Verity Audio Sarastro loudspeaker Page 3

Then it was on to a three-disc reissue of János Starker's recording of J.S. Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (LPs, Mercury Living Presence/Speakers Corner SR3-9016). The rendering was thicker and richer through the Sonus Faber Stradivari Homages, but the Sarastros produced a more realistic blend of bowed string and wooden body, and the speaker's low-level resolution let it do a far more effective job of putting the cello in the small studio recording space.

Large-scale orchestral works were equally well served by the Sarastro, with full dynamic expression delivered intact when played back at realistic concert-hall levels. One of the Sarastro's most attractive qualities was its ability to deliver complete musical satisfaction at realistic, not "hi-fi," SPLs.

Every visit to the New York Philharmonic has me telling myself within a few minutes that most recordings and most stereo systems are too damn bright. I found the Sarastro's tonal balance with most good classical recordings, CD or LP, to be just about right. Overbright recordings and masterings were still bright, but the best were now concert-hall rich, with a natural velvety tonality and harmonic rightness that preserved transparency and bloom without suppressing or overemphasizing transients.

When I read that soprano Renata Tebaldi had passed away, I pulled out her recording of Puccini's Turandot (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC-6149). Although I've played it many times and know it to be an exceptionally transparent and spacious Layton-Mohr production, I wasn't ready for it to sound so coherent, three-dimensional, and believable—especially the delicacy and believability of the voices. The confines of the Rome Opera House were revealed and delineated behind the musicians with a natural authority I'd not before experienced.

Connoisseurs of live recordings will find the Sarastros' renderings of Carnegie Hall classics, and of live recordings in general, to be spectacularly natural, detailed, and believable at realistic, not-overloud SPLs. I went through a slew of those in one late-night session, ending with Analogue Productions' 45rpm edition of Ben Webster at the Renaissance (AJAZ 7646). It brought the defunct club and Webster back to life almost too convincingly. It was creepy. I was afraid a waitress would tap me on the shoulder and ask for my next drink order.

Verity Audio's goal was clearly to build a nearly full-range, compact loudspeaker of exceptional sonic purity, transparency, resolving power, and coherence. Even the shortest audition with your favorite recordings should convince you that, in the Sarastro, the Verity designers have succeeded beyond what will be many experienced listeners' expectations. At least that's been my reaction.

The Sarastro is not a brash, bowl-you-over performer but a sonic sophisticate. While it's unable to "kick ass," it is capable of providing enormous, almost overwhelming musical satisfaction and sheer listening pleasure, coupled with an almost supernatural ability to retrieve and unravel recorded spatial information without highlighting or spotlighting. It paints an effortlessly natural musical picture, and is one of the few speakers I've encountered that can deliver the goods not only at realistic concert-hall levels, but, more important, at far lower levels. That, too, was a design goal—not stated explicitly by Verity, but obvious from the way the driver technology was explained to me in person and in the company's literature.

At realistic levels, the Sarastros provide full dynamic expression—and you'll find that they deliver far higher SPLs than you think you're hearing. But if you play them more loudly than that, no more dynamics are to be had, and the picture begins to fall apart. In many ways the Sarastro's soncs reminded me of a good single-ended triode tube amplifier: idiosyncratic but oh-so-interesting If my experience with them is any indication, in a short time you'll grow accustomed to listening at realistic levels and enjoy your listening more, and for longer periods of time. But if you listen mostly to amplified music, you'll be wasting your money on the Sarastros. They can play rock—if that's part of your musical mix, you won't feel as cheated by them as you might by some very small box speakers, or by some electrostats or planars—but rock is not the Sarastros' musical mission.

Every loudspeaker embodies compromises. Though the Sarastros are relatively compact and can work well in a small room, their prodigious bass output and subjectively underdamped bass tuning make them better suited for rooms of medium to large size, where they can be placed far enough away from the wall behind them. I wouldn't go any smaller than my own 15' by 21' by 8' room, lest the bass overwhelm the sound. Then again, how any loudspeaker's bass loads a room is mostly unpredictable. Perhaps JA's measurements will provide more clues.

When I listened to the Sarastros in Verity's listening room, they drove them with Nagra tube amps, probably in part because Audiophile Systems distributes both brands in North America. I auditioned the Sarastros with my references: Musical Fidelity kW monoblocks, Music Reference RM-200 tube amp, Yamaha MX-D1 digital amplifier (under review). At 93dB, even the 100Wpc tube amp had no problem driving the Sarastros, and I was surprised to find the speakers' bass performance remarkably consistent with all three amplifiers. Overall, though, I preferred the tube amp, which inexplicably seemed to provide the speaker with the most consistent low-frequency control and drive.

The Verity Audio Sarastro provided among the most pleasurable listening experiences in my long audiophile life. If your musical tastes lean toward unamplified music and you can afford them, I recommend the Verity Audio Sarastros without hesitation.

Verity Audio
US distributor: Audiophile Systems
8709 Castle Park Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46256
(888) 272-2658