Review: Vr3 Mods’s Monastery Level “The Abbot” SRS1.2 to SRS12TL Conversion

Moose68Bash
Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
edited June 2015 in Vintage Speakers
In another thread I have recounted my experience with receiving “A Splendid Package from Trey.” This package, and especially the contents, were truly splendid to look at.

More important, crossovers and related upgrades for my SRS1.2s that were within that package produced improvements in the sound quality of my speakers that I can only describe as phenomenal.

For those who just want to read a headline:

The ability of my aged Polk SDA SRS1.2s (now 1.2TLs) to render music has taken a quantum leap that far exceeds my expectations. The sound quality has improved in every way that I can describe.

More specifically:

First, my wife and I now listen with pleasure to music with the volume at half the prior level (8-10 v. 16-20), and we do not lose the beauty or detail of the music. The richness, the clarity, the fullness are all there. We have even listened to some albums with the volume on 2 (on a scale of 0-59) with pleasure. I believe this testifies to the improvement in the sound floor as well as to the speakers’ ability to render music efficiently.

Second, the dimensions of the soundstage have increased significantly. Listening to Tierney Sutton’s “Paris Sessions” as I compose this, one guitar appears to be a full eight feet outside the right channel speaker and three-four feet in front of the plane of the baffle. Sutton is firmly planted in the center and slightly in front of the plane of the baffles, and a second guitar appears outside the left channel speaker — albeit not as far as the guitar to the right. I attribute this difference to the peculiar geometry of my room.

Third, the recorded sources of the music take on a palpable presence on the soundstage. The separation among them is very distinct and three dimensional. For example: I am now listening to the Jimmy Cobb Quartet’s “Cobb’s Corner.” As I noted in another thread, the placement of the instruments for this recording is documented in the album notes; the microphone is placed almost at the center of a semicircle of (from left to right) piano, trumpet, bass, and drums. As you listen to the album, I feel as if I am at the focal point of instruments arrayed precisely as David Chesky describes.

Fourth, the distinctive characteristics of various vocalists’ voices (e.g., Diana Krall, Renee Fleming, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Rebecca Pidgeon, Kathleen Battle, David Johansen ad infinitum), breathing, enunciation are rendered with clarity and realism. I was impressed with the performance of my SRS1.2s, and I was not prepared for the “presence” the mod’d SRS1.2TLs give vocals. When I first heard “Bang Bang” (Sky Ferreira) on 2Cellos’s “In2ition,” it all but took my breath away, and this was with only about 160-170 hours of break-in time.

Fifth, the distinctive timbres of instruments are also clearly and distinctly rendered with realism that is far beyond what I have experienced with any other speakers I have owned and what I expected from Monastery | “The Abbot” modifications. For example: In my recent “journey” through all 90 CDs in “Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box,” not only the timbre of Ma’s extraordinary cello, but also the very unusual and instinctive timbres of the period Baroque instruments on a couple of the CDs as well as of the traditional Eastern instruments on the Silk Road Ensemble CDs were clearly and distinctly rendered. Jim Chappel’s piano (“Dusk”), Joshua Bell’s Strad (“At Home with Friends”), Edgar Meyer’s acoustic bass ("Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology”), for example, are rendered with remarkable realism and presence.

Sixth, solo performances, small ensembles, chamber-size orchestras, and symphony orchestras are presented realistically and with respect to orchestral music without any “muddle in the middle." Listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony this evening before beginning to compose this, I was struck by the clear differentiation of the sections of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in both location and distinctive sound. The solos and choral sections of the fourth movement were stirring in their realism. The movement of the “lead” among the instruments and sections was clear from both the timbres of the music and the locations on the soundstage.

While listening to numerous quartets, quintets, and sextets in the CDs in “Yo-Yo Ma: Thirty Years Outside of the Box,” the “lead” passing from violins to viola, to cello to piano, etc. was both clear from the sound characteristics and from the position on the soundstage to a greater extent than I had experienced with the SRS1.2s (which were by no means “slouches” in this respect).

Perhaps, one of the most moving and beautiful recordings I have is Tomás Luis de Victoria’s “Missa ‘Vidi Speciosam,’” sung by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral and recorded in the Cathedral. Listening to this extraordinary performance of remarkable music on the SRS1.2TLs with the Monastery | “The Abbot” modifications is a totally engaging experience. It strikes me as being as close to sitting in Westminster Cathedral for a live performance as I could hope to achieve from a two-channel system in my family room.

