2 way Ribbon with 45" wide dispersion, monopole Ribbon and dual 5" ScanSpeak carbon fibre pulp midbasses. Extremely dynamic and transparent new technology linesource loudspeaker with high impedance, high sensitivity for stereo or home theater applications. Heavy 1" MDF cabinet sold factory direct.
I have read all the reviews. I have something very valuable and brand new to add to this discussion.
After taking this speaker apart, dissecting it acoustically, and obsessing over how to make it sound right I have without a doubt something special to offer. The speaker has potential, but it does require some trial and error and modification to make it sing.
The speakers sound much better with active crossovers to improve the integration between drivers. Beyond this they sound much better with digital EQ. It is not trivial, it is a necessary step. I would not be able to listen to these speakers without the EQ. With EQ they are unsurpassed. And I do own focal beryllium speakers ( a sort of grand utopia clone I created).
People talk about different amps and the speakers sounding laid back. Well long story short you can use any amp, including a low powered tube amp and have these speakers sound forward and 3D. How? The secret is by increasing the dynamic EQ ratio, and lowering the threshold on the Behringer DEQ 2496. Things will snap into focus if you do this. Instead of trading amps and cables and altering compression and expansion filters inherent in components functionality and sound, you can literally adjust it at will. This is the big realization. That when you swap components such as cables and amps, you are in fact adjusting frequency response, phase relationships, and effects such as compression and expansion. Now these speakers have stock a bland laid back sound with the wrong amp. If you set the dynamic eq ratio and threshold by experimentation you will find that these speakers come to life with amazing dynamics. They are not weak and fragile like domes. You can EQ the hell out of them, and they will take it without strain.
Now you may be thinking well I can do that with any speaker why bother with these? Because you can't make other speakers sound like this. They just won't disappear to this extent. You can literally make these sound however you want. But you need to have the digital eq and better have the digital x over as well to get you there.
I wish I could fly to everyones home and do this set up procedure for them just to hear how happy they are.
I've owned these speakers for close to 10 years and I still love them! They are original 645s with the Kitchen Sink Upgrade V1. As my electronics have continued to improve, the speakers have continued to improve. I'm simply amazed (changed my preamp about a week ago and it seems as though my music is simply coming out of a black hole - everything is so quiet, so detailed, so beautiful!). I don't know of a speaker on the planet that has better mids and highs. The bass is very good, but not unbelievable. for this reason, o\e day I'd like to upgrade to the Line Source Reference. I could go on and on. They're so easy to set up and have minimal interaction with the room. Thanks John, for creating such wonderful speakers and keeping the price so reasonable!
I own a pair of heavily modified R645 V1s that I've enjoyed for a number of years. I would like to comment on my own experience with these fine loudspeakers and contrast it with the interesting and insightful review written by Louis on July 28, 2006.
I bought these speakers sound unheard. Although I was pleased with their overall performance I had a nagging feeling that something was missing. Yes they have great detail, imaging and are easily driven but as Louise wrote they sounded rather thin and uninvolving. The bass was there but it didn't have a great deal of body and the speaker seemed to suffer from mid range suck-out. Integration between the mid-bass drivers and the ribbon needed improving. Highs were tizzy and raspy particularly with sibilance.
Initially I drove the R645swith a Bryston 4B ST power amplifier and a Van Alstine T7 preamplifier. A couple of years later I heard about the KSU 2 upgrade. I ordered it from Sonic Craft for a cost of about $700 US and went to work. The KSU2 made a significant improvement in terms of ribbon/midbass integration, soundstage expansion, and alleviation of some of the aforementioned problems. But in my opinion it didn't afford an improvement as great as that described by Louis.
The next step up came from an improvement in the front-end electronics. I moved to a Van Alstine Ultra 550 power amplifier. The improvement was astonishing and very surprising given the almost universal accolades that are showered upon Bryston equipment. The Van Alstine power amplifier made the Bryston unit sound like just another rather boring solid state amplifier. Not only that, it demonstrated just how revealing the R645 is. Gone was the mid range suck out and tizzy highs. In was much greater musicality.
The next revelation came when I replaced the ribbon series Theta capacitors that came with the KSU 2 kit with V-caps from VH Audio. This simple modification resulted in an enormous leap in performance. Sound stage width and depth became enormous. Midrange and highs became sweet and oh so musical. The R654s disappeared and all that was left was music. Indeed, their performance now far surpasses that of my Grado GS-1000 headphones which are considered among the very best in the world.
In summary, in their stock form the R645's have some limitations that result from cost-cutting in crossover components and cabinet damping. They are also a highly revealing loudspeaker that demands high quality amplification. But if you have the time and inclination to perform a few modifications on them you will have a world-class loudspeaker.
after hearing these speakers put out there magic I went to downsize my other sets to someone elses spaces. i'm gettig there slowly but i have more space now, more to come.
these are near perfect sounding to me....
This is my 3rd and I hope the last review of this pair of wonderful speakers.
