A speaker audio journey over: Classic Audio Loudspeakers T1.5 Reference = End game

Where to start? Well, the time has come…I finally made a decision on my next speaker acquisition, the Classic Audio Loudspeaker, T1.5 Reference. They will invariably be keepers for a very long time, if not life. I spent a little over two years in my pursuit of a replacement speaker; researching, listening, and evaluating various speakers in different environments to include homes, listening studios, and audio shows. I never, not once, auditioned a speaker at my house in my own listening studio during my research. This is very similar to the way I purchased my B&W N800’s sometime in the early 2000’s. If you want to skip over the rambling, go directly to the paragraph starting with “I let the needle drop. Holy crap!”

But, before I start my diatribe on how I fell head over heels for these large, beautiful and magnificent sounding speakers, let me tell you what my wife stated when she heard them in our listening studio for the first time; “I can distinguish the breathing of Loreena McKennitt as she sings “The Mummers’ Dance” and “Night Ride Across The Caucasus” as if she is live on stage, and I can distinguish where the individual instruments are placed, while all sounding equally present in front of me, each musical instrument clearly playing on stage as if she is just right here, in front of me. I feel a presence that is so much more emotionally charged than your other speakers. I can feel the strength and delicacy of her voice and music qualities at the same time. You are never getting rid of these speakers.”

Let me start by saying that I appreciate communities such as Audigon, and other similarly audio focused hobbyist forums, as they provide a good deal of insight on a wide range of audio products. This allows us, as hobbyists, to read what others have to say about audio products, and that shared knowledge empowers us with the ability to deduce facts or form certain opinions of these products that we are interested in.

Over the years at Capital Audio Fest (CAF), 2017, 2018, and 2019, when we still went to Audio shows, is when I first got to know and hear of Classic Audio Loudspeakers. John Wolff, owner of Classic Audio Loudspeakers, brought the T1.5 reference as well as his famous Hartsfield’s to demo at the 2017 CAF. This is when I heard the glorious sound emanating from the T 1.5’s, I was in awe, as to the sheer bravado and elegance the T1.5’s exhibited. These speakers were effortless in the way they conveyed subtleties in voices, and yet portrayed instruments in their full glory on stage as if right in front of you. That listening moment is when I realized that my B&W 800’s lacked a certain ability to convey sheer emotion at this scale, compared to the energy and magnitude that the T1.5’s presented. The band and instruments where in front of me with a much more “I am here with a live band” vibe. To my chagrin, my B&W 800’s seemed lowly in dynamic detail compared to the T1.5’s. I also thought that the T1.5’s speakers were unobtanium at the time and perhaps the future, as I did not want to exceed my own self-imposed budget. Nevertheless, the exposure to that wonderful musical sound the T1.5’s emitted left me in pursuit of and on a journey for my next speaker which took many turns over these past few years. Listening to the T1.5’s at CAF had that much of a profound lingering effect on me in terms of the audio qualities of what I wanted for my next speaker. The only other time I ever felt the same way about a speaker system is when I heard the MBL 101’s at the Munich High End Show a few years ago. In this hobby, you just know when “It is it”, when it comes to the sound you like.

My particular listening attributes and other musical quality criteria were shaped in the late 60’s, when my stepfather (he was a part time bongo / congo player for Santana) played the Santana session tapes to us as children. I will never forget those listening sessions, and now, nearly 50 years later, I have honed down my own particular criteria for those qualities in audio that I like or dislike. This has been a maturing hobby of mine since the early 70’s. My first audio system consisted of some Radio Shack Optimus speakers, Pioneer turntable, and Pioneer SX-780 receiver. Later on, I bought some Pioneer HPM-100 speakers. After entering active duty, I added the Pioneer RT-909, Polk Audio SDA 2’s and later the 1’s, and so on and on the journey began. After formulating my listening impression over the years, my final speaker selection criteria led me to require speakers that are dynamic, efficient, some form of horn loading, and preferably with no DSP.

On DSP, I went back and forth on the idea of DSP after having listened to several speakers with DSP. But, after rationalizing on what I heard when using DSP, combined with my all analog investment, and what I enjoyed most from an analog purist point of view, using DSP negated all of what I cherished in the analog realm that I had worked so hard to build. Don’t get me wrong or misconstrue what is stated here. DSP is great when applied appropriately and when warranted. I believe my custom design room ameliorates the need for DSP and the sound artifacts that I perceive that come with the use of DSP. Again, my opinion is based on nearly 50 years of listening and audio experiences and my ears. Trust your own ears! Your mileage may vary.

