I call this battle "David vs Goliath". Can a small manufacturer (and designer Brent Real) passionate about their product, design and build a $5000 monitor speaker that competes with the likes of Wilson Audio's MAXX, a well-funded, well advertised and reviewed, and superbly built product (at $40,000, it should be) designed by a legend in the audio world? Read on!
Let me begin by explaining how this battle came to be. While waiting for new VAC tube amplifiers a local friend asked if he could bring his Harmonic Precision Caravelles to my room to see how well they would fill the room with sound as he and his wife plan to build a home with a dedicated listening room similar in size to mine. I agreed and help set up his dedicated stands built by Sistrum and the Caravelles. This friend also had available two of Sistrums new amplifier stands for guitar amplifiers, so to completely isolate the vibration of my Krell 750mcx mono amps, we installed the Sistrum stands. Next, we swapped out my Transparent Reference XL speaker cables for the Sonoran Plateau 8ft. speaker cable designed and manufactured by a sister company to Sistrum and Harmonic Precision all under the banner of Star Technologies. We listened and then fiddled with the placement, the speaker distance apart and the toe in of the Caravelles. The speakers ended up around 8 feet apart and my listening position was around 9.5 to 10ft away. After a good two hours of warm up, the speakers finally started to open up...they had been sitting for 3 weeks unplayed, so they needed some time to warm up again. So what was my impression? BLOWN AWAY! Here was this small monitor with a 7 inch midrange cone and 1 inch dome tweeter filling my room of 13.4W X 18.6L X 10.2H with the most three dimensional, musical sound I have ever experienced in this room. The MAXX are a very revealing speaker and I have enjoyed the Wilson speaker for years, but the MAXX did sound better in my former room that was 2 ft wider and 8 ft longer. In my present room, the Caravelle's were superior (not just a little better). Let me say it again for emphasis, "SUPERIOR" to my MAXX. The imaging was superior, the depth of soundstage was superior, the inner resolution was superior, the tweeter was beyond superior. Never had I heard strings and classical music sound so smooth and real...not etched like the MAXX tweeter can sound. The dynamics were superior. I could not believe a monitor could reproduce the dynamics of classical music so easily and clearly without strain or muddling of the mass strings. The quiet between instruments and the space between instruments was eerie; by far the best I have heard from any speaker from any manufacturer. I attribute this to the cabinet design and the microbearing technology that the Caravelle has on the rear of the cabinet. To finally get the lower octave we had missed, we added my friend's Sunfire 10 inch subwoofer. This sub was not Sunfire's best but it integrated perfectly and delivered the low end in spades. The Saint Saen's Organ Symphony #3 was the best I have ever heard it reproduced. Keep in mind we were listening through Krell electronics which many people would criticize as bright. My friend is a VAC tube lover and I have heard the Caravelle's many times on his former VAC equipment and was always impressed with how musical and real the music sounded...the typical in the room type musical reproduction vs. a good reproduction of a recording like so many other systems. I also could brag that experience with the Krell driving the Caravelle. Even this friend, a die hard tube lover said he had never heard Krell or any solid state sound so real and life-like, like the sound prevelent in a tube system. I enjoyed this set-up for over three weeks as my friend waited for his new electronics to arrive. Well, as all good things come to an end, so did my time with the Caravelle's. The real test was reconnecting the MAXX again. I can honestly say the Caravelle's musical sound, imaging, soundstaging, and incredible sounding tweeter spoiled me. The MAXX sound big, bloated and flat across the soundstage, meaning they didn't have that in the room three dimensionality the Caravelles threw at me.
Friends and audiophiles, I can honestly say this speaker is a giant killer. It does everything right...it's musical, dynamic, resolving of inner detail and most of all engaging. I loved them so much, if I can sell my MAXX, I will buy a pair and mate them with an even higher quality subwoofer and for a fraction of the cost, kill a $40k giant in the industry and its smaller best selling brother the Watt/Puppy 7's. I want to be very clear. I am not an employee of this company nor do I get any financial benefit from writing this review. All I write is from the heart to give credit to a group of really great designers who love what they do and prove it by building a fantastic product at a fair price. You can wait until they advertise in Stereophile and Absolute Sound, but then you'll have to pay two or three times more for the same product. Find someone who has a pair of Caravelles and go listen for yourself. You will not be disappointed. My only caveat is be prepared for a long break-in if you buy them. I listened to this pair over several weeks as my friend was breaking them in and they just got better and better over that four week period. Thanks for reading this, I hope it has been helpful.
Very nice review, now be prepared for the assault!
I can understand the confusion. A product from a new or relatively unheard of company is something to be a little cautious about at first, but AudioPoints has been one of Stereophile's recommended products for years and years and years.
I think that the biggest concern people have is believing that these items can possibly be as good as they are when they're quite a bit cheaper than their competition. Like reviewers say, there's a difference between "is this better or just different?", and sometimes the real answer doesn't hit home until the commitment is made.
I switched to the Sonoran cables almost a year and a half ago, and made the upgrade from the AudioPoints to the Sistrum stand at Christmas. The Caravelle's are built using the same technology, and it's not a new technology. It's just a different implementation of it using steel microbeads, and the technology works.
