I'm not gonna schlep you through hyper-detailed notes describing what happened at each stop on the entertaining ride through various frequency ranges. I will, however, focus on a couple of key points. At $800, the 6s don't, can't and won't --regardless of system -- offer the refinement of the seven-times-as-expensive I-Bens that grace my listening space. But, but ... they do many things well, and more importantly, stay out of their own way. And, when paired with an adroit subwoofer, they just develop a more comprehensive personality; one so well-grounded you could proudly show them off to a snobbier set of skeptics, assuming you would bother. Yes, for under $1500 (including the $200 stands and a small sub) you can get the goods: Remarkable reproduction of your cherished recordings. Hell, even without the sub -- which is all the fun we're allowed at the practical price point we're pondering -- I spent many an afternoon mesmerized by the performers that dropped into the listening room. There were the Cowboy Junkies [RTH 8568], with Margot's lovely tremolo drawing me in, the bass working its growly magic and the sense of space all conspiring to get me writing about this find. (Damn, end of side one. Hang on!).

Also passing through were Charlie Byrd [Analogue Productions' test pressing], Allison Krauss [Rounder], Clark Terry (and his many ivory-tickling friends on Chesky's One On One), and all manner of other stuff - absent techno, save for a few rounds of Venus Hum [MCA]. Even Reiner kept my attention through his rendering of Scheherazade [LSC-2446] - and yes, that was without the sub.

In short, vocals had appropriate velocity and never struck me as scant or emaciated. Male vocals were served with harmonic rightness. Check out Terry Evans' excellent bayou-born Blues on any of his albums [Audioquest]. The tracks tend to be thick with horns, bass, drums and Evans' wide-ranging -- and at times seemingly possessed -- voice. The Grande 6s displayed significant capacity and composure as I cranked up the tunes (so I could boogie while burning some brisket on the outside barbie. My spell-checker keeps telling me to capitalize that last word. Kinky - charcoaled Barbie). When so driven, there can be a trace of hardness that I would describe as a thinning of timbre, or a small change in tonal color. This effect is limited to a small segment of the midrange and impacted voices more than instruments. It did not extend to the range of flutes, for example, with one exception: A slight bleaching of the lower range of said instrument on I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon [Chesky]. Now this was at dinner party (okay, cuisine and wine orgy] levels with the volume knob doing battle with a dozen very happy people.

The vital force of the mid-bass never muddied the music (after spiking and mass-loading the stands, and not with bubbly). Massed strings were vivid but not strident, and though these speakers aren't made to deliver the orchestra to your room, they held their own at my (but not a headbanger's) ideas of modest volumes.

It's no news to anyone who's read my bio that I demand speakers that can deliver music at what some people would consider a whisper of volume (i.e. below 80dB for the most part). Not many speakers bring home the bacon in this regard. Does that make them bad? No. Does it make them good? No. Does it make me want to have not much to do with them? Right - horses for courses, and this is my race track. While loudness appears to be music's least flexible dimension, it's this dimension indeed that I demand the most degree of control over; especially when it comes to unveiling dynamic gradations ('cause momma, that's where the fun is).

And, interesting to me at least, is that listening from the other room -- which I do when reading or visiting with guests -- often gives me unique insights into a system' s performance, especially with respect to dynamic gradients at any given volume. The complete dynamic range can be visualized as seven levels of dynamic markings, from ppp to fff. It has been observed that many musicians waver over a six-decibel range when playing at supposedly constant volumes. Under these circumstances and at 6dB per level, instruments would cover a 42dB range between their softest and loudest dynamic levels. On many instruments, however, even professional musicians manage only about a 15dB range. The conclusion one might arrive at is that no matter what the score calls for, they can play at only three contrasting levels.

My take on that is this: It's not quite that simple. Things may measure out that way, but not everything that matters can be measured. Enter dynamic inflections and shadings - subtle but significant contributors to the emotion conveyed by an artist through his tool. Thankfully, it doesn't take a range of 42 decibels to do so, or we'd all have to listen at insane volumes which is what many do anyway. Having faithfully followed this explanation, you won't have to guess what I got with these speakers: A transducer able to convey emotion without sending my significant other into a fit over the volume.

Moving on, once the stands were spiked and filled with sand, the 6s came alive. Depth and width of stage improved dramatically and bass one-note-ness all but disappeared (they still hang a bit to the pitch of the instrument) and Oystein Sevag's Global House [Windham Hill 11148] proceeded to bring me home. This album is superbly produced and will show any system in its best and worst light. With everything from cellos to didgeridoos and violas to trumpets, this is music to move through the day with - assuming you can get off your ass. It can be intoxicating.

