GR-Research X-LS Encore DIY Speakers are Done

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Puma Cat, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Some of you may remember my AmpCamp amp project posted here in a recent thread in August.

    Part of that project was to build up a pair of GR-Research X-LS Encores as speakers.

    Well, I had a total hip replacement August 10th and have been recovering from that the last six weeks.

    As I got clearance to resume normal duties from my orthopedic surgeon with an A+ post-op exam on Tuesday, I decided to finish up the X-LS Encore project.

    Some of you may remember the photos of the cabinets in the ACA thread, well, those were damaged irrevocably in shipping, so the cabinet maker made me up a pair in "birch red" to match the Dynaudio Special 40s.

    Here's a shot of one of the cabinets:
    [​IMG]

    Doesn't look like much in the photo, but this cabinet has 4 internal braces and a cross-brace, and it is very stiff and heavy for its size. Its so stiff and strong that 4 of them under each wheel will support a 4X4 pickup truck.

    Here's a pic of the crossover I put together. The resistors, SoniCaps and MiFlex copper caps and Mills resistors were part of the upgraded "parts" kit. The inductors are large-diameter wire and air-core. Everything is wired point-to-point and soldered with Cardas solder.
    [​IMG]

    Once I had the cabinets lined with No-Res, the crossover and drivers installed, I have to say for an ~1.2 cubic foot standmount, these speakers are heavy! The cabinets are very stiff and also well-damped. I have beefier pair of speaker stands coming for them.

    The on-axis frequency response measurements at the refence point is excellent, with a max deviation of 1.5dB across the entire frequency range and considerable portion within 1 dB or less.
    [​IMG]

    The horizontal off-axis at 0, 10, 20, 30, 40 degrees off-axis is also very good.
    [​IMG]

    The vertical off-axis performance is also very good:
    [​IMG]

    And, finally, the cumulative spectral decay (aka waterfall plot) is, with essentially no ringing of any significance from either driver.
    [​IMG]

    My cost including built, veneered and stained cabinets, and speaker premium crossover parts and $45 sheet of No-Res: ~$915. This included the trick components in the crossover, like the Miflex copper caps (which are pretty pricey).

    And...here they are!
    [​IMG]

    After 30-40 hours on them for run-in, they should be "on the cam" as we say in motor racing...so, stay tuned, listening impressions to come over the next few days as they run in. The woofers certainly need running in and crossover needs to be burned in.

    But so far, I am VERY impressed.
     
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  2. Aklegal

    Aklegal Almost "Made"

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    Danny designs amazing speakers. I've owned about 6 of his designs.

    Great job by the way.
     
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  3. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    He does indeed.

    Thank you.
     
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  4. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    I'm tempted to build these if I can find a flat pack for the cab. If you don't mind me asking @Puma Cat who did you get the cab made by?
     
  5. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Hi Famish,
    Killian Smith, who works for Danny, made up my cabients for me. He built, veneered, and stained as I don't have facilities to make up my own.

    Peter Rawlings makes the best flat-packs for X-LS Encores. He cuts them on a CNC machine extremely precisely. You can watch all of his assmebly vides on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0JRqE7rQT0g3SutYuBWBsg/videos

    IIRC, the cost of the flat packs is $140.

    You can email Peter about ordering a set of flatpacks here: [email protected]

    If its in your budget, I recommend getting the better caps, Mills resistors and the new Miflex copper caps from Danny; they really make a notable difference. I also recommend you order a sheet of No-Res as damping material.

    Once the cabinets are built up (watch Peter's videos), there are assembly videos by Danny for each phase of the build here:
     
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    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
  6. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    Yeah I'm hot off of upgrading my Forte 3 with the GR Research upgrade kit and now I kinda have the DIY itch and want to try more by him.
     
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  7. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    You won't be disappointed. I'm still running mine in as I only completed them Friday last week. I still have only about 10 hours or so on mine. BTW, also using mine with a REL R-305 sub for the lower octaives.
     
