After living with Acora Acoustics SRC-2 loudspeakers in my listening room, I consider these speakers to be the newest member of a very small group of speaker systems that are the absolute state of the art in music reproduction. For the last few months, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible coherence, stunning presentation of spatial information, wide and smooth bandwidth, and limitless ability to reveal dynamic contrasts. The SRC-2s produced the finest sound I’ve yet heard in my system. There, I’ve said it.
So what’s left to say about these? Plenty.
I first heard Acora Acoustics in February of 2020 at the Tampa Audio Expo. I had assigned myself multiple rooms to cover for Part-Time Audiophile. Our own Eric Franklin Shook invited me to visit several additional rooms, Acora Acoustics being one of them. That first day I was quite impressed by the SRC-1 that was set up in one of the two Acora rooms. Super clear and clean sound, much larger than expected out of a modest-sized yet visually striking two-way floorstander, even with that granite cabinet.
That granite! The entire line (SRB, SRC-1 and SRC-2) of Acora Acoustics speakers feature cabinet construction made from a particular type of black granite chosen for its superior density and non-resonant properties.
I don’t remember what was playing on that first day, but it was some excellent recording of the audiophile variety – no doubt played to make the system sound amazing but probably not what I reach for on the regular at home. I get it. I’d do the same if I was showing MY gear. The next day, however, was a different story.
Eric and I decided to go back for a second listen early on the second day before the rooms started to fill up. We walked in and saw that Acora Acoustics CEO and Chief Designer Valerio Cora was alone and sitting in the sweet spot playing “Stairway To Heaven.” Zeppelin never sounded better. I decided right then and there I loved this guy. But something else happened.
As I took my turn in the hot seat I heard something I’ve never heard in probably hundreds of listens, including my 15-year-old self trying to learn that song–a tape edit right before the 12 string electric guitar D chord fanfare going into the solo and coda. I was so shocked I said, “Stop, go back, lemme hear that again!” There it was. Either a 2” multitrack edit to link up different takes, or possibly a 2 track mixtape edit for making big changes in a new section more manageable in the days before console fader automation. Subtle but definitely audible. This was my first tip-off as to Acora Acoustics’ awesome powers of resolution.
The next tip-off was not as much fun.
Act One—The False Start
Naturally, I was extremely psyched about hearing some Acoras in my own room. When I got the news that a pair of the dual-woofer Acora Acoustics SRC-2s were coming my way for review, I got REALLY excited. Then I wondered if my listening room’s almost hundred-year-old hardwood floor over a cellar style basement would support two 244-pound granite towers. I figured some folks had grand pianos in a house like this, so that calmed my fears. A little.
An interesting bit of trivia concerning the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 and SRC-1 towers. Each model uses the exact same granite cabinet. Neither is smaller or larger than the other. With that, a paradoxical fact remains: the dual-woofer SRC-2 actually weighs less than the single-woofer SRC-1 by a measurement of two pounds. Bonus points if you can tell us why that is in the comments below.
The pallet arrived a few days early so it took me a day to get help bringing the stone beauties inside and set up. Though not nearly as difficult as one might imagine, owing to careful packing designed to assist the user, it did take a minute with a hand truck and two men. It seems like so much HiFi gear is heavy AND delicate.
On first listen I was instantly blown away by the imaging and low-end impact. But jeez these guys are bright. Bright in a weird annoying kind of way. I figured they needed to break in–even though a prior phone conversation with the guys at Acora informed me that they would be pretty close because of factory burn-in. Okay. Now I had a sinking feeling.
After about a week it got so I didn’t even want to listen to the speakers so I figured I better call Valerio. After lots of discussion over several calls and texts, much to my amazement, the issue was solved.
