Infinity Servo-Statik 1 loudspeaker J. Gordon Holt October 1975 part 4

In short, we were stupefied by the performance of the SS-1A, when reproducing decent material. But with typical recordings, we are sorry to have to report that the SS-1A revealed every nuance of what it is that ails most recordings: Steely, sizzly violins, whumpy mid-bass, pinched trombones, advancing and receding woodwinds, excessive closeness and lack of depth, and an overall solid-state hardness which soon had us working (not too successfully) with equalizer and treble control.

We couldn't help but speculate as to what those commercial recordings might have sounded like had the recording studios themselves been set up with monitor speakers as accurate and revealing as these. Considering what they must be using, though, there is some question as to whether many listeners might not be happier either using a cartridge that is more "polite"-sounding than the Decca, or a speaker system which tells more-flattering lies about the program material fed to it.

If you want to hear exactly what a recording actually sounds like, the SS-1A will tell you, but until something is done about commercial recordings in general, maybe you would prefer not to know. Personally, we'll grit our teeth and put up with, in exchange for the privilege of knowing that, when the ultimate recording comes along, the SS-1A will reproduce virtually every iota of it.

The only real weakness of the SS-1A is its stereo imaging. Center fill and imaging stability are not as good as they could be, and there is a slight "Vertical Venetian Blind" effect as we move across the listening area—instrumental locations seem to shift back and forth a bit—but at least there are no treble "hot spots" (as in many systems with electrostatic tweeters), and the system does not tend to make a guitar sound as wide as a grand piano. It reproduces original sizes fairly accurately.

The SS-1A is also—or at least can be, at its best—nearly perfectly neutral in perspective. Its sound tends to be slightly forward (fig.1), as is appropriate for a system that will almost certainly be used in a fairly large listening room, where the listening location will be 8' or more distant. The forwardness serves to place a very closely-miked sound source slightly in front of the system rather than right at it, producing a marked "in-the-room" illusion, but without any of the raucousness normally observed in systems that "project the sound forward. Thus, close-up recordings sound close, while distant ones have a perspective very similar to the actual distance of the microphones from the performers.

Fig.1 Infinity Servo-Statik 1A, subjective frequency response (5dB/vertical div.).

Under the circumstances, we were not surprised that the SS-1A reproduced depth and perspectives very faithfully, which is one of the things that makes it so revealing of the gross multimiking used for most commercial domestic recordings. Flat recordings sound very flat. In addition, the SS-1A has a truly phenomenal transparency which, again, reveals mercilessly any graininess or veiling of the program source.

Blending between the SS-1A's drivers was excellent. No crossover was audible between the tweeters and midrange panels, and the mating of the midrange sections and the woofer was dependent on room placement. We were able to locate things so that not one of our listening group was able to guess (prior to being told) where bass/midrange crossover was taking place.

There is only one other speaker system we have encountered that is really comparable with the SS-1A, and that is the FMI J-Modular. They don't really sound the same—the Js have what we would characterize as a warmer, rounder sound—but at their best, they are actually more alike than dissimilar. Highs are virtually identical, both have about the same bi1ity to reproduce depth and perspective, and while the J's bottom is a shade fatter, the SS-1A's bottom is a shade tauter. And both, under their best conditions, can sound astonishingly realistic. If we were forced to rate them, we would be inclined to give the SS-1A top honors for absolute accuracy, with the qualification that many listeners may find the FMIs a bit easier to live with.

All in all, though, it is our feeling that the SS-1A sets sets a new standard for performance in a commercial speaker design, and that its only drawback is a direct result of this:

It makes your typical commercial recording sound just as bad as it really is. A sweet-sounding pickup cartridge (like the Denon or Supex) can ameliorate matters, and you can always switch cartridges when playing a really good recording, but if you want to know the unvarnished truth about your program material and—we might add, about the mistracking proclivities of your cartridge—this system can give it to you like none other that we know. But as we said before, don't skimp on the electronics. "Almost as good as the best tubed stuff" isn't going to allow the SS-1A to perform at its best, and if you happen to be one of those souls who have a gut feeling about the inherent superiority of solid-state, and won't pay the price of a pair of switching amps, you would probably do better to investigate another speaker system, because to crud up the top of the SS-1A with the typical solid-state hardness and grit would be a crime against reason.

The only crucial question about the SS-1A at this time is, will it prove to be as durable and as dependible as a $4000 super-system should be expected to be? The persistent reports of midrange panel failures are not reassuring, even though replacements (when obtained) are easy to install, and our SS-1A has been working steadfastly for several months now. We can only hope, fervently, that the reports are exaggerated or, if not, that Infinity can remedy the situation instanter. It would be most unfortunate were a product as good as this to fizzle out because of one intractable production problem.—J. Gordon Holt