Acoustic Zen Crescendo

I'm pretty interested in these transmission-line, full-range speakers. Has anyone spent serious time with them? How do they compare to other contenders around $16K?

Unfortunately, I'd have to fly to SoCal for an audition, so I'd like to vet them as thoroughly as possible before committing the time and expense. Press has been very positive but also very limited, and user impressions are scarce on the web.

Thanks in advance,

I own a pair call me or email me!
I took notes at RMAF 2007 and this is what I wrote at that time:
"incredible impact, bass out the wazoo, excellent definition without brightness, very extended at both frequency extremes, fairly large visually, powered by 250W Halcro amps, a bit brighter than the ESP's, almost too much bass for the room".
I thought it was one of the better sounds I heard. I didn't buy them as they are too large for my space. I think it would be worth taking the trip to listen. Much to my surprise the last appearances at RMAF have been with lower powered tube amps which I have not heard, but the icing on the cake is that you have a wide choice of amplification. When I heard them with the Halcro's, I was under the impression they needed killer power.
Rhljazz: Thanks a lot for the notes. From what I've read, Mr. Lee worked pretty hard to improve their original efficiency. What was your impression of the midrange drivers? Do you recall whether they seemed seamlessly coherent with the lows and highs? What did you consider their main weakness--possible bass overload?

I have owned them for close to a year. Everyone is different, but I find them the perfect speaker for me. I had taken advantage of the trial periods for a few others- Reference3a Grand Veena, Zu Audio Definition Mk2, and a Tyler Acoustics model I don't recall. I say this to let you know I have tried others before settling in to these.

The Crescendos are a full 'meat on the bones' presentation, and they produce NO listening fatigue whatsoever. The midrange is pure and grain free, the highs sweet and not at all agressive. I hear no discontinuity between drivers, though I admit I listen more to the music than to the 'sound.' When I have audiophiles over, or want the last word in imaging and high end openness, the grilles need to come off, as the manual states. But the difference is not huge.
As far as positioning goes, they are not too finicky. Mine are in my living room, therefore I don't have them as far from the walls as might be acceptable by audiophile standards, but they still image and soundstage well.
I like to listen at the loud end of reality, 90-100db at times, and they play along nicely and just make you want to listen more.
If I had one nit to pick regarding them, I feel that the grille mounting scheme is not worthy of a $14,000
FWIW, I use an LSA Signature amplifier, Bryston BCD-1 player, and VPI Classic as components.
I am by no means a reviewer, so I probably left some things out that are of interest. Feel free to ask any questions.
As I recall the imaging was excellent and the sound was not confined to the speaker cabinet.
The drawback for me was the physical size and the bass output for my room which is a bit of an odd shape, but only 14x15. If I had an appropriate size room, I would own a pair.
James_Edward and Rhljazz: Thanks a lot for the info. These speakers seem to offer a lot. I'm going to have to find a way to hear them!

Bill, it will be worth the trip.
I also was hoping to hear some more comments from people who have had a chance to hear the Crescendo.
I currently listen to PSB Sync. One's and was wondering if the Crescendos were enough of an upgrade to justify spending the money.
I have talked to Robert Lee and am going to fly out to San Diego and give them an audition in mid April.

