Pre-review banter

The Coincident Speaker Technology Victory speakers under review today represent Israel Blume's central model in his 3-model-deep Ultra-High-Sensitivity lineup. Below the Victory ($4,599/pr) nestles the Triumph Signature ($1,199/pr) on a stand. Above it, the UHS flagship dubbed Total Victory ($11,500/pr) proudly stretches its stuff. For all intents and purposes, the Total Victory looks like a Victory on steroids - quadrupled side-firing woofer steroids to be specific. According to its maker, the UHS Series was devised to give micro or low-powered triode fans speaker options without horn-loading.

Options? Who needs stinkin' direct-radiator options when horn-loading clearly remains the supreme means to achieve a number of exceedingly desirable parameters: Ultra-high sensitivity; significantly reduced dynamic/thermal/scaling compressions; and as a function thereof, measurably maximized driver linearity over all output levels?

This was exactly the sort of miscreant attitude which, only partially in jest, greeted Blume's unsolicited review request. I'm first to admit that my uncensored penchant for the German Avantgardes -- for diverse reasons starting with looks, price and size, going on to perceived colorations and voicing -- isn't shared by the vast majority of music lovers. But goddamit, I'm sold on the complete package. Can you sympathize that I really wasn't too keen on relinquishing my high horse to suffer the expected/implied performance letdowns of this particular assignment? Nor, truth be told, was I eager to pen a carefully deliberated writeup that would lack in conviction and enthusiasm. Yes, it would more than make up for that in graciously outlined extenuating circumstances. But who needs the kind of lameness that reasons "if you can't afford or stomach the real thing, this is quite a respectable substitute"?

Not a happy mindset for any non-horn speaker manufacturer looking for the ideal reviewer candidate. However, Israel apparently dug deep enough to detect a few favorable attributes in my persona. Rather than act as deterrant, my expressed reluctance only strengthened his resolve and conviction. With their claimed 97dB/14-ohm triode-loving disposition, he knew that my professed appreciation for such winsomely underpowered beasts -- represented in-house by my 6wpc Art Audio PX-25 SET and 30w AUDIOPAX Model 88 SEPs -- made me into a perfectly victorious reviewer. Hence, two well-dressed Victories eventually appeared on my front porch a few weeks later. What follows is my experience with these gents.

How sensitive is sensitive enough?

First, a brief note on claimed sensitivity. On August 2001, SoundStage! reviewed the firm's Total Eclipse speakers. Accompanying measurements seemed to clearly refute claimed 94dB sensitivity as being a moderate 86 instead, this compliments of the Canadian NRC, a hoary institution generally held trustworthy to generate objective, accurate and unimpeachable results.

Looking closer, this apparent 8dB discrepancy shows that the NRC measured anechoically at 2 meters, plotted for 1 meter by adding 6dB to the original 80dB result and then referenced sensitivity at 8 ohms. The manufacturer specified sensitivity at 1 meter, in-room and at 14 ohms. 86dB anechoic/8ohms = 88.43dB/14ohms where 2.83V into 14 ohms = 0.57 watts. For the requisite 1 watt of power response, this speaker requires a 3.74V input. The differential between 2.83V and 3.74V is 2.43dB. Now add another 3dB for in-room rather than anechoic sensitivity and you're at 91.43dB rather than the NRC's 86dB. That's still 2.5dB shy of the manufacturer's spec but no longer way off the mark as 8dB would indicate. [Thanks to Eduardo de Lima of AUDIOPAX for helping with this math!]

(In the above example, we distinguish between sensitivity referenced as voltage versus power sensitivity, i.e. measured at 2.83v or 1w. Only the second takes the speaker's impedance into account but requires actual measurements of the speaker's power response at the binding posts. Further variables? How well is the test gear calibrated? Is the input signal a frequency-specific sinewave, say at1kHz where the speaker may exhibit a dip or rise? Is it white noise from DC to 50kHz? Or white noise deliberately bandwidth-restricted to conform to the speaker's actual frequency response? The former generates a lower reading since the speaker doesn't reproduce the signal's out-of-band portions.)

