Reference 3A MM De Capo Bookshelf Speakers

4.82/5 (17 Reviews) MSRP : $2250.00


Product Description

Phase Coherent System Design
2-Way Tuned Port Monitor with exceptional bass response.
8 ¼" diameter, designed and build by Reference 3A.
Designed not to require cross-overs.
Very wide frequency response.
Hyper exponential shaped woven carbon cone.
Exclusive Vibra-Puck treated driver structure.
Precisely shaped phase plug.


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Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jacalan a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: March 26, 2011

Bottom Line:   
Have the De Capo i's which were purchased in '08 and I had them upgraded by the manufacturer Divergent Technologies in "09 (free of charge as provided to those De Capo owners who purchased them in '08) which provided significant improvment for even more stellar imaging some improvement in low frequency response and seemingly better reproduction of low level information. I can only say that my love affair with these things has evolved and I can never see myself giving them up. I nearly did this year however as my one complaint concerning these speakers is how finicky they are when it comes to placement and interaction with room anomolies. I have lived in 3 different homes since purchasing these and they were simply stupendous in the first 2 room and most frustrating in my current home as the only room available to set them up in was a sonic nightmare. In fact I actually auditioned other speakers (Maggies MMGS as a trial) as I could not overcome the room nodes I was presented with. The Maggies were nice and fun (in a "they sure sound different than the De Capo's" kind of way) but I was always yearning for the sound that I knew the De Capos are capable of. I finally finished some rearranging and now have a dedicated listening room which is much more forgiving and now the De capos are back baby!! It's almost like buying them new all over again. Have had a couple of late night listening sessions again as I can't stop listening and becoming totally engrossed in the discs I cued up for listening sessions. Holographic imaging, midrange palpability, tuneful and engaging bass. I've recently aquired a rather rare and obscure "Steinhart Audio" tube amp and pre and I will now stop looking. The sound from my system is so satisfying that this is the first time in years (actually decades) that I am no longer considering any upgrades or changes. To anyone considering the De Capos I can only urge you to give them a try and to not give up if they confound you (or rather your room) as again the one fault for me is how utterly sensitive they are to your rooms acoustics. I reccomend that you place them well away from room boundaries if you are able and to utilize acoustical room treatments if need be. I assure you that the extra expense and effort can be unbelievably rewarding. These speakers are so revealing that they are chameleon like and will allow you to hear any and all changes / improvments you make to your system. Swapping out interconnects, making small changes via tweaks or even moving them on inch this way or that can invite dramatic changes to your system. Anyway I am thrilled to have my De Capos back. So now ......... gotta go listen to some music!!! Happy listening all !!!!!

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2009



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by JerryJigsaw a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: September 30, 2006

Bottom Line:   
I bought these speakers used, after doing some investigation on the web. I was looking for a speaker that might be paired to a tube amp in the future, and that had great cosmetics (i found a pair off the amazing piano-black version). Positive reviews in magazines and on this site helped me make my choice.
I Do not own a tube amp yet. My current amp is a vintage Luxman 309 from the 70's (OK but nothing special) and the source is a Njoe tjoeb 4000 tubed cd player. The result i get from this combo is of a very high quality. Almost everything positive stated in the reviews here and elsewhere is true. Also the fact that the speaker tends to reveal weaknesses in the sources. I initially used a very basic 15 year-old Sony player to drive the luxman-deCapo combo and did not understand what all the fuss was about. They sounded cold, edgy, and clean in a negative way, and the lower frequencies were just not there (the type off remarks often heard about the deCapo's). After upgrading to the Njoe Tjoeb 4000 CD player the DeCapo's showed all the virtues so often discribed before. I am amazed that my system even though i have not upgraded my amp to the same level as the cd-player and speakers yet , can already/almost compete with very exclusive systems i've heared before.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2006

Price Paid:    $1500.00

Purchased At:   second hand



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by JeffJW a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: July 17, 2003

Bottom Line:   
Note: this is a re-written review after I pulled my old one.
After upgrading the turntable and amplification, I went looking for speakers. I found these at Archive Audio in Columbus, Ohio, and I was very impressed. Big image, precise mids and highs, tight bass. Did I mention big image? These speakers are fast and detailed and really wonderful. They are strong down to 40 Hz and still have some output at 31 Hz. Music seems to come from the entire wall behind the speakers, it's just remarkable. High efficiency lets you use lower power tube amps that won't cost you the mortgage. I listen to mostly rock and jazz, but i'm warming to more classical now with these speakers. All those instruments, and you can listen to every single one. Unless you need explosion bass, these will do everything.
My system:
Reference 3A MM de Capo-i
Anthem Amp 1 (40 Wpc)
Anthem Pre 2L
Music Hall MMF-5
Creek OBH-8
Harmon Kardon FL8400 CD changer

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2002

Price Paid:    $2100.00

Purchased At:   archive audio columb



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jaosn523 a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 18, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I've had these speaks for a while. They are not the "i" version. Who cares. I used them with an ASL 1003 DT amp and Rotel 971 modified CDP. I also had an audience power cord and analysis plus solo crystal oval ICs, and HT speaker cables. I had these on their custom stands, sand-filled in a medium size room.
These speakers are the most transparent speaks I've ever heard. They sound as good as your source and associated equipment, but you don't need a 5k cdp for these to sound good. My rotel cdp was a good solid cdp and my amp was quite capable for the money and the sound was gor-geous. If you have grade A equipment.... oh the joys that await you.

