Editor's note: Even though the Kestrel2 has recently been reviewed by our own Mike Healey, the fact that Paul Candy purchased his pair prior to joining 6moons -- to now use by default as his reference speaker for all future product evaluations -- made the notion of a follow-up report appealing. With speakers in particular, second opinion are worthwhile since this product genre is the one most prone to performance shifts based on room and amplifier interactions. We don't publish 2nd opinions regularly due to logistics - but in this case, Paul's purchase didn't entail the usual complications.

While Mike was busy with his review loaners, I was busy purchasing a pair of Kestrel2s. Paid retail, too. Rather than double up on what my colleague covered so eloquently already, I shall focus primarily on listening impressions. However, I will touch upon a couple of technical issues first. The Meadowlark Kestrel2 is a 40" high, floorstanding loudspeaker with a sloped front baffle. Why sloped, you ask? To insure that the wave launch from all drivers reaches your ears synchronously, on time, to preserve the minute aural cues that make a piano sound like a piano, a clarinet sound like a clarinet. The Kestrel also employs a minimalist 1st order network to preserve the original signal waveform. Meadowlark's designer Pat McGinty contends that non-time/phase-coherent designs undo delicate timing information and distort subtle aspects of music playback. This is said to give the ear/brain a harder time -- pun intended -- to reassemble a believable impression of sonic realism. Listening fatigue, ear burn? Meadowlark suggests that time/phase-incoherent loudspeakers are responsible for that dreaded affliction. The Kestrels are also somewhat rare in their use of transmission lines rather than the more common bass reflex or infinite baffle approaches. Pat has gone one step further, by introducing a TL loading variant dubbed BASS-IC which Mike covered in greater detail already.

The Kestrel2 is beautifully finished in a choice of light Ash, dark Ash or black Ash veneer. Also available is an enormous variety of custom veneers and solid wood baffles. If there's a tree on this planet not endangered, it seems Meadowlark can fashion a custom speaker from it. While I'm quite happy with my light Ash, I would have preferred one of the more exotic finishes like the drop-dead gorgeous Wormwood Maple pair I saw at Ovation Audio in Aurora, Ontario. But I am a simple working stiff of modest means, so light Ash it was. Build quality? To die for. I especially fancy the detailed contouring of the transmission line terminus and the swooping lines around the woofer. The Kestrels cut a very svelte Scandinavian profile that would not look out of place in an IKEA store. The front baffle is a beautifully sculpted 1-inch thick slab of solid Ash rather than veneered MDF. The baffle, drivers and crossover components are decoupled with a damping material called Keldamp. The crossover is situated in its own isolated subchamber at the rear of the speaker. The tweeter is a 1" Vifa soft-dome ring radiator, the mid/bass driver a Peerless 7' triple-layer composite cone. All crossover components are point-to-point wired with silver solder, all internal wiring is Tara Labs RSC. For added stability, the Kestrel is fitted with a nicely contoured base whose floor-facing T-nuts offer a choice of 3 or 4 spikes. Nice touch. It's far easier to level a component with three rather than four feet.

There has been some recent controversy in various Online audio forums as to what constitutes transmission line loading and loudspeaker time/phase coherence. With the exception of the coherence issue, it's really rather simple. A transmission line has nothing to do with drivers or fancy crossover circuits. It refers to the internal enclosure itself, which has far greater impact on loudspeaker performance than many realize. Our publisher gave an overview of transmission lines in last month's industry features and further information can be found on the Meadowlark and PMC websites. The time/phase coherence issue is more complex and one I'm not technically qualified to expound upon in any great detail. I do understand enough to appreciate that one cannot claim time-coherence for a speaker with vertical baffles. The drivers may appear aligned but looking more closely, one will notice how the acoustic centers of larger drivers are actually further recessed that the tweeter's.

This causes the tweeter signal to reach the ears slightly before that of the woofer. To offset these staggered arrival times requires physically pushing back the tweeter, making for the sloped or stepped baffles of speakers by Meadowlark, Thiel and Vandersteen or the adjustable head units of Green Mountain and Ascendo. Claims of time delay correction in crossovers are unrealistic since you can't go backwards in time. You can introduce additional phase rotation to get output of drivers across the band aligned in the phase domain - but errors in time remain irreversible. While these technical consideration make for fascinating reading, what really matters at the end of the day is whether today's speakers can play a tune.

