At this point it might be worth mentioning just how easy it is to slip into playing these speakers seriously loud. Distortion artefacts are so low that perceived volume becomes deceptive. Playing the Basie, I found myself averaging nearly 90dB SPL at the listening position, regularly hitting 103/104dB and registering a peak at 115dB! Why the measurements? Not because it sounded that loud but because the power meters on the four amp channels were regularly hitting four figure output peaks! So yes, the Clarisys speakers will play loud and they’ll do it without fuss or strain – at least on the part of the speakers. But what is more interesting is the implications at the other end of the spectrum. With so much swept area, the Auditoriums are really good at preserving dynamic range and scale at low volumes, the really big speaker that really can play really quiet – and sound great doing it.
Given their tonal neutrality and textural resolution it’s no surprise that familiar voices are instantly recognisable. Whether it’s the subtle Irish intonations and slight, chesty husk that identifies Eleanor McEvoy, the soaring clarity, tonal purity and vocal control of Raquel Andueza or Ian Dury’s distinctive accent and diction, the speaker’s have the uncanny ability to conjure that person and personality without apparent effort. In fact, this lack of apparent effort is key to what makes the Auditoriums so special. Breakdown their sonic capabilities and they’re certainly impressive – but then you can say that about a lot of speakers. What sets the Clarisys apart is the utter coherence with which it combines all those musical facets, the seamless way in which they contribute to the musical whole. Just take the issue of speed. Listen to the Auditorium and you wouldn’t describe it as sounding ‘fast’: certainly not ‘fast’ in the way that a lot of ceramic-coned speakers sound fast. Yet consider that the Clarisys do rich, fulsome harmonics and subtle percussive textures – often simultaneously. These speakers are genuinely quick and responsive – but their real charm lies in the fact that they aren’t obvious about it. Instead, they give every impression of working well within their comfort zone, while also delivering an astonishing degree of natural musical communication and insight. You don’t hear them working because you don’t hear them trying – and the result is that your attention is naturally drawn to the musical performance rather than the performance of the system.
NOT your Dad’s Apogee!
Audio has ever been a field in which you pays your money and makes your choice. In the case of the Clarisys Auditorium you are being asked to pay a considerable sum for the speakers and probably as much again for the driving electronics – at least if you want to extract the speakers’ full potential. Yet, even at that price, these speakers look and sound like a musical bargain compared to the mainstream completion. Like any truly great speaker system, they are responsive to input, responsive to set up. They are naturally open and communicative and when it comes to acoustic recordings they are astonishingly convincing. They are not all things to all men. They don’t do spotlit ultra-transparency and they don’t do slap you in the face dynamics (although in both cases it’s a question of presentational style rather than musical information or impact). They do scale and dynamic range and few speakers can match their musical versatility or expressive range. Above all, very few speakers or systems can match their effortlessly engaging listenability.