Kirksaeter Silverline 60 loudspeaker Page 2

The wall behind the listening chair is standard drywall and studs, with a single glass door set into one end, opposite the left speaker. There is wall only directly opposite the speakers, defining the limits of the alcove, after which it stops, the space flowing into the dining area. The left wall is nearly all glass, which was covered with cellular blinds during most of my listening. There's no right wall to speak of, but the curved staircase to the loft protrudes into the space about 6' to the right of and a foot or so above the right speaker.

In this space, the Silverline 60s were set up about 40" from the front wall and 7' apart, again toed-in slightly. The left speaker was about 55" into the room. My listening chair put my head about 40" in from the wall, and a bit over 8' from the plane of the speakers. In both houses, I set the Silverline 60s on 30" Lovan stands, which placed the tweeters about 40" from the ground, approximately the same height as my ears in the listening position.

For most of my listening, I drove the Kirksaeters with either my VTL Ichiban or Mark Levinson No.20.6 monoblocks—both a bit more powerful than Kirksaeter's recommended 20-40Wpc. I did pair the 60s with a Rega Luna integrated amp for a few weeks to check their performance in a real-world system.

Use and Listening
Due to the complicated logistics associated with moving from three houses into one and doing all sorts of refinishing and refurbishing on the new house, Trish's and my move stretched out over nearly two months. I didn't have a listening room or system "set up" during this time, just a stack of components lined up on the fireplace seat, and the little Kirksaeters. My listening consisted mainly of stolen moments rather than intense sessions—an album side or two after the kids had gone to bed, a lazy Saturday afternoon taken off from my mountain of chores.

I occasionally tried to take notes, but mostly I just listened for the pure enjoyment of it—or, as Trish commented, "like a normal person." I listened to a lot of small-scale jazz on those evenings—the Ray Brown Trio, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis—and quite a bit of chamber music. Never once did the system fail to draw me in. I thoroughly enjoyed the music—and I do mean thoroughly. When I forced myself to think about the sound, my overriding impression was one of a balanced "naturalness," or that the system was simply reproducing the music without adding or subtracting anything that drew attention to itself. More important, the system, and the Kirksaeters, were getting it right: re-creating the magic of the original performance instead of merely playing the recording. Deadline time arrived, however, and it was time to recheck everything, tweak the system, and sit down to see just what the little Silverline 60s did and didn't do.

Most obvious was what they didn't do: sound like a small speaker. Even in my large, new space, the Silverline 60s filled every corner with music—a big, vibrant sound with natural-sounding, balanced, properly scaled performances and performers. A lot of small speakers, even reasonably full-range ones, create a performance that feels fragile. The images might be exquisitely detailed and carefully located on the stage, but the images, and even the ambience, lack density—as if they were eggshells that would fracture and crumble if poked. There was none of this fragility with the Kirksaeters—just a big, natural, robust re-creation of the original performance.

There was a surprising amount of weight in the bottom end, enough to anchor things and—as I'll discuss in a bit—balance out the top end. The 60 sounded as if it was pretty good down to 50 or 60Hz, then faded gracefully from there on down. This extension, combined with good articulation and pitch definition, served the small-combo jazz I'd been listening to pretty well. On Sonny Meets Hawk (LP, RCA/Classic LSP-2712), Henry Grimes' and Bob Cranshaw's bass lines sounded quick, clean, and bouncy, with good pitch definition over most of their ranges. "Tight and tuneful," I described it in my listening notes, "except at the very bottom, where it's just gracefully losing amplitude." Most important, the bass was "clean and articulate, with enough snap and punch to drive the music along."

On larger-scaled works, however, such as Shostakovich's The Age of Gold Ballet Suite (LP, RCA/Classic LSC-2322), the 60's bass performance depended a bit on the intensity and complexity of the music. The double basses, timpani, and lower cellos were all handled pretty well when little else was going on. The piano just seemed to gradually lose amplitude as it descended in pitch, but without changing the instrument's essential character. But as the level or complexity of the music grew, these instruments seemed to get a bit lost. Plus, their power didn't rise to match the swelling orchestration around them, so they didn't have enough weight to anchor the orchestra. In the biggest crescendos, the orchestra sounded as if it was floating a few feet above the stage.

US distributor: Kingcaid Acoustics
1943 Linden Lane
Hatfield, PA 19440
(215) 361-1559