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|After some experimenting, I wound up placing the Auditoriums approximately 40 inches from the back wall and 9 feet apart, measured from the centers of the front baffle. Speakers were arranged with the offset softdome tweeters on the inside edges and toed in firing over my shoulders. Unfortunately, placing the speakers any closer to the back wall caused excessive boominess and congestion. Curiously, Living Voice recommends considerably closer wall placement to obtain optimum results. Indeed, that was more or less how the Avatar and OBX-R2 were set up in New York and they did sound great. Nevertheless, this simply did not work in my house. It just goes to show that every acoustic space is different and one must experiment.
As I normally do, I listened to a wide range of music to get a handle on the Auditorium. On vinyl, I spun Nick Cave's terrific double album, Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus [Mute Stumm233], Jeff Buckley's Grace [Columbia C92881] and Hal Willner's quirky yet lovely tribute to the music of Disney [A&M SP3918]. How could I pass on The Replacements wonderfully ramshackle and sleazy rendition of "Cruella De Ville" or Tom Waits' completely bizarre "Heigh Ho" or my favorite cut, "The Monkey Song" by Los Lobos? On digital I played Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson [Verve 314 521 448-2], a fine collection of Haydn String Quartets by the Emerson Quartet [DG 471 327-2], the Stones' Hot Rocks [Abkco 96672] and Braunfels' unjustly neglected opera, Die Vögel [Decca 448 679-2]. Thievery Corporation's new album The Cosmic Game [ESL 081] has seen heavy action on my heavy rotation list lately as has Issa Bagayogo's Tassoumakan, a hypnotic blend of electronica and traditional Malian music [Six Degrees 657036 1103]. Please note, this list is completely devoid of any boring audiophile-approved dreck. Only real dreck was used for this review.
What initially attracted me to the Living Voice loudspeakers at the show was their big-hearted and thoroughly inviting presentation. While the entry-level Auditoriums obviously did not posses the same degree of suave refinement as its upscale siblings, they preserved in my digs most of what I recalled from my experience at the Stereophile event: scale, drama, immediacy and a thoroughly engaging, toe-tapping rhythmic integrity. However, there were certain colorations that could offend audiophiles committed to a more detailed and analytical presentation. My guess is of a gentle treble roll-off with a slight emphasis in the upper bass or lower midrange. Furthermore, the cabinet was certainly audible during my review period. I noted a degree of boxiness and congestion particularly on vocals. Quite often, music also emerged directly from the speakers instead of from between or behind them. I felt considerable vibration when resting my hand on the cabinet while music played. I suspect this cabinet design was part of a conscious voicing effort, albeit one limited by the parts budget. Incidentally, there are many loudspeaker designers who deliberately use resonances as part of their voicing process and tune their enclosures like an instrument such as the body of a violin or cello. Others believe cabinets should be as inert as possible. Take your pick. I have heard examples of both and I can't say with any degree of certainty that one is superior to the other. Let's just say the Auditorium cabinets were certainly more active than those of my Meadowlark Kestrel 2s. The almost tomb-like Green Mountain Audio Callistos I have in for review belong in the opposite camp of cast composite stone altogether.
The Auditoriums' forward, punchy and exuberant presentation served Rock and electronica well. These Brit imports did a decent job sorting through the dense layers of guitars on "Gimme Shelter". Bass was taut and tuneful rather than extended and powerful. Indeed, Keith's bass was particularly fluid and punchy on "Sympathy for the Devil". This speaker was for the most part convincing on large-scale orchestral works. The Audis certainly excelled at portraying the size and sheer presence but also very lightly obscured the multitude of complex musical strands and lines. I suspect their more expensive brethren would offer greater insight. I observed some confusion and roughness during exceptionally busy passages and crescendos.
|The Auditorium was not what I would call a high-resolution loudspeaker, which may be good or bad depending on your point of view. On the other hand, it will not lay bare all the imperfections of your system or recordings either. It may not have delivered all the information on my discs but it certainly offered enough to convey the musical message. Neither was the soundstage exaggerated with finely chiseled images separated by inky blackness and silence. These are traits of many high-end speakers and they are merely effects that do little if anything to increase my enjoyment of music. They do not indicate high resolution per se but HiFi instead, which is no complement in my book.
In the bass department, the Auditorium trades off some bottom end wallop and extension for increased sensitivity. As a result, the Auditorium did not plumb the depths to Bill Laswell levels. Neither did it soar into super tweeter heights either. What range it did offer was well integrated in a balanced and musically coherent fashion.
The LVs were less about sound and more concerned with relaying the heart of a performance regardless of the genre, be it classical or electronica. There was good immediacy and presence as well as a decent rendition of ambient and spatial information but without the all-too-common 40-foot wide piano. They offered a tactile and immediate presentation with fine rendition of tonal colors and decent resolution of instrumental timbre. Things indeed were expressive, alive and quite the antithesis of sterile and mechanical.
During the several weeks I had the Auditoriums, they exhibited an overall rich, warm yet dynamic balance that wore well. However and as with any entry-level model, compromises seem inevitable. This rather plain-looking floorstander focused on scale and drama of a recording over the last degree of inner detail and refinement. For more of the latter, I suspect one must move up to the Avatar or Avatar OBX-R2. However, the Auditorium did not take my head off with ear-piercing brightness or dissect my recordings and system like an overzealous vivisectionist. The Auditorium was an enjoyable and easygoing speaker that focused on rhythmic flow and dynamics and should offer many hours of relaxed yet involved listening. Just keep in mind that these are not speakers for the detail-obsessed.
|Granted, $4800 Canadian for a speaker of modest appearance and construction seems a little|
|steep. However, that is the economic reality one faces with imported boutique products from a relatively small company within a cottage industry. The way I see it, spending more on a speaker that will offer long-term satisfaction makes far more sense than balking over a few hundred pounds and settling for a slightly cheaper one that will only end up on AudiogoN within six months. Besides, this one's British. Almost everything made in the UK is cool. Think Rega, Naim, Linn, Spendor, Graham Slee, Tom Evans. It is indeed a long list and that's just audio. Don't get me started on beer -- I'm rather fond of Old Speckled|
|Hen -- or Liverpool Rock'n'Roll bands. If you are looking for a low-power friendly loudspeaker cut from a unique cloth, do audition a pair. They just might be your ticket.
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