|The *Acoustic Zen, FLK
Marketing, Modwright Instruments, Red Dragon Audio, Response
Audio, Stillpoints Room.
people read about some particular loudspeakers, or any component
actually, and how someone likes them quite a bit, there is the
natural tendency to imagine in their head that the component
sounds like their preferred sound. And, what is more
frustrating, there is the expectation that the first systems heard
with with this component will have a sound like their preferred
type of sound.
Well, if the day is lucky the sound of
the system will be wonderful and what a particular listener is
looking for. But the next person to hear the system is going to be
screwed, because they will almost certainly have a different sound
So, if one assumes, which seems wise in
today's world, that not every day is going to be lucky - then one
is likely to run into a great system with the reputedly great
component that is not to a listener's taste. Sucks I know.
This leaves a person with what seems like
1. Assume that the totality of reviewers
and people posting on the net are nuts [this is a safe bet, in any
case :-) ]
2. Go to more shows and hear the
component in many different kinds of systems [this assumes that
the exhibitor exhibits at multiple shows and does not just exhibit
one system configuration].
3. Go to a dealer, and have them try and
tailor a system with the component to the desired sound While You
Wait, the person offering feedback on how the sound of each
intermediate system is at odds with the desired sound
4. Learn to 'hear through' a system to
determine the underlying characteristics and qualities of a
Our advice is to:
a) always assume (1) is true unless you
are very familiar with the pontificator, and they have
demonstrated themselves to be nuts in a way that is agreeable and
b) do (2) if you have the time [you will
learn so much about your preferences and just What Can Happen to
perfectly good components :-) ],
c) (3) if you can find an amenable dealer
that would be great, but please be patient, sometimes it takes
more than a single visit to zero in on just what one is looking
for - because audiophile nomenclature is wonderfully ambiguous and
it often comes down to 'I'll know it when I hear it'.
d) Only some people seem to be able to do
(4), and it can in any case be unreliable, so it can be used as a
guide and best used in conjunction with, and confirmed by, the
approaches (2) and (3) above.
This lengthy detour is all to say that
the Adagios sound different in different systems, but their
underlying character is always the same.
In the above system they are driven by
the Red Dragon solid-state amps. These are decent amps and the
systems with these amps and these speakers favors the Real,
Sophisticated and Enjoyable categories, and less so on the
Emotional and Sweet categories.
Driven by the Response Audio amps, or any
decent tube amp, which I did not hear at this show (but I think
Neli did) but did hear at RMAF (which Neli didn't) favors the
Enjoyable and Emotional categories of sound appreciation.
The Adagios are always capable of being
pretty darn Impressive when driven hard, even out in the middle of
a large room, in terms of bass but without an elevated detailed
presentation. But there ARE details, the tweeter is not a diamond
tweeter and the top end is not rolled off. For those that want a
rounder, more laid back upper-midrange, some system tailoring is
required in order to feed that particular flavor of sound to these
speakers for them to play.
The reason we, in particular, like these
particular speakers is that they are so well-balanced and
'competent' - for $4300 speakers. Top-to-bottom they are
well-balanced in numerous ways (micro-, midi-, and macro-dynamics
and frequency response except for the quite reasonable dip and
hump near the port frequency) and this makes it 'better' in our
opinion than those 'popular' brands of speakers that try to draw
attention to themselves, or are just plain badly designed, with
un-balanced and exaggerated behaviors. These are musical, by which
we mean that they are Enjoyable even when they are setup to be
Real - and they really do a decent job at being real - unlike most
of the competition who are aggressively neutral to the point of
being intentionally unpleasant [which seems to be a whole new
category of sound that we do not address here but which has its
adherents, no irony or sarcasm intended].
But let's face it, for $4.3K one cannot
expect the perfect, tabla rasa speaker, that is so perfect and
competent it can be anything any particular listener wants. As a
full-range speaker, it is competitive with $8K speakers, and it is
not until $12K or so that we, at Audio Federation, have found
definitively better speakers, the Marten 'Miles III' and the
I didn't want to turn this into a sales
report, but since we have recommended these speakers for a while
now, and finally picked them up ourselves a few months ago, we
have had to describe the above in answer to the obvious question:
"Just what in heck do you mean when you say you like these
speakers ...and they don't cost $40K+ ?", many times.