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Reviewer: Ken Micallef
Digital Source: McIntosh MCD 201 CD/SACD player, Oracle CD 1500 [in for review]
Analog Source: Kuzma Stabi/Stogi turntable/arm combo, Denon DL-103 cartridge, Auditorium 23 Denon step-up transformer [on loan]
Preamp: Shindo Allegro
Amp: Art Audio Diavolo [in for review], Art Audio Symphony II [in for review]
Speakers: DeVore Fidelity Super 8s
Cables: Auditorium A23 speaker cables, Crystal Cable Micro Speak interconnects
Stands: Salamander rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2"), Blue Circle custom amp stand
Powerline conditioning: JPS Labs Kaptovator, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes, Hydra 4 [on loan]
Accessories: Mapleshade Surefoot and Heavyfoot brass points and IsoBlocks; (8) RPG ProFoam damping panels/ceiling treatment, Mapleshade Ionoclast for static cling
Room size: 24' x 12', short-wall setup
|My initial experience with re:X loudspeakers came at the May Vacuum Tube Valley show in Piscataway, NJ. As soon as I walked into the re:X room -- and after recovered from the odd, bazooka-like appearance of the re:X boXXer 7s -- I was floored by their bass response, which is some of tightest, tautest and most articulate low end plumage I have heard from any speaker especially within the uncontrollable confines of an audio show. It thus was somehow no surprise when I learned that re:X designer Vytas Viesulas was an electric bassist in another life. But beyond its 'be here now' bass quality, what had me returning to the re:X room was his speaker's ability to totally disappear - plus the very live and upfront sound it presented. There was nothing mellow, clouded or veiled. Instead, the sound was very dynamic and fast. Accompanied by a Consonance tube integrated amp and CD player, the boXXer 7s (including a small BASH amp to power its onboard subwoofers) jumped my bones and had me jonesing for a review pair.
I wondered if I would be able to duplicate the bass response I heard at the show in my smaller listening room - and how easy or difficult it would be to dial in the bass amp and associated woofers. I have never had luck with outboard subwoofers in my room. The tipping point between locating just the right hint of low end volume to fill out the bottom and an overblown ton'o'bass is a delicate balance indeed.
Stand and deliver!
Setting up the boXXer 7s proved to be different from any other speaker I have had the pleasure of reviewing (or owning). Most speakers I've hauled up the seven flights of my New York tenement to my apartment have sat smack dab in the same place for optimum sound: four feet from the back wall and roughly one and a half feet from the side walls. From Audio Physic Virgos to ProAc 2.5s to my current DeVore Super 8s, they've all worked best in the same spot. But since the re:X speakers are not only a different shape (cylindrical) than their boxed brethren -- and with top and bottom firing subwoofers and dual rear aperiodic vents -- I had to adjust, readjust and adjust again to find the best position and achieve optimum sound and focus. Eventually I realized the re:Xes just don't like side walls. Moving the speakers about six inches closer together made the sound much clearer and coherent. And after playing with different forward-firing positions, toeing in the speakers to aim directly at me (which Vytas recommends) was the only way they would really work. Otherwise, focus was largely lost.
Now, for the bass. Bass was the most problematic area to get right with the boXXer 7s. At first, they just wouldn't replicate the articulate, taut bass I'd heard the VTV show. The boXXer 7s come with two sets of spikes: one pair for hardwood floors, the other for carpets. I mistakenly used the floor spikes in my carpeted room, producing especially soft and sludgy bass notes. Changing to the more highly raked carpet spikes produced slightly tighter bass. Still, the recommended settings on the BASH subwoofer amp for volume and frequency (marked with small indentions surrounding the knobs) proved far too loud and boomy for my small room. The recommended volume level produced unacceptable bass that had me running to turn it down. The standard setting is around 12 o'clock. I backed it down to between 8:30 and 9, constantly adjusting to find the right balance and that much sought-after sense of definition I knew should be possible from the show.
