The Fifth Element #19 Page 3

For lowest hum and noise in most applications (excluding darTZeel's own 50 ohm output preamplifier, not yet released), it is necessary to tie the negative speaker terminals together with a jumper wire. The provided plain wire was a pain to use with speaker cables terminated by spade lugs, to the extent that I asked Stereovox's Chris Sommovigo to fabricate a single banana-to-banana jumper out of Stereovox wire. I unreservedly recommend such a wire (or the spade equivalent, if your speaker cables use bananas). At some risk to my reputation for being well-oriented in space and time, I must say it made an audible improvement over the stock one. But in all the listening situations I tried, some kind of negative jumper was necessary.

Due to its output configuration, the darTZeel will not double its power output as the speaker impedance drops to 4 ohms, and speakers lower than 4 ohms will present some difficulty. The solution for this is found in rear-panel switches that can be set for lower-impedance speakers.

Delétraz builds his amplifiers by hand (some assemblies and components are obviously subcontracted out), and at present is selling all he can make. He offers a money-back guarantee that so far has been relied on by not a single customer. Despite large fluctuations in currency exchange rate disfavoring American customers, Delétraz will maintain last year's price of approximately $10,000 for the rest of this production run, after which the price will go up to about $11,000 for the next run, and $12,000 thereafter. If you are in the market for a unique and sweet amp, contact the factory through its website or call (41) 22-784-3393.

Awesome Two-Way Loudspeaker
Last time out, I mentioned Peak Consult's InCognito as perhaps the apotheosis (footnote 4) of the two-way loudspeaker. At 95 lbs each and $13,000/pair, it is safe to conclude that some outer limits are being tested. A few months of careful listening indicate that among these limits is musical performance for this product class.

The Dynaudio 25th Anniversary loudspeaker, which Iwrote up in the January 2003 issue, was wonderful. I imagined that the Dynaudio could be the ticket off the upgrade merry-go-round for some, and it does appear that it has found many happy customers. The Peak Consult, however, handily bested it in every area but one. This should be the case, after all—at more than twice the price, you should expect clear performance gains (footnote 5).

The InCognito excels at bass (though not deep bass), midrange sweetness, and coherence, and has a very warm and nonfatiguing treble. Imaging and soundstaging are first-rate. None of this should surprise, either—extreme care (and little worry about cost) went into the entire design, from the dedicated and nonremovable stand (which houses the crossover, for better mechanical and electrical isolation) to the high-quality drivers and other components. The woodwork is excellent, the visual design slightly edgy but not really controversial.

If your listening tastes do not include pipe organ or deep orchestral bass, the ultra-high-quality InCognito may be just the ticket for you. Certainly it should go on your shopping list if you are in the market for a speaker in the range of $10,000-$15,000/pair. Depending on associated equipment, room acoustics, and personal tastes, I can easily imagine some people, in some specific situations, preferring the InCognito to the also-excellent Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia.

So what is my quibble? Two sides of the same coin, perhaps. The InCognito does so many things so well that its lack of deep bass can, paradoxically, seem more apparent than it might with lesser speakers. I found myself listening so intently, and hearing so much, that the absent fundamentals were more sorely missed than otherwise. Perhaps related to this is my impression that the InCognito really "came alive" only at volume levels above my usual ones. But be assured—when it did come alive, it was rich and full and coherent, not jangly or jumpy.

John Atkinson was discussing this precise point at one of the panel discussions at HE2003 in June. Due to the human ear-brain system's varying sensitivity to bass at differing loudnesses, it is somewhat important to know the reference level a reviewer uses. JA forthrightly advised a questioner that if he listened 20dB more quietly than did John, he might very well find the same speaker to sound thin in the bass.

Peak Consult does make a larger, three-way speaker, which has a 10" woofer. Again, and paradoxically for some people, its $22,000/pair price and assumedly (I haven't heard it) more robust bass performance at lower volume levels might make it better value for money than the two-way. In any case, the InCognito is an impressive debut from a company that might turn out to be one of those overnight successes that were 25 years in the making—Peak Consult's drivers, a ScanSpeak Revelator 1" tweeter and a customized AudioTechnology (ATI) woofer, are made by Per Skaaning, a founder of both Dynaudio and Scan-Speak.

Expostulations, reconsiderations, or trysts with Nigella.

Footnote 4: Raising to godlike stature, a service many Roman Emperors claimed to have performed for themselves.

Footnote 5: With all due respect to those who disagreed with the Class B ranking of the Dynaudio in "Recommended Components," the Peak Consult does show rather markedly the differences between a Class B speaker and a Class A one.