|Escalante Design Fremont Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Saturday, 01 November 2008|
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Music and Movies
A system is only as good as its weakest link, which often consists of the software being played on it. The Fremonts are quoted to reproduce down to 18 Hz and are designed to be highly dynamic. One disc I therefore had to hear them play is an old audiophile classic, the Sheffield Lab Drum and Track Disc (Lim) on XRCD24 disc. From the start of the first track, “Drum Improvisations 1,” it was clear I had hit on something special. Having grown up with and around drummers for most of my life, I am quite aware of just how powerful the drums can get and how demanding they can be on a system. The Fremonts took these difficult passages and not only rose to the occasion, but surpassed my expectations. Sure, the bass drum was solid, but more importantly, it really sounded like a bass from the initial punch to the reverberation that followed. Rim shots smacked from the monitors as though the drums were in the same room, and when the Tom Toms were run, each drum was perfectly placed along the line. The speakers simply disappeared and it was as though the drum set was a few feet in front of me. Even more impressive was the Fremonts’ ability to play as loud as a true drum set and still sound as good as when played at normal listening levels. The cymbals had all the sparkle I’d expect and decayed as well as I’ve ever heard in my system. They just did everything right on these wonderful drum pieces, keeping the pace, rhythm and timing spot-on, regardless of listening level.
I must admit, I don’t often believe manufacturers’ specifications, and the claim that the Fremonts could reproduce 18 Hz was one I had to test. I cued up Dr. Chesky’s Magnificent, Fabulous, Absurd and Insane Musical 5.1 Surround Show (Chesky Records). I started it off with the “Heartbeat Announcement: 50 Hz” and the subsequent “50 Hz Heartbeat.” The bass was clearly done at this level, so I continued on to the 40 Hz, 30 Hz and finally the 20 Hz track. Well, when I got to the 20 Hz heartbeat, I was pleasantly surprised to actually hear the bass as well as feel it. Few instruments can reach as low as 20 Hz, and only the pipe organ can truly go lower. Not only was it good to hear the thumping heat tones at such a level that it proved I could hear this frequency, but it was great to know the Fremonts really could reproduce them. I can say you truly won’t be shorted for bass with the Fremonts.
During my time with the Escalante Fremonts, I found that they sounded great at obscenely high listening levels, as well as low levels. While I had proved they handled their quoted frequency response, could they rock? I cued up Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix) to find out. This is a classic rock album and one of my favorite Hendrix discs of all time. From the start of “You Got Me Floating,” the stereo effects spun around the room while the drums stayed perfectly placed. Hendrix’s vocals had depth and breadth I have rarely heard. “Wait Until Tomorrow” showed an entirely different side of the Fremonts, which were able to display subtle bluesy rhythms, as well as all-out rock and roll. Hendrix’s guitar stayed placed in the identical spot throughout the song and his vocals had the smooth depth I wish more systems could give to this classic recording. “Little Wing” is the best known track of this album, for good reason. This is an unusual song for Hendrix, as it is very mellow and relies on few special effects for the tones the band produces. Once again, everything was done perfectly. The attack of the initial guitar notes were so accurate you’d have thought Hendrix was sitting in your room playing for you. As the drums kicked in, the bass was perfect. I started out listening to this CD at a tame level, and formed the impressions above from that. After a little while, though, I really got into the tunes and had to step back and crank it up, and the Fremonts never faltered. “If 6 Was 9” provides an entirely different challenge to a speaker, with the intro’s wide swings and deep bass, and the Fremonts again had no trouble blowing the room out to obscene listening levels while maintaining clarity.
Moving onto something mellower, I cued up the Cowboy Junkies’ Miles From Our Home (Geffen Records) and was again impressed by how well the large Fremonts simply disappeared. They projected a particularly wide soundstage on the title track, while keeping the vocals clear and surprisingly distinct. “Blue Guitar” gave my room a cavernous feel and an eerie resonance that made the song so totally enjoyable, it was as if I had never heard it before.