  8. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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  9. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    They're fairly impressive. It's early hours yet as I'm only about 1/3 or so the way through the running in process, but the bass definition and articulation, particularly, with string bass, is quite good. They are -3dB down at 55 Hz or so, which is comparable to my Harbeths. A sub would be required to flesh out the lowest octaves. The link you attached is the page for ordering the drivers and XO parts. I would recommend that you get the SonicCap and Mills resistor and tube connectors upgrades and also the new MiFlex copper cap upgrade if budget allows. And a sheet of No-Res is a must, IMHO.

    See my link above for a contact for Peter Rawlings for purchasing a CNC-machine cut flat pack.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
  10. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Just an update for the gang. The Pangea DS400 steel stands arrived for the Encores today. For $229/pr, I am impressed with these stands, the shipping box was so heavy I decided to open up the box and removed the pillars and bottom and top plates and assemble each stand in the garage. The assembled stands are really heavy, and while they come with spikes, the bottom plates are flat and level, so you can place them stably either on carpet, or on the speaker stand platforms as shown here. This set of stands is 28" high which is ear level for the tweeters in the Zero G chair I use for listening. 24" high stands are also available for $199. These stands are considerably more stable than the wimpy Sanus stands depicted in the first photo. Just a note for potential builders: these speakers are deceptively heavy, stiff and very, very solid when assembled, so be very mindful that the stand you decide to use for them has enough size, top plotform area and stability to use the speakers safely. The top platform for the Pangea stands is 6" W X 9" Deep, and its got enough area, but to be honest if they were 9"W X 12"D, it would be even better.

    [​IMG]

    I'm trying different materials to see what provides the best mechanical grounding of the speakers to the stands. The little rubber "feet" supplied for the top platforms aren't going to cut it. Right now, I've got a sheet of beeswax cloth sandwiched between the bottom of the cabinet and the speaker mounting plate to provide mechanical grouding but I will also try some Blu-Tac at each corner as well. The stands do come with carpet spikes you can use if your carpet is on a cement floor. The platforms you see the stands resting on are plain old particle board, which was the best-sounding platform of the many I tried, including just the carpet, MDF, ceramic floor tiles, and travertine stone (yes, different platforms sound different*). I will say its nice to finally have the speakers on a proper stand that provides good mechanical grounding and stability; those Sanus stands were pretty wimpy. At some point I may get in 8 EVPs from Norm Varney and try those under the bottom plate. The reason I haven't done this to date is that they are not practical to use with the Resonant Woods stands I use for the Harbeth 30.2s.

    The speakers are continuing to run-in and becoming more refined and with a smoother overall response. Bass response is becoming more defined and articulated across the tonal range, but I'm only about 1/3 to 1/4 of the way there with respect to running these in, so I expect even better audio quality as the woofs and its spider runs in, and as the big-ass caps burn-in. Imaging is very good, and the tweeter is accurate and smooth, but very revealing, so be mindful of recordings and most importantly, proper acoustical treatments in the room with these. You don't want any hard surface or glass at the first reflection points with these bad boys.

    More to follow...


    *–You'll also note the GIK Acoustics Alpha 4A diffusers/traps behind the speakers on the front wall. This is 1/6 of the actual number in the listening area (refer to the first pic for the one I put up on the half-wall midway between the speakers for critical listening). These diffusers provide a significant improvement in audio quality for those interested.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  11. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Oh, and just an additional note regarding imaging. These speakers image incredibly well off-axis. As I write this, in my Zero G chair, I'm way off-axis, to the left of the left channel speaker and I can still clearly hear detail from the right channel speaker and....very good center-fill of the image between the speakers, even from this listening position. Very impressive.

    This plot, shown again here from post 1, shows the excellent horizontal off-axis response of these speakers.
    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    As there is no measurement forum for speakes, I'm going to add this post and data here.

    Some background: It's been a while since I posted on these, so I thought I'd provide an update for the gang.

    Some of you may remember my DIY build of the GR-Research X-LS Encores I did back in August, 2020, which is at the post of this. These cost me all of about 850 bucks, all in, including having the cabinets built, clamped and glued, veneered, and stained for me by Killian at GR-Research.

    Here's a pic of them in the system from last fall.
    [​IMG]

    I hadn't listened to them much of late, so I thought I'd break them out and give them a listen. Had an audio buddy over the Sunday before last, and while we agreed they sounded quite good, they couldn't match my Harbeth 30.2s for open-ness and expansiveness.

