Acapella High Violoncello II loudspeaker Page 3
Try as I might, I could hear no colorations that might be laid at the feet of that big midrange horn. Robert Silverman's Steinway on his performance of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations (CD, Stereophile STPH017-2) sounded exactly as it should, with no undue character or congestion when Bob pounded the heck out of the piano keyboard in the momentous fugue in the penultimate variation. I did wonder if there was quite enough "body" to the sound of the piano at times, particularly with solid-state amplification, but this seemed very recording-dependent.
And the High Violoncello II loved voices. From Peter Gabriel's bathetic baritone on Scratch My Back (CD, Real World 1), through Van Morrison's harsh bark on Belfast Opera House, Lyle Lovett's nasal drawl on Live in Texas (CD, MCA MCAD-11964), through the many layered Brian Wilsons in "The Like in I Love You" (preview download from the forthcoming Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, Walt Disney D000428902), each singer sounded maximally different from all others and maximally like himself. And again, the speaker's resolving power easily allowed me to hear the effects of the lossy compression used on the Wilson download.
The High Violoncello II's sealed-box woofer alignment has been optimized for clarity rather than bloom. Even so, the speaker offered good bass weight. The 1/3-octave warble tones on Editor's Choice could be heard to extend down to the 25Hz band at pretty much full level. The 20Hz warble was well down in level, but all the LF tones had very little harmonic content audible. Those 10" woofers are obviously linear at normal listening levels.
And what of Gordon Holt's beloved jump factor? While the High Violoncello could play very loud when asked, that wasn't what most impressed me about its dynamics. It was that at normal listening volumes, the differences between recorded levels seemed greater than they do through other speakers. Quiet instruments and voices seemed a little quieter compared with moderately loud ones, yet without becoming obscured. Loud sounds sounded louder compared with quieter ones, almost as if the recording's dynamic range was being increased a little.
The Acapella High Violoncello II is the most expensive loudspeaker I have had the pleasure of using in my listening room. With its ionic tweeter and the use of horn loading for its upper-frequency drivers, it is also the most unusual. But it is superbly engineered and massively well constructed, and offers equally superb sound quality, with well-controlled lows, a natural-sounding midrange, well-defined and stable stereo imaging, and dynamics to die for.
That ionic tweeter offers a high-frequency clarity that is rarely equaled by conventional drive-units, but even at the factory setting, its sensitivity is a little too high for a completely neutral on-axis response. This will not be an issue in a large, well-damped room, but results in too much energy in the top two octaves in smaller, more lively rooms such as my own, particularly when driven by a typical solid-state amplifier, where the low frequencies will sound slightly lean. Driven by a tube amplifier with its typically higher source impedance, the High Violoncello II's low frequencies warm up and are in better balance with the speaker's high frequencies.
A few days after I write these words, the Acapella speakers return to the distributor. I shall miss them. Highly recommended for those with deep pockets and large rooms.