ACI Sapphire III Floorstanding Speakers

Sapphire III

  • Tweeter: 1" hand-damped textile dome, ferro-fluid cooled
  • Bass-midrange: 7" kevlar sandwich layered cone, rubber surround

  • User Reviews (47)

    Showing 1-10 of 47  
    pabs911   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 27, 2009]

    I just got a pair of the original ACI Sapphire III two way monitors (vintage 1998) off Ebay for a measely $250.00 shipped!!!!! To say I'm "excited" would be an extreme understatement. I'd never heard them before, but after reading all the reviews here and quite a few professional reviews as well, I took the plunge. To be perfectly honest, I've only just gotten these a few hours ago but have been listening non-stop since. I currently own a pair of Von Schweikert VR-2 towers that until today were my main two channel reference speakers... but no longer. The Sapphires now take their place. Considering that the Von Schweikerts retailed for 3 grand and go far lower than the Sapphires (to a useful 25 hertz!), that speaks volumes as to how well the little Sapphires do what they do. I've also owned a wonderful pair of Sonus Faber Concertino Homes (piano black version) that I loved... until I heard the Von Schweikerts. Needless to say, based solely on sound quality, the Sapphires are in a different league than the Concertinos, but the Concertinos were probably the most beautiful speakers I've ever owned. The Sapphires are not, but they more than make up for their rather ordinary looks with their shockingly superlative sound. Make no mistake, these are mini-monitor heavyweights, literally and figuratively. I'm not sure of their weight, but I'd guess around 22 to 24 pounds each! They are built like little tanks. Compared to the VS VR-2s, the Sapphires are more detailed, more forward in their presentation, more "live" sounding, faster, more extended highs, reveal more ambiance and inner details, and get at the "art" of the music more. I'm driving them with an Onix SP3 integrated tube amp (38 watts per channel stock model but with better tubes... Amperex 12AX7 long plate square getters in front, Amperex 6922 gold pins in the middle, and Mullard 12AU7 long plate square getters in the rear along with a quad of Valve Art 350B power tubes as well (just so you know). They are bi-wired with Tributaries OFHC wire. I'm using a Denon DVD-955 for my CD player (not in the same league as the amp or speakers, but serviceable), but no subwoofer. By the way, some people here have complained about a lack of bass extension. I am clueless as to why. That's like saying Shaq is a lousy 3 point shooter. These are mini-monitors people! Considering their size, I am more than impressed with how low they go. I'd guess that bass is useful down to 40 hertz or so, but whatever they do down low it is quality stuff. These are very tight fast bass makers. Quality over quantity anyday I say. In a small room (mine is only 12 by 10) and well placed they make plenty of bass, thank you... never muddy or sloppy.

    Well, I could go on and on, but to sum up... these are exceptional speakers and could easily sell for $3000.00. Their quality is undeniable and "in your face", but not in an intrusive way. They make music like no other speaker I've ever heard or owned anywhere near their original retail price ($1199.00), and I've heard quite a few...Thiel (scary treble YIKES!, very unforgiving, but wonderful midrange and bass), Sonus Faber (great speaker but a bit pricey all things considered), Von Schweikert (excellent value, great sound, ordinary looks), Magnapan (great value/sound if you can accept their room domination... oh, and cats LOVE them for scratching posts! lol), KEF (very nice but too analytical for my tastes... the new stuff that is). ACI is probably the best kept secret in HI-FI. With products like this at such insane prices, I really cannot understand why. Perhaps their prices are too low? Who can say? ;-)


    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    zeekzaak   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 28, 2007]
    Strength:

    very few at the price!

    Weakness:

    Teeny wenie bass!

    I just recievied a broken in pair of sapphire IIIs and am quite dissapointed. I read many of the reviews here and decided that 400 bucks was a decent deal. First the good news. the midrange and trebble are decent. Immaging and soundstage are actually pretty good. now the bad news. The bass is absolutly pathetic. It sounds as if its comming from a 4" woofer. It is inadequate for even a small room. a subwoofer is not an option it is imparative. If I had known this I would have steered clear. I had a pair of b&w 601 s1 on hand to compare them with. other than the slightly harsh tweeter on the 601s, they ran circles around the sapphires. (that was a small price to pay for the disparity in bass extention) I would like to make clear that I didn't use poor electronics while conducting this experement. (musical fidelity A5, rega apollo,and purist audio design cabling) I just wanted to put this review in to warn anyone who doesnt have a subwoofer or plans to buy one or two to steer clear.

