Infinity Composition Prelude P-FR loudspeaker Sam Tellig
"You're listening to the Jadis SE300B amplifiers with the Infinity Composition speakers?" a certain Stereophile reviewer asked, with a touch of disapproval in his voice.
"Yes, why not. Very efficient. Recommended for use with amplifiers with as little as 10 watts of power. What's more, the Jadis amplifiers and the Infinity speakers look very elegant together."
"Well, I don't know. But those Jadis amplifiers are very soigné, shall we say, and they would seem to demand equally refined speakers."
"The Infinitys are soigné!" I exclaimed. "Bien sur," I added for emphasis.
You see the thanks a manufacturer gets for selling speakers at a bargain price.
I received the Infinity Composition Prelude P-FRsthe two stereo speakers, not the complete Home Theater system, which includes a center speaker and two surroundsand immediately set them up in the living room, where I had recently installed the Jadis SE 300Bs.
Wow! Was Harley right about the aesthetics of these speakers! They are gorgeous. With their curved Art Deco lines, they remind me of the furniture you might see in a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie from the 1930s. Talk about tasteful!
Like most speakers, the Infinitys take a while to break-in. I used the McCormack DNA 0.5 amplifier to give them a good 80 hours of run-in, with various noise tracks, including Track 20 of Stereophile's Test CD 3. Then I switched back to the Jadis SE300Bs.
Soigné? Mais oui!
As Bob Harley heard, these speakers throw a very convincing soundstage. In fact, they're soundstage champsmore like small box speakers than big floorstanders. With the right materialespecially with analogthe soundstage can stretch far beyond the width of the two speakers. The soundstage even stretched beyond the width of my room13' by 26' (I have the speakers about 4' out from a narrow wall). This is the kind of soundstage that audiophiles pay big, big bucks for.
As Bob described in his review, each speaker uses four 5.25" lower-midrange drivers, two 4" upper-midrange drivers, one 1" soft-dome tweeter in the middle of the column, and a single 12" powered, side-firing (toward the wall) subwoofer built into the base. What surprises me is how seamlessly these drivers integrate, even when listening up close, say, 4' from the speakers. An even bigger surprise is how smoothly the powered woofer integrates into the total sound.
The temptation for the manufacturethis is Home Thee-ate-r, after allwould be to make the bass boomy and overbearing. What Infinity did is just the opposite. They made the bass tight, tuneful, and restrainedso as not to muddy up the overall sound. If you have any doubts about whether these speakers are suitable for serious music listening, just banish them right now.
Just as the bass is restrained, so, too, is the treble. This isn't one of these audiophile speakers with a treble that can bite your ears off and (for me) make chamber music, especially on CD, unlistenable. String quartets can sound immediate and alive through these speakerssweet, refined, detailed.
And jazz? Because there's no bass overhang, because there is, indeed, a remarkable lack of boxy coloration with these speakers, jazz sounds crisp, clear, rhythmically alive. And harmonics, especially with the Jadis SE300B? Don't ask. Like I said before, if you listen to the Jadis SE300B, you run the serious risk of having happen to you what seems to have befallen the normallywell, soigné scribes of Haute Fidélité. You may go stark raving mad, too.
Ordinarily I listen to these speakers from a distance of about 15'more than is optimal, but this is my living room, after all. From this distance, the soundstage is dramatic, convincing, palpablebut, well, distant. If Marina's not home to disapprove, I sometimes move the chair to where I am 6' or even 4' from the speakers. This gives me much more apparent soundstage depth than the more distant listening. The point I am trying to make is that these speakers do the soundstage thing for both distant and nearfield listening. The seamless integration of the drivers holds up even when you move far forward.
What's more, in my living room, the speakers present a soundstage that stretches from floor to ceilingnot like some speakers, including the Thiel CS.5, where the soundstage hovers rather closely to the floor, giving you the feeling that you're listening from the balcony.
Is there a downside to the Infinitys, aside from the fact that they may not cost enough to impress your audiophile friends?
At $3000 a pair, it seems downright churlish to criticize them, let alone complain, because these speakers do so many things so right. But, as Harley noted, the sound is a little lean in the upper bass/lower midrange. This means that the sound can lack dynamic weight or driveespecially when used on a single-ended triode tube amplifier like the Jadis SE300B.
Bigger amps, both tube and solid-state, give more weight. I got spectacular results using the Infinity Compositions with the Quicksilver M135 monoblocksthese big tube amplifiers fleshed out the sound down below in a way that the Jadis SE300Bs couldn't manage, though with some loss of overall delicacy and transparency.
But is this leanness really a drawback?
In combination with low-powered, single-ended triode tube amps, perhaps. Like I just said, you can certainly mitigate and perhaps even overcome this leanness by using a well-chosen, more powerful amplifier.
But I wouldn't have Infinity change this speakernot that they would, anyway. So far as I'm concerned, it's far better to have bass that tends toward leanness that flat, flabby, out of control bass.
I'll bet, too, that these speakers don't sound so lean when they're used in the typical Home Theater installationwith a center channel and surround speakers. I used to have a four-channel system, way back when quadraphonic sound was the thing. Even when you add small, bass-shy surround speakers to a pair of front-channel speakers, you increase the apparent bass response and the dynamics of a system. I'll bet the full Infinity system sounds plenty dynamic. Plus most Home Theater buffs use A/V receivers, so they can always goose the bass via the tone control.
Can you do better than a pair of Infinity Compositions? Overall, at the price, maybe not. I have, however, heard speakers that give more apparent treble detailusually speakers using a metal-dome tweeter. Along with that detail, though, there often comes a hint of hardness and possible treble fatigue...or even a case of metal-dome tweeteritis. I'm not so sure that a good soft-dome tweeter, as used here, isn't better.
I think the resolution of these speakers approaches the resolution of the very best, but it doesn't quite get there. And maybe speakers, as a rule, shouldn't quite get there. Perhaps the cost of super resolution, in speakers, is such that it's not worth paying the penalty in terms of listening fatigue. I can listen to the Infinity Compositions for hours with very "difficult" treble materialstring quartets and the like. Go for more resolution at your own risk.
I also feel that the Infinity Compositions are surpassed, although not by much, in their soundstaging abilityand particularly by small minimonitors such as the ProAc Tablette 50 Signature, which is currently running in my main listening room. But the ProAcs can't seem to lift the soundstage and fill the room with sound the way the Compositions can.
So, as you see, I quite agree with Bob Harley that these speakers are a findmore than that, they're a steal at the price. The only disagreement I might have with Bob is his tying the speakers so closely with small, single-ended, triode tube amps. I think they can be used successfully with other amplifiers as well, both tube and solid-state.
I can't forget how well these speakers combined with the 135Wpc Quicksilver M-135 monoblocksrich, full, dynamic, a truly spectacular soundstage. These speakers would probably match extraordinarily well with such moderately powered, conventional push-pull tube amplifiers as the Conrad-Johnson Premier 11a or the Audioprism DebutI would guess that with these you'd have all the power you need, and without the leanness. The new Pass Laboratories Aleph 3 30Wpc single-ended solid-state stereo amplifier might be an excellent choice, too.
I'd love to hear what the Jadis amplifiers do in my system with a good pair of horn speakers. If I fall in love with a pair of hornsmy wife, Marina, said I have a pair of horns alreadymy course of action regarding the Infinity Compositions is simple.
I'll use them in my Home Theater setup.Sam Tellig