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Product Review
 

RAW Acoustics HT3 Floor-Standing Speakers

July, 2006

Jared Rachwalski

 

Specifications:

 

• Design: Three-Way Bass Reflex
• Drivers: One RA104.5 Ribbon Tweeter made by
    Aurum Cantus, One CSS XBL2 4.5" Mid-Woofer, One
    Adire XBL2 6.8" Side-firing Woofer

• MFR: 25 Hz - 27 kHz
• Sensitivity: 85 dB/W/M
• Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
• Power Handling: 40 - 250 Watts RMS
• Dimensions: 40" H x 7" W x 11" D
• Weight: 40 Pounds/Each
• MSRP: $1,499.99/Pair USA

 

RAW Acoustics

www.RAWacoustics.com

Introduction

RAW Acoustics from Surrey, BC, Canada specializes in assembling speakers using ribbon tweeters and high quality crossover parts. I have been fortunate enough to have three pairs of their speakers in my system.

The Design

The HT3 is a three-way, floor-standing reflex speaker with a side mounted woofer, ribbon tweeter and a very interesting driver, the CSS XBL2 midrange.

This driver is often used as a full range speaker. I have a pair in my computer system, and I have been very impressed by their range, surprisingly only lacking in the lower octaves. In the HT3 application it is crossed over with the ribbon tweeter at 4 kHz and the side mounted woofer at 180 Hz.

Thanks to the high quality crossover parts used throughout, the blend is perfect. Each driver is using only a comfortable portion of its operating range. This allows for great dynamic range and low distortion.

The HT3 is a deep, narrow tower with rounded front and rear baffles. The front baffle holds the custom ribbon tweeter and versatile CSS WR125 driver. The side baffle holds the impressive 6.8" extremis woofer which helps this speaker reach low enough to be used without a subwoofer. The rear baffle holds the large flared port and terminal cup. Mounting the Extremis woofer on the side allows for a very narrow front baffle.

The CSS WR125 midrange driver and ribbon tweeter are all that are seen from the front. The copper phase plug on the midrange driver really brings out the wonderful color of the cherry veneer. As well, the wrap around design means there is only one horizontal seam visible, which is rather unnoticeable on the rear baffle.

A close-up of the tweeter is shown below.

The included magnetic grilles are a nice touch, as you would never even know they came fitted with grilles, because there is absolutely no evidence of mounting hardware. The standard finish is real cherry wood veneer, and the review pair came finished in a beautiful figured cherry with a deeply gorgeous wood grain. The build and finish on these speakers are downright beautiful, so they are as much a delight to look at as listen to.

Custom made speakers do have some obvious problems. Prior to purchase: one, you cannot hear the speakers; two, you cannot see the speakers; and three you have to wait weeks before you actually get them. The thing is, once you have seen and heard these speakers, you won’t care how long you needed to wait. It is worth it.

The Sound

Over time I have come back to the same few CDs, which are a combination of challenging music and enjoyable tunes. By using the same music again and again, I am able to compare how music sounds on different speakers.

With my usual reference discs, I kept noticing three consistent things, imaging that extended well beyond the physical boarders, bass that was rich and never bloated, and detail, truck-loads of detail.

Detail is one trait that appears to be common with all the three pairs of RAW Acoustics speakers I have had the fortune of hearing. Everything I have played through them just oozes detail.

While I did find enjoyment with most of my entire music collection in testing the HT3s, three discs stood out in my listening sessions. The first, Mule Variations, by Tom Waits was a great CD to show the detail and imaging response of theses speakers. My favorite track quickly became "Chocolate Jesus". I was floored by the amount of atmosphere present on this track. The soundstage was very three-dimensional, with an obvious wide presentation. While the vocals did tend to be slightly over-emphasized, the stand up bass was superb, and the mouth harp was deliciously haunting.

Another wonderful track was the title track, "Mule Variations". The vocals had a previously unnoticed depth to them. This helped to create an eerie soundstage. The only fault I could find with this track was some slight mid-bass bloom, and I had to stretch to even find that fault. Seeing how, in my case, this was mainly a room/placement issue, your results may differ. The lower octaves, however, never lost definition. Even when I pushed the volume to spouse-clearing levels, the bass was always consistent with the rest of the frequency range.

The next disc up was Norah Jones' amazing first album, Come Away with Me. Not one track was a clear winner, as I found myself listening to the entire disc without making many notes whatsoever. I was able to just sit back and enjoy. At times her voice was a tad forward, but never out of line with the rest of the music. I was very impressed by how musical the Extremis woofer can be because the bass was very clean and even. Given the small size of the woofer, I expected it to at least be either distorted at high volume or lacking in definition, neither of which ever occurred on this album. This speaker can easily be used without a sub for music.

The third disc I tested these speakers with was the Melvins Stoner Witch. It is important to note that this disc has its shortcomings. There is compression in the faster harder songs and some loss of detail when pressed hard, but none of which was missed by the HT3s. When you create such a detailed presentation you are bound to highlight the faults. However the disc was still enjoyable.

My stress test for any speaker is playing back the track "June Bug" at decent volumes. With some speakers, the song isn’t really engaging at lower volumes. With the HT3 I could feel the music at most levels, and when I turned up the volume, they just kept getting better. These speakers quickly proved themselves to be fun with all sorts of music.

Speaking of fun, how about Stephen Chow's epic Kung-fu Hustle. The entire movie is full of dynamic fight scenes which test the speakers with simultaneous deep thundering bass, delicate mandolin playing, and numerous axe swings. The incredible detail presented by the speakers was not lost at high volumes. All the intricacies of the sound track were not overwhelmed by the incredible bass even when the small extremis drivers were pushed to high SPLs. I watched the entire movie without a subwoofer and did not feel like I was missing anything. This is a testament to the high quality of the HT3's design, construction, and driver choice.

Conclusions

The RAW Acoustics HT3s were an absolute treat to have in my system. The speakers performed better than I could ever imagine, given the size of the drivers and the accompanying gear. Everything I played through them sounded fantastic, and these are the kind of speakers that brought out new musical enjoyment in all my CDs. With rich even bass and a beautiful midrange, the HT3s excelled at vocal and guitar-based music. This is not a surprise, given the high quality parts used throughout. The beautiful finish and outstanding build quality compliment the gorgeous sound they produce. If you are looking for a hand-built high quality speaker, do yourself a favor and contact the builder himself, Al, at RAW Acoustics.
 

- Jared Rachwalski -

Associated Equipment:

Marantz sr5300 receiver
Onkyo TX-SR603
Panasonic RV32 DVD player
Paradigm System 3
RAW Acoustics RA8 Array
RAW Acoustics HT2 bookshelf

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