Aerial Acoustics Model 7T loudspeaker Page 2
At the upper end, the 7T was deliciously detailed and transparent and, as in the bass, continually surprised me by imposing absolutely no hint of brightness on midrange sounds. Cymbals, softly brushed or smartly struck, came through with sheen from an otherwise silent space. My longtime reference for this is Oscar Peterson Meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore (CD, Telarc CD-83399); the 7T exquisitely delineated Lewis Nash's crisp drumming.
The 7Ts' imaging was as pinpoint and consistent as that of any speaker I've heard; individual voices and instruments were arrayed on a very deep stage that began at the plane described by the speakers' front baffles. I felt that the width of that stage was only moderate, but just for kicks, I switched from two- to three-channel listening, even though the center speaker was a different model altogether: a B&W 800 Diamond. Allowing for a slight change in voicing, the soundstage widened noticeably. I've often experienced this widening of the soundstage with matched speakers; I believe that, independent of the specific speakers used, it's a consequence of the redistribution of signals across the speakers. Given that I am a habitual listener to multichannel recordings, my demands for that wider stage are likely atypical, and perhaps unreasonable in the context of two-channel stereo.
I'm suspicious of superwide soundstages produced by only two speakers, because they are likely a result of uncontrolled listening-room reflections unrelated to what is on the recording. Still, the soundstage offered by the Aerials presented all ensembles in their appropriate and unconstrained aural spaces. This ranged from the intimacy of John Hammond's multi-instrument solo set, Rough & Tough (SACD/CD, Chesky SACD346), to the vastness of Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie in the stupendous recording by Hans Vonk and the St. Louis Symphony (CD, Arch Media Archives/Pentatone PTC 5186 320).
The Aerials offered the type of contrast between silence and sound that characterizes loudspeakersmost of them far more expensive than the 7Tthat are built with fanatical attention paid to the elimination of cabinet resonances. Whether it was a voice, a bass-drum thwack, or an exposed triangle, sounds just appeared, naturally faded, then disappeared, leaving nary a trace. "Yulunga (Spirit Dancer)," from Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (CD, 4AD 45384-2), is my standard test for contrast, and the 7Ts passed with flying colors. Even better, because of its unique venue and perspective for a rock recording is the Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Session (CD, RCA 8568-2-R), in which voices and instruments seem to just hang in space.
But I felt the strongest frisson from listening to "Finale," from producer-engineer Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast Collection: The E. S. E. Sessions (SACD/CD, Blue Coast BCRCD 1012). Following Glen Moore's bowed solo on his rich and gritty double bass, there's a long pause that makes many think the show is overthough not those who can hear the continuing soft ambience. Hang in for a bit and be startled by a brief, nonsensical monologue that seems whispered almost in your ear. This first fascinated me when I listened to it in multichannel. That a mere pair of Aerial 7Ts could pull this off was a testament to their clarity and neutrality.
I've already noted that the 7T's low frequencies weren't as powerful as that of larger, more expensive speakers such as the Sony SS-AR1 or my B&W 800 Diamonds. On the other hand, the Aerial's treble performance fell somewhere between those two references: more incisive than the Sony, a bit softer than the B&W. The 7T shared, to a lesser extent, the Sony's reticence in the upper midrange, just above the range of the human voice. In my room, the 7Ts produced a somewhat wider soundstage than the Sonys, but I've heard the SS-AR1s do magical spatial things in larger rooms. That the differences were small means that the Aerial 7T deserves to be considered in the rarified company of speakers costing nearly three times as much.
Some weeks ago, I came upon an Internet post that questioned why high-end audio reviews seem to rely on colorful adjectives, all of which the poster felt were pejorative: the ideal audio device should be completely neutral. He thought that reviewers should emphasize how products convey the emotional content of the music. My first thought was that I agreed about the importance of neutrality. However, most of the products I get to review are pretty good, and a description of their imperfections permits discrimination among competing products. Recounting how good most of them are and placing each on a scale of neutrality would make for very repetitive and short reviews.
This review is relatively short because the Aerial Acoustics Model 7T has few flaws. It may not be a perfect loudspeaker, but its overall performance provides a sense of presence and neutrality that makes listening to music through it engaging and untiring. It would be foolish to say that the Aerial is inexpensive at nearly $10,000/pair, particularly in the current economy, but it is the least expensive speaker that I could happily live with without second-guessing. The 7T is so good that it should provide any listener with joyful musical communication.