Living Voice Auditorium R25A Loudspeaker

The problem with that is pretty obvious – although our auditory system demonstrates a remarkable ability to compensate accordingly. But if we come at that problem from the other end for a second… If we abandon the (somewhat fanciful) notion of recreating ‘a perfect facsimile of the original performance’ then the task of an audio system is to capture and reproduce the sense (and intent) of that performance: In other words, to present the available information in a pattern (temporal, spatial and dynamic) that our ears and brain can recognise and interpret. The better the system, the less work our brain has to invest in the interpretation – the more it can invest in appreciation. What made the Living Voice OBX RW4 system used in Munich so impressive was its ability to let listeners relax: and that was based entirely on the confidence and clarity with which it presented the music. Not only did that system cost a fraction of the price of many other systems at the show – systems that signally failed to match its relaxed musicality – it was running on a mere 8 Watts per channel! It’s a graphic example of the crucial importance of the natural sense of scale and proportion that starts with an easy speaker load – and the destructive potential of the awkward impedance characteristics so common in other loudspeakers.

Family values…

But what matters here is that the R25A is cut from exactly the same cloth as the OBX RW4. ‘Step change’ has become a common, even clichéd term when it comes to audio reviewing, so perhaps I should define the scale of that lift in performance as applied to the R25A. With OBX RW3s in-house, I am in a position to sit the two speakers next to each other. Yes, the OBX RW3 exhibits a richer and more refined tonal palette. It gives the impression of deeper, crisper bass and, a richer, natural warmth and finer harmonic textures. But when it comes to overall musical coherence, the R25A is simply more fluid, more natural and more engaging. Play the 60th Anniversary mono/stereo re-issue of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things (Rhino R1 666923/603497842827 – Atlantic SD 1361) and from the familiar opening bars of the title track, the easy, musical flow that the R25A brings to the performance is immediately apparent. You hear it in the subtle shape that McCoy Tyner adds to each bar, his use of note weight to give the rhythm a little nudge, to bring impetus and direction to the structure which under-pin’s Coltrane’s convoluted and increasingly inventive lines. Swap from the stereo pressing to the mono disc and on the R25A, the increased sense of body, presence and substance locks step with that dynamic and temporal structure to add even greater shape and subtlety to the playing, carving an even more engaging groove. Switch to the OBX RW3 and you lose the graceful fluidity and inner balance that is such a part of this recording. Tyner begins to sound clumsy and awkward, Coltrane’s lines become more angular and disjointed. More importantly, the music no longer draws you in to its stream of consciousness.