Aerial Acoustics 20T V2 loudspeaker Page 3

Changing to the Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblocks, however, required the tweeter to be set to its minimum sensitivity, perhaps because these amplifiers' increased low-frequency control threw the Aerial's top octaves into greater contrast. Even then, the marriage between the Aerials and the Parasounds was still too bright with early digital recordings, such as the SACD reissue of Peter Gabriel's Security (Geffen Chronicles 069 493623-2), an album I love for its music but deplore for its coarse-grained midrange and treble textures. The treble balance became more acceptable when the amplifiers had been on for 24 hours and were fully up to temperature, but the Simaudio amp still worked better with the Aerials than did the Parasounds.

The glory of the 20T V2s was their stereo imaging. The phantom image of a singer or instrument in the center of the soundstage is created in the listener's brain when exactly the same signal is being reproduced by the two speakers. With a pair of perfect speakers and a recording made without reverberation, this phantom image should occupy an infinitely narrow space midway between the speakers. In practice, the width of the image varies with frequency, depending both on such speaker problems as cabinet and drive-unit resonances and on room problems, such as strong reflections from sidewalls or from coffee tables, as well as on how the recording was made. In addition, the presence of reverberation in a stereo recording will give the impression of depth and modeling to that central image. But speaker and room problems will be quickly revealed by playing a dual-mono recording of pink noise, such as track 18 on Editor's Choice, and listening for any departures from a narrow central image.

Once they had been optimally set up, the Aerials passed this test with flying colors. The central image of the pink-noise signal was very narrow and didn't broaden or "splash" to the sides at any frequency. As a result, the 20T V2s managed to do something I deem very important: with appropriately made recordings, they didn't exaggerate the sizes of instrumental images. Vysehrad from Má Vlast, for example, opens with a declarative harp, followed by first a brass choir and then a woodwind choir, punctuated by a trumpet playing a rising-fourth motif. Not only was every instrument precisely positioned in the soundstage, the instruments all sounded realistically small. A trumpet is pretty close to a point source—it shouldn't stretch across the stage, as it can with some panel speakers, no matter how impressive that might sound. The Aerials got the trumpet right. And every other instrument!

Summing up
Of the state-of-the-art full-range, floorstanding speakers I've written about in the past two years, three stand out in my memory: the KEF Reference 207/2 ($20,000/pair, reviewed in February 2008), the Magico V3 ($27,000/pair, May 2008), and the Revel Ultima Salon2 ($21,998/pair, reviewed by Larry Greenhill in June 2008, with further comments from me in March 2009). Every one of these offers full-range or almost full-range low frequencies, superb dynamic-range capability, smooth and grain-free high frequencies, an uncolored, natural-sounding midrange, and the ability to throw a wide, deep, stable soundstage. I could live happily ever after with any one of them.

Aerial's 20T V2 joins that select group. Its treble is perhaps the silkiest of the four, though that ribbon tweeter's wide lateral dispersion means that the speaker will work optimally in larger rooms, or medium-sized rooms that are acoustically well damped. Its low frequencies are as weighty as those of the big KEF, yet even better defined. While its midrange is not quite the equal of the Revel's in ultimate neutrality, it still readily allows the music to flow unimpeded by sonic spuriae. And the accuracy, stability, and positional specificity of its stereo imaging are even better than the Revel's or the Magico's. The only downside is that the Aerial 20T V2 is more expensive than the other three speakers.

That doesn't prevent me from recommending it wholeheartedly. In his review of the original 20T, Michael Fremer concluded that "The Aerial Model 20Ts were among the most convincing, tonally neutral speakers I've heard, revealing and unraveling heretofore hidden musical and/or spatial details in almost every recording I played through them." The same can be said of the Aerial 20T V2: It's a winner!

Aerial Acoustics Corp.
100 Research Drive
Wilmington, MA 01887
(978) 988-1600