Review: Aerial 20 T .2 Speaker

Category: Speakers

This is a study in Passion and Dedication first and foremost . These 2 themes run constant in my writing here.

This is a review of the Aerial 20 T. I have owned this speaker for 4 years now and am just getting around to a review for several reasons. First , Mike Fremer reviewed it and gave it product Of The Year in Stereophile. What more could someone like me add. Secondly , this is not the 20 T. Yes , you read this correctly. It is something entirely different. Lets call it the 20 T. 2 .

History lesson . Mike Kelly is well known and highly respected in the industry. His dedication , intense passion for his work and company are now legendary. His passion for people , and the intense respect he is willing to give is simply awe inspiring to behold. To know the man is to know the speaker. The 20 T is the culmination of his life's work . The speaker is balanced , respectful to the material being played and most importantly delicate to a whisper . It is a refined , sophisticated speaker that never draws attention to itself . Just like the man himself . Also , It is a work of art to behold. At 270 lbs per side , it is strong , fanatically well braced internally and belies its size and weight in appearance.It just doesn't look this big in the room . The wood finishes are arguably the best in the business. That said , I want to introduce you to its successor. The 20 T . 2 .

Actually I made that up . Its still called the 20 T for some odd reason . I guess its his humble way of not making splashy entrances.

Mike gave me a call to say he had made some changes to the speaker . If I wanted to have them upgraded at the factory , I could send them in and pay for the upgrade. I asked him what was the change and he said ... " we couldn't improve the ribbon tweeter because we haven't found anything out there to surpass its performance but we changed the drivers and crossover ". Oh.... that's all??

Fast forward a week and they arrive . I set them up and let them slowly burn in a few days before making any assessments. "Sir , this is not the same speaker" I said to him once I got him on the phone. He laughed and asked me to be more specific. Here are my thoughts .

Virtually every aspect of the speakers performance has improved and in some areas , its a dramatic improvement. The first thing that jumps out at you is the explosive transient attack . These new drivers pack a seismic punch that is initially alarming if you are playing Blue Man Groups " Audio " at 100 db accidentally. I jumped for the remote to shunt the output but noticed a startlingly open and congestion free presentation before mute kicked in . I relaxed and brought the volume slowly to the same setting and sat there in utter astonishment as the 20 T s breezed through excruciating and complex percussive passages without breaking a sweat. I picked up the phone and called a dozen friends in near hysterics I was so impressed. Oh yea , I didn't have the 2 SW 12 subs "on" that I routinely have connected to give me that impact I sorely needed .....before . The 20T . 2 simply doesn't need subs anymore for musical playback. Period .

The second thing that is so apparent is that it is seamless in presentation now. Before , I personally felt a minor discontinuousness from the upper midrange to the hand off to the ribbon tweeter, not any more. This had the effect of bringing everything together as a whole. The sound freely flows from octave to octave and no attention is drawn to the crossover at all . Its something that's difficult to put into words but obvious when you hear it . It is simply a complete package now.

Midrange , from low to mid to upper midrange now was breathing ... it was alive in my room with a presence I have rarely ever experienced from ANY speaker. "Stepping Out" , one of Diana Kralls early discs is mesmerizing sonically . With this new speaker , I hear the piano hammer lifting off the strings and then the intake of her breath. I now hear this very easily. Micro transients are picture perfect as brush and snare drum swirl around the room . Vocals , male and female are far more present and "earthy ". Acoustic guitar on any of Govis recordings jump out at you . Explosive snap of percussion , deep bass both are spotlighted now as obvious strengths in the 20 T. 2 . Before , this was not the case , lets be blunt about that .

At the LA show this year , I heard the demonstration of the Willson WP 8. My first thought was . Wow, this has all the strengths a speaker in this price range needs . Deep down , I longed for some of the WP 8 s lower midrange and bass impact in my own 20 T. I can say that the upgrade addresses these issues and surpasses my wishes.

This is not " your fathers audiophile speaker " anymore. It is now a powerful , dynamic insanely under priced speaker that deserves another serious review . It is at once comforting to know Mike has done this type of improvement without renaming the speaker and jacking up the price to match the performance { which should be significant imo }. It is also discomforting in that many of you may not be privy to this change , thus my review.

I am in no way affiliated with Aerial nor Mike . I am an owner of the product and feel it is my responsibility to make this public . If you are passionate about music and dedicated to the sonics that deliver it , this new speaker may just seduce you . It has me.

Associated gear
Meridian 861 V 4 Meridian G 98 Bat 6200 amps {2 of them bi amping each speaker } . Kubala Sosna , Elrod speaker cables , interconnects and pcs.

Similar products
Wilson WP 8

Thanks for the review. I bought a pair of 10T's about 6 years ago and still really like them. I admit being tempted though when I see a pair of 20T's come up for sale.

What does Mike charge for the upgrade?

I could find nothing about the upgrade on their website, is yours a prototype? Have you heard about potential changes for other speakers in their line?
thanks for the review. i guess these and vandersteen 5a's are the bargains in ultra high end speakers. please post upgrade cost if you can.
Thanks for the nice article, makes me wish I could experience what you're hearing :-) Only out of curiousity, how tolerant are these speakers IYO to listening off-axis, particularly in the top octave when standing up?
Hello Zaikesman ,

As per the review in Stereophile , reports by others and common observations regarding dispersion characteristics of the ribbon design of the 20 T , vertical off axis sonic characteristics change when you stand up. This is indigenous to the design.

These are audiophile speakers and setup is to exacting standards. They are designed for a sweet spot and they deliver. A speaker like this is to be respected for its design and listening in the sweet spot to me is quite frankly the only way to experience a speaker of this caliber.
IMO this speaker is the sleeper of the highend speaker game. I would not even think about a diamond tweeter without giving this speaker a serious audition.

I hope to own it one day. Right now its not old enough.
Hi Mitch , the company will make an announcement in the near future and possibly do something as soon as CES. I know they show at the Mirage Hotel in a beautiful , excellent sounding suite. Its a great chance to hear the 20 T , the System one and have a first hand view of some of their exotic finishes. They had a finish last year that was a burnt orange - futuristic look that I will not soon get out of my head. They are also releasing a new color called basalt .I heard from the National Sales manager , Lee Sosby that it is like " looking into outer space " . I just ordered 2 SW 12 subs in basalt today as a matter of fact. Give Lee a call at 978-988-1600.
Oh my gad those are gorgeous. I'll bet they sound as good as they look. My Thiels also have a rather focused sweet spot.

I guess I'll get a pair of these when I hit the lottery or get a job with the federal government.