Apogee Centaurus Slant 6 loudspeaker Page 2
Adjusting the rake angle is easy with the long front spikes and the short rear spikes—I tilted the 6es back considerably from a vertical position. (The greater the tilt-back, the less treble energy at the listening position.) Although Apogee recommends a reflective wall behind the 6es, I found that adding absorption smoothed the treble. Finally, I did nearly all my auditioning with the woofer switch in the "low" position, which produced the best quality of bass, at the expense of some weight and extension.
The Slant 6es were more fussy about setup than are most loudspeakers. There was only a small range of placement in which they excelled. In addition, the 6's treble balance varied greatly with listening height and the amount of tilt-back. You should be prepared to spend considerably more time with this loudspeaker than with most if you're to achieve the kind of performance I'm about to describe. Finally, make certain the 6es are set up optimally at your dealer before you audition them (footnote 2).
My initial favorable impressions of the Slant 6 were confirmed by extended listening after Jason left. I found that, rather than sounding like an improved variation on the Centaur Minor, the Slant 6 was a very different loudspeaker.
First, the Slant 6 was brighter and more forward in the upper midrange and lower treble compared to the Centaur Minor. In fact, I would characterize the Slant 6 as a bit on the bright side of reality—unusual for an Apogee product. Even with a low listening axis and a large tilt-back, the Slant 6 had a band of brightness in the lower treble that tended to emphasize detail. I wouldn't go so far as to call the Slant 6 etched or analytical, but it certainly was lively and immediate—in contrast to the Minor's more laid-back sound. Tape hiss sounded whiter and was more apparent through the Slant 6 than with the Genesis II.5. Similarly, vocal sibilance was a little excessive, and cymbals had a somewhat forward character. Further tilt-back decreased this character, but at the expense of top-octave air and extension.
Although the McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe had an excellent treble presentation for a solid-state amplifier of its price, these traits were greatly ameliorated by the super-smooth, liquid Audio Research VT150s. Careful system-matching is therefore critical with the Slant 6—avoid inexpensive solid-state power amplifiers and poor-quality digital sources that are inherently bright and dry in the treble.
The brightish character aside, the Slant 6's midrange was fabulous: open, transparent, and uncolored—the antithesis of boxy, closed-in, or congested. Instruments and vocals hung in a huge, transparent space that was totally detached from the loudspeakers. Female vocals in particular were well-served by the Slant 6, having a pure and open quality devoid of the resonances often associated with cone loudspeakers and their enclosures. With my eyes closed, the Slant 6 produced an uncanny sense of the vocalist appearing in my listening room. The speaker had no chesty coloration, no odd resonances to give a congested or "hooty" quality, and no sense of boxiness. Many $5000/pair cone loudspeakers don't approach this level of performance.
The tonal balance did, however, emphasize the upper midrange and slightly de-emphasize the lower midrange. This made midrange textures a little thin and threadbare, highlighting the harmonics over the fundamentals. For example, saxophone took on a slightly thin and reedy quality, rather than sounding warm, round, and rich. Piano had a trace of clanginess in the upper register, and woodwinds were missing some warmth and body. This character was mild, however, and wasn't a distraction to enjoying the music.
The Slant 6's soundstage was stunning, combining a feeling of expansiveness with pinpoint image specificity. Not only did the Slant 6 throw an amazing sense of depth, but it also revealed fine degrees of layering within that depth. Consequently, the depth wasn't just a washed-out morass, but a finely delineated and articulated resolution of a recording's spatial information. I could hear precisely the front-to-back location of instruments, all the way back into the soundstage's innermost depths.
"Festival Day in Seville," from the HDCD Sampler (Reference RR-S3CD), is a particularly good track for hearing soundstage layering. The Slant 6 did a superb job of decoding all the spatial nuances Keith Johnson managed to capture in this recording (particularly when HDCD-decoded). In addition, image outlines were razor-sharp and tight, surrounded by a transparent expanse of air and space. Images had a beautiful sense of bloom around them, making the music seem to hang in transparent, three-dimensional space in the listening room.
Significantly, the Slant 6 changed its spatial perspective with the recording, becoming small and intimate when the recording called for it—as on the terrific new Doug McLeod disc, Come to Find (AudioQuest AQ 1027). Overall, the Slant 6's resolution of spatial information was superb by any measure, but particularly impressive for a $2000 pair of loudspeakers.