In a nutshell, my 1st review was back in 2001, and I had nothing but praises. That was when I started going into the high-end audio hobby. My 2nd review was in 2005 or so, when I owned the R645 for a 2nd time. My listening experience at that time was much more expanded, and I was very critical of the sound, and many of you sent me hate emails, flame et al. Some of you just can't take a 2 or 3 stars, can you? Even John Meyers sent me an email highly critical of what I said.
Come on guys! We are here to share opinions, not to cherry pick them!
In case you are curious, my 2nd review agreed with what Suel said a few posts earlier.
Now, is third time's a charm? I purchased the R645 again but this one has the infamous Kitchen Sink Upgrade II plus the external tweeter crossover ($900 total) done by Sonic Craft. You may browse around and see the posts on how other R645 stunned by the great leap of improvements.
Since then, I have to disagree with what Suel said, and also add more details on why I still don't regard R645 as a reference quality setup in my home, and also a few $0.02 on equipment matching.
The KSU II gives 2 drastic improvements that are jaw-dropping:
1) COHERENCE - The scanpeaks are now blending in much better with the tweeter in terms of speed, smoothness and dynamics. What I didn't like about the stock was thatit sounded like 2 speakers into 1 (much like later Wilson Watt Puppy models). The stock bass module lacks speed, and most irritatingly, seems to play at a different *volume* from the tweeter. With the KSU II, now I hear a true organic whole.
2) BASS PERFORMANCE - The stock unit lacks mid-bass and bass in general. The last 2 times, I had to match it with very fast and musical sub. That addresses the bass issue somewhat but leads to other issues. With the KSU II, wow, I don't really need a sub any longer when playing Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" or Bach's "Toccata & Fugue in D minor".
Now, I still don't think this is my ultimate cup of tea:
A) For some reason, I cannot get big, full sound from the R645. It's not like I couldn't play loud nor the sound is not 3D. I could play real loud and the imaging is almost halographic, but I cannot get the orchestral sound to *envelope* me (Altec 604E users would know exactly what I am trying to describe). Try listening to some Mahler symphonies, and you will see what I meant. It seems like the sound is always in front of me. I could only say the R645 is not a forward-sounding speaker. If you like polite kind of sound, you will love the R645.
B) Something similar to above but more subtle: I still feel the sound is rather thin. The KSU II upgrade mades great strides in improving this area, but my Tangent RS-4 ($450 used) gives more sheen and body when playing Schonberg's "Transfigured Night" or Strauss's "Four Last Songs" while scarifying little in details (the R645 does have more details and instrument separation)
I don't have much idea on how to address (A). But for (B), I think the R645 likes high power solid state, especially MOSFET, amplifiers. When I was doing the 1st review, I was using Conrad Johnson MF2300A (an MOSFET). Later on, I used Sonic Frontiers Power 3 (which is 6550 based tube hybrid). Both gave truely full bodied sound.
My 2nd and 3rd reviews used pure tube amplifiers of various output power (from 35wpc VAC, 40wpc McIntosh MC240, 120w Manley Lab, to 280wpc KR Enterprise monoblocks). They are considered some of the very best sounding tube amps in terms of mid-range fullness. And I just don't hear the fullness with the R645. This time, I happened to have an Krell KSA100 Mk II that I coudl borrow, and boom! The full bodied sound is back!
I kinda recall some literature saying the R645 is easy to drive. I gotta disagree with that. Any cheap Yamaha A/V receiver could drive an Celestion SL700 (83db into 4 ohms), but it doesn't mean the Yamama really has the juicies to drive the SL700 the way it should be. In this case, you will get good sound from R645 with average amps, but you need truely high-quality, high-powered amp to realize it's full potential.
Based on my experience, I'd say the R645 would give the best sound in the following combinations (just the kind of equipments I owned before):
Solid State/MOSFET: Any Conrad Johnson, vintage Krell, vintage Mark Levinson, Muse, high powered McIntosh (MC2100 as a minimum). Citation 7.1 (bi-amp it!)
Tube Hybrid/Tube: Sonic Frontiers (I don't like Counterpoint at all, too unreliable and too veil-sounding). High powerd Acoustic Research amps (100wpc at least in my opinion). Music Reference RM9 Mk II.
Amps to avoid matching with R645:
- Any VTL made amps (they sound thin already!)
- Any Manley Lab tube amps (ditto!)
- low powered amp (recessed soundstage)
- any veil sounding amp (Musical Fidelity and un-modded Counterpoint comes to my mind)
So, after all, you could get 5 star if you have great equipment match (like in my 1st review), or a 2 star if you have a disasterous match (like in my 2nd review). This hobby's all about adventurous experiments, no? Expensive propositions, but addictive and very enjoyable nevertheless.
My final words about positioning: R645 is not as positioning friendly as you may think. Well, it's not like my Wilson Watt Puppy which took me almost 2 days to get it right. The R645 is not as nightmarish as the Wilson, nor picky as Martin Logan, but you really need to experiment a lot to get the optimal position. They WILL disappear if you put them right.