Mark, After your trip I hope will share your thoughts.
Gday Mark,
I am from down under in Sydney, Australia so it might seem strange to get a response from the other side of the globe! I have been living with the Crescendos for over a year now and am one happy camper. As you can imagine the Australian market offers limited choices of speakers but we do have exposure to some fine offerings. I spent the good part of 6 months auditioning different floorstanders from B&W, Sonus Faber, Dynaudio, ATC, Focal to name a few. I just felt they all sounded similar in the $15K to $20K price range. Nothing really stood out for me. When I read that one sole chap was importing Acoustic Zen in small quantities I made the effort to have a listen to the Crescendos in his own house. The speakers are larger than most competitors but not overly so. The gentle tapering of the cabinet lends the speaker a graceful presence. I am certain when Rob Lee was designing the Crescendo its ultimate size played a big part in its end result sound. They just disappear within the huge soundstage they produce. I found absolutely zero listener fatigue as the sound is not at all 'pushed' towards you like some speakers do. A slightly laid back sound means the speaker, despite its size seems to work in smaller rooms. My room is only 12' x 15' and using appropriate room conditioning such as bass traps in the corners and a few acoustic panels here and there I have simply magical music in my room.
On the note of the PSB Synchrony One, I had the pleasure of a home demo at a friend's place and really it is no competition to the Acoustic Zen Crescendos to my ears and my friend's. The PSB Sync One is a fine speaker but I felt it nothing out of the ordinary for its asking price. The extra spent is a 'no brainer' as you guys like to put it! At the risk of upsetting PSB owners the Sync One is a fantastic speaker beating many similar offerings from B&W, Focal etc but I just felt was not in the ball park of the Crescendos. And it shouldn't be as it is significantly cheaper too!
Hope my thoughts were of some help.
ps I believe there are only a handful of the Acoustic Zen Crescendos on our big island down under so its nice to have something a little 'exotic'!
Victor: When you say the Crescendos have a laid-back sound, does that imply any want of high-frequency detail, air, or sparkle? When I owned Vandy 3A Sigs, as much as I liked them in many ways, I thought their laid-back character came with a slight loss up top. Do the AZs come with spikes or are they designed to sit flat on the floor? And what amps are you using?

As I have AZ Adagios after having Vandy 2 Sigs, I can say they're not laid-back. More forward sounding, but warm. Vandies were laid-back, and not warm at all.
I would not call Crescendos laid back. Neutral would be a better description as they have plenty of detail and sparkle, but without a hint of harshness. I also believe they come with spikes.
Perhaps I put it wrongly. Laid back for me means not in your face or front row sound. Although this could all be dependent on equipment and room acoustics. In the distributor's place with all Rogue Audio tube gear I got this impression. Also with my Herron/CJ combo I get a similar sound with a bit more 'punch'.
Everything in terms of detail, air and sparkle is there as others can atest to who have listened to the speakers at my place.
Bill,I hope you didn't mind me giving your post a bump,I wasn't trying to hi-jack your thread. I think we're on the same quest!
Victor,James, Thanks for the insight,it sure has me excited at the chance to hear the Crescendos next month.
Victor, I'm really glad you had a chance to hear the Sync. Ones,I really love these speakers and think they play above their price range,hence my initial question about being worth the money to move up.
I'm very interested in hearing the tweeters used in the Crescendos. I have a sensitivity to cymbals that sizzle instead of sounding natural,because of a slight case of tinnutis in my right ear.
My PSB's use a titanium dome tweeter. I have been wondering if the metal tweeters are the cause of the irritation. I don't have a lot of experience with that many speakers, so I really don't know.
Victor, knowing that I really like what I have now,except for the slight harshness that I hear on cymbals, do you think I'll be pleased with the sound of the Crescendos?
I had the opportunity to hear the Crescendos in a retailer's home here in NY with the Ayon Triton powering them, sourced through one of the Ayon cd players. The room did have some acoustic treatments.I spent about an hour.

The soundstage, imaging and detail were spectacular. I was very impressed all around, especially with the ability of the Triton to drive these fairly large speakers with absolutely no effort.

If I had the physical room, I would have already bought them. They are a bit large.
Just got mine 30 March. The tweeter is incredible! I had previously tried the Adagios, but they just didn't do it for me in the low end. I thought the Crescendos might sound similar to the Adagios...but they are even better in the high and mid frequencies. That two inch ribbon tweeter makes piano overtone transients come to life in such an incredible manner. My prev. speakers had twin titanium dome tweeters, which were pretty good, but these 2" Kapton ribbons ROCK! I was initially woried about having to sit in the sweet spot to hear them, but the dispersion is very wide and tall! Guitars sound incredible! I'm fairly pleased so far w/ the bottom end. There seems to be a fair amount of improved detail. I'm getting over what I think was some bass bloat from my previous speakers. I am augmenting with REL B1 Brittania, which has integrated very nicely. I'm so far quite happy w/ my purchase. I'm currently using AZ Matrix REF II ICs and Hologram MK II spkr cables w/ Hologram MKII Jumpers. Amp is a Bryston 6BSST @ 300W into 8ohms. Source is Oppo BDP-83SE NuForce Ed. Pre-amp is Marantz AV7005 (not sure what I think of it yet).
Ncable: Now that you've had them for a few more days, what are your impressions? Any changes with break-in? You're one of the few users with a high-watt SS amp. How do the speakers like all that power? Do you hear any hardness in the mids at high volume? What do you think of midrange clarity and accuracy? I'm also curious about your room and set-up. What are your room dimensions, how far apart are the speakers, and how far back is seating?

