Vienna Acoustics Klimt The Kiss loudspeaker Page 3

However, Zappa also leavened all his studio tinkering with substantial sections of essentially unaltered live recordings. "Little House" includes some of the most extended such passages, and, as The Kisses reminded me, is an awfully good example of how excellent the Mothers could sound on the right night in a good hall. But back to those drums: they really knocked me out through the Vienna Acoustics. They were alive and in the hall, with loads of air and crunch.

I'm pretty sure, based on the lack of fancy drum flourishes, that it's Jimmy Carl Black bashing the skins, and I have to credit The Kisses for their perfect pacing; I frequently forget to credit Black with his phenomenal sense of the naked beat.

After the kiss comes the impulse to throttle
I've managed to hang on to the Thiel CS3.7s ($13,000/pair) since reviewing them in December 2008, and thought they might prove an interesting comparison to The Kisses. While the Thiel is a floorstander with a passive radiator-loaded woofer, it, like The Kiss, employs a novel coincident midrange-tweeter combination.

The Thiels exhibited a tad more bass slam on Stanko's "Stone Ridge." They didn't so much seem to go deeper as to portray what bass there was with tautness, muscularity, and litheness. Both Stanko's trumpet and Saluzzi's bandoneón had the slightest bit more bite. I preferred, ever so slightly, The Kiss's more relaxed mid-to-high-frequency response, but many listeners won't.

Haden's bass had a slight bit more propulsion through the Thiels. I listened repeatedly to Rambling Boy through both speakers, and found the seamlessly relaxed sound of The Kiss and the precisely articulated extension of the Thiels equally attractive. Too close to call? No, I could hear the differences fairly easily—I just couldn't bring myself to prefer one over the other.

With Russell's Torroba, I was less ambivalent. The Thiels added a slight amount of weight to Russell's guitar—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say more body. The Thiels may have been slightly better at rendering string harmonics and air, but The Kisses were better at putting the instrument itself in my listening room. I preferred the latter, but other listeners might well go the other way.

The CS3.7s just flat knocked me out with Eno and Byrne's "The Jezebel Spirit," however. Yes, the slam and presence of the track through The Kisses continued to impress me, but the Thiels not only upped the "pop" factor in the basses and synths, their slightly brighter balance better matched the song's made-from-found-elements ethos.

That could also be said of the Mothers' "The Little House I Used to Live In," but the Thiels just didn't make Jimmy Carl Black's drums "pop" from the mix as definitively as did the Viennas. The CS3.7s were unswervingly articulate and persuasive, but I really enjoyed that sense of discovery in a 40-year-old favorite that The Kisses granted me.

To put this in perspective, I have to point out that I love, love, love the Thiel CS3.7. I have also fallen under the spell of the Vienna Acoustics Klimt The Kiss. Both speakers are quite special, but I'm not sure they're after the same listeners: If you want punch in the bottom end, the Thiel is probably the way to go. But the smoothness and relaxed seamlessness of The Kiss's midrange to high frequencies made it awfully persuasive—especially for lovers of vocal music.

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky
I'd put Vienna Acoustics' Klimt The Kiss up against some of my favorite speakers in the world. In fact, in this review, I did. It more than held its own in that company.

The Kiss is a really large speaker masquerading as a stand-mount. In fact, it's both, but visually it "disappears" nicely, and many listeners will jump on it for precisely that reason. The Kiss is also attractive in both its Piano Black lacquer and Sapele finishes, and exquisitely constructed. Furthermore, the innovative rake and toe-in adjustment screws might make The Kiss work better than more conventional designs in many acoustic environments. It doesn't matter how good a speaker is if it doesn't sound good in your room.

Of course, innovation, precision, and construction come at a price, and in this case the price is $16,000/pair. Considering what you get, that seems reasonable to me, but ultimately, you have to go by how your ears and wallet work things out.

I foresee many such a deal sealed with The Kiss.

Vienna Acoustics
US distributor: Sumiko Audio
2431 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500