Odeon La Traviata loudspeaker Page 2
The midrange presentation in my room measured better than it sounded because, no matter how much I tried to ignore it, I couldn't help but be aware of a consistent, subtle coloration—a mild bubble—in the midrange that messed with instrumental timbres. Whether it was due to a cabinet resonance, I don't know, but saxophones, which had sounded so intoxicating on the Toscas in Frankfurt, had an overlay that made an alto sound more like a tenor, while clarinets sounded bigger, thicker, and more like saxes.
I pulled out Clarinet Summit (India Navigation IN-1062) a reference-quality live recording that produces a delicate and accurate rendering of a clarinet quartet that includes a bass clarinet. While the venue's air and space were well suggested, I felt the timbres of the clarinets were not accurately rendered—or at least not as accurately as through my reference Audio Physic speakers. I upended the Traviatas and switched them to Less Bass in case that had something to do with it. It didn't—to my ears, the midrange coloration was still there.
I'm sure many listeners will be able to easily listen past the Traviata's sonic character to what the speaker does exceptionally well—just as fans of electrostats do. (Chalk it up to imagination or prejudice or what you will—when I listen to most electrostats, I hear the sonic underlay of a plastic panel vibrating, even as I hear spectacular resolution, speed, detail, and transparency.)
Most disappointing was that I was never able to achieve the kind of 3D imaging, soundstaging, and dimensionality I've gotten in my room with speakers using direct-radiating tweeters, such as the Merlin VSMs, Red Rose R3s, Amati Homages, Infinity Preludes, and Audio Physic Avanti IIIs. With the lights out, I didn't "see" the horns as much as I sensed two sources for the sound on the sides and the rest of the picture suspended between, instead of a single holographic sound picture before me. I know what's possible in my room, and I couldn't get it with the Odeons.
After three weeks of listening, adjusting (physically and mentally), and trying to maximize the horn experience, I replaced my Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 power amplifier with a tube amp of low to medium power: a Dynaco Stereo 70 retubed and tweaked by Alan Rauchwerger, who builds Virtual Image Audio amplifiers. With the Dynaco's tubey top and bottom (read: less extension on top and a big, voluptuous bottom), the Traviatas were more pleasing on top, but the bottom lost some of its resolve. Still, it was a worthwhile tradeoff; I kept the vintage Stereo 70 in the system for the rest of my listening.
With the Dynaco in the system, I made tentative peace with the Odeons and spend a great deal more time listening for pleasure. I tried Less Bass, but that just thinned out the less-resolved bottom without improving the overall balance. For my final two weeks of listening I found the Odeons pleasant and sometimes exciting, but never convincing as a low-coloration, high-resolution transducer—something that many modern $9500/pair loudspeakers are.
Odeon's La Traviata has a specified frequency response of 35Hz-24kHz, +/-3dB. Not in my room, my ears tell me. Perhaps because of the horns' speed, high sensitivity, and low distortion, there were aspects of the sound that I admired: The Traviata had a light-on-its-feet quality that was addictive, and its superfast transients were noteworthy. But as a whole, the system of woofer, port, and cabinet added up to a loudspeaker whose sonic signature I continued to hear even after a long period of acclimatization. And for $9500/pair, one should get a low-coloration speaker that can reproduce believable instrumental timbres.
I still remember what drew me to the Toscas at the Frankfurt HiFi show. But with the Odeon La Traviatas, I never achieved that kind of seamless sound in my system.