ProAc Response 3.8 loudspeaker Page 2

Setup
My listening room is 26' long, 13' wide, and 12' high, with a semi-cathedral ceiling. One long wall is covered with bookshelves, while the other has a bay window. The Response 3.8s faced the full length of this narrow room, the opposite end of which opens into a 25' by 15' kitchen through an 8' by 4' doorway. I placed the Response 3.8s where the Revel Salons (March '99) had sounded best: 63" from the rear wall and 36" from the side walls, sitting on a circular area rug, their offset tweeters were positioned toward the speakers' inside edges, closer to a point midway between the cabinets.

Although the Response 3.8's rated voltage sensitivity of 88dB/2.83V/m is above the average for speakers reviewed by Stereophile, I had to set the volume control of the Krell KBL preamplifier a bit higher than usual when driving the 3.8s with the Bryston 7B-STs power amplifiers. In any case, the speakers produced loud output, with little evidence of overload, when powered by the 100Wpc Mark Levinson No.334 power amp. The No.334 was the best match for the Response 3.8s, producing a transparent, solid, dynamic sound without being edgy or analytical, and with a bass response that was both controlled and eminently detailed. The bass lines on Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony (Circa WBRX2), for example, were taut, driving, and solid, with just the right amount of punch.

Final adjustments included comparative nearfield (8') and farfield (16') listening, low-frequency signal-generator sweeps, phase checks, pink-noise listening, and adjustments to my listening position for optimal soundstage and imaging. For all tests and music sessions, I removed the speakers' grilles.

The Response 3.8's deep-bass output fell off smoothly from 39 to 31Hz, with no doubling. Playing the channel-identification and phasing tracks on Stereophile's Test CD 3 (Stereophile STPH006-2), I carefully positioned my blue velvet listening chair in the nearfield until I could hear the in-phase pink-noise signal as a focused sonic image about 4' above the floor. Soundstaging was optimized when speakers and listening chair described a 7' equilateral triangle (measured from the tweeter centers).

After I was satisfied with the speaker placement, I attached ProAc plinths and spikes to the bottom of the cabinets, as recommended in the owner's manual. So equipped, the Response 3.8s' tweeters sat 44.5" above the floor, their axes just above my seated ear level. The speaker's tonal balance changed slightly when I played pink noise and stood up during the "sit down, stand up, walk around" test.

Sound
The ProAc Response 3.8's suggested retail price of $7200/pair makes it a substantial investment—you can buy many fine loudspeakers for half this price. In the past year I've reviewed five loudspeaker systems that I've recommended strongly, and only two cost as much or more. What makes the 3.8 so special?

The most consistent impression I had of the Response 3.8s was of their incredible spaciousness and openness. Other top-grade loudspeakers can generate a wide, deep soundstage, but the 3.8s did so effortlessly, and at both low and high volume levels. Then there's the all-important factor of listener involvement: If a loudspeaker can pull me into the music—as the ProAc Response 3.8 did time and again—I know that it's doing a superb job.

Two very different CDs revealed this characteristic in quite different ways. The first was Keith Johnson's superb recording of John Rutter's Requiem (Reference Recordings RR-57CD), with Timothy Seelig conducting the Turtle Creek Men's Chorale in Dallas' Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center. On the wonderful "Lord, Make me an Instrument of Thy Peace," the Response 3.8s reproduced the Myerson's acoustic. Individual voices were clearly demarcated in a startlingly realistic manner. I could easily track each voice, as well as the pipe-organ underpinnings, and could understand every word—more easily and clearly than through any comparison speaker other than the Revel Salon.

COMPANY INFO
ProAc
US distributor: Modern Audio Consultants
112 Swanhill Court
Baltimore, MD 21208
(410) 486-5975
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