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As is often the case with price-conscious products, one quality usually comes at the expense of another and the Ridge is far less kind and accommodating about partnering electronics and cables. It all comes down to the two key characteristics of bass and treble energy - reach synergy and the music turns excellent; miss it and... well, you'll leave the room unimpressed.

Let's get the obvious mismatches out of the way. The Ridges did not cotton to solid-state power beasts, whether the inflexible Musical Fidelity A5 or gentler Sphinx Project 10. In both cases I could hear deeper bass at the expense of a muddy confused midrange as well as complete lack of upper bass that translated into a relatively unimpactful presentation. I do not know whether it was the amount of bass, quantity of current or higher damping factor but these associations were less than convincing. At the other end of the spectrum, pure silver cables like the Slinkylinks were a very poor match as well, the issue not being bass but the upper midrange and lower treble turning steely and harsh, certainly not enjoyable. The great news though is that if you stay away from high-power solid state amplifiers and pure silver cabling, those little foil transducers can certainly sing.

Most of my critical listening was done in a relatively near-field setup (about 5 feet away from the speakers), with the Ridges about two feet from the front wall and very slightly toed-in. The source was primarily my Accuphase DP55 and amplifier duties alternated between the Onix SP3 and the just purchased NuForce Icon (I did use its USB DAC as well but will leave the pleasure of reporting on it to David who is formally reviewing it).

With both amplifiers, the Ridge proved to be an open-sounding speaker with a strong focus on the upper midrange. Everything in the Ridges' presentation showcased violins, clarinets, female voices and to some extent the lower treble (flutes for example were very prominent). Bass and upper treble, soundstaging and imaging all played second fiddles to a very remarkable and intense presentation of singers.

What the Onix SP3 and its leaner 5881 power tubes revealed was how the lower treble/upper midrange can on occasion display a level of sheen I am not used to from any of my other speakers which all use paper drivers. Soprano voices and flutes could be affected by this light coloration but it is very important to note that this effect was very different from -- and orders of magnitude less intrusive than -- the infamous shout that plagues a lot of designs utilizing unmodified Lowther drivers to make them aggressive to my ears, a defect completely absent with the Ridges. The Jordan foil drivers do trade sensitivity for a far easier listen and homogeneous presentation with perhaps just a hint less details.

Yet I would be careful pairing them with too bright and dry electronics or even tube amplifiers with a depressed harmonic presentation. The SP3 performed very well but was already on the edge of too chesty for my taste on certain discs (a fault I would never associate with this great value of an amplifier when paired to the FJ OMs or Rogers LS3/5as). I would look towards warmer or at a minimum more harmonically saturated EL-34 push-pulls like Tektron's or Rogue's integrateds or possibly the new Onix SP8 to avoid any unpleasantness in the final tonal balance. As example, the otherwise exceptional 6C33C output triodes of the Almarro A318B are probably best avoided as I doubt they will provide enough harmonic spicing to make a flavorful combination with the Ridges although the idea of 20 watts of triode power driving those speakers is particularly attractive.

Never missing a sales opportunity, Robin Wyatt reminded me that "Tektron has designed and made an amp that perfectly matches the speakers; it uses ECLL800 output tubes, a European version of the EL84 with a solid-state AC rectification circuit to give 12 tight, wide, deep, high, smooth 'boogying' watts to run the Ridge."

Interestingly the NuForce Icon turned the tables on me completely regarding how well a solid-state amplifier could mate with the Ridge. Despite Srajan's preview, I was not really prepared for such a rich and harmonically developed amplifier. I was not expecting that much bass from such a small 12-watt box either. I was wrong. I was not expecting such a well behaved treble and once again was wrong. The NuForce Icon turned out to be a very decent match for the Ridges, the overall sound being far less resolved than the $30,000 system under review in my main room or even than the Ridges themselves when paired with the Onix SP3 yet involving, fluid, harmonically rich and tonally warm, with all souvenirs of treble sheen or overtly metallic overtones completely forgotten. The only fault I could find with the Icon was actually its amount of bass energy which at times did 'over-drive' the Jordan transducers, resulting in the already mentioned midrange compression. But more on this anon.

Robin Wyatt mentioned working on the development of a GainClone amplifier to associate with the Ridges and based on the complementarity with the diminutive Icon, I would not exclude that the combination with a chip amp, despite its solid-state nature and higher power rating, could be quite synergistic in the same fashion the Konus speaker and 47Lab amplifier are.

The Onix SP3 and Ridges managed quite a reasonable job in the bass, especially upper bass, providing a punchy sound with plenty of dynamics. That came as a real surprise to me. I was certainly not expecting this physical a musical presentation from those tiny drivers and in the nearfield, I could easily sense the speakers pressurizing the room, never getting obnoxious or overwhelming but never feeling small or asthmatic either. Obviously a transmission line fed by a four-inch driver does not produce bass of the same speed, detail, control or tonal diversity as the sealed ten-inchers of my Ronins but bass was actually more developed than expected. On Schubert's Ninth under Munch [RCA 88697-04603-2], the double basses had weight and grunt if not all the tightness desirable, and the percussions did hit you fair and square (unless I moved the speakers to my main room and listened from over 10 feet away, in which case most of the drama disappeared but from five feet in a smaller room, it was quite surprising indeed).

The metallic aftertaste of the treble found sometimes with the Onix did resurface on piano music. Richter's physically committed performance of Beethoven's Appassionata sonata [RCA 82876-59421-2] ranks probably among my top five favorite piano pieces regardless of composer, pianist or style and the SP3/Ridges handled the dynamic and physical involvement quite well yet they felt tonally off with too much string and not enough wood on Richter's instrument.