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Air: To any heaviness which substantial low bass might produce, Daniel Lee's OmniHarmonizer is the perfect antidote. Crossed in far too high to tilt tonal balance and merely paralleled to the pleated widebander, this feature is about increasing audible space. The focus isn't on sounds per se. It's on the surrounding dither of ambiance, atmosphere, acoustics actually recorded or artificial reverb. It's about texturizing too. With as well-damped a speaker as the Fantasia, cabinet talk under normal playback conditions is essentially eliminated. The high-output drivers then are just as well damped and precise. Such deft articulation could seem dry and mechanical. The upfiring auxiliary tweeter injects coastal ions. Nothing gets brighter or friskier by even a tad. The lighting of the scenery doesn't change. Though stretching the image, it's more like injecting oxygen from crashing waves to increase vibrancy. It works splendidly. The attenuators adjust the relative magnitude in concert with boundary proximity and tastes.

It also seems to serve percussive articulation of tiny items. Our hearing localizes sounds by their HF content. Transients are defined by their harmonic content. Space flares up like a spotlight on dust motes when reflections of impacts illuminate it. The OmniHarmonizer pays dividends with these matters. Tiny tick-tack tracery like feathery brush work on cymbals covered behind layers of foreground action is salvaged from obscurity.

Likewise for bow scrapes, fingering slides on strings, key clacks on woodwinds and other performance noises. Those reality checks remain alive and 'lit' rather than flattened and sublimated into the background. They don't turn main attraction. Their casual presence simply heightens the illusion of living beings who constantly produce tiny noises whilst handling their instruments or vocal chords.

Tone: Despite its hi-tech polyimide film which stretched flat in contemporary panel speakers often means whitish lean 'extreme resolution' bereft of believable blood and guts, the Fantasia S does not fall into what one might also—justifiably or not—call the ceramic school of sound. Whilst unapologetically precise and quick, this speaker is closer to an Audio Technology or ScanSpeak paper driver sound. I did most my listening with just half a 6SN7 per side in the signal path (ModWright LS-100 linestage). Everything else was transistorized. Yet the routine urge for extra fill, tone density or textural girth never arose. This puts the Mark+ Daniel halfway between a Zu and a Kharma. In my book that's quite a mean feat.

Integration: Getting in-room low bass that's clean and defined without overshadowing or fattening up the higher registers is often a contradiction on principle. Manufacturers who parallel three or more woofers for reduced excursion and concomitant higher precision end up with partial line sources. Their propagation behavior breaks away from the rest. This creates undue amplitude at the ear. For my room Daniel Lee's single woofer—whose über displacement I never tapped never mind taxed—and its downfiring omni port as logical counterpoint to the omni tweeter proved perfectly balanced on power and reach. None of my bass killer tracks missed a beat yet nothing overloaded. Little in hifi is as annoying as boom, that dreaded lingering dust cloud which hovers over bygone impacts. You're always better off with less bass if more means resonant mud.

Even so... the allure of grown-up bass in all its majesty remains alive in most serious audiophiles. The promise is that low bass creates scale, richness of tone colors and gravitas. It also triggers our animal senses. One easy proof are gothic films. Their soundtracks contain a lot of low-level infrasonics to create a sense of the ominous and foreboding. With a sub/sat system it's easy to eliminate the extreme LF. Turn off the sub. This tracks the price you'll pay on participatory intensity. The same scenes suddenly lack that extra disturbing dimension. Psychological dread happens down low, mostly at very subliminal levels. What with such films are deliberate spookiness and unease become mostly more benign but equally profound emotional stimuli for regular music and its band below 40Hz.

€15.000 Octave MRE-130 monos with optional SuperBlackBox capacitor banks for 130 watts of premium pentode power

10kHz+ white noise seems close to nothing when heard on its own. When added back it does a lot more than we think it ought to. Likewise for the first octave. It won't seem terribly busy or impressive when extricated by a subwoofer whose low-pass is set to 30Hz with a steep filter. You'll likely think "that's it?" to seriously question your secret—expensive and sizeable—full-range ambitions. Once you add that seemingly immaterial stuff back into the mix however its impact will feel disproportionately large. If the wispy top octave appeals to the head and our fascination with sight and soundstaging, the ominous lowest octave works directly on our gut (instincts).

From top to bottom. The Fantasia S is unusually endowed on both counts. It does the cerebral soundstaging tricks and the guttural infrasonic triggers. Where other top efforts run 1-inch dome tweeters, the Fantasia gives us—the equivalent of—more than 85. Where other top efforts run multiple woofers up to 15 inches in diameter to increase cone weight and reduce speed, the Fantasia gives us one 8-inch driver with monstrous motor for reflexes and headroom. Where other top efforts insert three or four breaks of crossover transitions with their four- or five-way architectures, the Fantasia sticks to just one.

Why is any of that cause for applause? For crossovers less is more. For a reduction of dynamic treble compression more is more (surface area). For better responsiveness and speed in the bass, less is more (moving mass). The Fantasia complies on these three counts. That doesn't imply other approaches can't work. But it certainly means that Daniel Lee's favored approach works. It does so very well and on a reference caliber level relative to competitors like Living Voice's OBX-RW or Aurelia's Graphica, both of which were on hand for real rather than imaginary context.

So let's engage in some speaker rolling to establish personality profiles of respective strengths and weaknesses.