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From a soundbar to an all active Seaton Sound setup

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liverpool_for_life

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As someone else said: It all started with a freaking soundbar!

My first foray into (somewhat) hi-fi audio is documented here: https://www.hifivision.com/threads/medium-sized-living-room-to-do-or-not-to-do-5-1-ht-setup-that-is-the-question.56565/

Naturally, after the initial honeymoon, dissatisfaction followed: https://www.hifivision.com/threads/acoustic-treatment-for-a-living-room-ht-music-setup.59227/

After room treatments and EQ via minidsp NanoAVR DL (for a soundbar!), I decided I wanted a sub to help more with clarity issues and for some LF oomph. Got an in-house demo of the SVS' SB-1000 and SB-2000, but wasn't moved enough to purchase.

By this time, my 40th was approaching. I was gazing longingly at this thread that I had first read the December before: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/113-subwoofers-bass-transducers/759877-seaton-sound-submersive1.html

Talk to the missus about the price (almost twice as expensive as the soundbar, before customs duties), get her to agree that the 40th comes only once and then dash off an email to Mark Seaton asking for a quote for the Submersive HP+ (to allow for the possibility of later adding a slave to the master sub).

No response for a couple of days, so I call Mark and talk to him for the best part of half an hour. Very patient and answers all of my questions.

Me: Mark, do you know of anyone else that purchased the Submersive from you while they had a soundbar for their mains?
Mark: Sure (recounts for a bit). You'd be the 4th.
Me: Worldwide?
Mark: Yes.
Me: How did they plan on making a sub as powerful as this work with their soundbars?
Mark: They were planning on upgrading their mains as well.
Me: And me?
Mark: You will too.

More prophetic words weren't spoken.
 
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liverpool_for_life

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So, after a bit of back and forth about the color, we settled on the black maple finish. Mark was running a discount on a Submersive with a pre-owned amplifier and I decided to go with that. 2 weeks later, I speak to Mark and he tells me that he is waiting on an international style power cord. I ask him to ship it with a US style cord as I have the outlets to handle them. Soon, I receive pickup notice for my Submersive from FedEx.

The best part: Mark had put in a new amplifier that was sitting unused on his shelves, whilst still giving me the discounted price. Truly classy gesture. The invoice description though stayed the same: pre-owned.

Couple of days after they'd been picked up by FedEx in Chicago, I get a phone call saying they are here in Chennai. Wowee! Turn in some documentation to FedEx and then have their Customs Handling Agent (CHA) get it through customs, and soon enough it will be in my home, right? Wrong.

I'm told that since the import value of the Submersive was >1L, I'd need an Import Export Code (IEC) to get it past customs. I had been led to believe that FedEx's CHA usually applies for a dummy IEC in these cases, so there shouldn't be a problem. However, in my case, they balk. So, I go back to FedEx. Inspite of some pressure from FedEx, they outright refuse. At this point, my only option is to get a release from FedEx, paying ~75$ for that privilege, and try and get this out with the help of a local CHA.

The local CHA recommended to me by FedEx takes a look and tells me why FedEx's CHA refused to take it: The description "pre-owned" in the invoice. One is not allowed to import used goods. Luckily for me, I'd traveled to the US earlier that year and the CHA said that he could "arrange" for the Submersive to be brought in as personal effects. I was uncomfortable with this maneuvering, but the CHA was insistent that this was the only way. Reluctantly, I agreed.

On the day we were going to be getting it out of customs, I hang around in the waiting area when the CHA asks what brand the subwoofer is and how much it cost. I tell him. He then says that he is going to write 15K as the declared value whilst simultaneously going: Nalla velai Sir. Bose maadhiri therinjha brand vaangi irundheenga na, idhu konjam kashtam aagi irukkum. (Good thing you bought something obscure, and by definition useless, otherwise it'd be very hard to get away with this). Sometimes in life, you got to laugh 'cos otherwise you'd cry.

In any event, the customs officer looked up the right price online and I paid the correct amount of duty. Soon enough, they were loaded in a delivery truck and brought home. The incongruity of pairing a 4000W subwoofer with a 350W soundbar dawned on me as soon as the SubM was home and placed right below the Soundscape. A bit like you feel after the marriage ceremony: Too late to back out now!

seaton_subm_hp_black_maple.jpg
soundscape.png
 
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raghupb

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"4000W subwoofer"
Hope you don't live in an apartment.
If you do, then a few floors above/below/next to you will go WTF ...
Cheers,
Raghu
 

raghupb

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I do. Top floor. Call me crazy (the missus does, at any rate).
:p
Most of our spouses/kids/parents/friends think that we folks are a loopy bunch. You are not alone!!
Off late I have realized that family members appreciate rigs, if it is made for easy use.
I am working towards, power on/off type of usage when need arises.
Cheers,
Raghu
 

liverpool_for_life

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So, the Submersive arrives and I notice finish issues around a couple of corners. I know Mark's a perfectionist, so I send him pictures. He responds immediately and confirms that this is a shipping issue as there's no way fresh cabinets leave his warehouse like that. I send him a few more closeup shots so he can raise a claim with FedEx. Excellent and prompt service.

