It has come to me that by some fortuitous alignment of the stars I’ve ended up with a system in my new second-floor listening room that is the most transparent to sources I’ve ever had in my home. This isn’t just a matter of components “complementing” each other, although the components certainly do; it is also a matter of the—for lack of better words—duplication or triplication or quaduplication of the same set of virtues.
Usually speakers and electronics and sources have slightly different sets of virtues (although some of these overlap). As a result, they sound as if they are connected to one another not just by interconnects and cables but by plus and minus signs. At each link of the chain things are being added to or subtracted from the original signal, and the trick is to balance what is added/subtracted so that what started off sounding like “A+” ends up sounding like “A+.”
Here everything in the system, including the loudspeakers and analog and digital sources, is connected by equal signs; everything in the chain has almost exactly the same sonic signature, which is to say that everything is: 1) extremely low in coloration; 2) extremely high in resolution; and 3) higher in transparency to sources than any other hi-fi system I’ve yet tried out. The result, as I have noted elsewhere, is like looking over the recording and mastering engineers’ shoulders as they record and mix an LP or CD.
Given certain pitch-range and ultimate SPL limitations (which simply come with the territory with ’stats) everything that has been registered by the microphones—pure or impure—and every mastering strategy—pure or impure—is passed down the entire chain without most of the usual and obvious dichotomous colorations (darkness/lightness of overall balance, timbral warmth/coolness, dynamic politeness/aggressiveness, textural liquidity/graininess, even tendencies to beautify/turn everything into a shade of audiophile gray), and the system does this from the slightest pianississississimo to the wildest fortissimo. Indeed, when it comes to dynamic range, this system sets a new standard by setting a new standard of very-low-level resolution that makes pppp’s not just clear when the volume is turned up but clear at whisper-soft levels. (For more on this feat, read my upcoming review of the Da Vinci ’table and arm in Issue 191.)
At the moment, the chief limitations in what I hear are those built into the CLX: a steep roll-off in the very low bass, a slight flattening of three-dimensionality, a slight constriction of soundstage width and depth, and a definite limit on ultimate SPLs. OTOH, what these truly marvelous speakers bring to the table so far outweighs what they leave in the tool chest that I am a little afraid that every other transducer I’ll try from here on out may—in spite of any superiorities—end up being a bit less faithful to sources. The CLXes are simply SO transparent and colorless that they sound like the transducer versions of the very best and most neutral solid-state electronics (e.g., the Soulution 721 preamp and 710 amp and 740 CD player, which, in turn, sound like the electronic versions of MartinLogan CLXes without any electrostatic limitations in SPL or frequency response at extremes).
If you can live without the deep bass and 100+dB SPLs, you will be hard pressed to find another speaker that sounds this realistic with first-rate sources, especially for this money. (OTOH, the CLX will not only tell you plainly if a source isn’t first-rate; it will also tell you precisely how it was screwed up.)