RAW HT2, HT6, and HT3 at my house
RAW Speakers at my House
Over the past 6+ weeks, I have had the pleasure of retaining 3 sets of speakers from RAW Acoustics, based out of BC, on the West Coast of Canada – I am just outside Toronto, so it was a real treat that Al would ship these out to me, to try on, review, and post what I think.
For the record, Al and I have no formal or informal business arrangements, I do not make any money from his business, nor he from mine – we are both members of an online forum (www.audiocircle.com) and I contacted him to see if I could hear his HT3 speakers – they use a driver that I have experimented with, the WR125S, as well as the Extremis 7 inch woofer, and a proprietary ribbon tweeter.
Al graciously provided me with two other sets of speakers that he builds, in addition to the HT3 – the HT2, and the HT6, to compare and contrast, and post what I thought.
Over that timeframe, I have had 6 people to my house to hear his speakers, and some have posted to my thread around these speakers on Audiocircle (http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/viewtopic.php?t=27086&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0) in order to lend some other ears to the speakers, during their time at my house.
For those of you ultimately not familiar with my system (you mean you have not spent hours scouring AC for all my posts, etc? eeek!) it is as follows:
Room – unfinished basement of approx 25x35x7.5.
Front end – Bolder fully modded SB3, Bolder Rev1+Jensen caps upgrade PS for SB3
Amps – I use a JVC EX A1, a 3875 gainclone, and fellow AC member MarkC brought his hybrid tube/fet 300wpc monoblocks…
Cabling – Bolder M80 speaker cables, Bolder Nitro 0.5m IC, Bolder M80 IC, and MarkC also brought some Kimber 4TC with him
Power conditioning is a DIY Balanced power unit, search for Felicia on Audiocircles for more information, on the front end. 30A dedicated pony panel off my main electrical box, with dedicated lines out from that for 6 components, if need be.
Atlantis Reference 24 inch stands for HT2 and HT6. HT3 are floorstanding.
So, let me try to go through this all.
Each of these speakers exhibit excellent attention to detail around construction – excellent straight lines, great round overs, wonderful veneer, satin finish, SOLID feel. Each is surprisingly heavy, including the floorstanding HT3 that I knew would be heavy… Hand built, and in a good way…
The JVC EX A1, my preferred amp for my own reference speakers (DIY open baffle Visaton b200 drivers, run full range) just would not work at all. At low power settings, there was evident distortion, and snapping from the ribbons. Shut that off immediately, and pulled that amp.
The gainclone worked well with all 3 sets of speakers and this is the amp that Mumbles was hearing, when he was over. He brought his Modright modded Pioneer universal player, and that worked well.
When MarkC and his friend Tony came over yesterday, and this was when Sarchi was here too, we used a set of monoblock hybrid tube/fet amps (Mark, correct me when I veer off the track!) and a prototype tubed pre/DAC. That way, we could use my SB3 either as the source/DAC/preamp, directly to his monoblocks, OR, we could use my SB3 via the modded digital output, and let their preamp handle the DAC/Pre, and then on to their amps.
Sidebar – oh baby these are some lovely amps, gorgeous walnut thick front panels, black cases, large side heatsinks (that never got beyond lightly warm in my environment, in spite of pushing the volume to levels well my normal settings – during Straus’ Also Sprak Zarathustra for example, we were 15 feet from the speakers, shouting to be heard, and still those amps were just barely warm… lots of clean, clear, controlled power from those puppies), that worked wonderfully with all the speakers we plugged in yesterday. IF you are in the market for some top notch monoblock amps, hand built by a couple of audio enthusiasts that obviously know what they are doing, I advise a note off to MarkC hastily…
Ahem, back to the RAW speakers, and what I think of each of them, having heard them for several weeks, with several amps, front ends etc.
