Talon Audio's Peregrine X
|Talon Audio's Peregrine X|
Ian Weber & Dave Thomas
8 March 2003
Height - monitor only: 61 cm (24")/Overall: 109 cm (43")
Width 30.5 cm (12")
Depth: 48 cm (19")
Weight with stand: 74 kg (163 lbs.)
Bandwidth: 19 Hz - 25 kHz
Power Handling: 1-1000 Watts
Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms
Price: $9,500 / with stands: $11,500
Talon Audio Technologies, Inc.
5175 South Green Pine Drive
Murray, UT 84123
About a year and a half ago, I came to the conclusion that I was tired of upgrading my speakers. Although buying a new pair of speakers every two months was entertaining and exciting, it also became time consuming and rather arduous. Hereafter, I reached the seemingly obvious verdict that if I bought the best speaker made I would not have a reason, or even the ability, to upgrade. So, I set out on my quest, like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail, to find the illusive "best" bookshelf speaker. For me, bookshelf speakers are a necessity, as I don't have room for a floor standing speaker. I thoroughly researched everything produced knowing that for the first time in my lie, money was no object. My initial search ended with the Dynaudio Confidence 3 and the Sonus Faber Guaneri Homage. The Dynaudios were chosen for their great top end, rich midrange and brawny bass. Their rich mix of qualities made them competitive with some of the best floor standers in production. On the other hand, the Guaneris were nominated for their magical midrange and their beautiful looks. Just as I had reached a decision I came across a new speaker from an innovative company. After a little bit of research I knew the Talon Peregrine X had the potential to be the best bookshelf speaker in the world. Did I find the Holy Grail?
All three of the aforementioned speakers are particularly attractive. The Sonus Faber's petite size, beautiful craftsmanship and design make them some of the most beautiful speakers, in my eyes, ever created. The Talons embody the beauty of simplicity. Talon took the traditional speaker shape, modernized with chrome and coupled it to their Nest stands that belong in the MOMA. Who knew a box could look so good? The Talon's design resembles a refined muscle car while the Guaneri's have the sophisticated appearance of a small Italian sports car. The Dynaudios are simple and unobtrusive but are a tribute to building a sturdy non-resonant cabinet. In the end, the importance of having extended bass response led me to choose the Talons over the Guaneris. Integrated bass was of particular importance, as a sub is not an option in my small listening room. Furthermore, I have yet to hear a powered external sub rival passive integrated bass. The Dynaudios, although being nearly perfect, lacked the midrange magic of the other two that I value so highly, and were hence out of the running. I ordered the Talons and waited for my grail to arrive!
The Talons arrived in huge cardboard boxes and were packed well enough to survive just about any thrashing. Once out and set up, the Peregrines have a commanding presence in any room, which certainly has both positive and negative aspects. Their large size and flashy appearance make it aesthetically difficult for them to be integrated into their surroundings. I began the arduous task of breaking them in and played them continuously for weeks on end. After significant play-time, their sound homogenized and I deemed them ready for review.
The Peregrine X is the second ranked speaker in the Talon line and is their finest stand mounted transducer. Each monitor consists of two ten-inch drivers and a one-and-a-half inch tweeter. The large, back-to-back woofers act as both a midrange and a woofer. All of this is enclosed in a huge rectangular two-foot tall package. The binding posts are of the new Cardas variety and only allow for spades and single wiring. Although this radical design slightly limits your choice of speaker cables, it does allow for a very snug fit.
These speakers are particularly easy to set up. All Talons are designed to be very room friendly and they work well in most location, however these qualities especially apply to the Peregrines as they include a forward facing port that allows them to be placed very close to walls. Generally rear ported speakers require space behind them for the port to "breath," but these Talons exhale into the room from the front, hence placement close to the front wall is possible.
Most of the Talons have a similar "family" sound, and the Peregrines are no different. In fact, the Peregrines are said to sound almost exactly like the famed Khorus X. I once had a dealer tell me that he could only tell the difference between the two speakers on 3 out of every 8 songs. Their main difference lies in a slight reduction in upper treble sparkle and sheen, but most of that has been ironed out with the most recent of crossover upgrades. Talon is constantly redesigning and upgrading their crossover designs and I had one of the most recent versions installed in my set. Crossovers change the specifications of the speaker, and this version is said to have raised the efficiency to about 93 db and raised bass-depth by about 1 hertz. The specs look good, but how do they sound?
