Make Way for the Big Boys
Attendance was light at the Alexis Park on Wednesday, with the rooms closest to the front getting the most attention. That was certainly the case for Evolution Acoustics, whose imposing MM3 modular speaker commands respect. After seven years of development, this huge baby, designed by Kevin Malmgren (left, formerly of Von Schweikert) made its initial debut at RMAF 2006. Then, the company went low-key while Malmgren and his wife were busy raising their first child (who, after almost one year of development, has just made a most auspicious debut in his stroller at T.H.E. Show 2008). Well, not really. The speaker was back-ordered even before it was launched, and has kept Malmgren and its distributor so busy that they haven’t had the time or need to yet establish a dealer network.
The MM3 ($70,000/pair, intro price $38,000/pair) weighs 650 lbs per side and consists of three parts: the MM1 center portion ($30,000/pair, intro price $18,000/pair) and MM2 bottom and top ($50,000/pair, intro price $28,000/pair). The tweeter is adjustable for both level and crossover point to create a smooth and even response. The woofer is also adjustable on every level—how deep, how full, etc.—and is powered by a 1000W amp in MM3 configuration and a 600W amp in MM2 configuration. Because the woofer extends flat down to 10Hz, and actually reached down to 3Hz in the Alexis Park, it includes a subsonic filter to make it analog-friendly for platter spinners. Everything in the speaker except the midrange and tweeter is made in the USA.
Paired with DarTZeel electronics from Switzerland, Evolution Acoustics power cables with built-in power conditioners, and huge gauge EA interconnects and speaker cable, the system conveyed the weight of massed strings like no other speaker I encountered at T.H.E. Show save the Rockport Ankaa discussed earlier in this blog. When I played Martha Argerich performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto 2, the strings were so close that I felt as though my head was under the piano’s raised lid. Playing a track from the new John Marks-engineered Pipes organ CD, issued by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, all I could write was, "Holy Shit! This really sounds and feels like an organ."
I'm not sure how you-know-who uses the terms yin and yang, but from my understanding of Chinese medicine, the system was far more yang than yin, meaning that it was better with the big, extroverted stuff than conveying a voice expressing vulnerability and tenderness. While there was a bit of buzzing on voices, probably caused by the smallness of the room, what this speaker did right was so right that it commanded attention. Contact Jonathan Tinn (right) at Blue Light Audio in Portland if you hear the call.
Tinn also distributes DarTZeel. The system boasted the NHB108 amp ($21,181 and Stereophile's 2005 Product of the Year), which outputs 160Wpc into 8 ohms; the battery-powered NHB18NS preamp ($26,250) complete with phono stage and remote control). The two units are connected by impedance-matched 50 ohm DarTZeel wires. They certainly did the Evolution speakers proud.