Triangle Esprit Comete Ex loudspeaker Page 2
This wasn't a curse at all!
Then I listened to Mendelssohn's Symphony 3, with Peter Maag and the London Symphony Orchestra (LP, Decca/Speakers Corner SXL 2246), and was pleased to hear not only the same timbral richness as in the Nick Drake, but a literally satisfying—not overwhelming, but perfectly satisfying—degree of bass weight in the lowest brasses and strings. The quality of the bass was a bit less dry than that of the Audio Note AN-E/Spe HE, with a bit more drumminess on some notes than the recording would seem to call for—yet without stooping to the sort of one-note bass of other reflex designs. The bass rolloff was fairly drastic, though, with some kettledrum notes in George Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's recording of Beethoven's Egmont overture (LP, London CS 6675) missing entirely, while others in the same line rang out nicely.
As with intimate pop recordings, the Comete's sense of scale with orchestral selections was appropriate to the material—in addition to which, its spatial qualities added significantly to my enjoyment. Listening to the Cometes from 7' away or so, I heard a really surprising, impressive degree of stage depth. Yet this goodly sized soundfield wasn't of the airy, phasey, fussy sort: The string sections on both sides of the stage had real substance. It isn't very often that stereo imaging and "soundstaging" impress me all that much; this was a happy exception.
Yet for all that, the Esprit Comete Ex did a satisfying job of reproducing old mono recordings: Other speakers deliver more substance and scale, but the Cometes sounded bigger and less fussy than I expected.
Back to stereo: Ravel's Piano Concerto in G (LP, RCA/Classic LSC-2271), with pianist Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer, Charles Munch, and the Boston Symphony, gave cause for more admiration. From the startling first bars, the Comete followed the music with sharp, right-sounding pitches and rhythms, as well as engagingly open and clear yet perfectly rich sound. But here, finally, was the first evidence that the Comete's bass was not as generous as that of other speakers: the piano didn't sound quite as big, heavy, or powerful as it should, nor did the orchestral bass drum toward the end of the first movement. The sense of touch on the piano was good, but not as good or convincing as that of the guitar in the Nick Drake track.
Spoken-word recordings sounded real and right, with no egregious colorations. In Procol Harum's side-long "The Worm and the Tree," from Something Magic (LP, Chrysalis CHR 1130), Gary Brooker sounded present and very much himself: not chesty, nasal, hooty, shouty, pinched, strained, or sore. The superb depth and tonal roundness that the Comete conferred on Chris Copping's electric bass and drummer B.J. Wilson's floor tom were also welcome. And while I don't know what the late actor Klausjürgen Wussow sounded like in real life any more than I understand his German, his recitations between and on top of the music selections on the Szell-VPO Egmont were convincing enough.
Best of all was that masterpiece of the choral repertoire, Vivaldi's oratorio Gloria, with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the evergreen Janet Baker (LP, Argo ZRG 505). Especially with the Cometes well away from the sidewalls, their excellent lateral imaging made it easier than usual to enjoy the manner in which the recording (not to mention the composer) hands the lead line through the various sections of the chorus, as in Et in terra pax. Similarly, in Domine Deus, the perspective between Baker and the chorus behind her was clearly laid out. And, of course, Baker's rich, powerful mezzo-soprano was reproduced with beautiful clarity and warm, human realism.
Flaws? The Esprit Comete Ex was the sort of product that seemed to have only forgivable shortcomings, and few of those. It lacked the overall drama and sense of touch often brought to the scene by other, more sensitive speakers. Surprisingly good though it was, the Comete didn't have as much bass as, say, the Audio Note AN-E/Spe, nor was it as sensitive—though, again, for a smaller, easier-to-place product that costs one-sixth the price, it did awfully well. And it wasn't quite as easy to enjoy off axis as the Audio Notes, whose very-high-frequency dispersion seems more consistent over a wider range of positions: With the Cometes firing straight ahead, sitting off to one side often put me in line with the tweeters—which, as I've said, was a less listenable perspective.
The Esprit Comete Ex is a fine thing: a much better and more musical loudspeaker than one usually finds at this price and size, or from such a mainstream company. It's a shame to think that some Cometes will end up in boring systems driven by boring amps playing boring CDs; having now heard the very sensitive Cometes driven by one of the finest amps on the planet and fed a reasonably steady diet of good recordings from a classic record player, I know what heights it can reach. By the end of a review period I'm often at least somewhat anxious to get rid of the product on loan, so I can go back to the things I know and love; the Cometes could have stayed here indefinitely, and I wouldn't have minded at all.
If you're looking to assemble a vinyl- or SACD-based system around a very-high-quality amplifier of 10–70Wpc, and especially if your living arrangement allows for nearfield listening to a loudspeaker placed well away from the room boundaries, the Triangle Esprit Comete Ex is a very strong recommendation. Unless something better for the price comes along, I could see the Comete Ex remaining in our "Recommended Components" list for an awfully long time, if not quite eternally.