Specifically designed for low-power tube amps (including OTLs whose power delivery into higher impedances behaves inverse from solid-state amps by doubling rather than halving), the Victory's sensitivity of 97dB should be understood as measured inclusive of 3dB room gain, at 1 meter, and into 14 ohms when powered with a thermionic device. If driven by a solid-state amp delivering less power into higher impedances, it would probably be closer to 94dB, if measured anechoically, then 91dB, and if at 2 meters using the inverse square formula of output loss versus distance, 85dB. Don't measurements mean exactly what they say? As you saw, not necessarily.

And consider this - with zero-feedback triode amplifiers, phase angle and inter-related load impedance -- i.e. how high it is, and how confined fluctations-wise over how narrow a band -- are far more important speaker qualifiers than raw sensitivity.

On that note, the claimed Victory specs paint a window of 10-18 ohms. If hovering around the 14-ohm axis over most of its bandwidth as stated, that is admirably and unusually SET-happy despite a somewhat broader spread than theoretically ideal.

Reviews have confirmed that my resident Triangle Ventis 222 (at $4,000/pr in the $4,599/pr ballpark of the Victories) conform to their stated 93.5dB/1w/1m spec. Comparing French and Canadian playback levels on identical input signals would confirm whether the Victories were plus or minus 93.5dB, i.e. playing louder or less loudly than the Ventis. Regardless and as already said, this wouldn't be nearly as critical as load behavior. I'd use a puny 6wpc amplifier in a 20'x28'x10' room with openly adjoining kitchen (another 13'x'19'x10' space) and hallway (a yet further 12'x4.5'x10') to determine whether -- and how successfully -- the Victories met their stated design goal of being ideal partners for such output-challenged designs.

Break-in reluctance

As essentially the sole content provider for 6moons at present, my packed review schedule makes break-in of speakers -- de facto in parallel to continuously ongoing active assignments -- quite challenging. I had thus requested a fully preconditioned pair. Alas, the reality of manufacturing conspired against carefully hatched plans. What arrived were virgins.

There are no mitigating virtues to soften the following blow: The Victories are utterly unlistenable out of the box. They don't just not sound great - yet. They sound positively, unabashedly horrific. They exhibit no bass to speak of. The mids are severly recessed. Calling the treble steely, ragged and closed-in is being polite.

Israel of course remained nonplussed. He knew. What's more, he agreed by calling the Victory his worst speaker in that regard. That did little to make the process less painful. After 200+ hours, the Victories did come around, eventually, but make no mistake: What you -- hopefully -- hear at a dealer's won't at all be what greets you at the point of purchase. You'll consider your pair broken. It ain't. But you're forgiven for thinking so - despite better judgment, I nearly lost patience myself.

Physical victory

The Victories are handsomely proportioned fellas. Of moderate height at 3.5 feet and only 9" wide and 14" deep, the 45° 1-inch bevel around the baffle, the richly red-dyed cherry veneer (the inside panels are veneered as well) and absence of the ubiquitous grill peg receptacles only heightens their elegant visual effect. 92 pounds of weight attest to parallel substance, achieved with 1.125" MDF/hardwood panels for uniform density 25% higher than standard MDF; a vertical top-to-bottom brace that essentially staggers two cabinets behind each other; and individual chambers behind each driver that flow into differently tuned secondary chambers in the "rear" cabinet for a total of 10 sub-enclosures. Can you say complex?

Presumably to gain 3dB from paralleling, both Eton midranges and Seas woofers appear doubled up. From 1-3kHz, the former 3-inch doped fabric domes surround a 6-inch shielded quasi-ribbon (isodynamic planar-magnetic in technospeak to indicate the aluminum-on-Kapton etched conductors absent in true ribbons). This arrangement creates the well-known MTM d'Appolito array often accused of lobing issues. Below it we find the twin 6.5-inch treated paper cone woofers that act in parallel below 1kHz. As is Coincident tradition, all network slopes are 1st-order 6dB, and the crossover parts are direct-coupled, meaning they're hard-crimped and soldered to each other without intervening circuit boards or hookup wire. Venting is aft via a large-diameter flow port whose plastic end isn't inset flush with the wooden fascia but protrudes as a ring ledge from the rear baffle. A single pair of 5-way binding posts make up the connection accôutrements. Claimed response is 36Hz to 40kHz.

To avoid staring up this gent's, er, kilt, shall we turn him about again? Let's find out to what good use he'll put that complement of five drivers upfront. Follow me onto the next page ...