Surreal Speakers: Made to order in Virginia, USA

My wife and I have just returned from a listening session at Surreal's auditioning room in White Stone, VA, and we have been super-impressed with these speakers and the marvelous musical experience they create! I'm convinced that the newest version of the Surreal Speakers out-perform speakers at twice their price.

Over the past three years, I've watched Surreal evolve these speakers. Today's listening session convinces me that the designers have really achieved the promise that these speakers have suggested since day one. These speakers integrate seamlessly across the frequency spectrum, deliver exceptional dynamics and resolution, and deliver superb results with tube amplification of as little as 30 watts per channel.

The speakers operate with a single cross-over at 135hz. The sound above this crossover comes from a single driver per side for exceptional coherence and soundstage precision. Crossing over below 135hz are six dynamic 10" woofers per side in a dipole array for incredibly fast, dynamic and highly resolved bass reproduction. This woofer cabinet is fast enough and accurate enough to mate seamlessly with electrostatic speakers. With the dynamic drivers used by Surreal on the top, the sound of the entire speaker is completely coherent.

If you are anywhere near Virginia, scheduling an audition of these speakers will reward your effort in doing so.

Surreal Speakers:
Sorry to be cynical, but this looks like another shameless ad disguised as a review. All it lacks is a picture.
Why would they be mated with electrostasic speakers? Are these not a full range speaker?
Yogiboy, the dipole subwoofer towers can be purchased separately.

Tonykay, sorry you're taking a cynical perspective. I'm just another audiophile who's followed the evolution of these speakers from this small VA company for several years. Others should hear them.
Mofimadness, I asked Surreal Speakers to give me a summary
of their current pricing and received the following reply:

"With the Tangband drivers, the cost is $16,900 plus shipping. In the new version with the German AER field coil drivers (the version you heard yesterday) the cost is $32,550 plus shipping. We have a few lightly used demo versions which can be had at a discount. Anyone who's interested in learning more should contact us directly through our website. We encourage interested listeners to make an appointment to hear these in person. To help make an audition more practical to consider, we will credit a purchaser's reasonable cost of travel for an audition against the purchase price."
I understand the speaker is tube-friendly as well. FWIW I've known Ruston for years and he has no association with Surreal.
Thank you, Ralph. The speakers performed very well with your Atma-Sphere S-30 driving the monitor section (135hz and up). The entire set up makes for a very attractive "small footprint" system that delivers full frequency range, dynamic sound. Prokofiev's "Lt. Kije" on RCA was delivered with authority.
We would just like to add that we are just two "old guys" in this hobby who are attempting to share our love of music and sound who graciously invite anyone to make an appointment for an honest listen to music of your choosing on our system. It may or may not be for you. We, however, have built what we find to be the Holy Grail of sound reproduction. It took a long time and wasn't easy. You can PM me through the 'gon if you would like more information.
Nice call Rushton, I heard these speakers at the Capitol Audio Fest this year with Atmasphere amplification. They sounded very nice and the design and build of these speakers was beautiful.
Pops, thanks for sharing your experience with them. The pair at Capitol Audio Fest had the Lowther drivers with field coils. This newer version uses the AER drivers from Germany for even better sound quality. Color me very favorably impressed.
What amp would you use for example, to power the woofers, if the S-30 is used for the widebands?
Mechans (Steve), I've listened to these speakers in all their iterations over the past couple of years. The key was finding something that will drive the 1 ohm load presented by the woofer array. Ralph (founder and engineer who designed these) determined that a high output switching amp allowed him to get the results he was seeking to achieve while doing so at some reasonable cost.

The Crown 4002xti at 1,000 wpc has been a decided improvement over the custom Class G amps they started with (and still offer). The additional virtue offered by the Crown is extensive control over choices and combinations of crossover point, rate of filtering, EQ, signal delay and other factors that help the driver arrays match most effectively to a given room's acoustics. This is not a trivial virtue. I've been told that you can move further up the Crown line and there may well be alternatives from other manufacturers that one could substitute. They key in making another choice is also finding something that allows you to control so many of the frequency and phase characteristics.

If you get an opportunity to listen to these speakers, ask Doug to let you hear some different control profiles he's experimented with for the crossover. It's mind-blowing for this non-engineer to hear the differences.
Rush, is this a further version of the speaker I heard last year at our listening session? That one sounded pretty good to me, if this is better I'd be VERY impressed.
Yes, it is, Russ. I think you heard it with the Tangband drivers. They then moved to Lowthers with field coils, which were very good and this is what they showed with at CAF. But Lowther (manufacturer) couldn't provide consistent quality and reliability. With the new German AER drivers, they've made a very substantial further improvement: much higher build quality, more resolution, and more natural sound.
Thank you for this, Rush.

I also heard them in July at the Capital Audio Fest, driven by the Atma Sphere S-30 power amplifier. I very much enjoyed the sound. A liquidity and naturalness was present that made listening quite easy. Don't exactly recall the imaging. But as I said, I liked them a lot overall.

Hope you are doing well...
Hi Joe, nice to hear from you! Thanks for adding your comments about hearing these speakers at CAF this past summer.

Thanks for bringing these speakers to my attention. In full disclosure, I am thinking about venturing into DIY speakers and a different approach like this one is surely intriguing.

