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AXPONA 2016: Spatial Audio, flat out dominating

AXPONA-Spatial-01285

axpona“What does it take to assemble a winning room?”

I’ll offer that the formula is probably not all that complicated, but that however you choose to answer that question, the word “synergy” really ought to appear somewhere in the list.

It’s tricky, synergy. It speaks to limits. Interestingly, this notion of limits is a bit anathema to the average audiophile — this is a hobby constructed around a concerted attempt to transcend them. Also interestingly, it may be exactly when we run directly at those limits, with them firmly in mind and working accordingly, that magic happens.

award-sighting-smSpatial Audio, the brain child of Clayton Shaw (also the founder of Emerald Physics), is a flat-panel speaker company. Shaw has a bit of history in this space, but his current efforts seem to align around doing what we can with what we have, and not relying too heavily on fancy tech to get us out of trouble. Instead of DSP and room correction, the new Hologram simply goes with what I’m thinking of as “fit” — the speakers are simply designed to work well in real spaces.

Coaxial drivers for point-source immediacy. Open baffle design/dipole frame to remove “box coloration”, and work with the room and not against it. Minimalist design chic that delivers the goods sonically and aesthetically. And with the new top-of-the-line (for this line) M3 Hologram, the entry point is just under $2k US, direct.

What was shown here was a new variation — the M3 Turbo S (it’s BMW/Porsche mashup!), a $600 upgrade that brings better WBT terminals, film-and-foil capacitors, and most importantly, a significantly more sophisticated compression driver. Same great look, however. And yes, it’s even better looking in person.

Underwood1-5

AXPONA coverage brought to you by Underwood HiFi, Exogal and Emerald Physics

As for the rest of the room, the Holograms were here driven by the Red Dragon S500 stereo amplifier ($1,995) and fronted by a LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC (starting at €4,900), and connected with a full loom of wire from AntiCables, including the Level 3.1 Reference Series USB Cord, the Level 6.2 ABSOLUTE Reference RCA ICs and Level 3 Speaker Wires.

Let me be blunt — this was a fantastic sounding room, and easily among the very best at the show. Starting with the source, the Lampi DAC is a fan favorite, and I fall firmly in that camp. The Lite 7 is a stripped-down version of the LampizatOr “Big 7” flagship — and while it loses out to it’s big brother here and there on this feature or that, even with that done, this DAC was by far the most expensive thing in this system! That said, the whole system cost was around $10k — not cheap, by any measure — but the sound quality in this room easily hung in there with every other at this show … and lets just say that some of them were very much more. That’s value, friends.

Drive, transparency, openness — all signature sonic hallmarks were on display the instant the door opened and stayed up-close-and-personal, right up until I left the room and closed the door. If this aesthetic — simple, flat, open-backed — can work for you in your life, I cannot recommend a listen more strongly. Do it. If it helps, I’ll even link to DAR — where he gave the cheaper model an award. And yes, everyone says that the M3 is better.

I’ve talked with Clayton — I’m gonna get a set in pronto. Color me very impressed.

The latest from Part-Time Audiophile

8 Comments on AXPONA 2016: Spatial Audio, flat out dominating

  1. Is there some recommendation in terms of the room size for these speakers?
    I assume M3 would work in a smaller room as well as there is no bass pressurizing the room, they “only” go lower than M4. Is this assumption correct?
    What about the sweet spot? Can the M3 be used for listening to the music with someone or one needs to be in the center to feel/hear the “magic”?

  2. Gavin Hadley // April 27, 2016 at 7:28 PM //

    Hey Scot thanks for confirming my take on this room. Those $2600 speakers would be high on my list if I was just starting out in this hobby…those and Acoustic Alchemy amps…woohoo!

  3. Did you hear them with several different types of music? in particular classical? What about a synergy with tubes such as rogue audio?

    • Part-Time Audiophile // April 27, 2016 at 8:55 PM //

      I’m curious about this, too. Have never heard them with tubes, however.

  4. I am the Stig // April 27, 2016 at 3:22 PM //

    Odd that he’d use the powerful Red Dragon amp for a speaker that states a 5 watt minimum input. Making a system sound good in a hotel room without room treatments (you didn’t mention any) is an accomplishment. I’d like to hear these for myself!

    • Part-Time Audiophile // April 27, 2016 at 8:56 PM //

      They’re interesting, for sure. Not sure why the Red Dragon, other than “Clayton likes them”, or “they’re a good partner”. Something to ask Clayton, I suppose.

    • Clayton has always used the Red Dragons, and I think it’s mostly because he has a business arrangement with Red Dragon to showcase their amps. Both Spatial and Red Dragon are Utah companies, so I believe they’re friends and just helping each other out. As for the speakers, I purchased a pair of M3s in December and continue to be amazed at the sound quality and the sound stage. I listened to every major competitor out there before buying. These were (and are!) my favorite, hands down. Everyone needs to hear these speakers.

  5. I have to agree with you, Scott, that the Spatial’s are extraordinarily special. I have the pleasure of owning a pair of M4’s and what they do, even in my small, compromised room, is consistently thrilling. For what it’s worth, at least chronologically I beat the esteemed John Darko to the punch and reviewed the M4’s on my blog back in February, and have since added follow-up impressions. For any of your readers who are interested, here’s the link to the original review.

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