Like the Trios, piano was particularly impressive on the Duo GTs. Mitsuko Uchida’s Beethoven cycle (with Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker) was similarly impressive. The delicacy of her playing in the 2nd Movement of the Fourth was captivating, as was the sheer clarity of note weight, line and pedal work. The space between notes was as explicit as it was unforced, the beauty of the performance transcending the limitations of the system. Víkingur Ólafsson’s Debussy-Rameau (DGG 483 8283) has become a firm favourite and something of a go-to test disc. Again, the Duos didn’t disappoint, delivering the scale, complexity and sonorous tonality of the piano, really capturing the poise in the playing. No, the two-way speakers didn’t have the absolute transparency and low-frequency texture of the Trio G3s, their astonishing authority and almost ‘reach out and touch’ presence on this recording: but then they didn’t have a pair of dual driver Spacehorns – or the associated price tag either!
Which is, in its own way, a neat summary of this initial listening session. What it has demonstrated beyond doubt is that the sound from the horns is every bit as good as you get from the Trios. At the same time – and far from surprisingly – the bottom end is not capable of the same extension, authority and transparency as you get with the Trios/Spacehorns. What it is, is agile enough and adaptable enough to keep pace with those horns. The better you integrate it, the less muddying and rounding or smudging manifests itself in the mid-band. With the older Duos just trying ton get the bass to hold hands with the mid was hard enough. Now it’s a question of getting them to dance – and not just any dance: We’re not talking a Strauss waltz here; get things really cooking and those ultra demanding, get down and get dirty Latin beats are going to be well within the system’s capabilities. Just how far that integration can be pushed – and just how far down the range the resulting transparency will extend – is going to have to wait until I get the speakers home. But this first exposure has accelerated that process significantly and dates are already in the diary.
I started this piece by asking how much of the Trio G3’s magic Avantgarde could bring to the Duo (and if so, at what price)? The answer is more than I thought possible for less than I expected to pay. First contact with the Duo GT certainly didn’t disappoint. Instead, it just stoked the appetite for more…