Castle Acoustics Isis Floorstanding Speakers

Isis

2-Way Single Port Reflex - 5" Woofer and 1" Tweeter

User Reviews (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8  
Christian Chen   an Audio Enthusiast [May 02, 1997]

These speakers have got to be the best value in speakers I have ever heard. I bought these about three months ago, back when I had heard only a few speakers. Now I've listened to numerous more expensive speakers, and these $500 speakers have held up incredibly well. They are extremely transparent, allowing the quality of your electronics to really shine through, whether that be a good thing or a bad thing. I've heard them sound exceedingly warm in a system, and I've also heard them sound exceedingly bright, which only goes to say that I've tried them in a lot of different systems! You might think that such a small speaker can't possibly have a good bass response, but as you add better and better electronics to the system, the bass response continues to improve dramatically. In general, the bass is always tight and well-defined, never interfering with the midrange or tweeter. I used to think that the speaker didn't have a lot of low bass, but as I've shoved better equipment onto it, it's low end continues to improve. Vocals are really where this speaker shines though. If you listen to opera, or like music where the singer is an extremely important facet, you will love these speakers. I've compared these speakers to the $1600 B&W 805, and the Isis *still* sounded better vocally. Also, I've compared them to electrostatic speakers in the $2000-$3000 range, as well as the Thiel C6 speakers, and the vocals continue to be the best I have heard, even though the Thiel speakers were hooked up to electronics costing about 8 times my current system. Soundstage, imaging, detail, all those things can be excellent with this speaker if you've got good electronics behind it.
Alright, I'm gushing. But I really didn't know how good these speakers were until I started listening to speakers that cost significantly more. If you find a dealer who has these speakers, definitely audition these speakers!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
John Wise   an Audiophile [Jan 30, 1999]

I agree with Christian's views of tansparency and excellence on vocals. I bought these speakers having heard them against the one's I went in to my dealer to buy and was totally surprised by the clarity.
The speakers were purchased for the study in our house with the key criteria being they had to be small (as opposed to the KEF Reference 4's that dominate the longe room).

For people that like acoustic music, vocals and jazz, these speakers are unbeatable at the price, being as good in the midrange as speakers costing 10x the price.

Their power handling is good, and are not easily phased by rock or difficult classic tracks.

Having listened to the range of Castle speakers, this and the Harlech are the choice if you like music slearly presented with a straightforward sound stage.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
John Rutter   an Audio Enthusiast [Jan 14, 1999]

I picked up a pair of Castle Isis used from this site about 6 months ago. I was specifically looking for a speaker that could tolerate being positioned close to the wall behind them. I ended up putting them on wall brackets that I made so that they could stick out the recommended 10". Spouse approval ranked very high - these are great looking speakers with nice cabinetwork and graceful grill. They are biwireable/biampable and I did notice some improvement at both high and low end when I got around to hooking up the second pair of speaker wires. I use cheap zip cord, by the way.
These speakers go pretty low for their size. In my room, they are down 5 dB at 50 Hz - not bad. The upper end rolls off gracefully starting at 12 kHz, but I didn't bother to take the grilles off. On my Audiosource AMP 2, this roll off is actually a benefit. They were fairly flat (+/- 3 dB) right over the crossover region. My room has a big dip at 200 Hz, but that is a common suckout mode in lots of rooms.
Imaging and soundstage is good, even when I sit at the other end of the room against the far wall. Of course, with the speakers so close to the wall, the depth of the stage is not super, but the presentation is not thrown way forward, either. I recently hooked up a small powered mirage subwoofer to fill in some of the missing bottom end. The combo sounds good, but the bass on the Isis seems tighter (the woofer probably settles faster). The crossover is fairly simple - I think I remember seeing 3 parts when I opened it up for a look. Castle also makes their own high quality drivers.
These speakers really love acoustic music like some jazz and folk. Almost all of an acoustic bass comes through. Female vocals are excellent. If the volume stays sane, they do a good job with rock as well.
There is a well written review with a picture here:
http://www.AudioShopper.com/CastleIsis.htm
Rome still had his pair when I e-mailed him at the end of the summer. He repeated the need for a long break-in period.
I can't wait to try these speakers with tubes - their strength is in the midrange. I believe it when people say that better front end and amplification can make a nice difference. I have not auditioned other speakers that fit my criteria higher than this price range, but I am quite happy with the Isis.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Josh Grant   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 02, 1999]
Strength:

Spectacular vocals

Weakness:

Light on bass (whaddya want - they're small!)

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)

Similar Products Used: JM Labs, NHT, Paradigm Reference, Totem, Tannoy, ISD, Mission
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Manzefan   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 11, 2000]
Strength:

elegant design and sound

Weakness:

None considering its intended use for small-scale presentations

easy to match and great to listen to--fine balance between attention-grabbing musicality and amount of details

Similar Products Used: PSB 300
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Rick Eason   an Audiophile [Apr 24, 1999]

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+

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Jeff Bellin   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 03, 1999]
Strength:

Fast, open, detailed, smooth, airy.

Weakness:

Presentation a bit forward, doesn't go extremely deep in the bass

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.

Similar Products Used: Magnepan SMGc, Meadowlark Kestrel, B&W602, Mordaunt-Short 20i.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Steve   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 11, 2000]
Strength:

Size, finish, musicality

Weakness:

none so far

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 :)

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-8 of 8  

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