Review: Reference 3A Reflector monitors

DaveC

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People think mostly about vibration control and isolation - IMHO draining energy in the equipment and from the equipment is also the key in tuning a system.

Sure, but I do think many times people want some vibration and the feedback loop created by vacuum tubes is one of the reasons people like tubes.
 

PeterA

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I would like to add one more observation about the listening session at Al's house and I don't recall reading this in the review. The sweet spot with the Reflector speakers in the current configuration is very small. The center image falls apart pretty quickly as soon as you move to the side of the center listening seat. I wonder if this has something to do with the wave guide surrounding the tweeter, or the toe in angle as recommended by the manufacturer. I don't recall the sweet spot being quite as narrow with the lower model 3A monitors.
 

Al M.

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If the sweetspot was wider with the older speakers, it cannot have been by much. I believe that has to do with the speakers and the listener off the sweetspot being close to the side walls. In your room both speakers and off center listening spots are well away from side walls, and there is a wider range within which you have a recognizable center image.
 

PeterA

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Perhaps it is proximity to side walls, but it may also have to do with how close you sit to the speakers themselves. When in the left seat, you are quite close to the left speaker, so the listener gets a lot more direct sound from one speaker and more loudness than from the other speaker. So, you don't think it has to do with the tweeter wave guide, the dispersion pattern of the speakers or the degree of toe in?
 

ack

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Peter, I am struggling to figure out whether you eventually really liked what you heard or not. You appear to be dancing around what you really think... Am I wrong?
 

PeterA

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Peter, I am struggling to figure out whether you eventually really liked what you heard or not. You appear to be dancing around what you really think... Am I wrong?

Ack, I am sorry that you are struggling with anything that I have written on this thread. I did not mean to be vague with my impressions. Rather, I tried to be quite clear. I really liked the sound at the end which is as I remember from the last time I heard Al's system. And Al's wonderful review corresponds to the sound I heard once the footers were removed from under the amps. But those are just my impressions. Al and Madfloyd seem to have liked the sound with the new footers under the amp. Perhaps we should take this offline and discuss within our audio group.

I apologize to Al for taking the focus of this thread away from the content of his great review and toward my actual listening impressions from a couple of nights ago.
 

Al M.

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Perhaps it is proximity to side walls, but it may also have to do with how close you sit to the speakers themselves. When in the left seat, you are quite close to the left speaker, so the listener gets a lot more direct sound from one speaker and more loudness than from the other speaker.

That's an excellent point, didn't think of that even though it should be obvious. When I sit off center in your room the speaker closer to me is still relatively far away.

So, you don't think it has to do with the tweeter wave guide, the dispersion pattern of the speakers or the degree of toe in?

The effect of toe-in on center image from outside the sweetspot can be easily tested. I'll do that and report back.
 

Al M.

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Ack, I am sorry that you are struggling with anything that I have written on this thread. I did not mean to be vague with my impressions. Rather, I tried to be quite clear. I really liked the sound at the end which is as I remember from the last time I heard Al's system.

Yes, that was clear not just from what you told me, but also from what you wrote on the thread.

I apologize to Al for taking the focus of this thread away from the content of his great review and toward my actual listening impressions from a couple of nights ago.

No problem, Peter. I made some more comparisons with and without footers yesterday and will open a new thread on this later today. In the meantime I hope the footer discussion can pause here until I open the new thread for it to continue there.
 

DaveyF

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Al, while you are at it, might want to see how the Reflector's sound placed straight ahead- with no toe-in. I have found that in many cases in smaller rooms, this is the best set-up for stage width and depth. The sweetspot usually increases in this set up..although many times marginally.
 

Al M.

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Al, while you are at it, might want to see how the Reflector's sound placed straight ahead- with no toe-in. I have found that in many cases in smaller rooms, this is the best set-up for stage width and depth. The sweetspot usually increases in this set up..although many times marginally.

Sure will do, thanks for the suggestion, Davey. A while ago I thought the strong toe-in was necessary to get the best result, but with my acoustic improvements more recently I found that requirements relax a bit.
 

PeterA

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Al, while you are at it, might want to see how the Reflector's sound placed straight ahead- with no toe-in. I have found that in many cases in smaller rooms, this is the best set-up for stage width and depth. The sweetspot usually increases in this set up..although many times marginally.

That is an interesting suggestion. I can not imagine the stage becoming even bigger - wider and deeper. It is already huge in Al's system, but the great part is that instruments and vocals are more or less scaled convincingly, from small scale string quartets, to solo piano, to singer or choir, and within the limits of the front of his room, the size of an orchestra. One of the really good qualities is Al's sense of space, scale, and big, holographic sound - from the sweet spot.
 