It turned out that my usual preamplifier was getting tattled on by the ScanSpeak beryllium dome tweeter in the Acora Acoustics SRC-2. It was discovered that a power supply issue was injecting high-frequency harmonics into the audio circuits, further accentuated by the cable I had been using to go from preamp to power amp. This theory was tested when bypassing the preamp and going direct from either my phono pre or DAC into the auxiliary input with volume pot that I never use in my Audio Hungary Qualiton APX-200 MkII power amp. Shocking. With the preamplifier bypassed, the high-frequency problem simply vanished. Now with Cardas Audio Clear RCA interconnects coming from phono pre or DAC going directly into the auxiliary input of the Audio Hungary amplifier connecting to the SRC-2s with Cardas Clear speaker wire, all was right in my little listening world. Thanks to Valerio and Audio Hungary for saving the day.
With the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 speakers spread a little wider than usual and (uncharacteristically for me) with NO toe-in, the sound was magically transformed. I hate that phrase “magically transformed” but I $h!t you not, it was! Now the speakers sounded smooth and not overcooked up top, yet the detail was addictive.
After much alternating back and forth with my preamp in and out of the signal path, I heard a much cleaner and silkier presentation on high frequencies with the preamp not in the circuit. The invisible high-frequency nano-insects were no longer eating at my brain. I also heard a little less low-end slam and definition, plus I couldn’t use the Pass Labs XA-60.8 amps and I missed having a remote control for volume, switching, and muting. File under First World Problems, also known as No One Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen. I needed a better preamplifier that would really allow the SRC-2s to show me what they are fully capable of.
The Acora Acoustics SRC-2 cabinet is 43” high, 18” wide, and 14” deep at the base. Far from a traditional box shape and, in fact, no right angles seem to exist in its geometry. At 244 pounds apiece, there better be a good way to position and level these beasts. Looking like technology from an advanced alien race of stonemasons, maybe there was a levitation device included? No, but not to worry, there are several ways mere Earthlings can move and position the speaker as it’s clear a fair amount of time and thinking has gone into the speaker base and feet.
At each corner of what looks like a heavy-duty black coated steel base plate exists threaded holes for the spikes and associated gold-colored metal covers to make ’em look pretty. Valerio suggested I get some Teflon faced furniture sliders that would go under an acorn-style nut which is supplied to screw on and cover the spikes. This worked perfectly and not only eliminated yet MORE holes in my floor but made it easy to fine-tune the position. I have been informed a set of Super Sliders will be included in future shipments of the speakers.
The Acora Acoustics SRC-2 features two 7-inch sandwich paper cone mid-woofers and a 1-inch beryllium dome tweeter, both sourced from the incomparable Danish geniuses at ScanSpeak. Many of my favorite sounding speakers (including QLN) have some of this Danish driver alchemy as part of their great sound.
Of course, great drivers alone don’t guarantee a great sounding speaker. It’s what skilled designers do with them.
Astute readers will ask what’s a paper cone mid/woofer doing in a holds-no-barred design. Apparently, after boat loads of listening tests coupled with measurements, Valerio chose THIS driver for its ability to deliver the sound quality he needed. I’ve heard this same story from other speaker designers whose work I love. But then everybody hears things a little differently, which is fine. You say woven Kevlar, I say paper sandwich. Let’s arm wrestle.
Tweet Yourself Right
But that tweeter on the Acora Acoustics SRC-2. Oh my. Yeah Vern, it’s a metal dome. Not just ANY metal dome tweeter. That there, son is a 99% pure Beryllium dome tweeter. Sourced from fair-traded, locally owned mines in a small region of a Patagonian mountain range. Refined by hand in small batches, using ancient artisanal methods passed down over the ages. Then whisked away by specially trained Chilean carrier hawks to a remote location in Denmark.
I don’t know. Maybe some dudes in Utah at Beryllium R Us had something to do with it, whatever. All I know is it sounds INCREDIBLE.
By incredible, I mean it has no sound at all. During my initial run-in with the preamp problem but before Valerio and I figured out what was happening, I thought I must be hearing some peaky very high-frequency resonance being excited that is common to other metal dome drivers I’ve heard. Nope. Not here. Not this tweeter. This Beryllium wonder child is smoove as buttah. I just KNOW that Smoove B over at The Onion would love these speakers.
