Apogee Duetta II loudspeaker Anthony H. Cordesman part 2

The bass characteristics of the Duetta II may well allow it to outperform the Scintilla and larger Apogee in most real-world listening rooms, and allow you to keep the room interaction, inevitable with dipole speaker designs, under exceptional control. This makes the Duetta II comparatively easy to place, provided that you obey the manufacturer's instructions and keep it 3-4' from the rear wall. Closer placement may also work quite well, but will almost inevitably reinforce some part of the deep bass at the cost of reducing other bass.

Mid and Upper Bass: The mid and upper bass are exceptionally flat. There is none of the slight emphasis or "warmth peak" found in the bass of the Caliper, and little of the room-interaction masking common in the larger Apogees—and any other large dipole speaker—when they are operated in reasonably sized listening rooms. There is exceptional detail in the mid and upper bass. As a former drummer, I could recognize more accurate percussion information in the mid and upper bass than with any other speaker I have heard. Only a really well set-up Quad ESL-63 system can compete with the Duetta IIs in this area, and that has trouble with the lower midbass.

Upper Bass/Lower Midrange: The exceptional, state-of-the-art, transparency that emerges in the mid and upper bass is sustained into the critical upper bass/lower midrange transition area. As a result, you may hear more from your records and CDs than you have ever heard before. The only uncertainty I can think of is that the match between the bass ribbon and combined midrange and tweeter seems to be equipment-dependent. Getting the best possible performance requires experimenting with different amplifiers, speaker cables, and room placement.

Even without such efforts, however, the upper bass/lower midrange transition area will still be very convincing, and few speakers ever made will give you a more realistic hall effect. I suspect that the use of the active crossover will also allow you to go one step further, and shift the overall spectral balance to give a more forward sound.

Mid-Midrange: This is the most critical area in reproducing music, and one where the Apogee Duetta IIs redefine the state of the art. Extended listening leads to a constant series of new discoveries of what is actually in recordings, without any surprises or unnatural emphasis. This detail is common to all Apogees, but the Duetta IIs are far more convincing than any previous Apogee I have heard—or any other speaker, for that matter. The Quad ESL-63, which has always been my reference standard in this area, has just been displaced by the Apogee Duetta II.

Upper Midrange: If the prototypes of the first version of the Duettas were a bit bright in this area, the present Duettas are so smooth that it is going to take you several hours to get over the shock of not hearing your usual speaker colorations. I found the Duetta IIs to be very listenable with virtually all material, even with their MRTs set flat (though I actually preferred the -2dB switch setting). Again, the level of resolution surpassed that of any speaker I have heard to date. If you rely heavily on CD, you simply must hear the Duetta IIs. No speaker has yet been able to get as much natural musical pleasure out of the better CDs, and, while you won't rush out to sell your record collection, this speaker also redefines the musical pleasure that CDs c an provide.

Upper Octaves: There is a mix of smoothness, well-chosen radiation characteristics, and transparent detail in this region that simply has to be heard to be believed. A real-time measurement with a one-third octave analyzer confirmed that the highs are very smooth and flat, and go on forever—or at least well above 20kHz. It's amazing how musical the highs can sound and still be there in full abundance.

Depth: Depth is excellent at normal listening levels, but be careful. The transparency of the Apogees, like that of the Quad ESL-63s and a few competing speakers, encourages you to listen at too high a level. This can collapse depth and give a feeling of loss of detail in dynamic peaks. Watch your listening levels. Play them loud, but by all means keep them natural.

Soundstage Width and Height: Speaker placement gives you so much control of width, without a hole-in-the-middle effect, that you can virtually create a soundstage to taste. The only speakers I have heard that are more realistic are the Infinity IRS and RS-1b II.

Imaging: A superb arc of instruments, with excellent placement in depth as well as from left to right.

Dynamics and Transient Handling: The speed of dynamic changes and the ability to handle soft, moderate, and loud transients is rivaled—if at all—only by the larger Infinity and VMPS reference monitors, although the Infinities and VMPSs can handle loudness levels above the 106dB level of the Duetta IIs. The practical result is a speaker that can play very, very loud, do so better than any electrostatic or Magnepan I have heard, and do so better than virtually all cone speakers.

You can drive the Duetta IIs to levels that compete with most other speakers, with just about any good power amplifier that puts out 100 watts per channel. While you can biamp, I strongly preferred using one stereo amp, and biwiring, to biamping without an active crossover. I wouldn't rush out to buy two amps, given the coherence and excellent power handling capability you can get with any good stereo 100-watter.