Aerial Acoustics 10T loudspeaker Page 2

Living in the air
I reviewed the Aerials in my apartment, which has a smallish listening room. This forced me to listen in the nearfield—about 6' in front of the plane of the speakers themselves. The wall 24" behind my listening position was treated with RPG Abffusors. The speakers themselves were 7' apart and 30" from my record shelves, which meant the wall behind them was heavily damped. The two-part body of the 10T made tuning for the nearfield far, far easier than it normally would be for a speaker of this size, with such an extended frequency response. Being able to face the woofers straight forward and aim the head-unit at my listening position made a huge difference in achieving driver integration. (Experiment in your own room—I've never found this sort of two-part spread to be as effective in the larger rooms this speaker was intended for.)

My Linn LP12/Naim Armageddon/Naim ARO/Naim Prefix/SuperCAP front-end, fitted with the latest version of Sumiko's Transfiguration cartridge, the Temper, handled analog playback. My digital source was the superb Theta Data Basic II/DS Pro Basic III rig. The LAMM Model L1 preamp and M1.1 monoblocks shared the stage with an Audio Research LS22/VT-130SE combination. Cables were Kimber KCAG interconnect and 4AG speaker cable—along with a bi-wired set of Straight Wire Gold speaker cable and Straight Wire Platinum balanced cables for the ARC gear.

An assortment of accessories also saw duty: VersaLabs Red Roller, Flat Rollers, Ground Block, and Wood Blocks; Audio Power Industries Power Wedge 112; MIT Z-series power cables; Highwire Audio Power Wrap (on components with non-replaceable power cables); Shakti Stones (but not on all components); Bedini Ultra Clarifier; Townshend Seismic Sink (under turntable); The Shelf by Black Diamond Racing (under amps); and Golden Sound DH Cones (under everything but the Linn).

Borne above the ground
Get the impression that I found the 10Ts fast and uncolored? Did I ever! Out of the box, they had those qualities in spades. Of course, as a reviewer, I'm not supposed to listen to stuff out of the box, but they were an unignorable presence in my living-room. Heck, listening in the nearfield, they were practically in my face. So while I pumped sound through 'em 24 hours a day for the first week I had 'em, I didn't have the luxury of not listening to them when I was home.

Of all of the speakers I've reviewed this year, the Aerials changed the least with break-in. As the surrounds unlimbered, the 10Ts became even more transparent to low-level detail, and responded to the rhythmic ebb and flow of music with greater loosey-goosey freedom from constraint—but to be honest, the first hour told the tale.

While attending the 1996 WCES in Las Vegas, I was walking through the Convention Center "Zoo" when I heard some fantastic a cappella emanating from one of the exhibitor's booths—obviously live. Never able to resist live music, I wandered over to find the band Rockapella performing for Samsung. Parents of young children—and freelance writers who routinely practice deadline avoidance—will recognize Rockapella as the "house band" for Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego? For the rest of you, they are one of the few contemporary a cappella groups that avoid doo-wop nostalgia. They perform high-energy material that manifests an unusually sophisticated harmonic sense—and they're a riot in person. Barry Carl, their bass singer, has one of the richest, deepest bass voices you're ever going to hear—think of him as pop music's Sam Ramey. Barry and I used to sell hi-fi together back in the '80s, so we caught up on what was what for a few minutes.

"So Barry," I said. "You're a high-end kind of a guy—did you ever try to record with a 'purist' attitude?"

"Well," (think James Earl Jones here, Luke) "we turn off our microphones at least once per show—if we're in an intimate enough setting—and people go wild. They've never heard anything like it. And [dramatic pause] last summer we recorded an album 'live' in the studio—without recourse to overdubs or 'sweetening.' It was recorded through Cello electronics and mastered on Duntech Crown Princes." About three weeks later, a copy of that disc, Primer, showed up in the mail (footnote 2)

The Aerial 10Ts (remember them?) were fully broken-in by this time, so I slapped that sucka into the Theta. Cuing up an old fave, "Sixty Minute Man"—a song where the bass customarily takes the lead—I was instantly aware of the room in which it was recorded. Against a background of truly tight harmonies, finger snaps, and some of the most startlingly realistic mouth percussion I've ever heard, Barry took the stage.

Wow! Dynamic and life-sized, he was in my living-room! Really. In a nutshell, this demonstrated a long list of the Aerial's strengths: it was uncolored (I know Barry's voice well); it was fast (those finger snaps!); it had exceptional low-level resolution (I could hear the reflections of the finger snaps off the room boundaries and the rapid decay of those reflections); bass was well-articulated, specific, and deep (there was Barry standing behind the power amp); and it was loud (I'd misjudged the gain).

Recordings with which I was intimately acquainted also yielded surprises. Since it came out in 1993, I must've listened to Guy Clark's Boats to Build (Asylum/American Explorer 61442-2) on just about every rig I've had in the house. It's an exceptional recording, and lots of fun. Playing it through the 10Ts, I was struck by how physically present all of the performers were. On "Jack of All Trades," one of the best brag-songs I've ever heard ("There ain't no need to do a job / if I can't do it right / I may not be gettin' rich / but I'm sleepin' good at night. // Some call me a gypsy / some call me a flake / but I'll kiss your ass if I don't earn / every cent I make.")

Footnote 2: Primer shows no label name or number. It's available at Rockapella concerts or from the Primarily A Capella catalog—(415) 455-8602.
Aerial Acoustics
P.O. Box 81248
Wellesley Hills, MA 02181
(617) 235-7715