Okay, before I get too heavily into the sound of the Acora Acoustics SRC-2, here’s a few more things for our tech intermission.
There are a single pair of very high quality Cardas Audio copper binding posts per speaker. I found them when used with spade lug-dressed Cardas Audio Clear speaker cables, to be the easiest and surest feeling connection I’ve yet used on a speaker. It’s the little things, right?
According to Acora, internal wiring, and crossover parts are of the highest quality and chosen for sonic results. “Yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls (or boys).” No, really it’s true!
The stiffness and non-resonant properties of the black granite enclosures don’t require any internal bracing. This allows for a more open, unobstructed path for rear-firing energy from the drivers. And who likes their rear-firing energy to hang around and muddle the proper output? After hearing the Acora Acoustics SRC-2s, apparently not I.
I don’t have much information on the crossover design except that it’s the simplest circuit that Valerio felt would accomplish his sonic goals of great neutrality and wide bandwidth. Fair enough. He did mention that the effective slopes are pretty steep at 4th order plus a bit more. I don’t care if the slope is so steep it looks like ABC Sports’ Mr. Agony of Defeat losing it at the jump, as long as it sounds good.
And did I say these speakers sound beyond amazing? Yep.
Phase One in which Doris gets her oats
Alright, this is really Act Two of the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 review, but I’ve been listening to The Beatles a lot lately.
When the VAC Master Preamplifier got here…well, that’s when things got REALLY interesting. With the VAC preamp in the system, now I could use the Pass Labs XA-60.8 to power my granite friends. This proved to be a very nice match. I’ll get into greater detail (har!) when I do a full review of the VAC Master Preamplifier, but let’s just say as great as the system sounded before, a whole new level was reached with the VAC in the driver’s seat and I’m here to report the air is nice and fresh up here on the summit. All that clean air and sun at the top of the mountain helped clarify a few things for me:
The overly etched and annoying quality to high-frequency reproduction I initially heard from the other preamp, followed by a much mellower yet still engaging presentation going directly into the Qualiton, was actually the nature of using unbalanced cables combined with what I surmise to be the Miller Effect creating a slight roll-off on the top end. With the VAC pre in the system using balanced connections, detail and information greatly increased relative to no preamp but with a liquid, grain-free sound that was not only enjoyable but quite seductive.
There was now less of a chasm between playing digital and analog sources. I attribute most of this to the phono stage in the VAC having an energizing and linearizing effect on my ZYX Ultimate 100 cartridge/Rega P10 combo’s presentation of both mid-bass and upper mid-range areas.
There are a handful of recordings that when played on certain systems in certain rooms can convincingly create the illusion of real people playing and singing in that listening space. The gear I had assembled to review the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 is exactly such a system.
But what about the other 99% of recordings? Do we really WANT a speaker system that is designed primarily for that 1% of recorded truth? Why aren’t there more of these truthful style recordings? What do those speakers that play what I call documentary-style recordings of acoustic instruments, and play them very convincingly, sound like when playing Tool? Or The Beatles or LCD Soundsystem or Steely Dan or whatever. You get my drift. Is there such a thing as the Truth vs. Listenability continuum?
If I were to ask Valerio Cora or just about any speaker designer chasing ultimate accuracy these questions, they might say something like a less famous line in Jack Nicholson’s A Few Good Men courtroom speech: “Either way, I don’t give a damn about what you think you’re entitled to.” Or they might tell me I drink too much coffee. Tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. I get it.
Don’t get me wrong. Many recordings I played during my time with the Acora Acoustics SRC-2s were an incredibly engaging and joyful experience, even with a lot of less-than-audiophile-approved recordings. And make no mistake, these speakers practically beg for the very best associated components and not because they need lots of power or need some variety of sympatico gear to offset some subtle issues. Not at all. It’s because they will mercilessly reveal and magnify ANY and EVERYTHING about the upstream gear and recording. But there were times I found myself thinking “Do I want this much truth?” By the end, I had solidly decided yes, I Can Handle The Truth.
