|Intuitive Design Summit model number PSL 624 (PSL=Pitcher Sound Labs) |
Part I: Introduction
The Intuitive Design Summit Loudspeakers are almost certainly the last loudspeaker I will ever buy. They have completely blown away even my most ridiculously unrealistic expectations. This review will humbly attempt to do justice to these utterly magnificent, stunningly transcendent masterpieces of sonic transduction. I am a consumer with no affiliation to any audio retailer or manufacturer. My only goals are to inform the audiophile community about these and to pique its curiosity, possibly to the point where some people may actually to give these an audition—something they so richly deserve.
The review has seven parts:
2. Synopsis (just read this if you want to get the main points without
suffering through the whole tome);
3. The fleshed out, fully detailed narrative (extremely long and thorough, beware);
5. Personal anecdotes and observations of others;
6. My poem: “Pitcher Perfect—The Fabulous Summits” (I had to do it!);
7. Disclaimer statement. (This is really stupid but is intended to preempt shill
Part II: Synopsis
The Intuitive Design Summits are a two-way, dynamic loudspeaker with a custom, proprietary, chambered, 1” soft dome tweeter; a 7” carbon pulp midbass driver; a first order crossover; capacitors manufactured on site by Intuitive Design; a granite cabinet; and the granite Path Stand System. Mine have Stillpoints and inverted risers under both of the speakers and both of the Path Stands, which in turn are placed on 18 x 12 x 3 inch, 75 pound granite surface plates.
Dimensions and weights, etc. (Rounded off):
Speakers: 19 ½ x 13 ½ x 11 inches, gross shipping weight=84 lbs (each) with boxes
Path Stands: 18 x 13 x 11 ¼ inches, gross shipping weight=92 lbs (each) with boxes,
but without the sand poured in
Overall, in our room (see photo with 4 foot “yard”stick): height is 43 ½ inches
Distance from back wall is between 26 and 28 inches to the BACK of each speaker
Room dimensions: 20 ft 10 in x 15 ½ ft x 9 ft (ceiling height)
Speakers are parallel to the longer wall.
These speakers are the best I’ve heard, with a unique and profoundly powerful
combination of high end smoothness and detail. The imaging is utterly three dimensional, stable and holographic, practically beyond belief. Off axis dispersion is outstanding, and yet the precision of the imaging seems to be completely unaffected by this. The entire sonic spectrum down to around the 40 hertz rolloff is presented with stark, vivid realism that is uncanny and seamless.
It must be noted that the superlative sonic attributes come to their fullest fruition only
when the Dodson 217 Mark II D DAC is in the signal path. The superb bass response is contingent on outstanding amplification, such as that provided by the Odyssey Extreme Monoblocks, which are rated at greater than 200 wpc, and are probably closer to 300, with outstanding current delivery, as assured by the presence of 360,000 microfarads of capacitance.
Part III: Fully Detailed Narrative
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT ALL COMPARISONS WITH OTHER BRANDS OF SPEAKERS ARE SUBJECTIVE, AND STRICTLY MY OWN OPINION BASED ON LIMITED LISTENING. ANY BRANDS I NAME BELOW WERE FAVORABLY IMPRESSIVE IN SOME WAY, AND ANY “DOGS” HAVE BEEN OMITTED. YOUR OPINION MAY VARY OR BE DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO MINE, AND I DO NOT CONSIDER MINE TO BE THE REFERENCE, EXCEPT FOR ME.
I am 43 years old and have arrived at audiophile nirvana. The audiophile journey began in my teens, listening to speakers like the original AR 90 (never even got to hear the legendary AR 9’s). I vaguely remember a General Electric system, then a Panasonic system, 10 wpc solid state receiver with an 8 track and large, 2 way speakers with a passive radiator and soft, boomy bass, which I thought was great at the time. The first real system I had was during my 20’s, and included a Parasound receiver with preamp outputs, the legendary B&K ST140 amplifier, and what must have been the original (or near original) version of the Paradigm 9SE loudspeakers. Years passed and my audiophile interest was again piqued by loudspeaker listings on Audiogon. I ended up with Paradigm Studio 100 V3 speakers augmented by a Rel Storm 3 sub-bass unit and driven by Odyssey Extreme monoblocks, with a Rotel RC 995 preamp, and Dakiom Feedback Stabilizers. I was actually fairly satisfied, but not utterly transfixed in paroxysmal ecstasy like I am now.
