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Acoustic Zen Adagio Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Monday, 01 December 2008
Article Index
Acoustic Zen Adagio Loudspeakers
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I began my serious listening with the full-size Adagios in my stereo system and Holly Cole’s “Train Song” from her album It Happened One Night (Blue Note Records).  The Adagios did a remarkable job of reproducing Cole’s vocals with amazing clarity and accuracy.  There were nuances in her voice and instruments that I had not previously heard on a dynamic driver speaker system.  Clarity and inner resolution were extremely good.  Tonal balance was just ever so slightly to the warm side.  Each of the performers was solidly placed within the soundstage, but the stage itself seemed to be slightly on the small side, particularly with regard to depth.  The Adagios seemed to place me in the middle rows of the audience.  This track is well known for its acoustic bass.  The Adagios proved themselves to be capable of reproducing the acoustic bass with appropriate depth and impact.  The texture of the bass notes was not as richly detailed as the texture of the mids and highs, although this slight differential did not diminish the coherence or the listening experience.

After listening to “Train Song,” I decided to further explore the Adagios’ low-frequency capabilities by playing Sublime’s “Waiting for My Ruca” from their album 40 Oz. to Freedom (MCA Records).  The opening of the song contains a recording of a dog and cat that was realistic enough to have my dog, who normally sleeps through my listening sessions, run into the room looking around for his unseen animal visitors.  The deep, driving bass notes from this track, while visceral, didn’t completely pressurize my 12 by 17-foot listening room the way my MartinLogan Summits can.  To be fair, the Summits cost nearly three times as much and feature four powered woofers.  I was quite impressed by what the Adagios can do with a pair of six-and-a-half-inch woofers, but if deep, driving, visceral bass at concert levels is a requirement of yours, you will need to augment the Adagios with a subwoofer.

I next listened to the all-time classic Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” from the Brothers in Arms album (Warner Brothers).  The speed of the mids and highs helped the Adagios do a wonderful job of revealing the layers of the opening riff.  Inner detail was effortlessly portrayed in an easy, laid-back manner.  The speakers were extremely clean without the pushy glare that often accompanies ribbon tweeter-based speaker designs.  The highs reproduced by the Adagios were certainly not rolled off, but they were never offensive, either.  Listening to this album, I noted the performance was consistent with the other pieces I listened to on the system.  The speakers had remarkably little coloration and great detail that let me hear many nuances that are usually masked.  This helped increase the sense of realism.  Dynamic ability was good across the majority of the frequency range, tapering off slightly at the bottom octaves.

Having enjoyed my two-channel listening sessions, I was anxious to try the speakers in my multi-channel system.  I began with one of my favorites, Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth album in DTS (MCA, DTS).  My experiences with this album, when played back through the Adagios set up as a 5.0 system without a subwoofer, were positive.  As expected, the Adagios did an excellent job of reproducing Lovett’s vocals and accompanying instruments.  They were tonally accurate and extremely clear, with solidly placed images.  The relatively shallow depth of soundstage I experienced with two-channel music was expanded with multi-channel listening.  Those familiar with this album are well aware of the great deal of low-frequency energy it contains.  The Adagios had no problems reproducing this at any comfortable listening level.  I never heard any signs of strain or compression.  When I added the subwoofer into the mix, the low end was noticeable extended, but I never felt deprived during my original listening without the subwoofer, despite being intimately familiar with the material.

I watched Pearl Harbor (Blu-ray, Buena Vista Home Entertainment) paying special attention to how the Adagios would handle panning across channels, particular between the Adagios and the Adagio, Juniors.  In several scenes, the characters change their relative positions, causing their voices to move from speaker to speaker.  The transitions were seamless; this was no doubt helped by the speakers having identical driver complements.  The seamless transitions remained when the scene switched from vocals to planes flying across all of the channels.  Even more important than seamless transitions was the speakers’ ability to clearly reproduce vocals to all listening positions.  I never had a problem with dialogue intelligibility, whether I was directly in front of the center channel or off to the side.  Even at low listening levels, the dialogue was clear and easy to understand.


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