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Memory is a strange thing. It follows its own capricious and unpredictable rules. We tend to remember things not as they were but how we felt about them - not the same. Hence comparing audio components not directly but through the lens of time leaves us with how they became embedded in our minds. There's no way we can account for that 100%. What we can do is minimize the time gap to bridge the two sides. Here we may find it useful to have certain fixed reference points. Knowing how a given product compared to such a standard a year ago and comparing against the very same standard another product today, we will find it much easier to relate two distant auditions.

With today's speaker it was important to revive memories and my review of the $2.499/pr Sonus faber Minima Vintage. The connection is obvious with the trademark Italian design. Equally important however are the links between how they build up sound. Whilst not the same, it does belong to the same family or school. It's pretty warm no doubt. The response is clearly limited in the extremes. One needn't reach for my Harbeth M40.1 to notice. Even the Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature I reviewed in parallel which comes housed in even smaller cabinets sounds far more open with stronger more powerful bass.

The Rhapsody 60 similarly to the Sonus faber before are not designed for the most accurate sound in all respects. Gediminas Gaidelis clearly modeled the sound to focus on a few select characteristics and hone those to as near perfection as possible. Here coherence plays a primary role. Equally important although subordinate is time consistency. And the third aspect resulting from the previous two is a beautiful midrange. There is no point claiming that the speakers measure down to a handful of cycles or their tweeter’s upper response matches the Esotar2 of the Dynaudio. Even a short audition concludes that these focus on the midrange. When we get familiar with their sound we'll add that it makes perfect sense. That's because the Rhapsody 60 will play albums with piano and vocals in the leads followed by sax, cello, violin and even upright bass truly beautiful and do so in absolute terms irrespective of price. This predilection for stringed instruments—vocals when you think about it are 'stringed' as well—is interesting because it is so reproducible. I had the same result with the RLS Callisto III, with speakers from Sonus Faber and others which are rather warm, smooth and perfectly integrated.

This effect or perception is based on a saturation of the lower midrange and integrating it with the treble such that the latter won't attract attention per se but remains unobtrusive extension. Playing Bob Dylan with acoustic lead guitar I heard slightly tempered warm string tone with an emphasis on body. It was the same with Charlie Haden and John Taylor’s Nightfall where the piano moved closer and was denser still than I’m used to even with my Harbeth M40.1 which certainly are not particularly lit up. After this intro one might expect an exposition from me on how this could be improved or remedied. I won't go there however because this seems to be a consistent vision and deliberate aim. Admittedly not a particularly selective or defined sound, its appeal lies in the tangibility of images, in their large projection and finally in its excellent soundstage.

In the context of what I said about the treble, the latter may seem strange or far-fetched. After all it's the high frequencies which most define imaging precision as the basis for successful holography. To a large extent this is true. Everyone into room acoustics and its effects on soundstaging knows it. But an equally important prerequisite is phase coherence and midrange or even bass saturation. The latter two define how large the images are, the first one determines their accuracy. Here accuracy doesn’t mean clear separation or cutting sounds out from background but rather excellent differentiation of layers.

If a recording features strongly mixed main instruments, it will be particularly evident on these speakers. This largely deals with acoustic instruments and not merely on perfectly recorded Naim discs or Mobile Fidelity remasters but also on lesser recordings from labels far removed from audiophilia. Take for example Accession Records with The Anatomy of Silence from Diary of Dreams. Here we get acoustic versions of ten songs from the band featuring the piano, double bass, classical guitar etc. The Lithuanian speakers played back this material how it probably should be: with large vocals in the center slightly in front of the main line and a meaty midrange. Spatial relations were brilliant, first due to the fleshy strongly anchored images, then by clear and warm anti-phase elements. With an instrument recorded and mixed as mono without supporting reverb, one hears it differently than an instrument surrounded by spatial imaging effects. This most speakers fail to resolve. They either cut out instruments from the background to remove spatial context or everything gets so hyper-clear as to occupy equal space. The Lithuanians are different. They portray a dense sound but at the same time indicate the type of recording venue and its attributes very well.