I have been listening to the Sound Artist and Falcon LS3/5a, the Falcons lent to me by Trevor at Guildford Audio, and thought I would put them up against the SBLs.
I used a pair of weighty stands positioned three feet from the rear wall and side walls. I have to say that in order to install the speakers badly I think you would have to actively TRY. Placed to form a triangle with your listening position and angled towards you these deliver.
The speakers would now be powered by my Naim 300DR, in concert with my autoformer based Icon pre-amp.
I started with the Falcons and opened with ‘Twist in my Sobriety’ by Tanita Tikaram. The singer was ‘in the room’, startling. This was aided and abetted by an excellent sound stage, this reminded me of when I used Focal 10008be. I followed this with Leather by Tori Amis and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman. These repeated the strengths of the first track, which included a wealth of fine detail.
What surprised me was the tonal similarity to my usual Naim SBLs.
The Naim SBLs are an interesting speaker that can image well. With a digital source, they can be rather flat with rock and pop. Not so the Falcons. In fact when I later tried the speakers with my Oppo/Lexicon AV front in I was VERY pleasantly surprised.
I moved on to some Telarc Qobuz sourced recordings. These are excellently recorded, including some wonderful resonant bass. I concentrated on a series of movie themes conducted by Erich Kunzel with the Boston Pops Orchestra, ‘Star Trek 1: The Klingon Battle’ uses a number of electronic effects that I found wholly distracting via my Chord Mojo2/Quad ERA-1s, not so here. The resonant bass sweeps worked far better. The orchestra was well presented in both width and depth and, as with the earlier pop music the various instruments were well differentiated, such that the detail of the strings and sound boards were very well produced, rosin rosin everywhere.
I then moved back to modern fare with Roger Waters’ ‘Perfect Sense, Pt 1’ from ‘Amused to Death’. This was simply breathtaking, the sound field was holographic with the storm swirling around the listening room. When played through my Quad headphones the sound field is rather flat, as it is with the SBLs. I got a fresh connection to a track that I thought I knew well.
‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen’ by Sam Cooke is a track that through the Naim SBLs can show a slight sibilant edge, as it does through the Falcons. As I wrote above, the tonal similarities between the speakers was surprising. However, their presentation is somewhat different, apart from the imaging. The Falcon LS3/5a reveal a mass of detail in the upper mid region, this is not thrown at you but it’s there if you listen for it. The Naim SBL mid/bass driver is larger and simply moves more air, this aids the mid bass and gives instruments in that area a touch more dynamic and present impetus.
Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ is a real tour de force, and one with a fantastically inventive bass line, although one that is somewhat set back in the mix. The Naim SBLs have a phase coherence that clearly reveals the fine musicianship. The Falcons presents the bass as somewhat larger but a tad unfocused, losing some of the detail of the playing. Swings and roundabouts.
Now it was time to move on to the Sound Artists. I repeated the order of the tracks I listened to. The female singers again stood forward, but the voices had a very slight tendency to sound a little strained and the detailing was reduced. This slightly obscured presentation could work in their favour, as with the Sam Cooke track where the slight sibilant edge was gone, but then too was the magic from ‘Perfect Sense, Pt 1’. In terms of the sound staging they do not produce the music with the same magic as the Falcons, they tend to be slightly more bound to the speakers giving you more left, right and centre. These speakers are very presentable and do not plumb any depths of trouble, but neither do they soar.
Having explored the digital I decided to move to the analogue. Here is where the true heart of my system lies. My Linn LP12, Naim ARO, Linn Troika, Naim Armageddon and Tron 7 G.T. Phono Stage form a hugely synergistic partnership with the Naim SBLs. The sound field, detailing and dynamics are superb. Could the LS3/5a compete?
Well, certainly NOT the Sound Artists. Here the SBLs entered into the imaging territory of the Falcon LS3/5a and retained its phase capabilities in the bass, giving it a shade more transparency and punch.
The Falcon LS3/5a are not a cheap speaker by any definition. I was surprised by how much they echoed my Naim SBLs tonally. Their verisimilitude with the human voice and the construction of a sound stage are excellent. Were my Naim SBLs to die then I think I have found the speakers that I would be buying to replace them; but then my Focal 1008be were killed by the cats and these would probably go the same way!