The Kestrels play tunes in a very very - tuneful way. Before I get into that, let's talk caveats. The Kestrels take a considerable amount of time to burn in. Expect at least 300 hours before the woofer loosens up. Bass will appear to be a bit anemic until then, highs a bit spitty. Beware of brief auditions with demonstrators that haven't had the requisite time on them yet. The Kestrels will also not play at insane Animal House levels without voicing their protest. If you live for gut-crunching Heavy Metal, these are probably not for you. It's simply not what the Kestrels are about.

What they are about is giving you a clear window into the musical performance. Actually, make that no window. You are there - or, maybe, they are here? Whatever, these Meadowlarks have a surprising ability to make you forget everything about sound coming out of two boxes. They truly are invisible. What the Kestrels do is give you music straight up, without the softening or texturing of other speakers I've heard. They are quick and nimble and present a huge, well-proportioned soundstage. They possess an uncanny knack for drawing you straight into the music and are very easy to listen to. The Kestrels are neither laid-back nor forward but just right.

Vocalists magically appear right in front of you. Strings are never harsh or bright unless the recording is. Even then it won't drive you from the room as other, more analytical transducers may. I do not hear any metallic overlay of subliminal ringing that seems to plague many metal domes like my old Paradigm Reference Studio 60 v2s. Individual images do not waver, wander or flicker side to side as they do elsewhere - including the very slight but still audible image drift on B&W's Nautilus 802. Listen to a solo violin, perhaps fellow Canuck James Ehnes playing Bach's Sonatas and Partitas [Analekta FL 2 3147-8]. The Kestrels never once shift Ehnes' violin as though it were comprised of different segments in different locations. On my Paradigms, the violin slides back and forth to make following the music difficult.

Furthermore, they alter tonality as the violin climbs through its registers. Have you observed this with your own speakers? Perhaps this is one of the flaws of higher-order crossovers and time domain errors that McGinty talks about? The Paradigms may play louder and give the impression of deeper bass. However, they cannot reproduce the subtle musical details which the Kestrels so easily do. With the Paradigms, I detect a certain veil or distancing from the music. This doesn't set the soundstage farther behind the speakers but interferes with getting caught up in the music. The Kestrel2s do nothing to hinder my ability to feel involved with the tunes.

Still, this may not be important to you. Personally, I'm more concerned about musicality -- the illusion of someone playing a real instrument in front of me, hearing all the subtle phrasing and intricacies in a piece of music -- than big, huge bass and maximum volume capabilities. Naturally, you may disagree. Mike said it best in his review when he dubbed music via the Kestrels as "nude". Other loudspeakers tend to leave a fine mist between me and the music. The Kestrels remove that fog. I think most people won't notice it at first because the brain works on an subconscious level to sort through this fog. Maybe this subliminal background activity contributes to the fatigue I mentioned earlier? I never tire of the Kestrels. Case in point? I spent an entire weekend listening to all fourteen discs of Herbert von Karajan's recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen [DG 457-780-2]. A cruel form of torture? Not for me. It was glorious. I saw the world end and it was wonderful.

One of my favorite discs is Sir John Barbirolli's recording of Mahler's 9th Symphony [EMI 5 67926 ]). While a flawed performance and recording, it's so full of energy and passion that it leaves me shattered whenever the final passage fades away. With the Kestrels, it is not uncommon for me to sit in silence for up to an hour after the end, lost in another world or "being one" as Srajan termed it in his Auroville 20.

With the Kestrels in the house, I feel that I am present in Berlin's Christ Church back in January of 1964. I am standing right there on the podium with 'Glorious John' as he coaxes the most inspired sounds from the Berliner Philharmoniker.

On the Tord Gushavsen Trio's excellent recording, Changing Places [ECM 1834], I hear not only the resonating body of Harald Johnsen's double bass, but the leading edge of each note no matter how complex the music. These events aren't lost in the endless ringing of certain conventional speakers. I can hear all three musicians clearly laid out before me in an expansive soundstage. Individual instruments stay solidly put unlike with my old Paradigms. The Kestrel2s make it very easy to concentrate on the message rather than the means. I listened to Dean Martin's Greatest Hits [Capital 72434-94961-2-5] and Dino was transported into the room, wise-cracking, ice cubes tinkling in his tumbler of scotch, his orchestra spread out behind him. His was an eerily palpable presence. Could I tell what brand of scotch he was drinking? It seemed close.