Veracity HT2-TL First Impressions
For any that have listened to the AV Rant podcast or really read any of my recent reviews, you know that the Salk SongTower QWT speakers are a favorite of mine. I was fortunate enough to both review them and use them in a shootout of $1500-$2000 speakers. The SongTowers did well in both. While some might see this as a Salk bias, it really is simply an identification of quality. Do you say people are biased for liking a highly rated car or amp? No, they are simply identifying quality. In the case of the SongTowers, it is pretty much a universally held opinion that they are a great bang for buck speaker (even though we are talking about around 1800 bucks).
When Salk approached me about a review of their new Veracity HT2-TLs, I was skeptical. Anyone that knows me knows that I don't really like reviewing high dollar speakers (and no, I don't mean speakers that cost as much as a car (or a house) - I mean speakers over $2000 a pair). I frankly tend to think that the benefits as you get higher up in price become so miniscule that I can't, in good conscience, recommend the speakers. When Salk mentioned that the new HT2-TLs share a lot of the design elements of the SongTowers, I was even more hesitant. How much better could they be? How much indeed. Read on to find out.
First Impressions and Build Quality
The first place that the review of the Salk Veracity HT2-TL speakers was thought to take place was at Gene DellaSala's lab. There he has all the high end measurement equipment and $30k a pair speakers to compare the HT2's to. Well, the problem is that Gene has a bad back and at around 87 lbs a piece, the HT2-TLs weren't going to make it up the stairs to his lab. Since I not only was familiar with Salk speakers but still had a pair of SongTower QWTs on hand for comparison purposes, I was the logical second choice.
The speakers arrived, as you might imagine, in the hands of some very perturbed delivery drivers. While they were kind enough not to take out their emotions on their packages, they certainly weren't shy about expressing their displeasure at having to move around nearly 90 pound boxes. It was with a smile that they left them in my foyer for me to manhandle alone. Usually I'd take a picture of the speakers in the box outside for better lighting and setting. This time you get them in my hallway since moving them (other than sliding them across the floor) was out of the question.
As you can see, Salk did an excellent job of packaging. Foam encased the entire speaker with cutouts for the feet and plinth. With the SongTowers the packaging had been pieced together from raw pieces of foam, with the HT2-TLs it was much more custom. I much prefer this as it means that the speakers are better protected and that customers can assume that each speaker will be packaged identically. Every component was wrapped in foam-paper for additional protection. I commend Salk for leaving out the cotton sock which many would expect at this price point. Handling a speaker at half the weight in a sock is a chore, at ~87lbs, I'm sure some lawsuits would be filed for dropped speakers or crushed feet.
The first thing you'll need to do is attach the plinth and the feet. This is fairly easily done with the supplied hardware but you'll need a socket wrench. You'll also want to make sure that the plinth is even on every side. There is a little wiggle room so positioning will be important. Once you secure the plinth (not too tightly or you risk pulling out the threaded inserts), the feet are screwed in by hand. The plinth actually mounts onto the bottom of the speaker that has been routed out about 1/2 inch so that the speaker appears to float about 1/4 inch off the plinth. This seems to be a fairly common practice in speaker design and one that I can't say does anything for me aesthetically. But it does seem to be popular.
The feet (I hesitate to call them "spikes" because they aren't) are probably the most unique design I've ever seen. They are extra bulky with a metal base that seems at first blush to be completely superfluous. The entire foot assembly measures about 2" high with the first 1/2" of that in the metal base. It then tapers down and flares out again. Finally, it tapers down to a point that is even less sharp than the one I complained about on the SongTower spikes. These feet are definitely not meant as carpet spikes which are, by definition, sharp and designed to pierce the carpet making solid contact with the ground underneath. That being said, at around ~87lbs a piece, they probably don't need carpet spikes.
