Halcro dm58 monoblock power amplifier Page 3

Another boundary-stretching aspect of the Halcro's sound was its silence. Its background was not the outer-space void of a stream of digital zeros but the taut, deep silence of an empty concert hall—a living silence just waiting to be energized by sound. I don't know what JA's measurements will show about the dm58's noise floor, but I'd never heard an amplifier this quiet. As a result, detail retrieval bordered on the supernatural. Subway trains running under Kingsway Hall on Decca and EMI LPs? Chairs squeaking? I heard 'em all through the Halcros.

Whether such funky little details contribute to the musical experience has long been a subject of impassioned debate among audiophiles, but one thing is certain: when a piece of electronics can resolve ultra-low-level background information, it will also reproduce microscopic musical details that others miss. The tiniest of wall reflections, the most infinitesimal of reverberation trails, the softest shimmer of a piano's strings—so much information came through the Halcros that new shades of nuance and meaning were revealed in every recording I listened to through them.

The soundstaging was superb, but defined entirely by what was on the recording. The soundstages of Blumlein-miked EMIs of the late 1950s and early 1960s never extended beyond the speakers' outer edges, but big, bold Decca/Londons and many modern recordings wrapped around the room like Sensurround. Depth was little short of incredible, and on well-made classical recordings, images far back in the stage had the same density and roundedness as those located in the front rows. Soloists, small groups, and large orchestras were all presented with precisely the right sense of scale and space.

The dm58s pulled off another soundstaging trick one seldom hears at home. At live orchestral concerts, crescendos not only get louder, the sound gets bigger—it fills the hall's space more completely. The dm58 was one of only a very few amplifiers I've heard that has captured this aspect of live sound, and did so with startling authority.

Besides doing soundstages superbly, the Halcros also nailed the elements of a soundspaces. There are three separate and distinct elements to the sound of an instrument or a voice, be it live or recorded; I think of them as the point source, the field source, and the contextual source. The point source is defined by the boundaries of the instrument or singer—the resonating body that produces the sound. The field source is that halo of acoustically energized air projected into the near vicinity of that resonating object by the resonating object. Last, the contextual source is that space in which the prior two sounds exist—the acoustic of the space in which the instrument is being played. A well-made recording of unamplified instruments will capture all of these sound sources, and the best equipment will bring them home into the listening room. The Halcros were astonishing in their ability to capture all of these elements in the proportions that suggest reality.

A purist recording like Serenade (CD, Stereophile STPH009-2), was ear-poppingly realistic through the dm58s. The semicircle of instruments playing Dvor?225k's Serenade for Winds and Strings, Op.44, was defined as well as if I'd been sitting directly in front of them. There was a superbly focused center of gravity to each instrument, and an equally well-delineated field source. The contextual source was just there, seemingly re-created in its totality. The Halcros were most assuredly of the "you are there" school rather than the "they are here" camp. The images placed in this continuous soundspace were not only impeccably defined, they had the palpability and three-dimensionality that, until now, only the best tubed amplifiers could provide.

Another especially vivid example was provided by Duke Ellington's Dance With Duke (LP, Columbia Special Products CSR 8098). DWD features the Ellington band recorded live at the Bal Masque nightclub in Miami Beach's Americana Hotel. The Halcros seemingly tore a hole in the fabric of space-time and transported me back to the Bal Masque, surrounded by diners and dancers bathing in the glow of the Duke's orchestra at the height of its powers. The dm58s completely obliterated the fact that I was listening to a record of an event that happened back in the late 1950s.

Timbrally, the dm58 was the closest thing to dead neutral that I've heard from any component. Its bass was definitive, with enormous power and unimpeachable definition. Mids were crystalline, and the highs seemed subjectively flat to ultraviolet. As noted, there is bound to be some controversy about the upper mids and lower treble, but extended listening to a vast range of music established only that the dm58 was telling me exactly what is on the recording and nothing more. I couldn't blame the messengers when they told me that some recordings were not quite what I'd thought they were. Recordings that should have sounded perfectly gorgeous, like the legendary Nimbus pressing of Leigh's Concertino for Harpsichord and String Orchestra (UK LP, Lyrita SRCS 126) and Kiril Kondrashin's delectable take on Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien (LP, RCA/Classic LSC-2323), were breathtaking in their beauty. Both male and female voices came through the Halcros with a tingle-inducing aliveness. Eva Cassidy's "Cheek to Cheek" (CD, Live at Blues Alley, Blix Street 10046) served up one of those moments that make audio worthwhile—something that made me melt into my chair with the sheer wonderfulness of it all. This, my friends, was living large.

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