The Legacy Audio Whisper Loudspeakers
|The Legacy Audio Whisper Loudspeakers|
Thomas W. Mallin
3 April 2000
System Type: 10 driver, 4-way
Midrange: 1.25″ dome
Midwoofer: (4) 7″ Kevlar®
Subwoofer: (4) 15″
Low Frequency Alignment: 6th order differential (compound dipole)
Frequency Response: (Hz, ± 2dB) 22-30k
Impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: (room, dB @2.83V) 94.5
Recommended Amplification (Watts): 10-600
Crossover Frequency: (Hz) 300, 3k, 10k
Binding Posts: 2 pair biwireable/biampable
Dimensions (H × W × D): 63″ × 17″ × 13″; Base: 4″ × 24″ × 17″
Weight (lb./each): 210
Price:$12,900 a pair for standard finish (walnut w/cherry stain, black satin oak, golden oak, natural walnut, medium oak)
$13,400 a pair for premium finish (rosewood, ribbon mahogany, curly maple)
Legacy Audio, Inc.
3023 E. Sangamon Ave.
Springfield, IL 62702
Phone: 217-544-3178, 800-283-4644
“From subways and passing trucks, to vehicles stopping and starting at lights or stop signs near the recording venue, to bird songs, to rustling clothes, creaking chairs and music stands, doors opening and closing, pages turning, fingernails on piano keys, breathing, lips opening, stomach gurgling, to string harmonics, wind noise through wind instruments, flesh on guitar strings–you name it, it’s there.”
My Background and Viewpoint
I have been interested in and purchasing audio equipment for some 35 years now. I grew up in the heyday of AR (Acoustic Research) speakers. I vividly remember my older brother taking me at age 12 to the AR demonstration room in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station where visitors could hear the same material played first through the AR 4x, then the AR 2ax, AR 5, and finally the top-of-the-line AR 3a speakers. I could fully appreciate the gains in clarity and extension of each costlier model even then. Oh, how I yearned to own those magnificent AR 3a’s! But my first component system was comprised of an AR XA turntable, Shure M91E cartridge, AR 4x speakers, and a Dynaco SCA-35 integrated tube amp, the best I could afford from my meager earnings and savings at age 14.
Since then, speakers and other components have come and gone, one usually being replaced by something more expensive in a never-ending quest to narrow the gaps between reality and reproduction. Understand first, that unlike most folks these days I still use the absolute sound of live unamplified acoustic instruments playing music (usually classical) in the hall as a standard against which to judge the sound of audio equipment.
I hear such music regularly; both as a performer in choirs and choruses and from the audience at unamplified classical concerts. For 12 years I have also mixed live PA audio and made recordings of music and speech for one of the largest churches in our area using professional sound equipment. Until recently, most of the music I have been involved in miking, amplifying, and recording has been of the pipe organ, piano, instrumental ensemble, vocal ensemble, orchestral, choral, and solo varieties typical of traditional services in large churches.
Also understand that tonal balance, dynamics, and the ability to play large orchestral works at subjectively realistic levels are quite important to me. While I fully admit to the synesthetic joys of a visible auditory soundstage populated by firmly placed three-dimensional images, great imaging and soundstaging will not distract me from serious deficiencies in tonal balance, dynamic contrasts, and dynamic range.
When judged against this standard, to my ears, most serious audiophile speakers, even with most recordings having audiophile aspirations, sound tonally a bit thin (meaning lacking tonal weight from the bass through lower midrange) and a bit bright (meaning exaggerated upper mids through lower highs). Most such speakers are also unable to encompass the dynamics of live music at any frequency, much less with the effortlessness of the real thing. And especially in the bass, most such speakers just don’t move enough air to at all resemble the sense of tremendous power and scale one hears from organ, bass drum, tympani, lower strings, and the lower brass in a hall.
