Troels Gravesen 3WC-15 (and any of his other designs)

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by AdvanTech, Feb 3, 2021.

  1. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Backstory (feel free to skip):

    After dabbling in headphones (Valhalla 2 + modded HD650/HD800), my previous 2-channel rig was a Schiit Yggdrasil A2 > Goldpoint SA2X> PranaFidelity Purna/Ma (NCore NC1200 module) > PranaFidelity Bhava (MTM bookshelves w/6.5” woofers).* I enjoyed this Schiit and PranaFidelity setup for a few years, but the Big Woofer bug was first planted by attending small meets of other 2-channel people around NYC (many of them SBAF members). The scale and dynamics of systems like PureAudioProject Trio15 clones, Augspurger setup (18” bass, 10” mids, Beryllium horn) and Spatial Audio X3 made me realize that while I enjoyed the beautifully tuned Bhavas, they just didn’t slap.

    I picked up a used HSU Research sealed 15” sub, and while I had issues integrating it with the Bhavas, I enjoyed the physicality that the subwoofer was giving me in the bottom octaves. I would have loved if this weight and tactility extended throughout the frequency range.

    In the spring of 2020, a few big changes to my living situation (newborn in the apartment and COVID lockdown) made me look at the current state of headphones again. I ended up getting open-box Focal Utopias and a used ECP Audio DSHA3F. I was floored by a lot of what this combination did. Resolving power, transient speed, dynamics, bass quality, and more. I just needed to rein it in with some light EQ and a Rockna Wavelight to really match my preferences.

    My headphone rig was so good I wasn’t listening to my speakers as much, so I decided to try to replicate what I was hearing through the Utopias with a new 2-channel rig. I wanted a speaker setup that dug more into the recordings. I’d been casually reading about Troels Gravesen’s new designs over the years, and became especially interested when he posted about his reasonably affordable Faital 3WC (12” bass, 6” mid, Beryllium tweeter option) design and, later, the 3WC-15 (15” bass, 8” mid, Be tweeter option).

    On paper, this looked like exactly what I wanted to get my 2-channel rig closer to my Utopia headphone experience. 96dB efficient, 15” and 8” woofers for proper bass and mids, a Beryllium tweeter, and a crossover that wasn’t overly complicated. I’d be putting it in the quite small room that I work in (11’x9’) and was worried about a few things like it being too big for the room, not being able to get far enough back for all the drivers to properly sum and, the biggest thing, not having heard the design before before (let alone any of Troels’ others).

    I’d been liking the recent things Troels had been writing when it came to speaker design, so I decided to just go for it and bought the crossover kit he sells for the 3WC-15. I commissioned a local woodworker that seemed to really know his shit when it came to loudspeakers (having designed some of his own from scratch) to build them. He built them with Baltic Birch and painted them in a beautiful medium black that I’m quite happy with.

    They were delivered almost 2 weeks ago, and two things immediately popped out at me when I hooked them up to two Aegirs. Holy shit, they’re crazy dynamic/intense, but thank God they work with my room. I might be wrong, but I have a feeling these large cabinets react even less to the room and where they’re placed in it compared to my old bookshelves. That was a surprising little plus, but I wanted to solve this issue of unrelenting energy.

    I bought a Radial J-ISO 1:1 transformer to see what the speakers would sound like with a single Aegir, and it helped calm the speakers down. Transients were more rounded rounded, the speakers seemed less hyper, a bit sweeter, but the single Aegir seemed to have little in the way of grip on the 15” woofers.

    For shits and giggles, I plugged in the speakers to my PranFidelity class D amp and immediately thought I was listening to my Bhava bookshelves, only a larger version of them. There was a kind of laidback gloss over them, and it made me realize that the speakers might just be good at reflecting whatever I put upstream of them.

    I missed the sheer technicalities of dual Aegirs, so I plugged them back in, decided to play around with speaker positioning some more, and moved them closer to the front wall away from me. This, plus a gentle EQ lowering high frequencies (plus hours and hours of burn-in, I’m sure), seems to have done it. It feels like the speaker version of my DSHA3F and Utopias.

