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Set Up & Listening
I used the R700 in two separate rooms and systems -- first driven by my Audio Research VS55 50 watt tube amp, and then by a Plinius Hautonga (review forthcoming) 200-watt solid state integrated amp. Sources were the Marantz SA-14S1 SACD player and DAC, and the SIM audio Neo 380D DAC and streamer. As with the LS50, I gave the R700s a good week of break-in to allow the drivers to loosen up. I was also told there was some break-in done at the factory.
Prior to break-in, the midrange was a bit congested, and rough, but this changed completely after about 25 hours of continuous play. After a few days of experimenting with toe in and positioning, I was quite taken with the driver integration and the excellent coherence exhibited across the sonic spectrum. The R700s were effortlessly dynamic, with musical contrasts rendered with lifelike verve.
The 2013 remaster of Van Morrison’s monumental Moondance album -- available in 192 Khz, 24 bit quality on a deluxe edition Blu-Ray disc or from HDTracks.com -- sounded extraordinary. Morrison’s vocals, the horn arrangements, and the overall organic feel of the recording came through the R700s very nicely. Bass lines were rendered with excellent clarity and definition.
I decided to test the R700 with well-recorded acoustic music. First up: a variety of John Renbourn albums from his fruitful mid 1970’s period. His acoustic guitar playing is second to none, and on such works as A Maid In Bedlam, Sir John Alot, and The Enchanted Garden, his guitar's natural tones were very pure. The tasteful arrangements -- which included flute, percussion and sublime vocals from Jacqui McShee and others -- came through as a cohesive whole.
Orchestral works provided perhaps the clearest picture of the R700s' strengths. On such pieces as Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, the soundstage filled the room deep and wide, with the orchestra spread realistically across a virtual plane.
On higher resolution material from HDTracks.com, like the Eagles 192 Khz remastered catalog, the R700 easily spotlights the superiority of these files over their CD counterparts. This also applied to the recently remastered America and Black Sabbath albums. The R700 also did a great job of allowing me to hear any changes downstream in the system, like DAC or cable swaps, and especially the differences between various power conditioning products.