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The sound of light and color
The Whatmough P33 Signature is a nicely proportioned largish floorstander that strikes the keen eye as a cross between a Sonus Faber Amati and the larger Compass Series Usher speakers. The cabinet embodies a beautifully finished lute shape with a raised and perfectly machined curved frill on the top plate. The curved panels aid in the reduction of internal standing waves and are more rigid, therefore less resonant than conventional straight panels. Again à la Usher, the main body of the enclosure sits on a plinth that extends beyond the rear of the speaker to provide extra stability. The veneer is a gorgeous Bubinga (the firm's trademark veneer of choice) in natural finish. For an extra AUD$1000, you can request the immaculately applied gloss Graphite automotive lacquer.

The P33 Sig is a front-ported 3-way using high quality drivers. Starting at the top of the enclosure, we rather unusually find a 6.5-inch bass driver specially made for the P33 by Peerless, using a hybrid fiberglass-skin Nomex cone with plastic phase plug. Below that is the superb Scanspeak Revelator ring radiator tweeter, a driver that Colin treasures as having a beautifully extended and refined sound that approaches his beloved ribbon drivers without their dispersion and power issues. Next and in very close proximity is the 4-inch midrange which is of cellulose fiber and made by Vifa. Finally and closer to the floor, another 6.5-inch Peerless driver sits just above the reflex port.

Crossover points are stated at 400Hz and 3.8kHz, meaning the little Vifa midrange driver covers a wide range, making for a cleaner presentation without crossover artifacts throughout most of the vocal band. The crossover network is of very high quality, uses Hovland caps and is wired to the drivers via Cardas hookup wire. Frequency response spans 38Hz to 40Khz +/- 3dB and the P33 Sig is a 4-ohm design that is 88dB sensitive with an input level of 2.83 Volts (1 Watt into 8 ohms). The dimensions are very room friendly at 1200 H x 260 W x 430D (mm) and it weighs is a reassuringly solid 45kg. Whatmough is a strong believer in tri-wiring or tri-amplification and provides three sets of high-quality Cardas posts without the cheesy copper links, his suggestion being that if you can't tri-wire for the time being (you must do so in future), the posts should be linked with short lengths of the same cable you use for the amp-to-speaker run.

Of importance to those on a tighter budget, Whatmough offers a non-Signature version just called the P33 where a Vifa ring radiator replaces the Scanspeak, Bennic components in the crossover the Hovlands, and standard internal cable and brass binding posts the luxo bits. This version is said to retain much of the sonic qualities of its more expensive sibling. The review pair apparently had been factory run for 100 hours prior to delivery. Nonetheless, I ran it for a further 50 hours before commencing proper auditioning. Having said that, even while the speaker was running in, I could hear very special things happening. Sure enough, once formal auditioning began, I was struck by the tonal beauty and accuracy and yes, there is such thing as simultaneous beauty and accuracy, a phenomenon I seldom hear, however.

The best indicators of tone are the human voice, piano and acoustic guitar. A plan of attack then formed by spinning the usual references that illustrate this key area of performance. Martha Argerich's Rachmaninoff was an example of how a piano should sound. The instrument's timbre, note fundamental and harmonic decay just sound right over the P33 Sigs. Some may equate this ethereal quality with a warmth and romanticism that bathes everything in honey and custard. They'd be wrong then. Colin has balanced the speaker so expertly that it remains faithful to the recorded information without suffering the "some frequencies stand out over others" syndrome. All is on an even keel without loss of detail. In fact that Scanspeak tweeter as applied in this design is one heckuva driver. High frequency content from cymbals to triangles to sibilants are utterly delicate, extended, life-like and oh so sweet.

Male and female vocals from Dianna Krall and Janis Ian to Chris Jones and John Lee Hooker were projected into the listening space with an aural vision of physical presence and body. The 4-inch driver managed to translate the electrical signal into a chest, throat, tongue, cheek and mouth entity. The P33 Sigs had me digging into my CD cabinet, pulling out all manner of vocalists in all musical genres.

A guitar reference I use over and over again in my reviews is the wonderfully captured Duet by French guitar virtuosi Sylvain Luc and Bireli Lagrene. Here again the P33 Sigs shone. As was the case with piano tracks, the tonal balance of the acoustic guitar as reproduced by the P33 Sigs was absolutely gorgeous. What the Whatmoughs lack in ultimate transient attack and macro dynamics as compared to my Wilson Audio reference, they made up by presenting a harmonically rich and filigreed string tone that enhanced the illusion of guitars in the room. This delicacy still retained all the finger clicks and rubs and string buzzes that expertly handled microdynamics can render and that audiophiles treasure. This is where the coherence of the speaker is also highlighted: the transition and tonality of the 4-incher and ring radiator is seamless.

