GoldenEar BRX (Bookshelf Reference X) loudspeaker Page 2

Test tones are useful both for optimizing a pair of speakers' setup and the initial diagnosis of their sonic character. But music is what matters when it comes to judging sound quality.

In his book Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, Floyd Toole discusses what he called "Circles of Confusion." Toole wrote that recording engineers sometimes make arbitrary choices that affect sound quality (footnote 3). When you insert a new component into your system and listen to a specific recording, therefore, you have no way of knowing whether what you hear is a characteristic of the recording or of the product (footnote 4).

To avoid that paradox, reviewers listen for the aspects of sonic character that are consistent with many different recordings. If, with one recording, the stereo imaging is unstable or the low frequencies loose-sounding, you can't know if those are qualities of the recording or the product being auditioned. But if they persist with many different recordings, it is reasonable to assume that they are characteristic of the product. For this reason, I use as many different recordings as possible in my review auditioning. I also use recordings where I was responsible for the engineering, mixing, and mastering, thus mostly sidestepping the Toole trap (footnote 5).

For judging low-frequency behavior, I reach for a recording I made in 2014 of Jonas Nordwall playing the Toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony No.5 (24/88.2 AIFF file). With the speakers powered by the Parasound monoblocks, the organ's mid- and upper-bass ranges in Portland, Oregon's First United Methodist Church sounded appropriately magnificent—as long as I didn't play the recording too loud. With a reflex-loaded loudspeaker, the woofer is effectively unloaded below the port or passive-radiator tuning frequency; the recording's high-level low-bass content had the BRX's woofer cones reaching what looked like a ½" peak-peak excursion!

I don't seem to be able to get off my recent Rachmaninoff kick. I followed my organ recording with Vladimir Ashkenazy's reconstruction of the composer's first symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (CD, Decca 415-617-2). The bass-drum rolls that lead into the introduction of the theme in the first movement had sufficient weight and were well-defined. Even placed farther out in the room than I suspect is optimal, the GoldenEar BRXes sounded surprisingly full-bodied for a relatively small loudspeaker. The KEFs sounded lighter in weight in comparison.

The trumpets and trombones in this symphony, as well as in the excerpt from my recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius on Test CD 2 (Stereophile STPH004-2), had just the right amount of brassy blattiness. (This term, coined by J. Gordon Holt, describes the sound of the air in the instruments going nonlinear at very high levels, similar to the crackle in the sound of a jet engine.) The balance between the BRX's midrange and treble is well-arranged.

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Female voices fared well due to the BRX's pure-sounding midrange. I had recorded soprano Heidi Grant Murphy performing Marc Neikrug's Pueblo Children's Songs at the 1998 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; this recording is available on the CD Bravo! (Stereophile STPH014-2). Played on the GoldenEar speakers, Murphy's delicate tone was natural-sounding, without any emphasis or sibilance. Her voice was also stably positioned between the speakers. Similarly, Jennifer Warnes' darker-toned vocals on the title track from Famous Blue Raincoat, her classic album of Leonard Cohen covers (16/44.1 ALAC file, Private Music), sounded uncolored, with a palpable image suspended in space in front of me.

While the articulation of the instrument's notes was excellent, piano was a little forward-sounding compared with my reference KEF LS50s. I had noticed a touch of this character both with Marc Neikrug's Steinway D in Pueblo Songs and with my recording of Robert Silverman performing Liszt's Liebestraum (from Sonata, CD, Stereophile STPH008-2), also on a Steinway D. With recordings that were already forward-sounding, like Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert (24/48 MQA-encoded FLAC file, unfolded to 24/96, ECM), this quality started to get in the way of the music making, even with the grilles in place. This was especially true when I drove the BRXes with the NAD M10 integrated amplifier. The BRX benefits from high-class amplification, such as the Parasound monoblocks.

For a relatively small loudspeaker, the GoldenEar's dynamics were excellent. Played at a maximum spl of 95dB(C) at the listening seat, the declamatory tune in the third movement of the Rachmaninoff symphony sounded suitably impressive, as did the climax at the end of the Gerontius recording. And while the drum samples in "Fit Song," from Cornelius's Sensuous: la musique de 21° siècle (ALAC file ripped from CD, Warner Japan EVE016), didn't have the chest-crushing impact with the BRXes that they had on the 20-times-the-price, full-range Vimberg Minos that I reviewed in April 2020, the GoldenEar's uncolored mids and clean highs were supported by sufficient upper-bass energy that I almost didn't miss the expensive speakers. Well, not really. But when I took off my critical listening cap and just wanted to enjoy the music, the BRXes served well enough.

An area where the little BRXes did match the big Vimbergs was stereo imaging. The spread of the vibraphone image, which I had recorded in stereo with a pair of Shure cardioid mikes and arranged to go from far left to just left of center when I mixed the Jerome Harris Quartet's performance of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche" from Stereophile's Editor's Choice CD (STPH016-2), was clearly defined. Similarly, the image of Billy Drummond's drums, which I had used in the mixdown as a backdrop that extended the full width of the soundstage, was accurately placed between and behind the GoldenEars.

