The more distance to the front wall I provided, the gutsier and more present the bass became. As predicted, also the ratio of direct vs reflected sound shifted. After my recent Dutch&Dutch 8c encounter, the initial plan was to get close and personal with Libération itself and less so with its sound bouncing off the walls. After several tries, any distance within the 100-180cm front-wall window worked rather well whereas the sweet spot to my ears was 120/70cm to the front/side walls respectively, with me at 3 metres from each speaker. Interestingly, occupying the seat this far out into the room is extremely rare here because it does coincide with a standing-wave peak and adjacent null. In most cases it's simply too tight a fit without suffering the consequences. Reflector Audio's Bespoke P15 aside, Libération was the only speaker which allowed me to use this placement and not be penalized by either of the two well-known drawbacks. Neither PureAudioProject's Trio10 Timeless nor Gradient's Revolution nor Fikus Electric's P-17 got fully away with it.
On the face of it, what Libération would sound like didn't look like much of a mystery to me. Enormous paper woofers with stiff surrounds promised a snappy effortless attitude although texturally possibly a bit pale versus the usual box speakers. Air not pressurized by trapped air usually leads to such an outcome. With open baffles, one usually nets less bloom and heft in favour of more contour, directness, openness and slam. There's gains and losses and enthusiasts of such speakers gladly pay the normally fixed exchange rate. They know what to expect. This topology is also known for limited thus beneficial room interaction due to the figure 8 radiation pattern whereby out-of-phase data cancels out at the sides. This was expected of Martin's solution, too. I'd already heard Raal's fabulous ribbon before to be prepared for quality well-illuminated treble. What I couldn't predict at all were those two dipole widebanders to either side; nor how high efficiency would spice things up. Big cones make big sound yet sheer woofer size on open baffles usually doesn't translate to fuzzy, bloated, wobbly or slow bass and Martin's was no different. An absentee box efficiently removes boom from the equation and Libération ticked off that check box as well. Usually those benefits aren't free and trade-offs occur. If done right, ports introduce fatness and roundness to make bass pleasantly substantial and texturally generous (or as many OB aficionados view it, coloured).
That's why the OB crowd thinks their bass textures to be more true. Though stereotypical open-baffle expectations proved out to some extent, the Swiss also surprised. Its enormous radiation surface and high efficiency led to that very agile, exceptionally open and snappy performance which OB are known for. This was obvious right off. A huge very quick wall of sound scaled with ease and fabulous dynamic contrasts wherever celli or large drums were involved. Here Kodo's stunning "Sado E" and "Shake – Itsuka Mata" or Apocalyptica's recently released live take on "Orion" originally by Metallica proved the point. The visual grandeur of real instruments on these tracks was nothing short of mesmerizing not only due to finely differentiated sizing or inherently big on-stage presence, energy and palpability but also for admirable slam, bass reach and crack complimented by textural moisture. The takeaway was that Libération brought the usual open-baffle traits to the table and augmented the experience with aspects not usually associated with this topology.
Here I mean that things didn't sound pale or dynamically tame but very lively instead. My Boenicke W8 express a more visceral, bloomy and dense character but are also slower, far less elastic and of incomparably smaller posture on sheer scale and effortlessness. It's not just about the size of the canvas but the ability to paint fully developed vivid images on it. Having said so, it became obvious where the clear differences between Libération and my own speakers were. Inches do matter and a rather short comparison was all it took to get the full message. Even though the Boenicke W8 is not cuddly, shy or slow, large taiko drums found on recordings by Kodo, the bass saxophone of Colin Stetson or Rodrigo y Gabriela's acoustic guitars sounded far livelier and plainly superior on Martin's dipoles.
Libération's Enviée drivers with the neighbouring Serbian ribbons played everything above the bass remarkably lively, too. That band was finely moisturized, differentiated and generous with nothing to dislike. While the treble was the opposite of shy, there wasn't a hint of hardness. One of the most surprising and admirable virtues of Libération was its extremely informative overall character coupled to fabulous seasoning. The result was smooth, weighty, delicate, airy and had outstanding decay trails. Of course this depended very much on recording quality so didn't make music any prettier than it was. The usual cherry-picking was still in order. Nonetheless, time spent on reworking a play list I never consider wasted. Other open baffles I know never performed the vanishing act as completely as my Boenicke. That's why the early assumption of a rather large Libération not being particularly fit to excel on this discipline seemed rather reasonable. In practice, the exact opposite was the case.
Martin's dipole proved to be of utmost capability in this regard. It disappeared as completely and effortlessly as my W8 to eventually stand out as one of the very best Houdinis I've yet hosted. Soundstaging was simply grand. This speaker sang very open, tangible and free as though it were a big organism equipped with a pair of giant lungs. It focused my attention not on pinpoint accuracy but big uniform sound sources served up in coherent directness. The Boenicke takes me to another place. Martin's speaker materialized instruments at my place and these two perspectives were nothing alike. The difference wasn't of sheer width, height or depth but of two radically distinct takes on how to fill this huge space. Libération clearly favoured grandeur, boldness and directness to provide a lifelike sensation of music being here. The more romantic W8 sketched out smaller and more distant shapes. On live and acoustic repertoire, the costlier Swiss did the substantially better job.
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