Updated: Apr 27
I have no idea what to call this blog, so I've settled on this title. Why? Because I'm currently running in a pair of loudspeakers at home which have taken me quite by surprise in many ways. For almost a week now, they've been impressing me with both music and movies, so I'm going to write them up on a daily basis, and when I feel I can't really say much more, I’ll stop and reveal all (after their first review is published).
These haven't been set upon their dedicated stands, nor have they been placed in their ideal position either, whatever that may be. Because of space limitations, they sit exactly where my usual Jim Rogers JR149s sit. They're about 4" from the rear wall, toed in a little to focus just behind my head at my listening position. They're slightly higher than I would've liked them as they fire slightly upwards, but again, they have to sit where they are, which is on top of a double stack of plastic tubs of vinyl due to space restrictions. Far from ideal, so on top of these and underneath each speaker sits an Auralex Subdude which does a pretty good job of isolating them and other speakers I try at home. I've forgotten which albums I've tried so far, but I'll add brief thoughts on the bits I remember. They're being driven by a Hegel H120 - leaving plenty of scope for an amplifier upgrade, but this just goes to show the quality that is on offer from the H120, and how these slightly pricey standmounts don't necessarily need lorry loads of amplification to sound good. Having said that, I reckon a Hegel H390 would be more ideal. Movies are fed from a Sony UBP700 UHD Bluray player (audio downmixed to stereo and fed via coaxial digital), and music is from TIDAL generated from the mConnect app controlling the H120.
After listening to a few go-to albums such as Massive Attack's Mezzanine, I was seriously impressed with their bass extension for their size, with kick drums completely distinguishable from the meaty bass lines. The amount of detail that was pouring forth from the soft fabric HF unit was a little overwhelming at first, as I just wasn't used to this much detail in my room, except for possibly the Eclipse loudspeakers. Far from lacking bass for their size, their balance seemed to be geared a little towards the midrange and HF, which really showed on close mic'd vocals and instruments such as piano. Low level listening - and I mean low level listening, like down to 5 or 6 on the Hegel - was still highly detailed, and therefore far more involving than my JR149s. So, on to the evening's movie viewing.
I decided on a David Fincher's Zodiac, mainly because I wanted to hear how well they could handle heavy dialogue and atmospheric detail. Dialogue was extremely easy to understand, and I even heard a few words during the film that I must've missed on previous viewings (14 times since 2011, now 15). Fincher puts a lot of work into the sound of his movies, they're very busy with regards to background noise, but I wasn't quite ready for what I was about to experience - ambiance overload! I always knew his films were quite busy in almost every respect, but I was hearing stuff I honestly hadn't heard before! Living close to a main road (and traffic lights), I quite often hear boy racers and motorbikes revving and accelerating, even around the outskirts of the village a mile or so away sometimes, but at one point I paused the film as it sounded like someone was racing up and down outside - but it was in the movie! It was the scene where Avery takes Graysmith to a store room to show him some newspaper articles and ends up showing him the advert for the Zodiac watch.
Continuing a run of David Fincher films, I went with The Game and Se7en. The Game was more of the same really, just hordes of information surrounding the dialogue. Se7en was overwhelming. First up, I have NEVER heard the opening title track (Nine Inch Nails) sound like that. Ever. Whereas before it usually sounded a bit muddled and messy, I was suddenly hearing a perfectly engineered track where all instruments (and various noises) all had their own space, including depth, more akin to a multi-channel SACD mix - I've never felt so "involved" in that opening track like before. Ambient noise in this movie is a given - it is intentionally exaggerated as part of Somerset's story, but you don't miss a thing through these bad boys!
I've previously said that Se7en is the only movie that has made me miss having surround sound at home due to Howard Shore's haunting score being placed in the rear speakers throughout the film. That's now changed. When his score sounds this good, it doesn't matter where it is! Slowly building throughout the movie, initially very subtle, creeping under your skin without realisation, building up as the movie works towards its shocking finale. This has been my most enjoyable viewing of Se7en to date.
I like to watch comedies on a Saturday night, as I like to have a little drink with it not being a school night, and a little bit of alcohol always makes a comedy funnier. So I picked out Dodgeball, Old School, Dumb & Dumber, and Kingpin. It almost felt like I was wasting the evening watching comedy on these speakers when I could be watching something meatier. That didn't matter. These speakers weren't going to take a night off from displaying their immense strengths. I was dumbfounded by just how much better Dodgeball sounded than usual, something I really was not expecting.
