Review: Harmonic Precision Caravelle Monitor

Category: Speakers

Hi, my fellow audiophools. Well, I've been listening hard for the past 3 weeks (perhaps too much so, time to relax) to my new Harmonic Precision Caravelles, from Star Sound Technologies. When not listening, my mind has been reeling with my impressions, (that's why I write them down) and how to convey those thoughts effectively through a review. Though reviewing is not my forte I want to do justice to what is the most exciting and amazingly beautiful sounding monitor that these tympanics have ever heard. The qualities of the sound rival some floorstanders, especially in regard to bass. Later for that.
I'm not adept, nor capable of explaining the scientific workings of their patent pending series crossover (one of the main reasons for this phenominal sound) or the reasons behind utilizing a hard dome tweeter rather than the ubiquitous soft dome or the complexity of the cabinet's composite material . All this is Star Sound Technologies job, should you want to explore their website and check the Caravelles out.
The Caravelles, all 9 1/2" x 12x 16"--50lbs of them, are finished in a high gloss rich black finish. While (black) not the color I usually go with for speakers, they match beautifully with my Sistrum Mini Monitor stands. Speaking of stands: these babies must, (to sound their best) sit atop the dedicated stands developed for them. I own their (dedicated stands) big brother, the Sistrum Mini Monitor Platform, while not on their website yet, will be shortly. Since the speaker was internally and externally constructed with resonance transferrence technology and principles, matching the Caravelles up with stands that couple rather than decouple, is fundemental and essential for the speakers to sound their best. That being said, there is not a stand out there that adequately couples (without modifications) resonances to mother earth. Of course, with proper stand filling and points, other stands can be modified, but will, still, fall short transferring deleterious resonances. Sistrum's stands, however, are not only beautiful (very unique looking), but perfect coupling conduits. The Caravelles have to be purchased with the dedicated stands. The cost of $4500, while some may find pricey, delivers big time, and considering what the Jmlab Micro BEs cost;-- a bargain. And they sound better. Many times you don't get what you pay for, but in this case there is true deliverance and then some.... Utilizing the Sistrum stands will ensure that the Caravelles sound the way they were designed to.
Now, onto the sound. First and foremost; the bass. If I had my eyes closed, and had no idea what I was listening to, I would never, in a million years, think for a moment that I was listening to a small speaker. NEVER! Prodigious, deep, well extended (enough ho hum adjectives for ya?) bass. Clear articulation of bass notes, with speed, clarity and slam rivaling anything I've heard. Patricia Barber's "Use Me" on her Companion album (second track)has a 4 string bass run that will rattle your sternum if your speakers have the balls. The Caravelles do, and handle this extended powerful bass line effortlessly with slam and spl levels at, near, earbleed levels. Barry White's Icons of Love cd, track 2 (as well as most of the tracks) is a real subwoofer crippler. Some seriously deep Hz. Also Jennifer Warnes Way Down Deep, track 8 on The Hunter, which will humble many speakers, again, sounded pristine, tight and powerful at high spl levels and quite robust and satisfying at low volumes, as well. Acoustic bass whether Scott Lefaro to Ray Brown sounds sweet, robust (there's that word again--I'm running out of adjectives-- novice reviewer that I am) detailed, yet delicate (if you can imagine) at the lowest volumes. Kick drums along with bass guitar? Lightning fast. Having been a Magnaplanar Tympani 1-D owner, years ago, I can fully appreciate speed. The Caravelles can play at incredible volumes without congestion. Telarac's Stravinsky recording of the Firebird soars. At loud levels--free of coarsness, graininess and handles complicated violin crescendos galore. Amazing. How's that for a treble segue? Drum sticks on cymbals, brushes on the same and snare as well, triangles,--- beautifully light and airy with enough sound of the metal to sense it, but, still with a lovely texture always keeping me attentive, but not fatigued . Brushes on a snare or cymbals can (with inferior speakers) awash the soundstage like white noise. Not with the Caravelles. Perhaps the Caravelles are allowing my Prima and Passion to do what they do best.
The Caravelles are, hands down, the most phase coherent speaker I've heard. No sense of the sound coming from the speaker. They disappear, with a wide and profound depth that flips me out. One of the reasons I love monitors. Enough!?!?! Can you hear what I've heard? No way, of course. Maybe, if William Faulkner lived today, and was a true audiophool, you'd have an idea. Then again; probably not. My Revels couldn't go a round with the Caravelles. Until I heard the Caravelles the Jmlabs Micro BEs were the best damn monitor I had ever listened to. Sam Tellig's review in Stereophool said exactly what my experiences were with the Micros. The weakness inherent in the Micros, are not present in the Caravelles. The review, otherwise, could have been about the Caravelles. Maybe the Micros tweeter had and edge over the Caravelles. Maybe. These babies go where no little speaker has ever gone. I hope I have conveyed enough enthusiasm to get you check the Caravelles out. Please feel free to ask away. I avoided,though tempted to compare them to the Sonus Faber Cremonas, the Revel Gems, the Jmlab Altos, the...woe silver!--, I said I wouldn't do that. Not fair. Star Sound has a winner. Thanks for listening.

