Friday, June 1, 2012

Revisiting the UREI 813A loudspeakers

In my previous review of the UREI loudspeaker, I claimed:
Weaknesses? Maybe because of the large baffle area, these are not soundstaging champions. Most mixes never go beyond the sides of the speakers. Another downside is that the sound never truly opens up until these are playing very loud. This makes them unsuitable for apartment and condo dwellers. Because of this, they don't quite work with baroque music either. They are also a touch dry and unrelenting - a bad recording is well, a bad recording and they will certainly show you the weaknesses of your favorite not-so-well-mixed music.
After some extended listening with a new front end and different amplification chain, I'll take most of those words back.  With an EL34 based amplifier and my improved analog front end, I am now getting excellent left-to-right imaging that goes beyond the boundaries of the speakers.  Depth has also improved.  The EL34 coupled to the Altec 604 driver has also resulted in a smoother, more coherent sound than either the Threshold S/500 or my old Dynaco Mark IIIs using SED 6550c.  Now hearing inner-detail doesn't require the volume level to be cranked to the max which makes me happier.

Lessons learned?  The front end is the most important part of your system; concentrate on that part before casting blame downstream.  Also the UREIs are in fact very neutral speakers only revealing the flaws of your signal chain.  That is to say that modern production tubes just can't hold a candle to the old stuff, especially in the treble department.

Main System:
VPI HW19 Mark III with SDS Power Supply
Rega RB300 with Cardas wiring
aluminum rebodied Denon DL-103R
Audio Sector Phono Stage with OPA627s
Cardas Cross interconnects
Quicksilver preamplifier with (real) Mullard 12AX7s, RCA 12FQ7s, and a black-plate Raytheon 5814
Cardas Quadlink 5C interconnects
Yaqin MC-10T amplifier with black-plate RCA 12AT7s and (real) Mullard XF2 EL34s
Cardas Hexlink speaker cables
UREI 813A speakers