What did all this shunting and shuffling achieve? It locked in the soundstage, adding depth and dimensionality and concentrated, or focussed, the instrumental energy, bringing the listener into the same space as the players, the instruments into the listening room. The Auditoriums deliver such effortless scale and detail, that they’ll rarely be less than impressive, but there’s a gulf in performance between merely impressive and what these speakers are actually capable of. At their best, these speakers can transcend audio limitations in the same manner, albeit in a completely different way, that the Avantgarde Trio G3 has rewritten high-end rules and expectations. A lot of that has to do with their spatial coherence and sound-staging – which is why precise alignment is all important. The good news is that for the most part it’s a purely muscular and mathematical exercise, rather than the magical mystery tour that seems to characterise the struggle to place some speakers. The better news is that the speakers’ themselves are so revealing of shifts in position or changes made to the system that they actively aid the process. The best news of all? The end results are seriously worth it!
I started this piece by talking about the Auditoriums’ ability to capture the musical relationship, the creative chemistry between two stellar performers, David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter. Time then to delve a little deeper into the how and the why of that performance. Playing the disc on the GPA Monaco v2.0 (with Kuzma 4Point14 and Fuuga), via the CH Precision P10, L10 and two M1.1s in bi-amp mode – a rig that isn’t cheap but is entirely appropriate to these speakers, both in terms of price and performance – was genuinely revelatory. I mean, I knew this was an under-rated record/recording of great performers delivering a great performance: I just wasn’t aware quite how ‘great’ that great performance was. A big part of that realisation was down to the way in which the speakers present the stage. Richter’s piano is a substantial presence, in terms of dimensionality, scale and weight. This is a life-sized image, set at an appropriate height, standing on a clearly defined floor (rather than the floor of the listening room). The placement and angle of the instrument is explicit, as is the height differential between the piano and the solo violin. That clear spatial relationship and the clarity of the relationship between the instruments and their immediate acoustic environment adds enormously to the convincing sense of presence and performance. Just as the piano is massive and solid, the violin is tight and complex, each string rich with harmonics. The energy and intensity in the playing is impressively physical, but with only two instruments in play, the timing and placement of notes and phrases is critical to the musical sense and structure. The explicitly defined distance between the two players (and the shared acoustic space) really adds to the immediacy of the musical communication between the two, bringing clarity, purpose and a compelling quality to what might otherwise be considered ‘difficult’ music.
At least part of the impressive spatial definition delivered by the Clarisys speakers is down to their effortless impression of height within the soundstage – height that stretches down to a solid floor, just as it stretches up. But equally impressive is the absolute independence of the soundstage and overall acoustic from the speakers themselves – despite their imposing frontal area. Shut your eyes – or better still, listen in the dark – and the Auditoriums are impossible to locate by sound alone. No individual notes or instruments gravitate to specific drivers, the way you so often hear a triangle or piccolo come straight from a dome tweeter. Again, that’s an artefact related to generating a coherently integrated sense of height, one that’s independent of driver location. Until you hear the seamless and naturally proportioned soundstage generated by the Auditoriums it is easy to forget just how spatially compromised most box speakers really are – how much work our brains do to cover over the flaws. Listening to the Clarisys isn’t just musically impressive and convincing, it’s also astonishingly relaxing, simply because the presentation is so natural, tonally and in terms of space and scale. It’s an effect I’ve heard before from box-speakers, but only the biggest, widest bandwidth systems, normally with subs appended.