The update to this thread is long overdue and I apologize for the delay – unfortunately I’ve had to deal with some significant life events since receiving the Cats and second Submersive, most notably having an unexpected move for the first time in almost a decade (I’ll get to how much fun that was later!).
I’ll get the main downside to my purchase out of the way now: the speakers took a lot longer to build than expected. I placed the order and paid the deposit in mid-September with an ETA of 4-5 weeks. They were finally built and ready to ship out in mid-February for a total of 5 months. I knew from other peoples’ experiences that this isn’t exactly uncommon so I was prepared to be patient, but it was still a little stressful after paying the deposit and months going by without knowing when I would get the speakers.
I had been expecting everything to show up on a pallet (weighing around 900lbs total) but FedEx outsourced the delivery to a local company that showed up with individual boxes, some of which were torn and looked fairly beat up.
Fortunately everything looked to be in good shape after unpacking. Also fortunately, I spend a decent amount of time in the weight room since I was too excited to wait around for anyone to help with unpacking and setting up. Unpacking and lifting/moving around 3x 116lb 12Cs, 2x 66lb 8Cs, and 1x 124lb HP+ is no joke!
My initial impressions of my Catalysts, physically, were that they are of an incredibly solid construction, they’re exceptionally heavy and commanding, but with a presence softened by the attractive veneer and light grey fabric. The 12C on its Seaton stand is as tall as a lot of adults (and weighs as much), so where it isn’t hidden behind an AT screen it will grab attention. Fortunately the aesthetics don’t make this a bad thing but it’s something to keep in mind for those requiring spouse approval. The 8C’s are definitely a more practical size for apartments or smaller rooms, are capable of being physically discreet (if the veneer and grill fabric match the room), and look very good without being as commanding. I would actually be surprised if spouse approval could not be obtained for at least a pair of 8Cs with their look – they are an elegant and unobtrusive addition to almost any room.
My first thought was to disable all room EQ/calibration and see how the system sounds out of the box. Wow -- the highs are super, super clear and detailed. It was great across the frequency spectrum but without calibration the highs especially shone in a good way. It was brighter than I was used to but my old system simply wasn’t capable of the high end detail like the Cats. I didn’t wait long to run Audyssey but noted that the system was already a pleasure to listen to and the high dispersion which I had read about (and was a big selling point) was clearly evident – the sound was consistently great whether I was in the listening position or walking around the room.
Audyssey didn’t obviously change much which I took to be a very good sign. The low end felt a little muddy with the crossovers automatically set to 40hz but cleaned up once I set them higher (I don’t remember where exactly I put them but likely in the 80-100hz area). After that though I noticed a big improvement in the low end compared to my old system which is something I hadn’t been expecting because I thought it already sounded amazing with the single Submersive. It’s no surprise, but the integration of the Submersives with the Catalysts across the low end is seamless.
As expected (especially during the warmer months when I watch fewer movies), so far I’ve primarily used the system for music. I mostly listen to deep house in the 115-125bpm range with punchy basslines, all of which has been very well received by the Cats and Submersives. On a couple of occasions I pushed the system to a near continuous 105db with music for several minutes at a time and there was absolutely no trace of distortion or any struggle at the higher levels. The music sounds the way (I think) it is intended. In hindsight, as Rafael mentioned, an all 8C system would probably have been sufficient for my needs – do not underestimate their power! On the plus side I’m quite confident my setup could handle a small concert if the need ever arises.
On that note, I had to move recently. I made the mistake of once again being self-sufficient (and didn’t want the movers boxing up my Seatons) so I did it all myself in the course of a few hours with the original packaging which I had kept. I’m not sure what the protocol is at the Seaton warehouse but my solo endeavor with taking Cats off of their stands, moving them to the floor, bagging them, lifting the (also heavy) boxes over them and carefully lowering them to the floor, then flipping the result 180 degrees and finally moving the boxed speaker to a different area was a serious workout and not something I would recommend to anyone! I also had to do it with 2 Submersives and then go through unpacking the whole thing at my new place. I am now significantly less worried about theft because it is so logistically difficult to move these things, especially in a way that protects them from damage.
I would strongly recommend keeping the original packaging. My move would have been a lot more time consuming and likely subjected the speakers to damage if I hadn’t kept mine.
When I found out I had to move, I took the opportunity to find an apartment that would have better acoustics than my old one. I didn’t take any REW measurements at my old apartment so I won’t be able to compare with hard data but I think the new room is very good for a multipurpose non-dedicated room. I’ll follow up as time allows in the coming months with details, measurements, and my path to optimization.
I still need some stands for the 8Cs. I’m considering Sound Anchors for a smaller footprint than the Seaton stands which are now available (they were not when I placed my order) and also because I need them ASAP, and since the veneer may no longer match mine. I had skylights (without any way of keeping out the sunlight) in my old living room so the speakers got a lot of sun exposure and lost some color. I’m happy with how they look now, as I was happy with them before, but you can see the difference in the disassembled stand:
For now I am using the two Submersives as stands in the rear of the room but this is far from optimal sub placement. I had actually been hoping to find some very solid and heavy side tables (something like this http://www.roomandboard.com/printable/product/standard.do?productGroup=19570&articleNumber=947924&an=0_947924&qa=0_PARSONS_18SQ_26H_TBL_TOP|WHMBL&shippingMethod=INH&transportationZone=[object%20Object] which is the same product line as my DJ booth and I know to be very heavy and using rubber to separate the stone top from the steel base) but given the space constraints of NYC apartments, I’m looking for something with a smaller footprint and closer to the length/width of the 8C which is around 12-13” squared. The rationale is that while I expect to use the 8Cs for a very long time, my need for the stands could change or the integration of the stands’ aesthetics with the room could change if I move again so I’d rather not have custom made ones that have limited resale value. I can picture the purists cringing at the thought! Unless anyone knows of any options with little to no degradation in the sound though, I will likely be taking the plunge and getting Sound Anchors.
I did have a 12C amp failure around 3 months into receiving the system. Mark sent me a new one right away which was easy to switch out and he provided a return shipping label also so I ended up with no out of pocket expense. Great and prompt customer service.
I’ll update the thread and keep the review going as the optimization continues but for now my conclusion is: no regrets!