Link Spotlights

Legendary Quality From Shure!
Anthem
Gen. 2 MRX Receivers From Anthem!
 photo Ad FinalESP_zpsrrsd0soy.gif
Audiophile Power Cords/Distributor

Monday, November 24, 2014

Audiophile Review!
Pass Labs Xs-150 Amplifier:
“Super Class A Presentation,
Super Class A Price Tag!"



Brevis...
Price: $65,000 per pair
Likes: amazingly open sound stage
Dislikes: really expensive, lots of heat
Wow Factor: a Vette or a pair of Xs-150s
More info: Pass Labs XS-150


by John Gatski
  In nearly 20 years of reviewing Pass Labs amplifiers and using various models as reference, I have followed the evolution of the company’s essential MOSFET designs. From the Aleph to the original Class A/AB X Series, to the highly regarded Class A XA models, the amps have steadily improved to attain Pass’ ultimate “musical” amplifier goal. The platinum priced Xs Series is the culmination of that evolution.
  Built to order, the $65,000 Xs-150 monoblock reviewed here and its big brother, the $85,000 Xs-300, are for well-off audiophiles who want the ultimate hi-fi amplifier — in terms of build quality, as well as delivery of a luscious audio sound stage that is the epitome of width and depth.

Features
  The Xs-150 is a 150 wpc channel, high-power, pure Class A amplifier that is built into two chassis-per-channel; one box houses the amp section and the other the power supply. They are connected by a twist-on connector, heavy duty power umbilical cord.
  At a premium price, the Xs-150 is equipped with high-end parts in the signal path, power supply, capacitors, etc. and includes such niceties as heavy duty speaker binding posts with solid-metal knobs. premium XLR and RCA connectors, and beefy IEC receptacle and power switch. The familiar, blue-hue, illuminated Pass analog current meter adds that bit of extra class. Normal Class A operation leaves the needle squarely in the middle.

  I have listened to a lot of amps in my 25 years of reviewing, but the ML Montis electrostatics/Pass Xs-150 pairing  delivered premium spaciousness in transients, reverb decay and instrument subtleties that make music reproduction sound like live music.

  The two-chassis-per-channel equals a hefty weight to manage in set up: 100 pounds for the amp and 130 pounds for the power supply. Even with rear-mounted, rack handles, you will need two people if you are setting up in a rack arrangement. I was able to unbox and maneuver the components for floor placement, but it took care, deliberate handling. I would not advise it if you are not used to moving 100+ pounds.
  Since 2007, Pass Labs has produced its Class A, XA.5 amps, using the patented Supersymmetry MOSFET design. But, according to Pass, the evolutionary improvements, based on previous designs, along with newer techniques, has increased the musical conveyance of the XS amp.
  According to Nelson Pass, the major design differences between the XA .5 and Xs are:
•Separate power supply chassis for lower electromagnetic noise:
•Upgraded power supplies with greatly enhanced storage capacitance;
•Banks of redundantly parallel high speed/soft recovery rectifiers;
•Improved high frequency noise filters;
•Larger (and quieter) transformers;
•Improved passive decoupling;
•Lower power standby;
•200 k-ohm input impedance, balanced with negligible capacitance.
  In asking Pass about the genesis of the Xs amplifier, he said that it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. “In 2008, we began work on the Xs amplifiers and ultimately drew upon a design features of the Aleph 0 from 1992,” Pass explained. “Like the Xs, it used a complementary follower output stage in parallel with a very large constant current source — enough to provide single-ended Class A bias to rated power.”
  He continued:”The simplified topology of the Xs amplifier looks like that of the ".5" amplifiers — except that the hardware is much bigger, and the bias currents involved are more massive. Also, there are some other details — involving new methods of applying local and global feedback and more sophisticated regulation of the voltages and currents.”
  Pass said that the sound of the best tube amplifiers has influenced the design of the Xs series, a characteristic I very much noticed while doing this review. “The working out of the details of the Xs amplifier depended very much on the information about the subjective performance we were obtaining with our experiments with custom SIT (aka VFET) transistors rendered in Silicon Carbide by SemiSouth. These parts captured some of those very elusive qualities belonging to the finest tube designs and informed the development of the Xs design, a process that took about four years.”


