Wow! I obviously went to the wrong church...;-)
I guess I have to choose if I want to please people around here and comply to their believes or just continue my journey towards MY CHOICE OF SPEAKERS!
Believe it or not - I am not buying speakers and burning money to do "shootouts" and "amateur reviews" about them. I am spending money to find a product -> I <- consider appropriate for my particular needs and taste. And yes - it is highly subjective. On the other hand I am not spending thousands and thousands of dollars (which don't fall from the sky even in good old Europe) to be a victim of placebo. I had hours and hours of conversations with Bernt from Juice Audio (developer of Audiolense) about a proper way to evaluate and optimize both the Genelec and the Catalyst with the use of state of the art room correction. I bought myself one of the most reliable and accurate measurement microphones I can afford - hand calibrated by the Germans...do I need to say more? ;-) I did more "objective" measurements of magnitude, phase/group delay and phase response during the last months than my wife chooses to find sane. I bought one of the widely accepted industry references for DAC and clock performance to get every bit of performance the Catalyst has to offer out of it - the Prism Sound Orpheus. I feel pretty confident that as an analog source it cannot be objectively bettered by any preamp no matter the price. I even went on and chose new cables to connect everything with the best I care to afford (Vovox Direct S). And yes - you will not be able to read many raves about this kind of gear on internet forums - you have to go out and talk to people who make a living with these kind of things - and I am not talking your audiophile dealer here ;-)
Genelec and Seaton were corrected to a neutral, flat target curve with +/- 0.2 db variation. They still sound remarkably different (although I don't care to provide any objective measurement to proof my point). A 80 Hz crossover was used to make to lower tuning of the Genelec a non issue. I did everything to make the Catalyst work well for me. And it is a good speaker (can we all be friends again after this comment??). But it is - compared to a reference like the Genelec - average at best in many aspects. In my humble opinion (and with experience of 25+ years in this passion) the Catalyst is a good, purpose build speaker with great headroom and a well balanced performance. It is certainly not a revolutionary design. Nor state of the art in many aspects. But for a one man show without a team of 80 Ph.D.'s behind him Mark provides a great solution with few alternatives in the market.
But I have so much experience with great speakers like the Genelec or the Klipschhorn that I look for something special at this point. The Catalyst isn't it compared to my reference speakers and my personal preferences. The SH-50 (unlike the Catalyst) is very well documented. White papers, patent papers, very detailed product specifications and even CLF files.
"There is no comparison between the SH50s and the Cats." - Johnsteph10, this is the kind of online one liner that gets people excited about
products like Catalyst. Please elaborate in which aspects you feel that the
Catalyst is of "better" performance than the SH-50?? I respect your opinion
and excitement about your purchase but judging by concept, technical data/measurements,
used components (BMS, B&C), and opinion by professionals your statement is
hardly an objective evaluation (to put it politely) ;-)
My main issue with the Catalyst is the - RELATIVE - lack of transparency. It is just
not comparable when it comes to a revealing and resolving presentation of the source
with truly great speakers in that regard. Considering its dynamic capabilities it does
good and is a proper compromise. Compared to almost any consumer speaker out
there the Catalyst is even great - but my point of reference is something different.
And this lack of transparency doesn't change when using 1, 2 or 7 speakers. Comparing
speakers one on one (mono signals) is an accepted scientific approach (as long as
you don't judge things like the soundstage) - read some Harman white papers to get perspective.
And it helped me not wasting another $7000.-...;-)
About the power compression issue: I accept the fact that I don't have proper
measurement tools nor knowledge to document this issue myself. But the
results from practical experience are enough for me to draw my conclusions.
It is the same as other issues I didn't even care to mention here. One is the
much "higher level of noise" coming from the Catalyst. Even with no source signal
playing or signal cable plugged in the Catalyst has a much higher noise floor
that the Genelec - and this is completely independent from the chosen input sensitivity.
I find the noise floor of the Catalyst quite disturbing with only one speaker running.
I can hardly imagine the noise floor with 7 speakers even in a mid/large sized
room. (I can have 4 Genelecs running and the noise floor doesn't become as obvious as
with one single Catalyst - and NO - I am not going to provide comparative measurements
to "proof" this observation). I must add that the noise floor in my room is as low
as it can be. I am streaming audio through firewire from another room and while
listening to music the projector is obviously off - so I have not a single gear in
my room that makes any noise at all. It is dead silent. Even if you have a source player
(CD, DVD/Blu-ray, DTV, PS3) the noise floor of the Catalyst becomes "covered"
and is not a big issue anymore. But still it is a performance aspect. And with a noise
floor this high other metrics like the dynamic range of the Catalyst also gets compromised.
The Catalyst is good value. I had the choice of buying another 2 Catalysts and be done with it.
I chose to buy 3 SH-50 instead, a set of 3 high priced amps (Parasound JC1s -
I was talking to Tom Danley about active versus passive and he strongly suggested
going with passive and a quality amp for best performance. BTW the active version
of the SH-50 uses the same build DSP/Icepower amp as the Catalyst - you do
the math ;-)) and pay $ 13,000 more that way. I will use the Catalyst as center
for my TV setup. So I took a huge financial hit for that decision.
And I did it for a couple of very good reasons. Reasons I will certainly not discuss
around here anymore.
I am still planning to go with multiple Submersive XLs when they become
available. I have heard the horn loaded subs like Danleys DTS-10 or the
Basshorn from Avantgarde and those are not to my liking. I prefer a classic
sealed sub with lots of displacement and power behind it.
If I have any positive feedback (AND ONLY IN THAT CASE!) I will make sure
to write a few (amateur) lines about it here. Perhaps this will earn me more
respectful responses. Good luck with your believes that $3,500 bought you one
of the best speakers in almost every aspect available today! Over and Out.