I decided to replace the Cello Premieres I owned for four years with the Whispers after extensive auditioning of the Whispers and the competition. To separate the men from the boys, I used the following recordings:
Requiem, John Rutter (Reference Recordings RR-57CD) (the best single test I own)
Live at the Village Gate, Clark Terry (Chesky JD 49) (second best)
Mancini’s Greatest Hits, Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops/Mancini Chorus (Telarc CD 80183)
Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, Harry Belafonte (Classic LSOCD 6006)
The Composer and His Orchestra, “Merry Mount Suite” plus narrative, Howard Hanson, Eastman Rochester Orchestra (Mercury Living Presence 434 370-2)
Hanson Conducts Hanson, Howard Hanson/Eastman Rochester Orchestra/Eastman School of Music Chorus (Mercury Living Presence 432 008-2)
Modern Cool, Patricia Barber, “Touch of Trash,” “Constantinople,” and most especially “Postmodern Blues” (Premonition Records PREM-741-2)
Winds of War and Peace, “Liberty Fanfare,” Lowell Graham, National Symphonic Winds (Wilson Audiophile WCD-8823, digitally remastered Gold Zeonex version)
The Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall 1963 (Analogue Productions APFCD 005 Gold Limited Edition)
Postcards, “Cindy,” The Turtle Creek Chorale (Reference Recordings RR-61CD)
The Whispers beat out the other two finalists, the very fine Magnepan MG 20 (ultimate doubts about bass response flatness and overall dynamic range) and Vandersteen 5 (doubts about the dynamic range capabilities of the built-in subs) as my final choice.
Fit, Finish, and Appearance
The rosewood finish is very nice, although by no means a match for the extraordinary high-gloss rosewood of my departed Cellos. The carpentry and joinery exhibited by the cabinet assembly are really first-rate–I would call it cunning, in fact. The speakers are beautiful to look at both with and without their grills (at least from the front, as in the listening position) and as far as I can tell, the grills are totally transparent sonically, almost unheard of in my experience. So take your pick of elegant (with grill) or high tech (without grills) art object appearance. My wife actually likes the appearance more sans grills, but she definitely thinks they are the most attractive speakers I’ve ever owned either way.
The binding posts are some of the finest and most flexible I have seen, with good solid all-metal construction with hex-heads and are capable of really torquing down on thick bare wires, banana plugs, spades, or pins. The internal speaker wires are connected to the posts with the best possible connection–gold plated O-rings.
The Whispers are used in my “reference” audio system, which is in a basement listening room entirely below ground level. This room was purpose-built for audio as part of the construction of our new house six years ago. The room dimensions are about 20′ L × 13′ W × 8′ H. All walls and floor are poured concrete. The floor is carpeted and padded with medium weight synthetic materials. The finished walls are painted 5/8″ drywall over 2″ × 4″ studs, 16″ on center. Fiberglass insulation batts fill the cavities behind the drywall and above the ceiling.
I use 3″ thick Sonex to dampen the walls, ceiling, and floor at the first and second reflection points of any part of either speaker when viewed from the listening seat. (Even with the Whisper’s directivity, such dampening, especially of the floor reflections, yields important dividends in achieving the best imaging and soundstaging of which the system is capable. I also dampen the eight ceiling and floor tri-corners with small triangles of this Sonex (a la Michael Greene’s Corner Tunes).
Electronics other than the power amps and Whisper Steradian EQ sit on an Arcici Suspense Rack with three air bladders, adjusted more or less as recommended by Arcici. The amps and Steradian are stacked atop an active Vibraplane. No accessory feet are used, but I do have a Bright Star Little Rock on top of the CD Transport.
There is no analog preamp, the Z-Systems equipment performing A/D conversion of the tuner signal and EQ and volume adjustments in the digital domain. The speakers are passively bi-amped with the four Brystons.
Two 30-amp circuits of a separate, totally-dedicated-to-audio 200-amp electrical service feed the Brystons (one circuit per channel) and the Steradian. Three other dedicated 30-amp circuits power the CD transport, the tuner and its A/D converter, and the Z-Systems RDP-1 and Cello Reference DAC.