I played with the knobs for a few days, switching between various recordings trying to maximize the volume/frequency settings to find an overall sweet spot I could live with. It took a while but I eventually found a combination of volume and frequency that worked well with most every recording. The overall bass response was now very warm, decently extended and pretty well focused. I didn't get that knotty, extremely visceral low end crunch I have heard with some other more expensive speakers like the Verity Audio Fidelio, but the boXXers really filled up the room and worked well with the Art Audio Diavolo amp. Very efficient, very fast, the boXXer 7s didn't need much juice to take off.
Boy meets Samba
I soon grew accustomed to the boXXer's rich, almost plummy bottom. The speaker's well-integrated low end, midrange and treble made for an easy listen. The speaker sounded quite natural through the frequency extremes though with a hint of recessed glare in the upper treble. Playing a couple of my current favorites like Marcos Valle's Jet-Samba [BRA] and Sammy Davis, Jr. & Carmen McRae's Boy Meets Girl [Verve 314 589 546-2], the boXXers completely disappeared in my room and created a wider than deeper soundstage that was very engaging. And given their generous height, the stage was easily as tall as it is wide. Though very fast (and efficient), the boXXers are also quite relaxed, no doubt due to their rich low end.
I didn't find the boXXers to do that super imaging thing well, though their presentation was well layered front to back, and again, in a large soundstage. There was no wowee! focus on imaging but I was able to relax and flow along with the music. The boXXers' very rich way with all kinds of music made them perfect for late night listening, from jazz to classical. And with their extremely bosomy low end of course, new CDs from Tool, Scissor Sisters and Motorhead simply roared out of the gate. The boXXers reproduced the sound of the Davis/McRae 1950s recording session well, from close-mic'd vocals to the subtle dynamic shifts from their accompanying small ensemble. I practically felt I was in the room, with the horn shouts and cymbal splashes bouncing off the walls. The Valle disc is a modern recording and the boXXers did it justice, especially with its lush electric piano and samba drum rhythms. Rich was the word.
Though the boXXers defined the particular recording space and personality of each CD, they also lent most recordings a touch of richness that was easy to enjoy. Again the treble was a bit recessed but never forward or hashy. With newer recordings where nothing is soft or rolled off, the boXXers added a touch of richness that never deterred from their very fast delivery.
|Replacing the boXXers with my DeVore Super 8s was a surprise. I hadn't listened to the DeVores in a couple of months
|and the two speakers could not have been more different. The boXXers sounded veiled by comparison, though they were much more efficient. The boXXers filled the room with rich though slightly soft bass, the DeVores offered tighter and better defined bass yet with less mass. The boXXers disappeared entirely, the DeVores placed images a bit closer to the cabinet (but any speaker with a narrow front baffle will disappear; that's more about design than execution). The DeVores were more transparent and revealing of nuance and slightly more forward, the boXXers filled up the room with a rich, easy to enjoy sound that was oh-so smooth.
The re:X boXXer 7s are a sure enough hit for bass freaks, probably best though for those with a larger room than mine where the new owner can take the time to find the absolute sweet spot between the BASH subwoofer amp's frequency and volume settings. The boXXers produced a rich tone within a humongous soundstage and a slightly laid back presentation that was still dynamic. And they disappeared like the Invisible Man. Though not as transparent as my DeVore Super 8s, the boXXer 7s were an extremely easy speaker to drive, to listen to and lie back with and shake that almighty groove thang.
It was with great pleasure and excitement that I received the review of re:X boXXer7 speakers in 6moons. I picked 6moons as the first review publication of choice, as it remains one of the freshest and most open-minded audio magazines today. I wish 6moons many years of continued success and growth!
I am very grateful to Stephaen and Ken for such a thoughtful and entertaining review. Their collective opinions give a very good impression of what the boXXer7s are about: fast, articulate bass that “turns on a dime”, coupled with highly sensitive (93dB/1W/1m) full-range stereo driver arrays which disappear into a “humongous soundstage”.
Many thanks to editor Srajan and his whole cadre of writers for helping to nourish and support high-performance audio, and thanks to 6moons for this tremendous opportunity.
Owner/Designer, re:X speakers
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