Coincident Speaker Technology Super Conquest Series II loudspeaker Page 2
I tried the McCormack DNA-1 power amplifier, then the Sonic Frontiers Power-2, then—when it had been returned from a complete makeover by Steve McCormack—the DNA-1 again. But I just could not get a good, solid whomp out of the Super Conquest. The vacancy extended into the upper bass/lower midrange, where it drained force and depth from deep male voices. Baritone Thomas Hampson sounded too much like tenor Jerry Hadley in their big duet from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers (Teldec 73283). The brooding depths of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" (from I'm Your Man, Columbia CK 44191) were a little shallow and lacked menace.
Feverish but unsuccessful tweaking with the Z-Systems RDP-1 equalizer suggested that the problem was not entirely in the amplitude domain. The Super Conquest's nominal woofer/mid crossover is at 300Hz, and there is a panel resonance intentionally situated at 350Hz (confirmed with the knuckle-rap test). Moreover, the woofer is on the lower side panel, far from and aimed away from the midrange on the upper front. Blume contends that this arrangement minimizes interference between the drivers, but it also conspires to make it difficult to deliver smooth amplitude and phase responses in the region of male voice fundamentals. What to do?
Sailing into Port
As I sat down to translate these findings into text, my PC flashed "You have mail!" It was Israel Blume with the news that an improved, retrofittable port design for the Super Conquest was on the way. He said the new port "was done to tighten the bass of the speaker"; with it, "the low frequencies become more seamlessly integrated with the mids and highs." Is he psychic? Or was it merely...Coincidental?
The old, 3" ports were glued in; I had to unbolt the woofers and bang out the old ports from the inside. After destroying the old ones, it was easy to tap the new, 3 5/8" ports into place. And, with the woofers removed, I got a good look at the Super Conquest's innards: very solid construction with braced, asymmetric chambers for woofer and midrange; a few robust, high-quality crossover elements; and substantial hex-socket machine screws to secure the drivers. Well done.
The new port did not affect the Super Conquest's good performance in the upper-midrange and treble regions, but it certainly got the woofer to fill in the upper bass. Low male voices were now as well-balanced as the female ones had been, and Thomas Hampson and Leonard Cohen were resolutely macho. Lower bass, too, was more full, tight, and better defined. With the new ports, the once-flaccid Super Conquest now had some muscle tone, and was now thoroughly enjoyable on a wide range of music. Returning to the Buena Vista Social Club, I could now follow bass lines easily, and distinguish the various drums by tonality as well as by position. Macrodynamics and tonal balance were significantly improved, although I'd still characterize the Super Conquest as somewhat on the warm side of neutral.
This is not to say that the Super Conquest is the best thing since sliced bread. Their superb spatial presentation placed performers in a virtual extension of the listening room, but didn't convey a lot about the acoustic space in which they'd been recorded. Midrange transparency and grain were acceptable but unremarkable. The Super Conquest is fairly efficient; I drove my pair pretty hard with Reference Recordings' Exotic Dances from the Opera (RR-71CD), to which they responded without complaint, unleashing a huge orchestral torrent. However, the big bass drums were still a bit woolly; I had to play the speakers much louder than expected to get sufficient visceral impact. Some might describe this as a case of "slow" bass; due, I suspect, to residual problems with the woofer/midrange transition. On the other hand, bass quantity and extension per se were fairly impressive with organ pedals and string bass.
Happy with the Super Conquest except for its bass, I thought it might appreciate a little low-end goose from a subwoofer. I left the Coincidents to run full-range, and rolled in the littlest Canton powered sub, the AS 22 ($595), from 75Hz down. That was the finishing touch, for everything from Bernstein's Mahler 6 to Eddy Grant's electric bass! Large, complex ensembles such as my pet sonic spectacle, the Willow soundtrack (Virgin 90939-2), were impressive in size and weight. The Super Conquests' excellent imaging was now supported by an appropriately solid bass foundation.
I'd almost finished this review before receiving the new port; had I been swifter, I'd have described the Super Conquest Series II as substantially flawed. Sure, a pair of them could throw a soundstage that I could walk into, but the speaker's restricted dynamics, limited transparency, and poor bass would have precluded a recommendation. Fortunately, Israel Blume seems to have gotten things right in the end. The new port is essential; those who already own Series II Super Conquests are advised to contact their dealer about the revision.
My left brain states that the latest evolution of the Super Conquest is a wide-range system capable of generating a satisfying soundstage. It is easy to drive and can play quite loudly. The Super Conquest Series II has a slightly warm tonal balance and somewhat limited definition and slam in the bass. It may not pound your chest with Telarc's bass drum, but it will definitely reproduce it. (For cheap thrills, add a sub or try another hobby.)
My right brain says forget all that. The Super Conquests will array a wide, deep soundstage in the virtual space behind them. Instruments and voices will live in that space and rarely draw attention to the speakers themselves. The speaker will reproduce the human voice convincingly. For the two months that the Super Conquests were in my main system, their unassertive demeanor and generous imaging permitted me to listen through them and into the music. If your thing is acoustic music, classical or otherwise, you can buy a pair of Super Conquests, set them up right, and virtually forget them. Isn't life complicated enough?