The speakers fire into the long dimension of the room. The listening position is 1/3 of the room length from the wall behind the listening chair. The speakers are 1/3 of the room length from the wall behind them and 1/5 the room width from the nearest side wall. While I have generally preferred 1/3 spacing all around in this and other rooms, the Whispers demand wider placement and the 1/5 spacing from the side walls is the next best solution from a room-mode-excitation standpoint. The speakers are then towed in so that the outside edge of each speaker is just barely visible from the listening position. The center of the speakers and the listening position form a roughly equilateral triangle.
The speakers sit on the carpet on their casters. Speaker cables and power cords are suspended off the carpet by using glassware where necessary.
All non-soldered electrical connections in the equipment and electrical service have been cleaned with Kontak and then treated with Caig Pro Gold G5 XP spray.
All CDs are treated with Optrix on the data side and ECO on the label side. Most have the outer edges greened with Audioprism CD Stoplight.
Frequency Response, Efficiency, and Power Requirements
If there is controversy about the sonic worth of these speakers, it centers on the “necessity” of equalizing, that is, boosting, the bass frequencies. While the stereo pair uses a total of eight 15-inch long-throw woofers, without using some sort of low frequency boost, the speakers sound quite lean.
Unequalized Low Frequency Response
How lean? As far as I know, no manufacturer’s literature or review of these speakers has ever addressed this point in terms of actual frequency response measurements. My measurements taken with the Radio Shack analog SPL meter mounted on a Vivitar camera tripod standing in the listening position show that the speaker’s unequalized response begins to fall from the 1 kHz level at about 250 Hz. This unequalized response drops rather smoothly and is down 9 dB at 50 Hz and 13 dB at 25 Hz.
Now note that the Whisper literature talks in terms of the Steradian processor boosting the bass “slightly.” Well, if you want the flat bass to 25 Hz of which the Whisper is undoubtedly capable with the right low frequency EQ, the amount of bass boost required is not “slight” in my opinion. To produce flat bass at 25 Hz requires boosting the bass by 13 dB with respect to 1 kHz, and that requires that the speaker be fed 20 times the power in watts at 25 Hz.
Above 250 Hz, the measured unequalized frequency response of the Whispers is REMARKABLY flat and needs no correction. I measure +2, -1 dB from 250 Hz up past 10 kHz, the limit of the accurate range of the Radio Shack meter. The only other speaker I have measured in this or any other room that was comparably flat was the Carver Amazing Platinum Mk IV in this room.
The Whispers are very efficient as high-end speakers go. Unlike any other speaker I have owned, they actually seemed to get more efficient during the break-in process. While I have no way to measure to actual sensitivity for a 1-Watt input, the Whispers produce any given level, as measured by the Radio Shack meter, at a setting of the Z-Systems volume control which is 4 to 6 dB lower than was required to produce that same loudness level with my prior speakers in this room, the Cello Premieres. The Cellos were themselves seemingly more efficient than any other speaker I have owned and were rated at about 90 dB for a 1-Watt input was. Thus, I believe Legacy’s 94.5 dB rating for the Whispers is not exaggerated in any way.
What this means is that at 1 kHz, 10 watts should produce 104.5 dB and 100 Watts will produce 114.5 dB. Super powerful amps are obviously not required for the upper ranges.
But even with this high efficiency, the required bass boost means that the low frequencies will need a lot of power. Let’s assume, for example, that 40 Watts (110.5 dB) is sufficient in the midrange for any likely peak loudness requirement. To produce that same level at 25 Hz will require 20 x 40 Watts, or 800 Watts. And that is one reason I chose the powerhouse Bryston 7Bs for use with this speaker. They can produce 800 Watts and more in series mode at any audio frequency.
The Steradian Processor
There is a lot of talk in Legacy’s literature and in the reviews about the proper level of the volume knob on the Steradian as being 10 – 12 o’clock, gauged by the position of the set screw of the volume knob. At that level, the bass is still thin, in my subjective opinion, and it measures as falling off starting at 100 Hz, and is more than 6 dB down at 40 Hz. That may be good enough for many, but it is not good enough for my ears and taste.