    Similar Products Used: B&w 601
    Rega r1
    many others
    OVERALL
    RATING
    2
    VALUE
    RATING
    1
    laspino   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 19, 2005]
    Strength:

    Wonderful bass for a speaker of this size. Correct placement, like any speaker needs, really makes these speakers sing. The best sounding speakers I've ever owned. Very similar, but better all around than the B&W 805s. The Sapphire can handle almost any kind of music. Quality build, very solid cabinets. You can tell a lot of work has been put in the construction. ACI are very nice people to deal with.

    Weakness:

    A bit much for a small room- even for a standmount. Solid build but the looks may be a bit 'clunky', I prefer to see them as retro. The new XLs are much different.

    I have the ACI Sapphire 25th Anniversary Editions bought in December of '03.

    Similar Products Used: Quad 11L
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Steelhed   AudioPhile [Nov 23, 2004]
    Strength:

    Audiophile quality sound with good bang for the buck. The Sapphires are key.

    Weakness:

    The Jolida at 60W will not play as loud as a high current SS amp, but who cares. If you want loud, stick you head in a tin trash can and have someone hit is with a hammer, repeatedly.

    I have the 25th anniversary versions of the Sapphire speaker. A new thread should be started, because these speakers are quite different from their predecessors, but I don't know how to do that. Anyway, I have these for about two months and I have used them with three different amps, two solid state and one tube. While they sounded great with the solid state amps, this review is about how they sound with the tube amp. I purchased a Jolida 502B customized by Responseaudio located in New York state. Responseaudio modifed the caps and resistors and made several other tweaks including the addition of a pre-out and main-in feature. This figures signficantly in my set-ups final configuration and sound. If you want awesome audiophile quality sound just repeat the formula below: 1) ACI Sapphires (25th anniversay editions) 2) ACI Quake subwoofer (no longer made, but I have a Force on the way) 3) ACI Y's connected to DH Labs interconnects with in line 85hz highpass filters. DH labs speaker cables and subwoofer cable. DH labs interconnects between component and amp. 4) Jolida JD502B modified by Responseaudio. Sovtek 6550C power tubes replaced with Electro Harmonix KT88EH's. 5) Cambridge Audio 500SE CD player. I tried the Sapphires with other components and I tried other speakers with the above listed setup. The Sapphires are superior. They image better and really bring out the low end despite the fact they are only two way ported speakers. Build quality is exceptional and ACI service is top notch. I could go on, but you get the point.

    Similar Products Used: Axiom M3Ti, Paradigm Reference 20, Dynaudio Contour 1.1, Nestarovic 5AS, Definitive Technology, JBL, etc.
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    artbay   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 29, 2002]
    Strength:

    transparency, musicality, soundstage

    Weakness:

    Not the most beautiful things to behold. A metal tweeter to make those symbols clang a bit more would be nice

    As others before have described these are lovely, elegant speakers that are a tremendous value. I would like to, however, add a word of warning! In the film "As Good As It Gets" Jack Nicholson's character says to Helen Hunt's "you make me want to be a better man". Theres a good chance if you buy these speakers you'll want to get a better stereo system. I innocent and naive just wanted to treat myself to a new pair of speakers in the $1000 range. I auditioned everything that I could get my ears on within driving distance and just didn't find anything that rang my bell. I read reviews on this site and decided to take a chance on the Saphires. I think I was the last one to get the walnut finish and when they arrived I thought them lovely, if not a bit clunky. They sounded good out of the box but after breaking them in they just got better and better and better. I realized there was more sound to be had out of them and my so so components were not doing them justice. This started me on a quest, which while incredibly fun and involving was nothing I intended on. I have a reached a point where I'm taking a breather but I've heard things through these speakers that have litterally given me goose bumps (Diana Krall.. Garden in the Rain Norah Jones Butterfly etc etc). What I discovered is that these speakers get better with good (i.e. more) amplification. I ended up with a Carver 380 wpc channel amp ... good interconnects and speaker wire (Cardas Cross ..another highly recommended and Silver Sonic bi-wire speaker cable). I recently added a amc tube pre-amp and fit them with some old Mullards and old rca "long tubes". Finally I found the musical fidelity E624 CD player a big improvement over my Rotel. For the time being I am in acoustic nirvana, and though I'm reading more have thoughts of tweaking this and that for the moment I'm just buying more CD's I have truly rediscovered the joy of music. Hats off to the folks at ACI these things just sing.

