I wrote this review and posted on AudioCircle some weeks back and realized the audience here does not get much exposure to Salk Speakers so I decided to drop this here. It does not have the picture inserts I have there, but of course the words are the same.
Salk makes over-achieving direct-sell speakers that also happen to be works of art by their skilled crafts-people in the shop.
I have owned many pairs of Salks since 2007 and usually have 2 pair on hand in either of my 2 rooms. The SoundScape series was started as an all out assault on the very top end and to bring to market the best speaker they could, at the time, concept and design. I was involved some years back in the development of the series when a run-off between midrange drivers was held and the Accuton won that competition against another fine, respected driver. The RAAL ribbon is the smoothest tweeter I have ever heard even though I loved the G2 and the LCY was just about equal, the RAAL is head and shoulders above.
The SoundScape 10 and 12's have tremendous bass and I deemed them too large for my 13.5x20 room so I went with the 8 version which has an F3 of 25hz. With dual 8 woofers and 12" passives the surface area still gives deep bass but I find it faster and even more realistic for me in my set-up. Regardless, SoundScape speakers are the best of the best and unfortunately a small company like Salk often goes unnoticed against the likes of the more well-known power-hitters.
Here is my AC review copied and pasted here. (Nuance and Bob are AC regulars. The stuffing referred to is the ability to change the backwave of the Accuton by adjusting the amount of fiberfil in the cavity. Salk also provides a solid grill to completely close off the rear opening as an option.)
Okay, here's my SS8 review. I wrote it in word over the last few days. Enjoy.
SoundScape 8 Review by the Big "Blue" Machine
So let me start out by saying something that will shock you. I hated these speakers. For the entire first day. Can you imagine the panic that beset me: waited so long, highly hyped, Salk devotee, buckaroos invested, promises made, expectations planted? No pressure.
Why did I “hate” them? Well the bass was instantly noticeable, the midrange had balls, but the top end was missing in action. Out to lunch. On vacation. Oh crap, I thought these damn Raal tweeters everyone was bragging about were really MIA. Oh yeah, so smoooooth they say. Did they mean rolled off? Were these guys all high? After all, never having owned them and only auditioning them in the shop or hotel rooms I thought that there is no way they can be this bad in my super-duper room!?
So what was wrong with my set-up then? It couldn’t possibly be the tweeters. There was no way I am dialing up Jim and sheepishly asking what might I be missing. Sure, new cables, but hey, I burned the ever-lovin’ hell out of them on the Audiodharma. Sure the entire system has not been fired up for 3.5 months. Spiderwebs aside, how could this be? Okay, just let it run 24/7 and see if anything changes for the better.
Could I glean anything good from this after a few days? I played some of my favorite tracks as we all do to see what is up. Let’s test the bass, shall we? I have a few tracks in my convenient playlists to see if the room shakes ala the HT2-TL-shake I knew very well. So try Star Breath by Yello and Teardrop by Newton Faulkner and let’s see what happens. Hey, what is this tightness? Where is the boom? What is that sound I have not heard before? Hey, this is pretty darned cool. Very accurate and tight. I’ve had tight bass in, like, never. So this is what everyone means by tight bass. Hey HT2, you suck! You “told” me bass was room filling and “boomy.” You never scared the bejeebers out of me at 4:36 of Regina Spector’s Field Below like the SS8’s just did. I thought the freaking room was going to cave in! You never even toyed with me at that mark. You just blew right through it and pretended it wasn’t even there. You suck. Never come back. I’m sailing the SS8 midnight buffet of bass audiophile ship of dreams. Sucka!
Is the bass too much for my little room? Hardly. It is absolutely perfect for this room. Even the 10’s would work. The 12’s would definitely be leaning toward gluttony. They need space, but the porridge is just right with the 8’s. No boom, no abnormalities. Thank goodness I have traps and diffusers where needed to tame the environment because if left untreated…...it would otherwise ruin the experience.
And some smartass is going to ask: how big of a room will these work in? Hell if I’m an expert. I’m not even a first mate on this ship. If held at knifepoint I’d venture a 16 x 24 x 10 room is too big if you are expecting tons of bass. Best to dig deeper into Davey’s chest of gold for the 12’s matey. Not that the 8’s don’t deliver, but that is a pretty decent room to fill. And the blasphemers will add a sub!
So Blue, are you happy yet? Well now I am. Four days in and everything is settling down. What has changed? One major electronics change was the replacement of the BPT 2.5 with a new Audience Adept aR12 TS. It’s purty and seems to really do what the heck it is supposed to do. How embarrassing that it lists for more than the speakers or equivalent to the Dude and Samsons combined. Ouch.
So how do my playlists sound now? Well the tracks are the same, but, holy cow, there’s actual music in there! How cliché: I’ve heard things in extremely familiar tracks I have NOT heard before. So sit back for a minute and think about what has changed: basically just the speakers. Sure I tweaked in and then back out a set of opamps in the dac, but in retrospect my electronics met their intended target; to be worthy of the almighty SoundScapes. There were clearly innumerable nuances (zing, there he is) embedded in my favorite tracks that took $20k of electronics to extract. For some reason I had not heard these creepy features of these great tracks until now. Where am I going with this? Accuracy.