Let’s start with the HT2’s. I have played around with the WR125 drivers in these speakers before, though admittedly never in an MTM, and never with such a wonderful tweeter. The HT2’s, on my 24 inch Atlantis stands, delivered excellent sound, when seated in the sweet spot. When one walks around the room however, they lose some of that glorious top end – the tweeters, according to my ears, are limited in their vertical dispersion – now, this could be that they belong on 28 inch stands, or it could be that the MTM setup sounds different off axis vertically, or whatever. For seated, sweet spot listening, they deliver a full bag of goods – smooth highs, rich mids, and in room bass to at least 60-65Hz in my big room. In a smaller room, I can only imagine these would do a decent job of loading, and the lower frequencies would be more apparent. I really liked the highs on every single one of Al’s designs, and the other 2 sets of speakers placed that tweeter higher, and with no woofer above them, so they were incredible, even when standing and walking around. For me, the HT2, in my room, was a great little speaker, very dynamic, and very good for sit down listening. If you like old school two channel, sit and boogie, and I do, these are a great choice. A sub will be required, for the last 1-1.5 octaves, but this is simply the way these are designed. When pushed hard, the bass can become a little wooly, and the mids suffer, as the 4.5 inch drivers are asked to do too much, over too great a range, at too great a volume. Then again, what are you trying to prove? For realistic listening, in a seated position, in my room, on my 24 inch stands, they would be a great choice.
Let’s move to the HT6. This is a larger box, using the longer RAW ribbon tweeter, and now using the Extremis woofer, for both bass, and mid. It is an interesting contrast to the HT2, and I suspect that listener preference will guide you to like one over the other. As this tweeter is significantly taller than the one in the HT2, and it does not have a woofer above it, I did not have any vertical dispersion concerns, when out of the sweet spot. As reported by others, this speaker is more forward than the HT2, and presents more low bass. It may or may not be hot at 1KHz, my concrete walled room could surely not be helping in that regard… but in any case, it is a good 2 way, if quite large for stand mounting. I found that in comparison to the HT2, the highs were more forward, the mids a little recessed, and the bass different – this is to say that the HT6 bass was lower, but less rich. Not lacking, but deeper and drier. I suspect that this is because the 4.5 inch driver in the HT2 is more full in the upper bass, while the 7 inch Extremis fills lower, but less richly. A tough decision between the two, they are both great stand mount speakers, and it depends on what you are looking for, which is better for you. I suspect that in a smaller room, the bass richness would increase.
Now the HT3. This is the best speaker of the three. It is also the most expensive of the three, but far from expensive in my mind. A league above the HT2 and HT6 – this is what happens when you optimize each driver, within the preferred operating range, and let them each do their favourite thing. Simple? I doubt it, to get smooth integration from all three drivers, and let them operate in their sweet spot, cannot be easy, and the level of crossover components suggests that Al has really done his homework here. The same tweeter as the HT2, the midrange is covered by a WR125 4.5 incher, and the bass taken over by the 7 inch Extremis. This is some of the smoothest, sweetest treble I have heard in my room – my PM to Al included a question around “how can you achieve this level of detail, but with a rich smoothness?”. This proprietary driver is well worth hearing! The mids, when the WR125 is allowed to function just in that region, are great – not forward, or too full, but really nicely integrated with the treble. The bass, while not the last word in integration with the mids and highs, is very well represented, as that Extremis gets to focus on where it does the best, in my room.
Every single person who came to hear all 3 speakers said the same thing – this HT3 is the best, by far, in a different league than the other two. BUT, it is important to consider that my room is also likely best suited to that speaker – the other two just cannot fill the 6500+ cubic feet of air, as well as these do.
When driven by MarkC’s amps, this was a great match – I understand that Mark is interested in a set of these…
Full, rich, clear, clean, dynamic, pick your favourite audiophile phrases, and you are right there.
The only caveat I have, is around bass integration. Al tells me (tempts me perhaps?) with information that the new HT8 etc have that cat in a bag…
In the end, these are all good, to very good, to excellent speakers – in terms of build quality, sound reproduction, finish, value etc.
I characterize the HT3 as this – this is all the speaker that any rational person needs. It is high end for regular folks etc.
I don’t happen to fall into that rational category… so it is not the ultimate for me, but for 90% of the people I know, this would be all the speaker they would ever want/need, and a custom build to boot.
WAF is off the chart with the HT3, 5 out of 5 wives that saw these, were all over them, nice look, simple, small footprint etc, so if that factors for you, ping Al and start a conversation.
Thanks again to the AC members and others who came over, and lent an ear to these, and a big thanks to Al for sending out some great product, to a guy that he had never met, 3000 miles away etc.
It was a pleasure to see, feel, and hear these speakers, and in many ways I will miss those HT3’s when they go…