Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 loudspeaker Page 3

The recording succeeds in creating the illusion of the piano playing in your space, not of you being transported to some live venue where it's off in the distance, bathed in a reverberant field. Reproducing such a dynamic, percussive, timbrally complex recording is difficult for any speaker, and the Intermezzo did an extremely credible job, providing impressive bottom weight without bloat or congestion, and that unique "chimey/woody" bell-like sound in the upper registers without ringing or glassiness.

This trio set demands a speaker that produces fast transients and an overall taut sound to do it justice, and the Intermezzo's performance was impressive. Joe LaBarbera's drum kit was also convincingly "in the room," the snare snapping smartly, cymbals ringing without hurting the ears, the brushes shimmering and free of hash, and not sounding soft, like air-brakes.

But the Cunliffe recording's odd soundstaging—giant piano up front, widely spread, oversized drum kit behind—was not the ideal recording for checking out the Intermezzos' soundstaging and imaging abilities. So it was back to old standards like The Weavers: Reunion at Carnegie Hall, 1963 (LP, Analogue Productions APF005). The Intermezzos proved better at lateral imaging than at creating adequate depth. The tautness of the presentation, or the forward nature of the midband, or perhaps the lack of bottom octaves, seemed to string the vocal images across the stage in reasonably solid three-dimensional focus, but the space behind, including the rear stage wall, seemed somewhat flattened compared to what I'm used to hearing from this disc. The R3s didn't offer better bass, but definitely produced greater depth, perhaps due to the dipolar radiation pattern of their ribbon tweeters.

Near the end of the review period, the mono version of the Helikon cartridge arrived (see this month's "Analog Corner"), and I began auditioning my favorite mono recordings. I found achieving a truly solid center image independent of frequency somewhat tricky to maintain. Cymbals would sometimes appear off to one side or the other, despite my constant tweaking of speaker positions. I don't know why this was (frequency-dependent front-baffle diffraction? woofer beaming at the high end of its range in the two-way design?), but when I put the Sonus Faber Amati Homages back in, the center image immediately locked in and stayed put on all recordings I auditioned, as if there was a speaker in the center and not a phantom image. Of course, the Amati costs 10 times as much as the Intermezzo.

Two solid months with small, two-way, relatively inexpensive designs was a refreshing wake-up call. While very different from one another, the Red Rose Music R3 and the Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 both offered a surprisingly high level of musical satisfaction. I could happily live with either if I had to, though I have no doubt that part of my reaction was due to my room, which has been treated with RPG products and was well-proportioned to begin with.

The Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 offers a great deal of technology and performance for $2000, subsidized in part by the development of Infinity's flagship Prelude MTS. Powered woofers and 90dB efficiency mean it can be driven with just about any amplifier you can think of, solid-state or tubed. The Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 was overkill; the Dynaco Stereo 70—which cost me $5 at a garage sale and a few hundred more to refurbish and retube—was a great match for the Intermezzos, which were fast, taut, extended, reasonably neutral, and rhythmically adept.

With the exception of a slightly forward presence region, the Intermezzos proved to be extremely well-behaved. They were on the analytical, revealing side and didn't draw me into a warm and fuzzy musical world, nor were they the most transparent speakers out there—but they were free of gross colorations up and down the sonic spectrum, and went very low for their size. What this meant—as I found out listening to the usual commercial CD dreck and to the Groove Note direct-to-disc sides—was that bad recordings had no place to hide, while great ones truly shone.

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