There was very little grain in the highs. The hand bells, tambourines and metal castanets on Calmus' The Splendor of Al-Andalus [M-A Recordings MA026A] were detailed and smooth if perhaps a bit too much of the latter, taking a mite of energy out of the stratosphere. While the frequency response is spec'd at 50-20kHz, my experience was that the above-described roll-off became a factor in my room beyond the 12kHz range. On the other end, I'd call them flat to 100Hz, with a lot of usable energy into the low 60s and a smooth roll-off thereafter. Given that my room is well-treated and said treatment is designed to accommodate larger speakers, neither of the two observations above surprised me. Besides, the Grande 6s can boogie like Harbeths and that's way more important than a few octaves of extension.

Imaging and soundstaging aren't mainstays for me, but here's what I got. Excellent (assuming you like pinpoint) imaging with good lateral dispersion, nice height, adequate depth, and width on par with some of the best I've heard. As I plunked Venus Hum's trippy yet lyrical Big Beautiful Sky into the player, I was taken aback by the familiar wraparound soundstage -- filled with digital instrumentation, violin, viola, cello and, of course, Annette Streans lovely voice -- on the tunes "Montana" and "Wordless Mary". Taken aback by the familiar? Yeah, simply because I wasn't expecting it. I knew it was there with the big rig but had already lowered my expectations for the bargain setup. Not very nice of me, eh? If you haven't heard this CD, don't start by listening in the dark. On several tracks, the soundstage has this habit of sneaking along the sidewalls of the room so that, before you know it, things are happening right next to your ear (and then, a bit behind you).

Lastly, we moved on to Curtis Counce's underrated quintet from 1956-57 and enjoyed the bounce of side one [Analogue Production test pressing]. My notes read yummy (not gummy) bass, sparkling and seductive piano and that sexy sax sliding in from the left channel. Excellent snap as the percussion takes hold - quick and solid enough to startle any lifeless co-listeners even at the lowest of volumes. The snare can do its job of mobilizing the proceedings. No overhang here.

I could go on but I'm not going to. The 6s sounded promising at VSAC, and they did not disappoint at home. But let's face it, there's only so much you can say about a single-driver speaker at this price point. All speakers, regardless of design, suck when compared to the real thing. Some suck less. This one sucks the least of any sub-$1,500 single-driver design I've encountered. As a bonus, they were more simpatico with the $2500 rig than my reference system, which means they won't put outlandish demands on your wallet down the road.

Practical? You bet. But I'm in this for the fun. With their midrange coherency, non-boxy freedom, rhythmic drive and high efficiency, they'll make a whole lotta music for the systems in which you'll typically find them in. Indeed, the $2500 system brought into play for their review was one that I was loathe to disassemble because it had a huge measure of the kind of elusive synergy that took me ten years to sort out in the big rig. That pissed me off. To think that, if I could go back in time, I coulda had a deeply customized, go-crazy-with-the-mods Beck Spyder for the difference between the "B system" and my reference rig. Not to mention a ton of vinyl. And those therapy bills for OCD (obsessive complusive-upgade-itis disorder)? History! In the end, I'm still thrilled with what I've assembled over time (yeah, typical defense mechanism rearing its head) but - did I mention that the thought of all that really pisses me off?

As for the "B" system listed below, I must admit that it was hard to say good-bye but easy to proclaim Good Buy! And if that doesn't constitute a bargain, I guess I don't know the meaning of the word.

The $2500 system

  • Omega Grande 6 speakers - $800
  • Skylan Stands - $200
  • Play sand - $2.53
  • Jolida 102B Integrated Amp - 550*
  • Cabling (at 10%) 250**
  • Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 CD player 700 ***
  • Grande Total: $2,502.53****

Playing footsie with the notes
* Talk about a cheap date: Even after spending many nights luxuriating in the glow of my highly-refined and single-ended PX-25, the speakers became instantly addicted to the push-pull authority delivered by the tiny EL84-based Jolida 102B. In fact, they preferred it over the more dearly-priced 6wpc power intoxicant. If you haven't seen it yet, this ain't your daddy's Jolida. If you haven't heard it, be prepared to want one. For $550, this exemplifies the, you know - "B" word.

** I allowed for 10% of the system cost here. But, better still, dig up some vintage copper (20-year old Monster® cable, for example) and just patch it all together. I did. Cheap yet fulfilling, and no long-term break-in required. Think about the music you can buy with the money saved!

***Of course, you could shop around. The next generation of Sony SACD players are going to hit the stores (not the street) for $150 (no, that's not a misprint) and if they are as good as the SCD-CE775 carousel from a few years back, you'd have another fine match plus half-a-grand in spare change for recorded music. In any case, the Ah! Tjoeb is a first rate player that takes this system to the next level.

**** Okay, we're a tenth of one percent off budget. Shoot me. It's still a ... ya know?

The manufacturer responds:
Hi Stephæn,

The review is absolutely amazing. It was really fun to read and the story line is perfect. The way you tied in the cars with the systems and all the history gives so much valuable information and a really fun presentation. It went much further than just the speakers and stands, into the philosophy of what Noel and I do. I can honestly say this is the best review I've read.

Many thanks for all the hard work and giving Noel and I the opportunity to have the speakers and stands reviewed. I appreciate it greatly.

Best regards and talk to you soon,

Manufacturer's website