    Similar Products Used: auditioned: sonas farber, krell, newton, energy and more
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Virginia guy   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 11, 2002]
    Strength:

    Transparency, microdynamics, coherence

    Weakness:

    Subterranean bass.

    I bought the Sapphire III LE''s about six months ago. They shorted out after about 20 seconds after hooking them up. I sent them back, ACI found the short (shielding apparently not installed correctly) and fixed it, and I had them back very promptly (5 days shipping each way to the east coast). At all times, the customer service at ACI was first rate - there were no excuses, replies were immediate, and they fixed the problem quickly and completely. When I actually got them up and running, I was very impressed. I run Aerial 10T''s in another room, and, although the Aerial''s are a better speaker(at almost 6 times the price), the Sapphires compare very well. I had originally bought them with the intention of giving them to my daughter at college. I may still eventually do that, but for now she will have to make do with an Acoustic Energy AEGO2 system hooked up to her computer. The Sapphires are tremendous speakers at their price point - transparent, musical, very coherent. I originally had them powered by a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 integrated, and this was a very good combination. Later I connected them to an Antique Sound Labs AQ 1001 DT and this was also a very good combination (at a much lower price for amplification). The Sapphires'' efficiency make them a good choice for push-pull tube amplification and possibly even SET''s. As other reviewers on this site have commented, the Sapphire''s are very revealing of everything upstream. I have not run frequency tests on them, but I can tell you they do everything but deep bass with aplomb. If you want those bass drums to kick you in the stomach, get a subwoofer. Every speaker design involves tradeoffs, and in my view, the Sapphires make theirs in a very intelligent manner by giving the audio spectrum above deep bass a remarkable brilliance and musicality. ACI is a company doing something right. The Sapphires are a very high value purchase. If you shop very carefully, you can no doubt get more speaker at double their price (you will also find some that aren''t as good). In their price range ($1500 and under) they will be tough to beat.

    Similar Products Used: Revel M-20
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    3D   Casual Listener [Mar 09, 2002]

    When I first got these speakers my wife said, "Wow, I really love the sound of them...they are so beautiful...they just make me feel so good...they make me want to do it." I bought a second pair for the kitchen!

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Dennis Triplett   an Audio Enthusiast [Feb 08, 1997]

    When I first heard of the Sapphires III speakers I was, to put it lightly, hesitant to consider purchasing a set of speakers I hadn't heard yet. I kept reading where they were compared to speakers ranging from 2 to 4 times their costs but wasn't sure I wanted to plop down $1000 to test hear a set of speakers. So I decided to write some Sapphire owners and get their AFTER the sale impressions. In all cases I got 'I still love them' and 'I'm glad I bought them' messages.
    They suggested some speakers to compare them to. One owner suggested I compare them to a set of ProAc 2s speakers, so I went to my local Hi-End stereo shop and listened to a set ProAc 2's to get a indication of what they might sound like. I was impressed, as I should be since they cost $3000+ a pair, and if the Sapphires sounded as good I new I had a new set of speakers...

    I decided to send for a pair. Since ACI has a 15 day trial, I figured if I wasn't happy with the speakers I could just send them back and get a refund of my money.

    Well, after receiving my speakers, I hooked them up and played them. My first impressions were that they seemed bright, but I knew that they needed breaking in so I ran them over a week, 12+ hours a day to break them in. After one week I new I wasn't going to be sending them back.