Rather than bore you with my experiences of the many speakers I listened to at shows, studios, homes, etc., I will just list mostly brands; Klipschorn’s, Klipsch Jubilees with TAD drivers, Legacy Aeris, Avante Garde Duo, Tekton, Spatial Audio, B&W’s, MBL’s, Vandersteen’s, Wilson Audio, Magnepan, Martin Logan’s, and YG acoustics. Each of these speakers have their strengths and weaknesses as perceived by each person who listens to them. Let’s just say, that none of them meshed perfectly with my particular listening criteria. Compromises, are we willing to compromise sound for size, aesthetics, power handling or a driver topology (planar, direct, open baffle, etc.) that requires specific setup criteria that some cannot support? Dang it, just do it! Cram that large speaker in a small room, or drive the crap out of that planar until you hear the metallic linings start to separate, or jam out with your 101 dB efficient horns with a 500-watt amp. I am being somewhat cynical here as we all have been through this journey sometime in our audio life. It is a definitely why I chose my handle, Audioquest4life…it’s been a lifelong audio journey for me.

Sometime at the beginning of this year (2020), I saw an ad for a used set of T1.5 reference speakers for sale in one of the audio markets. I contacted the seller, who happen to be Mr. John Wolff, Mr. Classic Audio Loudspeaker himself. When I contacted him and asked about these particular speakers, they were the ones that were at 2017 CAF. Sweet, as those were the ones that I heard and fell in love with. I placed a deposit, but Covid and some other factors caused us to pass the time away. Just when things were starting to be okay in some areas, I visited Classic Audio Loudspeakers, and had an opportunity to not only listen to John’s setup, T.1.5’s and Hartsfield’s driven by the Atmasphere Novacron mono amps, but to see my T1.5’s refurbished with new woofers, field coils, and capacitors which was a sight to behold. The listening session was icing on the cake as the music was played with some of my own demo music and his. The reel to reel playback sound at his studio was by far the best I have ever heard in anything in my entire audio life. All of this gawking and listening, which far exceeded my expectations, only made me salivate more for delivery and setup day.

Here is a description of these behemoths per the ad; T-1.5 Reference IN BEAUTIFUL KEWAZINGA Finish. Components include 1-18" Field Coil Powered floor firing Woofer. 1-15" Field Coil Powered Front Woofer. 4" Beryllium fitted Field Coil Powered Midrange Compression Driver, and Fostex T-500A II Super Tweeter. Solid Brass 1-1/2" x 4" Spikes and floor sliders, Field Coil Power Supplies and Cables ALL INCLUDED.

The anxiety of the night before delivery day left me wide awake in bed anticipating the next day, similar to some who get that feeling when you are picking up your brand-new custom ordered car, boat, or whatever to excite you enough to induce insomnia the night before. The next day, I was a happy walking zombie.

John arrived with his assistant and started to off-load the speakers for the trek down to the basement and into the listening studio. Let me tell you, John can manage those giant 400-pound speakers and make any other person feel weak in comparison. After the speakers were off loaded and into the basement, we tried to squeeze them through the listening room door way. Nope, despite removing the door stops, they were still too wide. So, we had to remove the horns to squeeze them through. Once we got one of the speakers in place, I fired up the mono tube amps, Mcintosh MC2301’s, phono stage (Aesthetix IO Signature), preamp (Octave Audio Jubilee Reference), and turntable (Transrotor Apollon TMD with SME V’s) which uses a Soundsmith Sussaro MKII with Benz LPS, and Benz Zebra Wood in reserve, to allow for adequate warm-up. I do use some PS Audio regenerators (P20/P5) and Shunyata Alpha NR2’s throughout with a sprinkle of stock power cables. As the other speaker was being setup, I did a quick and dirty spin, and of course, only one speaker, which is plugged into the 8-ohm tap on the amp, and with cold tubes, really not much to say about the sound yet, except that dang, these are way more efficient than my other speakers. We plugged the other speaker into the other amps 8-ohm tap, positioned both speakers perfectly so that they were symmetrical, and chatted a few more minutes.

I let the needle drop. Holy crap!