Rear panel connections: XLR, RCA and 12V trigger

  Much of the research and implementation of the Xs design also has been incorporated into Pass’ new XA.8 series of Class A amps, though with a bit more modest specs, Pass added. “The XA .8 series is very much the same topology as the Xs, but the hardware and bias currents are scaled down to reasonable values. The single-ended bias currents are much larger than those of the .5 series, but not enough to support single-ended bias to full power. It is reasonable to think of them as more modest versions of the Xs amplifiers — they are smaller — but they still make use of all the circuit details and parts that went into the Xs.”
  Spec-wise, the Xs-150 delivers 150 watts from each amp. Input impedance is 200 Kohm balanced; 100 Kohm single-ended. Gain, 26 dB; Bandwidth, DC to 150 kHz (-3 dB); and 30 amps peak output current. The distortion is rated at .03 percent at 1 watt and 1% at full power. Power consumption is 500 watts (with a lot of heat dissipation!).
  The main amp chassis and power supply each measure 19 W x 11.5 H x 21.5 D. The power supply section weighs 130 pounds; the amp chassis is 100 pounds. To conserve space, it is recommended to stack the amp chassis on top of the power supply chassis.

The setup
  It took me about an hour to wrestle the shipping boxes, unpack the amps and position them into my downstairs listening room. Although it is logical to use a partner to unpack and place these amps, I did it solo. Sometimes, you just can’t wait for a helper; I even managed to “power lift” the amps on top of the power supplies.


Big Class A power means big supply capacitors

  Associated equipment for the review included an Oppo BDP-105 universal player, Oppo HA-1 Class A output DAC/headphone/line-out preamp, Benchmark DAC2-D DAC, Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC, Coda and Pass XP-10 preamps. Other sources included Dell tablet with USB Audio Player Pro (up to 24-bit/384), Clear Audio turntable, and Rogue Audio Model 99 Magnum tube line preamp with tube phono stage.
  Speakers included my reference MartinLogan Montis electrostatics, Westlake LC 8.1’s, Legacy Studio’s and Pass SR-2 three-ways. In for review, I also mated the Xs-150 with the new Benchmark SMS-1 compact speakers (review upcoming), Bryston Mini-T (review upcoming) and the recently reviewed Legacy Expression tower.
  All cables were courtesy of Wireworld; AC cables and power distributor were provided by Essential Sound Products Essence Reference II. I did a lot of listening using the Oppo HA-1 discrete headphone amp output, driving the amplifiers through a 1/4-inch-to-RCA adapter and a pair of premium Wireworld unbalanced cables, but I also used other preamps as well.
  Though the factory nominally burned in the amps, I gave them an extra day of break in, uninterrupted. And the word burn has more significance when breaking in a Class A amp that idles at 500 watts. It takes about 90 minutes for the amps to get to full temperature; about 110 degrees on the chassis. And that heat in a closed room in Summer easily pushed the temperature into the mid ‘90s — even with the AC on.


Inside the amp chassis: more big caps, lots of MOSFETS

  In listening sessions, I could only handle the heat up to four hours before I turned it off for a break (and a shower). Bigger rooms should have less heat build up, and normal-use amp heating will vary with room size, ventilation and your willingness to nudge down that thermostat. Although I did most of my listening during warm weather, it is the perfect cold weather hi-fi amplifier.