Al M.

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That is an interesting suggestion. I can not imagine the stage becoming even bigger - wider and deeper.

The stage does become a bit wider with some toe-out but not by much. I'll try what happens without full toe-out.

***

I have posted a new thread:

Footers under tube amp

I'd ask for further discussion about footers to be conducted there.

Thanks
Al
 

Al M.

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Al, while you are at it, might want to see how the Reflector's sound placed straight ahead- with no toe-in. I have found that in many cases in smaller rooms, this is the best set-up for stage width and depth. The sweetspot usually increases in this set up..although many times marginally.

O.k., finally I have done some tests. Having the speakers pointing straight ahead, no toe-in, only has disadvantages with these speakers. Loss of highs, perceived dynamics and perceived transient speed; in general flatter tone, less listener involvement. The image becomes a bit wider but also less focused. This is with the configuration of almost equilateral triangle. I also tried what happens if I move the listening chair much further back, a few feet. It is better, but still no comparison with the pronounced toe-in.

No wonder that the manufacturer recommends for these particular speakers the almost on-axis position described in my review. It all depends on speaker geometry.

Having a bit toe-out from the configuration specified as preferred can work, but full toe-out does not.

As for the image outside the sweetspot, sitting towards the side: the more you toe out, the more it becomes a single speaker affair. With pronounced toe-out I hear only the speaker next to me; sitting on the left, all the sound seems to come from the left.

Enough experiments, back to listening to music.
 

DaveyF

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O.k., finally I have done some tests. Having the speakers pointing straight ahead, no toe-in, only has disadvantages with these speakers. Loss of highs, perceived dynamics and perceived transient speed; in general flatter tone, less listener involvement. The image becomes a bit wider but also less focused. This is with the configuration of almost equilateral triangle. I also tried what happens if I move the listening chair much further back, a few feet. It is better, but still no comparison with the pronounced toe-in.

No wonder that the manufacturer recommends for these particular speakers the almost on-axis position described in my review. It all depends on speaker geometry.

Having a bit toe-out from the configuration specified as preferred can work, but full toe-out does not.

As for the image outside the sweetspot, sitting towards the side: the more you toe out, the more it becomes a single speaker affair. With pronounced toe-out I hear only the speaker next to me; sitting on the left, all the sound seems to come from the left.

Enough experiments, back to listening to music.

Interesting. Your findings confirm what you had originally thought. Always a good idea to experiment, as without that you wouldn’t have known. Clearly, in your room, the toe in set up is required for best results.
You never really know with this stuff, and many times , at least IME, we can be surprised. Like you said, back to the music:D
 

Al M.

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An update on the orchestral performance of the Reference 3A Reflector monitors

Three improvements to my system and room have resulted in a much more effortless performance on orchestral music than I heard from the speakers at the time of the review:

1. Cleaning and treating contacts between signal cables and equipment with DeOxit G5.

2. New Sound Anchors Signature stands for the speakers, see my review:
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/review-sound-anchors-signature-speaker-stands.26655/

3. ASC ceiling diffusers, see my description and experiences on this page:
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/my-monitor-subwoofer-system.25101/page-9

Next to many other benefits, the improvements on orchestral replay are significant, and move the monitor's performance in terms of lack of strain and effortless sound on this material closer to the one I have experienced in friend's systems from expensive, high-quality multi-driver floor standers. The monitors do not quite achieve the ease of those speakers, something that is not to be expected given the physics involved, but the gap is narrowed (obviously, they also cannot play quite as loud). Not long ago I auditioned at a dealer well regarded $ 10K three-way floor standers in a room of smaller size than mine. On my orchestral CDs, played at comparable measured SPL (peaks at 93-95 dBa), I heard less ease of reproduction than from my monitor/sub combo. Yet perhaps the conditions of the audition were less optimal than with my system/room at home.

The Reflector monitors are capable of very high-resolution performance. At the same time their high resolution, when made use of by the upstream signal, is of course ruthlessly revealing of problems with system and room as well. Yet trying to get everything right and make the speakers shine is well worth the effort, and can result in great enjoyment of music reproduced with high-quality. I love these speakers more and more. Lately I have been listening to quite a bit of orchestral music because its reproduction is so enjoyable.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Congratulations, Al! I am truly happy for you that your incremental, evolutionary improvements are taking the system to greater sonic heights!
 

Al M.

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Congratulations, Al! I am truly happy for you that your incremental, evolutionary improvements are taking the system to greater sonic heights!

Thank you, Ron!
 

Al M.

