New speakers in the living room

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I’ve spent the past couple of months building a new set of speakers based on a design by Wayne Parham (Pi Speakers). They are three-way horn-loaded speakers, using high quality PA (public address) drivers that are a lot more efficient than the speakers they are replacing.At the weekend I finally was able to install the new Pi Sevens in the living room. Here’s a first set of impressions.

My system is as follows:

  • Townshend Rock III turntable with Grado MM cardtridge.
  •  EAR 834P phono stage
  •  Naim CDP8i CD player
  •  First Sound passive “preamp”
  • Music Reference RM9 tube amplifier
  • Mixed cables – DIY solid silver, Cardas speaker cables

The speakers replace my Thiel CS3.6 floor-standers, in roughly the same locations (corners). The room is sub-optimal in that the speakers are in corners that also house bookcases, and there’s a baby grand piano between the speakers along the same wall. However, there’s no sign yet of any piano-contributed vibration.

I’ve been listening to lots of stuff: Beatles, Tom Paxton, King’s Singers, Lieder (Brahms, Schubert), Wagner, Gilbert & Sullivan, Dave Brubeck, and a mix of CDs and records.

The first impression is of a very delicate and accurate mid-range. The King’s Singers have never sounded better. The mid-horns seem solid and unfussy. The treble is clear, but I think a bit recessed, and definitely less audible than with the Thiels. The bass I’m not quite sure about yet. Clearly the power of the woofer is exciting a couple of room modes, and I will need to build some tube traps or something, and possibly alter the room layout a bit (I’m sitting against the back wall, which is probably not ideal). The most obvious effect is on plucked bass lines, and also some coloration on male voices. But except for the notes that are too loud, the bass seems clear and unobtrusive. I don’t know if I’m really getting all the extension I was expecting – this may be because of the bookcases, or (and I hope not) it’s possible the cabinets leak. I have been unable to detect much port action so far.

The other major change is the increased level of dynamics. I find I have to adjust the volume for every recording separately – I never needed to do that before. Popular recordings with lots of compression need to be turned well down. Classical recordings with wide dynamic range can be turned up and I still get good pianissimo, with exciting climaxes. The bass excitation limits my ability to listen loud – especially with bass or baritone voices.

I should mention Marina’s view – she has expressed three opinions:

1. “They are bigger than you led me to believe”
2. “They are uglier than I thought”
3. “They sound much better than the old speakers.”

…so I guess I get to keep them, but I will need to finish the veneering and clean up the wiring etc.

5 Replies to “New speakers in the living room”

  1. An update: I removed the bookcases (they were carrying all my CDs) and was able to push the speakers back into the corners properly. They are now 18′ apart (corner to corner), and the sound seems more integrated, with slightly smoother bass. The imaging has also improved.

    tim

  2. Ditto on Marina’s comments on speakers. I was a nag to my husband: speakers were larger than most pieces of funiture. Speakers were used as end tables etc because there was no room for real furniture. Speaker wire swaging around my room, another no-no. After this home move everything is installed flush in the ceiling home theatre style. While the boom can still drive me out of the room I did win a few battles on floor space. Tim you could tell the difference but not my boy so I don’t feel bad. Martimonial harmony is worth any melodic compromises at my castle. We are wishing for a piano concert in your castle soon. Plus I am glad your boys are back as I’d love to resume reading to them (or them to me now that they are so clever) 🙂

  3. Hi Jackie:
    It’s great to hear from you. Most of my wire is hidden, but there are still a few bits of swagery…

    The current project is to tune the home theater, which does use in-wall wiring, even though all the bits are in the room.

    tim

  4. Hi Tim,

    Built my own 7’s last year and am enjoying them very much. I don’t have an issue with looks or size (except my room is quite small) as I have mine situated in a separate building at the end of the garden. Anyway the reason for this reply is to ask if you can provide a link to your 7 Pi build pictures. I had a visitor a few days ago who is looking to get a pair built and is researching the built process – I know I found your pictures useful prior to starting mine, and I tend to post the picture of your ‘completed’ ones to show an alternative finish to mine (hope you don’t mind?). Anyway, hope they are still providing sterling service.

    Regards,

    Paul.

  5. Hi Paul:

    Thanks for your message. Here’s the link (I’ve been having some problems with my gallery, so the links from my blog don’t work at the moment): Pi 7 gallery.

    I’d love to see some pictures of yours…

    tim

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