Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 loudspeaker Page 2
Most small audiophile loudspeakers give up the bottom octaves in a tradeoff for better midbass and less coloration in the midband. Like the $3500/pair Red Rose Music R3, which I reviewed last month, Infinity's $2000/pair Intermezzo 2.6 offered outstanding bass response without mucking up or slowing down the midband. The R3 accomplished this passively and with a port, the Intermezzo actively, with 250W packed into each sealed-box enclosure. The Intermezzo's response was somewhat more robust below 40Hz, but in my room at least, subjectively, the two opposite methodologies produced similar and equally satisfying results. The Infinity's powered woofer permits more personal tailoring, and of course gives the user the option to drive the tweeter with a tiny tube amp. It also seemed to be somewhat "faster" and more muscular, and could be pushed harder...but I wouldn't rate it as necessarily "better."
The Intermezzo's bottom end was surprisingly deep and robust, though of course it could not match the Prelude MTS's monstrous, stomach-compressing authority, or produce the midbass riches of the $20,000/pair Sonus Faber Amati Homages. No surprises there. But once my ears had acclimated to the Intermezzos, as they had to the R3s, I realized that the Infinitys' overall performance was so satisfying that I could live with them, at least for pop and small-combo jazz. But for full orchestral weight and the suggestion of the hall space, you do need those bottom few octaves.
Test pressings of Groove Note's direct-to-disc recordings of the Bill Cunliffe Trio (covered in May's "Analog Corner") arrived shortly after I'd set up the Intermezzos. Although I had no reference other than the giant Tannoy monitors in Bernie Grundman's studio, the low end through the Intermezzos was big, rich, and nimble.
Bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz's tone and texture were immediately recognizable, and the size and weight of the miked instrument (no direct amplified feed was used in the mix, though it was available) was beyond criticism. The bass sounded tightly focused, well-controlled, and harmonically pleasing, the recording capturing both the percussive string slaps and the body's woody resonances.
The 6½" drivers couldn't move the room air as effectively as larger speakers did on the Beatles' "Baby You're a Rich Man" or Davey Spillane's "Atlantic Bridge," both of which feature enormous amounts of deep-bass energy, but what was there suggested the intended effect at very high SPLs without distortion or strain. Few rockers will complain about the Intermezzo's bass weight or high SPL capabilities.
The Intermezzo was less satisfying on symphonic music, like Classic Records' reissue of Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony (RCA Living Stereo LSC-2341); the shoebox shape of Boston's Symphony Hall didn't suggest itself, and the lowest organ stops lacked weight. Same with Classic's 45rpm reissue of Mussorgsky-Ravel's Pictures at an Exhibition—the orchestral crescendos wimped out on the peaks, and the timpani lacked their full body weight and distinctive timbral signature. Overall, though, the bass performance from the pint-sized Intermezzos was damn impressive. If you're pressed for space and you love that bass, you need to check these out—especially if your room has a problematic "bump." If you need to keep your speakers close to a back wall, the Intermezzos can help you get reasonably deep bass without bloat or hangover.
Above the low bass, nonscientific measurements taken from my listening chair indicated a smooth response up to the 2.8kHz crossover frequency. The "presence" region, which had sounded dipped (and measured so) with the Red Rose Music R3s and made the sound relaxed and somewhat recessed, seemed elevated in the Intermezzos.
My RadioShack analog SPL meter was significantly up from the reference 1kHz tone between 3kHz and 6kHz, and the Intermezzos sounded that way: much more forward and far less forgiving of poor program material. This is probably one reason I preferred listening off-axis, and why, shortly after beginning my auditioning, I was drawn to my refurbished Dynaco Stereo 70, which proved to be the ideal companion for the Intermezzos. If my reference Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 has any fault, it's a bit of coolness. I craved some richness, which the Stereo 70 supplied.
Like the Prelude MTS, which uses the same tweeter and waveguide configuration, the Intermezzo's top-end response sounded subjectively smooth, free of grain, natural, and not at all bright or sizzly. In fact, listeners used to peaky tweeters might find the sound lacking in detail and transient snap until their ears adjust, at which point the enormous amount of inner and low-level detail the Intermezzo's tweeter is capable of revealing will become apparent. Still it won't be every listener's cup o' tea.
Putting It All Together
Combine metal drivers and a metal enclosure and what do you get? Nonmetallic sound.
When I auditioned the Cunliffe Trio's direct-to-disc recordings, I was immediately struck by the impressively natural, unboxy sound of the Hamburg Steinway. I'd heard this piano live before it was muffled with blankets and closed down for the recording, and later through the studio monitors. The close-miked recording was intended to capture the instrument's percussive, dynamic, rhythmic nature without shortchanging its sound board's resonant signature, and the deep, luxurious bass produced by the lowest key hammers hitting those long, thick, wound wires.