The AER driver apparently is working all the way from 130 Hz approx on up. I guess the advantage of a single driver playing that wide range is time coherency. I was wondering if you had ever experienced time-aligned speakers and if Surreal Speakers sounded along those lines?

Lewinskih01, time alignment is certainly one benefit of the single driver. Another is that it is truly a point source for all of the sound beyond 135 hz - imaging is very precise. The AER drivers are very well made - expensive, but you're getting what you paid for. But what makes these speakers truly special is the design of the woofer array covering below 135 hz. The AER drivers are very fast in their rise and fall times. The woofer array is able to mate seamlessly with the top end - and yet can be thunderous when called upon.

At the same time, I've heard quite a few single driver speakers and would not recommend any of them. This is the first full range implementation using a single driver for the top that I've found close enough to my listening priorities to consider bringing into my own system were I in the market for a new speaker.

If you're a DIY person, consider buying the woofer array from Surreal Speakers and then playing around with your own monitor design to mount on the woofer. You can have the same fun that Doug and Ralph have had with literally hundreds of hours of listening and re-adjusting to get things right. That's a part of our hobby, right? LOL.

Best wishes!

Indeed, you have given me a couple of research paths. The dipole subwoofer array is one. I wish I could come by and hear or even buy a sub from them as you suggest, but I'm in South America so not feasable. I'm a UVA grad so who knows, maybe for my next reunion I stop by Surreal :-)

The single AER driver vs a very good tweeter (like a RAAL) + a very good midrange (an Accuton maybe, but taste is crucial) both time aligned is another path. The latter needs to be time aligned for a fair comparison.

Do you think the improved imaging - a key design goal in my case - is driven by being a point source more than being time-aligned?

"Do you think the improved imaging - a key design goal in my case - is driven by being a point source more than being time-aligned?"

In my experience, time alignment, phase and point source are factors in getting great imaging from a set of speakers. A good starting point with a mult-drive system is probably keeping the cross-over as simple and phase aligned as possible, e.g., a 6db per octave Butterworth. There are sooooo many variables and trade-offs. For example, some of the most precise imaging speakers I've ever heard are the original Avalon Eidolon speakers, but this is a three-way speaker with a complex crossover from which Neil Patel has created a bit of magic. There is no single path.
Lewinskih01 ... I noted from your 11/29 post that you are considering DIY speakers and also mentioned the import of time alignment.

I don't know anything about Surreal or its drivers. But I have been doing a vertical learning curve on time alignment. If you think the Surreal drivers are special and might be used in your DIY project, I'd like to suggest you consider incorporating a DEQX unit in your set-up.

You can learn more about DEQX in the threads "Is DEQX a Game Changer?" and "Sloped Baffles." Also, Kal Rubinson just reviewed the DEQX PreMATE in the December Stereophile issue.

I bought the PreMATE about 2 months ago. And yeah ... it made a big difference.

I agree with Rushton's comment that speaker design entails many compromises. Classic time coherent speakers necessarily require their drivers to cover a larger frequency pass band because they use 1st order crossovers which cut over at 6 db per octave. I somewhat dubious that the drivers used in such speakers can really maintain linear performance over the larger pass band at which they are asked to perform. Also, room EQ effects can be quite considerable.

Ergo the DEQX. My speakers use a 3rd order crossover (18 db per octave) between the tweeter and midrange and a 2nd order crossover (12 db per octave) between the woofers and midrange. To put it mildly, my speakers were a time INcoherent mess, but the DEQX PreMATE tamed them very nicely. Plus, my room twisted the FR of my speakers into an acoustic pretzel. The PreMATE did room EQ correction too.

Bottom line: I think the DEQX PreMATE has helped me squeeze a lot more performance out of my system.
An Acoustic pretzel, what an image, I am having some difficulty with that. I was a little surprised but don't doubt the veracity of quality control problems with the legendary Lowthers. It has been a darling of the single driver crowd for a verty long time. The AERs look like the German answer to a single driver intense strong superbly engineered and taking no prisoners (another easy audio concept)!
Hey Bif!

We've been coming across these threads a fair amount lately. A good thing! Yes, we exchanged in the sloped baffle and the DEQX threads regarding these same aspects. I've been thinking about it for a while. And will continue doing so for a while too. Before going the DIY speaker route I want to implement DRC through Acourate, then digital crossovers and multiamped system.

These AER drivers are intriguing though, just as the dipole subwoofer section is. Accomplishing crossovers in the digital domain seems to be less of a challenge than with analog XO, from some reading I've been doing.

Lew ... unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of auditioning the better time coherent speakers on the market. But I gotta tell ya, time coherence aside, room effects can smear the heck out of even the best speakers ... be they time coherent or not.

That's what I meant when I said my room effects made my speakers FR plots look like acoustic pretzels. It was like I was using two different speakers for my fronts. DEQX "tamed" my system. Perfect?? No!! Better?? Yes!!
(I am a principal so please factor my comments accordingly)
Yesterday a small group gathered to listen to the Surreals with the new AER cones which are nearly broken in. All I can say is that this is The Apparition that we all hope to catch a glimpse of one day in our audio systems. I will be sad to see these any serious listener, please accept our invitation to come for a personal listening session. It is unlikely we will be returning to audio shows and we do not advertise in the audio magazines. For now, we are building these one pair at a time and selling direct.