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Low volume listening (Read 585 times)
AlanS
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Low volume listening
06/29/20 at 23:09:38
 
Hello all, I am currently shopping for new high efficiency speakers. I am using a Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp with a whooping 3.5watt output so they need to be quite efficient. I was using Omega 3i and liked the sound but wanted "more".

I am now moving into a new condo so I want my new speakers to be enjoyable at lower volume too.

Any thoughts? Betsy? Lii15?
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #1 - 06/30/20 at 01:30:08
 
I have the Decware 2.3 watt Zen amp and the CainTuck Audio Lii15 and I can listen and hear clearly at quite low volumes. The Lii15 is an extraordinary value at the price. It reminds me of my former electrostatic speakers except with quick, powerful and articulate bass, excellent dynamics and surprisingly good high end. It also has the best sound stage of any speaker I've ever had. I highly recommend it.

As much as I have upgraded many aspects of my system, it has always been easy to hear the changes through these speakers. I constantly find my toes tapping with the music. This is a 15 inch full range speaker that works. I am as happy as a clam.

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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #2 - 06/30/20 at 02:28:10
 
Thanks for the reply, from what I have read online, they do sound like a fantastic fit for me. I appreciate Randy's casual approach and his craftsmanship, may have to order a pair.
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #3 - 06/30/20 at 04:35:01
 
One thing Steve has mentioned is the driver has a moving mass of 13.7 grams, which is typical of a 5-6 inch driver.

From a conceptual basis, imagine a 5 or 6 inch full range driver combined with the bass, efficiency and dynamics of a 15 inch driver. It doesn't cover the bottom 1/3rd octave or the top 1/3rd octave but it is likely you will never miss it. I can listen to organ music without ever think I am missing anything. It is just the opposite. It sounds more real than any speaker I've heard that has deeper bass. It also has mid bass to die for.

From a sound stage perspective, it can go from intimate to absolutely huge. The sense of scale is another aspect that make this such an extraordinary achievement. It is that good.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #4 - 06/30/20 at 05:17:07
 
Wow, that's a glowing review! Sounds like the sonic performance I have been looking for! The Omega's were good but my room was a bit too big for them but I love the organic sound that they produced. In terms of the bottom end, I have never been a fan of over powering bass but I do like fast, articulate bass. As for the top end, my old ears don't probably hear much over 12k anyways due to miss spent youth and construction work.
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #5 - 06/30/20 at 18:59:36
 
As far as not likely hearing above 12k, you might be amazed how good the highs sound. Even though the highs are coming indirectly via the 15" driver and I am probably sounding overly enthusiastic, I like the highs from this single driver speaker more than any previous speaker that I've ever had. You will like what you hear. Part of this may be due to the single driver type, there are no crossovers or phase distortions. The efficiency is also an essential part of what makes this work in the real world. There is less loss of energy being turned into heat or the direct effect of heat dissipation. It is a more pure signal without the changes of the sound going through crossovers and different radiation patterns. They are not perfect and I've never heard a perfect system. But the sound is of one cloth and that purity shines with these speakers.

I cannot really explain why the highs sound so good but my ears are hearing a high end orgy of sounds without hearing any discernible harshness. It is easy on the ears.

Just my thoughts.

I say this within the context of having an excellent source (Denafrips Pontus) and silver based cables. Yours may have a different balance but you will be impressed.

Just make sure you get enough sleep prior to their arrival.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #6 - 07/01/20 at 06:57:31
 
Thanks for the reply, now, here is the question... Based upon listening to the Betsy, Alnico and Lii15 which of them has better highs (sound.. Not measurements). Are the Lii15 as fast as the Betsy?
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benzxc
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #7 - 07/01/20 at 08:22:36
 
Hi,

I have both the Betsy and Lii15 from Caintuck Audio and it is my opinion that the Betsy's are a bit faster. The highs and mids of the Betsy's are very good but it took my pair quite some time of burning in before it sounded good to my ears. At the beginning it sounded a bit sharp, but that feeling resolved itself after 200 hours or so of playing music. The Lii15 sounded essentially the same as it does now right out of the box. Haven't tried the alnico's but I've heard nothing but good things about them. I love both my speakers from Caintuck Audio!
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #8 - 07/01/20 at 14:25:45
 
benzxc,

One additional thing I love about the Lii 15's is being able to physically feel the bass.