The audition
  After a couple days of the, er, burn in, I was ready to listen. First up were my reference MartinLogan Montis, the advanced electrostatic panel-design loudspeaker with powered woofer from 300 Hz down. These speakers have the ability to present maximum musical space, in terms of depth and width, as transmitted by the upstream components. If the sources, preamp and amp can deliver the sonic portrait, these speakers pass it on. A good sonic test for any amplifier.
  From the very first play of “Britta’s Blue” cut from the Anthony WilsonOur Gang SACD, the separation of the Gibson guitar, drums and Hammond organ was astonishing through the Xs-150; I could almost walk between the instruments. And the extra sonic dimension just above the typical listening sphere, thanks to the Montis extra height gets more coverage as well. I have listened to a lot of amps in my 25 years of reviewing, but the Montis/Pass combo delivered premium spaciousness in transients, reverb decay and instrument subtleties that make music reproduction sound like live music.
  The general character of the Xs is definitely Class A; there is a warmth and smoothness that is very much like premium tube amp, yet the transients are taut and bass is focused. Versus an older first generation XA30.5 Class A amp that I had on hand, now priced at $6,000, the smaller, older amp is not in the same league as the Xs-150. The Xs' enveloping sound stage is much more live by comparison. The first gen X350.5 (current version is $11,500) is closer in sound stage, but still not quite there, plus does not have that musical richness on Classical and Jazz.

Pass Labs XS-150
The review pair od Pass XS-150s


  On the Janos StarkerThe Bach Cello Suites — the early 1960s Mercury Living Presence recording is a minimalist originally recorded with three tracks, but mixed to stereo. With all this musical “space” captured intact via DSD transfer, the Xs-150s showcase the cello’s sonic panorama. And the amp is so detailed that Mr. Starker’s breathing, bow handling noise, chair squeaks, etc., all could be more clearly heard using this set of amps. You can hear those subtle sounds with other amps, but they are more noticeable with the Pass Xs.
  And along with that audible delineation, the tone is rich and pure. The cello is big, not overly bloomy. The string harmonics are all there, and the aural picture is bigger via the Xs — versus other amps. The ability to deliver this open, musical sound stage with all the subtle detail, is the amp’s forte. Classical solos, duos, trios, quartets, Classical guitarists, Jazz guitar soloists, small jazz combos are like live performances in the living room! Really good hi-res transfers and newer hi-res recordings heighten the experience
  On the Steve DavisThought About You, a Tom Jung-recorded Jazz SACD from the late 1990s, that spacious, warm, yet dynamic tone — with percussion, piano and guitar — is world class through the Xs. The recording has a wide, instrument-distinct presentation with crisp, precise percussion and piano notes; the Pass takes it up another level with its ultra spaciousness.
  In keeping with the “minimalist recordings sound the best theme,” I played an “ultra-res” stereo 24-bit/384 acoustic guitar track that I made, using a new Taylor 810E guitar, recorded with two Audix SCX-25 condenser microphones through a True P2 discrete microphone preamp that fed an Antelope Eclipse A/D and Macbook Pro. The recording has intricately strummed and picked layers with excellent width and dynamics in ultra high res.
  Again the Pass Xs-150 transports these seemingly simple recordings into life-like performances. It does not sound exaggerated. In fact, it is super natural in tone and presentation. The amp finds the track’s essential bigness in the stereo image and passes it on.

