Aerial Acoustics 7T Loudspeaker Reviewed

Aerial Acoustics 7T Loudspeaker Reviewed

HomeTheaterReview.com reviewer Terry London integrated the Aerial Acoustics 7T floorstanding loudspeakers into his system for review. He came away very impressed by what the Aerial Acoustics 7T has to offer.

Aerial-Acoustics-7T-floorstanding-speaker-review.jpgI have not been able to attend the CES Show for the last couple of years. This means I haven't been able to hear firsthand what new pieces of gear have come out that I would like to audition for pleasure or possibly review. I have three close friends whose judgment I completely trust regarding all things audio because of their "golden ears" and musical taste. When I questioned my three friends whether there was anything at last year's CES Show that impressed them, they highly praised the Aerial Acoustics 7T. This piqued my interest in hearing the 7T in the context of my system to see what it had to offer. The Aerial Acoustics 7T sells for $9,850 per pair and, after reviewing them, I now consider the 7T a worthy addition to my short list of the finest box enclosure speakers, regardless of price, that I've ever encountered.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding loudspeakers reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore subwoofer pairing options for the 7T.
• Find an amp to drive the 7T in our Amplifier Review section.

The 7T has a rather small footprint, measuring 44-and-a-half inches tall by nearly 10 inches wide and 15 inches deep. It weighs 96 pounds, so while its footprint may be compact and living room-friendly, its weight lets you know that it's solidly built. Speaking of build quality and the 7T's physical appearance, it's superlative. The pair that was sent for review had a beautiful, high gloss rosenut veneer finish, the quality of which wasn't unlike what you'd expect to find on some of Sonus Faber's higher-end offerings. It is also the first speaker in the next generation of Aerial Acoustics products, which incorporates new innovations both in its drivers and enclosure construction. Michael Kelly, the designer and owner of Aerial Acoustics, shared with me that it took three years to develop the 7T loudspeakers. He extensively tested over twenty midrange drivers to find the one that would give him the clarity and transparency he was looking for in the 7T. The 7T is a three-way, four-driver vented box design. It uses a one-inch soft ring-dome design tweeter with a machined aluminum wave-guide, six-inch special papyrus blend cone midrange with a cast magnesium frame, and two seven-inch rigid bilaminate woofers with a cast magnesium frame.

The cabinet uses a two-inch-thick baffle, which consists of a MDF outer layer with a special asphalt-like compound between it and its front cabinet enclosure. In addition, the cabinet itself is a labor-intense effort to eliminate any resonances that would contaminate the purity of the audio signal. Lastly, the speaker enclosure is composed of nine-layer laminate, curve-stressed MDF walls with seven interlocking full-sized internal braces. As for connection options, the 7T has two sets of high-end five-way binding posts, capable of accepting all types of speaker cable as well as allowing you bi-wire or bi-amp the 7T. All of these factors give the 7T a reported frequency response of 28Hz to 25kHz plus or minus two dB, with negative six dB at 23Hz. The 7T's sensitivity is 89dB for 2.83 volts at one meter on axis. Impedance is four ohms nominal and three ohms minimum.

Aerial-Acoustics-7T-floorstanding-speaker-review-inputs.jpgThe Hookup
The 7T was shipped in MDF reinforced double high-quality cardboard boxes. Inside the shipping boxes, the speakers were protected and held in place by ribs of high-density foam. The hardware, which includes two sets of different spikes and discs to project hardwood floors, was packed in its own foam boxes at the bottom of the crate. Finally, each 7T veneer was protected with a very thick velvet tie bag not unlike what you find elsewhere in the loudspeaker community. Although the demos sent were already burned in, I still put about another 70 hours on them before starting the process of placement and toe-in. In my large acoustic space, the 7T locked in sonically by being six feet off the front wall, four feet off the sidewalls and ten-and-a-half feet apart. My listening position was twelve feet back from the 7Ts' front baffles. Experimentation with toe-in showed that having them straight ahead with no toe-in was optimum in my room. They were then spiked and left in this position for the formal auditioning process.



The 7T was powered by my reference system's gear, which consists of an MBL Reference 1621 transport digital front end and a Concert Fidelity DAC-040 into a Concert Fidelity CF-080 tube preamp, driving a pair of Pass Labs XA-60.5 monoblock amps. All the wiring in the system is Stealth Cables, consisting of Indra and Metacarbon single-ended interconnects and a pair of Dream Petite speaker cables. The entire system is powered by Harmonix Studio master power cords and a Running Springs Audio Dmitri power conditioner.

Performance
One of my all-time favorite tenor saxophone players is the late, great Johnny Griffin, who I saw perform live at the Chicago Jazz Showcase. His CD, The Kerry Dancers, and other swinging-folk music (XRCD Riverside) have exemplary sonics. "The Londonderry Air," one of my favorite of Griffin's solos, was used as my reference to distinguish timbres, tonality and for its ability to show the saxophone's three-dimensionality. The 7T flawlessly reproduced Griffin's sound as if he were standing right there in front of his rhythm section. Astoundingly, the 7T offered some of the highest levels of transparency and clarity I have ever heard. Effortlessly, it rendered micro-details in a very natural way.

Read more about the performance of the 7T on Page 2.

