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 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 wont care how long you needed to
wait. It is worth it.
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
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 isnt
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.
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 -
Marantz sr5300 receiver
Panasonic RV32 DVD player
Paradigm System 3
RAW Acoustics RA8 Array
RAW Acoustics HT2 bookshelf