Legacy V Loudspeaker and Wavelet Processor System

Breaking the Mold

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding,
Solid-state preamplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters
|
Products:
Legacy Audio V,
Legacy Audio Wavelet
Legacy V Loudspeaker and Wavelet Processor System

As for the rest of the Wavelet features, there is an XLR input for the room-correction mic, and an Ethernet interface for room correction and firmware updating. There are also four XLR outputs per channel: one for the subwoofer amplifier (internally powered), one for the bass (internally powered), one for a user-provided lower midrange amplifier, and one for a user-provided midrange/treble amplifier. The good news is you get two sets of 15-foot XLR cables with the speaker, and Legacy says amplifiers of 60W and 30W are good for the midrange and treble inputs, respectively. (Oh, and yes, the sonic nuances of your particular choice in power amps will still be audible in spite of the room correction.)

Finally, there is a small, basic remote volume control, but what counts is the Wavelet app for both setting up and operating the system. The Web-based remote app worked on both an iPad and iPhone, although my iPad kept dropping out and required some tweaking to reinstall the app. The app’s features were very good and the installation option was exceptionally easy to use. Setup is quick and automated, and avoids a dependency on exact positioning of the set-up microphone.

You can control volume very precisely, choose inputs quickly, do some minor boosts and cuts, and switch on/off three correction features: room correction, apodizing (removing pre-ringing in the digital filter), and low-frequency crosstalk. To adjust individual recordings as required there are three faders for bass-frequency contours centered at 40Hz, 80Hz, and 160Hz, and a lower treble control centered at 5kHz. I would additionally like to see a balance control to make minor adjustments in the soundstage. Legacy tells me this is now being developed.

The Sound
When it comes to the sound, I’m going to take a different approach from my normal reviews. The Legacy V is still a very good speaker system even if you turn the room-correction feature off. It has extraordinary frequency range, low- and high-level dynamics, and exceptionally natural musical detail. The deep bass will still go down to subwoofer levels, although the overall bass response will be far more ragged. The highs will still be extended without any apparent rise at the top or touch of hardness, and the speaker will still provide an excellent soundstage with good definition, image size, width, and depth (although one that does not approach the nuances and realism of the sound with the room-correction features on).

That said, you aren’t going to buy this speaker as if it were a conventional transducer. It is the very nature and sound of the room correction that define it. The combination of the Legacy V and the Wavelet involves so many processing options tailored to interact directly with the speaker—and so many innovations in room correction—that I’ve asked Bill Dudleston to provide a short description of each key feature and what he was seeking to accomplish in musical sound quality. I’ve then done my own listening to validate or criticize them as objectively as possible.

What makes the Legacy V system different from other high-end speakers?
Dudleston: The Legacy V system projects a carefully controlled radiation pattern to greatly reduce early reflections. This widens the acceptable listening area, improves stereo imaging, and helps to properly place sources front to back. The ambience of the recording hall is more present and the room colorations are diminished. Most importantly the radiation pattern is an ideal candidate to maximize the benefits of DSP.

  • The Wavelet’s DSP system restores the natural free-field separation at low frequencies, which is otherwise bounded by the room’s physical dimensions.
  • The V system’s directivity pattern prevents early reflections from masking the recording venue.
  • The V system with Wavelet reconstructs the natural low-frequency separation occurring within the first 14ms. (Any cut from Dick Hyman/Age of Swing will reveal the wider and deeper soundstage benefits.)
  • The Wavelet processor’s Bohmer Audio Room Correction virtually eliminates the problematic effects of reflections and resonances throughout the listening field over a 40ms window. (The opening plucked bass from Holly Cole’s rendition of “I Can See Clearly Now” from Don’t Smoke in Bed demonstrates this all over the room.)
  • The Wavelet processor virtually eliminates digital pre-ringing of brickwall filters via apodization. (Defeating the apodization by placing the DAC control in the linear mode will demonstrate the digital hash that was present.)

Cordesman Assessment of Impact on Sound: From the practical viewpoint of an audiophile, the combination of the Wavelet and the Legacy V does achieve several goals. One is that the Legacy V with the room correction on provides an unusually large listening area. This area involves only a minimal shift in low-frequency sound as you alter listening position height, or move away from the wall, or to the sides and even to the corners of the room. It also provides very good upper-octave response over a wide area without the beaming effect or directivity of designs that affect upper-octave energy and parts of the soundstage with limited head movements.

I’ll get into the impact of the room correction on the music shortly, but in summary it does an exceptional job of reproducing the sound of given venues, as heard within my limited collection of chamber music recordings in local homes and halls I know quite well. It also does an exceptional job in symphonic music of reproducing the sonic characteristics and ambience in two concert halls very familiar to me.

As for the apodizing filter, about all I can say is that the overall digital processing sounds very good and is competitive with DACs that cost as much as the entire Wavelet, but is not quite as clean as the very best and most expensive DACs I’ve heard. The apodizing filter feature is switchable. Using it, I rarely heard a difference; nonetheless, I would make sure to keep it switched on to correct the more audible pre-ringing in some recordings. (Some older CDs have more audible problems that using the filter does reduce.)

How does the radiation pattern and driver technology affect given aspects of the music?
Dudleston: How a speaker radiates into a room and the rate at which it starts and stops are the primary building blocks of its sound character. Whether reproducing the delicate texture of brushes on a snare or the growl of a bass, these characteristics are dependent on the precise tracking of the recorded waveform. The advantages of using multiple synchronized drivers with increasing radiating surface with falling frequency are large. This allows each driver’s bandwidth to be specifically optimized for its musical range.

Since the sound of music is the change of pressure level over time, it is self-evident that the ability to change levels quickly without limitations is key to dynamic performance and transient decay. This is where the V system can really shine. First it has approximately three times the diaphragm area of a high-end speaker with a pair of 8" lower-mids. The neodymium magnet structures provide a very intense restoring force. By overdamping the driver slightly, the high power provided by the amplifiers can be applied to overcome the added stiffness of the suspension for a faster decay. This is another advantage of the DSP, as we can control the voltage output precisely.

Using solid cast driver frames, premium motors, optimized magnetic gaps, and careful diaphragm selection are key. If one gently taps or rubs each cone diaphragm, one can literally hear the range for which it is optimized.

Cordesman Assessment of Impact on Sound: The overall integration of the wide mix of drivers and driver locations is nearly seamless and—as is true with every really good speaker—you would never know how complex and large the Legacy V is from its sound.

The Legacy V has a very clean presentation without any of the artificial emphasis in the upper midrange that can sometimes give the impression of a “clean” sound, but at the price of natural timbre in the strings and woodwinds. The speaker’s overall timbre is slightly warmer than that of some competing speakers, but its response is very extended, and dynamic detail is exceptional and more realistic at low and high levels with the room-correction feature on, and is about as musical and natural as the recording permits.

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