peace, warren

Associated gear
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If I'm picking up on what you're saying, I think you like them :). My wife hasn't said that many nice things about me over an entire 8-year span!

I need to audition those babies.....
So Warren is heaven at arms reach? Or is heaven all around you like a fabulous soundstage? Tom
Dan, did that really come across, that I liked them? I thought I was, perhaps, a little to laid back. If you love your F30s I can only imagine how you'll feel 'bout these babies. I've heard your Revels. Fasten your seatbelt. You have no idea....
Warren you spoke highly of the bass as if came from a ten or twelve inch driver. The highs were pristine and all intergrated with the bass...What about the mid-range qualities, were you not as impressed? Transparency? Tom
Hey guys. Some of you have sent me some aside emails. I thank you for your thoughts.
Tom, I was equally impressed, and looking back at my review (see why this is not my forte) I see that I mentioned little about the midrange. Transparent? Yes indeed. Very low levels of coloration. Female vocals (the true test) clear, open and very intimate. Ricki Lee Jones in Pop Daddy (one of her best), you can hear her tongue on her lips/palid. Very sweet and real. Oscar Petterson never sounded so real. Piano music is one of my loves and from Petterson to Fazil Say--wonderful. Hey I don't want to go crazy. I hope I anwered your question.
Roy that's a very good point. With me, the short comings usually come out over a longer time. Perhaps looking back at my review I was so gah gah that it sounds like this speaker is perfect. The shortcomings? You notice what I was saying about the treble? Is this as good as it can get for the upper end? Of course not. Is the bass as slam bang powerful as anything out there? Of course not. Could a Bosendorpher sound more dynamic? Absolutely. Does it sound amazing through the Caravelles? You bet. I guess what I'm saying is that there are no apparent cons. Just the plain ole truth that they do not do everything as well as other speakers, but they are in the big leagues, for sure. I hope that helps a tad.
Thanks, Warren. I think you're right; the shortcomings usually come out later.
Warren, Congratulations! I take it you love your new speakers. Is it not also amazing how wonderful sounding that YBA is with some really great speakers?

Although, one drawback....I think you may have to reconsider your CD purchase allocations for this year. I am sure that all of the music manufacturers are certainly happy with your new speaker purchase. They may actually see a profit this year. :)

And Cincotti?????

Happy Listening Warren.