Accuracy right down the middle. Piano like you are leaning-on-the-sounding-board real. Little trailers of music in the right speaker at the end of a track you never freaking knew was even there! Bass drums with body and soul. Snare rolls with crispness and that snare rattle you get when the damn bass player hits that G and holdddddddddddddds it. Fun, fun fun.
I have, and I think you have too, always wanted to own that set of speakers that just gave you everything in the music: depth, width, guttural feel, honesty, nuances (zing, there he goes again), enjoyment at 11, fully satisfying. And without adding anything that detracted from the musicalness! These SS8’s really have such a refined delivery it is scary. The bass is tight, not bouncy. The midrange is just so honest and soulful. No flabbiness. No glare. No mid-bass hype. What about that midrange stuffing Blue?
You have to get off your duff and experiment on this one. Bob already stated what you can expect – unless your room is not treated right. Stuffed and the imaging is still there, but everything is placed very precisely. Maybe clinically, it could be argued over beers. Unstuffed and the imaging is still fine but there is more ambiance. For me right this minute I really like the unstuffed mode. With my diffusers right behind the speakers I feel more like I am at a live event versus a studio. It is NOT messy and cluttered, mind you, just more space. Very cool on the coolness meter. It is nice to have the option to open her up, lightly stuff her, or completely shut her the hell up with those totally opaque grill covers.
How are those highs now? They have arrived! Smooth as the Raals are supposed to deliver. No harshness at all. I had a few tracks where the LCY would make me wince. Not so with these babies. Kinda like cringing when you know the gun is going to go off and then you realize the chamber is empty, so false alarm on the wincing action. Whew.
I have no idea what changed other than time on the system or maybe that Adept needs some break-in. Lots of caps and gizmos in there. Everything seems well integrated now. If you are expecting zinging, and zipping with these tweeters – ain’t gonna happen. Not rolled off but well-tied into the total package.
Life is a beach, right? Actually, I hate the beach, but I was looking for something to coincide with the overall sound of these speakers. I know they are the flattest response speaker ever to come out of the shop (I believe this includes the bigger brother SSes) and the damn design was driving them to drink. But finally Jim and Dennis nailed it. A roofing hammer on a finish nail – bam! There are no more adjectives I can come up with here (much to your delight). I am not saying perfection. I’m not sure I ever heard that or will. My notes have these words written in pencil: honest, inner depth, revealing, smooth, deep. There is such an excellent reproduction of all the nua-let’s not go there, how about subtleties, in the music that I am absolutely thrilled to have finally gotten on the good ship SS. After all these years I can finally say I have reference-level quality in my system. Balanced from top to bottom but oh-so-reach-in-your-gut-and-pull-it-out-and-present-it-front-and-center capable. How about bad recordings, how do they fair? Okey dokey – no exasperation of the badness. High rez? Watch out. Gonna be a long night unless you were short changed at the hi rez counter.
I have to come back to one of those adjectives again. I listened to some tracks for the 4th time in a week and keep hearing more accuracy in the sound. Bass guitar sounds like real bass guitar and a tom-tom whack sounds like a nice maple shelled 15 incher under a Vic Firth number 3A. When the bass player whacks the upright in Open Wide by Jen Chapin at 0:51 you can hear his ring slapping the bass as well as the bellowing of the cavity he is hitting. Scary.
Confians by Mino Cinelu is a great track and the beginning bass drive is deep and penetrating which sets the tone for the rest of the song. Laying down that back beat. Then you get the slapping of the electric bass strings at 1:34 and it bites hard at you. Jumps right out like you had your face in his space. And he keeps doing it and you start to wait for some more. This lays on top of the backbeat. At 2:48 the phrasing changes and the tom tom has perfect tone and resonance for those fleeting seconds it is soloing.
Any market comparisons? Not many unless you go waaaaay up in price. My drool factor kicked into overdrive on the Vandersteen 7’s. I personally dislike powered woofers, but those speakers fill my sails. I’d love to get them alongside my new beauties. I’d expect a good run. The Audi R8 is great off the line but usually loses the ¼ miler due to poor top end that the Lambo’s have. Still a thrilling ride with either but quite a difference in price as well. I’d expect a similar ride with the Vandy’s although their bass is going to be badder right out of the gate. Watching Top Gear. Blimey.
Now for some boring stuff. Size – they have girth. Freakin’ heavy – pushing 10 stones. Lots of drivers in thar. Approximately 44 inches high, 12 inches wide at the plinth, and 17 inches deep along the plinth. Four of the beefy SS spikes. Your choice of black or silver feet and nameplates. I had Propeller Binding posts installed. These will not accept banana jacks as you need spacing to “wind” them up. This took a custom plate. I’m such a pain in the ass.
So should you buy a pair? You better you Lily-livered Scallywag!! Sure, twice the booty over the HT2’s but a jump to lightspeed and reference levels. Put all your wants and hopes behind you and jump on the good ship lolly-eight!! You’ll be glad you did. Finally!!! Now what the hell do I need on Audiogon?
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