I finished my auditioning of the GoldenEar BRXes with Periphery, a relatively new David Chesky recording of Indian musician and singer Priya Darshini (24/192 FLAC). Chesky's promotional copy for this album claims it "was recorded in stunning high definition fashion using a new recording methodology which captures crystal-clear vocal performance and the immaculate acoustics of the church in which the album was recorded." In a conversation, Chesky told me that Periphery was recorded with a ribbon microphone and a pair of omnis in a giant church. "Your room should open up to infinity when you play this back," he promised. With the GoldenEar BRXes driven by the Parasound amplifiers, it did!

Conclusion
I very much enjoyed my time with the GoldenEar BRX. While it benefits from being powered by high-quality amplification, its sound quality features an uncolored midrange, clean high frequencies, and enough mid- and upper-bass energy to satisfy, coupled with stable, accurate stereo imaging.

A couple of weeks before this issue's deadline, I received an email from Sandy Gross, letting me know that a decade after the company's premier he was stepping down as GoldenEar's president emeritus at the end of May 2020. This great-sounding, elegant-looking, affordable bookshelf loudspeaker is a fitting swan song for Sandy.


Footnote 3: See Sean Olive's discussion here.

Footnote 4: See my discussion of this problem regarding stereo imaging accuracy here.

Footnote 5: Mostly because, while I know what engineering choices I made, even sound engineers are at the mercy of their monitoring equipment, which, however carefully chosen, is never 100% transparent.

COMPANY INFO
The Quest Group dba GoldenEar Technology
2621 White Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614
(949)790-6000
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COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

As a less expensive alternative to Parasound JC1+, one of the good choices would be the Mark Levinson 5805 integrated amp ...... Stereophile measurements show ML 5805 can handle 2 Ohm loads :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Thank you JA2 for reviewing the ML 5805 and doing the 'heavy lifting' :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 should include the ML 5805 as one of his reference (integrated) amplifiers as a part of his reference amplifier arsenal :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is it possible for JA1 to do the EPDR measurements in retrospect, for at least some of the class-A speakers? ...... The impedance and phase measurements are already available for those speakers :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 says, "I don't have time for that EPDR measurements ..... Go buy the Parasound JC1+ amps" ....... Just kidding .... Just kidding :-) .......

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
Is it possible for JA1 to do the EPDR measurements in retrospect, for at least some of the class-A speakers?

I have started doing that. The Volti Razz review now has the EPDR figures - https://www.stereophile.com/content/volti-audio-razz-loudspeaker-measurements - and I will be adding more as time goes by.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture
Thank you JA1 ...... You are a gentleman and a scholar :-)
Bogolu Haranath's picture

TG liked the sound of Volti Razz speakers better with the Bel Canto e1X amp ...... EPDR measurements explain the reason in a better way :-) .......

Anton's picture

I love 'stand mounts.'

They make for easy in n' out for switching speakers, which makes for awesome shoot outs!

These seem like winners.

I've been ogling the Legacy Calibre, too.

I also watch for Sonus Faber Extremas, but the have simply refused to depreciate worth a damn!

Thanks again for this review. Any chance you will keep it around for more comparisons?

Last question: Would have any working memory of the Crystal Cable Arabesque speaker for a few comparison comments?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Crystal Cable Arabesque speakers ($20,000/pair) are certainly memorable for their looks :-) .......

Anton's picture

Good work, man.

;-D

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Another audio component whose beauty is only skin deep :-) ........

John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
Thanks again for this review.

You're welcome.

Anton wrote:
Any chance you will keep it around for more comparisons?

Herb Reichert now has the BRXes for a possible followup review.

Anton wrote:
Last question: Would have any working memory of the Crystal Cable Arabesque speaker for a few comparison comments?

Too many speakers have passed through my listening room for me to be able to offer any thoughts on the comparison. Sorry.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

My 'crystal ball' says, HR likes the sound of BRX with LKV PWR+ and Bel Canto REF600M ...... Both have 3rd harmonic distortion and both can handle 2 Ohm loads :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW .... May be HR could do a follow-up review of the Parasound A21+ ($3,000) :-) .......

remlab's picture

By what Sandy Gross and company pull off for the price. I don't care where its made. Exceptional engineering, design, and quality control.

dial's picture

Can these little boxes really be powered by my 2 X 250 W 3D LAB. Nano Amplifier ?!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If they can handle 2 Ohm loads, yes ....... JA1 used 450 watt JC1+ amps in his review :-) .......

dial's picture

Well for this I don't know, it's class D 250 is on 8 ohms of course, why always these load problems with speakers !

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Not all 2-way bookshelf speakers are 2 Ohm difficult loads ...... BRX is an exception ...... If you are not sure about your amp handling 2 Ohm loads, consider other bookshelf speakers which are easier loads, listed in Stereophile :-) ......

dial's picture

Good advice, also I'll ask the manufacturer, Charles Henry DELALEU, in September due to holidays.

remlab's picture

they usually don't measure this well. Very similar to the Elac, at least in this case

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It would be a good idea, if GoldenEar uses the same tweeter for their top model speakers :-) ......

remlab's picture

to subjectively compensate for the extremely deep bass response on the other models

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some of the young people who can hear up to and above 15 kHZ, have complained about harsh treble in GoldenEar top models in the Stereophile web forum :-) .......

remlab's picture

Especially in how it relates to the loudspeaker's efficiency is much, much better than the Elac

remlab's picture

and I examine everything he does with a keen interest, but Sandy's got him beat on this one.

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