Audio Physic Virgo loudspeaker Page 6

Even while I acknowledge hearing that sonic signature—the sound of the stand-up bass, electric bass, kickdrum, timpani, and all of the other instruments in that region sounded so musically right, so convincing—I still wasn't quite certain what was going on. Perhaps measurements will help explain.

Details, details...
Like every other speaker in the world, the Virgo has colorations—an audiophile stranger could come in to your house and hear them in your speakers in a second. You get used to them, overlook them, and enjoy them—or you move on.

The character we're willing to accept, or can't help but reject, is why there are so many speaker brands, so many different sounds, and so many satisfied customers. When I read a speaker review that doesn't or can't reveal the fundamental character of a speaker—"character" as in it's making music of its own instead of just passing what it's fed—I figure the reviewer is either hopelessly smitten or incompetent.

The overall sound of the Virgo was on the warm, smooth side, which made its outstanding resolution and portrayal of inner detail all the more impressive. Well-recorded voices—male and female—came with noses, heads, and chests intact. When I listened to Doug MacLeod's outstanding AudioQuest release Come To Find (AQ 1027, LP) on the Virgos, I heard a genuine human being sitting in front of me—not a decapitated head or salivating, sibilant lips in space like you sometimes get. I also heard an acoustic guitar with strings attached to a hollow wooden body.

The Virgos got right the balance between the fingers plucking the strings, the resulting warm though clearly metallic sound, and the guitar body resonating. If you play acoustic guitar, you'll recognize the completeness of the Virgo's rendering of it here—and on other great guitar recordings, such as Michael Newman's Classical Guitarist (Sheffield Lab Direct-to-Disc Lab10), John Renbourn's Sir John Alot Of (Transatlantic TRA 167), or Bert Jansch's L.A. Turnaround (Charisma CAS 1090). I mention the last two because they're totally obscure—and probably unavailable.

The Virgo was by no means a polite speaker. On truly awful recordings—those bright, hard ice-jams we all know and hate—the Virgos took my head off like any other designed-to-be-flat speaker. It's just that some others—like the NHTs, which sound subjectively brighter—lopped it off faster and more painfully; all the better to listen to White Zombie's new Astro-Creep 2000 (Geffen 48062) CD on—and I mean that as a compliment.

The mid- to upper-frequency transition was skillfully accomplished, as was the speaker's octave-to-octave high-frequency balance. Listen to the Virgo's rendering of the difficult-to-reproduce clarinet on such recordings as Clarinet Summit (India Navigation IN 1062, LP/CD); Reference's excellent Ebony Concerto (RR-55, LP/CD); or even the record I suspect inspired the Reference, Meeting at the Summit (Columbia MS 6805, LP), with Benny Goodman playing music by Stravinsky, Bernstein, Copland, and Morton Gould. You'll hear and see that sweet licorice stick pretty much as you would if it was playing some distance in front of you in the concert hall. So sez my cousin Becky, the veteran clarinet teacher; even though she was blown away by the realism, she didn't exclaim "unbef***inglievable"—though she's been known to say that, and worse, on other occasions.

Other acoustic instruments—reeds, brass, strings, everything in the upper octaves—held together with the authority you would expect from this artfully constructed design. Strings sang with just the right mixture of bow and body. The saxophone was also skillfully rendered, with the right balance of reed, brass, and air coming from the bell. James Carter's The Real Firestorm CD (Atlantic 82742-2)—a dry, close-miked, analog recording—sounded skin-shivering convincing.

I also wouldn't be surprised if other measurements demonstrate a speaker that gets everything to your ears at the same time. That's because the Virgo's soundstaging and imaging were exceptionally good—totally stable and undeterred by changes in frequency. Images never slid from the middle of the stage onto the front baffles.

Images were rendered with three-dimensional authority at the front of the stage and layered through to the back and into the corners with equal believability. The center image offered outstanding focus and palpability, and it stayed put. When I moved my head off axis I could still hear it centered, but I heard the event from off to the side.