I had a fabulous time listening to a pair of brand new Sound Labs A3PX's yesterday as a guest of one of the most hospitable dealers I have ever met.
The Sound Labs impressed me more than any panel I've heard. They did not simply offer startling performance in a few audio parameters while compromising other dimensions in unacceptable ways, which I've found most other panels do.
Certainly the panels had lightning fast reflexes, so that the transient character of instruments was preserved in a very life-like manner. Sound Labs' distributed resonance methods really works because I could not detect the diaphragm resonances that I hear so prominently in Maggies, Martin Logans and Quads. Very importantly, instruments had more of a realistic sense of body and substance than any panels I've heard. What may sound lacking to some listeners is cabinet resonances which masquerade as a sense of sonic weight.
Well I did have a couple of reservations after the session. The sound seemed to emanate mostly from the two panels (JV describes them as a pair of "windows" into a performance"). I did not get the panoramic stereo holograph usually generated by a pair of mini monitors; an image that spreads across the speakers in a seamless fashion while the speakers themselves disappear. With the panels, I had trouble hearing the instruments fill the space between the speakers. The images were also very diffuse. Is this the inevitable result of the dispersal pattern of the Sound labs panels, which cannot yield the holographically precise imaging of point sources?
The panels were only 3 feet away from the back wall; a bare untreated plastered concrete surface. Perhaps the backwave reflecting from this back wall was confusing the listener's sense of a holographic centre image.
To confuse the image further, the image of a particular instrument, say a cymbal or piano, seemed to be arriving at the listening position from various locations. This could be due to the reflected backwave bouncing off the walls. Some people may like this effect but I was not quite used to this, coming from the precise images cast by mini monitors. I wonder if this can be overcome by better panel placement.
Also, the panels emitted crackling noises during loud peaks, but I wonder if this may have been due to the tube amplifiers clipping.
I'm planning a second visit next month after the A3PX breaks in. I hope to play around with speaker positioning to improve the holography and precision of the centre image.
The dealer will also substitute a powerful solid state amp, which i hope will quell the crackling.