Fat res. Usually a contradiction in terms, the Challenger managed both tonal fat and resolution. Potent bass always saturates black levels hence overall colors. Beaucoup cone surface tends to reward us with density. A typical stumper is retaining enough ability to traverse a packed mix and separate out its tendrils before all tangles up into that indistinct wall of sound. Though both start in 't', thickness and transparency aren't typical bedfellows. How does the Challenger still manage pillow talk? I suspect the crafty combo of compression horn tweeter with tri-vane throat and reduction of late-arriving sidewall reflections as virtually ubiquitous sources of blur. Compare a conventional 6½" two-way monitor to a 12" 3-way. Were both to run the same 1" silk-dome tweeter, the bigger speaker's mid and bass artillery would overshadow it. We'd expect HF to drown out. Audrius' tweeter does not. That's key. It's the figurative anti matter to the serious compound matter of 8½" mid and 17" woofer. Once we add reduced room reactivity of nonlinear reverb which blunts transients in cotton taffy, we've got our second anti matter. It's how a gravitationally challenged heavyweight can move with more agility. Call it the grace of levitation. It kept things afloat not stuck in a morass of bass; after I'd neutered output across two octaves as explained already. I suspect that for my space, the lower half-way woofer's filter frequency sat too high to trigger excess room gain rather than fill in just below room resonance at the very bottom. Since I could fix it, no more on that.

Given the crunchy cone area on hand, it won't surprise that if just sonics not momentary fancy dictated track selection, I'd have quickly and deeply gravitated to Big Stuff, be it Zimmer-style film scores like his extended Dune Sketchbook, African drumming, Yello-type shenanigans or complex ambient/electronica with fat synth beats. Anything relying on dynamics when push comes to shove winked at me to become part of Challenger's scenic route. I obviously could play anything including audiophile breathy female vocals with barely-there accompaniment. But you clocked the point. Why garage a Bentley if you won't step on the gas? I'm more of a two-seater than V8 man myself when it comes to SPL. That's where Silent Pound lived up to the name. Their speaker netted that extra pound of fleshiness at low volumes to counteract the usual tendencies to get pale, lean and thin. While I suspect that Challenger's core audience will be Loud Pound listeners, heading the opposite direction works, too¹.

¹ From The Times article on Hans Zimmer: "One of the major and more surprising musical moments in "Dune" occurs during a ceremonious arrival on the desert planet Arrakis. The scene is announced with the portentous drone of bagpipes, an aural assault generated by a battalion of 30 highland pipers playing in a converted church in Scotland. Ear protection had to be worn: the volume reached 130 decibels, the equivalent of an air-raid siren. That unholy din in particular permeated Zimmer’s home during his late-night work sessions. "My daughter told me the other day she has bagpipe PTSD"."

The Challenger ethos shares much with Zu's aesthetic as revisited in my recent DWX review. The biggest differentiator is tweeter x whizzer cone; and not pushing a 10.3" driver to ~12kHz. Using smaller mids across narrower bandwidth gives today's tweeter more to do. This benefits resolution across the critical presence region where human hearing is most sensitive to pick up on any losses. So it's quite accurate to think of the Silent Pound sound as Zu's brother from another mother; one who carries sharper magnification powers in the upper mid/lower treble range; and hits a solid 25Hz as confirmed by test tone.

With Challenger in the exact spots usually taken up by Qualio's IQ and its open-baffle head array, I only heard small differences in the Lithuanian's cardioid band relative to transient clarity. I heard a bigger difference with remnants of 'box sound'. Here the IQ felt even freer, quicker and more unrestrained, Challenger heavier and slower. On dynamic macro Challenger took the lead, on micro the IQ which smokes just 1/3rd the cashish—slightly more once a 20% price increase with formal dealers goes into effect—and is cosmetically less imposing by being shorter and making a third of its front baffle translucent. My personally biggest curiosity was dipole bass in full stereo. You already know what I thought about that. Time to settle into more listening to see what else might pop up or reiterate.