Soliloquy 5.3 loudspeaker Page 2

Over the course of the next few weeks I moved the 5.3s closer together, then farther apart, all the while experimenting with their distance from the listening seat. I tried to reduce the bass bark by stuffing their rear ports with polyester batting. Nah—that only muffled the bass. Besides, the Soliloquies demonstrated their disdain by blowing the batting out with an emphatic PFOOOT! Finally, thinking that the drivers might be wired out of phase, I removed the jumpers from the binding posts and biwired the 5.3s for easy phase reversal. Which only made things worse.

Not knowing how to live without music, I left the 5.3s biwired to the Power-2, but with the recommended phasing. At this point the 5.3s stood more than 9' apart and less than 3' from the front wall—significantly farther from each other and the listener than is usual for speakers in my listening room. Toe-in was minimal, at about 5 degrees. Other large reflecting or absorbing objects were kept well away.

Weeks passed. Gradually, it dawned on me that WQXR's announcers no longer seemed to be swallowing their mikes, and surface noise from my thrift-shop LPs seemed smoother and less obtrusive. After seven weeks, the 5.3s had matured enough for me to remember why they'd so impressed me in Las Vegas.

After that break-in period, the Soliloquy 5.3 was an absolute delight. The immediate impression I got was of great transparency and space. With the spatial trickery of the Willow soundtrack (Virgin 90939-2), the 5.3s put the pan flute front and center, spread the strings widely across the room, hurled the percussion from various directions, and summoned up the chorus from somewhere back in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. (When listening, I face west.) Imaging was stable and natural, but not "pinpoint."

James Horner's less varied score for Glory (Virgin/Classic DAD 1008) has benefited from full 24/96 treatment, its rolling drums and ethereal chorus seeming entirely liberated from the equipment. There was no "sweet spot"—I could get up, walk around the room, stand up, or sit down, and transparency and tonal balance remained constant. Bass was not Stygian, but adequately extended.

The magic was not restricted to contrived recordings, but was lavished equally on voices and instrumental ensembles. I tried all my standard voice tests, from Diana Krall and Holly Cole to Jerry Hadley and Thomas Hampson, and the 5.3 presented them as purely and naturally as any speaker yet to visit my listening room. Latin flavors, from The Buena Vista Social Club to Los Lobos' Kiko, were pungent and incisive. Jazz ensembles were particularly well served by the 5.3s' generous soundstage and lack of coloration.

Dick Cary's Tuesday Night Friends' Catching Up (Klavier KD-77024) seems to have taken up permanent residence in one of my CD transports—I can't resist playing it almost daily. This disc is a model of how to record a jazz band with the rich, warm brass retaining their bite. On my favorite cut, "Recado," the 5.3 deliciously delineated all the brass and woodwind counterpoint while maintaining ensemble cohesion. The interplay of keyboard, bass, and percussion was clearly revealed, as the bass performance of the 5.3 extended down to near 40Hz. And George Faber's "Count the Tears," from Sure Beats Workin' (PopeMusic PMG 2032-2), had all the requisite slam.

The two cone drivers handle everything up through the midrange, so there were none of the discontinuities that so plagued the Coincident Super Conquest Series II (Stereophile, June 1999). Thus, although the Super Conquest had more extension and power in the lowest bass, the 5.3 had more useful impact and kick in the range just above—especially notable on piano recordings. Throughout the rest of the range, it was no contest—the 5.3's transparency made it super-seductive.

It was harder to compare the 5.3 with the newly arrived PSB Stratus Gold-i. The PSB has a richness and a solidity, without boom, that the much smaller 5.3 could not approach. On the other hand, I was more conscious of the presence of the PSB, from both visual and auditory cues, than I ever was of the Soliloquy, which seemed to disappear into the music. But take that last comment with a big grain of salt—I'm only beginning to become familiar with the PSB.

2613 Discovery Drive, Building A
Raleigh, NC 27616
(919) 876-7554