I am interested in the long term on these. I heard them at a demo session preproduction and I was really impressed. It was hard to really compare them to the monitors I had heard although I have the Revel M20s. They are head and shoulders above those and really are competitive with the Gems and higher. Frankly I thought they had the best bass of any monitor I had heard by a long shot. These seemed to be pretty remarkable speakers and I would love to hear them now that they are in production.
Ken, I can only imagine your face after you hear these babies. Obviously you loved what you heard with the proto types, which I didn't have the opportunity to hear. These speakers are very exciting. I'm looking forward to others buying or at least, demoing them, to hear other audiophool's impressions. Your impressions are in the ballpark, now, considering what you've already, heard. I, too, owned the Revels. Different league. Comparison wouldn't, even, be fair. It still freaks me out how much slam these Caravelles are capable of. Enoug; there I go again. peace, warren
Just maybe a novice question...but, how do these compare to the Europas from Green Mountain Audio for $3000 less....seem to be of similar thought and design. john e
No clue, never heard the Europas. Better comparisons are speakers costing $3000 more than the Caravelles.
Just a little update. Can these get better? There getting better all the time. good title for a song, don't you think? Ok, ok, cut the corn. The upper end is so smooth and extended and the phase coherence astounds. I'm just listening and enjoying my tunes. The Caravelle is fast. This is one hellava speaker. I'm looking forward to others sharing their experiences with the Caravelle. I called Robert and Brent over at Star Sound Technologies to let them know of my listening experiences. They are amazing guys, truly concerned with the sound, and my impressions. They told me many of these babies have been sold, so I imagine, after they have had their break in, we'll be hearing other 'goners. At least I hope so.... Look forward to the audiophoolish talk.... peace, warren
another semi update. What I am most perplexed about, and really have not found the words, yet, to discribe- is the beauty and quietness of the treble. It's so friggin amazing, yet I'm really not exactly sure why I'm hearing what I'm hearing. Called the creator of the speaker, out in Lincoln Nebraska, awhile back, and he explained in detail (forget about explaining it. I'm an electonic's dufus) how the Series crossover (speakers use a parallel design) is the reason for this. The crossover is the fundemental brain trust of a two way ( or any# way) speaker. This patent pending crossover is responsible for what many speakers, just, cannot do. The upper end is so sweet and extended, coming from what I perceive as a black, absolutely quiet, background. No lingering residue of sound between the notes, at any volume (particulary loud, though). Coming from a year plus of listening to the Revel M20s- I'm amazed at what I was missing. I thought I beat this to death already, but I can always beat things to death again. I await someone with direct tympanic experience with these babies to share with us/me. Thanks for listening....
Warren, we have very similar taste. Every piece of music you mentioned I also have and use to test my systems. I also own the YBA Passion amp. I read your reviews and they were accurate.
I currently own the JM Lab Micros(old ones) now. I use them with a REL Storm III sub to fill in the bass. I recently moved and I have a better listening room. It's 16Lx13Wx11H. The system in this room sounds fantastic. I've been thinking about getting either a small floorstander like the Kharma or a Larger monitor. I'd like the speed and clarity of the monitor, but would like to get a fuller sound if possible. I have been intrigued by your comments on the Caravelles. Having said this my system sounds pretty good as it is.
do you think the Caravelles are that much better than the JM Labs? Would the Sub compensate for the low end miss? I live in Texas and wanted to find out how you heard them?
Will they sound better than the Kharmas? Don't know. Will they sound better than other floorstanders? That's a big yes. I have never listened to the old Jmlab Micros. I have auditioned the new ones.. I do know, first hand (in my opionion, of course) that the Caravelles are substantially better than the Micros. If you didn't have a sub, you might not require one. It's a personal thing, but the bass slam is quite extraordinary. They are the most transparent speakers I have ever heard. Will they be a significant upgrade from your Micros. If going by the new Micros is any indication; yes siree!! I bought them on the words of a couple of golden ears I respect. Hope that helps. peace, warren
After only three weeks break-in you are in hysteria, that is, over-dramatizing. Wow, I can't wait until another three weeks have passed to see what adjectives you use then.