The Peregrines' boast a very atypical sound. It took me about 10 -15 hours to become accustomed to it. My initial reaction was that they sounded constipated, blurred, muffled and just plain unpleasant. Still, after some time, I became accustomed with their style of reproducing sound, so accustomed in fact, that I now find most other speakers are lacking something. For a reason I cannot quite understand, the Peregrines' sound is not immediately easily enjoyed. It appears that one must become sincerely accustomed to their character before judging them seriously, and admittedly, this transition requires time. Once familiarized, the sound is very laidback, warm and inviting. Music is rarely harsh or fatiguing yet miraculously, the speakers manage to display nearly all of the detail in the recording. The detail, however, is not presented in the regular audiophile fashion. The sounds and minutiae are, in a way, gently swept into the soundstage, relying on the listener's awareness to pick them out. The music is not hyped or artificial sounding, instead it is reproduced in the most natural manner I have heard from a transducer. Most first time listeners find this element of the speaker to be a detraction, but I unquestionably disagree. Many prefer the sound of other speakers because their details are overly discrete and the sound is glorified. The Talon is anything but, and the details are there but they are married with the music. Although the Peregrines force the listener to be more aware and listen in a different form, they reward him or her with a wealth of detail presented in the most refined manner I have come across. I would have to estimate that much of this exquisite non-fatiguing detail retrieval is partially due to their dead quiet backdrop and their carefully designed crossovers. Overall, their manner of reproducing music is very distinct and limited to only a handful of speakers, a quality only appreciated by those who are acquainted with its subtle beauty.
Admittedly, these speakers have few weaknesses. In general, the Peregrines' have a very balanced sound: there is a seamless integration of the tweeter and the mid/bass drivers. The upper highs are pristine, clear and grainless. They have the ability to sparkle and extend like Esotar equipped speakers, without the Hi-Fi unnaturalness. The bass on these speakers is essentially the same as that on the Khorus X, and hence it rivals the best on the market. These tandem drivers put out more bass than almost any sub I have ever heard and it's the fastest, tightest, cleanest and most tuneful bass I have heard from any speaker system to date. If this speaker's sound has a fault then maybe it's in the midrange. The midrange is probably the best I've heard, which says plenty, but not quite as good as this transducers lowest octave and treble output capabilities. The recent improvements to the crossover design have eliminated this drawback in almost every facet, but a tad more warmth would be welcome. This statement, however, must be taken with a grain of salt, as it's only apparent in a handful of recordings and possibly due to my time spent with amplifiers, which are known to be a bit reticent and rather cold in the midrange.
Transparency and Imaging
In my opinion these are the most important aspects of any loudspeaker. How can one mistake a stereo reproduction for a live performance if the sound is coming from two distinct sources? The Talons are Audio Physic-like in their disappearing act. Everything but the most extreme of high frequencies appears to emanate, beautifully structured, from the area in front of you. The soundstage is oh-so-three-dimensional, allowing the listener to see deep into the recording and place the singer, drummer, etc., in their respective positions, both side-to-side and front to back. The speakers present an uncannily believable image with spatial definition that is as good as it gets.
The Talon's are also astonishingly transparent. The soundstage's fluidity and unity is jaw dropping and incomparable to anything I have personally experienced. The see-through clarity gives one the notion that the collection of sounds is completely unified and utterly realistic. It is the Peregrines' excellence in these two aspects of musical reproduction that make them truly state of the art.
Overall, if I had one real nit to pick with the Peregrine X, it's would be their size. They are not small speakers. Even though they never fail to draw "oohs" and "ahs" from on lookers, they are very intrusive on the space in which they are installed. Although they are beautiful to behold, the way they dominate a room's décor is generally something that I could do without.
Those looking for a speaker with which to blow away their friends, do not look here. But those who are looking for a transducer that creates believable music have come to the right place. This may seem like a stupid statement but it's the truth. Many speakers at this price produce a sound that is larger than life - almost better and grander than an actual production - but it's hard to mistake their sound for the real thing. The Talons may sound almost lifeless and uninspiring in comparison but they do an amazing job at creating realistic believable music, which is what counts most too many of us. Overall, in their respective price range, I can't think of another speaker that comes close. Until you consider speakers costing almost $10,000, they are truly in a class by themselves. It appears Talon has another winner on their hands!
Dave Thomas offers a Peregrine X-tra!
