Bozak Concert Grand B-410 loudspeaker Wes Phillips Listens

Sidebar 4: Wes Phillips Listens to the Bozak B-410 Concert Grand

I've always considered Bozak's B-410 Concert Grand to be the speaker that got away. In 1971, I spotted it in a book about building high-performance loudspeakers, and audio lust ensued. Four 12" woofers per side—wow! So when John Atkinson and Peter Breuninger began discussing the logistics of measuring the Bozak for Peter's new feature, I made sure I could tag along. "I have two pairs," Peter said. "Maybe Wes could listen to one pair while John measures the other." Yes!

It's probably a good thing I didn't get a pair of Concert Grands back in 1971, because if I had I might have never had the dissatisfaction and urge to upgrade that has made me into the neurotic audiophile I am today. I'm sure the Bozaks are as good as they ever were—it's I who's changed.

First up was Del McCoury's cover of Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," from Del and the Boys (CD, Ceil 2006). I thought that Rob McCoury's zingy banjo overtones would tell me a lot about the Bozak's HF extension—and they did. The Concert Grand was reasonably adept at capturing the brittle "pop" of metal pick on string, but this is an area where modern tweeters definitely have more snap and ring. The stock Grands didn't have all the banjo presence and sparkle of the real thing—or of a contemporary high-end monitor. Del's vocals sounded a trifle laid-back and big, too—which is not exactly the way he sounds. McCoury's voice has that Tennessee nasal clang, and the Bozak mellowed out its bite. The bottom end was punchy and extended, but a little loose and warm.

Next, I listened to Renée Fleming's Haunted Heart (CD, Decca 4406-2), to hear how the Grand would handle her throttled-down soprano.

Oh my! Sweeter than honey and warmer than a New Orleans summer. But I was also aware that Fleming seemed a bit too big—too warm. There was another thing: Her "head" voice came from higher up in the speaker than her "chest" voice. Perhaps the mid crosses over to the tweeter right in the middle of her range—it seems unlikely, but that's how it came across. This isn't disturbing if you're not obsessed with re-creating a scale model of the performer in your living room, but I did find it hard to ignore.

I also listened to Ryan Adams' "Sweet Carolina," from Heartbreaker (SACD, Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 7002), which, for all its tonal purity, has a soundstage balance that sounds too "left-channel-centric" on most systems. The Bozaks put Adams more center stage and Emmylou Harris' backup vocals extremely close to his lead rather than fairly deep in the soundstage, as I'm used to hearing them.

This sounds like a litany of complaints, but listening to the Concert Grands was, by and large, simply luverly. Yes, the bass could have been tighter, and there was almost none of the sonic holography many audiophiles now consider indispensable. On the other hand, the sound was big and detailed without sounding etched or edgy. In the same way that some performance spaces amplify and enhance the sound of the music taking place in them, the Bozaks seemed to exalt the music I played through them. I loved listening to the Bozak Concert Grands the way I love going back to my hometown. They were familiar and different at the same time—and while I was listening to them, I kept fantasizing about how nice it would be to live with them.

But later that evening, I sat down in my listening room and cranked up "Sweet Carolina" on the Canton Vento 809 DCs I reviewed in the June issue. This is where I live now, I thought, as I was transported into Adams' sonic world. It may be a smaller and more complicated place, but it's the way I hear things now.

The past is another country. I wouldn't want to live there, but I can certainly understand its appeal. That goes double for the Bozak B-410 Concert Grand.—Wes Phillips