A Springtime Switcheroo and an X-Static Value

AR-xstatic1.jpgLast year was the first time I instituted my now-annual springtime speaker switch-out. The ritual consists of disconnecting and storing my Genesis 6.1  front speakers and 6.1 C center speaker and replacing them with my Skiing Ninja -modified AV123 X-Static and X-Voce speakers.

Why do I make this switch? I got tired of repairing the servo amplifiers in the Genesis speakers every summer. Only Florida has more lightning strikes than Colorado. These strikes often cause AC voltage spikes. Even with the Genesis amps connected to AC through PS Audio Quintet AC device, inevitably by summer's end at least one of the servo amps in the Genesis would croak. And while Genesis has always been prompt and accommodating about repairs to the amplifiers; removing them from the speakers, shipping them to Genesis, and re-installing them was something I wanted to avoid on this summer's to-do list.

This year, in addition to swapping out the Genesis 6.1 and 6.1 C speakers, I also took down my Genesis 6.1 SR surround speakers and substituted a pair of AV123 X-Omni speakers. You would think going from $7000/pr. speakers to $325/pr. speakers (that's what the X-Omnis cost new from Danny Richie at GR Research) would result in a gigantic sonic step downwards, but this wasn't the case.

AR- xomni1.jpgThe upward-firing midrange/woofer on the X-Omnis proved to be an excellent compromise between monopole and dipole surround speakers (the 6.1 SRs can be either at the flick of a switch). On discrete multi-channel mixes such as the LA Guitar Quartet's SACD Guitar Heros, which places one guitar in each of the album's 4 channels (like many multi-channel music releases, the recording has no center-channel information) the X-Omni's harmonic balance closely matched the X-Statics. The Omni's performance suffered by comparison with the X-Statics in terms of low-level resolution and micro and macro dynamics. Based on the improvements wrought by the Skiing Ninja upgrade to my pair of X-Statics, I'm thinking that at summer's end, when the Genesis system goes back up, I will get the X-Omnis upgraded in a similar fashion.

And going from the $9000/pr. Genesis 6.1 speakers to the $500/pr. X-Statics (actually around $1200 a pair when the Skiing Ninja upgrades are included) isn't nearly the level of sonic degradation that you would expect from their large differences in price. Perhaps because both are open baffle designs with similar dispersion characteristics, the soundstage dimensions, overall harmonic balance and imaging are very similar. The Genesis 6.1 produces a more precise lateral image, and has upper-frequency surface detail, but the X-Static disappears more completely with less in the way of front baffle diffraction effects.

AR-xomni2.jpgWhere these two speaker systems differ most profoundly is in their intrinsic driver material colorations. The Genesis 6.1's metal cone midrange and circular ribbon tweeter have a fundamentally different underlying "house-sound" than the X-Static's treated paper midrange and silk dome tweeter.  Is one material's intrinsic sonic character superior to the other? Not really. After a couple of hours of listening I find my awareness of a driver material's sound diminishes to the point that I hardly notice it. But upon the initial switch I'm definitely aware that I've changed driver materials.

While going from an $18,000 five-speaker system to a $1,900 one should be major step downwards in sonics, the X-Static, X-Voce, and X-Omni speakers aren't ordinary entry-level-priced speakers. When they were readily available through the now-shuttered AV123 website many reviewers proclaimed the X-series to be among the best sonic values in all of enthusiast audio. As far as I can tell, little has changed during the last couple of years except that now you can get a pair of X-Statics for $599 vs. the $800 they originally cost. So that after a full master-level upgrade from Skiing Ninja you'll have spent only slightly more than you would have for a stock pair two years ago.

That certainly keeps the X-Statics at the top of my "best value" list.

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