Went to the local dealer to audition Mission 782's and happened to see a pair of these on the trade in stand, at £160 seemed a bargin, and i was right , wow. Am only using them in the dining room with a technisc SL-PD8 changer and an old technics SU-X860 amp & equaliser. Sound is excellent and as for bass, the 25 Hz slider on the eq has a definite effect, so they go pretty low.
If you're considering any speaker this size, you must listen, my Bro has a pair of B&W 602's and was near suicidal after hearing the castles :)
This speaker is the closest in a traditional speaker I can think of to the sound and value represented by Magnepans. Personally, I think that the Magnepan design and price points present the pinnacle of value and performance in the audio industry. The Magnepan MMG is an unbeatable value, for example, BUT they aren't for everyone, particularly if you have a smaller room or if a speaker as visually dominating as the Magnepan isn't feasible.
In comes the Castle Isis. With the exception of the Magnepan MMG, I have not heard a speaker in this price range sound as good to my ears. Now I'll give up the deepest bass for a speaker that conveys realism and sense of being in the acoustic space.
Before I get more into the sound, let me comment on the cabinets/workmanship. Castle makes their own drivers and their own cabinets. This, in of itself, keeps the price much lower than if they would have to contract the work out. You can get their speakers in a variety of real wood finishes. The cherry is beautiful and fine for most, but they have exotic woods like Yew to choose from as well and these are gorgeous. Add $100 to the price of these jewels ($549 or $649 for the exotic woods). These speakers look beautiful, but Castle's floorstanding models even have more extensive wood finishing to them. These are as nice a piece of speakers as furniture as you will see.
Now to the sound. First of all, the bass port is at the front so you can put these right against the wall on a bookshelf if you like. Their sonic presentation is a bit forward and perhaps a wee bit bright, but not overly so. The highs are very smooth, airy, and open. I played Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" and the ambience and quickness of these speakers made me feel like I was in the room. The piano had no boxy sound to it whatsoever, and I could easily hear the tinkling of glasses, shuffling of plates, and the background talk of the guests in the room. The soundstage presented was extremely large and deep. I was astounded that this sound was not only coming from a speaker this small, but from a speaker this inexpensive. In fact, the local dealer (who is also a friend) said that when he was at a hifi show the first time he heard these, he thought that they must cost around $2000. When he found that they were closer to $500, he decided to carry the line.
One of their slight downsides is that they don't have alot of authority in the bass. This is to be expected in a small cabineted speaker. Some speakers (like the new $500 model from Alon) prefer to provide deeper bass, but it is provided at the expense of tunefullness and tightness in the bass. The Isis makes up for it in tunefullness. Like the bass from Maggie speakers, it may not be enormous, but the bass is VERY musical. The same can be said for the Isis speakers. The MMG, by the way, for the money will go lower in the bass than the Isis, but the Magnepans are finickier with regards to placement and demand a medium to larger room than the Isis does. Ironically, with the somewhat forward placement of the sound to the Isis, these speakers sound great in larger rooms as well. Again, you'll just give up the low bass.
The Castle Tay, one level up from the Isis, is not quite as satisfying to me. It's a bit darker and not quite as open in the mid-range. Still a fine speaker and an excellent buy at close to $800, I just don't justify seeing the additional money for it. I would rather jump to the Castle floorstanders.
Anyway, I was seriously torn between the Maggies and these. The Maggies won out overall as I think they ultimately represent an even greater value, but for many, the Castle Isis speakers will be the better choice and for them, I can't think of a better one.
I evaluated these speakers along with all the other brands mentioned above, and they were the clear winner in the bookshelf category. I agree with most comments from the other reviews on this page so I'll just add a few comments of my own:
The male and female vocals are both spectacular. I used Morcheeba's "Over & Over" (from the Big Calm album) for female vocals and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy's "Music & Politics" for male vocals. Both are well-engineered tracks which will reveal chestiness or excessive sibilance in a lesser speaker.
When placed within about 12 inches of a rear wall, the bass response is excellent for a speaker this small, but I like them out 18 inches or so to open up the soundstage for imaging like you've never heard from a $700 speaker.
The real wood veneers are true craftsman quality, and the cherry looks so good that I didn't see the point in shelling out an extra $100 for yew (I saw them both).
They're in a medium-sized room, powered by a Pioneer Elite VSX-09TX receiver, which seems like a great match (it's also powering an entire DD system in another room)
Two months ago, I decided to add a pair of small speakers to my system. The system includes Musical Fidelity A-220 amp., Rotel 950 CD Player, MSB Link Dac,and PSB Gold i loudspeakers (main speakers.) The Castle Isis pair is in a large volume living room space (17ft. X 30ft. with 12ft. ceiling, wold floors, furniture, etc. What an incredible product!!!
I auditioned B&W Nautilus 805s, ProAc Response 1, Platinum Solo, PSB Stratus Mini, and Paradigm Studio 20, before making the purchase. My decision to purchase the Isis was based on performance and finish, more than price. Fact is, to my ear, they have the best mid-range clarity of the group. I agree with others who have pointed out that vocals are about as good as it gets, at any price. In this respect, the Isis are competitive with my PSB Gold i speakers.
The break in period was extensive -- well over 50 hours before the Isis really opened up. Now, they constantly amaze me. Though they are operating in a large volume, they fill the room with aplomb, and resolution is quite good throughout the space. In the sweet spot, resolution is truly outstanding, sound stage is deep and wide, and timbres are as close to live music as I have heard through any playback system. My wife Patty and I find ourselves listening as much to the Isis as to the Gold i s that are set up in our room dedicated to the primary music system. Of course, the Isis lack the bottom octave, but, the base present is highly detailed and musical.
Conclusion: For performance and price combination, rates 5+
Just got a copy of this today, onyl 3 songs into it and all I can say is that it sounds amazing so far. Vocals are not as "cookie monster" (as some of you call it) as on previous records. These guys are just an incredible band. i cant believe i missed them on tour with Tool.Read More »