Apogee Acoustics Initial Listening Sessions – Part 1/2
Apogee speakers listened to in various setups, covering several models, from Centaurs via Duattas and Divas to Scintillas, Grand and Full Range
My closest friend and listening buddy JW has always had Apogee Centaur ribbon/cone hybrid speakers. They are tiny but perform extremely well within their limits. He wanted bigger bass and was hopeful that the larger brother of his speakers in the same series would deliver just that: the same excellent sound, but now fuller and bigger. Alas, this didn’t quite work out. No matter what we tried, the Centaur Majors wouldn’t sound well at his place, sounding bulky, coloured and dark, with coarse treble as a not-so-fresh cherry on top.
May 2013 – first Apogee in my listening room: Centaur Major
To see what we could squeeze out of JW’s Majors, we moved them to my listening room and indeed got much better results. Still, the treble wasn’t as airy as we’re used to from his Apogee Centaurs or my Magnepan MG3.6’s but there was something to the Apogee sound that my Magnepan MG3.6’s couldn’t quite match. In a word: Coherence.
I never got around to writing a proper review of these speakers. That’s due to them not sounding entirely to my taste but offering enough advantages over my then current Magnepan MG3.6R’s, that they sparked a new interest for me in the quest for the Apogee sound. My friend JW’s Centaurs have super-airy treble, similar to the Maggies’ treble, but the Centaur Majors in spite of a very lively upper midrange sounded quite dark on top. Bass integration, however, was spectacular with lots of power, heft and speed. My aim was combining the strengths of my Magnepans with the strengths of Apogee. To that end I have been listening to various models in the owner’s homes.
8-6-13 – visiting a Duetta Signature setup
JW, the aforementioned listening buddy, has now acquired a fully restored pair of Duetta Signatures – the same ones as on the pictures below in the previous owner’s place. We have brought Jeff Rowland pre- and power amps to the seller’s place and found out that not only do the model sixes drive the Duettas splendidly, they also seem to be a match made in heaven.
Oh, about those stories detailing Apogee full range ribbon speakers having incredible bass? You better believe them! The Duetta Signatures have such a fullness of bass and more importantly depth, that I was seriously wondering if there really wasn’t a subwoofer hidden secretly.
Early June 2013 – visiting the first Diva setup
The story doesn’t end with the Duettas though as I have also listened to a pair of Divas, set up in what may well be the smallest listening room that I have ever seen, minus perhaps my own cinema room. Needless to say, even though the Divas still do some things very well even in this crowded space, they did not image very well and the sound was pretty unbalanced and forward. I also noticed how closed in they sounded – nothing like the extended and airy treble that I’m used to from my Magnepan MG3.6’s, Apogee Centaur or indeed the Apogee Duetta Signature. At this stage, I figured that it was probably the room but I’d find out later that it may well be the design of the Diva.
Above: I don’t want to be harsh on the owner but Apogees, and any dipole speakers really, need more space than this.
Yes, that’s a DAC active crossover on top of that Krell amp. This really benefitted the sound in this system. Incidentally, the curling effect you see in the right speaker isn’t the foil itself, rather it is the protective screen that produces some sort of moire effect. It is more obvious at some distances than at others and it is also dependent on lighting conditions.
14-6-13 – visiting the second DIVA setup
We have now also listened to another pair of Divas, set up in a much larger space. Again we’ve brought the Rowlands even though at first it wasn’t guaranteed that the model sixes would drive the Diva’s well. After having tried the good news is that the sixes do drive the Diva’s splendidly. There is absolutely no lack of control or dynamics. What’s more, they sound a lot more refined than the owner’s Krell KSA250. The latter has more, and tighter, bass, but lacks overall resolution and can be rough around the edges. The bad news is that it seems that the Diva’s are indeed by design darker sounding than other Ribbon speakers I have heard, other Apogees included. It’s a shame really because now that it was clear that the Rowlands would drive them without problems, I was almost ready to purchase. Now I’m having real doubts.
Above: Look at the size of that designer desktop lamp… those speakers must be seriously tiny, no?
Just kidding… the Divas are actually more than man-sized. Surprisingly, my trusty Rowland model sixes can even drive these speakers well. I wasn’t entirely expecting that. Next: 1-ohm Scintillas. Bring it on… uhh, probably not.
As it turns out, the Divas do indeed have a deviating tonal balance. Here’s an excerpt from a review in Stereophile: “…if you examine the Diva’s frequency response, you can clearly see that the lower mids and the deep bass are emphasized in relation to the upper mids and treble. The response begins to droop at 400Hz and is down a full 5dB from 3kHz to 15kHz.”
22-6-13 – Duetta Signature – in my own listening room
The Duetta Signatures definitely do not have any darkness in the treble. They have now been set up in my room for a week and I’m loving them more and more. These particular Duettas have been fully revised and also have upgraded filters.
Even when set up like this they sound wonderful. Well, not really:-) But it makes for a nice comparative image. The Maggies, however, seemed to benefit from having two large screens in-between: their bass was fuller, with more body, while imaging remained intact.
The filters had been upgraded and no longer fit inside the cabinet. Oh, and the 4-euro per meter vdHul speaker cable you see in this picture makes for a better match than the 6000-euro Transparent Reference XL… More on this in the upcoming review.
This is their final position – MRTW ribbons at almost the same position as the Maggies but further away from the rear wall. But because the Apogees are a lot wider than the Maggies, I have to lean all the way back on the listening couch in order to get them entirely on a photo. The Maggies lurk in the background, almost looking small while in reality, they are a lot higher than the Duetta Sigs. The latter are 11cm wider but don’t actually appear that wide. Beauty, they say, is a matter of proportions. I must concur.
Part 1 – Part 2