At this juncture, Franck checked in with the announcement that all buyers of his products will get a free copy of this CD which he commissioned as a sampler from his friend Alban Sautour.

Its "concert hall in your living space" slogan is relevant. Even a symphony hall's costliest front-row seats are sufficiently far off stage to expose them to much reflected sound. The ratio between direct and reflected sound then increases progressively with the cheaper seats. Now reverb completely dominates to soften/blur transitions. There's more connective tissue between and around sounds than sitting at a table just two metres off a night club's stage. The concert hall milieu enhances timbres with its size and long reflective path lengths. It immerses you in the ambient field. The polar opposite sets up typical direct-radiating speakers in a football field. That eliminates reflective walls and leaves you with just the pure direct sound. By design, César's top-to-bottom 360° radiation invokes the concert-hall concept. Because your room is far smaller, its echoic delays are a lot shorter. How close you sit and how close the speaker sits to the walls will further affect the actual reverberant wetness. However, regardless of setup, richer tone and separation softness will always be a part of César's entourage. That's his innate appeal and raison d'être to have particularly classical concert goers feel right at home. Open stadium rock fans and near-field listeners meanwhile are imprinted by a different type sound. They'll need some expectation recalibration to transition over.

The red circles mark Franck's acoustic resonators. The two on the floor hide beneath slightly elevated glass domes so Chai the Bengal cat can't get to them. There's two more in the opposite corners of the ceiling ledge.

Because our main room's ceiling vaults to build in more delay, usual placement puts speakers 3m+ off the front wall toed in steep, the chair at slightly less than 2m from them. Such a midfield (speakers) + nearfield (seat) combo subtracts much of the room's impact. The rear wall at 10m+ doesn't really factor. It's how I best like the sound here. For César's final setup, I moved them as close to the front wall as I could without booting out the heavy palms. Now front-wall distance was just 1m+. I also moved them out to the side walls for maximally expansive staging and again shorter return paths. Since the direct/reflected ratio was still higher than usual, the preceding hardware chain didn't need to inject extra density or tone substance attributes. That favored our resident Wyred4Sound STP-SE II preamp over the darker bassier Pass Labs XP-12 in for review. In short, leaner faster very wide-bandwidth electronics coupled to a reverb-shortened setup consciously kowtowed to my status quo whilst César still shifted it but now more mildly.

Even though my chair was still at 3m, as a sheer matter of setup I'd sacrificed some stage depth. But If I wanted drier acoustics at the ear, that was the price to pay. Now separation resolution not anxiety was realistic not far-field blurry, tone richly pliant as though benefiting from premium valves, left-to-right panorama wall to wall without any collapse of center fill. As I'd experienced last with Martin Gateley's open-baffle Libération, dipole and now omni dispersion literally flooded the room with more acoustic energy than typical speakers. This seriously delays the inevitable tonal bleaching when we turn the volume down. Whisper sessions come off splendidly. Dynamics scale up quite exuberantly when we step on the gas.

Headfi does it to the extreme, standard directional hifi still to a lesser degree: shrink audio realism. That's not a bumper sticker most of us care to drive. Everything gets smaller, tamer and tidier. On that inevitable score, César behaved more imperious than most. It caused less shrinkage. That was true on two counts. Soundstaging was limited only to room layout not narrow dispersion or head-in-a-vise antics. Heightened acoustic substance turned down mental reminders of canned replay. Contrary to expectations, focus was very good. Coincident with expectations, instrumental and vocal sizing was more unfettered than squeezed through little transducers like tooth paste. This wasn't about extension-ladder fret boards or ballooned images. This was about the sonic bubbles which virtual performers draw around themselves in three-dimensional space. Their acoustic halos or energetic presences were bigger and freer, not those laser-mapped sharply edge-limned constructs which appear in mostly just two planes like shadow puppets. Doesn't that read closer to your experience of live music? it does to mine.