Kirksaeter Silverline 60 loudspeaker Page 3

Playing rock music, the Silverline 60's lack of low bass was evident, but it usually wasn't a fatal flaw. Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms," from the album of the same name (LP, Warner Bros. 25264-1), was a good example. The opening thunderstorm wasn't as deep and ominous as it can be, but it still rumbled darkly enough to wake my dogs and set them to pacing and keening uncomfortably. And although the tonal balance of the tune, and even Mark Knopfler's vocals, were tipped up a bit, I didn't feel as if I was missing a critical element of the music.

For the most part, the Silverline sounded pretty well balanced despite its lack of low bass, perhaps because its top end wasn't overly extended either. Cymbals had a nice initial ring, but their shimmer quickly decayed to a metallic hiss rather than blooming into cascading waves of overtones. The triangle in The Age of Gold was audibly muted and remained locked to its image rather than cutting cleanly through the air above the orchestra.

Between the frequency extremes, the Silverline 60 had a vibrant, natural sound that seemed a touch forward but free from gross colorations. In particular, there was none of the honkiness or one-note character that many inexpensive speakers can have—particularly ones that try for full-range sound. Woodwinds sounded like woodwinds, brass like brass, strings like strings. What's more, instruments within an orchestral family—violins, violas, and cellos, for example—were as distinct in character as they were in pitch. The lightening of male vocals that I mentioned earlier was often present, but female vocals, like Suzanne Vega's on "Tom's Diner," from Solitude Standing (A&M SP-5136), were spot-on.

The Silverline 60s didn't re-create the reach-out-and-touch-'em images and walk-into-it 3D soundstages that I've heard from multi-kilobuck speakers, but they did do a credible, musically satisfying job. Once I got them dialed in, they created a coherent, seamless soundstage that stretched smoothly across the plane of the speakers and extended a few feet outside of each one. The soundstage wasn't terribly deep, however, its front edge projecting slightly in front of the speakers, its rear fading out only a few feet behind them. They illuminated the rear corners pretty well, however, and even reproduced a good sense of recording venues' back and side walls.

Image dimensionality, like soundstage depth, was okay but not outstanding. What was outstanding was how the Silverline 60s' images bloomed very naturally, and expanded smoothly outward into the surrounding space. Ambience cues were reproduced well enough to provide a good sense of the original acoustic environment, and the Kirksaeters were always coherent, steadfastly maintaining a nice sense of the instruments interacting with a single, common space.

Dynamics were a mixed bag with the Silverline 60. Compared to similarly priced speakers I've heard from NHT and PSB, the Kirksaeter sounded big, vibrant, a little bit forward, and quite dynamic. Transients were clear, and notes had defined starts and stops. It wasn't, however, a speaker that I'd call "fast-" or "clean-" sounding—not slow or rounded-off, mind you, but not as sharp or precise as some speakers I've heard.

The Silverline 60's reproduction of dynamic gradients was also a mix of strengths and weaknesses. A solid strength was the way the 60 reproduced subtle microdynamics from pppp to p. A minus was that it really didn't like playing very loud, or swinging transients up beyond ff. At volumes much beyond a moderate or casual listening level, the presentation would gradually degrade, the images losing specificity, the soundstage shrinking into a shallow wedge between the speakers. Similarly, the 60 could begin to sound confused and a bit strained during loud, complex orchestral crescendos, or if I tried to play a densely mixed rock recording somewhere past the speaker's comfort level. Where I hit the 60's limit depended on the room, of course. It was much happier in Trish's small, enclosed dining room than in our new, more open space.

But at reasonable levels, and particularly with musically simple passages, the Silverlines could be magical. The answering brass and woodwind solo lines early in The Age of Gold were good examples. The images were nicely drawn, and properly and firmly located. The images were dense, and the instruments' tonal textures and nuances were reproduced with a wonderful, natural ease. There was a nice sense of air around each instrument, and a realistic coherence in how the instruments' sounds expanded into the surrounding ambience.

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