Round 4 was a great, albeit limited, audition. I returned to Indianapolis for a fourth day of auditioning. I arrived at a dealer for Dali, Opera, Vandersteen and Wilson-Benesch at around 2:00 in the afternoon. My original hope was to hear the A.C.T., Discovery and Curve as well as maybe the Vandersteen Quattro and possibly 5 or 5A. Turns out, my plan fell through. The dealer felt aside from the ARC only the Discovery is worth flooring, as he would not have enough market for the Chimera. As for why I never got around to the Vandersteen or Dali... read on.Wilson-Benesch Discovery
Sim Audio P-7 Preamp/P-8 Amplifier
dCS Puccini SACD Player
Every speaker I have ever listened to has made a statement within a very short listening period. Most speakers are like a person with a really strong personality. The Discovery is a little more interesting. It doesn't immediately give you anything, except gigantic sound stage. That you cannot fail to notice. Everything else takes its time to settle in. I was listening to some of the show off tracks coming off an Usher show off disc first. I thought the tracks showed off a nice sound stage and the impressive bass these monitors produce, but otherwise there was nothing much being shown off. Much like people who take a little while to get to know, sometimes taking your time with a seemingly introverted speaker can be quite worthwhile. I started my music with Abbey Rd. And this was the best way to start my day. I noted good bass on "Come Together". It was tight and musical and sounded just about perfect. I had full on chills for "Here Comes the Sun". In truth, there is something about the opening guitar line that almost always gets me. Likewise with the Piano in "You never Give Me Your Money" as it sounded so SO much like a piano in the room. But, and this is where my day got really good, when the hardness I have noted a few times approached, it was there. Here was a system I had been loving for a solid 15 or 20 minutes, never once getting that bitey quality in the midrange. And bam, it comes in exactly where I have noticed it on so many other systems. Suddenly I realize that I might be putting too much emphasis on a CD whose mastering engineer clearly used some edge enhancement. This is something I don't notice on my stereo at home because what is on the disc is masked. It takes a higher fidelity to uncover this glare on the track, and I have definitely entered the territory of hi-fi. You don't notice sharpness as adding grain on a 1978 Magnavox TV either. And I know plenty of people have pointed this out to me and I have even said it before myself. I should not be starting auditions with this track. It's just not fair. To Salk HT3 - I'm sorry.
"Neil Young - 1971 Massey Hall" a disc which was a pretty regular player on my last round of auditioning. The Discoveries presented the same huge soundstage and delivered a nice clarity to Young's guitarwork on "Cowgirl in the Sand" creating a wonderful sense of Neil being right there playing away. I also immediately noticed how tall the soundstage was. This could have been because of the relatively low sitting position, or it could be just the nature of the beast. Regardless, I didn't dislike it and thought it almost gave the illusion of Neil singing on a stage. I moved around the room while listening to "Old Man" and noticed no major changes to tonality or even image placement. This is probably a test unnecessary at this level of price, but still a fun test. I moved off Young and into "Tangled up in Blue" and didn't get the kick-drum slam effect, but the dCS did read off the SACD layer, so that was a nice bonus. What impressed me the most about this track was when the harmonica came in. As large as the soundstage is on these speakers, I was quite impressed that when Dylan's harmonica came onto the scene it was exactly the right size. On at least a few speakers I have auditioned the image cast has been nice and broad. Oftentimes these broad soundstages cause an instrument to sound larger than they actually do. I was delighted when the Discovery pulled off huge soundstaging and a harmonica sized harmonica. Impressive.
I moved on to a mix disc and noted again impressive bass for this size cabinet on my Dead Can Dance track. On my Aretha song, "Dr Feelgood" she was singing down at me, which I found distracting. I sat up and that helped. Listening to "Dancing in the Dark" by Cannonball Adderley I was very struck by the brushed snare. It was perfectly sized, placed and rendered. Art Blakey was brushing that snare drum, just a few feet behind Mr. Adderley. Fantastic. At some point fairly early in I stopped notating. And that is what the Discoveries did for me. I just got completely wrapped up in what I was listening to. Even the Kinks were enjoyable on this system. And I wouldn't say that the Disco's are warm or that the gear was either. I think they just never did anything overtly offensive. I could see where some people might call these speakers dry. The one word that continued to pop in my brain was clean, though. I didn't find them to be uninvolved or disinteresting, but they begged you to come closer or turn it up just one more notch. When I did turn it up that one more notch there was more but nothing new. Another excellent aspect of this system. At low levels it performed exactly the same as it did at or around reference levels. There was a linearity here that was quite fun to play with, as sometimes I think a little musicality and some dynamics can be lost at levels low enough to talk over. Not the case here.
At one point in the afternoon I had the chance to switch the Sim P-7 to a CAT LS1 tube preamp. The change was not huge, but it was undeniable. Voices took on an almost wet quality. It was mesmerizing. I loved the sound of this fine tubed preamp with the guts of 250 watts of Sim solid state behind it. And I was impressed at how quickly the Disoveries laid bare the differences between pre's. We lost a little oomph and there was a more laid-back quality to the speakers. Pushing them about 6 or so inches closer to the back wall gave the same basic soundstage as previous only with the magic tube midrange. This was not a lush over-warm tube product. It is clear detailed, fast and musical. I think there are a couple people around these parts that think tubes adding to the signal. You need to hear some well designed tube gear.
These are just great little speakers. After chatting with the dealer rep we played around a little with placement and I got to experience exactly how much you can do when a speaker that is so mobile. You can create a pinpoint stage of fairly impressive depth and width, or give yourself a true studio-monitor presentation where it is almost like you're wearing nice studio cups. Yet with every move, I never noticed a change in tonality. And we weren't moving the speakers mere inches. At one point they went from being about 4 feet off the back wall and 8 feet apart to being 8 feet off the back wall, 13 feet apart and seriously toed. Never a change in clarity or tone quality. Excellent.