Perlisten S7t loudspeaker

I received an email from a longtime press representative I've known for years, telling me about a new loudspeaker company he's representing. The company is bursting from the gates with a line of products that includes floorstanders, standmounts, wallmounts, surrounds, center channels, and a range of subwoofers.

Looking at the pictures, the products do look much more elegant, well made and ambitious than those from the usual hi-fi startup, but still, I'm thinking, I've heard a lot of clever and ambitious fluff like this before: a full-blown catalog of home theater–friendly speakers and, as is common these days, manufactured in China.

I beg off saying that I'd really like to find out who is behind this and, if at all possible, some rather granular technical detail about, say, the big floorstander. Put up or shut up.

Shortly thereafter, I got what I asked for but didn't expect: specific and detailed answers to my questions.

"Perlisten" is short for Perceptual Listening. The company was conceived and organized during the period 2016–2019. They designed and produced their first six products in 2020 and made their worldwide debut in 2021. The principal managers are Daniel Roemer and Lars Johansen, both of whom have long résumés that include technical and management positions with major speaker companies.

Second, and more significant to me, Perlisten provided detailed technical and test-and-measurement data that is well beyond what is common in this industry.

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Hi-fi companies, like other companies, always offer poetic blandishments and dwell on certain physical enhancements perceived as being marketable. Perlisten, of course, also makes marketing claims—but the company also presents data: graphs of frequency response (on- and off-axis), impedance, phase, and distortion, and spectrograms showing off-axis response along vertical and horizontal axes. Floyd Toole's work made a strong case for such measurements (footnote 1), which these days are most often obtained with a Klippel Near-field Scanner or a similar proprietary system, but few companies publish such detailed information about their products. I hope Perlisten's transparency will encourage other companies to provide this information (footnote 2).

While such transparency doesn't assure a slam-dunk, it grabbed me by the collar and shouted "We are serious!" So I asked for the big floorstander, the S7t.

The Perlisten S7t
When the S7t's arrived, I was glad to have help setting them up—definitely not a one-person job. Three masked men—Steve Jain of Fidelity Imports, his son Ethan, and a friend—made quick work of assembling and positioning the S7t's, which came in a spectacular Gloss Ebony finish. The substantial-looking rectangular cabinet bears what at first glance appears to be five drivers mounted to a thick, meticulously sculpted front panel. On the rear is a glamorous polished brass panel with two massive pairs of multiway binding posts fitted with jumper plates. Below that is a perforated rectangular metal grille that is echoed on the side panels; they function as the vent when the S7t is used in its standard, bass-reflex mode. A 27.5lb steel plate attached to the base supports four adjustable outrigger feet. Spikes are optional.

When you look closer, you see that the S7t has seven drivers, not five. Four of those—two on bottom, two up top—are 7" (180mm) woofers. Between them is a carefully contoured waveguide—an acoustic lens—that is roughly the same size as the woofers. Its central element is the 28mm (1.1") beryllium-dome tweeter. Closer examination reveals two additional 28mm domes embedded at the top and bottom edges of the lens so that their perforated covers preserve the lens's contour; these domes are made from "thin-ply" carbon. Perlisten calls this central assembly the Directivity Pattern Control (DPC) waveguide. This feature is central—literally and figuratively—to Perlisten's Signature and Reference speakers.

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These flanking carbon-dome drivers together function as a midrange driver; the central beryllium dome is, as you might expect, a tweeter—although Perlisten calls it a "fullrange tweeter." The DPC controls horizontal and vertical dispersion—the latter effect minimizing early reflections from floor and ceiling. The dome midrange drivers have much less moving mass than a traditional midrange cone, which should result in better transient response, lower distortion, and higher efficiency. (Perlisten specifies the S7t's sensitivity at 92dB/2.83V/m.)

While the Perlisten spec sheet calls the S7t a four-way system, it is by no means a typical four-way. The top and bottom woofers are slowly rolled off around 500Hz; the other two (sandwiching the DPC) roll off about an octave higher. All three drivers in the DPC come into operation around 1.1kHz. The peripheral carbon domes roll off at about 4.4kHz. The central beryllium-dome tweeter extends up to and beyond the top of the audible band; the specified upper end of the S7t's range is 37kHz, –10dB.

