Of course, as REG points out, because an omnidirectional radiates in all directions and invariably reflects off all surfaces, the acoustical character of your room is going to be more mixed into the presentation than would be the case with conventional loudspeakers—and far more than with loudspeakers that deliberately restrict the dispersion of the mids and highs (bass frequencies are always omnidirectional and always heavily influenced by one’s listening space). Acoustically speaking, my listening room happens to be an exceptionally pleasant space, so the PX1 was able to do its thing to best advantage. I’m uncertain how it would do in a less accommodating setting, say, one with lots of hard, flat surfaces. My guess is that it would perform much better than speakers of considerably less neutrality, but perhaps at some further sacrifice to imaging precision—because highly reflective rooms generally don’t allow for very good imaging under any circumstances unless you sit very close to the speakers, and the speakers are fairly restricted in their dispersion.
The only aspects the PX1 that Robert and I react to differently concern bass response and bass integration. It is certainly true that the PX1s are at the state of the art when it comes to bass articulation, definition, detail, and resolution, and they will certainly plumb the depths with considerable reach and power. However, play a recording like Volume 2 of Kei Koito’s Bach recital [Claves Records]—which The Diapason magazine judges a benchmark recording for organ music—on the PX1 and then play it on a system which uses, say, an REL subwoofer, and you would hear that the PX1s don’t quite have all the bottom-end reach some recordings have. On the vast majority of sources this won’t matter, though I would add that precisely because the PX1 is so good so far down, a top REL would make a splendid partner for that last half octave inasmuch as it is a true sub-bass woofer, principally intended to extend already superb bass response.
Then there is the obstreperous matter of integration. I want to hit this one as lightly as possible. When I heard the PX1 the year before last in a large room at the Newport show, I heard no discernible issues as regards cone bass to electrostatic mid and high integration. But in my much smaller room, from time to time I felt I did. It was nothing very serious, nothing that distracted from the listening experience, and it was infrequent and vague enough that it’s even difficult for me to put into words exactly the effect. All I can say is that on occasion I was aware that I was listening to two different kinds of transducers. (As a point of comparison, once I had the woofer level dialed in on the MartinLogan Montis hybrid electrostatic, which I reviewed a while ago, the integration was seamless.) As I said, I don’t want to hit this too hard, because it may be a function of the much smaller listening space. However, neither do I want to give the impression you need a baronial-size living room to house these speakers: They’re physically large, but they worked perfectly well in my 15' x 21' x 8' room, about seven feet out from the back wall.
The only thing that Robert didn’t mention but that does need to be addressed is their appearance. Given what Muraudio has accomplished in this speaker, the styling certainly constitutes a fine example of form following function. And yet, that didn’t stop the proliferation of wisecracks from audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike: gasoline pump, popcorn maker, water-cooler—you name it, I heard it. SOA—that is, Significant Other Acceptance—factor looms gigantic here. I love the sound, but I can’t say I cotton much to the appearance. One big problem, I think, is that the review samples were fitted with an optional contrasting chrome trim (that separates the upper and lower sections and caps) that actually accentuates the mirth-provoking aspects of the appearance. The standard finishes are unicolor, which I suspect will help a lot. But I still think the jokes are going to continue—at least until the music starts playing, at which point all wiseacres are shut up and all critics silenced.
Regular readers of mine will know that while I’m often “impressed” by the large super-expensive monster systems that so many audiophiles seem to lust after, I rarely actually like them, and I’ve heard none I would personally give house space to. This is because I find their sonic presentations merely impressive—there’s that irony-laden word again—or, to put it another way, all too typically assaultive rather than beautiful or powerful in the way that live music is beautiful and powerful. In that context, the PX1 is the only speaker system I’ve heard that costs more than my Quad 2805s that I would consider buying if I had the money.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Omnidirectional hybrid electrostatic speaker with dynamic-driver woofers in sealed enclosure plus electrostatic unit with three double-curved panels to form continuous 360-degree horizontal coverage at all frequencies, +/-8 degrees vertical pattern in higher frequencies
Total electrostatic membrane area: 5000 square centimeters (775 sq. in.), ultra-thin Mylar film
Maximum SPL: 105dB at 2 meters, on-axis
Low frequency unit: Total driver area (three drivers together) 640 square centimeters (99 square inches, 33 per driver, equivalent to 11-inch driver)
Crossover: 450Hz, fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley
Frequency response: Anechoic, 30Hz–20kHz; typical room, 20Hz–22kHz (-3dB points)
Impedance: 8 ohm nominal, 2 ohm minimum at 20kHz
Input power: 500W (1000W, program peak)
Dimensions: 56" x 18"
Weight: 145 lbs.
Price: $63,000 (active model is $69,500)
11 Tristan Court
Canada K2E 8B9