Energy Connoisseur C-2 loudspeaker Page 2

I was equally impressed with the Energy's midrange. It was notably uncolored, particularly on vocal material. Only once—on the above-mentioned Chieftains recording, did I hear what might have been a trace of boxiness. And that was on the instruments, not on the vocals. Since I am not intimately familiar with the live sound of the traditional Irish instruments used by the Chieftains, I can only say that these sounded a little nasal on the C-2 in comparison with their sound on the big Veritas v2.8.

But voices and more familiar instruments did not sound colored through the C-2s. My favorite vocal tracks sounded right. If pressed, I might note that they sometimes sounded a shade laid-back, or that a few very difficult recordings were a little less resolved through the midrange than on more ambitious—and invariably more expensive—loudspeakers. But other equally challenging discs—the above-mentioned Patriot Games, The All Star Percussion Ensemble II, and Afriq;aue, not to mention all my favorite vocal test material—sailed through with nary a cause for complaint.

The C-2 will not fall apart at high listening levels, but like most small loudspeakers it is clearly not for head-bangers. It will start to sound ragged if you push it too hard. How hard is too hard? That is always difficult to pin down in print, but I found that the speakers produced satisfying, conversation-defeating output in my large listening room—and did so without distracting congestion. A single C-2 also was used briefly, and with notable success, as a center-channel loudspeaker in a home-theater setup (with the Veritas v2.8s left and right, though note that the C-2's lack of shielding will limit its use in this application).

But I do advise caution when driving the C-2s with very deep bass at high levels, because it was with just such material that I ran into trouble. While listening to the soundtrack CD from The Hunted (TriStar Music WK 67202), by the Japanese percussion group Kodo, I noticed immediately that both left and right loudspeakers were buzzing while attempting to reproduce Kodo's big drum. The latter has powerful fundamentals, which were beyond the otherwise impressive bass capabilities of the C-2. Consequently, the drum didn't sound all that powerful, but the C-2s' woofers were pumping nonetheless, attempting unsuccessfully to reproduce those fundamentals. To the Energys' credit, they did not appear to be producing significant harmonic distortion (which can make a loudspeaker sound like it has extended bass when it really doesn't). But while the vibrating cones were not bottoming with that unmistakable, loud crack that makes you lunge for the volume control, the C-2s were clearly in distress. I didn't keep this up for long, but after the incident the loudspeakers would buzz occasionally on other program material—though not necessarily on material you would expect. The buzzing on Robert Silverman's piano on Stereophile's Sonata CD (STPH008-2) was no surprise, but would you believe Leo Kottke's guitar or the King's Singers a cappella harmonies?

This problem occurred near the end of the review period, however, and did not affect the fundamental results of my listening sessions. Even after it happened, the basic sound of the C-2s on most program material remained unchanged. Which is to say, it remained very good. Nevertheless, an additional pair were requested for measurement.

It's obvious that a pair of Energy C-2s cannot serve double duty as subwoofers, but there was surprisingly little sense of anything missing at the bottom end. I mentioned the Kodo excerpt above. It sounded well-balanced (that buzzing aside); only prior experience with the recording on larger loudspeakers told me that there were, at least, two octaves either missing or reduced in level. The C-2s will not shake the walls (though I did occasionally feel the air rushing out of the ports from a listening position a good 10' away—really!). But they will give you a satisfying feeling of completeness. Only material heavy in synth bass or organ pedal clearly sounds lightweight, and sometimes even that can surprise. The bottom end on Enya's Watermark (Geffen 9 24233-2), for example, while it didn't fool me into thinking I was listening to Veritases or Wilson WITTs, was nevertheless impressively deep and solid.

Against the B&W DM602
The occasional comments above comparing the C-2 with the Energy Veritas v2.8 are (hopefully) interesting, but where does the C-2 stand in comparison with something nearer to it in price and size. To determine this, I compared it with the B&W DM602 (reviewed by Steven Stone in the Fall 1996 issue—Vol.2 No.3—of the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater). In almost every particular I preferred the Energy. Its top end was sweeter, yet even more pristinely detailed, its bass went noticeably deeper, its midbass and midrange had more natural warmth.

Much of this, of course, is dependent on the setup and the room; the position used for the pair of B&Ws was identical to that used for the C-2s. While it is possible that a nearer wall position would better suit the '602s, by warming up the sound to better balance their too-crisp top, the playing field was level. (The lean sound of the B&Ws in my room surprised me, since JA's measurements on the '602s indicate a somewhat elevated midbass response.) On the other hand, the B&W is considerably more sensitive than the C-2 and $150/pair cheaper. The DM602 performed well, but did not, for me, transcend its price. The Energy C-2 did.

Reality check number two. The Energy C-2 will not knock down the walls with its ability to play loud and/or deep. Some caution must be exercised when playing powerful, extended bass material at realistic (less than heavy-metal) levels in large rooms. And there is an ease and scale in the sound of more ambitious designs which the C-2 cannot quite match.

But the C-2s do not sound small. They are neutral enough, in themselves, to tell you what is on the recording. Revealing and low in coloration, they will also tell you what is happening with the rest of your system. Their strengths are also not lost on better equipment than might seem appropriate for a $700 pair of loudspeakers. And they definitely serve the music. In short, if you can't quite swing those $65,000 monoliths, or even those $2000 minimonitors, take a serious listen to the Energy C-2s.

Energy Loudspeakers, a wholly owned division of Klipsch Group, Inc.
3641 McNicholl Ave.
Scarborough, Ontario
Canada, M1X 1G5
(416) 321-1800