  Again the Pass Xs-150 transports these seemingly simple recordings into life-like performances. It does not sound exaggerated. In fact, it is super natural in tone and presentation. The amp finds the track’s essential bigness in the stereo image and passes it on.
  My observation of the Pass’ character did not waver when using other speakers. All speakers may not have the space impression of the ML electrostatics, but the results were just as impressive within the character of the particular speaker.
  Through Pass’ own SR-2, three-way tower that I reviewed in 2013, the Xs-150’s spaciousness and solid bass performance on George BensonBreezin’ 24/96 DVD-A was quite a treat for my ears. The piano solo part on “Down Here On the Ground” emerged from the mix with the just amount of upper register tinkle.
  I also had a pair of Benchmark’s new SMS-1 bookshelf speakers for a brief couple of sessions with the Xs-150s, as well as the new Bryston Mini-sT (review upcoming). The Pass’ Xs-150‘s ability to project the image brings out the best in smaller speakers. You might think that these $65,000 amplifiers would need a big, premium, $10,000+ speakers to achieve their best. But even with small, under-$3,000, audiophile speakers, the amps shined their sonic spotlight. Piano tone really stood out with the Pass Xs amps and the new Benchmark speakers. (Stay tuned for that review)
  I though the Pass might be more of classical/jazz/acoustic music amplifier, which are often less processed. But listening sessions with numerous, well-recorded, less processed Pop recordings pleasantly surprised me. The 24/96 remaster of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” from the reissue of the Led Zeppelin IV HD Tracks download, really benefits from the Xs' wide sound stage prowess. The separation among the acoustic guitar and electric rhythm guitar layers interjects a breath of openness to this played-to-death classic.
  There are always going to be the extravagant products, but it is hard to make a quantifiable justification over a lesser priced comparator because high-ticket items are purchased for more than sheer performance.

  The Dire StraitsBrother in Arms DVD-A reissue also sounded quite good through the Pass. The title track, again, really comes alive. The percussion, guitar/vocal/percussion/accordion interplay gets that full spread across the image. And I was knocked out by how good the 24-bit/192 remaster of The Commodores' hit "Sail On" sounded; the song came from the 1979 Midnight Magic album, which is now available from HD Tracks as a 24/192 download.
  The remaster brings out all the multitrack embellishments of "Sail On," which are easily heard through the Xs-150’s big-ticket presentation. Subtle steel guitar licks, acoustic and lead electric guitar fills, funky bass line precision, shaker percussion really pop from this hi-res transferred track. I could hear these various instruments via the Pass and the Montis as well as I could through an audiophile DAC and headphones. Wow!
  As with most amps, heavily compressed Pop and Rock gets a bit mushy through the Xs-15; that bit of Class A warmness doesn’t flatter those types of recordings as much. Cleaner, less complicated Rock music work better, at least with the speakers I was using. I think the Pass X.5 series like my X350.5, which operates more in Class A/B at louder levels is a amplifier for the dense stuff.
  The Xs-150 tandem has no real sonic flaws, or any ergonomic negatives as well. Besides its astronomical price, the biggest negative is the heat. The inefficiency of Class A means lots of heat from two, very powerful Class A amps housed in four boxes. Even lowering the thermostat on the AC, located on another floor, I could not keep the listening room cool enough beyond 4 hours. Maybe if I had the rest of the house at 65 degrees I could have kept it under 85 degrees. Aah, the afterglow of Class A.
“The XA .8 series is very much the same topology as the Xs, but the hardware and bias currents are scaled down to reasonable values...It is reasonable to think of them as more modest versions of the Xs amplifiers — they are smaller — but they still make use of all the circuit details and parts that went into the Xs."
—Nelson Pass 

  We can’t gloss over the price either. Not everyone can plunk down $65,000 grand for amplifiers. It takes a fat bank account to buy these monoblocks. So where do the Xs150 and Xs 300 amplifiers fit in? are they a very expensive custom-built, Class A technology design designed to showcase the ultimate in Class A design where cost is not an issue?; Or is it a merely the company’s evolutionary top-of-the-line amp series that proudly highlights state-of-the-art, but also serves up technology that can be spun off into more affordable models, such as the XA.8 line.

