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The Smyth Realiser A-8 or How I Learned to Love Virtualization, Part 3 Listening!!!

Part I & II described how the Smyth Realiser system works but the acid test is, of course in the listening.  Here’s where the strange magic of the A-8 asserts itself. To begin, I sat there with Lorr Kramer as the music began. I thought I was distinctly hearing the music from the Von Schweikerts LCR-15s although I was wearing the Stax cans. My brain started processing what was going on and I began carrying on an internal conversation with myself that went something like this; “This can’t possibly be right. I’m hearing the Von Schweikerts not the headphones. What’s this guy trying to pull?  And why is the sound of the speaker system so clean and pure when I’ve got “silent” headphones clamped over my ears ? Shouldn’t the phones be muddying the sound of the Von Schweikerts?”.

My first inclination was to pull the headphones off. Which I did. Suddenly I’m not hearing anything! The room was as silent as a tomb. I shot an accusing look at Lorr. And he gave me an understanding look that said, “This happens all the time.”

Suddenly I realized that the only sound in the room was coming out from the Stax. The speakers had never been on at all. The clouds of disorientation were beginning to clear. I put the headphones back on and there was the music and the Von Schweikert’s just as I had heard them in the room. How precise was it?  Remarkably faithful to what I heard in the room. Except for the light pressure of the ‘phones themselves I would have been hard pressed to guess which system was playing–it’s that close. In terms of soundstage and imaging this is a what-you-measure-is-what-you-hear system. I commented that the treble might have been a bit sweeter on the Stax and Kramer acknowledged that might be the case, and that it’s possible even more preceise calibrations might be available over time. I also theorized that the Stax might be adding their own kind of electrostat transducer signature essentially unrelated to tonality that might be sweetening the result.  In any case the effect was extremely minor. However I must  admit it would be interesting to hear the Realiser replicate an  electrostat like the Quads for example.

Kramer noted that thus far recording studios have been the biggest customers for the A-8. With studio time at such a premium, engineers can literally take their mixes and their “virtual” studio home and continue working on mixes as if they were in the actual studio–a situation that is not the ultimate goal but given the limited production of the Realiser at this time they are satisfactory one until they can fully ramp up production to meet consumer demands. The price is $3000 for a complete turnkey system–a terrific deal considering that it includes one of the great headphones in the world today.

For more information contact:

Lorr Kramer: [email protected]
Smyth Research
1270 Avenida Acaso Unit A
Camarillo, CA 93012
805 482-5630

By Neil Gader


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