The music sounded perfect immediately, and with only a few minor adjustments to the mid and high-level controls (potentiometers) on the back of the T1.5’s, and voila, we were dialed in, just like that. The first record we played I believe was the Chemical Brothers newly reissued first album. This is an electronic album and the T1.5s showcased their sheer bass prowess with this LP. There was no bass slop, muddiness, or booming, just plain old articulate, fast, and deep bass. I believe the room design and elaborate acoustic construction properties incorporated into that design also aided in creating great sound without any bass issues. I must also caveat that remark by stating previously, I did have two 15 inch subwoofers that I used with my B&W 800’s; however, now, I am shying away from subs, at least of that size anymore, as the T1.5’s are so large, and have an uncanny ability to play deep bass notes. The existing subs were kicked out of their spots and despite the lack of subs, there was really never a moment where I felt that I was missing deep bass, except, perhaps, ultra-deep bass from electronic music that servo driven subs seem to produce nicely. But, to me it seemed like the bass was not really missed as the bass and other instruments were balanced and pronounced as played through the T1.5s. We cranked the Mcintosh tube amps to 30-watt peaks (with 300 tube watts available, the amps were only crawling), and holy cow, the room (chairs and chest only, no other things vibrated or resonated) was shaking with the excitement of the energy of these speakers, bass and all. In fact, the theater chairs were absorbing the bass impact with deep bass being felt in the seats, due to the high, and perhaps excessively loud volumes we played and could be felt while sitting in those chairs. The room, floor, ceiling, walls, etc., never once experienced any bass resonance or anomalies. I feel confident in the room construction and acoustic infrastructure built in during the room design equating to a room that is not a concern for any speakers, as verified now with the T1.5.s Next up in the que we put on a Mike Oldfield CD, The songs of distant earth, and once again, every sound emanating from the T1.5’s made me think that in comparison, my B&W’s were cheap speakers, which they were not. I think this is due to the exceptional voicing and smooth transition between the Fostex super tweeter, horns, and woofers. Albeit, the horn and woofers are field coils and thus may impart some spatial or harmonic qualities not present in other speakers due to this design. The field coil drivers do require a separate power supply but the sound is to die for. The immediacy of the music crescendos and the ability to play loudly, yet cohesively without strain or losing imaging are a hallmark of good speakers and the T1.5’s deliver without hesitation. Its really uncanny and surreal sounding how much more lifelike music playback has become.

We played some Fleetwood Mac, and while listening to Dreams, the back-up singers are more pronounced, again, the stage seems as if it is in front of you, with the backup singers floating, no, more pronounced and forward than before. Perhaps, this is an artifact of horns, and what a horn does very well compared to regular direct radiating speakers. All I know is that I never heard this much detail in pretty much all of the listening sessions I had experienced previously at shows, studios, and at homes. Pretty much, the only exception for me has been the T1.5’s that I heard at previous CAF’s and at Classic Audio Loudspeaker studios. So, you get the picture…song after song, LP after LP, everything was new sounding again. I played Sade, a 4.99 purchase in the PX from the 80’s, and I never before heard Sade sound so real. I think I must describe this characteristic for all of the voices; it’s the resonance, the breaths, and palpability that really is uncanny. Again, you know it when you hear it. Its either partially there, not there, or you get it in spades. The T1.5 provides the listener with this pleasurable phenomenon. It is to the point that you would believe that what you heard on the LP was someone who is right there in the room with you, as the voices emanated from their own spatial sound field, giving you a glimpse of the acoustic environment. And, so on and on, it went with different music, old records that I played previously, sounded totally different, mostly that soundstage, the voices floating, and the characteristic distinction of each instrument, layered or panned left or right, and a sense of the acoustic space that the recording took place in. John complemented the system, and I feel he may have been intrigued by the way the Mcintosh MC2301’s pushed the T1.5’s easily, yet in the most similar sounding ways as the amps he uses for his demos. In my humble opinion, I think the Mcintosh MC2301’s amplifiers are a match made in heaven with the T1.5s. Late in the evening, John finally departed, but I stayed awake into the early morning. Surprisingly, well not really, the amps were not really hot compared to when they were driving the 89db inefficient B&W’s, bonus!

Talking about acoustic space, my friend used to be a recording engineer, and one of his comments was that he could tell the acoustical environment of the recording that was played through the T1.5’s and, that it was nothing he has really ever heard before with their uber-priced Genalex studio monitors, or even my old speakers. He too was enthralled by the voicing. Finally, I get my wife to listen the next day. Needle drop; Artist, Roger Hodson; Song, Jeopardy, and immediately she could tell the difference in musical qualities. I watched her as she shook her head up and down slowly, eyes closed, and taking it all in. “Question?” “How did it sound?” “OMG!!! Now, I know why you sold your other speakers. These are so beautiful sounding.” Finally, I put the Loreena McKennitt album on and that was all she wrote. These speakers are officially part of our household forever.