Has anyone compared these to the Von Schweikert Unifield 3s?
Any more impressions now that we're a few months later? Comparisons to others in simialr price range? Seems like a very interesting speaker in a very competitive pricerange.
Got my own Crescendos a few weeks ago to replace some Ocellia speakers. They have better top end, better imaging, better bass than the Ocellias and they are not even 1/4 broken in yet. So far very happy.

(Dealer disclaimer)
Fine speakers. Been using them since March, and don't have a single regret for buying them. They do absolutely everything a music lover needs. Don't think about the audiophile point of view, and don't care much for it.
You both got great speakers they are only a handful of speakers out there that are musical and do all the other audiophile things like imaging depth width to a wonderful degree. Hook them up to a 50 watt parallel singled ended to get their true capabilities. Enjoy you got one of the best.
So how many hours of break-in do they require? Do you toe-in or point straight ahead? (I have mine pointing about at my ears) I'm currently using an Atmasphere M60 OTL.

(Dealer disclaimer)
In my experience around 500 hours did just great. I have them toed-in for about 5 degrees towards me. Using them with BAT vk55SE.
My Crescendos replaced my Avalon Ascendants and I'm still over the moon with them; so musical and enjoyable...

I noticed the biggest difference after 2.5 months of use, images became bigger with more dimension, space, depth and they're still getting better.

Mine are 60" from the front wall, 45" from the side wall, with the spkr separated 7'6" with a listening distance of 7'6". I'm guessing mine are toed-in about 10 degrees, inside black base at 60" and outside black base at 62" and my spkrs really disappear.

These are the best speakers I've heard and the coherence of these are just unbelievable...
Thanks for the replies. Given that my mono-blocks use a total of 24 tubes I only have them on for 6-8 hrs a day, I don't even have 75 hrs total.
Today a good friend brought over a ss amp/tuner that I can leave on 24/7, maybe in another 4-6 weeks I'll hear the "magic".
Stay tunes, I'm hoping to report back some amazing impressions.

(Dealer disclaimer)
Can the Crescendos pressurize a large room (i.e., 17 x 30 x 9.5)? Do they need boundary reinforcement to do bass or can they perform in free space? I previously owned Daedalus Ulysses in the same room, which are spectacular speakers, but they needed boundary reinforcement to do bass, though I felt they still lacked in this regard in my room.
Wig, I can sign under every word you wrote about them. Crescendos are unbelievably wonderful. After all of these months of living with them I still can't believe I got so lucky to have them. And got them even without listening.

We got the same cablings, BTW ;)
Ejaynycrrcom I use the Crescendo's in a 16 x 28 x 10.5 room and they are about 8 feet out into the room and they easily pressurize the room, and they are not anywhere broken-in yet!

(Dealer disclaimer)
Shouldn't be a problem, my room is actually 15' x 40' with 6' wide fire place separating the two rooms and they play louder than I care to listen with 86 watts of pure tube power...:)
I'm not surprised by the many positive comments here regarding the Crescendo speakers. At CES earlier this year the system/room with these speakers were among the absolute top sounding in the entire show. I heard many speaker-systems that were 3-6x the cost and simply didn't sound as natural and musically convincing. This is a special speaker that presents music at a world class level without the astronomical cost of so called SOTA speakers that to me sound less impressive and enjoyable .

