Acarian Systems Alón Circe loudspeaker Page 2
If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
Maybe it was Circe's transformative powers that inspired the speaker's name. As I shuffled amplifiers and wires, the speakers went through some real personality changes. Marchisotto is insistent that the Circes be used only with components of the very highest quality, which, for him, include single-ended triode amplifiers such as the Cary CAD-805C monoblock. So I had Dennis Had send me a pair and began the proceedings with a Marchisotto-approved system consisting of an Audio Research CD2/DAC3 or Linn Sondek LP12/Lingo/Cirkus/Ekos/Arkiv/Linto front end driving the Conrad-Johnson ART and Cary 805C combo.
First, we spent a great deal of time finding the right interconnects. Two that worked well were the Siltech SQ-80 G3 that the speakers are wired with, and AudioQuest Lapis. There are probably other cables I could have tried, but cable comparisons aren't high on my list of fun activities.
I can hear the tonal purity that people respond to in single-ended amplifiers, but I suspect I'm just not an SE kinda guy at heart. The highs were sweet and lovely, but I found the Circe's overall sound flaccid and very old-fashioned with the 805Cs. Nor was I getting the low-level resolution I thought a $12,000/pair loudspeaker ought to exhibit. It was as if I'd stepped back in time 25 years. By dialing in more negative feedback, I did get the amp to control the bottom end better, but the top end's purity suffered as the bass tightened up. For my tastes, and in my room, this was not a magic combination.
The far more powerful Audio Research VT200 was a different kettle of fish entirely. Highs were now extended and detailed—less sweet, perhaps, but light-years removed from harsh or forward. The midrange was extraordinary; I could hear waaay into recordings now. And the bass was impressive as the dickens. I got similar results when I tried a Mark Levinson No.332 and a pair of Accuphase M2000s, but the overall harmonic signature was considerably less rich. I don't go so far as to insist on SE triodes, but tube amplification sure did seem to bring out the best in the Circe.
One other setup consideration: Since the Circes are dipoles above 400Hz, you must position them carefully. They need breathing room to their sides—and, in my room at least, quite a bit of space behind them. In a rectangular room, I'd start with them placed on the long wall first. In some rooms they might benefit from some slight toe-in, but not in mine—I pointed 'em straight forward, about 6' apart and 4' from the front wall, with my listening chair 10' in front of them.
The one remains, the many change and pass
If'n you ask me, the Alón Circe needs a fairly hefty amplifier. But properly driven, the Circe delivers the bass goods. The bottom end is taut, tuneful, and quite deep. I really enjoyed listening to recordings with extreme LF information, such as Robert Rich's Seven Veils (Hearts of Space 11086-2), an electroacoustic fantasy on Eastern trance-inducing music.
I realize that a lot of audiophiles have nothing but contempt for this whole genre of music, claiming that since it is an artificial construct, without reference to a real-world performance, it is thus not as worthwhile as more "authentic" music types, which at least are performed in concert halls, stadiums, drawing rooms, or coffee houses. But this is a false distinction, to my mind, once we're talking of recordings—unless we're referring to that very small handful recorded in a purist two-mikes-in-a-hall fashion. Almost any studio recording these days has an audio environment constructed by its engineer, who chooses how much acoustic space informs the instruments, and where the instruments are represented in the soundstage—to the point where different instruments in the mix may be informed by different acoustics, even when recorded in the same space at the same time. The best "soundscape" manipulators, such as Rich, create sonic worlds as rich and fascinating as any captured by the purists—some might even argue more so.
Seven Veils sounded fantastic on the Circes. The bass was incredibly deep and articulate, brimming over with warmth. The differences in the manipulated acoustics used in each piece were easily distinguished. The admittedly artificial soundstage didn't sound that way—Rich is a genius at constructing believable soundscapes, and the ones on Seven Veils are convincing.
The bass on Jimmie Vaughan's Out There CD (Epic EK 67653) was powerfully boogielicious as well. Vaughan doesn't use a bass player, most of the bottom on this disc coming from his own tasty guitar work and Bill Willis' Hammond B-3. Yet on this disc as well, I was aware of a bottom-end warmth quite different from that of the similarly priced B&W Nautilus 801 that I reviewed in January.