I'd been wanting to watch these since getting the speakers. Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, both in 4K. Blade Runner sounded phenomenal, particularly the opening scene with the industrial chimneys exploding into the sky as the camera flies over them. These speakers weren't going to shortchange with this scene, sounding not only more like a floorstanding loudspeaker, but almost like a subwoofer! Some dialogue in this movie can sound a little strained and hard to follow, but again, I heard a few words here and there that I'd not heard before. I even ran the film right until the end of the credits because of how good the soundtrack for this movie sounded, which I don't usually do.
I had high hopes for Blade runner 2049, but it ended up being a little bit of a disappointment due to the fact that it lacked the sort of busy sound stage that David Fincher's films have. 2049's sound stage is as sparse as its landscapes. It still sounded phenomenal though, bringing out all the low end I usually miss with my loudspeakers, as well as revealing K's initial conversation with his superior in his car as a voice over in a sound booth, the acoustics sounded wrong. I've heard other movies where you can tell the dialogue has been dubbed, but I'd not noticed this before.
I decided to move back to a David Fincher film, again as a test of heavy dialogue and electronic score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network. I wasn't let down. The last time I heard the score sound this good was from the compact disc of the score played through KEF Blades. Even the opening track where Zuckerberg is running though the grounds of Harvard University threw up some bits and bobs I'd not noticed, and got across straight away just how good music from this movie is through these speakers. Even Jesse Eisenberg's lightning fast dialogue delivery throughout the movie didn't stop these speakers from allowing me to hear every word he said.
Today I've been doing a lot of music listening. Leftfield's 1995 Leftism sounds as fresh and energetic as the day it was released, almost like it could've been released recently. The Cinematic Orchestra's recent album To Believe sounds absolutely sublime, so much so that I doubt anyone would suspect they'd be listening to TIDAL, no doubt helped by the transparency of these speakers, and their ability to project into the listening space. Royksopp's Melody A.M. can sometimes sound a little messy, but these speakers had no issue with the album, including doing a fantastic job with the bass on the opening track So Easy. Many ported standmounts tend to not quite reach deep enough, and it sometimes sounds a little wrong if the speaker can't quite reach deep enough, but these reached the lower bass note of the track with ease, making the track a joy to listen to (as it would normally be on floorstanders).
Sevdaliza's album Ison sounds absolutely fabulous. No problems at all following each individual overdubbed line, and not a bass note out of place or seemingly lacking. There's obviously no smearing of the image in any way, which helps her voice just sit in front of you in thin air while synth lines dance around the soundstage and the deep bass lines underpin everything. Even if you don't like this album, these speakers make it an enjoyable and interesting experience.
Due to time constraints, had to jiggle about movie-wise, but mainly watched one of my favourite movies, No Country For Old Men. From a sound point of view this was similar to Blade Runner 2049 in that it’s quite sparse, even more so due to the lack of score to accompany the film. So other than generally sounding better, this didn’t bring anything extra to the table - until the end credits! Not a track consisting of conventional instruments (except guitars), I usually turn it up a little, close my eyes, and follow all the instruments. I did the same tonight, but it just sounded so different. As with other music, it had a real sense of depth to the soundstage, plenty of space around the ultra-detailed instruments, with this new level of detail providing more insight as to what the instruments actually are.
Not much to report tonight movie wise due to time issues, but was listening to Kodomo’s album Still Life earlier. The general feel of the album is along the lines of Boards Of Canada, with the opening track being heavily influenced by Roygbiv from their 1999 Music Has The Right To Children album. There’s some lovely meaty bass notes on this album which really don’t feel like they should have any place coming from a standmount loudspeaker with a single 6” bass driver. Some standmounts can sound like they’re trying to hard when it comes to the lower octaves, in turn spoiling the “illusion” they’re trying to create, but these lack that negative issue - they continue to sound balanced, effortless, and therefore, natural.
For the next three evenings I’m running through the Mission Impossible movies in 4K, so tonight there’s not much to report, mainly because the first movie - as good as it is - hasn’t received any audio remastering, which it desperately needs, and the second one, well, the best thing about the second one is Limp Bizkit...
Despite only being a two channel system, I’d put these up against ANY similarly priced (or even more expensive) AV speakers with regards to not only quality, but also their ability to communicate. Watching the Mission Impossible series further - MI:III, Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation - they‘re extremely adept at conveying tension. Any ‘race against time’ situation in movies like this - and there are many - they really pull you in and add to the “will they, won’t they” anticipation, despite the fact you know very well the outcome!
And today, I’ve never heard Alva Noto sound so good. I wasn’t expecting much as it’s mostly bass notes and beeps with some piano, but I guess the better the system is at recreating a piano, the more convincing it is, full stop. And boy, those bass notes! Deep, clean, and tighter than Kylie’s hot pants, which is not only testament to the speakers, but also to the Hegel H120, which could quite possibly be the best Class AB amplifier at its price point. I can’t wait to hear these with an H390! Given the measured bass response of these, they must be hitting low 30s in-room.
