Acoustat 2+2 loudspeaker Page 2

The user can, however, exercise some control over this problem by judicious orientation of the speakers. The suckout is minimized by toeing-in the speakers so their axes converge right at the listening seat, but this may add a slightly hard, steely edge to the sound. Somewhere between this toed-in position and that with the speakers parallel to the back wall, you'll find the optimal combination on tonal correctness and imaging specificity.

The only real caveat about this speaker is one that applies to all systems with an electrostatic high end: it is shamelessly revealing of its source material. As an almost perfectly clear window on all that is fed to it, it reproduces every nuance of cartridge mistracking and electronics distortion in the signal. Thus, while the system itself only costs about $1000 per side, its introduction into your home is almost a guarantee that you will suddenly be unhappy with much of the other equipment you own.

System Compatibility
I tried these speakers on a variety of ancillary components. While they did very nicely with my standard Shure V15-V in an SME 3009 III tonearm through Acoustat's own TNP preamp and TNT-200 power amp, they sounded almost unreproachably good with the Robertson EK-1 cartridge and preamp and a Conrad-Johnson Premier One power amp. Even with that impressive lineup, I was hearing a small amount of harsh crud at the high end that I didn't care for.

If it is possible for a speaker to have too much detail, this is a candidate for that honor. It is certainly one of the most revealing loudspeaker systems one can buy, whether or not that turns you on. My personal feeling is that there are some things in reproduced sound that are better glossed over than heard, but at least a system like the Acoustat 2+2 gives you an opportunity (via its treble adjustment) to vary the amount of such detail you hear.

In general, I found the speakers to have far too much high-end "snap" to be listenable with most solid-state electronics. Even with the TNT-200, the Threshold S/500, and the Eagle 7a—all good or superb amps—there was more extreme top end than musical accuracy calls for. This was particularly true of Compact Disc reproduction, whose overtone and HF transient content were simply too much. Even with the tubed Premier Ones, CDs sounded most natural with the 2+2's high end pulled drastically down to around the 9 o'clock setting. This will not produce enough high end to satisfy most audiophile but it produces the most natural high end from CDs.

Stereo Imaging
With respect to imaging, although the 2+2s are much easier to set-up than the Model Fours, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of symmetry in their orientation. Following Acoustat's instructions for set-up will yield the best result. as long as they're followed exactly. Just 2° of toeing-in discrepancy (relative to the room's sidewalls), or even an inch difference in speaker-to-listener distance, can significantly impair the imaging. Even a small difference in the sidewalls' reflecting characteristics will cause a perceptible channel shift towards the more reflective side.

When everything is right on, the 2+2s should place a mono signal at dead-center and no more than 5% image spread towards either side. This stereo imaging accuracy and stability just wipes out anything I've heard previously from a large electrostatic. With the speakers placed as instructed, you can move to the side almost as far as one of the speakers before there is a noticeable shift of the stereo image. That's better than many dynamic systems can do, and far better than most electrostatics.

Unfortunately, there is no position that will enable the 2+2s to image as well as the really good minimonitors or satellite systems. In their best orientation, it will be possible for listeners on either side of the center position—the "sweet spot"—to hear good, balanced stereo, with the center position best.

Summing Up
In other words, I like this system as much as any full-range electrostatic I've heard. It doesn't provide quite as much old-shoe comfortable listenability as the less-revealing Watkins WE-1, but clearly surpasses the Watkins in terms of quickness and detail. Owning a pair of Acoustat 2+2s will also be a chastening experience for people who doubt that any power amplifier can be worth more than $2000. In fact, I had my own doubts about expensive amplifiers prior to the arrival of the Conrad-Johnson Premier One; now I would find the C-J—or the more lovely but less powerful Paoli S.O.B.—hard to do without, especially on these speakers. It's just unfortunate that both amps cost over $4000.

Finally, a word of warning to cat owners. These are the only loudspeakers I have ever had in the house that cats seem unable to refrain from climbing. My two cats, which haven't scaled a tree in three years, reduced the 2+2s' grille cloths to tatters in a couple of months. If you have cats that can't be kept out of the listening area, be prepared to have them declawed or accept the unattractive consequences.

Acoustat Corp.
Company no longer in existence