Gradient Revolution loudspeaker Page 3

The soundstage in the early listening was veiled, almost hazy. I found it difficult to step into the original acoustic of the performance. The decay of transients was obscured, so it was tough to hear far into the soundstage. Soundstage transparency improved gradually as the Revolution continued to break-in. This speaker requires a long break-in period—on the order of 100 hours. While it never reached electrostatic-like transparency or even matched the best dynamic designs in this regard, at least with a good tube amp I did not find its level of performance here an obstacle to musical enjoyment.

The perceived tonal balance was reasonably neutral. The lower mids were neither bloated nor excessively lean. If anything, I could have used a tad more body and warmth around 500Hz. There was almost none of that brightness, edginess, or metallic flavoring that seems to afflict most metal-dome-based systems. That's not to say that the treble was perfect. While the extreme treble sounded open and texturally smooth, the lower treble sounded a bit grainy and rough. I found tube amps to offer the most satisfying overall voicing through the upper octaves.

The Revolution suavely navigated the core of the midrange. Delicate harmonic detail was allowed to bubble to the surface of the musical tapestry, and low-level detail was nicely resolved. Male voice was naturally reproduced without emphasis or added color. James Taylor, in That's Why I'm Here (CBS 40052-2), becomes timbrally unglued if anything is amiss in the critical mids. The Revolution nicely passed the JT test.

I was less enamored with the quality and timbral accuracy of the treble. Flute lacked some of its harmonic bite, and violin overtones were slightly deficient in sheen and sweetness. Similarly, soprano voice was somewhat dulled, lacking adequate brilliance. Pilar Lorengar as Princess Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute (London OSA-1397) features as velvety and sweetly fresh an upper range as I've ever heard. Through the Revolution, the clarity of her voice remained intact, but the freshness, as in some of the energy of the upper vocal-tract formants, was subdued. Joni Mitchell's upper register on Blue (Reprise MS 2038) sounded a bit bleached out harmonically, as if she were working with a reduced palette of colors.

In this day and age of loudspeaker design, when almost everybody with access to a woodworking shop is cranking out stuffed speaker boxes, it's nice to recognize a well-engineered, groundbreaking design effort. Gradient's research into the final frontier of loudspeaker art—ie, room/speaker integration—has yielded a speaker that I find quite endearing in musical terms.

The Gradient Revolution is certainly not a spectacular loudspeaker in audiophile terms. It lacks killer bass, and doesn't have the highly etched and overly detailed midrange to which many audiophiles are attracted. Neither is the Revolution's tonal balance distorted euphonically in a manner that would earn it instant converts, as so many "different is better" designs tend to do. The presence region isn't elevated, and the lower mids aren't even lusciously fat; instead, the tonal balance is basically neutral.

The Revolution's greatest strengths are an organic wholeness, solid imaging, excellent microdynamic expression, and a convincing rhythmic drive born out of a pure and quick bass range. To be sure, it faces stiff competition at its price point from the likes of the Martin-Logan Quest Z, with its superior midrange transparency, and the Nestorovic Type 5AS Mk.IV, with its greater dynamic range and more refined highs.

My advice is to give this Finnish delight a serious audition. Its inherent musicality may move you to rise and join the Revolution!

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