And sometimes, I have to remind myself that these are the entry level loudspeakers in their range...
Finishing off the Mission Impossble run with Fallout - possibly the best action movie this century - I can only echo what I said yesterday with regards to the tension that can be created during films with the aid of the score, although not all systems are able to do this justice.
Listening to more Alva Noto today, I still haven’t found any albums yet where the port causes any audible issues. Some ports produce noise and hideous bass boom when located near to walls, but not so with these. This is partly down to the fact they don’t use a conventional round port, but also because they don’t seem to expel air at high velocity. Their bass is extremely even sounding, with no bass notes seemingly sounding excessively loud in comparison to others, and the bass covers a nice wide range - an issue that I’ve accused a lot of subwoofers in the past of failing to do. I haven’t come across a bass line yet where a deeper note kicks in but sounds odd because it’s lower than the port frequency it’s tuned to. I guess with the aforementioned in-room bass response, they reach deep enough to be able to cover all but the deepest bass lines in conventional music.
Jonny Greenwood’s unusual score to You Were Never Really Here took on a whole new life tonight, and Wacky Phoenix’s mumbling dialogue was easier to understand.
Tonight I discovered that Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape Of Water sounds just as good as its breathtaking looks. There is no way a multi-channel system at this price could match the detail I’m hearing. At the price of this amplifier and speakers, the main speakers in a 5.1 system would be around £2000 at the very most, and even less in an Atmos system. There really is no substitute for outright sound quality. I haven’t heard detail in movies like this since my Ken Kreisel Quattro loudspeakers, and for music quality, I’ve not had this good in this room at all, and I can’t imagine any standmount this side of £10,000 being appreciably better - but I’m always willing to be proven wrong though!
I played a really rough recording today - Death From Above 1979’s Outrage Is Now - I just wanted to listen to it, it wasn’t to assess the speakers in any way. Despite that, I was surprised at the extra detail I was hearing, with little bits here and there that I wasn’t aware of, despite the source being TIDAL. It just goes to show, that even with far less than perfect material, more detail can be heard from a more revealing system.
Watching Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival tonight was another ‘experience’. Johann Johannsson’s score, and in particular Max Richter’s On The Nature Of Daylight sounded absolutely fabulous, as did the whale-like communications of “Abbott and Costello”, the two octopod aliens, making the whole story feel so much more believable and involving. And the subwoofer-like bass played its part as well!
wednesday 1st April
Tonight was the turn of another David Fincher film, his 2009 remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Once again, it’s just another example of Fincher’s attention to detail when it comes to ambient noise and goings on, something I’ve never heard so obviously with other directors. But it was Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score that surprised here - on previous viewings, it’s mostly quite subdued and barely noticeable - but this viewing, it was “there”, throughout the movie, demanding just as much attention as the dialogue. And these speakers are more than happy to facilitate that.
So far, there’s been a few real standout movies that have been an absolute joy to watch using these speakers, and although I enjoy them anyway, I’ve enjoyed them so much more this time round - The Shape Of Water, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Arrival, Blade Runner, The Social Network, Zodiac, Mission Impossible: Fallout, and Se7en. And even Dodgeball! And I’ve got to reiterate again that there are no multi-channel systems of an equivalent price that are going to sound like this. Pepsi challenge welcomed.
I’ve got some corkers coming up over the course of this week and the weekend though, so do check back. And I promise to add more in about music too, particularly now these loudspeakers have really settled down after having used them constantly now for almost two weeks.
thursday 2nd and friday 3rd
A double bill of Nicholas Winding Refn movies - Neon Demo and Only God Forgives. While these moves might be a little baffling to watch, they’re shot really well and beautiful to look at, with strong uses of colour. But it’s the soundtracks I’m interested in here, and they don’t disappoint. Adding genuine hi-fi quality audio to movies really elevates the experience, making you feel more involved in the film. it’s something you really should experience for yourself.
I had a bit of an alien binge tonight, and worthy mentions go to Edge Of Tomorrow and Battle: Los Angeles. It’s been a little while since I’ve watched the latter as it’s a very average movie in every sense of the word, but boy does it sound good through this system! I enjoyed it far more than I had previously, with the depth of bass really helping to bring a sense of realism to movies - as a subwoofer does - and that was even more evident with Edge Of Tomorrow. It didn't quite reach the lowest notes of the opening audio sequence, but that’s far from a negative for a standmount pair of loudspeakers with a 6” bass driver! These babies can dig deeper than some subwoofers, with the added bonus of audibly better integration.
