Legacy V Loudspeaker and Wavelet Processor System

Breaking the Mold

Equipment report
Solid-state preamplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters
Legacy Audio V,
Legacy Audio Wavelet
Legacy V Loudspeaker and Wavelet Processor System

The Legacy V is one of the finest speaker systems I’ve had the opportunity to listen to, one of the most technically innovative, and a true assault on the state of the art. It is, however, a true speaker system. The speaker is integrated with a preamp, DAC, room-correction system, and electronic crossover called the Legacy Wavelet processor. This four-way system includes eight channels of DSP, 3000 watts of bass amplification, and the requisite, balanced, low-frequency connecting cable.

It is also clearly a luxury product. A pair of the speakers, plus the Wavelet cost $49,500—depending on finish. Even if you discount that price for an excellent preamp and DAC, and consider the fact that four of the eight amp channels are built into the speakers, you’ll still need to add two top-grade stereo amps and their required cables.

The Promise of the Legacy V for the Rest of Us
But don’t let the price tag cause you to ignore this speaker. The good news for all but the wealthiest of us is that the Legacy V is the harbinger of a radical new approach to speaker performance and room correction that will soon become available in Legacy’s more affordable speakers. The technology may later be incorporated in electronics that can be adapted to any speaker.

This is particularly good for me and owners of more affordable Legacy speakers, because I use the Legacy Aeris as one of my references. In fact, my only serious complaint about the Aeris has been the difficulty of having to keep setting it up, and resetting its earlier manual form of room compensation, every time I have to rearrange my system for reviews.

The Wavelet solves that set-up problem. In fact, it offers by far the easiest and most reliable set-up process of any room-correction device I know. At the same time, it goes far beyond the performance of the earlier room correction Legacy provided for the Aeris (or other systems I’ve tested), and produces far better results than my previous efforts to adjust room performance using various forms of room damping and reflection treatments.

The Wavelet and Legacy V take a radical new approach to a problem that potentially affects every high-end system regardless of manufacturer and design. In fact, Legacy uses the Wavelet to address what in some ways has remained the most critical frontier in home audio—adjusting the speaker’s performance to eliminate the major colorations caused by the interaction between it and your listening room, while also greatly easing the choice of listening position.

The electronics in the Legacy V also do far more than simply reduce the impact of the gross peaks and valleys that turn the bass response of speakers into the equivalent of the north face of the Eiger. The Legacy V uses the Wavelet to reduce the impact of the reflected sound and time delays that color the rest of the sound, thereby increasing soundstage accuracy, musical detail, and realism of timbre to the extent that the recording permits. Put differently, it addresses the psychoacoustic problems in room/speaker/listening-position interaction to a degree that no competing system I’ve heard has attempted, and it does so with striking success. Indeed, it outperforms any other approach to room correction I’ve heard, and delivers on the potential of digital correction to a degree that more than offsets any slight colorations coming from its presence in the signal path.

In addition, its electronics are designed to permit easy firmware upgrades—a feature that should be a basic criterion for modern digital electronics. This means Legacy V buyers face a much reduced threat of obsolescence. As I note later, it also means that buyers of both the Legacy V and the Wavelet for other Legacy speakers will get an upgraded Wavelet by the time this review appears.

A Brief Description of the Legacy V’s Features
This has to be an unusual review in that most of it must focus on how the digital processing in the Wavelet interacts with the speaker design to provide a new approach to listening-position correction and the resulting sound. Understand, however, that the speaker part of this system is not some typical design waiting for a black box to perform electronic miracles. The Legacy V may not rival the largest competing speakers for sheer size, and doesn’t require a large separate subwoofer to get the deepest bass, but it is not a shrinking violet.

The Legacy V’s dipole configuration and use of passive bass radiators does reduce its size relative to the other systems I’ve heard with equal deep bass performance, but it is still big. The speaker is 6' high, about 19" wide, and 19" deep. It is very well built, designed to minimize any cabinet coloration, and weighs 226 pounds. It is definitely a two-person setup, and one I’d leave to the dealer.

It also has a fairly aggressive “techno” look with the front drivers largely exposed, a kind of sculpted metal base, and switchable, low-level blue LED lighting. I found this design to be fun, as did most of my guests, but it is not a subtle addition to room décor, particularly because its room-correction features make it possible for the speaker to work well in a smaller room than most speakers its size.

As I’ve already mentioned, it is a four-way system. It uses two Legacy 4"-long AMT neodymium tweeters, which Legacy says extend up to 30kHz, in a specially optimized post-convergent array. The Legacy V is the first system to use the new AMT ribbons in this arrangement. The treble extends downward to dual 6" open-air dipole midranges, which in turn transition to the pair of 14" dipolar lower midrange/upper bass elements at the top of the cabinet. The bass is provided by a 12" aluminum driver, with a magnetically encapsulated motor powered by a built-in 500W amplifier, and the very low frequencies by a 12" subwoofer driven by a 1000W internal amp. Both amps use ICEpower switching modules. The subwoofer has an exceptionally large magnetic structure that drives three 10", mass-loaded pneumatic radiators. Legacy says the combined output of these drivers shapes low frequencies into a cardioid pattern to avoid room coloration.

The separate Wavelet electronic unit is far more than a room-correction device, although it can be used as an add-on that follows another preamp and/or DAC. Legacy describes the Wavelet as follows: “Wavelet is a preamp, a four-way crossover with time alignment, a complete speaker and room-resonance correction system, and a high-end DAC with apodizing ability. The preamp and DAC can also be bypassed at the touch of a button. Wavelet debuts the revolutionary Bohmer acoustic processing to optimize the loudspeaker/room acoustic transfer function in both the frequency and time domains. Employing new algorithms, it starts with a psychoacoustically based measurement method with the provided calibrated microphone. Alignments are then individually optimized within an unprecedented 40ms window by way of a wireless iPad, smart phone, or computer. The result is audibly improved transient response that allows the V system to operate accurately and consistently in any listening environment.”

I’ll get to how all this affects the sound shortly, but when it comes to the technical details, the Wavelet is relatively compact for what it does. It is 17.52" wide by 3.74" high by 11.85" deep, and weighs only 13.5 pounds. It has two separate pairs of XLR and RCA analog inputs—each with a trim control to equalize volume between inputs. It has SPDIF (RCA) and optical (TosLink) digital inputs with 24-bits/192kHz capability for the SPDIF inputs and 24-bit/96kHz for the optical. (The actual DSP is an Analog Devices processor with an internal processing sample rate of 96kHz and bit depth of 56 bits.) 

A word about these 24-bit/96kHz+ input and processing limits, which not only apply to digital signals but also to analog ones (which must be converted to digital to feed the room-correction system). Legacy recommends a conversion tool such as JRiver if you are driving the Wavelet with a computer playing DSD files, and makes the valid point that almost all DSD recordings have to be mastered using PCM anyway. I’m a fan of SACD because some great modern classical recordings have been made using it, but I find the DSD fetish to be just that. If there is a difference, I’ve never heard anyone demonstrate it under controlled conditions.