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Arx A1 Initial Impressions

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  • Arx A1 Initial Impressions

    Had the pleasure of speaking the Jon about 3 weeks ago - let me thank Jon once again for his patience and great discussion around speakers and what I'm looking for in some low-cost speakers with high-end sound (as much as possible). I guess I'm an "ex-audiophile" where my last really good (relative terms) 2-channel system consisted of Marantz amplification thru a custom tube preamp into Martin Logan SL-3 electrostatics. Kids, mortgages, dual car payments and the wages meltdown at the millennium lead to a stop in upgrading every 6 months and selling that for a decent home theater system. But, it gives you an idea of what my ears like to hear (I also come from a musical family and played trumpet thru high school).

    What I needed was just a pair of good sounding rear surround channel speakers (the 5.1 system I have currently is a Definitive Technology 5.1 system with an SVS sub) to turn it into a 7 channel surround system. I currently have a pair of small Level 2 speakers from HTD for my small downstairs 5.0 system and am very impressed with them so I ordered a pair of the Level 3 bookshelves. Hooked them up (after being a little disappointed with their QC with a blob of glue on one of the surrounds) and sat down a little latter with one of my very favorite auditioning CDs: Steve Miller Born to be Blue. Very nice bass extension for a 15.5" tall speaker, but there was something missing in the mid-range (maybe a dip in the frequency response?) and the highs which I was expecting a lot from their ribbon tweeter was a bit on the harsh side and the extension wasn't there. Bummer. So I did a little searching considering the usual suspects in this good quality but limited budget range (Aperion, AV123, Paradigm, NHT, SVS, etc) and then remembered some Swans I got to hear years back and then came across theaudioinsider webpage. Saw the new Arx A1 specs, called Jon, and decided to order a pair - I'll keep the ones which sound better (Arx or HTD).

    Fedex took the long route to get to me in NC, but I opened them up, good weight and cabinet mass/lack of resonances, but not as nice as the real wood veneered HTD's and about 3" shorter. Plus I really like/want the rosewood color versus black. Hooked them up to my smaller system and let them play for a couple of hours with background TV and music. Sat down later that evening and popped in Mr. Miller and almost immediately a smile broke out on my face. There was some "real" instrument sounds coming out of these little boxes! I also didn't hear any really obvious frequency gaps. The bass was actually quite good - went deep enough to get some of the upper bass frequencies so you could hear the kick drum and bass guitar and know most of what they were trying to do sonically. Track 7 of born2Blue is "Just a Little Bit" and it has a driving bass line. If one of the drivers can't keep up with the other drivers and instruments then the whole piece just falls apart, and alot of speakers don't do that well on this. But I've got to say that it was really pretty good on the A1's!

    And here is one my most important criteria when I judge speakers (and other components in the chain) - imaging and sound staging. I've got to be able to sonically "see" the musicians on the stage (real or studio): Steve dead center with his guitar, drums behind him, the sax to the left and back about 8', cow bell on the left side of the drum set, backup vocalists either left and/or right of Steve, etc. And.......I can "see" the sound stage pretty well with these little bookshelves! Nice, but what really exceeded my expectations is something that is very special that only truely "good" speakers can do: portray all the different instruments and singers as unique sonic entities so that you can "see" the individual musicians with your ears. If you are present at a live performance (acoustic in a smaller venue is best) you hear all the musicians playing together, but you also can distinctly see and hear the bassist and the drummer and the lead guitar and the rhythm guitar and the keyboardest, etc. It's not just hearing the instruments and vocals all mashed together, but hearing all the individual elements playing together to make one. It's a very cool effect, and adds to the realism of the playback. Kudos to the Arx A1's for doing a really decent job at this - not at the level my electrostatics could do, but [email protected], for these little inexpensive speakers???

    So, bottom line, the HTD's were shipped back in a hurry - the A1's are here to stay :) My initial impressions conclude with this: somebody's stupid here. Either Jon is for offering such a great little speaker at such a low cost, or we (speaker buying public) are for not scooping these up at this price point!

    The bad news is: I wish these were available in the rosewood (or similar) finish. I have also read about the potential for a slightly larger version with 6.5" split-gap drivers - man, I would really like to hear those!! And if they came in a real veneer cabinet and an affordable incremental cost (HTD can do it!), then I'm in real trouble because I would likely try to find some way to replace my whole Def Tech system...... Oh no, I feel the old addiction kicking in again.....need to replace/upgrade something that works just fine. And all I wanted was just a nice sounding, inexpensive pair of rear channel speakers!

  • #2
    Out of curiousity were the HTD Level 3 speakers you had the bookshelf or the Floorstanding 3 way with dual woofers? The reason I ask is I was interested in the Level 3 floorstanding 3 way tower and heard they beat out some very good speakers in a comparisson! Thanks