They seem to be a "cult item" and some people swear they are the greatest, and others don't like them at all. You have to listen to them to see which side of the fence you are on.
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It all depends. A new Obelisk comes to 4,400 $ now, I think. Due to his 8 drivers of high quality, the Obelisk usually survives even long duty without being strained. It has, indeed, been updated by Shahinian frequently, but every old model can updated as well. Before buying, I would give Shahinian a call, ask about updating, and what he thinks of your buy. Another thing about the Obelisk is that they sound terrible if they have not been used for some time, as I know from my own experience.
I recall hearing these at one of the earliest HiFi Shows I ever attended back in the mid 1980s at the hotel across from MSG in NYC. I know the hotel name has now changed. Of all the speakers I heard that day, these impressed me the most. They were placed in a corner and simply were invisible. I have always wanted to try them in my room but rarely see them on the used market. And then to Hassel's point, they need to be checked and in many cases, refurbished. At $4400 and it seems, no where to audition them, I would be cautious.
Just as a point of information. The shows that you are talking about were promoted by Terry Rogers for a number of years. These Hi-FI shows were prevelent in the mid 70's thru the 80's and shuttled between NY, Phila nad Wash D.C.
These were actually the predecessor to the Stereophile Shows. As I recall the exhibitors were for the most part manufacturers and dealer participation was minimal. They were great shows at a time where HI FI was much less commercialized and more about the love of the music and the hobby.
Arik e-mailed me, so I add a few points which might be of interest to other Shahinian-wannebees as well. The speakers as such do not sound coloured, have excellent details and soundstaging when run-in. They sound terrible when not being used, and need several weeks (no joke) to sound good again. And they need the wall behind them acoustically deadened - with carpets, foam, whatever. Another point is that they need good, fast cables and a very powerful solid-state amp with a lot of current.A tube amp will not work. I think that in any case an upgrade is worth it, because I have found Shahinian-speakers to be terrific, and even if you would spend 5-1000 dollars on an Obelisk-upgrade, it´s a bargain, because it will be like a new speaker. Their telephone is under www.shahihianacoustics.com
HEAVEN! I was at one of my first audio shows back in the 80's. Shahinian himself was there playing opera and orchestral music on his Obelisk speakers. Nobody spoke,people would walk in chatting but would become mesmerized along with everyone.... in awe, ...in splendor,... in heaven....with him getting up every once in a while to change the record. We were like in a musical trance. I'll never forget that! I will definitely get of Obelisks at some point.