Review: Wavetouch Grand Teton Gen2 & SE Monitor
My quest for a pair of stand mounted speakers began when circumstances necessitated moving my audio system into an 8.5’ x 11.5’ room. With the help of GIK Acoustics I was able to treat the room to a very neutral frequency response. It meant listening to my modified Quad 988 speakers, on Mye Stands with Tannoy Supertweeters, in nearfield mode and only 52” away from my ears. My equipment racks were wall-to-wall on the short wall behind the speakers so “crowded” is the most polite word to use to describe the space. The sound was transparent and deep using the rule of “thirds” in set-up and employing a DSpeaker DSP equipped subwoofer. The frequency response from 20hz – 20khz was quite flat with a few 3db rises. I just couldn’t get used to feeling as though the speakers were on top of me with just enough room for my legs to fit between them when reclining the Lazy Boy. I have a pair of LSA 1 speakers, which are in Absolute Sound’s Buying Guide, in my home theatre set-up so I moved them into the audio room. They are polite and forgiving which means that they have a slight veil over the music, lack dynamic contrasts and micro details which is probably good for my multi-channel receiver. They went back to the theatre.
I began my search with local dealers. Because the formula of electrostatic speakers like Quad is no crossover they are very coherent throughout the entire frequency range and I wanted that quality in any new speaker. I also needed speakers were not particularly sensitive to sidewall first reflections. Before deciding on Quads I owned or auditioned Celestion, Dunlavy, Genesis, Wilson Sophia, Ariel 10, and Magnepan 1.6 speakers.
My first audition was the Revel Performa M106 that is reviewed well by Absolute Sound. It did not come close to the Quad transparency and coherence. Next was the Sonus Faber Liuto Monitor. They are beautiful to look at but not as good sounding as the Revels and a far distance from the Quads. Next was the BMW 805D. Sophisticated but not dynamic enough for me. I then auditioned a pair of Paradigm Signature S1s; crystal clear but even tubes can’t tame the tweeter for my taste. This search clearly confirmed for me that I was looking for a dynamic, transparent sound that reveals micro detail without etch or grain and has the magic midrange of the Quads. A tall order for sure but not one that I was prepared to compromise on (when the Legacy Focus SE came into the market a couple of years ago I bought a pair and although I loved what the Heil tweeter did for extension and air it just didn’t have the midrange magic of the Quads so I sold them).
I wasn’t sure where to go from here. Harbeth speakers are considered by many to be the best monitors but there isn’t a local dealer for me to try them at and they are too expensive to take a chance on through mail order. I kept pouring over postings on Audiogon and reading as many reviews as possible. This is when I came across Wavetouch Audio. I have always liked to follow a path that the majority don’t, i.e. I own Space-Tech tube pre and power amps, both with tube super rectifiers, that were custom built for me with solid oak chassis. They certainly are different to look at than the standard metal cases and the sound is to die for. Well Wavetouch speakers certainly are physically different and it prompted me to explore the technology and to open a dialogue with Alex Yoon who owns the company. Remembering the Heil tweeter from the Legacy Focus SE gave me a positive feeling that if Alex crossed them over at the correct place the sound could be good. I decided to order a pair of his Grand Teton (GT) Gen2 speakers that came with a 30 day money back guarantee (I will admit that without that guarantee I would not have taken the chance).
Alex sent me photos of my actual speakers before and while being boxed for shipping. It made me feel a part of the manufacturing experience in a small way. The speakers arrived in their custom boxes with padding that was clearly numbered in case I needed to repack for return (smart thinking). The cabinets were more beautiful than the photos showed and with the red horns for the tweeters and black horns for the woofers they looked wonderful. I gave them the knuckle knock and they were inert and dead which is an excellent sign that cabinet resonance will be minimal.
Like all new products that require burn-in I ran them on the XLO sweep for 100 hours before having a listen. That 4 day wait is not an easy one but important for me to know that the first impression will be pretty much the way the speakers will sound forever.
That first impression from the first track was of a speaker that is dynamic with PRAT and drive without the sound stage coming further forward than the front of the speakers. The depth and transparency were not quite as good as the Quads but I had read that it could take up to 250 to fully break in so I let them run for another 6 days before listening again. The treble from the Heil tweeter was now “Crisp” and floated nicely without having any etch. The soundstage was larger than from the Quads and the midrange magic that I was used to was there in spades. The bass was deeper than from the Quads (I measured it to be flat down to 48hz!) so the sub crossover needed to be adjusted downwards. The extra detail that I heard from well known recordings was a bit eerie considering I have owned or auditioned some very expensive speakers and was hearing some information for the first time. As noted earlier I have tube gear and my sources are the PS Audio DirectStream DAC that converts all files to DSD and a VPI Aries 2 with a Lyra Skala cartridge. I believe that this provides a type of a sound that is NOT solid state but is not old fashioned bloated tube sounding, neutral by my definition. Audiophiles who use solid state gear that leans towards the bright side of the scale might find the Wavetouch product to add to that bright picture.
After full break in, the sound was so natural and involving that I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it could be with the SE version. A week later I traded my Gen 2s for a pair of SEs with red tweeter horns and blue woofer horns. Alex was trusting of me and shipped the SEs while I held onto the Gen2s.
The Grand Teton Signature Edition (GT SE) of this speaker, in my room with my equipment, is world class. It does everything that the Gen2 does but with more refinement, a slightly larger soundstage, a bit more detail while at the same time being smoother. The bass is stronger. Any change I make with cables, tubes and placement are immediately noticed leading me to believe that the expensive cross-over parts have lifted any veil that might have existed in the Gen 2s. They allow great recordings to sound great and average recordings to very nice but poor recording will sound like they are. These are primarily CDs from the 80s and early 90s. This is a great speaker for all types of music like jazz, classical, pop, folk, blue grass, and even rock although the Gen2, in comparison to the SE, gave it a slight advantage on that genre. Solid state folk might even find it neutral! Because the design will not accommodate grill cloth, it will not be a right fit if your space allows young children to roam.
In summary, the Wavetouch Grand Teton horn designed speakers are both revealing and warm, have great extension at both ends of the frequency scale, are tolerant of placement closer to side walls than most box speakers, sound great in the near field, are coherent and transparent, have a huge sound stage, and are an easy load for any amp to drive. They are not inexpensive at $3K but compared to others speakers I have heard, they are worth every dollar.
I must mention that Alex Yoon is a wonderful man to do business with. He is humble with a passion for what he is doing and for his products. If you are searching for a new speaker that has a modern sound, looks unique, and is beautifully made in America this should be on your audition list. The money back guarantee makes it an easy decision.
Space-Tech pre and power amps with tube Super rectifiers.
PS Audio DirectStream DAC
VPI Aries 2 with Lyra Skala cartridge
Sonus Faber Liuto Monitor
Paradigm Signature S1