It was apparent to me that the transitions between the large cones and the domes and the central dome and the flanking ones would require something other than classic textbook crossovers. Roemer confirmed that it is "atypical" and that there is "greater overlap" than one often finds among the drivers. He also said that he didn't much like specifying crossover frequencies "because this implies [a] traditional approach." Perlisten's approach, he told me, was to "not think in terms of manipulating driver+Xover to match a set of electrical filter ideals," ie, fourth-order Butterworth, and then to force each driver to handle a specific bandwidth. Instead, they wanted it "all to work together to meet the design goals" and to "create a single coherent wavefront." This, he said, is "where speaker imaging comes in" and "how the speakers can virtually disappear." He suggested that I "walk toward the speaker while playing some music with vocals, keeping your head approx. on the main axis." He indicated that I would find that "it is difficult if not impossible to point to a single transducer creating the sound."

"This makes for a rather complex X-over, but well worth it given the outcome," he said.

Unusually, Perlisten speakers are designed to be used either sealed or bass-reflex (ported)—the latter achieved by plugging the down-firing port. Throughout this audition, I listened in bass-reflex mode, which, according to specifications, extends the response down to 22Hz (–10dB), with in-room response down to an impressive 16Hz.

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Listening
Initially, the S7t's were placed where my Revel Ultima Studio2s had been. My first impression was of a full and clean sound, which I found quite pleasing. After a short time, I realized that the soundstage seemed crammed between the speakers and that imaging was a bit vague. I was enjoying the clarity of the mid and low bass and very good dynamics but, overall, it was not what I expected. I removed the speaker grilles, but that yielded no improvement.

My eyes were drawn to the DPC array, the treble source, which was situated significantly lower than tweeters on most floorstanding loudspeakers. The central tweeter dome is 32" from the floor, lower than typical ear height and lower than my ears at my sofa (38"). I adjusted the front feet to tilt the speakers up a bit so that the speakers' axes were aimed at my head, but that made no audible difference. I asked Dan about it (while not admitting what was going on). He then told me, in detail and with illustrations, that the "S7t has a 2° tilt back" and that the "design reference axis is at the 2° angle (meaning, it is much higher at a distance)." Consequently, at my initial listening distance of about 12', the reference axis of the tweeter is at 37¼". My ears, at 38", were quite close to that axis. In fact, at 12', the ±2° window encompasses ear heights from 32–42"; at 10', the ±2° window ranges from 32" to 40 3/8".


Footnote 1: Toole's book, Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, is in its third edition. Kal's Stereophile review of the first edition can be found here.

Footnote 2: I'm sure that one reason Perlisten is so forthcoming with measurements is that the S7t's measurements are so outstanding.—Jim Austin

COMPANY INFO
Perlisten Audio
807 Liberty Dr.
Verona, WI 53593
(414) 895-6009
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
rt66indierock's picture

I'll take the robaot over any reviewer as long as Paul Seydor's wife Danielle says it desn't sound like hi-fi. Now I'm down to the age old question, will it play my reference albums and recordings?

Kal Rubinson's picture

What is a robaot?

rt66indierock's picture

The Kippel is an important tool to measure speakers. Kind of a shame Amir is the only reviewer using it.

John Atkinson's picture
rt66indierock wrote:
The [Klippel] is an important tool to measure speakers. Kind of a shame Amir is the only reviewer using it.

While I have personally spent >$50k on test equipment over the years, the $100k the Klippel NearField Scannner costs is out of reach for me financially. :-(

There is also the fact that the Klippel needs to be used in a space with a 10' ceiling height, which is not feasible in my NYC home.

Nevertheless, I don't feel my loudspeaker measurements are lacking.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

rt66indierock's picture

for a discussion of measuring techniques for loudspeakers. I'm going to use measurements from a Klippel when I can. I don’t use yours because I want to measure speakers myself. And of course, play my reference albums and recordings in an environment I control.

I recently acquired a new SUV and have heard six tracks from my reference albums in the last month. It will be an adventure to adjust the audio system to play them reasonably well.

remlab's picture

also uses Klippel, but for what it's worth, JA's measurements do get the job done, except for maybe loudspeaker THD measurements.

John Atkinson's picture
remlab wrote:
. . . for what it's worth, JA's measurements do get the job done, except for maybe loudspeaker THD measurements.

Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

remlab's picture

vs Klippel is A little like Garry Kasparov vs Deep Blue. Deep experience vs pure processing power. Each obviously has their strengths and weaknesses.