I've known TheAudioTweak, a Star Sound Technologies dealer for a good ten years, long before he became one of their dealers. I've heard the Caravelle's over at his home many, many times, and they're very special speakers indeed.
I'm sort of in the same boat as you, except I'm more in a pontoon compared to you in a luxury liner. I have B&W Silver Signature's ( $8,000.00 ), and am having an extremely hard time accepting the monetary loss in selling them.
Very happy you like them, and it was a very nice review!
Regarding Krellman's comments about the affordable cost of the Caravelles(compared to any competition), we at Starsound always strive to produce high value products.
The Caravelles are no exception. Our goal is extremely high fidelity audio reproduction, with as affordable of a price tag as we can possibly do.
While our products certainly aren't the lowest price around, they do offer extremely good value for the dollars invested.
We're very serious about sound, but it does little good if nobody can afford it. Our technology allow us to provide higher performance, and keep the prices within "buying range" for serious audiophiles.
I'm glad that some are reaping the rewards, and enjoying the benefits.
I have heard the Caravelles and these babies weigh 50lbs. each! I agree with the reviewer about the three dimensional presentation, it's phenomenal. I also use Star Technology Cables all through my system, speaker and IC, for source and monoblocks. These cables, when warmed up, are very musical. I was listening to Carl Orf's Carmina Barana(Deutche Gramophone) and my monitors just totally disapear. However I do not have the Caravelles. I'm using Ref 3a MM De Capo i.
Which leads me to this comparison: "How do the 4K Caravelles match to the 2.5k MM de Capo i?" Well, they are both quality speakers, but when I heard the Caravelles they were 2 channel surround sound. The sound stage was not large but HUGE and with that holographic depth I can safely proclaim I have not heard any speaker that was more alive. The bass was deep and punchy showing how important cabinet material and geometry is. There are many good Mini Monitors but few great and 4k is more of a steal than a deal.
I get all tingly when I read a review like this. Himaniac, I was raving over a year ago about these babies. Took some abuse, (some deserved) but the cream always comes to the top. It'll be interesting to read Srajan's review on 6moons, although we know what he's going to hear. This is one hellava exciting speaker, at any price and size... peace, warren
Well, I was the 'culprit' who brought the Caravelle's over to hifimaniacs house while awaiting my new amp. These things really are that amazing. I can't believe how well they worked in a large room. They totally dissapeared and the soundstage was huge and deep, with great 'staging' of the performers with air around them. They filled the room no problem - did not thin out at all. They maintained their warmth and musicality. What amazed me was the dynamics. The music in the quiet passages is detailed and engaging and then all of a sudden the music explodes when called to...and always maintains its integrity. It's this part of the speaker that makes it really engaging. It's hard to explain, but some speakers produce great sound, but the sound is just, well, just there...but the Caravelles are extremely engaging and involve you in the performance. I can't quite put my finger on it, but these speakers will put a smile on your face and make you go "wow" during a performance. I hope others are willing to demo these as they will be very happy audiophiles for a long time to come.
first room we walked into at the 04 RMAF in denver was Starsound. Of course there was nothing optimal about the room, yet these speaker impressed deeply from the getgo. the stands were very beautiful (now included in the price of the speakers). the integration of the drivers was flawless. i thought they sounded like Europas on steroids. the people from the company were very polite; they didn't have to push this product because they knew how good it was, and that it would speak for itself.
Stll i recognized the cold solidstate signature to the sound, and would someday like to hear the speakers with a beefy music reference or almarro amplifier. i have a very strong feeling that with tubes the timbre or tonal qualities, soundstaging and imaging abilities would go WAY up.
They were damned good the way they were. i had always favored floorstanders, but now i see the merit of a monitor. Certainly i have never heard a speaker with a plastic woofer and a metal tweeter sound this good.
Amazing. We are very lucky to have this kind of product available.
I am not surprised that a $5000 monitor could sound more realistic than a $20,000 (and up!)monster, especially in a real-world listening space. I had the Dynaudio Evidence Master ($80,000 new -- I got mine used, for less than a third of this price), and my Triangle Volantes ($5,000 - $7,000, depending on the Euro/$USD FOREX rate) sounded much more realistic in my smaller apartment than the big Dynaudios. The large, expensive speakers need HUGE spaces to sound realistic, or the upper midrange/lower treble seems to shriek and dominate: it seems that all such designs were "voiced" in the kinds of cavernous spaces you seldom find in normal homes and apartments, and the relationships between high and low frequency bands get skewed in the smaller rooms. I have had this experience with every huge, "price-is-no-object" design I have heard: you MUST have a huge, absorbant room and tons of power, and be able to sit 15'-20' away from the speakers, or the music will sound metallic and harsh, and there will be spatial distortions in the soundstage. I can't wait to hear the Caravelles for myself -- are there any dealers in the Los Angeles area? Happy listening! Clifton
Call Robert at audiopoints.com He's the owner of the company. I don't think they have a dealer in LA, but he may be able to turn you on to someone in your listening geography who owns them. Worth the listen. Coupled with a pair of killer subs-- My system is there..