So what do these beauties sound like?
I’ll confess to not only enjoying the hell outta listening to stuff by myself, I REALLY had fun playing DJ for other folks I invited over (masked and distance observed) to marvel at the sounds. With the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 in the system, I had one person physically jump and shout “Whoa!” when the acoustic slide guitar enters in the right speaker on the Beck cut “Side Of The Road” off his masterpiece Sea Change. That person also exclaimed “Everything sounds so real it kinda freaks me out. The musicians are right here!” and gestured to the area in front of the speakers.
My partner Linda loved the Acora Acoustics SRC-2s and felt like it was easily the best sound she had yet heard in our listening room. Eric Franklin Shook came over and we had a fun afternoon spinning records and streaming stuff off Qobuz via Roon and my Innous Zen-Mini to BorderPatrol DAC. Eric said a few times “This is better than I’ve ever heard this cut sound.”
I found with the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 it was difficult to break down performance into bite-size chunks to talk about, but I’ll try.
Coherence and image presentation is stellar. Upon first listen, the imaging was what immediately stood out to me. Holographic and pinpoint. Front to back depth was easily the best I’ve heard. In the beginning, it seemed like the wall behind the speakers had magically disappeared to reveal nothing but layers of depth where sounds were positioned. Dry, upfront vocals, and instruments were portrayed in a reach-out-and touch-me manner.
I can’t really use the term tonality because that would imply there is a tone signature, when in fact there is none.
I found the lows to be especially impressive although never feeling anything less than complete integration with the rest of the frequency spectrum. Much of the music I enjoy listening to has a lot going on in the 80hz-300hz area. The Acora Acoustics SRC-2 unraveled this area with a precision I had not previously heard in my listening room. If I were to guess as to why, I’d say an ultra-efficient transfer of energy from cone movement to air molecules, owing to the granite enclosure, has a LOT to do with what I heard. Control, punch, subterranean reach into the lowest lows, it was all there.
Not much to say about the mid-range and high frequencies except I could detect nothing about the entire spectrum that seemed out of place. Ultra-linear is how I would describe it. I’m kind of at a loss to make much about something that was essentially perfect to my ear.
I was drawn in by the way in which the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 painted each sonic picture of each recording differently. By picture, I’m referring to the cumulative addition of a recording’s spectral content, transient speed, and distortion characteristics. If the written music calls for x number of violins, violas, celli, double basses, didgeridoo, or whatever, the players and conductor (and of course the composer) determine the musical elements of that recording.
The character of individual instruments, voices, and other sounds PLUS the choices made by a recording engineer/mixer/mastering engineer combine to create a sort of sonic footprint. The recording environment, microphones, placement, electronics, recording medium, any dynamics, equalization, or spatial processing, plus post-production equalization and associated electronics, all combine into a big soup that determines what we might call the dynamics and tonal spectrum picture. I’m not talking about the musical information, but rather the sonic vibe of the entire thing.
The Acora Acoustics SRC-2s reproduced this tonal picture with more contrast than I’ve ever heard before. Each record, or file, or CD I played sounded unique to a degree that was almost shocking. The same was true for components. Small differences between phono stages, preamps, power amps, cartridges, DACs, you name it–became huge. I was even able to hear very minute differences in cabling, which is something I usually don’t buy into.
Okay. I get it now. So this is what it means to call a speaker reference quality. Several times I wondered if there was so much truth coming out of these speakers they might make for excellent mastering monitors.
So what parting words can I leave the reader with?
Well for starters, not only did I enjoy my time with the Acora Acoustics SRC-2s immensely, I learned a few things. That doesn’t happen very often for me, an unrepentant know-it-all when it comes to all things audio. Probably my biggest takeaway is that I now completely understand the obsessive search that can take hold for finding componentry to satisfy the appetite of a summit-level loudspeaker. Cables included. Can someone hand me a towel to wipe the egg off my face?
