Review: Harmonic Precision Caravelle Speaker
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.
Krell KCT Preamp
Krell 750mcx mono blocks
Sonoran Plateau speaker cables
20ft, cheap microphone cables as ICT
Sistrum amplifier stands for amps
Vs. Wilson MAXX