Gkcc3 you hit the nail on the head with your post and that is why I sold my MAXX for the Caravelles. I didn't have to, the Caravelle sound better in my room than the MAXX did. I still think the MAXX is an awesome speaker in the right room, but trying to cram it into a small room and have it perform its best is tough to do. I am extremely happy with what I have now. If you are ever in Scottsdale give me an email.
Hifimaniac, thanks for the invite. I may stumble down on one of my golfing orgies...and I certainly will contact you if I do. I agree with you about the MAXX, even though I have heard it sound up to its potential only once, at a home in Salt Lake City (Wilsons are made in Provo, as you doubtless know) with an absolutely ENORMOUS listening room (at least 40' x 30' with cathedral ceilings) and the VTL Wotan (1000 watts of tube power). Superb. But the sound HAS to "develop" through space, and I think (in spite of the MAXX's high sensitivity) the speakers have to be driven hard to sound their best. I can't wait to hear the Caravelles -- maybe they'll be at the HE show next summer. Happy listening! Gerald Clifton.
Rja, the Caravelle will sound lean if you listen them to them without a sub because you are missing the lower octave below 40 hertz. They are clean, detailed and dynamic, but the sub will balance the sound top to bottom. I am using the Velodyne DD-15 and have been extremely pleased at how easy it integrates with the Caravelle. The flexibility in set up with the Velodyne allows for lots of user over rides to dial in the sound perfectly. Also, the volume control is handy for the heavily bass recorded CD's you want to turn down, or likewise, turn up on the low bass recorded pieces. Most subs force you to leave your seat to turn it up or down. I am crossing over the Caravelles at 47 hertz. In my room this is two notches higher than the self equalization process calculated, but to my ears sounds best. I hope that helps.
In use with my Caravelles are a pair of James EMB1200's each on a Sistrum SP101 large platform, each placed as close to the outside of the dedicated speaker stand as possible. The Velodyne would also be an excellent choice. I am a dealer..Tom
After a few days of warmup the Caravelles are starting to sound very good!I have a friend coming over thur to help move them around a bit,as they are a little tricky to move by myself with the 3 pc stands,i have too say that ive not heard cymbals sound so good !I will be adding a sub soon,not sure which one yet,,these are very musical speakers!Id like to thank all the Caravelle owners that have sent me emails and spent time on the phone helping me get the most out of these fine speakers! You guys are great!Thanks ,Ray
I know just where you are coming from regarding the stands. Unfortunately they are a real bear to set up and having very little patience with my wife (and her lack of any usable strength)made it all the more problematic. But, when the Caravelles have finally found their resting place (and they will)it is nirvana. Very magical. Ray, sounds like you're on the way. The friend idea is the way to go. Just don't crack open the brewskis 'til you're done. warren
Warren,The Caravelles are sounding better every day!So sweet!I believe i have the positioning very close now,,this is the best sound ive ever had,and better to my ears than most everything ive heard in the High end shops ive been to,,,,i think when i get a sub properly integrated into my system ,i will be "Done for now"!Thank you
When you get the right sub, there may never be a reason to think about a speaker upgrade. Well, you know how this hobby goes. At least for a very long while. If I hadn't moved? Well, you would still be listening to your Paradigms. I am so happy that you are hearing what I've been raving about, adnauseam I realize now, in the beginning with my Caravelle listening experiences. Hopefully the ZuCable Definition 1.5s we'll have similar effects. I'll be very gentle with my impressions. relax and enjoy. peace, warren
LOL,Thanks guys!Warren,thanks for softening the critics for me!Eldartford,I have a mental image of sharp clawed audiophiles in a crouch with lips pulled back revealing dripping fangs just waiting for me to praise my Caravelles,so they can swoop down and tear me limb from limb!They still seem to be getting better ,sweeter,richer,i put the grills on today,they are very transparent,kinda like how they look too.Ill start working on a review in a couple days!
Love them. I have spent over two grand on new music in the few months I have owned the Caravelle's. They just keep my foot tapping. Last month I listened to music for nine (9) hours straight and stopped only because I saw the sun rising and had to jump in the rain room to get ready for work. For me this is what it is about. I listen to the entire CD now and just enjoy it. Even the tracks I did not care for. I've finally stopped analyzing what gear I have and just enjoy and appreciate the music.
I sold my Thiel CS 7.2 with Pass X600 amps once I purchased the Caravelle's. For me, that's how good the Caravelle's are. With Star Sound's new Brass monitor stands, it takes these great speaker to even a higher level of performance.
Just got off the phone with Robert not five minutes ago and we both spoke about how great the Caravelle's sounded and how much better they can sound now. The sonic connections are in re alignment and looking towards their great migrational pattern again. Tom
This is great news for Robert! This speaker never received the chance to impress the masses and achieve the recognition and acceptance it deserves! The speaker is so much better than other monitors 3x's the price and with the best stand design ever! I'll look forward to others singing the praises of Caravelles.