    Now that I've had them for a couple of weeks, let me say 'what a difference'! The highs balanced out and became smooth and clear and the mid range tightened up and blended smoothly with the tweeter. They are not bright any more but have an excellent, smooth and clear high end. These speakers are all that I read and more... They DO have a dynamic and deep sound stage and their musical clarity is excellent. Vocals are 'right on' and instruments sound like the real thing. They feel as if their right in the room with you. I'm a drummer, and I haven't heard a set of speakers reproduce the sounds of a drum set without some muddiness or imbalance. I noticed that the Sapphires really shined here. I can almost sense where on the drumstick the rim of the drum is hitting when the drummer is doing rim shots. I can sense the resonance of the drumstick. They reproduce the sounds of instruments with surprising accuracy. Guitars sound like ... Guitars. Music comes alive. These speakers are excellent.

    I have a M&K MX 200 sub and the Sapphires III's blend in flawless with them. I love the sound of my sound system.

    Just for the book, now that I've had a chance to listen to them awhile, I definitely like the Sapphires much better than the ProAc 2s. IMO the Sapphires have a better ambiance and sound stage.

    I highly recommend them.

    Dennis Triplett

    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    Tony   Audiophile [Feb 27, 2000]
    Strength:

    Tonal balance, imaging, soundstaging, coherence

    Weakness:

    Need a good subwoofer for that last octave

    I have been looking for a stand mounted speaker for music listening only. My room has a tile floor and tends to be a bit bright. An email to ACI got a prompt response from Mike Dzurko, the owner/designer. I had been aware of the Sapphire for many years, having read Gary Galo's Speaker Builder article in 1992 and thought they would be worth trying. I am glad I did.

    I directly compared the Sapphires to the Sonus Faber Concertos and Dunlavy SM-1s. I listened to the SM-1 at a dealer and had the Concertos at home on audition (at the same time as the Sapphires). My observations follow:

    The Sapphire had the most realistic tonal balance, excellent soundstaging and coherency (equal to the Dunlavy's that are particularly good in this regard), and a particularly smooth treble. The Dunlavy's sounded dull in comparison and the Concertos rather "untidy". While the Concerto initially had a more exciting sound, I ultimately found it rather tiring to listen to, the tweeter sounding rather exposed and ragged.

    As an example, I am quite fond of the 1973 recording of Puccini's Turandot with Sutherland, Pavarotti, et al. The Sapphires made the voices on this recording sound palpable, particularly Pavarotti's. Both the Concerto and the SM-1 introduced a buzzy quality to the voice that sounded electronic. The Sapphire on the other hand, made the voice sound real, with no electronic overlay.

    The Sapphires reproduce orchestral strings with the sheen of live but with none of the false highlighting that the Concertos introduced.

    Overall I find them to be very easy to listen to for long periods of time. Add a decent sub (like the ACI Titan) and you have an absolutely first rate system that I would term among the best I've heard for under $2,000.

    Finally, dealing with the company has been first rate. Customer satisfaction seems to be a top priority at ACI and with a 30 day money back guarantee, you owe it to yourself to hear them.

    Similar Products Used: Sonus Faber Concerto; Dunlavy SM-1
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    jim lanard   Audiophile [Mar 22, 2000]
    Strength:

    Fine balance, accurate imaging, great clarity

    Weakness:

    none

    These speakers are two months old and have about 120 hours on them. I purchased them because of their reputation for great tonal balance and fine imaging, and they have not disappointed me. With chamber music, organ music, and other classical works they have a clarity and balance between low to high range that I have not heard with any other speakers. They just get better the more hours that are put on them. The greatest compliment I can give is that chamber groups, vocal soloists, and organs sound as if they are in the room with you.
    They are biwired with Audioquest Type 4 cable ( 2 strands per speaker) from a Yamaha R-V1105 receiver (85 watts), and I use a Marantz CD-635E disc player.

    Similar Products Used: NHT Super Ones
    OVERALL
    RATING
    5
    VALUE
    RATING
    5
    Showing 1-10 of 47  

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