The other thing I learned is that summit level speakers and associated gear can be so truthful that I was occasionally more distracted than usual by all the information, good and bad, emanating from the system. This is not a diss on the speaker by any stretch of the imagination but was a reality for me. Although I not only got used to this new reality, I began to crave it. However, I can easily see why a serious music lover/audiophile might have a second system of lower resolution for garden variety enjoyment then fire up the big boys for some serious, deep-dive listening.
For those audiophiles who are on a quest for a loudspeaker with ultimate resolution and information retrieval both micro and macro, that displays flat and wide bandwidth with a totally unconstrained sense of dynamics, the Acora Acoustics SRC-2 is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, Granite.
At $37,000 it’s practically a steal.
The team talked at length about what to do with a product like the Acora Acoustics SRC-2. In the end, we had to stop and completely rework how we do product awards and redefine what those awards mean. In short, this meant a mea culpa–we were not prepared. And, it’s worth noting, that these are exactly the kinds of problems we love to have!
- Our (new) REVIEWERS CHOICE award is essentially our enthusiastic recommendation. There’s no judgment of relative performance for products that fall within this category, no “Class A” vs “Class B”, no point-system that stack-ranks products according to criteria that are known only to the reviewer. If a reviewer thinks a product kicks tuchas particularly robustly, it might earn an REVIEWERS CHOICE and our gleeful suggestion to go check it out.
- The EDITORS CHOICE award is just that, a judgment by the Editorial Board here at Part-Time Audiophile that a given product is “all that and a bag of chips”. The EDITORS CHOICE is a clear step up and above. This is the gear that the team as a whole loves, recommends, and endorses, and the products flying this ribbon are, in our estimation, class leaders.
- PRODUCT OF THE YEAR awards are self-explanatory, we think. These are the award winners that receive the most votes in our annual shouting match — and the loudest voice wins.
- For years, we’ve also been giving out BEST VALUE awards (named after Scot’s wife, Julia). This award was, and still is, offered only very rarely, and then only to EDITORS CHOICE winners that demonstrated extraordinary value for their category — specifically, for products that out-compete products far above their cost. The caveat was that the winner still had to be relatively modest in price, regardless of that performance/cost ratio.
- To that collection, we’ve added another new award, an INNOVATORS AWARD. We’ll have more to say about this in the future, but this ribbon is set apart from both discussions of value and discussions about ultimate performance. These products are “nifty” in some fundamentally interesting ways, something new, something different–and another thing to add to your “go check it out” list.
But occasionally, we get a product in for review that not only amazes, it redefines for the review team what greatness means. What terms like “statement” and “reference” mean. Experiences like this reset the expectations for what is possible. These are, we believe, aspirational-level products. They’re likely not inexpensive — “End Game” products rarely are — and while that’s lamentable, that’s just life. Not everyone can afford a Bugatti — that’s why Corvettes exist–and one reason why we have a BEST VALUE award.
But for those products that aspire to greatness, for those products that open a door to vistas rarely seen, for those experiences that so far outstrip expectations that we were left speechless … well, we really had nothing. What we needed, clearly, was something different. A new award.
We’re calling it the SUMMIT AWARD.
We’re making no claims that the products that earn a SUMMIT are the best ever made. We are saying that they’re up there, though.
Sir Karl Popper used to talk about ‘truth’ this way: After incredible luck, skill, and investment, a climber might reach a summit, one wrapped in clouds. Occasionally, that view would clear and the climber would be rewarded with views below that were incredible, perhaps even unimaginable. And occasionally, just occasionally, the clouds above would clear, also. And it was then that the climber might see a yet-higher peak, one that had been invisible before, invisible and unknown.
For us, that’s what the SUMMIT AWARD is all about. These products take you higher and reset the bar for what’s possible.
Congratulations to Acora Acoustics. Thanks for the view.
-The Editorial Board