The other thing to take into account is the Professor's buying strategy: the paint shop experience is apt here. When Prof & Mme Tournesol visit the paint shop our different shopping strategies reflect our positions at the extremes of the hunter-gatherer spectrum. Mme Tournesol accumulates every paint card that has been released since the mid 19th Century to be able to make her selection, Prof Tournesol picks the one colour that he likes and that he can live with. This strategy also applies to stereo gear purchase decisions so I won't pretend that I've heard millions of high-end speakers to compare these with, nor will I definitively claim that they are 'world's best' or even 'the best that I could buy for the money' - life's too short for that, there's too much music too enjoy and too many mountains to cycle up.
It's funny how things change, 20 years ago I never would have spent even a tenth of the money that these cost on unheard equipment, but years of buying stuff over the net either desensitises you a bit or perhaps gives you a feel for what may be worthwhile. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a punt. It was helped by auditioning their bigger brother, the Delta, at Warwick's place but of course still required quite a bit of conjecture at the difference between the models. Of course you never listen to or review 'speakers' but rather it's about listening to music through 'systems', it helped that I was listening to a similar turntable/arm/cartridge as well as a similar TVC passive, and as I discovered with my Solos, TVC passives really can excel with active speakers so I was reasonably confident that I wouldn't be disappointed.
The speakers arrived in 2 large cardboard boxes, luckily not as imposing as Mondie's Alphas. Warwick also supplied 2 Leidke Metalldesign speaker stands, subsequently garnet filled. In my attempts to decouple, the stands sit via spikes on Vibracones sitting on a slate plate resting on triangulated Herbies rubber discs. All I need is the elephant and then the turtle underneath:) I agonised a bit over the colour options - all black or black and silver and eventually went with the black and silver. i think that this was the right choice but the silver accentuates the slightly convex side panels and they look a little 'porky'. The finish is mirror like, but much to Mme Tournesol's disappointment they have no grill and they are bigger than Bose speakers. "They aren't as ugly as those hideous jet engines though" (the Avantgardes) The stands are very solid but unlike the Avantgarde stands don't carry the cables through them so they don't look quite as tidy. The speaker have 3 little windows that show the sand filled layer between the 2 layers of the cabinet - personal view, I'd prefer to take their word for the presence of the sand and do without the windows, they spoil the appearance of the back of the speaker in my opinion.
Each speaker has 2 connections, a power cord to the built in amps, and an XLR terminated interconnect from the preamp. Luckily this was an identical setup to the Solos so it only took a few seconds to plug them in. Internally, there's a 'Class D' (or whatever you want to call it) ICE amp for each driver, 250W each for treble and midrange X-ART driver, and a 350W amp for the bass driver. Warwick has also lent me an Exactpower power supply conditioner and this so far hasn't shown more than a 120W drain for the entire system at volumes as loud as I can bear. The speakers also have an autosensing setting and use virtually no power on standby but automatically switch on when they sense a signal. This means that with a TVC passive preamp (no switch), all I have to do is switch on the turntable or CD Player to make music. Warwick has used his SPL to adjust the analog equaliser settings for each driver - I still have a room resonance of about 3-4 dB at around 125Hz but it's much improved over the sound with unadjusted settings.
So how does it sound?
Once again, I remind myself that it's the system that I'm listening through, not the speakers. The first things that perplexed me was that digital sounds much much much closer to analog with these speakers. Perplexingly though, analog also sounds better, with even better resolution at all frequencies and even better dynamics. These speakers are very detailed and very very fast and accurate, but also very musical with lots of 'air', not at all 'digital'. The system now has a very low noise floor and i can easily distinguish between steel and nylon guitar strings for instance, and on tracks like 'Vicious' on Lou Reed's Transformer album I can now hear him breathing between lines. There's no need for hyperbole like "it puts me right in the recording studio", or "the front row of the theatre", it doesn't, and it doesn't sound like 'real live music' either, but it's a hell of a lot closer to it.
Some tracks sound more dynamic and have more PRaT with the Solos, many more so with the Deltas. Some recordings, such as Rodrigo y Gabriela just sound unbelievably closer to lifelike, if I was going to indulge in the hyperbole of professional reviewers, I'd be tempted to say that you could hear Gabriela's sweat drops bouncing off her guitar body:) Without any hyperbole though, on Cowboy Junkies vinyl "Trinity Sessions" I can not only hear the air-conditioner in the church but I can hear whooshing sound of the air coming out of the ducts! The vinyl version of the White Stripes "Elephant" album almost does have Meg's drum kit in my room, and this is without a sub, dynamics are one of this system's strongpoints.
At the end of the day, having spent my own money, the question always is was it a good purchase? Yep.
Edited by proftournesol, 02 April 2009 - 07:42 PM.