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The Hansen loudspeakers disappear fully and absolutely. This was clearly and wonderfully shown by the mono record of Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus. The leader’s instrument was wonderfully full, big, slightly warm but also aggressive. Most of all, it had nothing to do with the loudspeakers. Those just sat there as though somebody had forgotten to pack them back up in their crates. The dream of every woman had come true. Sound without loudspeakers.

The virtual sources were large and massive. There was no talk of spot focus, not that the images were diffuse. Speaker dispersion was simply so broad that the sound spread not only up and down but also laterally. Sitting in front of the Hansens—I must repeat that they appeared superfluous as though no sound came from them—one recognized the mono recording because the sound was focused in the middle, with the first soundstage plane just behind the line which connects the speakers and good depth. But the Hansens did more than the Dobermanns and more than any other loudspeakers that came before. They cast sound sources of natural size and mass. My Harpias concentrate the sounds on a smaller surface to reduce in size. While theirs is already outstanding performance, you must hear loudspeakers in the Hansen Audio class to know that more is required to make the transmission fully natural and credible.

This next level belongs to Hansen Audio or the Magnepan MG 20.1 with a good subwoofer. Frankly, I did once hear such a combination with the top REL. The Hansens repeated the same coherent, incredibly detailed but paradoxically warm sound I’d heard then. They added to those prior assets almost unlimited dynamics and bigger output, in turn giving up only very little treble expansion and stage depth. This is steep praise for those Canadians and the potential for dynamic loudspeakers at large.

The Hansen design combines the best characteristics of many different precursors. They are quick and coherent like the biggest Magneplanars which are known to almost ideally react to impulses without time-domain blurring (a kind of analog jitter). To a great extent, the Prince v2 repeats what I know from the Maggies, i.e. magnetostatic rather than electrostatic panels. The latter, mostly Quads, are faster still but suffer one liability in that they can sound harsh at times and cast a very small sweet spot. In terms of timbre, the Harpia sounds a bit like an electrostat. It is almost as quick but extends lower in the bass and is more dynamic. Those are the reasons why they have dominated me for such a long time.

But the Hansen is a different story. To the same speed and bass extension, it adds more music by way of body, warmth and fullness. The uppermost treble is not as extended as Harpia’s SEAS metal dome, the Magnepan driver or Adam’s A.R.T. Heil units but exhibits more body and fullness. Today there are many contenders for best tweeter. I well remember my first contact with the Beryllium tweeter in the JMlab Electra 1007 Be. Their treble was incredibly refined, nicely expansive, very coherent and slightly warm. But it lacked a bit of fill that would show not just a sound but the actual instruments. And exactly that gap is bridged by the Hansen. Its soft dome tweeter-a breed I do not regard with particular fondness-integrates with the midrange driver perfectly. This may be why one won’t hear the small limitations of uppermost frequency response and resolution as perhaps one should. Maybe, just maybe, the sound on a whole is not as quick as the Dobermann or an electrostatic panel but the listener cares not. After some time, this becomes an added bonus in fact because just like with Magneplanars, everything seems more in place and not as strained as a race. While my speakers deliver everything on time at the proper pace, sometimes there is no time to think about the music, no time for saturation and sustain. I am talking about the top hi-end beyond regular hi-end here. There such small differentiations become sensible, stronger and more unambiguous.

I would like to return to the reproduction of space. After speed and coherence, this a trait most associated with small monitors. It is commonly assumed that only petite speakers can reproduce a big and precise soundstage without constraints. This is a misdiagnosis.

It certainly is true that many floorstanding speakers have issues with creating a credible stage. But it is wrong to draw the conclusion that this is a characteristic of all big loudspeakers and that bookshelves rule. I think that the opposite is true in fact. Only big floorstanding speakers with full frequency response can reproduce a proper soundstage in all its majesty, might and depth. Even the best of bookshelf speakers will create an artificial stage - at least for me.

Even as big and precise a stage with its perfectly focused spots for all the musicians as Janusz’s system casts (please refer to the Krakow Sonic Society reports) is created rather than reproduced. While extremely interesting and stimulating—we can learn much from it—I do in the end find it pure hyperrealism and as such, unreal. Because I have heard the Ancient Audio Wing speakers made for John Tu as well as some other big speakers, I know that only in this fashion can we simulate the real depth and interior of churches and concert halls or even a small club or midsized recording studio which then gain in sensual credibility.

This was beautifully shown by Rollins’ Way Out West and Miles Davis & Milt Jackson’s Miles Davis All Star Sextet/Quintet. The first one is a recording from the commercial beginning of the stereo technique (1957) which placed all the instruments to the sides. The second album is mono and from 1955 when this technique flourished.