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Speaker Asylum: REVIEW: Carolina Audio SM3 Speakers by airkitty
Model: SM3
Category: Speakers
Description: single driver full range
Manufacturer URL: Carolina Audio

Review by airkitty on October 04, 2010 at 18:42:55 
I am the proud owner of a pair of the Carolina Audio SM3. They are the best
speakers I have ever owned or listened too. The speakers embody everything I
want in a speaker: accurate reproduction, detailed articulation of subtle
passages, wide frequency response, real dynamic capability and excellent
W.A.F.. My most excellent wife actually bought the speakers for me after her
audition of them. She enjoys them all the time (daily). I had the pleasure
of selling mid-hi-fi stereo equipment about 20 years ago. My reference
system since then were Quad ESL-63s with various tube amps (Cary,
Counterpoint, Berning,???). I visited the Quads many times after I left the
employee of the store and always drooled over their sonic abilities. The
only two problems I had with them were: narrow zone of listening perfection
and constant fear of blowing them up. I was young and wanted to be able to
get the Quads to something near reference level - it was not happening for
me due to the owners of the store lecturing me on the expense and lack of
power handling capability of the Quads. I still dreamed of owning a pair
when my ship finally came in - comical. While taking a break from
chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I decided to do an internet search
for transmission line speakers. The T-lines had the other parts of what I
love about listening to music: dynamic capability and accurate reproduction
and the ability to reveal real recorded musical details (if designed and
built well). I had owned several pairs of Bud Fried's speakers: Q/3s, C3Ls,
and O3 and O4 subs. My mom is still rocking the Q/3s after a surround
repair. I even had the brief pleasure of owning WATTs series one I believe.
OK sorry for the rambling lead up to my first visit with Ronnie of Carolina
Audio. His speakers intrigued me as T-lines and he was willing to let me
spend a day rocking my own music on his systems. WOW! I found the perfect
blend of the Quad's and the Fried's. I went back several more times with my
wife and friends. The reactions were always consistent across gender and
musical taste - the speakers looked and sounded great. OK, my system is
nothing to write home about: Marantz 7002 receiver, Oppo 83 Blu-Ray player,
and a Hitachi VCR. The thing was this the speakers sounded awesome in my
house almost exactly like they had in Ronnie's. The rooms are similar in
size but floors are opposite (carpet vs hard wood) and setup for listening
is also opposite (his are on the short wall and mine are on the long wall).
OK, so how do they sound?
Fabulous, rich, detailed and warm at the same time. The sound stage is large
and can be transformed to massive (wide and deep) with better amplification.
I love these speakers. I bought a pair of used little Marantz 700 mono
blocks, this is how I can say the sound stage improves with better
amplification. The receiver is good but it is not mono blocks. The drivers
are small (~3" or ~75mm), but combined with Ronnie's master cabinet building
they sound huge. They easily fill my room with a wonderful wall of sound -
amazing from this size driver. I can even turn them down to where I'm not
disturbing the wife and kids while they sleep and hear every detail of the
music - heaven. His company is small, his heart is large, and his design and
build of my SM3 speakers was brilliant. How do you get good 50 hz
reproduction from a 3" driver - talk to Ronnie at Carolina Audio. He has
figured out a sonic reproduction so excellent that I'm running out of words
to describe them - can you guys feel me smiling. My wife is watching tv
through them now in the next room and they are clear and clean from a room
I'm not a pro reviewer - obviously. I appreciate any comments or feedback. I
write this review as a proud owner trying to share my love of my Carolina
Audio SM3.

Product Weakness: None yet, after 10 months of ownership.
Product Strengths: Dynamic capability, wide frequency response, easy
placement, and outstanding imaging

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Marantz 7002 110 wpc
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Oppo 83
Speakers: Carolina Audio SM3
Cables/Interconnects: Carolina Audio
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Alt Rock, Jazz, classic rock
Room Size (LxWxH): ~22ft x ~11 ft x vaulted
Room Comments/Treatments: window treatments hunter douglas
Time Period/Length of Audition: 10 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Panamax
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

Carolina Audio JTM Speakers

In Reply to: Carolina Audio JTM Speakers posted by Newk

I received my JTMs last Monday. I listened for a few hours and generally liked
them "as is" out of the box, but realized they needed to be broken in. I set
them up in the garage and let them play for about 80 hours straight. Not quite
the 200 hours that Ronnie recommends to complete the break-in process, but
enough for the speakers to open up and get a sense of their performance. I now
have been listening to them for several hours. I have also compared them to 2
other pairs of (monitor) speakers. Here is my initial impressions...
WOW, these things are phenomenal!!! The excell and in just about every measure
use to measure a speaker. I don't know how they do it, but Ronnie and Mr.
Jordan have put some magic into those boxes. Simply amazing that a 4" driver
can create such music from top to bottom.
The mid-range is simply georgeous. detailed, clear, palpable, natural. Simply
sounds like music.
The highs - sound fantastic, even better than the tweeters in the other two
speakers (one has a Eton tweater and the other a ribbon tweeter from HiVi
Research). The Eton seems to go higher, but it sounded shrill in comparison.
The ribbon tweeter also sounds very natural like the Jordan, but it lacked the
inner detail and resolution of the JTMs. I think you can literally listen to
the JTMs all day long and never get listening fatigue like you do with IMHO
most high end speakers. There is no hint of that edgy high end that passes for
"detail" with most other speakers. You get an amazing amount of detail. I
heard stuff I never heard before on my CDs. But it never sounds peaky,
scratchy or irritating.
The bottom end - also amazing. On kettle drums, they make the room shake a bit
at high volumes. They base on these things is in some ways the best I have
ever heard. Base is fast and taught. It is not flabby and slow like with most
speakers. As Newk states, the JTMs may not be the last word on deep, deep base
like organ music, but I don't listen to organ music, so who cares. For what I
listen to, jazz, vocals, rock, the JTMs are extremely satisfying.
I compared the JTMs with the larger of the two monitors, which has an 8 inch
Eton mid/woofer in a ported box. Again, no comparison, the Eton's sounded flat
and flabby. In comparison, the JTMs sounded dynamic, and punchy. You can
actually feel the base.
Coherency - this is where the JTMs really shine. You hear every nuance, again
things I never heard before. After listining to the JTMs, you realize that a
cross over just gets in the way with other speakers. The cross-over places
places a veil the music and makes them sound, well incohent. The JTMs just
sound so easy and natural, from top to bottom. Hard to explain it in words,
you have to hear it.
Transparency - the JTMs are open, wide open. They don't sound boxy at all.
They throw a very wide, deep sound stage. I have heard a few ribbon speakers,
and in general I did not like them. THey always had an edge to them that was
bothersome. The JTMs just sound like natural.
I realize I sound like a chearleader, but it's my honest opinion of the JTMs.
I have not heard all that many speakers, so take what I have with a grain of
salt, but I truly believe that the Carolina's have raised the bar for "real
world" speakers at a real world price. I just don't think a traditional 2 or 3
way design can touch these things. THe cross-over and multiple drivers are
just too big a disadvantage to over-come.