In the meantime, I hookup the Submersive with my soundbar and the result is much the same as with the SVS subs I'd auditioned in-house. The Soundscape simply can't keep up for movies, but I keep my mouth firmly shut: Don't bring up the topic of changing your mains, now. Just don't.

Music is better, but I'm certain the SubM is nowhere near it's potential. So, we plod along for a few months. Then, quite by chance, we get absolutely taken in by an apartment we see and decide we'd like to buy it. The fact that it had a 2nd living room that was ~26*16*9 ft. had absolutely nothing to do with why I liked it!

I talk to my broker and tell him that I'm contemplating building a HT with acoustics taken care of. He gives me the contact of someone that may do room acoustics. I call and find out that this person is a pro audio speaker designer! He is thrilled that someone likes active speakers and, even more importantly, understands that the room can significantly color the sound one hears. I ask him gingerly if he can come take a look at my proposed HT room and tell me if it will work. Even though his work mostly takes him to large spaces (churches, auditoriums etc.), he enthusiastically agrees.

On the appointed day, he arrives at what is going to be my new home. We immediately hit it off and he effectively becomes my HT designer/consultant. I am told that the space can work for a HT, so long as I understand the limitations it imposes: not symmetrical, open to the other living room etc. I am thrilled, and we sign on the dotted line for a home after making sure it has a space where a HT can be made. Lawyer approval of documents secondary :).

I still haven't decided on what speakers I want, but again, all eyes are on the Seaton Catalysts. I'd been lusting after them for a while based on a lot of reading and, in particular, 2 specific reviews:

http://www.seaton-sound-forum.com/post?id=3098564
https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/topic/211791-seaton-speakers-review/

Things that kept being said about the Catalysts: Center channel clarity, incredible dynamics, life-like, and most importantly, fun to listen to. Of course, folks who'd been in hi-fi audio for decades heard them and were astounded by the price/performance ratio, especially for HT. They were apparently no slouches for music either. Sign me up!

Of course, the price of the Catalysts gave me cause for concern. So, I kept my options open. I auditioned a pair of OB's that had been built my HT consultant and his partner. Incredible for music when I auditioned. In one particular recording, I felt as the female singer was right there in front of me 6 ft away. Goosebumps. The price for a pair was a bit too steep for me though.

I was offered the option of a custom built 300W active with a 8' coax, with in-built DSP for a flat response in my room. This would eliminate the need for room treatments (which I felt any other speaker would need in my room) and it had the added benefit of being significantly cheaper than the Catalysts.

However, the heart wants what it wants: So, end of March, I write to Mark asking a quote on the Catalyst 8C's and a slave sub. It takes 2 months before I can connect with Mark for a final phone discussion: Catalyst 12C's would be too big for a living room, so the 8C's are his recommendation. He also believes that it'd be ok to put my 8C's on top of my subs instead of using separate stands.

I would like to go all active, so Mark thinks for a bit and agrees to resurrect a couple of Sparks (discontinued from production) he has lying around and offers a significantly discounted price for them as well.

Discussion moves on to the finish on my Catalyst's and I mention that I might be interested in a veneered finish if the cost weren't higher ($300/speaker). Mark then offers me a really good deal on some red cherry 8C's that were made for a customer who didn't eventually take them. I see the picture below and I'm sold.

8C-redchy-02.jpg


Final order in early June of last year: 3 Catalyst 8C's for LCR, a Submersive HP+ slave unit and 2 Sparks for surrounds. I couldn't wait to get them in my room and have a listen.
 
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liverpool_for_life

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Before I could place my final order with Mark though, I needed to be sure that I wouldn't have issues getting these through Customs. Mark went above and beyond by speaking to multiple specialists and his FedEx representative to confirm that the previous shipment's problems arose because of the "pre-owned" description. So long as the payment transaction amount matched the amount declared, we'd be good (more on this later).

Fast forward (actually, really slow forward) to the last week of August. I receive an email from Mark that work on retrofitting the grills on the discontinued Sparks proved to be more work than anticipated. He has also updated the crossover on the Sparks (to be used as surrounds) to match that of the 8C's so they'd image more ideally.

That's the thing about dealing with Mark. Communication can be really, really sketchy but he does truly care about delivering a high quality product. Patience, sometimes a lot of it, is a virtue.

Finally, on the 30th of August, I receive notice from FedEx that my items have been picked up from Seaton Sound. All 469 pounds of it!
 