    Back when I built these, I asked the guys in the GR-Research circle at AC the no. of hours these needed to run-in, and they said, "Oh, 20-25 hours".

    Well, I spoke to Danny Richie at GR-Research about these last week, and he asked how many hours I had on them, I said, "Oh, about 15-20 hours, The guys in the GR-Research circle said they only needed about 25 hrs. or so."

    Danny replied, "Oh, no, no way. With the Miflex copper caps and all the premium you have in the crossover, you will need 400 hours on them to get them fully burned-in and the speakers fully run-in. You haven't even begun to hear what they will really do when they are fully burned-in."

    My curiosity piqued, I set them up in my listening area and did some measurements using REW 5.0, comparing them to my big Dyn Contour S3.4 and my Harbeth 30.2

    Here's the setup details:
    NIST-traceable calibration mic, a Dayton EMM-6 and did some in-room frequency response tests using REW 5.0; both speakers were positioned to face straight forward, no toe-in. Front baffle was 4 feet from front wall and 4 feet from side walls. All measurements were taken with a laser "tape measure" for accuracy, precision and reproducibility.
    a) the mic was at my reference listening (sitting) position (not industry-standard 1W at 1 meter)
    b) the mic was set at the position of my ears with respect to height from the floor
    c) REL R-305 gain/crossover was set at the position I determined some years back with my Design of Experiments (aka DOE) for integrating the REL to the big Dyns.
    d) X-LS Encores were mounted to the top platform on Pangea DS400 stands with beeswax cloth to provide coupling and some constrained layer damping. The Pangea stands were placed on painted particle board platforms determined by measurements* to provide mechanical grounding support and damping. They also sounded the best of all materials of support platforms I tried using listening tests.

    Target SPL: 70 dB

    The first comparison was between my large-ish Dynaudio Contour S3.4 (with Esotar 2 tweeters) floorstander and X-LS Encore on the R Channel. I’ve applied 1/3 octave smoothing (the same that Danny uses with his CLIO system) to reduce the impact of noise, but not so much so as to conceal problem areas with peaks or nulls. Dynaudio in RED, X-LS Encore in GREEN.

    [​IMG]

    The next comparison was on the L channel, comparing my Harbeth 30.2 to the X-LS Encore. Harbeth 30.2 in BLUE, X-LS Encore in RED.
    [​IMG]

    The results are pretty interesting. While all the speakers are pretty good with respect to real-world, in-room response, in both cases, the X-LS Encores were notably smoother, particularly in the critical midrange, than either the Dynaudio or Harbeth.

    * – measured using Hamm Seismograph


    Next step will be to compare the R Channel between the Harbeth and X-LS Encore.

    Not bad for 850 bucks. Needless to say, I need to get 400 hours on these bad boys...they look like giant killers.

    Stay tuned.​
     
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  13. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    I had some "down-time" of about two months between new gear arriving for review, so I set up the Encores on the Memoiral Day holiday weekend. When I built up my pair of Encores, I asked at AudioCircle how much run-in/burn in time they needed and received responses that they needed about 25-30 hours to run-in.
    Also, an audio buddy came over in May to hear the system and was fairly impressed with the Encores (especially at their price), but as soon as we switched back to my 'Beths, he moved his arms out expansively, gesturing that the Beths were much more open, spacious, full-bodied, and as Hans Beekhuizen says, "relaxed-sounding". He was correct. I figured that the Encores simply had not enough run-in/burn-in time on the clock, so the following week, I called Danny for some insight. He asked me how many hours I had on my pair, and when I told him about 15-20 hours and that gang had said they needed 25-30 hours, he replied (and I'm paraphrasing here); "No, no way. With the standard premium parts (Sonicaps, Mills resistors, etc.) they will need at least 200 hours. With the Miflex copper caps you have for the "upgraded" premium parts, they will need at least 400 hours to burn-in those caps."

    With that, I was a man on a mission, and set up my Encores as my home-theatre mains and ran them for 8-10 hours a day on a range of content (spoken word and music in movie soundtracks for example), tracking their hours daily in an Excel spreadsheet. I powered them down overnight to help with forming the caps.