Duane, a dealer who I’ve known for over 10 years, had been talking about a 3,000 dollar speaker that sounded like a 10,000 dollar speaker. (The Summits are about 3,500 dollars and the Path Stand System is about 1,500 dollars). I listened to them even though I was fairly satisfied with the Paradigms. I couldn’t believe the synergistic combination of smoothness, detail and bass reproduction combined with an excellent soundstage. Dynamic range was practically identical to that of the Paradigms and the mid bass was better. Given their price, I became upset and finally caved in and bought the Summits, plus upgraded the preamp, and added the Dodson.
As currently configured in my system, with Odyssey Monoblock Extreme amplifiers, an Odyssey Extreme Tempest Preamplifier, and the Dodson 217 Mark 2 D DAC with upgraded 218-like software, these are the finest loudspeakers I have ever heard, with the closest competitor being the old, three box version of the Audio Physic Caldera, fed by about 7000 dollars of front end electronics, including Spectral products. Those retailed for about 20,000. I listened to those several years ago and did so only once, but did use some of my own source material (Police, Synchronicity 2, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, gold disc). It’s a close call, the memory is less clear than before, the systems are different and there was never anything like an A/B, but the subjective impression of profound sonic excellence imparted by the Summits is even more powerful that imparted by the Calderas. Previously, there was nothing close to the Calderas, in my mind.
Other speakers I have listened to much more recently, which were great, but not as great as the Summits, (in my own, unscientific, subjective and possibly flawed opinion ONLY), include: 1. Totem Winds: Just a great loudspeaker, with great tonality and detail, great soundstage, but seemed inferior to the Summits with respect to soundstage height and, in retrospect, mid bass punch); 2. JM Lab (either Mini or Micro Utopias, whichever sell for around 5,000; these had the Be tweeter): Very detailed and fairly sweet high end, excellent midrange and soundstage, but quite lacking in the bass, seeming to roll off at a rather high frequency, and showing some softness and just a hint of boominess, not acceptable to me, even knowing they’d have been supplemented by the Rel; 3. One of the upper level Aerials, I think it was the 7B: Really a fine loudspeaker with true finesse and sweetness on the high end, and a very respectable soundstage. These seemed a little rolled off on the high end and possibly slightly lacking in sonic detail. Sonically they reminded me of some of Dale Pitcher’s earlier designs in the lower to middle echelons of the Essence lineup. Those were a very “nice” loudspeaker with no glaring weaknesses, but they never blew me away like his Summits do now.
1. The Summits have the most amazing combination of high end smoothness and detail I have ever heard in any loudspeaker, at any price, bar none, especially when the Dodson DAC is in the signal path (it is possible for me to listen A/B by switching inputs on the preamp between the player directly or through the Dodson). This confers an incredible, unique and stark realism that is practically indescribable. It is a consistent feature irrespective of program material, including rock music, classical music, jazz, bluegrass, folk music, and even other things like the Cybergenesis theme from the Terminator Soundtrack. Sumiko has a song used its by dealers in setting up systems called “Say a Prayer for the Cowgirl.” This is a well recorded track and sounded very good through the Paradigms. It sounded utterly real and qualitatively different—starkly so—through the Summits. The Paradigms made it sound like the woman was in the center of the soundfield, singing into a microphone. The Summits made it sound like her voice was being magically amplified with no microphone or any hint of electronic artifact whatsoever, i.e. she was THERE in the room, floating as if she were a singing ghost, with normal timbre, only louder than a typical unamplified human voice
2. The soundstage is truly 3-D, with uncanny depth, height, width, and stability, with the WIDEST SWEET SPOT I ever remember hearing, so much so that—get this—THE IMAGE IS PRESERVED, EVEN WHEN SEATED OUTSIDE OF THE LATERAL CONFINES OF THE SPEAKERS! Yes, that is really true. Last night we listened to Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter, (Phillips Digital Classics, DDD), preformed by the “Orchestra of the 18th Century.” I was seated off center and outside of the plane of the edge of the right speaker. It was STILL like listening to the orchestra. I was amazed, able to perceive central imaging, off center imaging, and actually place the instrument sections of the orchestra both side to side and front to back. It was absolutely unreal. The soundfield hung in space as a stable, 3-D image, even from that position, seeming to become a holographic entity unto itself, rather than a well crafted psychoacoustic illusion based on auditory cues.
