Sold direct price: $1,800/pair fully assembled
Available in DIY kit form.
Audio Resolution Opus 21 CDP with Reference Mods by Great Northern Sound (DCCA Source Power Cord)
VAC Renaissance Signature MkII Preamp (Stealth Cloude Nine Full Power Cord)
Moscode 401HR Hybrid Amplifier (Purist Audio Dominus Ferrox Power Cord)
AV123 LS6 Prototype Line Array Speakers
Running Springs Haley Power Conditioner (Black Sand Silver Reference MkV Power Cord)
Jade Audio Gold IC’s
Gabriel Gold Alloy IC’s
Shunyata Lyra Speaker Cables
Jesse Cook – Gravity
Sonya Kitchell – Words Came Back To Me
Stacey Kent – Dreamsville
American Beauty – Original Score Soundtrack
I will start this review with a confession…. I am a sucker for big speakers.
I always have been, right from the beginning of my time in this mad pursuit of sonic perfection we call our hobby.
So my curiosity peaked a bit when I received the rather petite RAW Acoustics HT3 floor standers for review. The HT3 measure 7” wide by 11” deep and 40” tall, certainly not the looming giants I’m used to in my room, such as my recently departed Dunlavy SCIV-A. I imagine that to my family I looked a bit like the apes circling the obelisk in “2001 A Space Odyssey.” What are these small boxes? How did they end up in my listening room dwarfed by the prototype LS-6 from AV123 that stands in at near 6’ tall, engulfed in it’s shadow…. how on earth will these slender speakers fill my room with sound? Who could love a speaker this small?
I set the speakers up about 8’ apart and around 5’ from my back wall and just walked away. I had no interest in listening to something that small, what would be the point? I sent my publisher a note that there’s no way I can review these tiny things in my big room, it won’t be fair…I sent Danny Richie at GR research the same note, Danny had recently redesigned the crossovers for these adding in Solen inductors and Sonicap capacitors, maybe he would tell me I was correct - that no speaker this small could be reasonably reviewed in my 20x23x10.5 room, it wouldn’t be right…. to his credit he advised me to shut up and play them…
So let me pick this back up at the point I returned to my listening room and began to circle the speakers again like the aforementioned apes….
The cabinet build quality is excellent on this product. The wrap around design of the cabinets gives them a clean line and with touches like the copper dispersion bullet in the midwoofer these have the look of a much more expensive speaker. Al Wooley at RAW certainly does exceptional work with his cabinetry and build quality, everything about the fit and finish on these is first class. The HT3 is offered in Cherry finish stock, but if you contact Al he will work with you on specialty veneers up to the most exotic. Judging by the review pair, if nothing else, Al is a master cabinet builder. The HT3 are surprisingly heavy for such a small box and have a nice solid thud with no echo when given the knuckle rap test. They come with optional grills, which are pretty neat because they are magnetic, and the holding magnets aren’t visible on the front baffle.
Okay, I’ll listen to them….
First, let me tell you what Al and RAW were shooting for in their design of the HT3. From their website; “These new speakers were designed utilizing an XBL^2 motor. The 4.5" and 6.8" drivers that we've used in the RAW series has an XBL^2 motor that provides exceptionally clear and highly detailed sound. The resulting total harmonic distortion due to the XBL motor is extremely low, permitting smooth, clear, and rich details. The tweeter used is our RA104.5 ribbon, combining for smooth, accurate low/mids and rich detailed, clear highs.” As mentioned before there have been recent changes to the crossovers on the HT3, the tweeter uses a 3rd order (electrical) network crossing to a mid-range at 2,500Hz. The mid uses a 1st order (electrical) low pass and high pass network, with impedance equalization, crossing over near 200Hz to the lower woofer that is using a 2nd order (electrical) network. Sounds like he has all his orders in order! - publisher
When I spoke to Al he indicated his target audience was “someone with a mid-sized room who was dealing with some WAF or space constraints and needed a speaker with smaller footprint or just plain preferred a slim line look.” He added that the HT3’s “were going to be ideal for someone who couldn’t use a sub, or was looking to get rid of one.” In my mind I scoffed at this because the side-firing woofer is only a 6.8” Extremis. I was wrong about this…. more on that later
The RAW Sound
I’m still chuckling to myself as I write this about how I must have looked sitting there in my room as I started to play the HT3. I almost missed the first 4 songs completely, in shock at the range of sound these little guys were pumping into the room Al said one of his customers had described the HT3 as “little dogs with a big bite” and brother let me tell you whoever said that was spot on. The HT3 can fill a room with sound and they cover the range of frequencies quite admirably.