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An update on the orchestral performance of the Reference 3A Reflector monitors,
Part II


It turned out, surprisingly, that the Reference 3A Reflector monitors can play loud orchestral music rather effortlessly after all and, in a mid-sized room like mine *), hardly show any disadvantage over multi-way floor standers in this regard. The last hurdle towards effortless reproduction, after the other hurdles described above (post # 35) were cleared, turned out to be electronic. Unexpectedly, the component in my system that held the speakers back in terms of strain-free, effortless reproduction was my Pass B1 buffered preamp, even though in terms of dynamics it was hardly limiting. There is now also much improved separation of instruments, as well as differentiation of tonal color. I have described the sound with my new Octave preamp in the thread:

Octave HP 700 preamplifier: Listening impressions

Performance on orchestral music was the last piece of the puzzle that now falls into place. With all the improvements in electronics and room, now this speaker system, the Reference 3A Reflector monitors combined with JL Audio subs, excels basically on any kind of music. For my own tastes, perception and priorities, I see little reason to wish for anything else than this speaker system in my medium sized room -- it is for me personally the ideal speaker system for this room *). Whatever moderate advantages a multi-way floor stander might have in this room is not of sufficiently substantive concern to me and, as I see it, it would take multiples of investment to try to achieve, at the same level, every single one of the sonic benefits of this monitor/sub combo from a multi-way floor stander (which also should be supplemented with subs). One reason is inertness of cabinet, which is much harder to achieve on a bigger speaker.

Several audiophile visitors have commented on the "big sound" in my room. Judging from my experience with other speaker systems, the quite large soundstage from the monitor/sub combo, also including great spatial depth especially on large-scale music, is unlikely to be bettered in this medium sized room by a multi-way floor stander. At the same time, with this speaker set-up, the intimacy and immediacy on small-scale music, which I crave and am not willing to give up, is quite something.

When trying to fill a considerably larger room with sound, the situation would be different -- there you absolutely need a big multi-way floor stander. Such a room will then also, just by the sheer volume of space available, allow for aspects of reproduction that are simply not accessible in medium sized rooms.

_________

*) dimensions 24 x 12 x 8.5 ft; extension to 13.5 ft width at small window bay
 
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the sound of Tao

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Al you’re sounding dangerously at risk of being happy with your system...

The biggest bug bear for me also in system performance isn’t so much immediately a sonic one but rather a musical one. If there was a kind of music that I was heavily invested in that my system just couldn’t quite play as well as I would wish for that would be a killer.

Knowing how much you love classical music getting to the point where your system is great at all the scales of performance required by this music, to play both big and play small is just a truly brilliant thing. It’s a bit like scaling a mountain peak.

Musical adeptness is really the final review and it’s great when all the hard work pays off.
 
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Al M.

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Al you’re sounding dangerously at risk of being happy with your system...

I know, Graham, that is a not very audiophile place to be in ;). Seriously, I am very happy with my system!

Sure, nothing is ever perfect, but I think for this room (and there is little chance that I'll ever move) I have settled on my ideal speakers, ideal preamp/amp combo, ideal cables. I don't intend to upgrade anymore on those fronts which, I guess, makes me a boring audiophile from now on...

There is really not much else where my upgrade appetite would lead me. A "better" DAC would be the most obvious thing for a future upgrade move, but the digital front-end with the Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC, lifting far above its low price, is already stunningly good in tone and resolution (separation of instruments, micro-detail on timbre of instruments, transient performance); I guess few have heard what the DAC really can do. Thus, at this point I am entirely happy with the system performance. Which is good, since I am out of money and nothing is worse than having serious cravings that you can't pay for ;).

The biggest bug bear for me also in system performance isn’t so much immediately a sonic one but rather a musical one. If there was a kind of music that I was heavily invested in that my system just couldn’t quite play as well as I would wish for that would be a killer.

Correct. I made a conscious choice: For a price that I could afford, I wanted to have a speaker system that on chamber and smaller ensemble music (up to 15 to 20 players) was superb in quality, and would give me the intimate kind of presentation that I like. It had to be good enough on large-scale music. The latter was sufficient for me to being able to enjoy all music, but with my natural focus more on smaller scale music. I did not want to compromise on smaller scale music in exchange for having, for the money invested, a somewhat better orchestral performance.

Now, with all the upstream signal enhancements and the improvements to the room acoustics, I have a speaker system that is superb on chamber and smaller ensemble music, and not just good enough, but actually great on large-scale music. Much more than I had aimed for!

Knowing how much you love classical music getting to the point where your system is great at all the scales of performance required by this music, to play both big and play small is just a truly brilliant thing. It’s a bit like scaling a mountain peak.

It is!

Musical adeptness is really the final review and it’s great when all the hard work pays off.

It took a good amount of work, the influence of great audiophile friends, and some plain luck.
 
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