Acarian Aln Petite loudspeaker & PW-1 woofer system Page 3
Sound: woofer or dog?
The quality of the PW-1's bass response overall was excellent, its fairly uniform character blending fairly seamlessly with the Petites' own mid- and upper-bass response. The bass response of the entire system was now extended from its original lower limit of 60Hz to a solid 35Hz, with some reduced output at 32Hz. Overall, the frequency response was clean, uncolored, and smooth, with no peaks or valleys in response. The woofer never called attention to itself: there was no discontinuity between the Petites and the PW-1 on any source material.
The bass drum and bass guitar on Janis Ian's Breaking Silence (Morgan Creek 2959-20023-2) were as clean, extended, and uncluttered as I've heard them on much larger systems. The lightning-fast synthesizer passages on James Newton Howard's "Amuseum" (from The Sheffield Jazz Experience, Sheffield Labs 10046-2-G) are an acid test for bass response. All runs were tight, detailed, deep, and dynamic, with no trace of overhang. Daniel Lanois's resonant, processed production of Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball (Elektra/Asylum 61854-2) contains quite a bit of thundering bottom end that can sound murky on woofers that are less than worthy. With the PW-1, the bass was round, fat, and soothing, but with no woolly overripeness.
I did find that heavily modulated passages of sustained bass at around 60Hz could trip up that little bit of crossover warmth that I could not completely rid my system of. But it took a long time to find the recording that could trip it up: Mighty Sam McClain's "Too Proud," from Give It Up to Love (AudioQuest AQ-CD1015). The bass guitar is way up in the mix and spends quite a bit of time at the PW-1/Petite crossover point; there was a noticeable overhang on certain notes in the midbass region that I just couldn't get rid of.
To what extent does combining the two woofers in one cabinet interfere with the soundstaging? Not one bit on any of the well-recorded orchestral recordings I used, especially Charles Wuorinen's Percussion Symphony (Nonesuch H 71353), with its multiple pianos, timpani, and bass drums. Throughout the entire recording the stage presentation was natural, and the PW-1 provided dramatic impact without calling attention to itself.
I searched to find a recording that would elicit soundstaging distortion and found only one: Paul Bley's Copenhagen and Haarlem (Arista AL 1901). On this live recording, stand-up bassist Mark Levinson (yes, that Mark Levinson) is closely miked and panned hard into the left channel. During one of his solos, Levinson covers the entire range of his instrument; during a few of the multiple-octave descending passages, I heard him move a bit to the right as he hit the lower registers. But this recording's stage perspective is quite atypical.
There's lot of busy bass and percussion activity on King Crimson's "Vroom" (from Thrak, Virgin 8 40313 2), each bass/Chapman Stick player occupying his own channel. Normally it's quite difficult to follow the bass players separately on any system, but the Trio system kept them separate even as they plumbed the depths of their instruments' ranges. In fact, the Crimson CD sounded so good that, one day when I got home from work and my wife and son were out of the house, I decided to doff my execu-garb and crank the volume. By 102dB the Trio system was churning out thundering, dynamic bass that reminded me of the King Crimson concert I'd attended last year. Once again I experienced the chills I'd felt when King Crimson opened with this cut live. I was there again! I found myself unable to continue my disrobing ritual as I danced around the room shaking and writhing in my underwear, my Valentino suit draped over its hanger and still clutched in my hand. (The blinds were closed.) Oh yeah—the Creek amp wasn't even getting warm.
Are two amps better than one?
I wondered if the next intended step of this review had become pointless. I'd borrowed from Music Hall a Creek A42 amplifier in order to see if I could extract better performance from the PW-1 by bi-amplification, as the A42's gain is identical to that of the amp section of the 4240 SE (it is, in fact, the identical amplifier). But I was so happy with the bass performance of the Creek amplifying the entire Trio system that I doubted I could extract more performance by adding the second amp, and was tempted to punt the whole thing and send the amp back.
Then guilt struck. I had a vision of Roy Hall at the next CES, Oban single-malt in hand as he complained to a reviewer from a competing magazine, "I sent Reina an amp to play with and the lazy bastard didn't even open the goddamn box!" I decided to hook up the A42 and PW-1 in bi-amplified mode. The result was bass performance essentially unchanged from the tri-wired single-amp configuration used for the bulk of this review. I say essentially unchanged because one needs to factor-in the additional interconnect needed to hook up the A42 vs the hard-wired amp within the 4240 SE itself.