Soliloquy High Fidelity Loudspeaker Model 5.0
|Terror’s in Tiny Town|
|21 August 2000|
Frequency response: 45 Hz to 18 kHz
Impedance: 10 ohms Nominal
Bass/Midrange Driver: 5.25" rigid poly fiber cone,
Die cast magnesium baskets and specially vented
Magnet systems. Magnetically shielded.
Tweeter: 1.125" double chamber, silk dome with unique
Proprietary coating applied by hand. Magnetically shielded
Crossover: 3.2 kHz @12 dB/ octave
Physical: 7.5" Width, 14" High, 11" Deep,
Weight: 22 lbs.
Price: $1,395 (with Custom Stand) $895 without.
Custom Stand Mounted $500 if purchased separately
Soliloquy High Fidelity Loudspeaker Company
2613 Discovery Dr., Bldg. A
Raleigh, NC 27616
"As with most factory-fresh speakers, burn-in changes impressions in terms of tonal balance. Meanwhile, awaiting the golden moment, I studied the look and feel of this exquisitely wrought transducer. I have not seen a loudspeaker/stand combo, at its price point, which matches the 5.0's build-quality and looks."
Soliloquy Loudspeaker Company came into existence in 1997 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The original Model 8.2 and 5.2 loudspeaker designs as well as the Soliloquy trademark were purchased from Cary Audio Designs. You may recall my having covered Hifi '99 in Chicago late last spring. I don't believe I mentioned that the sound of Cary room kept calling me back. It was there, that I first heard Soliloquy's highly sensitive SM-2A3 loudspeakers. They sounded beautiful and delightfully clean, with a sense of warmth that only the (5 watt!) Cary CAD 2A3-SE mono amps could create. Review-wise, I became very interested in both the amplifier and the speakers. I called Soliloquy requested a review sample. At that very moment, I learned of the two models available, dependent on my tastes, of course-- the very responsive and delicate SA-2A3, or the rugged and ready 5.0’s. Both look identical minus wattage sensitivity. Of course, after discovering all the mega-watt amps lying about, I opted for the Model 5.0's.
Looking at Soliloquy's website, one sees three design philosophies outlined: (1) to achieving the best possible performance by (2) using state-of-the-art components, and (3) maintaining maximum manufacturing efficiency through the use of superior industrial design concepts. Since 1997, eight Soliloquy models have been introduced ranging in price from $595 to $2,995. The 5.0’s, at $1,395 (with custom stand), represent both--in terms of price and sophistication--a unique blend of elegance, achievement, and affordability. The elegant wood designs are welcome additions to most "real-world " homes and incomes.
One of the first things I noticed upon the 5.0’s arrival was their "upside-down" appearance: the tweeter sits below the midrange/woofer. The 5.0's proprietary high and low frequency drivers, are said, to comprise a unique blend of technological advances. The speakers employ an electronically matched 5.25" poly-fiber midrange/woofer, and a 1" silk-dome tweeter, said to provide a unique combination of linearity and dampening of resonance for more precise sonic resolution.
My dedicated listening room measures 21' by 13' with an 8' ceiling. I positioned the 5.0's 72" apart and 63" from the front wall. A slight toe-in, with the tweeter aimed in at my shoulder, proved on target for imaging and precise focus.
My reference CD playback is Sony's DSD player the SCD-1 SACD. For these Soliloquy sessions I also employed the Tact 2.2 Room Corrector/preamplifier along with the amazingly musical 120-watt Bel Canto Evo digital amplifier, Carver’s powerful Sunfire Signature, and the very impressive Inner Sound ESL amplifier (reviewed here). All wiring is by way of Analysis Plus. The power cords are from Audience (of CD cleaner/enhancer fame), excepting the power cords for the SCD-1 and amplifiers; these are the new and costly ($1,500 per) Harmonic Technology Magic. I also used Audio Harmony's new HRS killer black box throughout this evaluation. Also proving itself more exciting with each listen is the all-new noise reduction device made by Ortho Spectrum Noise Lab, called the (A)nalogue (R)econstructor 2000.