I did have dynaudio speaks and a Krell amp before this and that combo was MILES behind the ref 3a/ASL combo. This sound is warmer, more vivid, lifelike in tonality and dimension, more dynamic, you name it. These speakers have the best bass you will EVER hear in a 2-way bookshelf. More than that, its bass trashed the bass of the other speakers (including the big 3 and 4-ways) I heard down to 38hz. The bass can have texture, slam, you name it. Try some Everything But the Girl. Try some DVD-video (DVD-audio even more) discs and realize what music really sounds like. The dynamics can go from whisper soft to blow-your-doors-off so fast it sounds like you're listening in real-time.

I've been accused of having a subwoofer numerous times. Pair this speak with a good tubed preamp and tubed amp (doesn't have to powerful, these are 92 dB) and a quality source and stop looking. Listen instead. The other speakers I heard weren't bad, but I was yawning the whole time. I didn't know what my last speaker's weaknesses were until I heard this.


There's a reason the hi-fi manufacturers are making hi-sensitivity speaks for use with lower powered amps - their customers are demanding it.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1999

Price Paid:    $1850.00

Purchased At:   AUDIOGON



Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by jacks a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 25, 2002

Bottom Line:   
Got the latest version of De capo with the -i- extension, supposedly better bracing, binding posts, and the wood veneer finish is more benign and reserved. Better than the old "piano black" type finish.

I never heard them before I bought them. I didn't like the B&W 804 that I auditioned, and couldn't justify driving over 200 miles to the nearest Revel dealer for the Performa M20. I also think that it is impossible to compare speakers among different dealers--upstream components and room acoustics are totally uncomparable. (I was also annoyed that nobody carries Conrad Johnson in Alberta.) So in the end, the textile tweeter dome, high sensitivity (-91 dB, carbon fiber (treated paper?) woofer, absence of cross-over, a feeble Canadian dollar, and a dealer I trust persuaded the purchase.

My listening room is the living room that is kind of square (~16 ft wide) but extends (opens) to the kitchen and dinning areas, so there's a lot of open space (9' ceiling), but the walls & corners are a bit oddly shaped. The back wall is mainly windows, but got hybrid fabric blinds on them. My city is about 3000 ft above sea level.

Components are Arcam FMJ CD23T, C-J PV14 line stage (single gain stage tubes), C-J MV60 amp (bought Mullard 12AX7 and Svetlana EL34s from Upscale Audio), Cardas Cross interconnects, Cardas Hexlink 5C speaker cables (at 16 ft long against all advices I got).

Was at least 50 hours before the De Capo-i could be listened to. I suggest leaving the house during that time; the sound actually hurts your ears. Once burned in though, they sound very good. Most notably wide and tall soundstage (more like an arch), accurate timbre, details...details that, good or bad, really differentiate one recording from another. This is especially true of the bass - it sounds to me NO two recordings capture the bass (acoustic or electric)in the same way.

For example, the bass from Norah Jones's albrum sounds quite bloated, actually a bit unpleasant, whereas Phil Collin's works are generally tight, rhythmic and musical. The drums (or whatever you call them) in Loreena McKinnon's album could make your heart flutter. Boyz II Men's Collection(esp. the song for mama!) gives that chest-heavy kind of bass that is powerful but warm. Sometimes I think I have a virtual subwoofer, but it's not always pleasant.

Vocals are generally good. Renee Flamming, Cecilia Bartole sound positively heavenly, whereas Jennifer Warnes and Cassandra Wilson sound warm and rich.

However, after ~200 hours of listening, I notice my ears suffer with female Pop vocals (e.g. Laura Pausini's latest English title, S Club 7). Perhaps these speakers are a bit unforgiving when it somes to secular recording/production. But certain piano recordings, esp. Jim Brickman's Yamaha (on recent HDCD -? title) seem painfully forward.

I guess this latter problem reflects the peak between 600 and 800 Hz (see UHF's review of the De Capo, linked to the reference3A.com website). The peak is readily audible using the frequency tracks on the Stereophile's test CD. I think this may give the "detail" quality of these speakers (at least in that frequency range), but it's something you have to learn to live with. I wounld have gone for another speaker (e.g. Revel Performa M20, ? Joseph Audio RM7si) to avoid this peak, but only if all else remains equal!

Having said that, there is no doubt the De Capo-i's are dynamic, musical, revealing speakers. Their physical presence pretty much disappears once the music is on. They seems quite capable (no, not superb) with complex orchestral music, but I can't expect too much from 2-way speakers. From all the other reviews below, they seem very good for the money.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2002

Purchased At:   Soundstage Fine Audi




Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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Reference 3A MM de Capo Review....

For anyone that may be interested, there is a comprehensive review of the 3A in December 03 issue of Stereophile. Interesting read. JetRead More »

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