Yesterday I spent some fun hours at the Salk Sound Secret Design Labs (Dennis Murphy's basement). I listened to the Salk SongTower and Salk Veracity HT3 and directly compared them, something that I had never done before. Dennis has a pair of SongTowers (the original prototypes) but only one HT3, so proper comparisons of stereo sound were not possible. Dennis said his HT3 had been damaged during shipping to a customer and returned to Jim who eventually sent it to Dennis. It now serves as a test bed. Because so many here are interested, I thought I would talk about what I heard.
Disclaimer - I've owned a pair of SongTowers since last September and enjoy them thoroughly. So perhaps I am biased. Also Jim and Dennis know where I live
The first thing I noticed is how similar they sound, especially in their even tonal balance across the midrange. All of Dennis's really good designs bear a family resemblance in this most important feature. There is no veiled midrange in these speakers. However, I do not consider these speakers as too bright or etched sounding. They sound properly neutral. The Dynaudio Focus 220s, briefly described above (I've not heard them), may be an example of speakers that suffer in midrange performance compared to Dennis's preferred way of voicing his designs.
The most obvious difference between the ST and the HT3 is the deeper bass of the HT3. It has a big potent woofer in a large ported cabinet. Of course that comes at a price. Not only are the woofer and complex cabinet more costly, but, unlike the SongTower, it really needs a powerful amplifier to drive it with proper authority. (For you amp junkies, Dennis uses a Marsh solid state 200 watt/channel amp). Still impressive is how much bass does come with the smaller midwoofers and transmission line cabinet of the SongTower. If you have never heard a speaker with TL bass that is properly designed, you owe yourself a treat. It defies verbal description. TL bass sounds different than the bass I've heard from more the more common ported or sealed cabinets. (OK I think my bias is showing
) Just the same, in a side-by-side comparison, the HT3's bass is noticeably better.
Another difference between these speakers, but less obvious than the bass, is the subtle difference between the SongTower's dome tweeter and the HT3's ribbon tweeter. I never thought the SongTower's excellent dome tweeter sounds at all distorted, but the HT3's tweeter does sound, for lack of a better word, cleaner. To call one tweeter more distorted than the other exaggerates the difference I heard. It never came close to what I would call fatigue-inducing. It wasn't obvious at first, and it never was such that I regret owning the STs. Again, that's what you get when you pay an extra 3.5 kilobucks for the HT3s.
In the midrange, although there was no difference in tonal balance, there was a clearly noticeable difference in dispersion and imaging. In this case, I thought the SongTowers created a broader and deeper image (as heard in mono) than the HT3. In the HT3, the midrange seems to be physically more removed than its other sounds. When we switched from the HT3 to the ST, midrange instruments seemed to move forward, and when we switched back to the HT3 they moved back again. Dennis believes the smaller 5¼" midwoofers in the SongTower allow for greater dispersion than the larger 6½" mids in the HT3, and he thinks this may explain the imaging differences. To put this into perspective, I thought this difference in imaging between the ST and the HT3 was more noticeable than the difference in tweeter sounds, but not as great as the difference in bass sounds.
I saw and heard some other wonders that afternoon, but my security clearance prevents me from commenting
, unless suddenly waking up in Guantanamo - without my SongTowers - seems like a good thing!