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The Raal tweeter has already earned legendary status and its inclusion in this design promised a phenomenal level of resolution. That potential was realized as soon as the first cut of music was played. The Catalina paraded microscopic detail and dramatic dynamic range in the upper frequencies with ease, demonstrating its ability to belong in the top tier in this parameter. The real challenge was for the second partner in this hybrid marriage to hold up its end of the bargain.

Here is where Mr. Petrescu’s attention to detail on cabinet execution pays off. To its lower limits the Scanspeak mid/woofer kept pace with the Raal with a combination of excellent articulation and power. The key here was control. As a result the pair of drivers achieved excellent low-level resolution and maintained information and tonal balance over a wide output range. The Catalina stayed in character at lower listening levels in a similar fashion to the AudioSpace AS-3-5/A but unlike the lower-priced overachiever extended much further up the opposite end of the dynamic and volume scale. While the speaker did have loudness limits, these occurred at what I would consider uncomfortable levels.

The combined detail and dynamic resolution was extremely high, showing the ability to separate instruments from ambient information and also make painfully obvious the use of added reverb or artificial effects. On material which demanded quick dynamic swings it could dramatically jolt one’s attention and capture the dynamic life in a recording, revealing artistic nuance and thunderous climaxes with impeccable control. The Raal was capable of extension and silky smoothness and displayed good neutrality in the majority of its range with a slight propensity to coolness. This combined with its inherent high resolution lent the speaker a high level of transparency but also made it more critical of recording quality. It was most at home with audiophile quality recordings and especially analog mastered material. Errors or deviations in the higher frequencies were immediately obvious and could push a system already balanced to accentuate or exaggerate upper octaves into becoming overly analytical.

Bass performance was close to full range, getting down with authority into the 30 to 35Hz range but diminishing rapidly below that point with an absence of subsonic information. In terms of music that meant the speaker reached pipe organ territory but was missing in action on Jurassic footfalls. That limitation aside the Catalina’s subjective capability was immensely satisfying and what stood out was the balance of authority and precise control. Exceptionally low cabinet coloration translated into extremely clean bass notes without smearing or loss of definition. The high level of articulation vindicated the designer‘s overkill approach to remove the cabinet from the equation and allowed the 7" Scanspeak to perform to maximum advantage. Male vocal material equalled the transparency of the female range with a noteworthy lack of boxiness, mimicking the better virtues of panel designs. The only time the Catalina displayed any cabinet contribution was at the extreme lower limits where the port becomes effective and this exhibited itself as a minor enhancement of low frequency authority.

Driver integration was artfully accomplished with the overlapping range gaining a small amount of natural warmth from the Scanspeak which served to balance the Raal’s slight coolness. The overall result was quite neutral with no obvious aberrations and a remarkable sense of transparency. The tonal balance was similar to the Apogee Diva, being a little cooler than my Duettas and more refined than the much lower priced Mark and Daniel Diamond + hybrid. The Bogdan Audio Creations Catalina was exceptionally articulate due to low coloration not only in the tweeter range—expected—but especially in the mid and upper bass where the strengths of the cabinet construction came into full play, keeping it both wideband and neutral.

The Catalina attempts to aurally replace the room with the recorded venue and create life-size images where the source allows, in contrast to a speaker like the Audiospace AS-3/5A which uses perspective to fit the orchestra into the living space. The Catalina favored a transparent presentation with a disarming see-through quality similar to ESLs and coupled with its representation of image size gave a front row perspective, pushing both soundstage and performers a bit forward. On the majority of material deep soundstage information was likewise pushed a bit forward. Images had very precise outlines with good dimensionality on foreground instruments but somewhat less so on rear stage material. On recordings with purist microphone placement, the soundstage stretched well back but on close-miked material it was considerably more upfront. The speaker’s transparency created a situation where the sound occurred at the speaker plane on recordings employing overly close microphone technique, a character shared by some electrostatics. As a result audiophile recording fared best showing the engineer’s prowess at microphone placement. Mass-market material was rendered truthfully, sometimes to its glory, sometimes to its detriment but in no instance did any recording become unlistenable. The Catalina simply offered a more immediate and literal presentation.

Stage width was restricted to the space between the speakers on the majority of material similar to the Mark+Daniel Diamond+ Heil hybrid, indicating that they should be placed as far apart as the room and listening position will allow. Height was in keeping with the recorded venue information and there was a generous listening area with good image focus due to the speaker’s wide dispersion.

The Catalina’s combination of transient accuracy and transparency affected its reproduction of hall or venue information both real and artificial. Where some speakers continuously illuminate the hall to give the listener a constant picture of the space in which the instruments are playing, the Catalina divulged hall information only when the instrument interacted with the venue. It was the aural equivalent of a flash of lightning which momentarily reveals a detailed landscape only to have that landscape disappear into darkness immediately after. This characteristic contributed to a presentation with rich and tonally dense instrument information but a drier overall acoustic.

The Catalinas have the imaging demeanour of a studio monitor - up close and personal with resolution to spare. They excel at being a transparent window, clean, dynamic and involving but they cannot quite float an image in the same way as a dipole or omni. Audiophiles used to this type of presentation or who use some form of electronic manipulation to create soundstage information will find the Catalina a more direct interpretation. This may be more accurate to the recorded event but is different from the more encompassing illusion of the live event.

The hallmarks of the Catalina can be summed up quite easily as control, precision, transparency and wide dynamics. That constitutes a very large amount of sonic virtue from any loudspeaker, let alone a two-way compact monitor. Sheer resolving power on vocals has not been bettered by any loudspeaker through these doors regardless of technology. The Catalina remains eminently neutral, presenting a chameleon-like tonal balance that reflects the input and achieves its overall transparency and resolution without compromising natural warmth. Only by deliberately accentuating the Raal tweeter’s output to the detriment of driver integration could the speaker be pushed to become dry and analytical.