    At 275 hours, I set them up along with my way-cool little Nelson Pass Amp Camp amps (to get some burn-in on the amps as well) and running the ACAs as bridged monos, and it was clear the Encores had started to open up, and sound fuller. Undaunted, as I had a trip up to Washington state the week of June 8, I set them up with the home theatre system playing classical music, and let them run for 5 days straight on the AVR.

    I had ~425 hours on them and at that point, it was clear the Encores have fully arrived. They now sound much accurate and lifelike with respect to tone, timbre, rendering of instrument and vocal textures and harmonics, but also are notably improved with respect to producing responsive power and ability to "scale", a trait I've termed "dynamic slam". The mids were notably more open, full, and natural-sounding, the bass response went lower with better definition and articulation, and the imaging and soundstage as a whole was more open and expansive yet providing focus for instrument and voice imaging within the sound field.

    Bottom-line: if you buid up a pair of Encores with the the Sonciaps, Mills resistors, and tube connectors, etc., figure on 200 hours of run-in. I would say more like 275 hours, actually. With the Miflex copper caps, you'll need 400-425 hours for them to fully run-in/burn-in. I will add that Danny's input for the burn-in for these parts was 100% accurate and on-the-money with the burn-in time required.

    My recommendation: build 'em, burn 'em in and then, sit back and enjoy.
     
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  14. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I believe in burn in, so I’ll buy at least part of that time was needed, although that seems a bit extreme.

    Anyhow, did you end up comparing again to the Harbeths? It’s the 30.2s correct? People don’t follow all the details of everyone’s systems here, especially infrequent posters such as yourself, so you may want to be a bit more clearer than just calling them “my ‘Beths” when describing your gear here (or at least list your gear in your profile). Also it doesn’t make you cool to abbreviate the name, just sayin :).
     
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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
  15. haywood

    haywood Friend

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    It’d be interesting to compare measurements from the speakers now that they have the recommended 400 hours to your original graphs and see what differences there are.
     
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  16. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    The SoniCaps take 200-300 hours to burn in, the Miflex copper caps take 400 hours. FWIW, it's not at all unusual for caps of this type to require hundreds of hours to burn in. The Teflon caps in my Conrad-Johnson CT-5 took 1500 hours to burn in. As for my contraction of "Harbeths" (30.2s), I was just being informal, but your point is taken.

    As for comparing to the Harbeths, they're fairly different. I'd say the Encores are extended at the top a bit more, and are somewhat more on the "analytical/objective" side of things in the presentation. The 30.2 are more "organic" and lifelike-sounding, reach down further the lower octaves, and are "faster-sounding". There is music (e.g. Take Five on "Time Out" for example) where the 30.2 are so fast and clean they remind me of electrostatics.

    I doubt there would be much, if any, differences in measurements, at least the ones I can do with REW.

    Also, measurements are useful in component design for direction, but frequently do not convey how a given component actually sounds when reproducing music. Polystyrene caps don't sound as good as polypropylene and even less good than Teflon or Miflex copper capacitors, but they measure exactly the same. An Electroharmonix 6922 triode measures exactly the same as an Amperex "Bugle Boy" 6922, but they don't sound anything alike. Also, the same tube can sound different when reproducing music in different circuit topologies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2021
  17. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Hi Famish,
    I had my cabinets make by Killian Smith, who works for Danny Richie, but I would recommend you buy your flat pack from Peter Rawlings at this email address: [email protected]

    Killian's work is...okay, but Peter worked his entire career as a professional high-end cabinet maker. He's also got a great YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0JRqE7rQT0g3SutYuBWBsg/featured

    Cheers.
     
  18. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    @Puma Cat Thanks for sharing your journey. These are on the short list of DIY options I was considering to replace my current speakers with, as they are some of the few that have a center channel option. I know you don't use yours this way, but do you think they would hold up well for home theater? Also, do they have the ability to "thwack"? My Energy RC-10s are quite enjoyable, and perform admirably for movies, but for music, they don't give me the precise, visceral hits that I know different speakers can. Sorry for the noob terminology.
     
  19. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Oh, I think they'd be gerat for home theatre. I had mine set up for that use when I was running them in, and I was impressed with them for that application. It was actually nice having something with more "oomph" than my ERA Design 4s.

    And yes, I think they have the ability to "thwack"! Cheers! ;)
     
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