The verdict
  In my opinion, the Xs Series is all of the above. Its costs means it will rarely be purchased by us non-wealthy audiophiles, but much of its sound can be heard in new models, such as the Xa-160.8 — a similar sonic signature, though at less current, and without the exquisite steel chassis and all the top-tier parts contained in the Xs-150 and Xs-300.
  Several audiophiles asked me, during the review process, if the Xs-150 sounds $45,000 better than a $20,000 amp.  There are always going to be the extravagant hi-fi products, but it is hard to make a quantifiable justification over a lesser-priced comparator because high-ticket items are purchased for more than sheer performance. Is a Lexus really worth double the price of a Toyota Camry? Depends on who is buying it. For those who can afford it, the Lexus has more bells and whistles, incteased performance handling and a certain, upscale prestige factor. It'd a luxury product, but it has its market.
  In my opinion, the Xs series (and other ultra priced audiophile products) are purchased for the same reasons. It was designed to give well-to-do Pass customers the finest Class A amp Pass has ever made — with no shortcuts in parts and build quality. And it happens to sound fantastic! I can’t give it an award for value, but I certainly can give it an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound for its exquisite audio quality. Bravo to Pass for making it available for me to review.

  John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Home Theater Speaker Review!
Episode Triple 10 Powered Subwoofer:
“Single-Active, 2X-Passive Complement
Deliver Major League Low-End Energy



Brevis...
Price: $999 (installer dealer only)
Likes: tight, clean, small sub bass
Dislikes: huh? this sub has everything
Wow Factor! big performance/small size
More info: Episode Triple 10

by John Gatski
 Snap AV’s Episode speaker line continues to amaze me with its high-end performance at great prices. The company’s Triple 10 Powered subwoofer reviewed here is perfect example of the Episode’s value/performance quality.

Features
  The contractor-supplied Triple 10 Subwoofer, priced at $999, utilizes a single 10-inch active woofer/two 10-inch passive-radiator arrangement in a compact cube enclosure that pumps out really clean bass down to about 35 Hz. Its onboard 500-watt (continuous RMS), class D BASH amp puts out plenty of level, and its array of controls offer just the right amount of adjustment — without being complicated. To highlight its great utility, the Triple 10 also sports balanced XLR I/O and RCA connectors (including LFE input) and remote trigger capability.
  The crossover is adjustable from 40 Hz to 120 Hz, and the phase control is variably adjustable from 0 to 180 degrees. The Triple 10 also features always-on/signal-sensor turn-on options. To make the sub an even better value, it also has speaker level inputs and outputs for legacy products, such as receivers and analog amps, that have no line I/O. The LFE/crossover switch allows the crossover to be switched out when using the sub as an LFE-only speaker.

The Episode Triple 10 subwoofer is  feature packed, has plenty of power and projects excellent bass performance for its size, making it a killer deal! In any room scenario where you would want a high-quality subwoofer in a small package, the Episode Triple 10 is damn-near perfect.

  The Triple 10 measures a compact 13.7" x 14.9" x 14.7" (H x W x D) and weighs a modest 43.6 pounds. The driver complement features one active 10-inch woofer — a woven, fiberglass sandwich-cone with 2.75-inch voice coil —and two 10-inch sandwich-cone passive radiators.
  I have always been a fan of passive radiator bass driver. The design utilizes the in-cabinet energy to augment bass performance. The passive radiator, a speaker without an active voice coil, releases the primary woofer’s box energy like a port, but the passive driver better controls that extra air, allowing a tighter, yet extended, low-bass response. And good passive radiator designs help control the mid-bass bloom when subs are placed near a wall; in my opinion, the PR is cleaner sounding than a port. Plus, they add in low-end frequency response extension at higher SPL.
  Episode also offers a smaller version, with three 8-inch drivers, the Triple 8 at $799. Its rated performance is nearly the same, though we did not review it.

The setup
  After a week or so of general music playing through the system for break-in of the Triple 10, I played a series of test tones and warbles tones calibrated for subwoofer testing. In my room, the Triple 10’s low-frequency extension was just shy of 35 Hz at -2 dB, in reference to the 80-Hz test tone. This series of tests were conducted in the LFE mode with internal crossover disabled. The sub could play plenty loud at the lower frequency limit, about 95 dB, and sounded clean — without cabinet or driver noises.
  I utilized the Triple 10 in my primary home cinema room. I placed the sub against the wall on the room’s left side, about midway between the main speakers and the listening position. Main speakers included Westlake Audio LC 8.1 L/R speakers, Westlake LC 2.65 center and two NHT One surrounds. Signal routing and amplification was via my reference AudioControl AVR4 receiver. An Oppo BDP-105 provided the A/V signals. All line and speaker cabling was courtesy of Wireworld. Power cables and power strip were provided by Essential Sound Products.


