A very different hifi system

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Aug 10, 2019
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I have been a fairly regular reader of WHF for a couple of
years now. I appreciate its accessibility vs. other mags that preach the
outrageous. Anyways, I got myself a WHF five star system about 4 years ago
consisting of the following:

Cambridge Audio 640A

Cambridge Audio 640C

Mordaunt Short Declaration 914

QED Silver Spiral interconnects

QED Silver Anniversary speaker cables (biwire)

I have to admit the system gave me years of enjoyment, much
better than computer audio, car audio and the like. I did, however, get the
upgrade bug a little while back and I wanted something significantly better. I
had heard a couple of systems available with some of my friends which I really
liked which became my reference for ‘high end’

Krell SACD Standard, 280
pre, 2250 power, Martin Logan Summits – A little dry but with beautiful
clarity, dynamics and imaging

Pass Labs amps, Sonus Faber Stradivaris – Very sweet,
instruments would hang in the air, and it had grunt when called for

Carver Amps married with Totem Forest speakers – Wow, what immediacy.
Brilliant midrange and imaging

A high end Tannoy setup at my friends studio – Sublime speed
and immediacy, very in ur face

Arcam A70, matching CDP and KEF IQ9 – Not impressed, didn’t feel
it was a worthy upgrade from the Cambridge setup

Mid Fi Marantz / KEF setup – Not impressed, no better in my
opinion than my current setup

I wanted to get the real high end deal, but without emptying
my bank. Anyways, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about AVI ADM9’s and
other active speakers. I explored all sorts of active options including
Genelecs, JM Labs Twin 6be’s, PMC actives, ATC actives and then I came across
an American brand known as M Audio. They have recently launched an interesting
product known as the EX66. I noticed they reviewed very well in Sound on Sound
(one of the big pro magazines) and that it was priced very reasonably. I just
went ahead and got myself a pair…

Lemme just shoot some specs your way:

Built in DAC, mono pre amp and 2 x 100 watt power amps in
each speaker

36 hertz to 20+ KHZ frequency

Max SPL of 115 decibels

Built in DSP to
counter cabinet resonance

Analogue volume control

Controls for adjusting treble, midrange and bass though a
DSP system

2 sets of digital inputs (SPDIF and AES), 2 sets of analogue
inputs (TRS and balanced)

Then I did something awful, I placed them ontop of my
Mordaunt Short 914’s and wired them up with Linn Analogue interconnects
connected to the digital outs on my CA CDP! At first I found the sound very
open and dynamic, but very stark and jarring. I trimmed the treble 2 decibels,
boosted the midrange 2 decibels, and set my bass to half space. Then they
really started to sing.

Treble – extremely dynamic, very open and pleasant as long
you don’t toe them in. Never sweet, but pleasant

Midrange – very alive, brilliant imaging with great depth
and outstanding instrument separation without sounding clinical

Bass – Awesome! It gave me a huge amount more extension than
my old setup was capable of, was much faster and much more accurate

Dynamics – Fantastic dynamics, even at very low volume. I
have an SPL meter with me and have witnessed the SPL effortlessly jump up from
94 decibels to 102 decibels in my listening position which is 4m away from the
speakers. That too in the 10 o clock position

Imaging – I feel its comparable to the Krell / Martin Logan
setup. Brilliantly executed but not overdone

Speed – This system is lightning quick, my old system timed
very badly in comparison

I’m gonna replace my Linn interconnects with a pair of
proper QED digital cables and am getting myself some proper stands (probably
Dynaudio). If its that good when not properly setup, I shudder to think how
good it will be when properly setup.

The only niggle I have with the system is its user
friendliness, the volume controls are on the back of each speaker, and each
speaker has its own volume control which can be a real pain. Just one more
piece of advice… Never listen to anything with high frequency junk, these
speakers will severely punish you with their dynamic treble.

Just wanted to share my experiences…
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
You've gone from seriously budget and zoomed past mid-range and gone straight for the stars!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
That was the idea. I was listening to Bon Jovis Everyday just yesterday; The opening guitar riffs appear one foot to the left of my left speaker, Bon Jovi starts singing center left, 6 feet ahead of my speakers and the drummer is just behind my speakers. Theres tonnes of sound, pure, direct, noisy, wonderful.I feel like I am sitting in a live concert

I was listening to Stings live album. You can hear the audience clap and cheer. He is alive and present in my room
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Hi, I used to think the same way. I used to think the ideal system should not have any capacity for tweakery, but then I started reading some pro journals and I have some friends who work in recording studios who changed my view. Every speaker cabinet, has some form of resonance no matter how high tech or expensive. The solution a lot of high end manufacturers resort to is heavy cross bracing and space age materials and shapes - but even then you get resonance to some degree and pay a huge sum!