At my chosen 3:30 position of the Steradian volume knob, the bass is flat at 80 Hz (the crucial “power range” for bass instruments) and is still flat at 25 Hz. In my room with the speakers and listener placed as described, at this position of the Steradian control, there are high-Q (that is, narrow bandwidth) frequency response humps of +6 dB at 60 Hz and +3 dB at 120 Hz. Even with these humps, the bass frequency response is quite flat subjectively because of the narrow bandwidth of these humps. And, guess what? By setting one of the parametric filters on the Z-Systems for -6 dB at 63 Hz with a slope of 6, and another at -3 dB at 112 Hz with a slope of 6, the measured frequency response of the Whispers at the 3:30 setting of the Steradian volume knob is +2, -1 dB from 25 Hz all the way up past the 10 kHz upper accuracy limit of the Radio Shack meter! I have never achieved comparable full range measured flatness of response from any other speaker in this or any other room. And it sounds flat subjectively, too.
By the way, the bass drops like a rock somewhere below 25 Hz whatever I do, so I have not tried to extend the bandwidth to 20 Hz or below. When set up as just described, the 20 Hz level is -14 dB even though the 25 Hz level is at 0 dB or a little above. This is not a measurement anomaly since other speakers have measured close to flat at 20 Hz in this room with little or no equalization.
The Steradian vs. the Z-Systems for Low Frequency EQ
“…while I know I am missing some of the smallest details, I will not be removing the Steradian from the signal path again any time soon since the benefits of using it with the Whispers far outweigh the downside, to my ears.”
Several reviews have opined that the Steradian is not an acoustically transparent device or is not worthy of the inherent capabilities of the Whisper. It was because of opinions like this that I decided to bi-amp the Whispers. At least that way any adverse effects of the Steradian would be primarily limited to the range below 300 Hz. The balanced Y-connector I use allows me to entirely bypass any connections of the upper range amplifiers through the Steradian.
The Y-connectors also allow me to easily compare the sound of EQ applied by the Z-Systems RDP-1 with the Steradian. Now, the Z-Systems RDP-1 is widely regarded as the most transparent way of applying equalization since it is done entirely by number crunching in the digital domain. I agree. It bests even the Cello products in this respect, to my ears. And I was easily able to find a combination of settings of the Z-System controls, which closely matched the measured low frequency EQ I was getting using the Steradian alone for EQ.
Results: The Steradian does in fact mask some very low level detail in a way which, while allowing you to hear the detail as a sonic event, does not allow you to hear as clearly what that event was. For example, you may hear a tiny squeak or creak with the Steradian and know that it was probably a mechanical noise generated by one of the musician’s chairs as opposed to a mechanical noise from the instruments or page turning, but with the Z-Systems you will instantly know that this squeak was caused by the violinist’s chair creaking as opposed to any of the other musicians.
However, the upper frequencies seem somewhat reduced in level and a bit muffled when using the Z-Systems as compared to the Steradian. While some might hear the difference as the Z-Systems being more relaxed or less edgy, to my ears applying the EQ with the Z-Systems leaves the upper ranges a bit on the murky side. Why this should be, I do not know and I certainly did not expect to hear this sort of difference or interpret it this way; I am usually quite intolerant of any edginess in the upper-midrange or lower treble.
Also, the sound of the system using the Z-Systems overall had less dynamic contrasts and less vivid soundstaging and imaging. The vast openness, width, and depth of the soundstage, the pinpoint imaging and three dimensionality of each of those images on the stage were all somewhat reduced by eliminating the Steradian. Now besides changing the effective low-frequency alignment of the Whisper from 4th order (higher corner frequency, slower roll off) to 6th order (lower corner frequency, steep roll off), the Steradian is advertised as having circuitry which enhances low frequency separation and perhaps these were the sonic results of that circuitry. And I was not able to replicate the enhanced imaging, soundstaging, or dynamics that the Steradian created by any changes in speaker positioning when using the Z-Systems to perform the EQ.