Soundstaging and imaging are excellent with the HT3 as they successfully showed the width I’m used to on Ryan Adams “When The Stars Go Blue” off the disc Gold. There are two guitars that carry this song and they each appear far outside either speaker with the one on the right being more set to the rear than the guitar on the left. The HT3 nailed this. Adams voice was locked center, and may have been a bit forward, which might be one of my very few issues with the HT3. Vocals in general were a bit forward in the stage and overemphasized. The image of the singer can appear larger than the rest of the accompanying image and does seem louder than other instruments at times. On other fare such as Stacey Kent’s “Dreamsville” which features her delicate and breathy voice with minimal accompaniment, this was less bothersome, but again I digress.
The speakers are not obtrusive in the soundstage; that is they seem to do a nice job of getting out of the way and produce sound as you can imagine it is mixed, rather than confining it to the boxes or just around it. The vertical image is also surprisingly good from a 40” tall speaker. Depth, height, width, spacing, what’s not to love here? Maybe a smaller floorstander has a place in this world after all. I pushed on with the listening.
The RA104.5 Ribbon Tweeter handles the treble on the HT3 and I found it to be clear and full of detail without being overbearing or etched, either of which can easily cause listener fatigue. I did not find it to be rolled off at all, just a sense of rightness to the high end. This was best exhibited on the second track of the American Beauty Original Score called “Arose.” Very early in the track there are some chimes being played and the HT3 brought them forward with clear precision and definition. The decay after they were struck was spot on and they seemed to linger in the air very realistically.
The Midrange is covered on the HT3 by a CSS XBL2 4.5” Mid-woofer. I would say the midrange on this speaker is very good and creates a tonality that is ideal for instrumental fare such as Jesse Cook’s disc “Gravity.” His guitar sounded rich and full throughout, no doubt due to the integration of all 3 drivers, but the midrange carries the load on this type of music and it was really incredible. Full, round tones to the notes, terrific detail in slaps against the body of the guitar, and an air around instruments that was repeated track after track.
The Cook disc is also where I discovered that these little babies would play LOUD! They sound great at lower volume, great at normal listening levels, but on the track “Mario Takes a Walk” and again on the title track “Gravity” I decided to dial up the volume and wow, no distortion! Just thundering bass, clean and clear all the way out. I wasn’t sure what the power handling was, so decided not to push them too much further, but I felt the bite of the little dog for around 8 minutes between those two and it was something. They may not have filled the room the way other speakers of more size and driver area have and do in my listening environment, but it was incredible hearing their capabilities.
Speaking of the integration of the drivers, they also did well on more complex orchestral works like the American Beauty score, handling dynamic passages and transients well at both low and room filling volume levels. The more there was going on in the music - the more you seemed to throw at them, the HT3 just stood there and put it back out. I’m not sure they are the last word in dynamics, but any range of speaker would not embarrass them, and they have to be applauded at this price point.
They also do delicate well, such as on Sonya Kitchell’s disc “Words Came Back to Me.” On track 10 “Tinted Glass” they captured the intimacy of the guitar and her voice as if you were sitting stageside in a very small club. Again on the hidden track at the end of the disc, where she sings about her little brother, very intimate and breathy, you could feel the emotion in her voice…. my Goosebumps Moment with these speakers.
Okay, the bass. What do I say here? A little 6.8” side-firing woofer and a tuned rear port that reach down this low is almost like an illusion of sorts. The low end of the HT3 is full and fast, and when Al tells you it reaches down into the 27Hz range, he ain’t just blowin’ smoke up your skirt, mister. Now, that said, the low end can sound challenged and did get a little loose at times, but I’m guessing that was my room coming into play a little. Take a few square feet off and I can understand why you wouldn’t be looking for a sub with these, or might ditch the one you have. There are several places in the American Beauty score that use very low, glass rattling notes and I’ll be darned if the HT3 didn’t produce them. On Sonya Kitchell’s disc “Words Came Back to Me” the upright bass on tracks 5, 7, and 9 was full and taut, organic and woody sounding, very nicely reproduced. Let’s consider the infrequent loose bass note a small thing to nitpick on my part, because the low end on these is not only good, it’s the kind of thing with which you can puzzle your friends. Like me, they’ll wonder how something that slim can grunt out notes that deep.
The HT3 is no small accomplishment, they are not the perfect speaker, but they are very darn good. Al Wooley has turned out a remarkable gem at the ridiculous price point of $1800 – fully and beautifully finished by him, only $800 in kit form for those who like to get their hands dirty. Given the quality of the cabinetry, the range of sound, and their ability to go for it at all ranges and volumes, this is a must consider on anyone looking to get into a 2-channel or Home Theater setup. Given his stated design goals, I would say he more than exceeded them, and in the process helped this reviewer not judge a speaker so quickly by it’s size anymore. I know, this is where I’m supposed to say I’m buying them and it’s a storybook ending…not so fast, I’m still a big speaker guy, and my room may have been a bit too large for these at the end of the day. But Al does make the larger Apex II’s and maybe he’ll send me a pair of those to review……I know what he’s capable of after the HT3 and the thought does intrigue me…..
