprano

    Arx A2 - Voice's were just as enjoyable, but Acoustic Instruments were a noted improvement through the Arx A2. Acoustic Instruments, plucks and bass were more full-bodied and more enjoyable to listen to. The SplitGap drivers seem to address the lack of bass of the original Acculine A1/A2. The improvement in bass is apparent without listening to bass heavy music.

    Various Metal Tracks and Video Games

    Acculine A2 - Probably my biggest complaint with the Acculine A2 is that it does not do a good job at all handling the impact and speed of doublekick drums. There is some bass, but it sounds dull and flat. When firing automatic weapons in video games like Battlefield Bad Company II, I felt like my sub was doing most the work.

    Arx A2 - Definite improvement in bass response! Drums have more "slam" to them and doublekick drums are distinctly more pronounced. Explosions and gunshots in games give a nice midbass kick. Without the port plugs, it seemed slightly exaggerated, but I suspect that has more to do with placement very close to the wall on my desk. Even with the port plugs inserted, the bass/midbass is still an improvement over the original Acculines.

    Soundstage / Imaging - Tracks from Chesky Ultimate Demo Disk

    Acculine A2: Soundstage and Instrument seperation are quite good on the original Acculines. The BGC Neo3 is fairly directional, so you do have to sit in a sweet spot to fully appreciate them. Unfortunately, there is also a possibility that the sound is too bright when listening on-axis in a nearfield listening environment, like I noted on the Glee tracks. Adjusting them off axis alleviates the brightness, but also loses some soundstage.

    Arx A2: I was extremely impressed on how transparent these speakers sound. I was able to really appreciate tracks like Spanish Harlem, and was surprised how much depth a pair of these A2s offer. The Arx A2 seemed to offer an improved soundstage over the Acculines, especially since I was able to remain in the sweetspot without having to toe-out the speakers to prevent harsh notes. I felt that Jazz tracks were much improved due to the better bass response of the SplitGap woofers. The Arx handled the transitions between the quiet and loud passages without a problem

    Conclusion

    Based on my initial listening impressions (less than 8 hours), I can safely say that the Arx A2 is a vast improvement over the Original Acculine A2 (non-r version). The Arx A2 addresses my major criticisms of the Acculines, such as weak bass, and the unforgiving nature of the Neo3 tweeter on bright tracks such as mainstream pop music. If you were impressed by the original Acculines, you'll be thrilled to hear the improvement of the Arx line.

    The Planar tweeter and SplitGap woofers work exceptionally well together. If you enjoy listening to Female vocalists and have never had the opportunity to listen to a Planar Tweeter, you owe it to yourself to give the Arx a try. They are probably the most affordable assembled speaker with this level of technology crammed into it. The addition of the port plugs is a great simple addition that makes it easier to cross the Arx A2 with a sub, or if it needs to be placed close to a wall. Not everyone has the ability to place their speakers out on stands and at least 3 feet away from the walls. I've only listened to these for about 8 hours, but I suspect that the woofers will only get better after break in.

    All this technology does come at a cost though. To deliver the Arx at its price point, the cabinet and finish comes in your typical black ash cabinet. There are no color options currently...so those who might want a fancier Rosewood, Maple, or glossy type finish are out of luck. The cabinet itself seems sturdy, but I can't comment on any internal bracing ( or lack of ) since I have not torn apart the cabinet yet. The cabinet also lacks dual binding posts for bi-amping, which might be a factor for some people. Overall, if looks are equally important than sound quality, the Arx probably will not make your short list. I would have liked a few knicknacks to be included in packaging....like Instruction Manual, Rubber standoff feet, Warranty Information, but really I am just nitpicking now. These are really small nuances.

    I think that Jon Lane and the folks at TAI have a definite winner on their hands. A big kudos to you at releasing this speaker at this price point. The Arx are a definite win for the value-oriented audio enthusiasts. Again, these are my own subjective impressions, so YMMV.

    Thanks for reading!
    Mike

    Leave a comment:


  • Miwo
    replied
    Rotating the Tweeter




    The Arx A2 Tweeter needs to be rotated vertically depending on the orientation. By default, the Arx A2 is set for a Horizontal setup, (center channel). For my purposes, my A2s are going to be standing vertically for 2CH sound. Modifying the Tweeter literally takes 1 minute. Using a regular Phillips screwdriver, unscrew the outermost corners. The square plate comes out. Rotate 90 degrees and put the screws back in. Removing the tweeter also revealed that the cabinet is has a fair amount of acoustic filling inside and what looks to be some internal bracing.

    Leave a comment:


  • Miwo
    started a topic First Arx A2 Review! Comparison with Acculine A2

    First Arx A2 Review! Comparison with Acculine A2

    They're Here!!!

    Here are my impressions of my newly arrived Arx A2! I will be using 2xA2s in Stereo in a Nearfield Computer setup. More on this later.

    Packaging and Unpacking



    The Arx A2 comes Single-boxed, yet is extremely well packed. The speaker comes wrapped in a plastic bag and is protected by huge foam square inserts. These foam squares fit right over the bottom and top of the speaker. There is nearly no wiggle room in the shipping box. A port plug comes in a plastic bag. My two Arx A2s did not come with any instruction manuals, warranty cards, or accessory 'rubber feet' found in most bookshelf speaker packages. An online instruction manual can be found on the Arx A2 product website.

    Cabinet Shots





    Like the prior Acculine models, the Arx are a 'no-frills' speaker design that comes in a Simulated Black Ash PVC wrapped cabinet. Yep, its a boring black box, but looks aren't entirely everything. I was immediately surprised at the size of the cabinet.... probably one of the largest 5.25" MTM cabinets I have ever seen. It packs a hefty weight, nearly 25 lbs! When I wrapped my knuckles on the cabinet, it seemed pretty solid enough. It wasn't a completely dead thud, nor a hollow wooden sound. The surface of the cabinet is much smoother compared to the original Acculines even though the texture seems to be very similar. Turning to the rear of the cabinet, the overly large bass-reflex port caught my attention. Compared to the original Acculine model, the port is at least 2x larger in diameter. Binding posts seem to be fairly decent quality

    Grill, XBL2 Drivers and Planar Tweeter





    Here are the most exciting features of the Arx A2. Typically this kind of technology is found in speakers costing many times higher. The A2 uses a planar-magnetic tweeter and dual XBL2 'SplitGap' Woofers. If you want to read up on the technology behind the Arx, check out the Arx A2 Product Page. The grill also uses metal inserts to hold onto the cabinet. A nice touch, better than those cheap flimsy plastic pegs that break all too often.
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