Aurum Cantus V2M loudspeaker Page 2

The V2M also effortlessly reproduced wide dynamic swings without smearing or obvious compression, behaving in this regard much more like a large floorstander than like a bookshelf speaker. The forceful dynamic swings of the spectacular Tchaikovsky symphony recording were reproduced in a precisely linear and organic fashion (from my notes: "the boom, the drama!"). The Kraftwerk track also produced an effortless sense of slam, aided by the speaker's ability to produce realistic bass transients (I'm curious to see John Atkinson's measurements of the V2M's low-frequency performance), which shook my listening room. Bookshelf speakers rarely do that.

The V2M's clean, uncolored midbass was quite impressive with all recordings I listened to. Scott La Faro's double-bass solo on "Gloria's Step," from the Bill Evans Trio's Sunday at the Village Vanguard (LP, Riverside/APO RCP 9376), was light, woody, and vibrant, with just the right amount of richness and warmth, but without a trace of overhang or coloration. It was Art Dudley who first pointed out to me how melodic a bass player Paul McCartney is. In "One After 909," from Let It Be...Naked (CD, Apple CDP 5 95713 2), his bass line was very clear and easy to follow in this late recording of an early tune by the best punk band to ever come out of Liverpool.

The Aurum Cantus V2M did one very impressive thing that no other speaker I've reviewed has. Its sound was so realistic, detailed, and coherent that, with every recording I tried, the music grabbed me and forced me to focus on it. I found it very difficult to use the V2Ms for background listening—they kept slapping me in the face, demanding that I pay attention. "Fruit Forward," from my jazz quartet Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2), opens with a pensive solo on fretless bass guitar by Chris Jones. Although from many hearings of this disc I knew every note that Chris was about to play, I found myself stopping what I was doing to stare at the aural image of his bass between the speakers, as if I were hearing him improvise this solo for the very first time. Toward the end of the track, I go off into a neoromantic piano cadenza. With the Aurum Cantuses, I marveled at the dynamic bloom of the reproduction of the Steinway D concert grand I was playing that night, and focused on the stunning realism of the speakers' rendering of the delicate sound of the instrument's top three octaves. When listening to "Melting"—from Of Mist and Melting, by my favorite guitarist, Bill Connors (LP, ECM 1120)—I normally focus on the dynamic counterrhythms drummer Jack DeJohnette sets up on his ride cymbals. This time, I was intoxicated by saxophonist John Surman's rendition of Connors' engaging melody, which the leader later repeats on acoustic guitar.

I compared the Aurum Cantus V2M ($1890/pair) with the Amphion Helium2 ($1200/pair), the Monitor Audio RS6 Silver ($1200/pair), and the Epos M16 ($1998/pair).

The Amphion Helium2 had silkier, more delicate highs than the Aurum Cantus V2M, though they weren't as extended or as detailed. However, the Amphion's bass extension and dynamics were inferior to the Aurum Cantus's.

The Monitor Audio RS6 Silver had deeper bass and more powerful dynamic contrasts. Its highs were as extended as those of the Aurum Cantus V2M, but not as clean or as delicate. The RS6 Silver also seemed just a touch brighter than the V2M, though its inner detail, retrieval of ambience and decay, and ability to render low-level dynamic inflections were just as good.

The Epos M16 has a wonderfully rich midrange and high frequencies that are as clean, delicate, and sophisticated as the Aurum V2M's, though the Epos is perhaps a touch less airy and "sparkling" on top. Its bass is deeper and tighter, however, and its midbass a touch cleaner, if not as warm. I also felt the dynamic capabilities of both the Aurum Cantus and the Monitor were better than those of the Epos.

Aurum Cantus should be applauded for brilliantly integrating a ribbon tweeter and moving-coil woofer into so rugged, attractive, compact, and affordable a package. The V2M has no meaningful flaw to speak of, and has several desirable features that I've never come across in a loudspeaker of this size and price. Anyone looking for a stereo pair of speakers for $2000 or under should give the V2M a listen.