BTW, how do these compare to the superb Europas? Why hasn't anyone else mentioned these excellent speakers in this, or any other, thread?
Ran out of adjectives..Rewrite of the dictionary is going on as I write this..Creation of new vocabulary and exempalaries are required to describe the Caravelle..Tom
They are too new to be a household word. Give them time. The cream always comes to the top. Don't have a clue how they compare to anything, but what I mentioned in my review. Took three weeks to get to 90%. The other 10% will be like a fine aging wine. These speakers are glorious.
>Don't have a clue how they compare to anything

Well if you don't have a clue how they compare to anything else, why do you think they better compare with speakers costing $3000 and up more than they do? That doesn't seem to make any sense, so why should I consider you credible in the least?
Suits me just fine ..Replaced my almost still Dunlavy SC4's that now have outboard x-overs and 4k worth of mods with these babies..Caravelle's are more dynamic more musical, more transparent, more coherent, better bass..Compare to the big boys... go ahead. Made more sense to me upon audition.. Waiting for dedicated stands to take me to the next level of information and reality.Tom
A little update: Having owned Magnalplanar Tympani 1Ds, Theils, Revel M20s and PSB Golds, I was not familiar with satisfying sound at low volumes. The Caravelles can certainly take whatever you put into them, but for the first time, I am enjoying my music at low volumes. The bass is a bit soft /rounded (naturally with low volume), but the midrange and treble are sweet, full bodied, open and airy, making for satisfying jazz and classical listening.
I do like Carvelle ice cream. Tends to soften up over time. Quite liquid. Left an indelible impression.
Hi Warrenh,

Your review of the Harmonic Precision Caravelle Monitor speakers is very intriguing, right now im in the process of upgrading my speakers to Manger Zerobox 109 from a pair of Dynaudio 1.3SE.

Please can you tell me how do they compare to the HP Caravelle Monitor's, the mangers to me were extremly smooth without the loss of detail and the vocals were the *BEST* I have heard till date in the in the range of $10,000.

My electronics are as follows;
Conrad Johnson MF2500A
Audio Areo Prima DAC MKII (Capitole Dac)
Proceed CDD Transport

Awaiting your reply,
Sorry I can't help you. Never heard either of the speakers you're comparing. I will say this: (funny about the timing of your post ) I had two audiophools over to my place in the past week who freaked out, big time, over my system. They heard my system with the Revel M20s and the Thiel 1.5s as well. They have some very serious systems, and I think their speakers may be on the 'gon soon. Who knows. peace, warren
Neither of my buddies are Audigon members, yet many of their comments/impressions were the same. The look of the speakers with their dedicated stands was a tremedous visual point. Bass extension, (without sub) so deep and extended that I had to show both audiophools that my sub was off. The midrange was the kicker in so far as clarity, depth, and the ubiquitous hum drum adjectives used to describe such. Now, for me, listening again to some serious recordings, the high end goes to a place as sweetly, detailed, openly airy then any berrylium tweeter I've ever heard. Of course my system has attained a lovely synergy.....everything works together beautifully; the Audio Magic Eclipse with dedicated wiring and power cords putting together some wonderful electrons to play with.
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Well Warren, you have been right all along, according to the recent accolades from the audiophile press about the Caravelles.

Congratulations on being ahead of the game, and out in front on the cutting edge of performance monitor speaker systems.
Thanks Tom. That's music to my ears. Good for Star Sound. They deserve it...Looking forward to Srajan's review. He had a tympanic freakout, too, at the Rocky Mountain Audio Show. 'tis exciting....peace, warren
Hello Warren,I must stop reading this review ,,its driving me nuts,,well ,ill have my Caravelles soon!Peace,Ray
you will soon be a member of a unique bunch of audiophools. fasten your seat belt, Ray...warren
Should not be to much longer,,,,,,,tell me again how good they sound,,aw come on ,,one more time!!My Paradigms will be shipped out Tue.Cant wait to unpack my new babies,,