You know that feeling of waking up when you’re on holidays and opening up the window in the morning. Taking in a deep breath, and looking out over the countryside hills or the sea; some little sheep here and there, a couple of trees and in between: all that space.. That’s the AR6 in a nutshell. The soundstage might only be slightly above average in width – but the airiness between the instruments gives it a unique spacious feel.
You know back in the day – I mean like way back, hundreds of years ago – men had honest professions working with their hands. You’d go in training as a kid, and emerge a master blacksmith or woodworker in your late teens. A skillful artisan, that knows his trade. That’s the kind of guy Mike from Perfect Seal is. Or at least how I’d like to picture him in the spirit of the underdog, compared to the big established companies. Mike made his mark in the hearing aid business, but his main focus and interest has been designing and reshelling custom in ears. At the moment, Perfect Seal is still only one of the few companies worldwide that can work with both silicone and acrylic, as well as provide all kinds of hybrids with the two materials.
The current Perfect Seal lineup is the PS series, with models ranging from 2 – 8 BA drivers. It’s aimed at both audiophiles and musicians. Perfect Seal also offers the Sportbud series for general music use in every day activities like working out, or working in the yard etc. But he’s taking a completely different direction with the ‘Ambiance’ series – geared more towards a reference tuning for audiophiles, although musicians will also enjoy them. The name couldn’t have been chosen better – the new line is devoted to a pleasant atmosphere, although each model will have a different ‘feel’ to it. Recently, Perfect Seal launched their new flagship; the 10 BA ‘Deca’. But the current subject of review is the first model in the range: the 6 BA driver AR6.
-6 BA drivers (1 low, 2 low/mid, 2 mid, 1 tweeter)
-5-way passive crossover
-Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 KHz
-Price (acrylic/silicone): $950 / $1150
The reviewed AR6 is the acrylic model. The AR stands for ‘Ambiance Reference’, and I’d say it leans a bit closer to the first word than the second. While it’s not completely reference-tuned, there’s all the more ambiance. The AR6’ signature is neither particularly warm or bright, but is pretty neutral up until an upper midrange lift which gives it an overall pleasant and clear tonality.
But this is one of the rare cases where signature is secondary to a different feature: the soundstage. The AR6 was specifically designed for a wide and airy soundstage. The AR6’ soundstage is larger in width than depth and height, but overall very spacious. Instruments and vocals diffuse out evenly in a half circle, creating a spread out but realistic soundstage. The clean mid-bass doesn’t interfere with the midrange, allowing a great deal of space and airiness between the instruments, and consequentially the instrument positioning and separation is outstanding. The AR6’ presentation is neither too forward or laid-back, although the soundstage and instrument size can make the instruments positioning appear distant at times.
The sub-bass is fast, clean and precise, while hitting with good depth and control. The balance between sub- and mid-bass’ is fairly neutral and conveys good detail, but is overall a bit on the low side of quantity. Its impact can be considered neutral, but might be sufficient for those prioritising high impact bass slam. The mid-bass’ presentation does not interfere with the midrange, but does its work steadily in the background. Overall the AR6’s bass tone is very close to neutral, and very clean with a good technical presentation.
The lower midrange is not very prominent, but this is where the designer’s intention becomes apparent: while it is not the fullest midrange, this provides a vast amount of space and airiness between the instruments. The center midrange has a neutral tone and is relatively clean. The upper midrange has a lift, which besides giving it a pleasant tonality provides a great deal of transparency and detail. Acoustics sound realistic and very inviting. Female vocals are clear and slightly forward while male vocals can sound a bit more distant due to the lower midrange dip. In accordance, average note thickness is on the lower side, although this in turn again contributes to the excellent separation. Try your best, and you will never be able to find a track that sounds congested. Overall, the midrange has good resolution, while the upper midrange lift gives it a nice tone as well as transparency.
The treble is clear, with good extension and sparkle. Its tone is a bit bright, with a hint of warmth. The AR6’ treble has good speed and decay, although the resolution can suffer with fast music. But the treble has good presence and energy, and sounds relatively smooth although there is a slight peak in the lower treble on occasion. As such it can lack a bit of refinement compared to TOTL’s, but overall the treble has all the important factors to sound exciting, while contributing to overall transparency.