Piano, a notoriously difficult instrument to reproduce, sounds accurate and life-like with no distorted ringing. How do I know? I own a piano. In Murray Perahia's recording of Schubert's Piano Sonatas [Sony S2K 87706], I can detect the subtle shaping of each note as it begins with the initial hammer fall, blossoms through the cavity and ends. In comparison to the Kestrels, the Paradigms made quite a mess of keyboards. I also got a little tired after a piano recording, as if I were working too hard to sort out the notes. I used to blame this on the tweeter or perhaps the cabinet design. Now I'm more inclined to believe that I was hearing time and phase problems.

Bass performance was exceptional. The internal cubic volume of the Kestrel cabinet is far smaller than the Paradigms' yet I did not sense any reduced extension. Was that the transmission line doing its thing? The Kestrels appeared to go as low as the Reference Studio 60s but without their somewhat bloated bass. Rather, the Kestrels adore acoustic bass. On the Paradigms, that was always obscured by a degree of boom. Mind you, these Canadians aren't bad speakers. They do many things well. I can even envision high output mavens actually preferring them over the Kestrels. But they do not possess the musicality, what I think of as musical detail opposed to the analytical, I-can-hear-every-little-tape-splice obsession. Can I perceive the composer's or performer's intent? Can I distinguish and appreciate individual lines in complex pieces of music, such as Messiaen's Thurangalila Symphony?

I tried wiring up the Kestrels in different ways, using a double run of JPS Labs Ultraconductor and a set of custom jumpers made from DH Labs T-14. I experimented with single wire and the stock jumpers, single wire with the custom jumpers, biwire -- and just because I'll try anything -- biwire with the jumpers. I preferred the biwire with the jumpers, probably because I enjoyed increased conductor mass. Music sounded fuller, the drivers seemed to work together better. While the separation of discrete biwiring gives a somewhat more expansive soundstage, with a more defined treble, I got the sense that the drivers were more coherent in single-wire jumpered mode. It's a slight difference, but one that nevertheless bothered me eventually. This isn't the sole fault of the Kestrels. I have tried this with at least 4 other bi-wireable speakers. They all sounded better with the biwire option bypassed. Perhaps biwiring alters how a crossover functions, to create an unnatural sense of space? Could I have gotten better performance with other cables? I suspect most speaker designers secretly dislike biwiring but humor us because the market demands it. If a speaker is outfitted with a single pair of posts, serious audiophiles may sniff at it, dealers will pester manufacturers to double up. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Martin DeWulf of Bound for Sound stated the same just two years ago. At first I thought he was being curmudgeonly contrarious. Then personal experiments led to the same conclusion. Time for biwiring to walk off a short pier. I might re-solder the Kestrel leads to just one pair of posts. Whoops, there goes my warranty...

The 4-watt (that's right, four watts) Song Audio SA-34 SB SET integrated amp in for review has no problems driving the Kestrels to any desired volume. It would appear that Meadowlark's claimed in-room sensitivity is far more accurate than Paradigm's. While they claim 90dB and Meadowlark 89, the Kestrels provided more output at a much lower volume setting. The Kestrel2s also sound terrific with my Bryston B-60 whose musically detailed midband matched perfectly. If you have a modestly powered amp like the B-60 or an Arcam or Rotel, you will have no problem driving the Kestrels to decent levels.

I recently reviewed the Houston Hifi Mini-2 integrated tube amp. In both 15-watt triode and 32-watt ultralinear mode, it made for a very simpatico pairing. Add the Underwood HiFi/Parts ConneXion modded Music Hall Maverick SACD player and you'd enjoy a rockin' system for around $5000.

I'm currently burning in the pcX Level-2 modified Unison Research Unico integrated amp. While nowhere near 'cooked' yet, there are plenty of indications already that it and the Kestrel2s could be a match made in heaven. My wallet's twitching.

Critics of 1st-order, time/phase-coherent loudspeakers claim that such speakers are difficult to position; have a somewhat narrow sweet spot; suffer strong tonal shifts if one stood up or moved about the room well off-axis. I did not find the Kestrels deficient in any of those areas, certainly no more so than any other speaker I've heard. Rather, they were very unfussy to position. The excellent booklet that Meadowlark provides does state, however, that you need to keep the listening position at least seven feet from the horizontal plane of the Kestrels to enjoy proper driver integration.

As mentioned in my recent GutWire NotePad review, as well constructed as the Kestrels are, they do remain amenable to tweaking. I found the addition of a NotePad atop each speaker, as well as substituting the standard steel spikes for Black Diamond Racing cones, to greatly enhance the Kestrels' exceptional musicality even further. I also tried using a sub with the Kestrels to satisfy my curiosity. If you desire a bit more testicular fortitude, they will mate well with a subwoofer. I used a D-Box David 303 and after some fiddling, found it to be sonically invisible for the most part, adding a slightly more fulsome foundation. Be careful to keep the low-pass setting well below 50Hz, though. One other thing. Meadowlark is the only HiFi company I know of that actually provides food with its products. I'm not kidding. When I opened up the shipping carton, I hit upon a little jug of New York maple syrup! Check out Meadowlark's site for the skinny on this limited- time offer.

Since I was bitten by the audiophile bug in my teens, I have owned more loudspeakers than I care to remember. Unfortunately, my wife takes perverse pleasure in pointing out said fact ad nauseam. She can even name each one of 'em. And there I didn't think she paid any attention. I am impressed, doubly - because none of those speakers have stoked me as much as the Kestrel2s.

Next time you describe a loudspeaker as bright, spitty, boomy or dull, you might be suffering time and phase aberrations. Perhaps that metal tweeter isn't to blame for a certain hard, steely sound after all? In closing, I think these are terrific loudspeakers. I have been looking far and wide to find speakers that present the music gushing as freely as these. Are they the best speakers under $2000? I wouldn't know. However, I have heard far more expensive loudspeakers that didn't deliver near their amount of musical mojo. If your listening preferences mirror mine, you should book a flight with these falcons soon.

Manufacturer's website