Soliloquy 5.3 loudspeaker Page 3

The use of small drivers in a small enclosure means that the Soliloquy is limited in how much air it can move. It couldn't blow me away with huge symphonic and choral monsters, as can the Stratus Gold-i. In fact, my Paradigm Reference Esprit/BP, with a pair of 165mm drivers but with a 60% larger enclosure, is more capable of shaking the timbers than is the 5.3. But when listening to Mahler, as is my habit, I found the Soliloquy ever-so-nearly excellent. It handled everything in Symphony 4 (Salonen/LAPO, Sony Classical SK 48380) with aplomb, and did just fine with Symphony 3 (Horenstein/LSO, Unicorn-Kanchana UKCD 2006/7), because the scoring is pretty open. The denser, deeper Symphony 2 (Rattle/CBSO, EMI 47962) and 6 (Zander/Boston Philharmonic, IMP DMCD93), however, simply demand more weight than the Soliloquy could load into my room.

The 5.3/Power-2 combination was ever so refined in its depiction of detail, harmonics, and microdynamics, but macrodynamics were merely okay. It wasn't just a matter of SPLs—switching to the hotrodded DNA-1 afforded more volume and punch, but no more heft. Besides, the 5.3s were simply succulent with the Power-2. In fact, the 5.3s were so good and so coherent that I'd hesitate before gambling on a subwoofer. (Soliloquy does offer one, along with a center-channel speaker, to fill out a home-theater setup.)

The Soliloquy had only minor failings. Because my listening room is fairly warm, the 5.3's slight prominence in the upper midrange (4-6kHz) troubled me but little—placed at the live end, the speakers effectively balanced that warmth. (If your room is a bit hard overall, the 5.3 should be auditioned at home before purchase.) Bass-rich sources can still evoke a bit of a bark from the 5.3. For example, when listening to music at healthy levels on well-miked FM broadcasts, I often had to jump up and quench the volume when the close-miked announcer came on. Both of these characteristics seemed to fade with continued use, but I wonder if the low-end characteristic could be caused by turbulence in the duct system. Finally, the 5.3s needed breathing room. Their bass became thumpy, and their image depth compromised, when I moved the Stratus Gold-i's down to the same end of the room.

A truly lovely recording is Flamenco Mysterio (FIM GSCD 016), featuring Gino D'Auri on guitar, accompanied by percussion (tabla!), strings, and assorted keyboards. It's far from traditional flamenco, but nonetheless exudes style and spirit. Recorded by Stephen Hill and re-mastered by Doug Sax, the recording presents D'Auri's instrument with lifelike presence, precise transients, and warm resonance. Over the Soliloquies, D'Auri sat across the room from me, the sounds of his fingers on strings and fingerboard just audible under the rich tones emanating from the gut and wood. I got up and walked over to him. Remarkably, the balance between the sounds produced by the instrument and those directly on it shifted as I sat down directly in front of him. Although I moved, he was still in the same relationship to the supporting instruments in the nicely reverberant soundstage. This rare experience was made possible by the Soliloquy 5.3s—speakers with little if any grain, and with extremely fine resolution.

I have avoided discussion of price, since the remarkable Soliloquy 5.3 deserves to be judged solely on the basis of its superb performance and construction, and on its suitability for your room. Their spatial presentation is excellent, and voice and instrumental balances are natural and satisfying. Mated with a sympathetic amplifier and decent source material, the 5.3s can be an open window into the recording venue. Their dynamic limitations are a bit restricting with post-Romantic blockbusters, but that is merely concomitant with their size.

So it ain't perfect, but neither is any other small speaker in that regard. Otherwise, it's as good (and as good-looking) as you can get for the price, not to mention a fair bit more.

"Gotta get my hands on these!"

I'm very glad I did.

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