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"Gi Hop" [Tonbruket] by Swedish bassist Dan Berglund reconnects us with the Jazz combo e.s.t. of which he was a member (a death sadly closed down that formation) but no longer with the English Sheffield of the wild 80s. Instead now it's a posher Stockholm. It sports a rhythmic percussion meter whose hissing steam and repetitive clatters remind me of turning wheels and trains probably created by a brush over drum skin. This the SQ8 nailed on rhythm and colour. On matters of sheer resolution it was a bit less teased out than my Spendor does it or my former Thiel did. And it wasn't merely the treble-centric ‘steam hissing’ which comes across more present and aggressive over many other boxes

I simply was little bothered by this minor treble softness even though I’m typically keen on a highly open airy sound. That's because the cherries managed to pull off a very believable realistic whole which lacked no vital details. Merely analytical freaks who fancy extreme resolution of small details and a fresh nearly crystalline treble might disagree. Fans of long-lasting comfort sessions that still brush nothing relevant under the table should be in love.

Connected to this treble balance, voices achieved a very pleasing sonority. More critical productions like Matilda—by Alt J. as the winners of the English Mercury Music Prize— exposed less aggressively sibilant spicing than usual. The recognizable character voice of Interpol front man Paul Banks was a bit less throaty if a tad fuller and coherent on Antics’ "Evil". To juggle a few clichés, mere listening to these boxes shouldn’t betray their Germanic origins. Due to the small tonal warmth, colourful midband and long-term voicing one should in fact more think of classic British studio monitors.

That this pleasantness won't undermine raw excitement—here the Kirsch aren’t extremists—has to do with the bass registers. Bigger artillery like my Spendors obviously unleashes more pressure and reach to generate clearly more follow-up on the low bass drum kicks of the "Saint Joseph" waltz from French Avantgarde combo Clair Obscure’s Rock record. But for its fighting weight and price class the Kirsch SQ8 did a good job and left other small compacts like Quadral’s Megan VIII and on pressure even Thiel’s SCS4 markedly in the dust. It'll keep up with more than a few floorstanders. In my roughly 30m² room with 3.6m ceilings I never felt shorted on low bass to think begrudgingly that I dealt with obvious monitor compromises. Not.

More excitement support came from their dynamic fun. Shellac’s "Mama Gina" from 1000 Hurts is a typical Steve Albini-type production, i.e. rough but immediate. It kicks off with nothing but dry-as-dust drums which assault the listener plus a plain but nicely drilling guitar lick which came across with proper edginess and angularity. Here I’d not invoke Formula One reflexes because speakers with ribbon, AMT or metal-dome tweeters like the Quadral or Thiel seem even quicker and reactive to micro-volt flutters. Since trade-offs are the name of this game, this also risks to introduce hardness and undermine fluidity. As an armchair designer I’d not turn the ‘dynamic dial’ on the Kirsch any further. The SQ8 shows sufficient attack factor to involve us whilst playing it safe on getting nervy and missing the musical flow.

You say attack, I say sustain. Invoking transient precision can’t forget about tonal fades. And here the Kirsch show off another strength. Sounds don’t merely rise steeply, they properly develop bodies. That’s a prerequisite to sound colourful and organic. It’s the difference between a hi-hat that merely hisses and one that reveals its textures and makeup. The third fun factor was good SPL stability. Slightly above room level remained solid and only party levels will get the mid/woofer to lose its composure and get murky. But excessive levels aren’t required since the SQ8 shows its full hand already at lower volumes to be a good solution for listeners who want to enjoy tunes late at night to fly in the whisper class.