Mission Pilastro loudspeaker Page 3

The Pilastro's midrange matched its treble in clarity and lack of coloration. The speakers opened a superbly clear window into Eva Cassidy's handling of Sting's "Fields of Gold" (Songbird, Didgeridoo G2-10045, UK) that was intensely communicative—it made me regret I had not come across this naturally gifted singer's work before she died. Even the Pilastro's midrange clarity, however, couldn't do anything to rescue Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Live in New York City SACD (Columbia C2S 85490): great music-making and great songwriting perverted by an anti-hi-fi mix that fills up every space in both the spectrum and the dynamic window. To release a recording that has the quality of a low-bit-rate MP3 on a $32 double-SACD is perverse on Sony's part, to say the least.

The Pilastro's midbass definition was similarly superb. Ray Brown's double bass on the Sonny Rollins SACD was reproduced with just the right balance between the leading edges of its sound and the weight of the instrument's body, and there was no unnatural emphasis of any one note compared with another. The only dynamic speaker I have used in my system with the same bass quality was the Sony ES SS-M9ED, which I reviewed in August 2001. Even otherwise great full-range speakers, such as the Revel Ultima Studio (December 2000, January 2001) and the mbl 111B, sound more "plummy" in this register, while the big Krell LAT-1, which achieves similar low-frequency definition, does so at the expense of the instrument's bloom and weight.

On first listen, the Pilastro's bass sounded a little lean. Again, however, this is due to the lack of exaggerated bloom, the speaker actually offering excellent extension. The 1/3-octave warble tones on Stereophile's Test CD 3 extended down to the 32Hz band with full weight in-room through the Pilastro, and the 25Hz band was almost as powerful. When a recording had energy in this region—guitarist Steve Tibbetts' techno-ambient A Man About a Horse (ECM 1814), for example, has some ponderous pedal notes, as does the Peter Gabriel CD mentioned earlier—it was reproduced in full measure.

Yes, Mission's Pilastro may be pricey at $35,000/pair, but it's not nearly as expensive as many other contenders for the state of the loudspeaker art that Stereophile has reviewed in the past few years. It gives away nothing in sound quality to the megabucks designs, and it looks gorgeous. The Pilastro offers enormous dynamic range, well-extended and well-defined low frequencies, effortlessly clean highs, and deep, wide, stable stereo imaging. Its forward treble balance and lack of bass boom will work better with some rooms and systems than others, but as a demonstration of what a veteran speaker designer can do when given apparently unlimited resources, the Pilastro is a tour de force.

US distributor: Denon Canada Inc.
505 Apple Creek Blvd., Unit 5
Markham, Ontario L3R 5B1, Canada
(905) 475-4085