One final point:

Recently, I played “Elvis Inspirational” — a CD I pulled out of the bottom of the $5.00 bin at Wal Mart a few months ago. When my wife heard this music, she came into the family room from the kitchen, remarked on the extraordinary quality of Elvis’s voice, and asked me what my young male friends and I thought when we first heard him singing. She was struck by the quality of the reproduction of Elvis’s unique voice in a way she had never been before. I was also -- and I didn’t call her on the implicit reference to my age!

I could go on and on with descriptions of new experiences I gained from listening to old familiar CDs with my upgraded SRSs; but let me conclude with a simple statement:

Vr3 Mods’s Monastery | “The Abbot” upgrades for SDA SRS1.2TLs require a substantial investment, and the return on that investment comes very quickly with satisfaction and pleasure delivered to anybody who seeks the highest quality of sound reproduction from a two-channel system. I could not be happier than I am with Trey’s great work!
Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.

Comments

  • VR3
    VR3 Posts: 24,830
    I have enjoyed your mini updates here and I love the final review :)

    Thank you again Phil!f7440vqeudrs.jpg
    - Not Tom

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,640
    Great review Phil. Thanks.
    Trey's crossover mods are spectacular.
    "So hot it burns Mice!"~DK
    "Polk SDA-SRSs are hopelessly out of date both sonically and technologically... I see no value whatsoever in older SDA speakers."~Audio Asylum Member
    "Knowledge, without understanding, is a path to failure."~DK
    "Those who irrationally rail against something or someone that is no threat to them, actually desire (or desire to be like) the thing or person they are railing against."~DK
  • Moose68Bash
    Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
    edited June 2015
    You are welcome, Trey, and thank you for your great work and dedication to continuously improving!

    DK, thank you.I shall say again what I've said before: Without your work on upgrading vintage Polk speakers, none of this would have been possible.

    PS: Try, thanks for posting a picture of the new crossovers. I should have done that in the first post.
    Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • tonyb
    tonyb Posts: 32,357
    Thanks for the review, as always Treys' work is exceptional. Just out of curiosity, and for those with vintage SDA's, what does this crossover mod costs ? SDA's have good bones, so to speak, so doing these upgrades is certainly worth looking into.
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    SVS SB-2000
    Polk Sig. 20's
    Polk FX500 surrounds

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

    Kitchen

    Sonos zp90
    Grant Fidelity tube dac
    B&k 1420
    lsi 9's
  • Moose68Bash
    Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
    tonyb wrote: »
    Thanks for the review, as always Treys' work is exceptional. Just out of curiosity, and for those with vintage SDA's, what does this crossover mod costs ? SDA's have good bones, so to speak, so doing these upgrades is certainly worth looking into.

    tonyb,

    I think Trey should answer your question, or perhaps, those who are interested should go to http://www.version3audio.com/#!polk-audio-crossovers1/c71p where Trey provides pricing and configuration information.
    Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • oldrocker
    oldrocker Posts: 2,460
    Great review!!
  • drumminman
    drumminman Posts: 3,396
    Great review MB, and stellar work Trey. It's truly amazing how much potential a stock pair of SDA's has.

    Moose I see you frequent the $5 bin at Wal Mart too. I've found some great stuff there. Picked up the Blu Ray director's cut of Woodstock last week, which includes lots of footage not in the original movie. However it was in the expensive bin - $8 !
    "Science is suppose to explain observations not dismiss them as impossible" - Norm on AA; 2.3TL's w/sonicaps/mills/jantzen inductors, Gimpod's boards, Lg Solen SDA inductors, RD-0198's, MW's dynamatted, Armaflex speaker gaskets, H-nuts, brass spikes, Cardas CCGR BP's, upgraded IC Cable, Black Hole Damping Sheet strips, interior of cabinets sealed with Loctite Power Grab, AI-1 interface with 1000VA A-L transformer
  • Moose68Bash
    Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
    Thanks, oldrocker! I hope your Indiana weather is as nice as ours in New Hampshire today. We have a perfect New England late-spring day -- 60 degrees and clear sky, no wind!

    drumminman, you overpaid! You should have held out till it got sent to purgatory in the $5.00 bin! :)

    Cheeers!
    Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • oldrocker
    oldrocker Posts: 2,460
    Hot and humid here, calling for a chance of storms later.
    Go figure as I got the house to myself for a while.
  • Moose68Bash
    Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
    Just when I thought Vr3 Mods's Monastery | "The Abbott" crossovers and other mods were fully burned in, and my vintage SDA SRS1.2TLs had reached their peak, I got a little surprise.

    Last evening I put in a Chesky CD -- Beat Kaestli's "Invitation" -- to which I had not listened since installing the new crossovers, tweeters and related mods.

    I was "blown away" by the extreme improvement in the sound quality. Like all Chesky recordings in my experience, this one was recorded in a manner to produce as close to a live performance sound as David Chesky could manage.

