By Francis Anthony GoviaThe first sight of the RS850 Signature speakers produced by Perpetual Technologies was eye opening. I had driven the Nissan Altima to the warehouse in Pennsylvania where the speakers were shipped Yellow Freight. Previously, I had made arrangements over the phone from New York with a representative of the Yellow Freight company to pick up the speakers when in Pennsylvania. “Are you sure you want to pick them up?” he asked.
“Sure,” I answered. “I’ll be there on Friday.”
When Friday arrived the boss of the house and I drove the car to the warehouse. I gave Mike, the friendly service person at the desk, my confirmation number, and he asked what I had to transport them. I told him I came in a car. “They won’t fit,” he said. “These things are as big as a house, and they are on a crate.”
“Are you sure?” I responded rather naively. “It’s one of the new Altimas. The space on the back seat is quite big.”
“You want to take a look at them,” he said.
“Sure,” I said, following him to the back of the warehouse.
It was the kind of treatment I was getting used to in the mountains of Pennsylvania. In New York, the guy at the front desk would worry about insurance liability for me getting injured in the warehouse, or just expect me to get to hell out of the place and stop wasting his time until I made proper arrangement for the pick up, but there I was following the guy to the back.
The RS850 Signature speakers were massive. They were shipped on a wooden pallet in two carton boxes. In bad times a homeless person could bind the boxes together with masking tape, use one of the fronts as a door, and make a shelter. I had seen people sleeping in cardboard boxes before, and now there I was, an immigrant who first came to America with only $50 in his pocket accepting the delivery of a $1900 pair of speakers.
I told Mike I was going to come back. Me and the boss climbed back into the Altima, and drove to our neighborhood in Tobyhanna where I rented a U-Haul truck. When I returned to Mike’s job with the U-Haul truck, he surprised me by saying, “You should not have done that. I would have gotten them delivered if I had known you didn’t own a truck,” he said. I told him that I didn’t know when I would get back to Pennsylvania so it was fine. I planned to take them now.
Mike got one of those thingies guys use at Home Depot to move heavy stuff and drove it to the back of the warehouse, stuck the two folks into the pallet and drove the speakers onto the U-Haul truck. I offered him a tip, which he good-naturedly declined saying, “It’s my job, man.” And soon the boss lady and I were on our way home.
The drive to the house took about 20 minutes. I got a serrated knife and cut the plastic bonds that held the boxes together, and carefully loaded each box unto a dolly anticipating the opening of each box. If you have a bad back, and bought these speakers, you should consider hiring a porter. Each of the boxes weighs 100 pounds. The return of the U-Haul truck could wait.
The packaging of the RS850 Signatures speakers was impressive. Each speaker is housed in two thick cardboard boxes, and I do mean thick! The outside cardboard box is the first protective shield. The second cardboard box is slightly smaller than the first and forms the second protective shield around the speaker. Within the second box, each speaker nests with three rings of foam around the body, and capped with the same material at the top and bottom. The speakers themselves are body-wrapped in bright white cotton, and with a touch of class, are topped with two white gloves for handling the ladies. The only complaint I could raise thus far was that the gloves were so small that they seemed more suited for the boss of the house than for me. I guess the guys who assemble them in China forgot that they were destined for the United States where men grow over-sized and have large hands. Nevertheless, I forced the gloves over my average sized hands and began the process of removing the cotton suit from the beauties.
Words cannot adequately describe how beautiful these speakers are built. Each stand statuesquely 47.5 inches tall on brass spiked feet, and the depth goes back 16 inches. The top and bottom of each speaker are polished piano-lacquered-black. If you stood looking over the speaker, the top would be a mirror that reflects the contours of your face.
The speakers themselves are sturdily built in the MDF Board and wrapped with matching grains of redwood veneer harvested from sustainable forests in South America.
Each RS850 Speaker has a Vifa tweeter and five aluminum woofers – none any larger in circumference than 5.25 inches. I learned from reading the description on the website at av123.com that one 5.25 inch woofer has an effective surface area of a 11 inch woofer. I wondered how could that be, and curiosity got the better of me; so I got a small flashlight and looked carefully at the cone.
Each woofer looks like a grapefruit that someone had scraped out the innards leaving behind a smooth cup-like surface. Only that the woofers of the RS850s are polished metal that can move you to somewhere where you feel special and the grapefruit just leaves you with the after taste of rind in your mouth.
It took some time before these wonderful speakers, designed by Mark L. Schifter and the folks in Colorado, got me to that special place. In the early months of me having them, they stood in the woods in Pennsylvania, and I worked over two hours away in Manhattan, with little opportunity to enjoy them. I had mated the speakers to gear manufactured by Emotiva. The amp is the XPA-2, described as a brute with finesse that outputs 300 watts per channel. My pre amp is the very neutral sounding RSP-2. For a media player, I used the now vintage Adcom GCD 700, and all these were tied together with Hero interconnects by Kimber Kable and Audioquest Type 4 speaker cables. The sacrifices I had made to purchase this system were intended to get me to Nirvana.