Finally, the sound of the Whispers with the Steradian is just simply more electrostatic-like than when it is not in the signal path. I mean that as a compliment to the Steradian. Everything is just so clear, clean, and pristine, especially in the midrange, but also throughout the range.
Bottom line: while I know I am missing some of the smallest details, I will not be removing the Steradian from the signal path again any time soon since the benefits of using it with the Whispers far outweigh the downside, to my ears. The sound, as described below with the Steradian in the path, is so convincing, exciting, and enthralling that I don’t begrudge the Steradian the slight subtraction of detail.
“The Whispers compass the dynamics of music at realistic live levels at all frequencies so effortlessly, that after living with the speakers for awhile you relax and stop getting ready to cringe–wondering whether the speaker is going to “make it” without distorting or becoming edgy as the next big crescendo approaches.”
To reach the following conclusions, I relied on the winnowing discs listed above, the additional CDs below, as well as other assorted Reference, Telarc, Classic, Everest, RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence discs.
Mark Anthony (Columbia CK 69726)
Big Band Basie, Clark Terry, Frank Weiss (Reference Recordings RR-63CD)
88 Basie Street, Count Basie & His Orchestra (JVCXR-0021-2)
Buena Vista Social Club, Ry Cooder et al. (World Circuit/Nonesuch 79478-2)
A Meeting by the River, Ry Cooder, V. M. Bhatt (Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-29-CD)
Let’s Talk About Love, Celine Dion (Sony 550 Music/Epic BK 68861)
Eileen Farrell Sings Harold Arlen (Reference Recordings RR-30CD)
Pure Gershwin, Michael Feinstein (Elektra 9 60742-2)
Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, Ella Fitzgerald (Classic VSCD-4053)
You Won’t Forget Me, Shirley Horn (Verve Digital 847 482-2)
Outside: From the Redwoods, Kenny Loggins (Columbia CK 57391)
One Size Fits All, The Nylons (Open Aire Records OD-0301)
After Hours, Andre Previn, Joe Pass, Ray Brown (Telarc CD-83302)
Real Hot Jazz, Hubbard, Menza, Sheldon, Dentz (Realtime RT-2002)
The Sony CD Sampler, Volume One: Jazz (Sony) (marvelous, but long out of print)
Stereophile Test CD, “Why Hi-Fi Experts Disagree” (Stereophile STPH 002-2)
Uncommon Ritual, Meyer, Fleck, Marshall (Sony Classical SK 62891)
Blue Wheat, The Dale Warland Singers (American Choral Catalog ACC 122)
Hanson Conducts Fiesta in Hi-Fi, Howard Hanson conducting Eastman Rochester Orchestra & Chorus (Mercury Living Presence 434 324-2)
Grainger, Persichetti, & Others, Frederick Fennell conducting Eastman Wind Ensemble (Mercury Living Presence 432 754-2)
Berlioz: Requiem, “Dies Irae,” Robert Shaw/Atlanta Symphony & Chorus (Telarc CD-80109)
Pictures at an Exhibition, Mussorgsky, Jean Guillou, organist (Dorian DOR-90117)
No use wasting a lot of words here. The highs are among the cleanest, most extended, and natural sounding in the business. They come as close to just being “there” as any speaker I have heard. They aren’t as obviously open and airy as those produced by the Magnepan MG 20 ribbon, but neither do they have the Maggies’ tendency to call a slight bit of attention to themselves, the kind where you find yourself singling out and admiring the highs as in: “Man, just listen to that high end!”
Clear and electrostatic-like in detail and lack of distortion, with the dynamics, but not the colorations, of horn drivers. Definitely among the best in the business and the heart of the Whisper’s overall stunning impression on first listen. Voices are astoundingly lifelike and focused. Again, not much more need be said.
