To Jeff Fritz,
I continue to really enjoy your wonderful site with wonderful insights!
This is more of a general question with regards to what driver arrangement allows for an easier-to-share sweetspot for either multiple listeners or for just walking around the house while listening to music on your two-channel stereo.
Some dynamic speaker manufacturers go with a single tweeter (point source?), while others opt for an MTM (D'Appolito) arrangement. From what I've read so far, it appears that you've had experience with at least one brand that features both arrangements: Rockport -- the Avior and the Altair as point sources, and the Arrakis as a D'Appolito of sorts.
Perhaps you've experienced the Arrakis at Andy Payor's studio in Maine, but if I'm not mistaken, you had the Altairs as references for a while.
Do you have an impression of which approach gives a little less of a "head in a vice" type of room loading? While the Arrakis may give a huge sense of scale, does one have to be paying a little bit more attention to it and sitting in the sweet spot to "get it" or is it the opposite? Does more "air filling up the space" or a more realistic "live" feeling go to one arrangement over the other?
And finally, I've read rave reviews of the little Atria. Does the next step up, the Avior, also with its new Andy Payor-created drivers, come close to the Altair in overall feel, power, and music making?
With many thanks for an eminently enjoyable site (love the letters section!)!
Precise imaging -- regardless of where you sit -- is a function of many variables. One of the most important is the off-axis linearity of the loudspeaker. What you want is for the off-axis output to be a fairly close approximation of the on-axis output -- assuming, of course, that the on-axis output is fairly linear to begin with. When this happens, all of the reflected sound winds up arriving at the listening seat without huge response aberrations that can cause that dreaded diffuse imaging and soundstaging. Of course, other variables come into play as well, like pair matching between a set of stereo loudspeakers. Are both the right and the left speakers putting sound into the room identically, or are there acoustical differences in the audioband that could lead to a shift in the soundstage that should not be there? And of course room acoustics play a pivotal role in all of this.
So the short answer is that there are many variables involved. Speakers that are designed to have smooth on- and off-axis output, when put into a symmetrical room with good acoustical properties, will have the clear advantage when it comes to sounding good no matter where you are in the listening space. I have had point-source speakers and various forms of MTM designs in my room that have all imaged and soundstaged quite well. Still, I can say that in my particular room the most precise-sounding speakers have been from point-source-type designs. I believe this to be the case at least partially due to my room design, which has a sloped ceiling that interacts with really tall loudspeakers (as MTMs can be).
Regarding your specific Rockport question, I've experienced almost all of the Rockport line (though not all second-generation models) and I can tell you that they all image and soundstage with the best of them. As to how each would sound in your room, of course I have no clue. I'm sure Andy Payor can guide you on this better than I can. As to whether the Avior is close to the Altair II, that's hard for me to say as well, because I have not had either speaker in my room. I believe the Avior to be an extremely capable speaker at what I feel is a fair price given the build quality, engineering, and technology that have gone into it. (The same can be said of the Atria, which I did review.) The Altair, with its composite cabinet and larger woofer arrangement, would certainly have some advantages that would be quite important to some listeners in some rooms. Altair II vs. Avior: It's certainly a good question that I know many Rockport fans have pondered. . . . Jeff Fritz