DEPTH and HEIGHT: These consistently convey depth of soundstage, the likes of which I didn’t even know could possibly exist in a stereo system. The tympani seemed to come from the back of the room on the Jupiter piece. With Dueling Banjos, the two banjos are placed very precisely and three dimensionally in space, every single time, as follows:
The first banjo is about 2 feet in front of, three or four feet to the side of, and one to two feet below, the second banjo. Both banjos sound exactly like banjos in the room, and they stay virtually locked in their respective positions throughout the piece, even when they start playing really fast, together. The taller one on the left may move in about a foot or so but that’s it. The various notes from the first banjo seem to emanate from different positions along a short diagonal corresponding to long axis of that banjo itself.
WIDTH: These are the first speaker I’ve heard in over 10 to 15 YEARS that project an image convincingly outside the lateral edge of the speaker, as perceived from the sweet spot. I first perceived this when the speakers were on brass spikes on top of the stands, which were on spikes coupled to the floor. Dale suggested granite surface plates and Stillpoints with inverted risers. I was wary but did it anyway and the image outside the speakers actually became MORE convincing and stable (base also improved, necessitating a downward adjustment in the Rel’s crossover, and detail sharpened still further). This lateral projection occurs with the Carlos Santana Song, “Black Magic Woman”, during the interlude near the end, where two separate sets of bongos are playing simultaneously. One set is projected outside of the right speaker, seeming to emanate from above the Rel, and the other is projected about one foot inside of the left speaker. Both also are projected about one or two feet BEHIND the speakers as well, and these images remain stable throughout the song. Other instruments are placed appropriately and stably in positions elsewhere on the soundstage.
3. BASS: The bass from these speakers is far better than any monitor I’ve ever heard, and in fact is more like that of a floorstander. The low end rolloff is stated to be around 40 hertz, and the bass with these is actually even better than what I heard from the Paradigm Studio 100 V 3 speakers that I owned for about a year. The crossover is set at 27 hertz, not 28 like I had thought in an earlier post to a thread. The midbass punch is just as excellent as that of the Paradigms, and just a tad richer without being soft or fuzzy. I had had concerns about a two way system going so low, but the midrange doesn’t suffer at all. Dale Pitcher had mentioned some potential “Doppler issues”, potentially introducing distortion when the 7” carbon pulp driver has greater excursion at higher volumes. I have simply NOT been able to hear this, ever. I think that they are actually “Doppler NON-issues.”
Part IV. Photos—See below.
Part V. Personal anecdotes and observations of others, including non-audiophiles.
1. Alien abduction-like, lost time:
I was listening to these and it was getting later, around 9:04 on a school night. I wanted to listen to only one more song, for about 5 minutes. I listened for about 5 minutes, and glanced casually at the clock, startled to see that is was about 9:53. Then I remembered having listened to not just one but several songs, losing track of time. No aliens. It was kind of weird, though.
2. Closing my eyes, images of musicians playing instruments, moving and singing spontaneously appear in my mind’s eye, unprompted by me.
3. Our 10-year-old daughter’s friend was listening and asked why the loudspeakers suddenly sounded so “good”, after we got the Summits. Our 12 year old son said that it was weird that such a small speaker could sound so great, even compared with a larger floorstander. My mother in law is NOT an audiophile and NEVER had asked me to play the stereo (married 17+ years), but did just that when she heard “Dueling Banjos”. My 75 year old mother said that following the setup of these speakers, it was the first time she’d ever been able to detect a sonic difference out of all the other upgrades and tweaks. She thought that bass and separation were better.