Shift Forward to Neutral
"Dynamics likewise impress, again as a surprise relative to size. I always expect large speakers to excel in this department. The 5.0's have sure changed that assumption! They won't go profoundly low but, boy oh boy, are they ever quick!"
Initially, the sound was bright with excessive glare -- out of the box, not at all good.
No surprise there. As with most factory-fresh speakers, burn-in changes impressions in terms of tonal balance. Meanwhile, awaiting the golden moment, I studied the look and feel of this exquisitely wrought transducer. I have not seen a loudspeaker/stand combo, at its price point, which matches the 5.0's build-quality and looks.
My review pair came in a burnished cherry with a handsome, heavily spiked matching stand that sets the speaker apart in terms of sheer elegance. The rear of the 5.0's reveals a neatly crafted port. Dual gold-plated binding posts for bi-amping come as standard. Whereas its initial sound was bright and steely, the 5.0's progressed to more refined with less treble glare as they burned in. At about the 500-hour mark, the speakers began sounding ever so much mellower, not rolled-off but somewhat downward-tilted. While fizzy recordings like Ike Quebec's Ballads (Blue Note 7243) were rendered acceptably pleasing, instruments with lots of energy in the treble, e.g., cymbals, sounded dull and lots less vital. This improved when I switched from the Carver Signature to the Inner Sound amplifier. Both these amps are powerful but show more tube characteristics than I would have believed possible. The Inner Sound proved more transparent and less forward sounding, thus redirecting the mellow treble effect toward a musically rich performance.
Ultimately, the 5.0's overall tonal balance sounds neutral. It never jumps forward. I've grown accustomed to ducking in some vain attempt to avoid the sonic assault upon one's domeplate. I’ve come to call what the 5.0's provide as a sonic refinement -- so often sought, so seldom achieved at this price juncture!
In the midrange, the 5.0's seemed a little more idiosyncratic. While most jazz recordings sounded fine, naturally balanced classical CD's occasionally sounded rather nasal. I listen mostly to jazz and standard old labels like Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse, and Original Blue Seal Columbia recordings. Here all is well. The 5.0's produce superb midrange articulation and clarity. However, whenever I switched hats and pulled out the Reference Recordings and other classical discs, impressions became less clear-cut. The Turtle Creek Chorale "Testament" (RR-49CD), for example, proved more challenging. While the piano sounded character-free, the male vocals took on an unexpectedly heavy texture. Was this an indication that the Inner Sound amplifier is too powerful to for this mini-monitor, or was the 5.0 emphasizing midrange to a fault? Enter the Bel Canto Evo 2001 amplifier.
The Bel Canto Evo is a fabulous device I'm tempted to nominate as my amp of choice regardless of price (stay tuned here for the review). The Evo’s rated at 120 wpc, but this little digital dynamo totally transformed the sound of the 5.0's from what would have been considered, at best, better than average, to excellent. The lower midrange emphasis was all but gone. The speaker improved in transparency, depth of field, detail, soundstage, and bass tautness.
Bass-wise, the little 5.0 are generously balanced. Even though it doesn't have the extension of the (five times the price) floor-standing Coincident Super Eclipses, it does exhibit a satisfying combination of bass solidity and control. Witness the bass guitar on Dean Peer's "Think…It's All Good" (Turtle Records), a terrific recording. Instruments are well balanced across a wide and vividly clear soundstage: the stereo image arrays tightly between the loudspeakers on a decently spread three-dimensional plane. Impressive yes, but not the best I've heard in my listening room. The speakers' "invisibility" is up there with the best, however. One might reasonably attribute this disappearing act to their diminutive size, but I'd also bet on a lower noise-floor (as a total-system function).
Dynamics likewise impress, again as a surprise relative to size. I always expect large speakers to excel in this department. The 5.0's have sure changed that assumption! They won't go profoundly low but, boy oh boy, are they ever quick! All considered, the 5.0's combination of clean treble, transparent midrange, powerful bass, and a natural dynamic amount to a great bargain. If you have a smallish room, like the quick, clean and expressive sound of mini monitors, and are willing to sacrifice exemplary low-end extension, I think you'll be happy with the Soliloquy 5.0's.
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