Al are you out there? Are you listening Al? I believe, Al…..
Maximum Mojo for Al Wooley and RAW Acoustics HT3! An incredible package that exceeds it’s price point. For serious two-channel listening, or home theater duty, enjoy the full sonic range of the HT3, a little speaker with a big bite!
Side Note on the HTFR
I also had Al’s HTFR speakers in during the same period. Simplest description visually is that these are the HT3 minus the ribbon tweeter. On the HTFR the filter for the full range driver and the side firing driver is a simple 1st order crossover on the full range matched to a second order crossover on the woofer at 225HZ. This configuration targets the best-uncompressed sound from the full range driver yet adding low-end frequency.
The HTFR are similar to the HT3 in the low end, have the same wonderful mids, but were a bit smoother and more recessed on the top end. For the listener who wants buttery smooth, the HTFR may be an ideal alternative.
The soundstage and imaging were better on the HT3, but by feet not yards, and the overall power handling of the HTFR is less than the HT3, so it doesn’t get after it the way the HT3 showed me it could.
I have to admit I am unfamiliar with speakers that use a single driver to carry the bandwidth the way the HTFR does, but it was an altogether pleasant speaker. Not my cup of tea exactly, but worth a listen for the single-driver crowd as it possesses many of the same excellent qualities of the HT3.
Think of the HT3 as listening to “Tommy” by the Who while drinking imported beer. Think of the HTFR as listening to Diana Krall as you sit in an overstuffed chair and sip a Bailey’s over ice.
First is the on axis response. This is a 1 watt/1 meter measurement taken on the tweeter axis.
This is a pretty smooth over all response showing a slight tilt in the top end that flattens out if they are towed to slightly off axis. The on axis response also shows an early roll off that starts about 400Hz. This actually isn't a true roll off and not a characteristic of the speaker. It is a limitation to how it is measured verses the design of the speaker. All of the 1 meters measurements will show this drop off in the lower range.
The side firing lower woofer covers the lower frequency ranges and crosses to the WR125 mid-woofer in the 200Hz range. In order to catch the output of the lower woofer this speaker needs to be measured further away than the 1 watt/1 meter measurement taken on the tweeter axis.
Off axis responses in the horizontal plane taken at 0, 10, 20, 30, and 40 degrees off axis shows a very even response over a wide range. 10 and 20 degrees off axis shows the response of the tweeter leveling out and makes the overall response even smoother or more neutral than the on axis response. The narrow width of the ribbon allows for excellent off axis response horizontally and giving it a much more even coverage area in the top end than any typical dome tweeters that obviously use a larger diaphragm.
The off axis responses in the vertical plane are taken again at 1 meter and on tweeter axis for the first measurement. Each additional measurement was made by moving the mic up 4". 4" and 8" above the tweeter axis still look really good. This is fairly representative of standing up at near the listening distance. It isn't until the 12" height over the tweeter axis that the length of the tweeter allows for a drop off in output in the top end. Most longer ribbons show an immediate drop in output as soon as you break the plane of the tweeter, but the short Raw 104.5 ribbon tweeter does pretty well in this regard. Also by the 12" height mark we start to see a little dropping off of output in the crossover region, but still really good. This speaker is still within a +/-2db range all the way up till the drop off in the top end of the tweeters range. Overall it has really good dispersion off axis vertically and horizontally.
So to see if the lower woofer is properly integrated with the mid-bass drivers I took several in room responses. This is an RTA (real time analyzer) that takes a continuous signal with no time gating. This can vary from room to room quite a bit. My listening room is fairly well treated, maybe more so than the norm. So in room responses are fairly free from room related effects, but with a varying of speaker and microphone placements there will be inconsistences below 200Hz or so. Just because the output dropped off at the 40Hz mark does not mean that the speaker itself drops off in that range. In a smaller less treated room there could be more gain in the 40Hz and under range, so take it for what it is worth. What the in room response does show very well is a very good integration of the lower woofer with the smaller mid-bass driver.
The spectral decay is really clean across the board,
but shows a little bit of what might be a resonance in the area around 20kHz.
This is pretty high up the scale and won't be much of an issue.
Lastly the impedance plot shows this to be a pretty easy 8 ohm nominal load to drive, and should be no problem for any amp. The minimum impedance drop on the tweeter end is still over 6.5 ohms. We can also see the tuning frequency of the rear firing port to be in the 27Hz range. This is one of the reasons for it's great low bass extension.