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Let’s begin with a safe pair of hands - or rather three safe pairs of hands. Willie Nelson’s "The Maker" is a track taken from his Daniel Lanois produced album Teatro also featuring the ever soulful Emmylou Harris on accompanying vocals. It begins with 44 seconds of Lanois’ Hendrix-inspired solo guitar and then, as though a barn door has been blown open, in drifts the rest of the band carried through the listening room like a dandelion on the warm Tennessee air. It’s a lovely but slightly curious sonic blend built around a shuffling very dryly recorded drum kit that’s pushed way up in the mix, with atmospherics provided by some U2 style ringing guitar. There are some very serious low-end dynamics present too, not just from the rumbling bass guitar but also from some very deep organ.

The Carbon Sixes succeeded in laying this complex mix out as neatly as pews in a cathedral, each strand separate but not remote. A very apparent spatial realism suggested the band had been recorded together (the Sixes, I would soon discover, had a habit of making almost everything sound like a live acoustic event), and soundstage depth in particular seemed to carry on through and beyond the rear wall.

There was an architectural feel to the way the speakers carefully dovetailed all the constituent parts together, building a suitably upright edifice to foreground Nelson’s fatherly careworn presence. And there he stood in all his dusty glory; rock-solid and bang between the speakers.

The metallic percussion also sounded particularly finely burnished and even the rim shots had a deader clack than usual. Initial impressions were of an unusually high degree of transparency founded on copious detail and subtle harmonic nuancing but not so as to distract from the agreeable rhythmic flow or to obscure the clearly heartfelt emotional message. Considering the Sixes are substantial floorstanders, the sound boasted a very un-earthbound quality more often associated with good standmounts.

The way the plangent bass presence was dealt with also proved instructive. The laws of physics can only be pushed so far and a pair of 6.5-inch drivers aren’t going to be mistaken for a design boasting some truly serious weaponry in this department. But for my tastes I’m not sure I would be prepared to forego any of the Carbon Sixes’ speed for additional slam. These woofers start and stop with the certainty of a nail gun and suffer from none of the flabby excess that can slow down designs based around big twelve to fifteen inch cones.

Bass was focused and tuneful, leaving welcome space for the midband to breathe, and it certainly seemed perfectly in proportion with the rest of the frequency range. I often find that it’s electronic music with its glottal synth bass that can suffer most from the slow-down effect caused by undue bloating. The Carbons handled Depeche Mode’s Violator and Moby’s Last Night with a balance of speed, toothsome textural insight and yes, plenty of dynamic weight too. In fact irrespective of genre I found the Sixes’ bass response fit for purpose.

Ron Sexsmith’s voice is a multi-faceted instrument in itself boasting a natural ‘auto-tune’ effect that can at times suggest he’s channeling the spirit of the late Larry Adler. On his latest release Long Player Late Bloomer the Sixes presented it with a saturated presence, a tonal density if you like, very reminiscent of some of the better Martin Logan designs. Indeed often when I initially listen to an electrostatic design I wonder why anyone, even for a moment, might consider any alternative. But then I duly notice that the star of the show— the startlingly present and hear-through midrange—is lacking an appropriately classy supporting cast. The Carbon Pros however duly handled the rest of the troupe just fine, snapping the drums and bass guitar into place with textbook temporal coherence and projecting an extended top-end airiness.

If there are shortcomings with a speaker’s tonal presentation they can often be exposed by female vocals but here—with artists including Laura Viers, Corinne Bailey Rae and Nina Persson (lead singer of The Cardigans)—there was only a spine-tingling limpidness as well as an almost eerie sense of embodiment. On Joni Mitchell’s classic Ladies of the Canyon she sounded simply numinous. I’ve been skipping "Big Yellow Taxi" for a while now due to its sheer ubiquity. This time round however there was a newly cast quality to her voice and the acoustic guitar rang out as though freshly strung. I was becoming increasingly aware that the sounds filling my room appeared focused around a nucleus of core energy.
Yes there was fine inner detailing but it went further than that. Digital photographers often comment on the robustness of the files a particular camera is capable of delivering in reference to how well the data holds up in post processing. The Carbon Sixes reminded me of this term (indeed their megapixel count would be right up there with a Leica S2!) It seemed as if every sound had its own inner furnace, a compressed energy that made it far easier than usual for example to identify various types of electric guitar or marques of piano. And instruments I thought I was familiar with (Keith Jarrett’s Steinway or Larry Carlton’s Gibson 335, Joni Mitchell or Stevie Wonders’ voices) all barreled into sharper focus, seeming more rounded and complete than usual.