It is not that the RS850s should be blamed for any short-fall that I had in the early months of their ownership. They sounded exquisite from the first moment I heard them. I cannot emulate the fine descriptions you would read in an illustrious magazine such as Stereophile. I am not an audiophile and I am not an engineer. Here is what I think. Even in a room with a ceiling with a high point of over 20 feet, and wooden floors under which were the hollow of a crawl space, the speakers still sounded nice and clean, and not fuzzy and out of control. There was a clear separation of the various percussive instruments, rhythm, melody, and vocals for me to understand that these speakers understood distinction.
As a person who is trained in the subject of law “distinction” is something I have come to appreciate. Distinction is something than can be missed because it may not be the bold and up in your face part of anything, but when it is noticed, and positive, it can move you to a realm of satisfaction, happiness, or awe. I felt that these were the speakers I had always longed to own because they not only looked beautiful but they sounded beautifully. They engendered satisfaction, happiness, and awe.
In the early years of my life in the United States, my dream was to own a boom box made by Fisher. I saw it in New York in the now long defunct “Nobody Beats the Wiz” electronic store. In those days, my dream of going to college was still further away from being realized that my dream of owning the boom box, and certainly, many more years away were the RS850s. I worked as a home health aide to an old man who was slowly dying of complications and Parkinson’s disease.
It took me a long time to save the couple of hundred dollars to buy the Fisher boom box. When I eventually had enough, I caught the train as fast as I could to 14th Street and Union Square and got the sales person to sell me one of the boom boxes. It was not long after that I soon became dissatisfied, and realized how hopelessly inadequate the boom box was for my blossoming taste.
A few years after my experience with the ownership of the boom box, and as a home health aide, I began night school in Norwalk. There friends and teachers rescued me, and Boston University and gave me a scholarship to study at its College of Arts and Sciences. Following, I began the study of law at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the passionate cheering of Badger football at Camp Randall stadium on Saturdays.
During my time as a student, my fascination with fine electronics and similar technology grew. I became a purchaser of speakers and a wave radio manufactured by the Bose Corporation. I moved on to separates made by Parasound, and speakers manufactured by Wharfedale and a subwoofer by Velodyne. My appetite for audio that not only sound good but look good increased, and I often wondered what it was like to own speakers like the WATT Puppies made by Wilson Audio, or even the more modestly priced PSB Stratus Gold i. I dreamt of marrying a fine pair of speakers to Bryston, Krell, Boulder, or those massive McIntoch monoblocks I saw in a specialty store in Madison.
All those dreams were engendered in part by articles I was reading in Stereophile magazine. The truth is it does not matter how far a person has traveled from being an ordinary laborer like I was to the educated man that I became, there is still reason which tempers his yearning for the finer qualities of life by what is within his wallet. The balancing of these things is what led me to choose Emotiva separates and the RS850 Signature speakers. To me, it meant buying sensibly yet obtaining unsurpassed quality within a certain price point.
These days I listen to the RS850s in New York. The apartment is smaller than the house in Pennsylvania. I took out my measuring tape this morning and discovered that the listening room is 12 feet by 28 feet. The ceiling is 9 feet in height.
My equipment is still essentially the same, except now I have replaced the Media player for the time being with an Ipod, and the Audioquest speaker cables with 12 AWG Matrix 2 series Ultralink cables. My taste in music is eclectic but I lean mostly towards jazz. Some of my favorite recordings however were made by Santana, Lee Ritenour, Sting, Herb Alpert, the late George Howard, Teddy Pendergrass, Carol King, Hootie and the Blowfish, Acoustic Alchemy, the Pat Metheny Group and Gypsy Kings. While I have a preference for those artists, I regularly play mixes which include anything from reggae produced by Buju Banton, Matisyahu and Beres Hammond, to classical by Andrea Bocelli and John Williams, calypso by Baron and Edwin Yearwood, Bollywood dance grooves by Alka Yagnik, Blues by Joan Armatrading, classic rock by Led Zepplin, or contemporary music by U2, Daughtry, Train and Coldplay. I also love Country. One of my favorite albums is Major Moves by Hank Williams Jr. with its rough and rowdy Monday night football theme “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” and “The Blues Medley.“ In New York, my rig gets to shine while playing all these genres of music and more. The more dynamic the sound the more it excels.
In the apartment, the solid structure of the concrete walls, hardwood floors, and the softness of furnishing add to an environment that is less likely to be colored by artifacts that affected the space in the mountains. The speakers sound clearer and sweeter in New York, and if anything maybe a tad too refined. It speaks of the fine work done by Danny Richie who designed the crossover, but if you are one of those people who like your ears to be bitten, and blood to flow from wounds on nights you chooses to get wild, maybe these ladies are not for you. Nothing seems to come from them that perplexes the mind. They are your ladies with class that you take home to meet your mother, and the Emotivas do not to distort the openness of their soundstage. Together, they appear to be a couple that could stay married for 50 years – that marriage friends propose a toast to with Champagne.
I compare the feeling I get when listening to the RS850 Signature speakers produced by Perpetual Technologies to the feeling a person gets when trading in a 14 year old car for something with the trueness and quality of an Acura. Even the most subtle touch of the controls engenders a response that is exhilarating. There is no more clunky sound to vex your spirit. The actions you take have been done 50 or more times before, right down to the very music that you play, but now the feeling is so marvelously different. This has got to be your year!