Flat +2, -1 dB down to at least 25 Hz, and it sounds it. That bass is very “quick,” but is still “full” and “generous.” The closest thing I have heard in this room to live bass sound from orchestras or jazz bands. The deepest organ pedals could have more room shake for full effect and excitement, but what is there is very good. Stand up acoustic bass and bass drums are flawless, period. With my chosen EQ settings, male voices are just right, having neither a pinched nasal quality nor any hint of the “voice in a barrel effect.” Getting the bass in the 80 – 160 Hz region flat with respect to the midrange is the key to this truthfulness, in my experience.
Still, if there is a weakness to the Whispers’ presentation, it is in the bass below 100 Hz or so. There is no denying that certain material, such as electric bass and kick drum, could be punchier and have a more physical attack for sound closer to being in the presence of a real band playing such instruments. Legacy’s own Focus speakers provide exemplary reproduction of these aspects of bass sounds: they have tremendously physical slam and gut punch and are fully able to reproduce the effect of fine rock band PA speakers in this range, an effect the Whispers cannot seem to accomplish. And the Focus goes down another half octave, being flat to 16 Hz, providing astonishing low frequency room ambiance and feel, as well as powerful room lock and shudder from the lowest organ pipes.
But I believe that on balance, only those whose primary or exclusive musical diet is pop and rock will prefer the overall bass presentation of the Focus or any other box-woofer speaker to the Whisper’s bass presentation. On all other types of music, the subtleties of bass tone reproduction and bass detail of which the Whisper is capable more than make up for its relative lack of punch and power compared to big box speakers like the Focus.
I believe this is really the only area where the potential purchaser must make a decision that is at all difficult. In all other areas, the Whisper’s performance is comparable to or eclipses that of other speakers at any price. The ultimate solution may well be the addition of a subwoofer or two, such as Legacy’s own Low Frequency Extreme. I may try this in the future and run the Whispers “full-range” but at a reduced setting of the Steradian to get the bass detail and sheer air-moving capability of the Whisper’s eight open-air 15-inch woofers while adding the punch of the box subwoofers. Even for another $7,500 for two Low Frequency Extreme subwoofers, the total package would list for less than $22,000, far less than most state-of-the-art contenders.
Maybe there are speakers out there which give a greater impression, top to bottom, of the seemingly limitless dynamic range of live music, but there are darn few. The classic Klipschhorns are certainly in the same league, but due to frequency response peaks in the upper ranges, don’t sound as relaxed as the Whispers. Especially in the midrange, where one would expect most speakers to have adequate dynamic range, the Whispers are far superior to anything else I’ve heard. As another reviewer said, you really don’t realize how much other speakers are compressing midrange music until you hear that music played through the Whispers.
The Whispers compass the dynamics of music at realistic live levels at all frequencies so effortlessly, that after living with the speakers for awhile you relax and stop getting ready to cringe–wondering whether the speaker is going to “make it” without distorting or becoming edgy as the next big crescendo approaches. Once you trust the speaker to react in an effortless way to music’s dynamics, the emotional involvement that live music’s dynamic ebb and flow can produce becomes much stronger.
At the soft end of the scale, the Whispers are the most satisfying speakers I have owned, both in the sense of revealing and integrating the soft nuances of the dynamics of the music into the macro event, and in being emotionally satisfying when listening at peak levels much lower than life.
Perhaps because I am equalizing the bass flat to 25 Hz, a bit of congestion begins to creep into the sound on compressed material with very heavy bass (read: pop and rock recordings made in the last few years) at levels where my ears begin to cry “Mercy!” We are talking sustained levels on compressed program material where the measured average level is well over 100 dB and the peaks are at 110 dB or more. Even here, the congestion is slight and takes the form of reduced clarity as opposed to any inability of the speakers to play louder or any tendency to compress dynamics. By the way, the overload lights on the Brystons stay green at these levels so the amps are not clipping.