I haven't heard the Betsy's and would love to hear your thought about the differences in the bass between the two speakers.
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benzxc
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #9 - 07/01/20 at 14:55:49
 
Artman,

I agree that the bass of the Lii15 is very impressive. To me, the Lii15 baffles don't really need supplemental bass.

I think bass is where the Lii 15 really beats out the Betsy. I got the Betsy & Buck baffles from Caintuck Audio. Basically it is the 8 inch Betsy drivers plus a 10 inch bass driver installed on the same baffles. It gives the Betsy a bit more lower end then it otherwise would have. It is a very nice and clean sound, but to my ears the bass is not quite as much as the Lii15 even with the help of the 10 inch bass drivers.

Both are very nice and I enjoy switching speakers every once in a while. It takes some time to get oriented and used to the sound when I switch but I usually relax into the music within 30 minutes of switching.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #10 - 07/01/20 at 15:25:11
 
I mostly listen to acoustic music and vocal jazz so I need to know that the speaker can reproduce a piano (many don't) but I also want to feel the texture of a guitar and a cello. To me that is where the Omega's shined, they did a great job of the strings but struggled with the piano, especially the lower end of the piano.
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #11 - 07/01/20 at 19:11:18
 
benzxc,

Thanks for your thoughts. I think Randy says his favorite speaker is the one that he is listening to at that moment. They are all excellent but different perspectives of the music. I can appreciate that. I would guess if I switched between the Betsy's and the Lii 15, I would be drawn into strengths of that system rather than focus on what I might be giving up.

I really love the open baffle bass of the Lii 15's. I can feel the bass driving the beat of the music and for me, drawing me deeper into the music. It is really nice to be able to get this quality of sound and having a number of possible choices and for such a modest amount of money.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #12 - 07/01/20 at 20:56:37
 
Thanks for all of your replies, I have just ordered a new pair of Lii15 from Randy!!

Two tone Sapele/Maple/Sapele, if they look anything like the photos on the website, they are going to be beautiful!

Now the waiting....  :-/
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HockessinKid
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #13 - 07/01/20 at 22:23:26
 
Alan,

That's the wood combination Randy built for me and has a picture of on his website. You'll love them. Congratulations!

HK
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #14 - 07/01/20 at 22:35:13
 
HK, thanks for the inspiration! For the first time ever I asked my wife what she thought of the speakers and she said that they look good enough to have in our living room (that is a first too!! Lol).

Then I asked her to look at Randy's website and pick a favourite, and she talked about important things like whether they match the hardwood floors, whether they clashed with her decorating vibe, and she was not convinced until she saw yours! She said yes, order them right away but only in that wood/colour combination!

Appears that you sir, have impeccable taste!
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HockessinKid
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #15 - 07/01/20 at 23:05:09
 
The colors match up well with the phase plug and interior white cone too. That's why I got the combination. Randy does an excellent job with sanding, linseed oil & beeswax. Very high quality finish.

Hope you are both happy with them😊.

HK
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Nottingham Interspace TT w/ Dynavector 20x2LO cart + Modwright PH 9.0 phono pre > ZROCK2-25th OR Modwright modified Cambridge CNX V2 > CSP3-25th preamp > ZMA-25th amp > PI Audio Group UberBUSS PC > Omega SAHO XRS or Caintuck Audio Lii 15 speakers > various cables.
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ArtMan
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #16 - 07/02/20 at 00:05:10
 
AlanS,

Congratulations. Every piece of music you listen to will sound new and fresh. You are in for a treat.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #17 - 07/02/20 at 01:39:51
 
Thank you for your help with this decision, I am very excited to hear them with my Triode Labs SET 2A3 amp and Au Pré preamp, I think it will be amazing! This truly has to be one of the best bargains in the audio world where every other efficient, single driver speakers sell for 3 to 30 tines as much money! There is also something comforting knowing that a real human is building these beautiful speakers just for me.
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Lon
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #18 - 07/02/20 at 01:56:04
 