Funny side note, my friend who helped remove the door stops, and preserved them so we can reinstall later in order to squeeze the T1.5s through, stopped by to install the door stops the next day…well, after some chatting, gawking at T1.5’s, mixed drinks, some Santana, Pablo Cruise, Eagles, and the requisite superlatives by non-audio friend describing his musical bliss listening experience, the door jamb never got reinstalled. He was amazed at how well music could sound on a stereo and at such high resolution, hearing all of the intricacies of each song and voices emitting from a soundstage as if live. I too am really in shock as to how good the voices just float out and touch your soul. Playing Miles Davis Sketches of Spain, Concierto de Aranjuez, led me to believe that Miles was in the room. You could easily here the embouchure and the resonance of the mouthpiece as Miles breathed in and out during each crescendo. I used to play trumpet, so this was very exciting and pleasurable to hear. Miles was on stage right here in front of me.

One can’t describe the sound of the T1.5’s without describing the beauty of these monstrous speakers. Each speaker is hand-made with disregard to time constraints in Brighton, Michigan at Classic Audio Loudspeaker headquarters by Mr. John Wolff himself. In other words, these are normally built to order and will be completed when they are completed. The meticulous detail and craftsmanship of these high-end furniture grade cabinets will instantly let you know that these are not just speakers, but heirloom high-end furniture quality speakers to be passed down for generations. Since they are not mass produced, no two are alike, due to the highly complex manual labor involved in building these. The wood species varies as well. My particular set has the Kewazina wood which I have seen on some upper levels of Steinway pianos, and exotic furniture throughout the world. The quality is first rate, the finish, impeccable and absolutely stunning to look at. It is definitely a labor of love. How do you place a price on such products and the complete hand-made aspect of such beauty and awesome sound?

One last thing, the listening room is custom designed per my specifications which comprises these aspects:

  1. 19 x 33 room x 9 (feet)

  2. Concrete substrate floors and walls (3 sides)

  3. Spray foam under joists (5-7 inches)

  4. Roxul Safe and Sound acoustic batting (all walls / ceiling)

  5. Resilient channel

  6. QuietRock sheet on all walls (double on ceiling)

  7. Double wall rear of room with 2inch gap between wall assemblies (same Quiet rock and Roxul batting in each wall)

  8. Bamboo floors over concrete floors

  9. Variety of sound absorption, diffusors, and bass traps

  10. Natural stone wall behind speakers to create natural diffuse sound field

  11. Room measured with Rives pro-test kit, and PAA acoustic test devices

  12. Heavy duty soundproof door

Finally, finally…”What is the secret of the Holy Grail? The land and the king are one.” (Excalibur, 1981). I mention this because the room, complete system, and human interface are all one. I have found the “Holy Grail”.


Absolutely love your system, and it would be my end-game dream. I heard the speakers at a show some years ago, and they are music to me.
I feel excited for you, and thank you for sharing your experience and those drool-worthy photos. 
Congrats on your new speakers! It looks like you have an amazing set up. I’m new to this crazy audio world, it’s amazing the money spent on equipment and some of the unique characters that jump in and out of these threads. It was refreshing to read a well-thought-out story.

I couldn’t help but notice your name “audioquest4life” didn’t I see in another thread you looking for power cords? I think you settled on a Shunyata? Why not Audioquest? Lol...Ray
I've heard these at RMAF driven by Atmasphere electronics and it was by far my favorite room.  Congratulations!  If i had the space and money I would likely recreate that system and live happily ever after.


“Congrats on your new speakers! It looks like you have an amazing set up. I’m new to this crazy audio world, it’s amazing the money spent on equipment and some of the unique characters that jump in and out of these threads. It was refreshing to read a well-thought-out story.

I couldn’t help but notice your name “audioquest4life” didn’t I see in another thread you looking for power cords? I think you settled on a Shunyata? Why not Audioquest?”

Thank you for the feedback. Ah, the audio journey. Here’s an analogy. When I first started this audio journey in the early 70s, I would like to equate those beginnings to buying a used Ford Fiesta or VW Golf on a shoestring budget. After many years, job changes, life, you end up trading up, selling, and buying things that are better. After considerable time passing in years you end up going from the Fiesta to a Mercedes S-class. 
My handle, moniker, persona, alias, or whatever is derived from my audio journey and Is not associated with any product. Yes, I did end up with Shunyata PCs  after many years of trying a fair amount of other power cables. My first high end interconnect was the Audioquest Sky. I have since learned that cables are a slippery slope and now focus on specs and listening. A few of of my cables are non mainstream and I am perfectly happy with them. I added the Shunyata’s when I upgraded to the PS Audio P20. The Shunyatas combined with the P20 really increased my listening pleasure due to the enhancement in sound quality.