Ditto for Ani diFranco's Living in
Clip's massively captured venue ambiance in "Amazing Grace". Between the bass and treble extension capabilities of the P33s, eyes wide shut, the transportation to the event was almost unsettling. Ani's vocals are a little edgy and can get a bit fatiguing on this recording but the P33s ability to handle sibilance in a way that settled down the aggression without sacrificing the sss sound was extraordinary. Ani's band is spread across a huge stage and the drummer and kit are seemingly positioned at my next door neighbor's. And since we're on the subject of drums -- and bass -- well-recorded kick drum socks the gut while bass guitar boogies along. I'm talking fast and tight bass with enormous detail, punch and definition.

Want mo' Whatmough
On a magical Saturday evening, my wife and I inadvertently spent a 'lost time' six-hour marathon listening to old rock recordings. With a few exceptions, I find most of these older rock recordings compressed and bright. Not so with the P33s. These speakers have an uncanny way with mediocre recordings in that they seem to tame the harshness without losing the detail and excitement rock can provide. We found ourselves completely intoxicated and at the end of the six hours, without a hint of fatigue, just sheer enjoyment. We dug through it all: Pink Floyd's The Great Gig in the Sky, Steely Dan's Josie, Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, The Band's The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Billy Joel's The Stranger, Supertramp's Goodbye Stranger, the Beatles' Come Together etc. Importantly, the Whatmoughs engaged us on an emotional level. The hardware became irrelevant, the music the focus.

Did they display any major faults or failings? Nope. The P33 Signatures do it all very well. So you ask, are the P33s the perfect speaker then? They're on their way and down the path - further along than many competitors I've heard. And I come from a station along the trail that has been carved by a speaker costing five times more.

As a reviewer of equipment, my job is to examine a component's performance in all the key areas of bass, midrange and treble performance, soundstage, imaging, tonality and timbre, transient speed, frequency-wide detail and dynamics. The P33 Sigs perform extremely well in most of the above areas. And as far as tonality and 'musicality' in particular, they are outstanding and on a par with anything I've heard.

OK, I did say most. When a speaker excels at the heady heights the P33 Sigs do, any lesser performance in one or two areas have to be described accurately and carefully so as to not distort their extent. I found the P33s very subtly reticent in macro dynamics and transient attacks. These areas were slightly stunted in terms of utter extension or pronouncement. An example to illustrate this would be Stevie Ray Vaughan's Tin Pan Alley where the jutting guitar plucks and massive drum whacks are undeniably powerful over the Whatmoughs but not quite as explosive or with the same leading edge attack as can be had with my reference. It's simply that the P33s shine so brightly in every other parameter that the same level of ability is then expected throughout. These areas aside, I struggle to think of another speaker I've heard that has the same collection of outstanding qualities.

And the award goes to...
It has been a long time since any speaker impressed me this much. I found my time with the Whatmough P33 Signatures an absolute pleasure. They play music, not a stream of sounds sullied by compromise and emanating from incoherent sources, demanding a listener's interpretation or decoding. The Whatmough P33 Signatures are truly superb music reproducers. Colin, you've met your mandate.

I've been reviewing for a good few years now. I'm a jaded veteran of the audiophile trenches and given the amount of product I've processed, I've handed out precious few Blue Moon awards. In fact, the esteemed editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine, Greg Borrowman, has been quoted as saying, "Edgar Kramer isn't easily impressed". My take has been that my responsibility to the reader and consumer is to pour such accolades on only truly outstanding products that perform well beyond
their station and therefore represent outstanding value. Well, as rare as it's been, I'm thrilled to say now the time has come. I see a Blue Moon rising. Whatmough Monitors has arrived.

Quality of packing: Double boxed plus foam protection.
Reusability of packing: Reusable ad-infinitum.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Heavy and awkward item requiring a two-person lift.
Condition of component received: As new.
Completeness of delivery: Excellent.
Quality of owner's manual: Informative and complete.
Ease of assembly: No assembly required aside from spikes.
Website comments: Informative and comprehensive website.
Human or web interactions: Manufacturer is extremely helpful.
Warranty: 5 years.
Final comments & suggestions: n/a.
Whatmough's website