Return Of The Thin White Duke…

The Clarisys Auditorium Loudspeakers

By Roy Gregory

When it comes to musical all-star pairings or super-groups, the whole seldom seems to equal the sum of the parts. Jazz might realistically claim to be the exception to this particular rule, structured as it is to afford solo space to all the participants, but when you have major egos jostling for position on a single stage or within a single work, classical music is generally no more polite or successful than rock or pop. I wonder to what extent that plays a part in the dubious reputation of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto? But occasionally, just occasionally, such collaborations go swimmingly well, with spectacular results. When those stellar instrumentalists Rostropovich, Richter and Oïstrakh combined with Karajan (definitely no wilting violet) and the BPO to record the Triple Concerto in September 1969, the results were remarkable – as was the mutual respect between the principle protagonists. So perhaps it should be no surprise that when Oïstrakh and Richter combined earlier that same year to record the Shostakovich Violin Sonata, the results were, if anything, even more outstanding.

Playing that disc (EMI/Melodiya HQS 1369) on the Clarisys Auditorium loudspeakers I’m struck by two things: the natural sense of scale and dimensionality of the stereo image – and the uncanny clarity with which the speakers reproduce the incredible musical connection between the players.

Back in the day I lived with both Apogee Calipers and Duetta Signatures and I worked with Divas. Anybody who has ever seen a pair of Apogees will recognise the Clarisys DNA. Anybody who has ever listened to or lived with Apogees will recognise the Clarisys sound. But the Clarisys Auditorium is no Apogee. The two speakers might share common roots, but the Auditorium is more developed, far more capable and just all-around better than any Apogee I ever heard. Having said that, it’s 30-years since the last serious Apogee design debuted and a lot has happened in the meantime, both in terms of available magnet technology and global manufacturing. The Clarisys isn’t an Apogee, but if Apogee had had another 30-years of evolution and development maybe, just maybe they’d have produced something akin to the Clarisys Auditorium.

Days of future passed?

Why the history lesson? Because, in order to appreciate just how far something has come you have to look at where it started (and how it travelled). Those original Apogee speakers were a challenge on all sorts of levels. They were expensive (for the time), they were heavy, awkward and both the external MDF skin and the drivers were fragile (a seriously dodgy combination), they were finished in Nextel (which is just plain dodgy) but most problematic of all, they were inefficient and presented driving amplifiers with a brutally difficult load. Okay, so the later designs never plumbed the depths of unreasonable demand in quite the same way that the original 1Ω Scintilla did, but the Apogees were universally difficult (for which read “expensive”) to drive. That made them pricey to buy and even pricier to own.