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liverpool_for_life

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Your setup has enormous potential.
Good to hear that from someone that has heard as many high quality systems as you have. As you heard, my room's acoustics are terrible. It's why I am doing what I am to fix it.

Btw, if I had the LF response for music that you have in the audio system that you've built for your car, I'd be in audio heaven. I really need to visit your home to listen to your setup.
 

raghupb

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All the boxes I’ve ever received from Seaton Sound, with world-class packaging. Total weight: 603 lbs (273.5 kgs)!
Congrats!!
Watch your back while unboxing and setup.

Btw, if I had the LF response for music that you have in the audio system that you've built for your car, I'd be in audio heaven. I really need to visit your home to listen to your setup.
Hmmm ... That's an intriguing statement.
You make it sound like FM @Kannan lives in a car:p.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

liverpool_for_life

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Watch your back while unboxing and setup.
Heh. The master sub arrived October 2016 and the rest of the speakers arrived September 2017. I took pictures yesterday 'cos I'd lost the pictures from when they first arrived.

Post pictures, I flattened 4 out of 7 boxes to make some much needed space in our "storage room". More room for Atmos speakers (evil grin).

You make it sound like FM @Kannan lives in a car:p.
You can see, hear (and feel) the love of labour that has gone into his car's fully active, DIY audio system. Very, very nice.
 

liverpool_for_life

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Finally, on the 30th of August, I receive notice from FedEx that my items have been picked up from Seaton Sound. All 469 pounds of it!
Couple of days later, I receive a notice from my local FedEx to start preparing documents in preparation for my shipment to arrive. I submit all the documents they ask for and see that the speakers are now in Bangalore. Very excited, they should be here any moment now!

Of course, things being what they are, it takes until the 5th of September before they finally get to Chennai. Pay whatever customs duties are owed and get the speakers home, right? Wrong.

A few issues crop up:

1. Given the number of speakers on order, Customs need a letter from me verifying that it is indeed intended for personal use. I submit one, but other issues complicate clearance (see below) and it looks like I'll need to make a personal representation to the officer.

2. As part of inspection, Customs needs a manufacturer catalog. At the time, Seaton Sound didn't even have a website, never mind a printed catalog. I could only point to a page on the Seaton Sound forum(!): https://www.seaton-sound-forum.com/post/product-listing-availability-status-and-pricing-3364736

2. The last issue was a major one. The invoice Mark had sent along with the shipment was the one used for insurance purposes and it didn't match the payment I'd made through my credit card. Mark offered to change the invoice, but because the shipment had arrived and paperwork had already begun, there wasn't much to be done officially. Again, one of the reasons a personal representation to the officer seemed like the only solution.

A week after the speakers landed in Chennai, I finally was able to meet the officer in question and explain everything. Applicable duties were then paid and I get notification from FedEx the next day that the speakers had cleared Customs and were being held in a local warehouse.
13th of September 2017: Indha Naal Ennudaiya Diaryla Kurichu Vekka Vendiya Naal (Tamil film watchers will understand that!).

It looks like it will take them another day or two to get them to me. Sod that! So, I go to the FedEx Guindy office and offer to pick them up myself from the warehouse a couple of blocks away. I get there and I finally see the shipment. Hallelujah!

I arrange for a "kutti yaanai" (local slang for a small pickup) and we are off home with my beloved Seatons. Once they are in my home, I decide to open up the smaller Sparks first up and set them up in stereo mode on the entertainment unit below my TV. I expect to be absolutely blown away. Was I? Stay tuned.
 

elangoas

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1. Given the number of speakers on order, Customs need a letter from me verifying that it is indeed intended for personal use.
It must also be due to value of the goods :p..

Indha Naal Ennudaiya Diaryla Kurichu Vekka Vendiya Naal (Tamil film watchers will understand that!).
Looks like you are pumped up :cool:..

I expect to be absolutely blown away. Was I? Stay tuned.
Please share some pics of your room once you have done the set-up..
 

liverpool_for_life

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It must also be due to value of the goods :p..
Maybe, but that's not what I was told. Not officially, anway :). I was asked to write a letter explaining why so many speakers were needed for personal use!

Looks like you are pumped up :cool:..
Was pumped up. This was more than 18 months back :).

Please share some pics of your room once you have done the set-up..
Sure will. Of course, you have an open invitation to come have a listen once everything is in place.
 

elangoas

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Maybe, but that's not what I was told. Not officially, anway :). I was asked to write a letter explaining why so many speakers were needed for personal use!

Was pumped up. This was more than 18 months back :).
Ok cool..

Sure will. Of course, you have an open invitation to come have a listen once everything is in place.
Thank you.. Please update me once you have completed the set-up, will drop in..
 
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