To put this in perspective, I have never owned speakers that can reproduce such levels on such material without gross distortion, if at all. The effect may be more due to overdriving the room or my ears than any real distortion in the speaker. I mention it only because it might be evidence of a dynamic limitation of the speakers for someone out there. At such levels the woofers appear to be performing excursions of more than 1/2 inch forward and 1/2 backward of their resting positions. This effect does not occur at all at any level I feel is at all lifelike on material with wider, more realistic dynamic range.
Soundstaging and Imaging
The Whispers propagate a full-size stage with full-size instruments, without the sometimes overblown image size of large planars. Images have remarkable palpability and three dimensionality: images are not 2-D cutouts, but 3-D bodies. Small movements of performers on the stage are rendered with exquisite exactness.
Before these speakers, my wife just didn’t “get” imaging or soundstaging. Now she does, pointing and gesturing excitedly about the positions of instrumental images and stage dimensions. Centered soloists in particular have a “palpable presence” unmatched by any other speakers in my experience.
You are there in front of a real live stage with real live musicians playing on it. Believe it!
Distortion and Detail
Distortion is low, low, inaudibly low at all frequencies and levels up to the ridiculous. And despite any limitations of the Steradian noted above, I hear more musical and environmental detail with these speakers than with any other I have owned and my past Cellos were real champs in this respect. From subways and passing trucks, to vehicles stopping and starting at lights or stop signs near the recording venue, to bird songs, to rustling clothes, creaking chairs and music stands, doors opening and closing, pages turning, fingernails on piano keys, breathing, lips opening, stomach gurgling, to string harmonics, wind noise through wind instruments, flesh on guitar strings–you name it, it’s there. While intellectually I can tell myself that there is yet more detail to be heard, the music’s message and the gestalt of the musicians and hall are so strong through the Whispers that I cannot concentrate on that thought very long–the music just sweeps me away from such trivializing.
Voice, String, and Piano Sound
I single these out because, for many, these are the sounds most difficult for a stereo to get right, probably because they are the most familiar to us. But, remarkably, these are among the Whisper’s most overwhelming strengths.
Voices of all types are amazingly real and low in distortion. Before the Whispers, voices had never sounded right on any of my reference speakers. They were more right on car radios and much lesser systems because most serious systems add bass or treble colorations that scream “electronic!” on voices. Like good electrostatics such as the Quads (which I have never owned because of their lack of dynamic range on big orchestral stuff), the clarity and lack of distortion in the midrange is utterly convincing on all vocal material. I find myself listening to a lot more vocal material these days, both soloists and ensembles such as classical choral material. Perhaps this is simply because such material now sounds so much more real that the reproduction no longer gets in the way of the music, but instead opens up the magnificence of solo and massed human voices.
Strings massed or solo, are also just right, being neither homogenized nor edgy, with just the right combination of bite and attack, sustain, and decay. Violin sections float in midair when well recorded, just as in the concert hall. Bass and cello sections have the full measure of weight they should.
Grand pianos sound grand, with full weight, power, dynamics, and size, and with unequaled feel of the iron fist within the velvet glove as the hammers hit the strings. Glorious!
The Excitement Factor
There is no way around it: the Whispers produce a sound that is quite enthralling and an absolute thrill to listen to. “Your system sounds SO EXCITING now!” exclaimed my spouse. My wife, who, bless her heart, has been very supportive and understanding of my audio obsession for more than 25 years, for the first time is actually excited about a component purchase I made. She now asks to hear her favorite music on my big rig, something she has never done in the past. And once she starts listening, it’s hard for her to leave the sweet spot. Some might say that is bad, but the spouse-acceptance-factor of the Whispers is so high that I’m sure it will result in increased support for my future tweaky purchases.
In my experience, from 25 Hz on up, the Whispers are better than, or at least in the same league as anything else out there, at any price.
Their weaknesses are a lack of bass capability below 25 Hz and a lack of bass punch below 100 Hz. That’s it.
I never did buy that pair of AR 3a’s, but now I own the Whispers by Legacy Audio. For the first time in my audiophile life, I can truthfully say that the realism of the sonic reproduction available to me anytime in my home eclipses the cherished memory of that first speaker love.
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