Terry London has always had a great passion for music, especially jazz, and has amassed a collection of over 7,000 CDs covering the history of this uniquely American art form. Even in his teenage years, Terry developed a passion for auditioning different systems and components to see if they could come anywhere close to the sound of live music, and has for the last forty years had great fun and pleasure chasing this illusion in his two-channel home system.
Terry is a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by day, and runs the Chicago Institute for REBT. He has also authored nine books on this of type psychotherapy and education.
A little more than two years ago, I reviewed the superlative Aerial Acoustics 7T loudspeaker and was informed by the owner and designer, Mike Kelly, that the model 7T was the start of a new generation of speaker design regarding cabinet materials, types of drivers, and building techniques. I felt great anticipation for the release of the 6T loudspeaker, which retails for $6,795/pair. I wanted to see if Mike could bring the magic of his bigger model to his newer, less expensive, more petite full-range floorstander.
A gorgeous high-gloss Rosenut veneer that rivals the finest finishes found on any speaker in today's market and the curved speaker grilles, which are covered in acoustically transparent black cloth and built out of steel with large hexagonal windows held on by eight pairs of hidden Neodymium grille magnets, make for one exceptionally beautiful-looking speaker. The sides of the 6T's cabinet are composed of a six-layer, laminated, curved and stressed MDF material. Inside the 6T's cabinet are three full-sized braces that ensure that the 6T is internally solid, inert, and less likely to produce distortions based on internal resonances. The front of the 6T is a two-layered damped baffle in Nero Metallic Black. The base in which the 6T sits also is in a Nero Metallic Black and comes with very high-quality spikes and disks to protect your hardwood floor. Behind the 6T is where the port is located, above two pairs of high-end binding posts for either bi-wiring or bi-amping. The 6T's overall dimensions are 43.5 inches high by 7.7 inches wide by 13.2 inches deep, and each weighs 65 pounds.
A four-driver, three-way, vented-box design, the 6T uses a one-inch soft ring-dome design with a thick aluminum machined waveguide and a midrange driver with a 4.8-inch special papyrus blend cone with a cast magnesium frame. The dual 5.9-inch woofers are also composed of a special papyrus blend cone material with magnesium frames. All of the drivers use copper clad pole sleeves and dual magnets to ensure long linear extensions and decrease any distortions in their cone movements. The 6T's frequency range is 35 Hz to 25 kHz (+/- 2dB), -6dB at 30 Hz, with a sensitivity of 90 dB at one meter on-axis and having an average impedance of four ohms (three ohms minimum).
I inserted the Aerial Acoustics 6T in my smaller reference system in place of my two-way stand-mounted Lawrence Audio Mandolin speakers. The 6Ts were positioned four feet off the front wall and 3.5 feet off the side walls, and they were spaced seven feet apart. In my acoustic space, I found that having the speaker straight ahead with no toe-in developed the greatest center fill and most natural timbres. The 6T loudspeakers are such an easy load that I could drive them beautifully with any amplifier I had in-house. I teamed them with Nelson Pass' First Watt SIT-2, which is an SET Class A 10-watt solid-state design; the Melody AN 300B tube-based design, which delivers 22 watts; and finally, the Stello M-200, an excellent solid-state 350-watt powerhouse amplifier. Because the 6T was so transparent, each amplifier's unique sonic signature was easy to hear.
From the very beginning of my auditioning process, I knew I was in for a sonic treat. The Aerial Acoustics 6T is a music lover's type of speaker. As I listened to my favorite music genres for hours, what intrigued me about the 6T were its soundstaging abilities, how it rendered timbres and tonality, and its lifelike presence regarding dynamics and speed. Common phrases used by many listeners to explain the soundstaging attributes of their speakers are "You are there" or "They are here." The 6T loudspeakers were very special in that they not only disappeared completely like a great small two-way speaker, but based on the original recording venue, the 6T gave you the illusion that you were either right there in the venue or that the musicians were in your listening space.
When I played the legendary clarinetist Pee Wee Russell's Portrait of Pee Wee Ruseell - with Pee Wee Russell & Friends (DCC Jazz), even before the big band hit its first note, the 6Ts created the great illusion that I was "there" because I could hear and feel the ambience of the very large hall that surrounded the group of players. The layering of the soundstage was totally realistic regarding height, depth, and width. There was air around each musician with image palpability and fullness. Yet, when I played other musical selections that were recorded with close-up microphones and recorded in very small acoustic spaces, the artists appeared as if they were performing right in front of me. The 6T renders spatial qualities at a reference level and favorably compares to any other speaker I have auditioned.