;)
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cmdc
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #19 - 07/02/20 at 16:05:37
 
My own Lii 15s just arrived last night. They are beautiful and the sound is outstanding.  I've found them remarkably fast, almost liquid, out of the box; and I agree with others that you can feel the bass. I've been listening this morning to a live album by Bela Fleck and Toumani Diabate, and it's like the notes were falling like rain. I haven't tried them yet with my ZMA, but plan to do that tonight.  As I told Randy, the highest possible praise I can give them is that my wife--who doesn't usually care at all about audio--decided she wants them in the living room.  Which means we'll probably need another pair.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #20 - 07/02/20 at 16:57:40
 
Thanks for your initial impressions, buy something as "personal" as speakers online without ever hearing them is a bit of a leap of faith, so reading posts like this really help.

If you have more time after you spend more time with them, more impressions would be fantastic too.

So thrilled that you got the thumbs up from your wife, it just makes the purchase feel like an even bigger bargain if you are not trying to justify something big and ugly by saying "I know they are ugly, but they sound good" lol. (Maggie's come to mind).
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #21 - 07/03/20 at 02:53:23
 
Just out of curiosity, as I learn more about the Decware gear, has anyone paired the Lii15 and a ZRock? Is the ZRock a useful component for lower volume listening?
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benzxc
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #22 - 07/03/20 at 03:15:51
 
Hi,

I have both the Lii15 and the ZRock2. I'm not sure what level you consider to be low, but I almost never turn my amplifier (SE84UFO) up more than the 9oclock position. That is plenty volume for my listening purposes.

I really like the ZRock2 in my system. I sometimes bypass it when I know a recording very well, to compare. It gives the perception of more bass, a bit more warmth, and it really helps with thin sounding recordings.  I turn the ZRock2 to about 2 to 3 o'clock position, anything past that sounds a bit muddy to my ears.

Hope that helps.
Ben
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ZROCK2 (w/ 25th Anniversary Mods)
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #23 - 07/03/20 at 05:03:06
 
Thanks Ben, that does help. I think I will wait to hear the Lii15 with my amp, it is a sweet unit. I am curious about Steve's designs though, and the ZRock is a fantastic idea for systems that are lacking that bottom end punch.
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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #24 - 07/04/20 at 15:38:16
 
Dmdc, any more thoughts about your new speakers? I would love to hear your impressions now that you have had them for a few days. While I wait, maybe I can live vicariously through your experiences... Lol.

Thanks
Alan
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cmdc
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #25 - 07/04/20 at 21:31:37
 
TL;dr--We're definitely gonna need another pair.

I've had the Lii 15s for a few days now, and have tried them in three rooms with multiple audio and video sources.  The short story is that they are so good in so many ways that my wife has encouraged me to get another pair so she can keep these in our living room, and I don't have to keep carting them around.  (Her encouraging me to spend even more money on even more audio gear is...to put it mildly...not common.)

The living room was going to be a fallback: if the speakers somehow didn't fit or didn't impress in places where I do more critical listening, then I could still use them to replace the audio system for the TV because (a) they're gorgeous and (b) our current system has real trouble with delivering dialog clearly if you're off axis.  Just by chance, we ended up trying that setup first. The difference was immediate: dialog was suddenly crystal clear not only throughout the living room and kitchen, but even two rooms away.

This points to another benefit of the Liis (and Randy's baffles): the sweet spot is very large, which means they've sounded great even when the setup was just roughed in.  The added benefit of having them in the living room is that they're a vast improvement over the in-ceiling speakers that we were using for streaming audio there, which means I can listen to music in the living room again without cringing.  

Listening in the living room also confirmed a couple of observations from other commenters. They do benefit from being elevated a bit in the front. Even 1/4 in. makes a nice difference; and I've found that 1 inch is more to my taste, though you may lose a bit of bass extension. Even elevated, however, I agree with others that you definitely can feel the bass down into the middle bass frequencies. One of the ways I test this is with the opening scene of Thor Ragnarok, much of it backed by Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.  The Lii15s did admirably with the scene, but benefited from a subwoofer assist to get the punch and weight from the lowest frequencies.  