The Slant 6's bass performance was vastly better than that of the Centaur Minor. The low-end extension was deeper, dynamics were more powerful, and the 6's woofer was able to play at higher levels without getting into trouble. When listening for pleasure, the Slant 6 had an excellent bass balance, with a good feeling of weight and power. The sense of weight came, however, from the bass and midbass, not the low bass.
Listening critically to the bass, I was aware of the lack of deep extension and somewhat warm and "plummy" midbass—you wouldn't mistake the Slant 6 for a sealed, overdamped design. But when I got out of the analytical auditioning mode, the Slant 6's compromises were so well-concealed that I was able to enjoy the music and forget about the loudspeakers. In fact, a visiting friend found the Slant 6's bass performance one of the loudspeaker's best qualities. Many loudspeakers with an overly ripe midbass tend to irritate over time and intrude on the music. Not so the Slant 6—its overall bass balance and performance was musically satisfying, even over a wide range of demanding music.
I also found the bass dynamics excellent. The low-tuned toms on John McLaughlin's Qué Alegria (Verve 837 280-2) had good punch and impact. Moreover, I was able to play the Slant 6 very loudly and not hear woofer problems. Even the bass-drum whacks on Trittico (Reference RR-52CD) didn't bottom-out the woofers, although the bottom-end extension was a little lacking—as you'd expect from a $2000 pair of loudspeakers. Note, however, that I've been spoiled by the $22,000 Genesis II.5, with their four 12" servo-driven woofers powered by a dedicated 800W power amplifier. Nonetheless, the Slant 6's bass articulation, extension, and dynamics were much better than those of the Centaur Minor.
I heard two qualities from the Slant 6, both of which are very hard for cone loudspeakers to achieve: transient speed and lack of overhang. So many loudspeakers smear the energy of a transient attack (such as the pluck of acoustic guitar or the sharp edge of percussion instruments) over time, muting the attack and prolonging the decay. The result is a lack of life and immediacy, loss of detail, and another clue that you're listening to reproduced music. The Slant 6 excelled at presenting the dynamic nuances of music.
The Slant 6 did an excellent job on Jorge Strunz's and Ardeshir Farah's Frontera (Milestone MCD-9123-2), conveying the attack of the two acoustic guitars without sounding over-etched. The sound of the guitars was devoid of muddiness or overhang. As a result, I was able to hear each guitar as a separate instrument, and every note was clearly articulated—even during the high-speed dual leads. Another benefit of this transient zip was the superb resolution of low-level detail. The Slant 6 was highly resolving of recorded detail, although the detail was on the forward side of reality, owing to the somewhat brightish presentation.
Finally, the integration of the dynamic woofer and ribbon midrange was excellent. Listening to acoustic bass, piano, cello, and other instruments whose range traverses the crossover point revealed a smooth, relatively seamless transition.
Apart from the critical auditioning, I spent many an enjoyable evening of music with the Slant 6 (particularly when driven by the VT150s). In this fundamental ability to involve the listener in the musical experience, I have nothing but praise for this affordable loudspeaker.
The Apogee Centaurus Slant 6 gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. This loudspeaker does things you just don't hear from $2000/pair cone loudspeakers. Its midrange transparency, openness, resolution of detail, and soundstaging were first-rate. I was also greatly impressed by the Slant 6's transient ability—the sound was quick and detailed, with no overhang or slowness. Many much-more-expensive speakers aspire to the Slant 6's level of transparency. Although not the Slant 6's strong suit, the bass was musically satisfying and well-balanced, though lacking the clarity and extension of some loudspeakers in the $2000 price range (the Snell Type D, for example).
Careful system-matching and setup are critical to getting a musical sound. The Slant 6's tendency toward brightness suggests that forward, dry, solid-state amplifiers should be avoided. A sweet-sounding tubed amplifier of sufficient power, or a solid-state amplifier with a clean treble (such as the McCormack DNA-1 or DNA-0.5), is ideal. Also, be prepared to spend some time experimenting with placement and tilt angle to get the best performance from the Slant 6.
Footnote 2: A pair of Slant 6es I saw set up for demonstration at a dealership didn't even have the spikes installed.