    My chain:

    Rockna Wavelight > Dual Aegir > 3WC-15

    What I like:
    • The immediacy and physicality of an efficient big woofer design. Rimshots and handclaps slap. Kicks knock. The speaker feels alive, and I can better distinguish and imagine the specific materials of each instrument.
    • Not only is the bass fast, but mids seem to be really fast as well. I wonder how much the mids are helped by the supporting low end.
    • Sense of scale. Everything sounds bigger on these than with my old bookshelves. Crowds seem more like crowds, upright bass and cellos seem properly sized on the soundstage.
    • If the Wavelight has ever been criticized of not being as textured as some other DACs, these speakers make up for it.
    • I knew they were what I was looking for on day one, but it seems to be getting more refined/nuanced with play time.

    What can go either way:
    • Dual Aegirs and 3WC-15 don’t seem to intrinsically sugar-coat anything like my PranaFidelity setup did, so great recordings and mixes sound really really great, shit recordings/mixes sound quite bad. I don’t think the speaker is designed to homogenize all music into something easy and agreeable, so you’ll have to tune to your liking with DAC/preamp/amp.
      Edit 02/08/2021 - After about 15 straight days of play-time, they seem to have developed a smooth delicateness that shines through when the music calls for it. This hyper character trait that was fatiguing, in the beginning, seems to be gone.

    What I don’t like:
    • This is kind of minor in the grand scheme of things, but while bass quality is really great, I’ve heard harder punch/impact before. I’m not sure how much of it is that the woofers are also at home in open-baffle designs and aren’t meant for thunder, and how much of it is that I’m not throwing dump trucks of watts at them.
    • Like the Beryllium drivers in my Utopias, they require a light touch of EQ to get it in the pocket. I’m using digital EQ (in Roon) for now but might put a resistor behind the tweeter to do it the old-fashioned way. While it might be a little annoying to have to adjust for this in both my setups, I think the trade-off of improved technicalities compared to more traditional driver materials is totally worth it. I’m a big fan of the material when implemented properly. Focal speakers do not do this right, IMO.
      Edit 02/08/2021 - After more burn-in, preferred amount of EQ has gone from -3dB to -1dB. I feel that treble has relaxed and smoothed out over time.
    • The heat that two Aegirs will be radiating come summer.
    • I have to walk into my room sideways and have to be careful opening the door to not bang into the left speaker cabinet.

    What surprised me:
    • Imaging precision. I’d read that larger front baffles don’t image as precisely, but I think the Aegir and 3WC-15 combo might image even better than my previous setup. After some comparisons this week, I think a lot of it is the class D amp’s fault.
    • My bookshelves with 6.5” woofers measure down to about 40hz, and so do the 3WC-15s with 15s. The quality of 40hz is completely different, though. I can hear transients and textures down there, now. Kick drums aren’t mushy anymore.
    Things to note:
    • Don’t position the speakers in a near-field configuration. The speakers need some distance to breathe or else the wall of sound will pummel you. For a few days I was looking for used EAR amps and preamps wondering what kind of sweeteners I’d need to dial in the sound to my liking.
    • Drivers seem to become truly cohesive at about 6”. If my room was any smaller, I might not have been able to listen 6ft away. When I asked Troels about distance to integration, he respond in an email that he’s had good moments from as little as 2 meters distance (6.5”).
    • I’ve reconnected my budget subwoofer to fill in the foundational bottom octave for the bass I can feel, while letting the 3WC-15 handle the musical section of it. It seems much easier to integrate than with my bookshelves.

    All in all, I am impressed with this larger speaker design from Troels and would definitely recommend it to others that are curious. With the way speaker pricing can be in the HiFi ORFAS industry, I think this could be one of the more affordable ways to get this level of sound reproduction. Even more affordable if you can build it yourself and don’t need to hire someone like I did.

    *Before that, I’d had Adam Audio A7X’s before moving into the passive speaker world. I had Philharmonic BMRs powered by a Van Alstine amp, but I’d rather not talk about that.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2021
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  2. ohmaigulay

    ohmaigulay Friend

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    Thanks for the impressions. I’ve been curious about Troels designs and glad someone here posted about one.

    I noticed most of Troels’s designs have provision for bi-amping. He even encourages it. Does your build have that option? Just curious if you’ll be exploring bi-amping in the future. Maybe a Vidar for the bass section with a SYS fine tune the gain and Aegir for the mid tweeter would do the trick?
     