An added bonus is that this speaker is an easy load and sounded complete and just beautiful driven by the Triode Corp. PSET 845, a 50 watt amplifier in a relatively large room at CES. It delivers the whole musical picture with emotion and avoids the dreaded analytical, clinical and sterile sound that's prevalent in current high end audio.
Nearly 4 years, and I still have my Crescendos. For someone that changes audio components rather quickly, this is by far a record.
I belong to an audio club, and I find the most prominent flaw(to my ears), is too analytical a sound.
The Crescendos give you the music without the sizzle; it's all steak. They are not "ruthlessly revealing" of equipment; I would put them in the forgiving camp, and to me, that's a great thing. I have thousands of cd's, and can't deal with "audiophile music."
A great speaker; I tried in-home auditions of 4 others from various manufacturers before deciding on the Crescendos. I spent about 1K on shipping the others back and forth.
So I'm approaching the 250 hr mark on my Crescendos and they are finally starting to "relax". I thought they were going to be to hi-fi sounding as I find most multi-driver cone speakers sound IMHO. For over 12 yeas now I've been a no crossover design lover (Beauhorns and then Ocellia) and yes these are "different" sounding than those crossoverless designs but they are anything but hi-fi sounding. (Boy am I relieved). They are dynamic, soundstage like none of my others, and the height of players and instruments in the soundstage are just right.

(Dealer disclaimer)
Lack of a hifi character is exactly what makes the Crescendo speaker superior sounding to the vast majority of the currently in vogue "audiophile" favored speakers that are frequently raved about.

Just curious how far apart your speakers are, how much toe-in and how far you sit from your speakers?

I don't have the Crescendos but my Coincidents are of very similar size and have 5 driver configuration(two 10" woofers are side mounted). They're 8 feet apart, 5 degree toe in and I sit 11 feet away.
My Crescendos are 8 feet out into the room and 8 feet apart (measured from the inside of each speaker) and I sit 9 feet in front. I actually like sitting closer you get better depth and feel more part of the music.
Guys, sorry for the late reply. My Crescendos are almost 8' apart, 5 degrees toed-in, and 10 feet away from my listening position.
Sksos1, I will be interested to hear your longer term reactions to the Crescendo. After they are fully broken in, perhaps you can try them with a lower powered SET.
Just curious -- do the Crescendos need to be in a big room? A number of comments in this thread have indicated that the Crescendos are big speakers, although their physical measurements don't seem out of line with other floorstanders. (I am thinking of them for my 13 foot by 27 foot living room, but the speakers would be facing out from the long wall.)

Also, does anyone know of a dealer in the northeast that has a pair of these to demo? I have talked to two Acoustic Zen dealers, one on Long Island and the other in Bethel CT, and neither has this speaker on display.
Mcondon I'm located in NH just 45 minutes out of Boston and have them playing 24/7 (still breaking in) in a dedicated room about 16" x 26" but on the short wall and 8 feet out from the front wall. Send me a note and come by for a listen.

(dealer disclaimer)
I've heard these twice now and they sound amazing. Very natural and extended at both extremes, something I could live with for the long haul.
Hi Steve, thanks for the offer to hear the Crescendos in your system. There is a small chance I will be in your area in the next month or so (around the holidays). If so, I will send you a PM to see if we can set something up. Thanks again.
Will look forward to meeting you.

(Dealer disclaimer)
Mcondon, my Crescendo's are in my 15' x 22' family room and sound great. They replaced my PMC EB1i's that were similar sized 3 way transmission line speakers. I love these Crescendo's. I am in Albany, NY if you are ever in the area.
It's funny how perception can vary so greatly amongst different people. I'm familiar with the popular Wilson Sasha and Magico S5, both are very highly regarded. Yet in my opinion neither is nearly as natural, balanced and musically involving as the Crescendo. Subjective? Obviously so, but this speaker seems quite underrated for what it offers.
Charles1dad you are so right. Just because something costs more doesn't make it better. I myself have learned the hard way, a Kondo SOUGA amp ($50K) was easily beaten by an Atmasphere S30 (with the right speaker...not the Crescendos) and my Kondo M1000 MKII (95K) was beaten by the SMc VRE-1b pre. Expensive is not always better!

(Dealer disclaimer)
Hi Sksos1,
Appreciate your candor, that was no doubt a hard and expensive lesson. And one I'm sure you won't repeat.
12-16-13: Sksos1
Mcondon I'm located in NH just 45 minutes out of Boston and have them playing 24/7 (still breaking in) in a dedicated room about 16" x 26" but on the short wall and 8 feet out from the front wall. Send me a note and come by for a listen.
Steve, it was great meeting you. The SMC VRE 1 with AtmaSphere M60 driving the Crescendo is a fabulous combination. Anyone in the area should definitely drop in for a listen.

Happy New Year!