Triple 10 is loaded: XLR/RCA  inputs, speaker-level routing, etc.

  With real world movie and music soundtracks, the Triple 10 surpassed my low-end sonic expectations. Its clean bass and ample extension for such a small box, created an impression of smooth, loud, low bass — without a hint of strain. No, it did not go anywhere as low as my Paradigm Pro-15 (17 Hz), but most of home cinema’s real-world low bass is in the 25 Hz-to 100 Hz realm, which the Episode delivered in spades. Other than the lack of any under-20 Hz bass, such as the dirty bomb blast in the Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, I was impressed with the bass performance on LFE delivered movie soundtracks.
  On music, the Triple 10 is a perfect mate for small speakers. Its 45 Hz to 80 Hz performance is clean without any exaggeration or overzealous midbass bumps, and it sounds acoustic-suspension tight. A pair of these would give you almost perfect bass for 99 percent of the music that you play. At a reasonable level, this sub even played the essential bass energy of the cannon shots from the famous Telarc-produced Tchaikovsky — 1812 Overture with frequencies way lower than you can hear. Many small subs I have tried with this recording and grossly distort. The Triple 10 thickened a little, but output was controlled at 38 Hz.

The verdict
  Like the Episode ribbon-tweeter stand speakers EAN has reviewed since 2009The installer-sold Episode Triple 10 subwoofer is a best buy product., The sub is feature packed, has plenty of power and excellent bass performance for its size, making it a killer deal. One does the job; two would be perfect. In any room scenario where you would want a high-quality subwoofer in a small package, the Episode Triple 10 is damn near perfect. It also gets selected for an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.



John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.


Monday, October 27, 2014

EAN Audiophile Review!
Legacy Expression Ribbon-Tweeter
2.5-Way Passive Tower Speaker





Brevis...
Price: $3,000
Likes: silky top end, good bas
Dislikes: no way, too good for the $
Wow Factor! a serious entry tower
More info: Legacy Expression


by John Gatski
  Since Bill Duddleston re-acquired his Legacy Audio speaker company a few years, ago, he has been kicking out a whole new generation of speakers that appeal to a wide range of audio enthusiasts. Although the big speakers (Whisper, Aeris and Focus) get all the press, the small speakers are genuine bargains. Check out my StudioHD review from 2009.
  Legacy’s entry-level tower, the Expression, is an example of super-sound delivery, yet reasonable price from a USA-made speaker. In fact, for smaller rooms that can fit a tower speaker, It is a genuine bargain

Features
  The Legacy Expression is a 2.5-way driver tower loudspeaker, utilizing a 1-inch neodymium-magnet, spiral ribbon tweeter, a 8-inch midbass/midrange woofer (silver/graphite woven diaphragm, cast basket, phase compensation plug) and a second 8-inch subwoofer/bass driver, augmented by a ported enclosure. The silky smooth highs and spot-on bass output down to the low 40-Hz region — with the extra throw of a small tower — makes these speakers ideal for small-to-medium listening rooms, or as part of a home cinema system with use of a Legacy center channel or the small StudioHD two-way that I am a big fan of.

“The Expression gives those with more limited budgets a chance to sample the renowned Legacy loudspeaker sound. Dollar for dollar in a typical small-to medium room, the Expression is hard to beat for stereo or multichannel duties. It gets a well-earned Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.”