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  3. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    The 3WC has been a very popular build and I'm glad it made its way to someone here. It seems like 6-8" mid is the best way to integrate with a 15" woofer.

    Echoing @ohmaigulay, I hope you got dual binding posts installed. You can use the Pranafidelity for the bass section.
     
  4. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Yes, there are two sets of binding posts. I'll probably explore bi-amping in the future, though I'm in no rush.

    I thought about single Vidar and single Aegir, but I'm currently enjoying the focus of dual Aegirs, and I am trying to stay with a balanced solution as my 1:1 transformer seems to transmit these super loud pops when my DAC switches sample rate/bit depth.
     
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  5. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Day 15: After using them almost every day, I have no plans to sweeten up the sound anymore. The speakers now seem to be fully capable of being smooth/delicate, and I've nearly removed the treble's high shelf EQ.

    My old bookshelf setup is now in my bedroom, and it really doesn't sound very impressive even though it's near 3x the price.

    At some point, would love to get some Friend ears on them to see what they think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    So you decided to go with DEQ -1db instead of adding the resistor in series with the tweeter?
     
  7. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Yeah, I wanted to try digital EQ before committing to a more permanent solution. It looks like, after burn-in, I might not need much if any.
     
  8. Martigane

    Martigane Rando

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    Very nice, they look great!
    I lurked Troels designs for a long time before actually pulling the trigger and started my own design from scratch using a 12" woofer in a transmission line.

    After all, this 3WC-15 is huge!
    One thing I'd try on them would be to largely damp the bass reflex and EQ some bass back. With 15", excursion should still be low enough at reasonnably high SPL levels.
    You might gain speed by getting rid of some of the ringing associated with bass reflex.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
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  9. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Now That's What I Call Speakers!

    IMO 15" is the perfect size for a dedicated bass driver. No offence to sweet-eighteen, guys, tho. I might've made the bass bin fully active with a DSP plate-amp, so the inductor doesn't get in the way of the THWACK and used a single Aegir for the mid-high section.

    Anyways - stellar job! To get a similar driver set in a big box speaker, you'd prolly pay five figures.
     
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  10. jchang1988

    jchang1988 Rando

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    I noticed you're in NYC, I'm across the bridge 5 mins from fort lee.

    I was wondering if you'd be comfortable telling me how much it ran you to have the person build the Troel speakers (total minus the kit price). I've been thinking about getting some pricier kits from a diy site but I lack the tools and woodworking skills to build a proper cabinet.

    Also, how do you feel about his craftsmanship and which side of the river is he on?

    Thanks in advance!

    P.s. I tried to message on your profile page but I exceeded the character limit.
     
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  11. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    PM'd.
     
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  12. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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  13. Wushuliu

    Wushuliu Acquaintance

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    Very nice. Easily a $15k+ speaker if it were a retail brand.
     
  14. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Any reason why the midwoofer wasn't flush mounted when the 15" driver was?
     
  15. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Time alignment, along with putting the mid woofer at ear level.
     
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  16. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    After the drivers calmed down with break-in, I started to pay attention to the fact that the 15” woofers were playing bass lines and kicks, but they weren’t doing it with as much presence and attack as I’ve heard from good dynamic headphones like my Utopias and other big woofer speakers. I got some Y-split balanced interconnects made, and added my class D PranaFidelity Hypex NCore amp from my previous setup into the mix for horizontal bi-amping.

    @sphinxvc brought his Goldpoint to adjust for differences in gain as well as his Umik measurement mic to figure out how much to attenuate the class D amp. We measured with just the Aegirs on to see what volume the mids were at the 230hz crossover point, as well as with only the Hypex amp to see where the bass woofers sat. The Hypex amp needed about 7dB of attenuation with the Goldpoint, and once that was dialed in, we gave it a listen.

    The presence and transient attack was immediately more apparent. The 15” woofers sound as ‘fast’ as they have been reported to sound. With only Aegirs they seemed to drop off around 40hz, but now I can hear usable bass to about 30hz (though somewhat rolled off). The class D NC1200 module really grips drivers.

    I’m pretty happy though I know it’s kind of ridiculous to be running 3 amps at once.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
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  17. uncola

    uncola Friend

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    the ncore probably has more damping factor than the aegir.. this is the kind of speaker I want to hear next.. big drivers and high dynamics
     
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