Pictures to follow in a day or two.
My new Strata Minis arrived yesterday afternoon.
Read no further if you require an educated, hi-falutin' analytical type review. If you want to know how they sound to an average joe buying his first really nice pair of speakers, read on.
They were packaged wonderfully, each in its own crate, doubled boxed inside, well protected with foam, and finally wrapped in a cloth sock. The pair weighed 315 pounds, so each box weighed, well, about 30 pounds more than me!
Set up went as proscribed in the manual, and I'll need lots more time to properly adjust the subs, but I managed to calibrate them and adjust phase with little difficulty.
You should first know that I have never owned any really really nice speakers before. These replaced a nice pair of Mirage OM10 towers. Before that I had Polk RTi towers. They are being driven by Outlaw 2200 monoblocks.
I spent a lot of time last night with my jaw dropped, and I learned a lot of things.
I decided to stick with redbook CDs at first - I pretty much have lost enjoyment of listening to them in favor of multichannel SACD/DVD-A. (although not after last night) I have highly varied musical taste, as you will see.
At first I played the music that accompanies the Rives Test CD - some jazz, guitar, vocals, piano, etc.. I closed my eyes before I pressed play for the first time, and then within a second or two of vocals, I opened them because my ears were telling me that there was a speaker directly in front of me, yet I knew there was not. I simply had no idea that two speakers could project an image so clearly and persuasively. It would be impossible to convince someone with my experience that there was no center speaker in use if they were blindfolded.
Next I popped in Rubber Soul. After listening to a few key tracks I had the following thought: I've been listening to this album for probably 30 years and until now I had no idea what some of those instruments were, and it is so obvious now! I also heard voices, stage noise, footsteps, all sorts of things I had no idea were there.
Next up was the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. Angelo Badalamenti's music is so deep and dark, with lots of lows, bass, cellos, etc. I thought it would be a good example to see how these powered subs work. Dramatic would be an understatement, and they blend so well with the midranges!
Time for some hip hop - Cypress Hill's "Black Sunday". The bass lines in "I want to get high" and "Hits from the bong" were amazing. My OM10s coupled with my twin PB12 +/2s could never produce the same results. These in 2 channel only are amazing.
Then onto some SACD - Harry Connick Jr. for some vocals and jazz. The thing I noticed most is that the quiet passages are still alive. They're not just quiet music, the instruments still portray meaning and presence, and when Harry cranks up his windpipes he is there in the room with you.
This made me recall that I have Diana Krall's "Love Scenes" so in it went. I could go on and on but she even makes AM radio sound great, now, she sounded better than when I saw her live recently.
Finally I finished out my session with Ravel's Bolero as it has probably never been heard before in my zip code.
I'm sure there were one or two other discs listened to as well.
The Minis made me realize a thing or two:
1. Imaging and soundstage size is very dependant on the individual disc. From disc to disc, there seems to be very little consistency in where the vocalist is placed, on some CDs is sounds like everything is coming out of the speakers, but in others, the entire front of the room sounds like one big speaker, with stuff going on everywhere! I found this particularly noticeable with (yes) Dread Zeppelin's first disc! There were musical instruments everywhere in front of me! Previous to last night - I never noticed how much variation there was in CDs. Almost as bad as the PQ variation on Blu-Ray.
2. CDs can sound FANTASTIC! Ever since I discovered SACD/DVD-A I had grown disappointed in standard redbook CD. The Minis have undoubtedly changed that perspective.
3. I don't know if these speakers are considered entry level high end, mid range audio, or what, but they are by far in a different league than anything I have ever heard. I listened to a pair of ML summits in a store once, and they were pretty amazing, too, but it was hardly a demo. Other than that, nothing I've ever heard has come close.
4. My wife is awesome. She saw the boxes and said "New speakers? Can I have your old ones?"
One more nice thing about them? They also build the boxes for the SVS subs (till recently), so the rosewood Minis match my subs perfectly. Just icing on the cake.