This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

The cover features an embossed ambigram which viewed from one direction reads "die Kunst" (Marcin Masecki) and from the other "der Fuge" (Bach). It's spot on about what this recording is all about. Masecki is well-known for being an anarchistic musician with his own controversial approach even about the recording process itself. In this case he simply put a voice recorder on the piano and recorded everything in one take. Especially to an audiophile it would seem sacrilege and predestined to sonic mediocrity. Yet it sounds amazing.

How did the Scottish speakers react? In their own way too. First they built a credible soundstage especially on scale and depth but also with air to prevent drawing a sterile dissected instrument with layered reverb which wouldn't be true. It was not a very dense presentation however as the Tannoys avoid such thickening tricks. Yet clarity, excellent dynamics and good resolution managed to convey the climate of this performance, its moment and the event. It is something beyond the usual hifi concepts. My attention was not drawn to individual sounds but rather to their sequence; not to details but to how they formed larger textures.

Yet one cannot claim that these boxes don't do detail. There is lots of detail, almost as much as with the Amphions. Their presence however stems mainly from clear non-blurred transients. Whenever something arises it does so immediately. The Harbeth by contrast tend to slightly round everything over and introduce a minimal but present delay. Hence their phenomenal ability to engage without ever getting irritating. The price to pay is this slight softness especially on the top and bottom ends which wasn't the case with the Tannoy.

What mattered here was a more direct presentation. Whilst paradoxical perhaps, this resulted in much larger emotional climate changes between tracks which also better tracked differences in recordings, whether the microphones had been positioned closer or farther away and such. I could easily ‘read’ albums like Bach’s St. John Passion performed by the Smithsonian Chamber Players and Chorus; or organ works performed by Amadeus Webersinke on the brilliant XRCD24 Cutting HR reissue. The latter has a higher tonal balance and a fairly large distance to the organ. The former sits tonally slightly lower and also closer. Nino Rota's songs were recorded in a fairly narrow perspective—too narrow in fact—and these differences were loud and clear and added a lot to each album's subjective reception.

Modern productions such as Daft Punk and Jack Johnson sounded spectacular due to high dynamics and bass that was tight, deep and superbly differentiated to be most interesting. It was neither as focused as with the Amphion however nor as dense as with the Harbeth. In absolute terms though it sounded most concert-like and how we'd hear a bass guitar during a gig or a double bass in a small club. The Amphion and Harbeth attempted to compensate for lack of eye contact by emphasizing something each in their own way.

With Jack Johnson I heard something which I had to verify immediately. It showed how nothing is free and there is always a quid pro quo. The Harbeth played it deeper and showcased a more saturated denser midrange. The Tannoy focused on precision and articulation over body. As such it is a top high-end effort which does what it does very well yet compared to other high-end designs shows a clear difference of approach. Dense electronica such as Wolfgang Riechmann’s Wunderbar or tasty elegant Jazz à la Miles Davis Seven Steps To Heaven were less saturated and dense than over the Harbeth. This mainly concerned the vocals and lower midrange.

In this respect the M40.1 are perfect even if they accomplish such perfection at the expense of other parts of the frequency range. As a result their volume of sound seemed larger than the Scottish boxes if not entirely so as the Tannoy had huge momentum. Their sheer energy in the midrange and powerful upper bass brought a better sense of physicality and a stronger presence in this range. Harbeth bass had slightly lower extension to be warmer and as a consequence was the more enjoyable albeit also the less differentiated.

Conclusion. As you see, one must sacrifice something to get something else. I perceived the differences between these speakers as a function of the dedicated Harbeth midrange and larger woofer. Let’s face it, size matters. On the other hand the Tannoy revealed more context in a recording and also more individualities between various recordings. Its take in this regard was neither exaggerated nor hyper detailed to the point of becoming annoying. It was simply a presentation that contained more data built on precise attacks, accuracy, coherence and dynamics. And the speaker's tonality was very even. It is also was a far easier load than the Harbeth. I thus think the Tannoy might be best paired with tube amplifiers. My Leben, though not on par with these speakers, showed aspects of texture and harmony which the far more expensive—and objectively better—Soulution 710 treated with less care.