Raidho C 4.1, Pt. II

Great Dane

Raidho C 4.1, Pt. II

Well, I’ve been listening to these tall, thin, exceptionally beautiful loudspeakers for several months now, and they’ve only continued to get better with settling-in time, break-in time, considerable tweaking of their position in my room, and the use of superior sources and electronics.

I might as well say this outright: These are not only the most transparent-to-source loudspeakers I’ve yet heard in my room; they are the most transparent-to-room loudspeakers I’ve yet heard. Like sonic microscopes, they seemingly make every little adjustment more unmistakably audible. Whether it’s their own placement in the room (vis-à-vis sidewalls, backwalls, toe-in, each other, listening position, listening position height, etc.), room treatment (for example, I have never before been able to identify the precise acoustic effects of Synergistic Research’s Bass Stations—with the C 4.1s their markedly fuller, richer, darker timbre and “bigger” [sometimes too big] presentation in the bottom octaves and the midbass became obvious, as did little changes in their position vis-à-vis the woofers), electronics (magically revealing of the sonic plusses and minuses of whatever is feeding them), source components (ditto), cable and interconnect (double ditto), or recording (triple ditto).

I’ve really never heard anything quite like these Great Danes, save for their little brothers, the C 1.1s. Their transient response is simply nonpareil. No speaker—planar, electrostatic, or dynamic—exceeds them in midband-to-treble speed. But where you might think that faster necessarily means thinner in tone color, as it often does in other transducers, that is not the case here. The C 4.1s couple their standard-setting transient speed with gorgeous tone color (provided that the recording is gorgeous to begin with). In this regard, they remind me a bit of Constellation’s Performance Series electronics—or, better still, Technical Brain’s latest EX electronics.

In my upcoming review of DaVinciAudio Labs’ marvelous Master’s Reference Virtu tonearm, I talk about what this unprecedented speed and color can mean when it comes to the illusion of realism. For instance, on something like the second movement of George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes for Violin and Piano [Mainstream], which is played almost entirely pizzicato (on both violin and prepared piano!), the Raidho’s uncanny ability to sort through the various and varied plucks, knocks, and glissandos in real time rather than “hi-fi time”—i.e., with no sense that the transient attack is being somewhat slowed and blunted and steady-state tone and decay somewhat lengthened or sweetened, or that the timing of steady-state tone and decay are being slightly scanted and the bite of transient attacks somewhat exaggerated—makes for an appreciably more realistic presentation all by itself. In reducing the subtle but pervasive way in which loudspeakers and electronics “re-clock” the durations of musical events, “timing errors” (which blur articulation and exaggerate or scant colors and dynamics) are virtually eliminated. As a result music unfolds at a noticeably more natural and lifelike pace, which allows it to be startlingly dynamic, meltingly beautiful, and fool-you realistic (and not just for a brief moment) at the same time.

But lifelike durations are scarcely all the C 4.1 excels at. As I noted, this Raidho also has gorgeous tone color, so that you not only get a “real-time” sense of exactly how notes are being sounded and sustained; you also get the precise mix of color that attends the “real-time” articulation of notes, the ongoing way those pitches and their harmonics are made to blend and contrast with each other (within the hall or studio in which they were recorded).

It should go without saying that the Raidho C 4.1s are paragons of resolution, in every reasonable sense of that word—tone color, instrumental textures, low-level dynamics, high-level dynamics, ambience. They don’t miss a thing, and find many a thing that other (even other truly great loudspeakers) have often missed. They are also extraordinary soundstagers, not just capable of throwing a wall-to-wall-to-wall soundfield (and disappearing nearly completely inside it) but also of a wrap-around effect (on the right discs) that I have only before heard this consistently from mbl Radialstrahlers, albeit without the slightly soft, out-of-focus imaging of a Radialstrahler at centerstage.

So far I am describing a speaker that would seem to be a flawless match for every type of listener—“transparency to sources,” “absolute sound,” and “as you like it.” But the C 4.1s are not for everyone.

Here is why. There are listeners out there—a whole lot of them—who will want more full-time “slam” in the midbass than the C 4.1s are engineered to deliver. To my ear, loudspeakers with this kind of slam generally peak in the midbass and then roll-off rapidly in the octaves below about 60Hz. (There is one speaker I’ve heard at some length that has this kind of midbass weight and authority without the subsequent low-bass roll-off—that being the Magico Q7.) This “pot-bellied” presentation can be very exciting and, yes, realistic (at least in a thump-to-the-chest sense) on some kinds of rock, large-scale classical, and large-ensemble jazz. But to my ear, no speaker (with or without the low-bass roll-off) that is designed to perform some level of this midbass trick record-in and record-out, regardless of recording, can also be considered a true high-fidelity transducer.

I’ve made the argument for my position—and my listening bias—clear in my review of the Magico Q5s. High fidelity to me means fidelity to sources (and, when those sources are first-rate, a very persuasive illusion of the real thing); it does not mean a marked, consistent-from-record-to-record, superimposed (because built-in) frequency-response hump or plateau in the 60-100Hz range (or anywhere else, for that matter). 

DO NOT MISINTEPRET WHAT I AM SAYING. The C 4.1 is anything but bass-shy or sucked-out in the power range! If anything it is slightly dark, sweet, and rich in overall balance (although this depends to a very large extent on source electronics), with realistic authority in the power range and the midbass (just put on any good piano recording and hear for yourself). What it is not is a thump-in-the-chest machine. Oh, it’ll thump you if the power is there on the recording, and it’ll shiver walls and floors (and you) on really low notes with some of the best of ’em. But it won’t do this as a matter of course. It will only do so if the dynamic range is there on the recording itself.

I will continue to report on the C 4.1s as time goes by. But, as you can probably tell, my opinion of them (for what it’s worth) couldn’t be higher. Like the Raidho C 1.1s but more so, these are truly great loudspeakers, competitive with, if not outright better (which is to say, more consistently realistic) than, the very best I’ve heard or reviewed. I love them—and so does my well-seasoned listening panel.

This isn’t to say that they are perfect. (In a subsequent blog I will talk at greater length about what they do incredibly well—and what they don’t.) What I am saying is that if I had a $140k or so to spend on a loudspeaker (ha!), the Raidho C 4.1s would be what I would buy.