    Unlike the two Chesky recordings of Monty Alexander ("The Good Life: Monty Alexander Plays the Songs of Tony Bennett") and of The Jimmy Cobb Quartet ("Cobb's Corner"), however, the brochure with "Invitation" does not describe where the instruments in the ensemble accompanying Kaestli are located on the set/soundstage.

    What "blew me away" immediately as I listened to this album was, first, the palpable rendition, separation and clarity of the positions of the vocalist and each of the instruments -- drums, bass, guitar, saxophone, and trumpet -- throughout the album.

    Second, the timbres of each source of sound were remarkably realistic. The defining characteristics of each instrument's sound were intensely "there" in the room with me.

    Finally, the soundstage was "bigger" than I had ever experienced before -- and I had thought it was a big as it could get. The guitar appeared to be 6-8 feet outside the right channel speaker and 4-6 feet in front of the plane of the baffles. The drums were 6-8 feet outside the left channel speaker and 4-6 feet in front of the plane of the baffles. Kaestli was in the center and 3-4 feet in front of the plane of the baffles, with the bass slightly behind him and to the right. The trumpet was slightly behind him and to the left. This meant that the soundstage was 24-28 feet wide and 4-6 feet deep. The height appeared to be about a foot higher than the speakers themselves. I was enveloped by the performance.

    I guess that I can only say that I had to hear it to believe it. I should add that my wife also noticed the very definite difference in this rendition of "Invitation" v. what she remembered before the mods.

    This morning, I put in an old favorite of ours -- George Winston's "Linus & Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi" -- and it was as if we were hearing a completely new recording. While we had always enjoyed this album, we had felt that this recording was just not "up to snuff" v. Chesky recordings, for example.

    However, Winston's piano came alive as it never had before. The characteristic ring of the higher notes was there, and the equally distinctive resonance of the lows was there. The sound board was "present."

    It was as if he were playing in our family room. Especially remarkable was the sound of his plucking the strings near the end of the first track -- "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." This sound is unusual coming from a piano and might be hard to recognize because it is not often heard. Lisa and I had heard Winston use this technique in concert about ten years ago, and the rendition of this sound was as realistic as I could imagine. In all the years (since 1996) that we have enjoyed this CD we had never heard it this way.

    Trey had said that it would take 250 hours for the "big Clarity caps" to break in. After 250 hours, when I wrote my initial review, I thought they had reached their apex.

    I was to quick on the trigger: These new crossovers and other components now have well over 300 hours. Last evening they displayed another quantum leap upwards in sound quality.

    Bravo, Trey! :):)
    Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • drumminman
    drumminman Posts: 3,396
    Outstanding!
    "Science is suppose to explain observations not dismiss them as impossible" - Norm on AA; 2.3TL's w/sonicaps/mills/jantzen inductors, Gimpod's boards, Lg Solen SDA inductors, RD-0198's, MW's dynamatted, Armaflex speaker gaskets, H-nuts, brass spikes, Cardas CCGR BP's, upgraded IC Cable, Black Hole Damping Sheet strips, interior of cabinets sealed with Loctite Power Grab, AI-1 interface with 1000VA A-L transformer
  • VR3
    VR3 Posts: 24,830
    Thank you Phil!

    You described my experience with the MR series to the T. There was a day I turned on the system was immediately blown away.
    - Not Tom

    "No, that's silly talk. Dude, you can't possibly be this audio dumb so quit the act." - Doro
  • vcwatkins
    vcwatkins Posts: 1,988
    Great review and followup, @Moose68Bash . Your writeup and Trey's work have inspired me to convert my bigboys. (gulp)
    tumblr_mbhkbxr0Zl1qdb4cxo1_r1_500.gif

    Study: Roon * ProJect Stream Box Ultra & Pre Box S2 * Pass ACA * DH Labs SS Q10 * Brines Folded ML-TQWT RS 40-1354
    Audio: PS Audio DirectStream Jr. * Belles 20a * Pass Aleph 30 - Zu Omen DW * Sunfire Sig II - Polk SRS 2.3tl * PSAudio PP3 * MIT S3
    Den: Sonore ultraRendu * Cary xCiter * Dayens Menuetto * KEF LS50
  • Moose68Bash
    Moose68Bash Posts: 3,806
    @vcwatkins, thank you.

    Get on with it! You won't be disappointed! The mods make a huge difference.
    Family Room, Innuos Statement streamer with Morrow Audios USB cable to DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II; AQ Sky XLRs, McIntosh MC 220 Tube Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave Transport, Innuos Streamer with Cat 6 cable connection to PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC w/Bridge II, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.