Because the 6T loudspeaker is so transparent and neutral, it not only allows micro-details to be heard in an effortless way, but it renders beautifully rich timbres and density of tonal color. Although this is not a warm or euphonic speaker, it never sounds harsh or hard, unless the recording or your upstream electronics are adding that coloration. Another wonderful sonic virtue of the 6T is that, even at low volume levels, it still retrieves all the details in the music without losing dynamics. When I played Jacintha's album The Girl From Bossa Nova (Groove Note), her voice sounded rich and full-bodied, with every little nuance of her breathing or licking of her lips just floating into the air. As I have stated in other reviews, I do not like hyper-detailed or unnaturally razor-sharp leading edges that make music feel as if it is being examined under a microscope. The 6T replicates all the information in the music but in a natural and relaxing way.
Finally, the 6T loudspeaker offers what I like to call a lifelike presence regarding its dynamic range and transient response, or how fast and accurate the speaker goes from the lowest sound level to a dynamic crescendo level. The individual instruments should have a jump factor that pops them out of the background. Part of this also has to do with the rather small 6T's capabilities, with no discontinuities between the lower midrange and upper bass, to produce taut and timbre-accurate bass down into the low 30Hz frequencies. This special quality that makes music come alive became very apparent when I was listening to Clark Terry's Mellow Mood (Prestige), having a wonderfully recorded rhythm section propelling Clark's hard-hitting trumpet playing.
Click over to Page Two for High Points, Low Points, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
• The Aerial Acoustics 6T loudspeaker, based on its petite size, overall shape, and gorgeous veneer, is a beautiful speaker that would look great in any listening room.
• It uses cutting-edge innovations in its cabinet construction, driver selection, and musical voicing.
• It offers a reference-level performance in its ability to render lifelike and natural timbres, extension on both high and low frequencies that are detailed and accurate, and great overall dynamic range. Its soundstaging abilities at replicating its original recording venue ranks with some of the best speakers on the market today.
• It can be driven with virtually any amplifier or receiver because of its high efficiency and easy impedance load.
• Lastly, it can be played at much lower volume levels than many other speakers and not lose its dynamics or rendering of the music details.
• Although the 6T is easy to drive, it will reveal any shortcomings you have in your upstream source and amplification electronics.
Comparison & Competition
Two speakers that I have auditioned in the same price bracket are the Vandersteen Treo, which retails for $6,590/pair, and the Dali Helicon 400 Mk.II, which retails for $6,995/pair. I would like to note that the Dali Helicon Mk.II lacks both the dynamic range and jump factor of the 6T, nor does it come close in the areas of transparency and micro-details that are easily heard in the 6T. However, the Vandersteen Treo comes closer to the 6T in the areas of transparency and the ability to offer more micro-details, but it does not offer the natural and musical tonality and timbres that the 6T offers.
As Mike Kelly shared with me about two years ago, the T speaker line breaks new ground in both technology and performance for Aerial Acoustics. I was quite impressed with the first creation, the 7T. Following in the footsteps of the more expensive and bigger 7T, the Aerial Acoustics 6T loudspeaker is one of the most enjoyable and musical speakers I have heard in a long time. The 6T has a beautiful appearance and offers world-class soundstaging and imaging, great aliveness and dynamic range, and pure and natural tonality/timbres. It lets you hear all the musical details without ever being analytical or edgy.
After I'd gotten my take on the performance of the 6T and put together my listening notes to write this review, I still spent many enjoyable hours listening to the Aerial Acoustics 6T loudspeakers. Overall, this speaker produces music in a relaxing and natural way, connecting you to the artists' emotions and feelings conveyed through their music. The 6T is very easy to drive with virtually any amplifier or receiver, including entry-level electronics; therefore, the 6T can remain in your system for years as you build around it. If you are looking for a speaker in this price range, I highly recommend you audition the Aerial Acoustics 6T loudspeaker.
• Check out Aerial Acoustics' brand page at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Aerial Acoustics 7T Loudspeaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Aerial Acoustics Model 20T Loudspeaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.