  The compact tower measures 38.5-inches tall 10.75-inches wide and 10.75-inches deep. Its solidly braced MDF cabinet helps contribute to its 70 pound heft. The 2.5-way crossover, as described in the marketing literature, refers to the traditional two-way crossover of the mid-woofer to the tweeter at 3 kHz, plus the subwoofer crossover at 500 Hz to the midbass/midrange woofer. Spec-wise, rated frequency response is 38 Hz to 22 kHz, plus, minus 2 dB. Impedance is 4 ohms, and the room sensitivity is listed at 94 dB, with a 2.83V signal input. Power handling is 250 watts RMS continuous.
  The speaker includes bi-wire binding posts with included jumpers for single-wire use. The Expression contains two tone-tailoring switches to allow a mild cut in the treble and bass: -2 dB at 10 kHz and -2 dB at 60 Hz. Up is flat; down is the cut for each switch. The treble cut can even the response in a bright room, while the bass trim can knock down some bloom when the speaker is too close to a boundary.
  The Expression is a great-looking speaker and comes in a variety of finishes including the test samples rosewood option. The grill is removable, and to my ears, is more present sounding without it attached. Perhaps in a more live sounding roof, you can get away with leaving it on.

The set up
  During the review process, I set up the Expressions for use as an audiophile stereo playback speaker system, and as the L-R in a 5.1 system. I also used the 5.1 system at the 2014 Capital Audiofest for hi-res surround and movie soundtrack playback.
  Stereo listening components included a Rogue Audio Medusa hybrid tube/class D amplifier, Pass Labs XA30.5 Class A MOSFET amplifier, and the new Benchmark AHB2 amplifier. For preamps, I used either a Coda or the discrete output of an Oppo HA-1 DAC/headphone amp, via 1/4-inch-to-RCA adapter. Other demo DACS included the Benchmark DAC2D, Mytek Stereo 192-DSD and a Resonessence Concero linked to a Dell tablet. All interconnects, including digital and speaker cables, were furnished by Wireworld. Power products including Essence Reference II cords and power strip, were from Essential Sound Products.
  The multichannel system was set up in my main home cinema listening room and at the 2014 Capital Audiofest. I used the Expressions for the L-R, and three Legacy StudioHDs, which are very close in audio character to the Expression, for the center and rear surrounds.
  In my main 5.1 room, I powered the speakers with the audiophile caliber AudioControl AVR-6 multichannel receiver. At CAF, the speakers were powered by three Benchmark AHB2 amplifiers.

The audition
  I set up the speakers in the midfield — about eight feet away from the listening position with the grills off. The sound was immediately familiar upon first play of the Warren Bernhardt — So Real SACD. The similarity to my smaller Legacy Studios was undeniable. That silky smooth top end, generous helping of width in the imaging and very good, clean bass extension, plus more of it, were projected by the Expressions. But they filled up the room quite a bit more and offer increased oomph under 60 Hz than the Studios.
  The neo ribbon HF driver is key to the Expression’s, er, expressive top-end. This ribbon is accurate with zero harshness, making the Expression a speaker you can listen to all day long. The two-way crossover for the midwoofer/tweeter also keeps the audio focused in the more ear-sensitive frequencies.
  For a $3,000 speaker, the piano tone was very convincing when reproducing the a Steinway D from the Bernhardt recording. I heard much of the upper-register piano key percussion that I hear on much more expensive speakers. Perfect for that cocktail jazz sound.
  My jazz guitar SACDs sounded open and warm through the Expressions. Grant Green — Green Streets, for example, exhibited that warm, tube amp tone that I like. Anthony Wilson’s honey-hued Gibson guitar tone also was golden via the Expression when playing the Anthony Wilson TrioOur Gang SACD, Love that “Briitta’s Blue” track.