A close family friend of ours, Rose, had this to say:
“The Intuitive Design Summit listening experience provides sensory delight in every sense of the word. The sound is ingested, swallowed whole, distributed to the senses, and the eyes watch while the sound dances overhead, just in front of the minds eye, just barely out of physical reach. There is a definitive head and heart connection, which delights the soul and the even the “average” listener will delight in the effect.
“The sound penetrates the senses, notes dance in the field of vision, while the auditory nerves carry the sound deep inside the chest/heart where the feeling is indescribable. I have never in my life ever heard or felt the notes in such a strong sense. The experience has been one of the most intense feelings I have ever allowed to wash over me and over take me.
“I do not consider myself an audiophile. Instead, I would consider myself a dilettante.”
Part VI. The Poem, “Pitcher Perfect: Ode to the Summits”
i know there are those who will think this a shill
but please understand that these loudspeakers thrill
so before you post pot shots, loud and shrill
please take a quick listen, if you will
your soul will shine, sparkle and glisten
if only you’ll give these fine speakers a listen
for then you should find my words to be true
but ‘til you listen, you won’t have a clue
the time’s getting late as I look at the clock
but I just had to tell you---these loudspeakers ROCK!
Part VII. The “Disclaimer”
Disclaimer/conflict of interest statement: NOTHING at all, I am just an ecstatic customer who’s been waiting anxiously to post this UNSOLICITED review. It was and is totally and completely my idea, which occurred to me AFTER purchasing and setting up these speakers. It is absolutely, positively NOT a shill. I swear to God.
(As a courtesy that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this review, which I had already planned to write, Dale Pitcher was kind enough to send to me four small sheets of ERS cloth in an attempt to solve an RF problem, which I had contacted HIM about. They did not work in that application and are not in use. It should be obvious to even the most hardened cynic (and/or dullest moron) that this act of courtesy does not constitute compensation or a quid pro quo. It seems absurd even to mention it, but having navigated through some of the threads on this site, I’ve chosen to include this distracting and ridiculously trivial “disclosure” as the default course of action.)
Dedicated circuit with two pairs of Porter Ports 20 amp outlets in a 4-plex configuration.
Groneberg Reference Power Cords for Osyssey Stratos Extreme monoblocks, plugged directly into the Porter Ports (because that's what Klaus told me to do :) )
Groneberg Reference Powercord for Odyssey Tempest Extreme Preamp.
Some higher end Transparent Reference cord for the Dodson 217 Mark II D DAC.
Previous generation 10 amp Powervar
Onkyo Integra DPC 8.5 universal player.
Groneberg Digital Reference interconnect from cd player to DAC.
Audioquest (Python ???) interconnects from DAC to Preamp.
All other interconnects are Audioparts mas Signature, cryo treated interconnects.
Speaker cables are Audioparts Mas Signature Hybrid Reference bi-wires, with spades, stacked at the speakers' binding posts.
Cable to the Rel Storm 3 is Signal Cable Speakon. Rel is plugged with a "regular" power cord directly into the wall.
A Parasound R/EQ 150 has been modified so that it can be in the signal path but emulate a hard wire connection when set on bypass, which it usually is.
The Onkyo universal player, the DAC, the preamplifier, and both monoblocks sit on Audiopoints by StarSound Technologies, and the points sit on the matching discs.
Stillpoints with inverse risers support both speakers and both stands, with the whole assembly sitting on huge granite surface plates (I got the 75 pound plates for about 130-something dollars, including shipping, on ebay).
First generation Dakiom Feedback Stabilizers are put on the back of the CD player, the DAC and inside of the Rel, spliced into its amp.
Second generation Dakiom Feedback Stabilizers are on the back of the preamp and the back of both amps.
All connections are treated with Quicksilver, from Extreme A/V.
Paradigm Studio 100 v3, Paradigm S8's, Aerial floorstanders (I think 7B but am not sure), JM Labs Mini or Micro Utopia Be monitors; Totem Winds--all recently before buying the Summits, and I owned the Studio 100's for about a year.
Long ago I listened to Audio Physic Caldera Loudspeakers.
by Mdhoover on 11-26-05