If I wrap my knuckles on the sides of the cabinet, they are a lot more inert than my Mordaunt Shorts (which isnt saying much). Whats so bad about a DSP that works?
 

Tear Drop

New member
Apr 23, 2008
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Studio monitors are designed for a different purpose than, theoretically, high-end hifi. There's nothing wrong with DSP in and of itself, but correcting problems AFTER the fact is not really possible, you're just changing things further and putting something else in the signal chain.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
You are correct in stating that studio monitors are designed for a different purpose than high end hifi. But I feel that there are many common goals and after a certain thresh hold of high endness, both start to sound very similar. Both aim for sonic integrity, dynamics, natural presentation, timing etc.

I selected the EX66 as besides being high end monitors, they had certain high hifi traits such as a wide sweet spot, a full frequency response, a decent mid field response due to their MTM structure and the ability to sound good in hostile conditions.

Things like a DSP might not sound so great on paper, but they do wonders when you don't have an acoustically perfect room. The EX 66 is used by professional recording engineers such as Patrick Leonard who mastered many of Madonnas albums, by groups such as Garbage. I don't think Sound on Sound or any of the engineers I have mentioned would have endorsed them if they were sonically inaccurate.

Lets also consider companies such as Lyngdorf and Meridian coming up with corrective DSP's and successfully so.
 

drummerman

New member
Jan 18, 2008
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Non conformist:

and the ability to sound good in hostile conditions.

Is your partner that viscious?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Ha ha ha, she is. All ugly hifi gets tossed out of the window
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
When I was listening to Seals accoustic recordings, I was particularly impressed by Killer. Its wonderful how all the instruments are accurately reproduced and everything gets communicated perfectly when things get real busy

Eric Claptons Layla was a great show of instrument separation. I can clearly hear 4 guitarists at the closing of the track playing slightly different tunes which my Cambridge Audio system mashed into one. It was as if there were four speakers playing at the same time. The instrument separation and imaging is that good
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I was listening to Goa Trance. This is extremely quick synthesized music, not very dynamic but very quick. All tunes and sounds were rendered with surgical precision with the sonic image jumping from one speaker over to the other, like a game of basketball.

The system sounds sortof like what you would get in a really good club - best way to describe its performance on trance.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I was listening to George Michaels 'Older' album. The system exposed low bass notes and the deepest midrange immersion I have experienced in my room. The album has so much going on in the background that almost casts a spell over you.

I can best describe the midrange on this track as being velvety and indulgent
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Non conformist:
I was listening to George Michaels 'Older' album. The system exposed low bass notes and the deepest midrange immersion I have experienced in my room. The album has so much going on in the background that almost casts a spell over you.

I can best describe the midrange on this track as being velvety and indulgent

Spin the Wheel is the best for bass - that bass line is enough to get the house shaking! And Jesus To A Child is always a good one for the "atmosphere" that surrounds it. Hey, "FastLove" is just as good...ableit a little, ahem...
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
You are right on both Jesus to a child and Spin the wheel. Its just the Ex66's unmasked so much detail and music I was previously missing out on with the Cambridge Audio setup. My old setup sortof mashed everything into one package, whereas my new babies tell it like it is.

By the way, I didnt care much for fastlove although it wasnt too bad...
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Non conformist:It's just the Ex66's unmasked so much detail and music I was previously missing out on with the Cambridge Audio setup. My old setup sortof mashed everything into one package, whereas my new babies tell it like it is.

Active monitors uncover soooo much detail (Yamaha NS-10 makes you hear each piece of dust in the recording studio!) but for listening for longer periods of time, I find them really jarring and they just give me a big headache once I turn them up...I like speakers which can go to 120db, still have good tonality, a good soundstage and not set my ears on fire!
 

fr0g

New member
Jan 7, 2008
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Sounds like an interesting listen, but there is Noooooo waaaay I would have a system that I had to change volume manually, and separately for each speaker.

In fact these days, I wouldn't even contemplate a main system that wasn't remote.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
According to a couple of reviews, the Ex66's are not as harsh as some studio monitors out there.

