Moving upward into the lower-mid octaves, the melancholy, expressive voice of the cello during the Bruch Kol Nidrei was warmly reproduced—the resonant body of the instrument was fully present, and its dark sonic radiance, which conveys the power and spirituality of this music, was powerfully affecting. With Edgar Meyer’s acoustic bass, I found that the Starke hung onto the sustain with outstanding clarity and conviction. As I listened to these large-bodied instruments it struck home that the qualities that I often miss with many loudspeaker systems is the distinctive woody timbre that separates a hollow-bodied string instrument from other members of the orchestra. With its superb performance in this area, the Starke loudspeaker seemed to be reading my mind.
As the IC-H3 ascended into the upper middle octaves and lower treble it displayed a conservative and forgiving side that was more in keeping with audiophile values than the hot metallic approach of some of the less-than-genteel home-theater efforts I’ve experienced over the years. This was not an in-your-face, studio-monitor type of delivery. Imaging was solid and the speaker created firm center-stage images with vocals. However, at times I felt that vocalists were a step or two recessed in the soundstage. Further, as I listened to the DSD file of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” Paul Desmond’s alto sax struck me as sweeter than I typically hear it sound—some of the sax’s reedy attack was reduced. During Evgeny Kissin’s performance of Glinka’s The Lark, the concert grand also lost some of its note-to-note clarity and intensity during lightning-fast trills. Was the IC-H3 slightly overdamped in the upper mids and lower treble? Perhaps a bit, but I don’t want to exaggerate this impression. While you won’t mistake the Starke for an electrostat, the losses of transparency and speed are minor reductions that most listeners will easily factor out of the overall listening experience. I found that the Starke more than made up for these losses thanks to its tremendous weight and sustain in the lower registers.
What about movies? It’s a dirty little secret but there are more than a few audiophiles who, on occasion, are also looking to satisfy that home-theater sweet tooth—and I admit to being one of them. In my modest listening room, a pair of H3s all by its lonesome (no sub or center channel) was in its element. Soundtracks heavy with dialogue, like the film Fences, were articulate but not overly assertive. Movies that featured pyrotechnics and assorted special effects, such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were a showcase for the Starkes. During battle sequences, and even in lieu of surround channels, they twisted the air in the listening room with an authority and fury that created an atmosphere of intergalactic immersion. Their wide dynamic range unleashed the energy of the John Williams-conducted, ninety-piece symphony orchestra with almost casual ease.
My first encounter with Starke Sound and its IC-H3 was one of the more memorable blends of style and substance I’ve come across lately. With its combination of two-way delicacy and thrilling low-frequency slam, it carves a unique niche for stand-mounted speakers in today’s market. When you add its bold, eye-catching, contemporary design, you get the kind of speaker that creates a stir in a hobby that is often a little too conservative and insular.
An auspicious debut, and an enthusiastic thumbs-up to a company that I will be watching with anticipation in the coming years.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Three-way, acoustic-suspension, stand-mount loudspeaker
Drivers: 1" tweeter, 4" carbon-fiber mid, (2) 6.5" aluminum woofer
Frequency response: 38Hz–22kHz
Impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 11.8" x 25.6" x 15.4"
Weight: 64 lbs.
STARKE SOUND, LLC
17810 S Main Street, Suite B
Carson, CA 90248