Since the lowest frequencies in a superhero movie are more than a little exaggerated compared to what I generally listen to, I played the same song with and without a subwoofer in my listening room.  Candidly, I didn't notice much difference.  Even without the subwoofer, it sounded like Led Zeppelin invoking a thunder god. So, it's got that goin' for it, I guess.

The Led Zeppelin brought me to the other place where the speed of the Lii 15s really shines through: percussion.  The shimmer and sustain of the ride cymbals, the sharp snap of the snare, the depth of the toms all depend on subtle transients for much of their character, and I found the speed of the Liis made them much richer and more realistic. The same was true for the ticking clocks, clanging registers and breathless footfalls on Dark Side of the Moon.  The impacts were even clearer when I put on a flamenco record by Carlos Montoya.  I could feel the impact of boots on the hardwood dance floor; the clapping hands, snapping fingers and castanets all came into sharper focus and reached several feet out into the room--deeper, in fact, than with the Von Schweikert VR4jr III speakers that sat behind them.

And just like the Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate album I played on the first day, the steps and fingersnaps on the Montoya album came with a speed and fluidity that had me hearing things I'd never heard on those albums before.

I love my VR4jrs, and I'm not yet ready to say Randy's Lii15s are better. But given that a used pair of the former cost 3 times what the Lii15s do (and that the VR4jrs are often compared to even more expensive speakers), the fact that's even a question is pretty high praise.

It's unsurprising, I think, that the Lii 15s are faster than the Von Schweikerts.  What's more surprising is that they come very close in holographic imaging, at which the VR4jrs are exceptionally good. In addition to the Montoya album, one of my favorite tests for that imaging is a live acoustic album by Colin Melloy.  He talks with the crowd alot; and the clarity and location of voices, and depth of the crowd can change dramatically depending on the equipment I'm using and how it's set up.

Which brings me back to the point I made earlier about the Lii15’s generous sweet spot. The Lii15s performed almost as well on this test as the VR4jrs. But what's really notable about that is that I spent months getting the latter positioned, angled and dialed in just right--literally measuring distances down to the millimeter.  (I understand that this is not healthy behavior; I'm not proud of it.)  But the Lii15s haven't had the benefit of that: I just literally plopped them down in the only place they'd fit.  And connected them to my ZMA with 9 gauge zip cord rather than the more expensive cables that run to the Von Schweikerts.  And they still sound amazing.

This may be why, at least so far, the Lii15s haven't bested the VR4jrs in what I find the toughest test of imaging: female vocals.  With the Von Schweikerts set up just right, Adele and Shirley Bassey become not just voices, but a real, physical presence in the room.  I haven't gotten the Lii15s to quite that point yet.  But given that I just plopped them down on the floor with speaker cable I got off Amazon, they're really, really damn close.  And they sound amazing.

And when I compare them with the otherwise very nice (and about equally priced) Totem Rainmakers in my office, the difference is night and day.

Which is why we're gonna have to buy another pair.  Cause, portable as these speakers are, I can't be constantly hauling them around to all the places we'll want to listen to them.

In the meantime, they'll be providing the soundtrack to our family fireworks tonight.  And I have to go set those up now.

Hope this helps.  Sorry it was long.

Carroll




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AlanS
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Re: Low volume listening
Reply #26 - 07/04/20 at 22:44:45
 
Hi Carroll, what a wonderful write up! Never apologize for writing lots of detail because, generally, we don't say enough about this stuff. Thank you for taking the time to write this review when you were probably busy running your Lii15 up and down the hallway from room to room... I can just picture it! My wife, similarly to yours, has been less then thrilled with some of my audio acquisitions, reacted the same way when I showed her Randy's creations!

So, it sounds like Randy has created another winner, getting full spousal marks for design and full audiophile marks for sonic performance. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of mine!

Thanks
Alan
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