I've set the treble down 2db, midrange up 2db as it is slightly scooped to civilize the system a bit. I've heard them non stop for about 6 hrs and find them fine at sane listening levels. They are capable of peaks of 115 db, but the max I usually push them is about 90db continuous. I have an SPL meter at home and witnessed them go up from 85 db to 94bd smoothly, and then a transient came along and they instantly burst upto 102db at listening position which is about 4.2m away from the speakers at the 10 o clock position. I also have a huge listening room - 8m x 5m.

Anything above 90db continuous and my living room windows start to shake and my partner begs me to turn in down.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Non conformist:
Anything above 90db continuous and my living room windows start to shake and my partner begs me to turn in down.

90db...that's roughly a watt and a half on my Wharfedale's of power, and according to my old JVC, I used to have it at 25watts continuous sometimes...that equates to over 100db continuous surely?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I hear you frOg, the manual pots at the back of each speakers are a real downer. I figure I'll get myself a Mac Mini with a remote alongwith one of those Moto firewire cards that have a great jitter rating. That will allow me to put my entire music collection on the system and adjust the volume when I dont feel like getting up and behind BOTH MY SPEAKERS to turn the friggin volume down.Peace
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Hi Hughes, I'm referring to 90 db continuous at my listening position. Normally, you would lose about 6db because of the distance (4+ meters). 90 db is what I measure as an average when I set my SPL meter slow. When I set it fast, it just jumps like mad between 82 db to over 100 db.

The biggest peak I ever measured on my Cambridge Audio setup (65 watts / channel) married to my 914's (supposedly 89db/watt sensitivity) was 95 db on the loudest track in my library. And that too on a fast setting on my SPL meter. The slow setting put it at just over 90 db continuous. All of this was measured at the 3 o clock position which is the point of clipping on my old amp.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Non conformist:
Hi Hughes, I'm referring to 90 db continuous at my listening position. Normally, you would lose about 6db because of the distance (4+ meters). 90 db is what I measure as an average when I set my SPL meter slow. When I set it fast, it just jumps like mad between 82 db to over 100 db.

The biggest peak I ever measured on my Cambridge Audio setup (65 watts / channel) married to my 914's (supposedly 89db/watt sensitivity) was 95 db on the loudest track in my library. And that too on a fast setting on my SPL meter. The slow setting put it at just over 90 db continuous. All of this was measured at the 3 o clock position which is the point of clipping on my old amp.

Those speakers sound like some beasts then! I didn't know that was at 4 meters away...crickey!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
They are beasts, but they sound real good at low volumes as well. The equivalent of 7 o clock position produces a very audible, dynamic and pleasing listen too. You dont lose a ton of detail as you would on a typical mid fi system.
 

fr0g

New member
Jan 7, 2008
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Non conformist:I hear you frOg, the manual pots at the back of each speakers are a real downer. I figure I'll get myself a Mac Mini with a remote alongwith one of those Moto firewire cards that have a great jitter rating. That will allow me to put my entire music collection on the system and adjust the volume when I dont feel like getting up and behind BOTH MY SPEAKERS to turn the friggin volume down.Peace

More like it ;)

Must admit I was nearly tempted with studio monitors myself a few years ago, but it never materialised. Nowadays, if I went that route I'd probably go for the Avi's.

I am gonna try to listen to them next time I'm in the UK, and in all honesty, if they are as good as my current system, I'll look at selling up... I'm not a 'box-swapper', so they'd suit me.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Would be interesting. I almost went for an AVI system myself but there are great things about the M Audios; one is the fact that they are full range and dont need the support of a subwoofer (base can be really huge), the second being its comprehensive room tuning ability which is very useful as most of us dont live in sonically treated rooms.

Check this link out for a good interface between your Mac Mini and your active monitors:

http://www.echoaudio.com/Products/FireWire/AudioFire2/index.php

Its supposed to have a very low jitter which leads to better timing and a more fluid sound quality vs. an electronicy / mechanical sound
 
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Anonymous

Guest
By the way frOg, you have an amazing system!

Squeezebox duet (and an Arcam Alpha 7SE for emergency backup)

Harmony DA9 DAC (dogs bx)

Lyngdorf SDAI 2715 'semi digital' amplifier (200 WPC of finesse and dynanism

Dali Ikon 6 (majestic)

+
PS3 (serious VFM)

Dali Vokal 2 centre (continuation of Ikon quality)

MS902Sig rear (up until recently my main speakers... great speakers for £200)

Still using Yamaha E800 for centre and surround

I would love to learn about your experiences comparing the two
 

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