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Armed with the knowledge that the Ultra Tower was overloaded beyond even the manufacturer’s intent, my anticipation ran high. I assembled my system and music. For this review I went with the Tortuga Audio LDR6 passive on main duty, the Wyred4Sound DAC-2 and Server as source along with the AudioSpace CDP8 to add tube flavor. Wiring were combinations of Madison Audio Lab, Audio Art and Signal Cable Silver Reference. The Bel Canto Evo 200.4 provided amplification in biwire mode. For the music selection there was an endless parade but a few cuts, some old some fresh are listed below.

"Them There Eyes" from the HRx edition From the Age of Swing [Reference Recordings HR-59] is lively and bouncy Jazz by Dick Hyman and ensemble done to perfection by Keith O. Johnson in 24/176.4. Nuance, warmth, texture, abundant hall information are all augmented by the extra information available in this high-resolution recording.

"Explosions" from Halcyon: Ellie Goulding [Polydor 3714364] has Ellie Goulding show a cornucopia of stylistic diversity which centers on the dissolution of a relationship and has nice contrast of her vocal talent against tasteful orchestral backdrop. It's a better than average pop recording with sufficient texture and complexity to match Ms. Goulding’s carefully layered emotional lyrics. If Kate Bush appeals to you, you’ll be at home here.

All cuts from the 96/24 download of Bach: the Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould [Zenph Sony Masterworks] are quite short and the work should be taken as a comprehensive standalone. This is a high resolution re-performance of a fiery interpretation done by a young Glenn Gould in 1955. Through the wizardry of hardware and software tech the original 1956 mono release was analyzed, every nuance and inflection separated from the original medium and reproduced live on stage at the Glenn Gould studio on a 9-foot Yamaha Disklavier Pro grand piano on what would have been his 74th birthday in 2006. It's a purist binaural high-resolution recording that resurrects an amazing performance for a new generation.
"Some Nights" from Some Night by FUN [Fueled by Ramen 2-528048] is a rare treat where a young group understands styles of the past starting from the 50s on up and takes things up a notch. This cut as well as the rest of the CD feature ambitious songwriting, very strong lead vocals, old-school dense orchestration and harmonies that smack of Freddie Mercury and Queen. The content here is diverse enough to keep you interested with sufficient technical quality to surprise. It's Pop that manages to be entertaining and poignant.
"Fade to Black" from Inquisition Symphony: Apocalyptica [Mercury 314 558 300-2] is a journey off the deep end. Picture a Finnish cello quartet in full neo-classical heavy metal mode and you’ll get the picture. This is a softer cut to ease you in gently. All the texture, mass and emotion of the classical cello are there across a range from the sweet to the acid. It's surprisingly well recorded with a good level of natural detail and brutal heavy metal attack tastefully compressed for the intended crossover crowd.
"Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue" from Gershwin Centennial Edition [Telarc 2CD-80445] is Gershwin meets classic Telarc for big bombastic moments punctuated by delicacy and detail. Wide dynamics and a big soundstage let loose the full capabilities of the piano and the intensity of the orchestra. Critically acclaimed for good reason.

Now it's time to fire up the Ultra Towers and watch the transition from raw to ready. Break-in showed a logical evolution. Straight out of the box the speakers displayed high tonal contrast with an articulate but prominent upper range, recessive mids through lower mids and a deep potent controlled bass. At this point no foam plugs. The lower midrange driver began to open up and bass continued to increase, creating greater dimensionality and size in those octaves contrasted against a more pinpoint but predominantly depth-oriented perspective in the frequencies above. Finally the top midrange driver hit its stride for consistent top-to-bottom balance both tonally and dimensionally with the exception of the low bass which was proportionally over exuberant, exhibiting a rising character in the 30Hz range in my setup. At this point the port plugs went in and flat balance was restored.

Scrutinizing the details. Mr. Mason steered away from the temptation to let the aluminium tweeter dominate. No rising top end, no metallic zing. Instead the highs were quite smooth and exceptionally well damped. Articulate without bite, this made a remarkably good match with the composite glass fiber cone in the range below. The upper frequencies remained composed over a wide range of level, retained character and showed no distress when high dynamics or sustained loudness were introduced. The tweeter also remained in character over an unusually wide listening area, showing the optimized diffuser arrangement to strong advantage. It certainly was a very strong performance from a technology many audiophiles would have prejudged in error. Mr. Masons insistence that the ferrite aluminium dome holds its own against the exotics was vindicated.

The key points of behavior attributable to the tweeter—robustness, high dynamics and consistent tonal character from high to low listening levels—remained true throughout the range of the speaker. The low crossover frequency to the woofers at 160Hz meant that the majority of perceived character fell on the shoulders of the two 6.5" mids. The choice to divide them reaped the advertised payoffs in power handling and better imaging precision. The use of identical materials guaranteed continuity of material-induced coloration and as a result the two were tonally seamless operating quite wideband from 160Hz to 2kHz. The mid band was clean without being clinical and could be manipulated to be slightly warmer or cooler with ancillary choices. Detail was moderately high without drawing attention to any specific portion of the range and had good control. The basic stance was neutral with a small bit of natural warmth in this range that approached luminous without overtly parading it.

Bass intends to satisfy a wide variety of rooms and audiences. In my room and without port plugs it gained output at the expense of control and lost a small bit of integration as a result. With plugs it was quick and accurate, playing with very good power into the upper 20s and integrating seamlessly with the rest of the drivers. Instruments like grand piano showed realistic mass and authority with excellent control.

The Ultra Tower took a neutral stance in its handling of soundstage information, trying neither for extremes of projection nor cavernous depth. Width was greater in the lower registers, becoming more pinpoint and slightly narrower in the tweeter range. This proved unobtrusive and the speaker demonstrated a good blend of believable stage dimension, instrumental proportions and dimensionality especially in the critical area handled by the two mid/woofers. Focus was good and consistent throughout the spectrum, locking instruments in their space in an unambiguous manner. Overall hall acoustic information and instrumental air were neither hyped nor subdued but rather incidental to the material. Natural was the emphasis whenever applicable to the recording. The sweet spot was quite wide, maintaining character across a large horizontal area and relatively forgiving of listening distance. The vertical axis was a bit more constricted so although it produced acceptable results standing, it produced optimal results when I was seated.