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RAW Acoustics RA8 Line Array Floor-Standing Speakers

Part II

February, 2006

Jared Rachwalski

 

Listening

I was concerned at first when asked to review these speakers after they were seen at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, as they cost more than my entire home theater system. Oh well, I thought, who am I to turn down a pair of these speakers? Let's be honest, driving $2,500 worth of speakers with less than $700 worth of electronics seemed pretty silly. So when I actually unboxed these things and hooked them up to my Marantz receiver and Panasonic DVD player, I was quite literally floored. By literally I mean I was actually still on the floor with my poor knees in shock. Not to mention they sounded very nice even from down there. (Editor's Note: One of the reasons I wanted Jared to review these with his receiver is that they are very sensitive, which means modestly powered receivers should work very well.)

First up in my round of test discs was the quirky and complex Pork Soda by Primus. Track number 3, "Nature Boy", has a huge detailed soundstage that became very open and transparent with these speakers. Nothing ever sounded muddy even at very high volume. (See, I told you they would work well with a receiver. - Ed.)

Each instrument had its own spot. I soon found out that these speakers could extract never before heard detail out of my music. The cymbals on this track, which usually become muddy at high volumes, stayed very clear and smooth. Next up was "The Pressman". In this song, Les Claypool's vocals and lead bass constantly occupied there own space and never became lost. Again, I noticed a great deal of separation between the three instruments. Herb's detailed kick drum had nice amount of punch, and the cymbals again were clean and clear.

I followed up Primus with a healthy dose of Jesse Cook’s Nomad disc. Starting with "Surrender", I was amazed with the amount of detail that these speakers can churn out. Even the quieter instruments like the triangle had their own space and presence in the recording, which was not lost at high volume.

During the next track "Beloved", the RA8s wonderfully reproduced the haunting violin played by Chris Church. These speakers easily conveyed the emotion produced by this amazing musician's bow. With the track "Leila", there was a noticeably wide and deep soundstage, effortlessly extending far beyond the speakers.

After all that it was time for the Melvin's classic Stonerwitch. Starting with the eerie "Goose Freight Train", I instantly felt the bass line which tends to lose impact unless the speakers have great mid-bass. At all times throughout this track, the bass line kept its definition, with every note detailed and equally weighted. I was also pleased to hear solid decay with the cymbals. Not an easy task, and even more surprising considering that I was feeding the speakers from a modest receiver.

Next track, "Junebug" is a much faster and and more difficult song. An unfortunate part of this track is the compressing of the instruments at high volume, in the disc itself. While these speakers couldn’t create magic out of muck, they did a better job than most speakers I have heard. The final track was the rattle finder "Lividity". This track is basically just low notes highlighted by the occasional tap on the snare and thunk of a nearby box. There can be a ton of atmosphere and depth in this track, which the RA8s speakers did bring out. They also turned what can be a sometimes-monotonous bass line into actual notes.

Designed to be very easy to drive (sensitivity is rated at 95 dB), this line array proved to be no problem for my budget receiver. Even though the speakers did highlight some flaws in my system, they also made my favorite recordings sound better than ever.

Conclusions

In short, the RA8s filled my entire listening room with beautiful sound. The sweet spot grew from only three seats with my bookshelf speakers to the entire couch with the RA8s. Imaging, detail, and depth were not confined to a small area as with most speakers. This is one of the advantages to using a Line Array design. Another advantage is the output level doesn't decrease as you move farther from the speakers. A third advantage to this design is how little toe-in affects imaging. The fact that they are taller than I am did make them hard to move, but fortunately I was able to have them imaging beautifully with little effort.

My time with the RA8s was short and sweet, and very much enjoyable. My wife liked them too, and she was (almost) as sorry as I was to see them go. Keep in mind this is the same women who once stated, "I would be content with just the TV speakers."

I found these speakers to be very easy to drive with my budget-based system and a whole lot of fun. The amount of detail these speakers could extract from my CDs was scary. They are the kind of speakers that get you playing music you haven't listened to in ages just to hear how much better they sound.


- Jared Rachwalski -

© Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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