SamTroft's picture

Dont know who Amir is but Erin's Audio Corner has been using Klippel for his reviews.

dc_bruce's picture

While it certainly seems possible that system of this size could be set up for bass extension to 20 Hz (-3dB), the designers apparently have made a choice to forego that in favor of a bit more efficiency. Given that most home listening environments have a 3 to 6 dB boost in the 40-50 Hz range, it's likely that, in-room, this speaker is "flat" to below 40 Hz. The result, according to Kal's report is plenty of bass power (undistorted, uncompressed loudness) achieving a sense of realism that most people want. As Mr. Austin's footnote advises, those wanting 20 Hz extension can always add a subwoofer or two (of equal dynamic capabilities to the main speakers) in order to hear the "hall sound" and other ULF. Given that most subs feature self-adjusting room correction, this probably would result in better sound than a totally passive, uncorrected single "full-range" system of equal LF extension.

Jack L's picture

.........uncorrected single "full-range" system of equal LF extension." quoted dc bruce.

Hi

IMO, SURELY not "probably".

My experience tells me active sub(s) when blended properly with any "full-range' loudspeaker system will surely improve its ULF than without.

I finally get back the music I missed soooo much before without my active subs installed!

Listening is believing

Jack L

BluesDog's picture

No small feat competing well against your Revels. Also would you say it plays better ported or sealed?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Dunno. Only used them as ported, at the recommendation of the distributor/installer. Also, despite their supposed good accommodation for subs in the sealed configuration, a domestic speaker of this size would most likely be employed in stereo in most systems and would be expected to perform well without subs.

BluesDog's picture

Thanks, Kal. How far from the front wall would you say is prudent?

Kal Rubinson's picture

??? Prudent in what way?

BluesDog's picture

As far as I’m concerned John and Kal are among the best there is at what they do. They are in Elysium, which we can almost grasp but which enlightens us and helps us to be better. John will always be the standard by which all testers and their equipment are measured. I’ll take John’s meticulous approach, scientific consistency and sheer will over anybody else and the latest “Flux Capacitor” out there. John gets my lifetime vote as the Michelangelo of testing components and speakers. Kal consistently produces gem reviews with insight and music choices that unearth a speaker’s capabilities. We, as readers, get a frequent real treat from John, Kal and the rest of the Stereophile Audiophile Squad!

John Atkinson's picture
BluesDog wrote:
I’ll take John’s meticulous approach, scientific consistency and sheer will over anybody else . . .

Thank you. I appreciate your comments. About consistency: I have always felt that consistency of approach to testing and the presentation of the results is important. The loudspeaker tests in Stereophile feature a common format that allows a speaker's measured results from 30 years ago to be easily compared with those of current-day models.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Dan Nagar's picture

Thank you for an amazing review about amazing speaker.

this one as all the bass needed .

the issue with sub woofer integration should be considered in every system and its not related (always) to fronts speakers extension or specific in room response( again - in terms of room gain)

sub or multiple subs - configured correctly will give a much smoother response .

thank you again

Jack L's picture

Hi

Hopefully the speakere driver units are NOT made in China as well !!!

Jack L

jmsent's picture

..are all made in China. They appear to be excellent performers.

Lee Robert's picture

No disrespect but I will wait for a more credible review before I seek these out for a demo.

Kal Rubinson's picture

If you doubt our credibility, you can easily find several other reviews out there but, of course, I cannot vouch for their credibility.

Ortofan's picture

... a better way for 'Lee Robert' to have phrased that comment, rather than "wait for a more credible review."

Following is a link to another review (that includes a set of measurements) and their results essentially confirm the findings of KR, along with those of JA1.
https://www.audioholics.com/tower-speaker-reviews/perlisten-s7t

rschryer's picture

From whom?

Kal Rubinson's picture

My remark was not to impugn other reviewers nor did I intend to provide links to other reviews but as directive in response to the implication that our review was less credible than other, yet undefined, reviews. They do exist and Mr. Robert should use Google to seek them out.

BluesDog's picture

I can’t believe how many people engage in what the Brits would term “rather shirty” remarks just for attention. People the caliber of Kal and John have WAY better things to do then defend themselves from what radio announcers were forced to call “bullsch.” I read another article about the Perlisten S7t with testing. While a good and decent article, Stereophile is always the gold standard. It’s like comparing Double AA or Triple AAA baseball players to the Gods of Baseball, Sheesh! Long after the universe has shrunk to it’s last dying star, people will be saying about Stereophile reviewers, especially Kal and John, To add lib Aztec 2Step: There will never be a faster gun or another one like you are!

So to snarky readers here is what bikers would have to offer: Sit down, shut up, and hold on!

BluesDog's picture

Amen!

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