I am in agreement with most of the findings from my colleague's pointed review of these highly under appreciated loudspeakers. My main disagreement would come from his feeling that he would welcome "a tad more warmth" from the updated crossover. Personally, I'd want for the crossover to be as neutral as possible and allow added warmth in the sound to come from somewhere else in the system chain. Unfortunately, a recent discussion with Talon boss Mike Farnsworth, seemed to indicate that the Peregrine X soon would no longer be a part of Talon's future product line as two new models (including the much anticipated Firebird) will be introduced in the coming months. So the purpose of this follow up is to shed more light on the crossover upgrade that was alluded to in my colleague's review, since it will continue to be offered to current Peregrine X owners.
According to Talon, the upgrade, called a Common Mode Reject Circuit (CMRC) is a new "balanced" crossover, which crosses over at 1800Hz giving it steeper slopes, a lower noise floor and less phase shift than 6db designs. This means that the woofers and tweeter work a lot more effortlessly resulting in a soundstage that is far more detailed and spacious than before. They have also eliminated notch filters and added the Talon Audio "T" logo to the dust cap of the woofer which helps stop standing wave resonance. This upgrade is available for the Khorus X, Peregrine X, and Raven speakers at a price of $2000. The Khite, the smallest speaker in the Talon line can be upgraded for $1500.
Now I will tell you up front that I am not a fan of expensive upgrades to already fine quality equipment. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is how I believe the saying goes. But there's also another saying from Emerson that goes "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." I'm not sure what the connection is but suffice it to say that Lord Farnsworth was very enthusiastic about just how big an improvement the CMRC upgrade is. "This upgrade takes the Peregrine X to about 90% of the Khorus X," Mike enthused during one discussion. So after a little more prodding I finally shipped my pair off and in just a few short days they were back. In fact, they were back so fast that I briefly even wondered if they had done anything or if they just mistakenly sent them back before updating them.
I immediately re-installed them into my system, which consists of the Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CD player, a Talon modified EC 4.7 pre-amp and the fabulous Nemo monoblocks. This system would of course make any speaker sound good so I figured that this upgrade would have to be something truly special to justify the two grand fee. And bear in mind that there are no changes in the driver compliment. All of the modifications go into the crossover. Now remembering back to when Mike said that the upgrade would take the Peregrines to 90% of the Khorus X, my thought after a week of critical listening was that he was a little off. They're a lot closer than that.
I've been able to listen to the Khorus X at a dealership on a couple of occasions and I can confidently say that the upgraded Peregrines sounded every bit as good as the Khoruses on most material. Bear in mind though that I am talking about Khorus X speakers without the CMRC upgrade. I have yet to hear what the upgraded Khoruses sound like. One of my favorite recordings to use for speaker evaluation is "Exotic Dances from the Opera" performed by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra [Reference Recordings RR-71CD]. On large-scale orchestral recordings such as this the Peregrines can sound a bit overwhelmed in the upper midrange compared to the Khoruses. But on minimalist performances like "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones from her excellent debut cd Come Away With Me [Blue Note 7243 5 32088 2 0] the Peregrines deliver her voice with a holographic quality I haven't heard since Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz hooked up on "That Girl From Ipanema" [Verve]. But where the Peregrine X really shine is when their speed is put to the test as it is on the great Ahmad Jamal's "Yellow Fellow", from Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival [Atlantic 81699-2]. This track is great fun to listen to from the start as a French-speaking woman's voice introduces Jamal with startling clarity. I get a kick out of watching my friends look around to see where that voice is coming from when ever I want to show off my system's prowess. Those of you who are familiar with Jamal know that he wastes little time getting into and keeping a brisk pace in his performances. The Talons don't miss a bit of it. Their speed allows for immense amounts of detail to come through vividly, especially on the bottom end where James McCormack's bass sounds more like an instrument than it does on some other speakers I've heard in this price range.
It is unfortunate that this splendid looking and sounding speaker is going away from Talon's talented line up. But according to Farnsworth the extremely high quality of fit and finish, crossover parts, chrome trim and stands that are not only breathtaking to look at but actually help disperse energy away from the enclosure, make this a speaker that is worth far more than its already hefty price tag. He'll get no argument out of me. The quality of this speaker, as with all of the Talon line, is top shelf. Sonically, the upgraded crossover puts it firmly in the same class as the far more expensive Wilson Watt/Puppy and Kharma Ceramique 3.2. In the case of the Wilson, it dominates it on low-end performance. Should you come across a pair of Talon Peregrine X snatch them up as fast as you can. You can call Talon to find out if your pair has been upgraded or not. If they have, you've got one hell of a speaker. If they have not then listen to them, enjoy them and then prepare to be devastated by how much better the CMRC upgrade makes them sound. You will own one of audio's truly unique creations.
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