Aerial-Acoustics-7T-floorstanding-speaker-review-rose-finish.jpgAnother musical experience was shared with an audiophile friend of mine who especially enjoys well-recorded pipe organ music. We listened to J. S. Bach's "Toccata in F Major" performed by Kare Nordstoga on the main organ of the Olso Cathedral (Ensemble Reference Recording). We listened intently during the entire piece, and we were stricken with disbelief at how amazingly beautiful it sounded. The 7T was able to throw a bigger, deeper and wider soundstage than my MG 20s with precise layering and the center fill was rock-solid and deep. The 7T projected an illusion as if we were sitting in that cathedral in Norway with all the hall ambience and cues. The 7T reproduced the lowest octaves with tonal accuracy and pressurized my large acoustic space with ease. After listening to the 7Ts, the following day my friend sold his recently purchased Magico Q-3's and bought the 7T as his new reference. If that doesn't speak volumes to the 7T's performance, I'm not sure what does.

After hearing how well the saxophone and the pipe organ music sounded with the 7Ts, I was curious to listen to how the 7Ts would perform at replicating the timbres and tone of the human voice. I listened to one of my favorite contemporary jazz singers, Stacey Kent, sing "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" from her album A Fine Romance (Candid Vignette Special Edition). Ms. Kent's creamy and sultry voice floated into my room with a rich and natural tone. The palpability and the three-dimensionality were also outstanding, giving the illusion of her standing and performing in my listening room.

I now knew that the 7T could effortlessly reproduce the beauty of acoustic jazz and classical music. It was time to see if this speaker could rock and roll on pop music and sizzling electrified blues.

Steve Winwood's CD Nine Lives (Columbia Records) is a terrific collection of ballads and hard-rocking music. My favorite track is "Secrets," which has an extended guitar solo by Winwood, backed by an Afro-Cuban beat and percolating rhythm section. The 7T got right to the pulse of the music. The kick and explosive dynamics of the music were all there. It made it hard not to want to snap your fingers along with the beat with this extended jam.

Lastly, the classic CD of Stevie Ray Vaughn called Couldn't Stand the Weather (Epic Records) is filled with his soulful voice and powerful blues riffing on his guitar. In analytical terms, the 7T passed through all the powerful macro dynamics and the nuances of the timbres of Vaughn's unique voice and guitar solos. On a subjective level, the emotional aspect of his music was conveyed by the 7T in a way that made it easy to connect with his music. So yes, the 7T can rock, pop and sizzle if that is what is on the recording.

The Downside
It was difficult for me to find a major or minor sonic flaw for the Aerial Acoustics 7T. My largest concern regarding the 7T, which would apply to any reference-level speaker, is that it is a transparent and neutral transducer. It will reveal any shortcomings of the upstream components that you have in your system, but this is nothing new.



Many mid-fi and high-end loudspeakers use more exotic materials when it comes to the design of their tweeters. For instance, Bowers & Wilkins has diamond, where as Focal and Revel use beryllium. While the 7T has neither of those materials, don't take their absence as a lack of performance capability; quite the opposite. Still, there are more esoteric tweeters out there at and around the 7T's price point.

It is also a possibility that some buyers would prefer that the gorgeous rosenut veneer completely encase the entire speaker. Instead, the front baffle is lacquered in a metallic slate-gray finish, which for me wasn't too big an issue. Most loudspeakers, regardless of finish, have a black or dark gray front, since most speakers have grilles.

Competition and Comparisons
At a price just under $10,000, my favorite speaker today is the Reference 3A Grand Veena, which sells for $7,995. The Grand Veena is the flagship of the Reference 3A line and offers a very similar set of terrific sonic attributes. These attributes are the natural timbres, micro details and the ability to create an open and deep soundstage with great layering and center fill. The 7T exceeds the Grand Veena with its bass extension, macro dynamics and the ability to play at higher sound pressure levels with greater ease and composure.

Other speakers to consider based on the 7T's retail price are Paradigm's Signature S8 floorstanding loudspeaker, although, if I'm honest, the 7T can hold its own against costlier competition, too, such as Revel's Ultima Studio2 and Wilson Audio's Sophia.

For more on these loudspeakers, as well as other floor-standing loudspeakers, please visit Home Theater Review's Floor-standing Loudspeaker page.

Conclusion
The Aerial Acoustics 7T is a landmark speaker in its price range. It easily competes with other highly-regarded floor-standing speakers in a much higher price bracket. It delivers stunning bass extension, along with effortless macro dynamics. It also produces a panoramic, layered soundstage and natural timbres. If you're a music lover and can afford the cost of a 7T, you could make this speaker the centerpiece of your system for years to come. The 7T is a very easy load to drive, both in impedance and sensitivity. You could start with mid-level quality upstream gear that is affordable, and then keep improving the upstream components, knowing that the 7Ts will perform with higher fidelity and quality. The 7Ts also have the ability to function at optimum levels in both small and large acoustic spaces. They should easily fit into a home theater system or a dedicated two-channel rig. In terms of home theater, Aerial Acoustics offers two center channels, as well as a side and rear channel speaker that should compliment the 7T nicely.

The Aerial Acoustics 7T is the first speaker in a new generation of products for the company, and its appearance and quality is simply refreshing. The sonic performance is stunning in both objective measurements and musical terms. It will be fascinating to see how Michael Kelly takes the technological advances in drivers and baffle construction used in the 7T and applies them to other the Aerial speakers in the lineup. There is no question that good things are to come. For right now, the Aerial 7T is a winner at its price point.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding loudspeakers reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore subwoofer pairing options for the 7T.
• Find an amp to drive the 7T in our Amplifier Review section.

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