I was concerned at first when asked to review these
speakers after they were seen at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, as they cost more than my entire home
theater system. Oh well, I thought, who am I to turn
down a pair of these speakers? Let's be honest, driving $2,500 worth of
speakers with less than $700 worth of electronics seemed pretty silly. So
when I actually unboxed these things and hooked them up to my Marantz receiver and Panasonic DVD
player, I was quite literally floored.
By literally I mean I was actually still on the floor with my poor knees in
shock. Not to mention they sounded very nice even from down there.
(Editor's Note: One of the reasons I wanted Jared to review these with his
receiver is that they are very sensitive, which means modestly powered
receivers should work very well.)
First up in my round of test discs was the quirky and
complex Pork Soda by Primus. Track number 3, "Nature Boy", has a huge detailed
soundstage that became very open and transparent with these speakers.
Nothing ever sounded muddy even at very high volume. (See, I told you
they would work well with a receiver. - Ed.)
Each instrument had its
own spot. I soon found out that these speakers could extract never before
heard detail out of my music. The cymbals on this track, which usually become
muddy at high volumes, stayed very clear and smooth. Next up was "The
Pressman". In this song, Les Claypool's vocals and lead bass constantly
occupied there own space and never became lost. Again, I noticed a great deal
of separation between the three instruments. Herb's detailed kick drum had
nice amount of punch, and the cymbals again were clean and clear.
followed up Primus with a healthy dose of Jesse Cook’s Nomad disc. Starting
with "Surrender", I was amazed with the amount of detail that these
speakers can churn out. Even the quieter instruments like the triangle had
their own space and presence in the recording, which was not lost at high
During the next track "Beloved", the RA8s wonderfully reproduced the
haunting violin played by Chris Church. These speakers easily conveyed the
emotion produced by this amazing musician's bow. With the track "Leila",
there was a noticeably wide and deep soundstage, effortlessly extending far
beyond the speakers.
After all that it was time for the Melvin's classic
Stonerwitch. Starting with the eerie "Goose Freight Train", I instantly felt
the bass line which tends to lose impact unless the speakers have great
mid-bass. At all times throughout this track, the bass line kept its
definition, with every note detailed and equally weighted. I was also
pleased to hear solid decay with the cymbals. Not an easy task, and even
more surprising considering that I was feeding the speakers from a modest
Next track, "Junebug" is a much faster
and and more difficult song. An unfortunate part of this track is the compressing of the
instruments at high volume, in the disc itself. While these speakers couldn’t create magic out
of muck, they did a better job than most speakers I have heard. The final
track was the rattle finder "Lividity". This track is basically just low notes
highlighted by the occasional tap on the snare and thunk of a nearby box.
There can be a ton of atmosphere and depth in this track, which the RA8s
speakers did bring out. They also turned what can be a sometimes-monotonous
bass line into actual notes.
Designed to be very easy to drive (sensitivity is rated
at 95 dB), this line array proved to be no problem for my budget receiver.
Even though the speakers did highlight some flaws in my system, they also made
my favorite recordings sound better than ever.
In short, the RA8s filled my
entire listening room with beautiful sound. The sweet spot grew from only three seats
with my bookshelf speakers to the entire couch with the RA8s. Imaging,
detail, and depth were not confined to a small area as with most speakers.
This is one of the advantages to using a Line Array design. Another
advantage is the output level doesn't decrease as you move farther from the
speakers. A third advantage to this design is how little toe-in affects
imaging. The fact that they are taller than I am did make them hard to move,
but fortunately I was able to have them imaging beautifully with little
My time with the RA8s was short and sweet, and very much
enjoyable. My wife liked them too, and she was (almost) as sorry as I was to
see them go. Keep in mind this is the same women who once stated, "I would be content with just the TV speakers."
I found these
speakers to be very easy to drive with my budget-based system and a whole
lot of fun. The amount of detail these speakers could extract from my CDs
was scary. They are the kind of speakers that get you playing music you
haven't listened to in ages just to hear how much better they sound.
- Jared Rachwalski -