The weight should be taken into account when ordering these speakers. While they are certainly manageable (I don't consider myself to be a particularly strong man but I was able to move them with a modicum of cursing, swearing, and farting), those with bad backs or home theaters up or down stairs should be aware. If nothing else, you might want to have a friend around. I will say that I hope that Salk Sound has heavily reinforced the mounting of the rear port on this speaker as it is the natural handhold when moving these behemoths. The rear port is near the bottom of the speaker and is large enough for me to insert my whole hand. It has a smooth finish, is constructed out of plastic, and is flared at both ends.
I slightly misspeak when I call the HT2-TLs behemoths - they are very similar in size to their smaller cousins the SongTowers. The most notable size difference is in the depth. While the SongTowers are a full foot deep, the HT2-TLs add 5 inches to that dimension (note, you can request the enclosure be built with 3/4" MDF which allows them to reduce the depth back to identical to the the original HT2's (15") without changing the internal volume). It isn't until you take off the grill that you notice some of the most significant changes. Gone are the 5" paper cone SEAS midrange and Hiquphon QW2 soft dome tweeter. Instead you see the 7" SEAS Excel W18 midrange (magnesium/aluminum alloy cone with copper phase plug) and LCY-110 ribbon tweeter. It is here where the extra height in the feet starts to come into focus. Rather than redesign the size of the box, Salk Sound, it seemed to me, decided just to make the feet bigger. Why? Well, the 7" driver pushed down the tweeter ~2". To get the tweeters to the optimal height (ear height when seated) that distance had to be made up somewhere. Salk chose the feet much to my wife's chagrin. Personally, I don't mind the feet - I think they are different and unique. Aside from outriggers, these feet allow the easiest adjustments I've ever experienced. The missus on the other hand thought they looked "stupid." Oh, well, can't please everyone. According to Salk, these are the same spikes they normally use on all Veracity models. They also have a "bullet" version for those who do not care for this design similar to the ones on the SongTowers. In addition, they would be happy to locate, purchase and install any type of spike the customer wants. Now that's customer service!
I'm just curious how you think Song Towers with the ribbon tweeter option would compare to the HT2-TL? Some place in the middle or not in the same league?
I own the SongTower RT's and have heard the HT2-TL's many times. In short, if you're crossing over to a capable subwoofer (or two or three or four), the HT2-TL still achieves greater resolution and detail to my ears. If no subwoofer is involved, the bass will be the most impressive part, and largest difference IMO.
Yes, I agree it would be an overstatement. There are some generalizations about ribbon tweeters that don't appear to be true for all makes and models of ribbon tweeters.
A speaker's ability to disperse sound widely is one of the important features that contribute to the impression of wide sound stage when listening in stereo. Physics tells us that tweeters (or any driver) produce broadly dispersed sound when the wavelength is larger than the diameter or width of the driver. When a dome tweeter's diameter is about the same size as the wavelength, it begins to beam the sound in a narrower pattern, much like a flashlight does compared to a bare lightbulb. So for a 1" dome, beaming would begin at about 13.5 kHz, and for a ¾" dome about 18 kHz.
Actually, a 3/4" tweeter usually starts to have dispersion problems by 8-9kHz. One can use a specific waveguide design to increase dispersion, but most wave guides are used to do the opposite. On Jerry Love's speaker system, I used a ribbon with a very narrow horizontal area and a reasonably shallow front magnet structure(which can effect dispersion by means of physical blockage of path on some ribbons), to effect near identical response even at +/- 75 degrees, at 15kHz.
Every room is different - and each scenario is different...
If you have the room for move these speakers around - from back and side walls the HT2-TL's can be some of the best sounding speakers you could want to own...
If you are very concerned about having extremely wide dispersion, I would offer my suggestion that you consider Paradigm's newest Signature Series speakers with their Beryllium tweeters and ribbed-surround drivers.
I can't comment directly on the HT2-TL speakers as I have not heard them for myself. But at this sort of price range, I simply assume that you would want to at least audition and consider several candidates. I do not make my suggestion as any sort of knock against the Salks or any other speaker. I only suggest the Paradigm Signatures because I have heard those and I know for a fact that their dispersion is extremely wide. The width of their soundstage really stood out to me in my listening. So if that is a particular characteristic for which you are looking, the Paradigm Signatures jump to mind is all