Listening to the Acora SRB monitors in a 16 x 25-foot handle the complex dynamics in Brand X’s Unorthodox Behaviour, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were listening to a floor standing speaker, even at a fairly high listening level. The sonic landscape created is big, deep, and immersive. A number of well-known tracks reveal minute details either fully or partially obscured with other speakers.
Many audiophiles cling to the notion, that small speakers sound small. In most cases that’s true. Think of some of your favorite small speakers. The team at Acora has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with small speakers. The laws of science and physics can’t be broken, yet these speakers are an example of what can be achieved with solid engineering concepts applied and refined to the utmost. Precious few small speakers play with authority, but these must be at the top of that list. They carry a premium price as well, ($15,000 pair, matching stands $5,000/pair) yet in the context of other high performance, compact monitors, not out of line.
These understated black speakers appear to have a simple shape from across the room; close inspection reveals they are machined from solid granite. Ditto for the matching stands. Don’t do the “knuckle-rap” test on these, unless you want to head to the emergency room with broken knuckles. Nothing says inert cabinet like granite.
Unless you start measuring closely, you probably won’t even notice that the cabinets have non-parallel walls. Cutting granite is one thing. Machining granite speaker cabinets with non-parallel walls is an impressive feat, going far beyond the adage of “measure twice, cut once.” This is serious implementation.
Other than panel speakers, which try to eliminate the cabinet completely, most speaker manufacturers either work with the inherent resonances in the cabinets; or try to eliminate them completely. These incredibly dense granite enclosures accomplish the latter. The complete lack of cabinet resonance allows you to hear exactly what the drivers and crossover are doing. In the process, all that output that would normally get smeared or absorbed, makes for a small speaker that sounds big. Really big.
You need the stands
If you’re thinking about skipping the stands as an economy move, prepare to be disappointed, and this is an unfair reflection on the SRBs. You can buy budget lenses for your favorite Leica rangefinder camera too, but you won’t achieve 100% of the optical performance designed into the camera. To verify this, a pair of massive Sound Anchor stands were substituted, to negative effect. Working with a top-quality monitor like this, that has a claimed low frequency spec of 43hz, you don’t want to lose any of the performance you are paying for.
If you’re trying to be slightly more fiscally responsible, Acora does offer the SRS-M stand at a reduced price of $2,500. They will reduce the ultimate performance of the speaker, and with a 27” height, probably not terribly useful should you decide to finally pony up and get the granite ones. Sometimes, it just makes sense to get exactly what you want to begin with.
The granite SRS-G stands each weigh almost 100 pounds. Considering that the SRB speakers tip the scale to nearly 60 pounds each, the combination should be kid and pet proof. The base is wide, to the point that they will be incredibly difficult to knock over. Let’s just say if you have kids or pets than can topple these, you have different issues to deal with.
The sheer mass of the stands suggests that these will aid in coupling the speaker to the floor, but again, the 27-inch height is critical to achieving proper tweeter to ear balance – but there’s an even more crucial issue. When dealing with a high-resolution loudspeaker, the ability to fine tune speaker rake angle also plays a big factor in getting every last bit of performance. Examining the finely machined feet at the base of the SRB’s stands tells the story.
Setup and initial listening
The SRBs are sonically engaging on both aspects of a rectangular room, yet when on the long wall in my listening room, deliver a much wider stereo image, when not in close proximity to the side walls. As with many other speakers, they produced a slightly deeper image on the short wall and a wider image on the long wall.
In both cases, a few degrees of toe-in made for the best combination of detail and overall image size. Adding a few dots of blu-tack or similar compound will make it slightly easier to reposition the speakers when making incremental changes, and because of their weight, plan on spending a bit more time than you might to get them exactly where the belong in your room.
You’ll know you have the SRBs optimized when you can’t wring any more image depth and detail out of the presentation. Much like optimizing a top phono cartridge, fine tuning will take some trial and error, so be prepared to invest some time.
Acora claims a sensitivity of 86.5db/1w/1meter, but being a two-way design, they are easy to drive. Auditioning a number of amplifiers from Boulder, McIntosh, Nagra, Octave, and Pass, you can rest assured that a pair of SRBs will work well with whatever you are using, but they will reveal whatever is lacking in your upstream components. Their natural tonal balance and slightly forward tonal position allows you the option to fine tune your system elsewhere. Should you be a fan of a bit warmer overall sound, it will be easy to mate them with a warmer sounding amplification chain that will reflect this. And vice versa. There was nothing in our current collection of amplifiers, from 30wpc to over 400wpc that didn’t play well with the SRBs.
Arriving at the finished dish
When Martha Stewart used to make really complex dishes on TV, she’d walk you over to the finished meal so you could take it all in. So rather than bore you with the process, let’s sit down and dig in.
Once fully optimized, these speakers provide a level of resolution and clarity that becomes addictive. The better your music collection, the more the SRBs will lure you back to your listening chair. During their time here, they provided more than a few revelatory moments, even on highly familiar tracks.
Regardless of program material, these speakers never fail to delight. They offer up many of the attributes of some of audio history’s finest speakers. Within a short time, they reminded me of the detail of the original Wilson Watt, the massive soundfield of the original MartinLogan CLS, and the sheer delicacy of the Quad 57, yet with none of the drawbacks these benchmark speakers had. This is a high resolution, compact monitor, that is dynamic and tuneful, while being easy to drive. And that’s what justifies their price tag.
The only limit to this speaker’s performance is that a solitary 5.9” woofer can only move so much air. Fans of bass heavy music (that also need to play it loud) may opt for the larger, floor standing Acora SRC-1, or SRC-2 models. Or perhaps a subwoofer. Should you pursue the latter, much like a pair of Quads, only the best will do, or you will be staring down a severe disconnect in LF integration.
It all comes down to clarity
We can add superlative after superlative, but the success of Acora’s fully inert granite enclosure can not be ignored. The longer you listen to a pair of SRBs, the sheer clarity they provide will carry you away. If you enjoy hearing fine spatial cues, and those crazy audiophile detail-y things like hearing every singer’s breath/gasp in front of the mic, these will be your cup of. The longer you listen to the SRB’s you notice their complete lack of overhang, transient blurring, or any of the other shortcomings that disconnect you from the music at hand.
There’s a big difference between edgy detail and overall clarity. Edgy detail makes for a great five-minute impression, but 30 minutes later, you’ll be fatigued (you may not even know it consciously) and want to go do something else. With the SRBs, I suspect you’ll be in the listening chair until the wee hours of the night. These speakers will encourage you to re-explore your music collection, seeking out new music with equal enthusiasm.
Everyone finds their joy in a different aspect of music reproduction. Because of the refinements that Acora brings with the SRBs, music lovers that geek out on imaging will be in heaven. The SRBs do a clearer job with portraying accurate instrument size relationships than any small speaker we’ve yet experienced.
In the end, brilliant
If you are seeking out a small form factor, high performance speaker, Acora’s SRB is ace. As these are not entry level speakers, I’m guessing you’re looking for a top compact speaker for a reason, and you don’t really care about that last 10hz of bass in the first place. If this is what you’re looking for, the Acora SRB will be the pinnacle of your experience.
Analog Source Grand Prix Audio Parabolica Turntable, TriPlanar arm, Lyra Atlas cartridge
Digital Source dCS Vivaldi One
Preamplifier Pass XS Pre, Nagra Classic Pre
Phono Stage Pass XS Phono
Power Amplifiers Pass XA200.8, Nagra Classic Amp (2, in monoblock config), Parasound JC-1+, Prima Luna EVO400 monoblocks
Cable Cardas Clear
Original article: The Acora Acoustics SRB
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