Tonight was the turn of something quite different. Two movies from French directing couple Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet - The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears, and Amer. Both movies are inspired by the Italian Giallo horror movies of the 60s and 70s, and this really shows in their style. Many of the sound effects are exaggerated, really bringing them forward into the main mix of the film, and you’re struck by the stark lack of dialogue throughout both movies, particularly the latter. This this time round though, the music plays a much bigger part, and again, involves you more in the movie increasing their enjoyment.
Two disaster movies tonight. Knowing, and Sunshine. Both of these movies need good deep bass for them to be effective, particularly the latter. As mentioned before, it’s quite easy to forget I’m listening to a standmount loudspeaker with a 6” bass driver during some films. Its just a shame I can’t test out their limits, but they’re giving me all the volume and bass I need in a normal domestic listening environment.
You get nothing today, it’s my birthday! I watched both series of Spaced. Sounded great, obviously. There’s something disturbing about hearing the theme tune to The Magic Roundabout sounding this good though...
Started the Alien franchise tonight - Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic. As with other movies - and music - you just notice little things. I wanted to mention them, but I didn’t write this until the 11th, and forgot what they were. I’ll update if they come back to me.
Listened to some Mr. Scruff today. His albums have never really struck me as being particularly well recorded, and they’re not the sort of thing you put on to impress people. But by God they sound fantastic on these speakers. So good in fact, I ended up going through his whole catalogue! And I even played the tracks I’m not so keen on as well...
Tonight, Aliens, and Alien 3. As good as the score is for Alien, James Horner’s score for Aliens is just downright creepy in places, even creepier than Howard Shore’s for Se7en. It’s quite subtle in places, but thankfully, easier to follow with these speakers. if you have certain Bluray versions though, you’ll be able to listen to it in isolation (on the disc I mean, not in self-isolation!) - do so and you’ll see what I mean!
To round off the Alien franchise, I finished with Prometheus and Alien Covenant. These two movies are far from the best in the franchise, but they're not the worst either (he says, looking at Alien Resurrection), but they sound great and look fantastic. Hearing them on these speakers just helped me enjoy them more. As with some other movies, the low bass performance has been excellent - I can only guess how good the floorstanding version of these with dual 6” bass drivers can sound!
Shark night tonight. The Meg. An oddly enjoyable shark film, which is worth watching just to see Jason Statham get acted off the screen by a CGI shark. I only really watched that and Shark Night 3D to lead up to what I really wanted to watch - Jaws, the holy grail of shark movies. While much of the movie is pretty average sound wise, there are a few scenes of note, like the boat’s engine giving up out at sea, but the main reason I watched this was for Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which is almost a movie in itself. The speakers allow the score to swell and contract naturally, and provide ample depth for the drums to add their necessary weight - the attack on the Kintner boy feels all the more shocking when the accompanying score sounds this good.
Off the back of Jaws, I left like watching Spielberg’s Duel. These loudspeakers capture the menacing rumble of the monster truck, portraying well its size and weight in doing so.
I popped on some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club today, just because I felt like it. They’re quite rough albums, not particularly well recorded, but I was quite surprised at the clarity on offer that I’d never heard from these albums before - instruments had a bit more of their own space, and some instruments stood out like a sore thumb compared to how everything’s normally all thrown in together.
2012. Roland Emmerich’s trashy end-of-the-world blockbuster which is never going to win any awards, but it’s just so enjoyable to watch! It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Another film that requires a subwoofer (or four), these 6” drive units were able to convey extremely well the immense destruction and chaos depicted on the screen
Music today was Elysian Fields. Their stuff is jazz influenced rock, forward, close mic’d vocals, and usually pretty well recorded, with a bit of an “edge” at times. Wow. The space around everything was so great that the soundstage was completely three dimensional - you could tell how far away certain instruments were from you, and her lazy, sultry voice just hanging in the air. I do wander sometimes whether active speakers actually have a benefit once you hit this quality level with passive loudspeakers...
A Christopher Nolan double bill tonight - Insomnia and Memento. After watching these two, I think what I’ve been trying to get across is that you feel closer to what you’re watching or listening to. You can hear the space that the instruments, sound effects, dialogue, inhabit, making viewing/listening a more convincing and realistic experience.
As of this point, I’ll update as and when something really stands out rather than every day, otherwise this will be as long as War And Peace!
Guardians Of The Galaxy 1 and 2. Both sounded amazing. A busy effects soundtrack, and some great music, which I’ve never heard sound so good - it’s just like listening to a high quality hifi system - which this is! But AV systems rarely sound like this...
Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. The movie is full of OTT action, in the style of an American blockbuster, and the soundtrack is intentionally mixed with excessive bass to accompany said action. On top of that, the complex, overdubbed music by David Arnold, makes for an extremely busy soundtrack. The music usually sounds quite so-so, but this system just picked it apart and put it out there “as is”, to the point there were numerous bits and bobs I’d not heard before, including some instruments - and even a complete line of dialogue!
The Blues Brothers! This movie always sounds good, even if a little lean in the bass, but this is the best I’ve ever heard it. Tonight was the first time I noticed every single touch of the bass strings on Donald Duck Dunne’s bass guitar, and easier to follow Dan Akroyd’s vocals during the songs too. I’ve never really used movies that heavily incorporate music in demos before, but I will be from this point onwards, as it’s a big tell tale of sound quality.
I ran through some of David Sylvian’s albums today, and was impressed by Brilliant Trees. There’s usually something about this sound quality of this album that just sounds so digital, and I usually end up skipping it for some of his later ones. But this system, as it has done with other albums, just separates out all the individual instruments and gives them their own space, making each one much easier to follow, and doing far more for it than any remaster could ever do.
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Another music based movie, with lots of quick-fire Edgar Wright sound effects to match the visuals. I’ve always liked the simple, and very raw sounding music in this movie, but as with others, it’s never sounded this good. Even some of the soft kick drum beats never lack timing.
Watched a couple of Steven Soderbergh movies tonight to which I love the soundtracks - Ocean’s Eleven and Out Of Sight - both provided by David Holmes.
You know what I’m going to say by now. Virtually all films utilise music in one form or another - either as a score to accompany what happens on screen, or a series of existing tracks by famous artists to create a soundtrack. ANY movie with any type of music will benefit from a good quality system - as I’ve mentioned previously, I haven’t yet heard a multi-channel system sound his good with music, even when I had a £4,000+ for a dedicated AV pre/processor. It begs the question as to whether a surround system is worth paying out for under a figure of let’s say, £5,000 when a stereo amplifier and a pair of speakers can produce better sound quality. Even with the cost of the system I’m using - around £8,000 including the loudspeaker would still be an extremely viable and better quality option. To break £8,000 down into a 5.1 system, the AV receiver is going to be around £2,000, and a 5.1 speaker package around the £5/6,000 mark is going to include a subwoofer of around £1,500/2,000 with the left/right front speakers taking up another £1,500/2,000, a centre speaker of at least £1,000, and rear speakers around the same again. so we’d be comparing a £2,000 AV amplifier against a £2,200 stereo amplifier (with very few licenses to pay in comparison to an AV receiver) and a £2,000 pair of floorstanders against a £6,000 pair of standmount loudspeakers (Including stands). I’d say these speakers would ideally need something like the Hegel H190 as a minimum, so let’s include a £3,000 AV receiver for the AV system. Two channels vs what is likely to be nine channels in the AV receiver, one/two DACs vs possibly one DAC per channel, or at the very least one DAC per two channels, and you start to see which one will come up favourite. Despite all this, both options will more than likely be based around a single transformer, with a better quality one included in the stereo amplifier. There is just no way the multi-channel system can compete from a quality point of view.
Of course, where the multi-channel system comes into its own is being able to place sound effects around the room, and being able to reach genuine sub bass levels due to a dedicated subwoofer. This is the sort of system well worth investing in if you’re into big blockbusters and Marvel/DC movies in particular. It’s fun. It makes movies enjoyable and more cinema-like.
It is with experience of both types of systems, and having heard and installed a lot of these systems over the last 30 years, that the little audio company‘s approach to helping you get the best system for you, and the best quality system for your money is based. Later in the year we will have numerous “packaged” set ups like this that synergistically work extremely well, and offer exceptional value for money, and some will be pretty discrete, or as discrete as you’d like them to be.
So, time to reveal the loudspeakers I’ve been listening to:
Eggleston Works Nico EVOlution
The Nico EVOlution are the sole standmount model in a range of hand made loudspeakers by the Memphis Tennessee based loudspeaker manufacturer.
I have to say, when these go tomorrow, I’m really going to miss them. And based on these, I’m really looking forward to hearing the floorstanding Emma EVOlution model! Do look out for the brand, as you’ll be hearing a lot more about it now that it has official UK distribution by Auden Dustribution
After the first professional review of these comes appears, I’ll be posting up my own brief review based on what I’ve heard over the time that I’ve had them - it’ll save time having to wade through this page and pick out relevant bits of information.
Thank you to those who have been following.