Waxing Poetic About Mushrooms

The more I tested, the more I knew: The Onkyos didn't sound right.

The comparisons I'd made so far were primarily based on listening to acoustic guitar music. In this arena, the Onkyos at least stood a chance. After all, I'd been listening to so much of this sort of music partly because of the Onkyos. And, while they didn't always hold their own against the more natural-sounding DeVores, they did provide some truly exciting, and nearly frightening, moments of hi-fi goodness. If nothing else, the Onkyo/Takamine collaboration possesses a notably high jump factor. The sound of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet banging their hands against the bodies of their classical guitars — playing their instruments like Tito Puente playing the timbales — was simply startling as conveyed through the D-TK10s. I kept imagining real, live, grown men trapped within the speakers, knocking against the mahogany cabinets, trying to break their ways out.

Such moments of three-dimensional hyper-realism, however, didn't travel with the Onkyos into the world of amplified rock. Or, for that matter, folk-rock. For instance, the sudden snap of the snare drum on Smog's otherwise quiet "Say Valley Maker" from the 2005 album, A River Ain't Too Much To Love, was unfortunately dull. But it was when listening to more complex rock music that the gap between the Onkyos and the DeVores grew wide. Even with the wee-bittest more complex rock music — for example, In the Reins, the 2005 collaboration between the whispery Iron and Wine and the brassy Calexico — the gap was revelatory. I am so sorry to say that this beautiful album's somber final track, "Dead Man's Will," sounded miserable when communicated through the D-TK10s. Things fell apart. The chorus of delicate voices beneath Sam Beam's gentle lead was dragged across the floor like a tattered wedding dress. A similar sort of distortion marred Dave Lerner's excellent electric bass guitar riffs on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Shake the Sheets.

I had to leave the room.

I could go on.

I've failed to mention, however, that, when I wasn't comparing the Onkyos to other speakers, I liked them just fine. It was the comparisons that did them in. But, as Master Marcy said:

Comparing anything is cheap sensationalism. One may enjoy eating carrots without waxing poetic about mushrooms. Can't get paid for silence, but, what are you gonna buy, anyway, asparagus?

Hmm. Anyway.

Speaking of masters: It's been said that the guitar may be the easiest of all instruments to learn, but the most difficult to master. My own guitar-playing technique was built, partly, around the use of several effects boxes. (I simply fake it.) I used a few different reverb units, a phase and a flange, digital delay and echo, sustain, distortion, and chorus pedals. Most of these were employed in various combinations throughout every song in an attempt to create a special tone. That confounding chorus pedal, though, was such a little bugger. When I could actually get it to turn on, the only way I could really use it was with all of its levels set to their max positions. At this setting, the pedal created a pretty neat sci-fi sound, a menacing and powerful whir like a million alien spaceships zooming in for the attack. Despite its coolness, I only ever found a place for it in one song. In that one song, however, the confounding chorus pedal was absolutely wonderful.

And the Onkyo D-TK10 loudspeakers, to me, are kind of like that. They're like little effects boxes. At the right time, with the right song, they can be absolutely wonderful. They are special speakers — specialty speakers, in fact — that are very good-looking and often lots of fun, that, while showing utter respect for the acoustic guitar and acoustic guitar music, in general, ultimately seem to lack respect for so many other types of instruments and music.

Al Marcy's picture

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to Me ...Trying to stretch one bikini cup around two mammalian protruberences may be fun to watch, but, some things just don't fit reality. Or reality just doesn't fit ... yes, if we forget to pay attention, even our tiny computer monitor spearkers can lead us down the path ...