Expression (R) is a bit smaller than Legacy's ClassicHD

  On classical music, the ribbon tweeter is aces on string instruments. On a 2L, 24/352.8 Haydn cello duo. I could definitely hear the bit of extra depth of cello tone overtones that the best speakers pull out of this ultra-hi-res recording. Bigger, multi-driver speakers may give you more level in a bigger room, but the Expressions are remarkable in what they bring to the listening position. Lots of detail for a budget USA speaker.
  The Expressions could handle anything I put through them. Pop, Rock or Country? No problem. Daft PunkGet Lucky” disco/funk retro sound was presented in its full flair; nice bass, keyboard and guitar layers. David Bowie’s, hi-res version of “The Rise Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” is a great transfer from the original master tapes with improved width and depth around the various guitar layers. All that extra sound comes through the Expressions. I especially liked the acoustic guitar intro on “Rock and Roll Suicide." Nice natural presence from the Expression’s ribbon tweeter.
  The Expressions vocal performance also is smooth — without excessive sibilance or peakiness. Frank SinatraNo One Cares album, now on SACD, features Sinatra at the peak of his phrasing and vocal power. The Expressions definitely do that recording justice. Just listen to the vocalist’s velvety tone on the “Cottage For Sale.”
  The Expression’s two-woofer system, augmented by the port, produce clean bass and were flat in my room down to 40 Hz, which is plenty low for most kinds of music. If you get closer to the back walls, the midbass may pump up a bit, but I kept my distance. You can engage the bass roll-off switch and plug the port if you can’t avoid closer wall placement. I tried it, and it definitely tightens up the bottom end — even at eight-inches from the wall.
  I did not have any speakers, sans the StudioHDs, in the Expression’s price range during the trial, but i did have some more expensive ones: my reference MartinLogan Montis electrostats ($10,000) plus and a pair of Pass Labs SR2  three way towers ($21,000). The Pass SR2’s had a bit more richness in the upper midrange and low treble, and the Montis projects a nearly unbeatable capability to separate instrument layers. But the Expression hangs right in there relaying plenty of hi-res music nuances and subtle resonance cues. It is definitely better than its price would suggest — in terms of audiophile sound.

  On a 2L, 24/352.8 Haydn cello duos. I could definitely hear the bit of extra depth of cello tone overtones that the best speakers pull out of this ultra-hi-res recording. Bigger, multi-driver speakers may give you more level in a bigger room, but the Expressions are remarkable in what they bring to the listening position.

  In the EAN surround system, I used two Expressions and three studios, one for the center channel and two for the rear surrounds. The Expressions integrated seamlessly with the Studio’s, producing a convincing dimensional sonic portrait for several of Tom Jung’s wonderful recorded DMP surround SACDs, such as Warren Bernhardt - So Real, and surround Blu-rays from 2L and AIX. I purposely ran them without a subwoofer, to see if Expression could kick out enough bass. Other than the lowest sub-35 Hz LFE sounds, the Legacys kicked out solid music bass.
  I took the same system to the Capital Audiofest, powered by the new Benchmark AHB2 amp, three to be exact. The DSD surround music, courtesy of Mytek Digital’s music server and Blu-ray movie soundtracks, played through an Oppo BDP-105, sounded great in my little demo room. Numerous show attendees commented they were impressed with the speakers — especially its clean bass output and easy top end.
  I had no complaints with the Expressions. They are well built, and were a cinch to to connect with my big Wireworld cables, and they are not that heavy to move around. And as a small tower, you can put them in about any room — except a really big one. The finishes are first rate, and this company really knows how to package a speaker for safe shipping, yet easy to remove from the box. 
  Legacy used to be a mail order/Internet order/phone order factory-direct seller, but now it has a dealer network of 22 dealers in the U.S.A. And it also has distribution in 21 countries, and now features a second line of speakers — for pro installation.

The verdict
  If you get the impressions that I liked the Legacy Expression, you are correct. With the expanding line of Legacy offerings on the top end in recent years, it is good to see that the company has not neglected its entry points. Like the compact StudioHD that I reviewed in 2009, the Expression gives those with more limited budgets a chance to sample the renowned Legacy loudspeaker sound. Dollar for dollar, in a typical small-to-medium room, the Expression is hard to beat for stereo or multichannel duties. It gets a well-earned Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.



John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.