Madisound Solist New Crossovers and Conclusion
Again, the people at Madisound were great to work with, we talked about a redesigned crossover with a flat response. They sent me the original crossover curves and the newly designed crossover curves for comparison. I decided that the new design was flat enough although not perfectly flat and ordered the crossover. There was still a higher output in the low frequencies but that is inherent in the MTM design and the woofers will just be more efficient than the tweeter according to the designer.
After receiving the new crossovers and installing them it was time to re-listen to the same CD's with my notes at hand. Right away I could hear a difference, it is amazing how a few components changed on a circuit board can make such a difference in sound.
Starting again with Yes, Ladder Jon Anderson's voice in Home World was much more forward and it was more open than before and the guitar had much more presence. On Lightening Strikes the pace was still good but the bass didn't sound as authoritative until I turned the volume up. Listening further on “Face to Face” I could definitely hear the authoritative bass that I heard before the redesign. Anyone familiar with Anderson's voice would expect it to sound very forward; it wasn't as forward as the Cirrus RK's but they also don't have the slight edge that the Cirrus have. The Solist are still very smooth.
Putting on Patrick O'Hearn's Trust title track, the bass remained authoritative and tight. The detail was excellent and the piano was much better balanced. The balance remained with Flim & the BB's, Big Notes, New America track. The sax sounded very smooth with no edge and the tonality throughout the song was very good. At this time I started turning up the volume and what I found were some great dynamics and no sign of compression. Everything sound much more forward. The same existed on the Funhouse track which is all electronic except that the high frequencies started to sound edgy but the volume was pretty high around 80 dB per the RDC-7 display where I normally listen at the low 70 dB mark.
For my favorite test, sound stage and imaging, I played the faithful Malcolm Makes Haaj track from Terrance Blanchard. With the old crossover the sax sounded like it was at the back of the stage but not anymore, it was right up front and to the left just as it should be. The sound stage as a whole was not as high as the Cirrus RK's. The drum solo sounded the same as it did before but in the piano solo I tended to hear more of the drums than normal. The trumpet was also placed correctly on stage. The sax and trumpet did not sound as real as I like at first but when the volume was turned up these instruments were sounding very real. I finally started to hear that edge from both instruments as I would expect from a live concert when someone is blasting notes out on a trumpet or sax.
I now started to realize that something else was happening with these speakers. The drivers were breaking in beautifully. I didn't log the hours exactly but I would guess about 20 to 30. The more these drivers played the better they sounded. It wasn't because I was getting used to them either; I was still switching back and forth to the Cirrus RK's. I was also noticing how different they sound from the Cirrus RK's. There is a different timbre between the two which wasn't good news for me because I was trying to match the Cirrus sound.
I couldn't stop listening so I put on Steely Dan's Two Against Nature CD. The bass guitar sounded very tight. At low volumes the music was a little more forward than Fagan's voice but when he sang louder his voice moved forward. In comparing this CD to the Cirrus RK's, the Cirrus had a better balance between the vocals and the music. One more thing to note on this CD was that the sax here also sounded natural and real.
On Enya's Marble Halls the tonal balance and sibilance was still very good. With these speakers opening up I can now hear the airiness that I expect from this track. Also, the transparency was excellent. The same held for Carribean Blue, her main vocals were centered and the music and other layers of her voice surrounded the main vocals.
Suzanne Vega's voice on Tom's Diner sounded very centered and forward but again the sound stage was a little low. On “Into the West” by Annie Lennox the sound stage was definitely higher up. More importantly, it clearly had that “grab ya” feeling with no edginess that just gets you completely involved in the song. Music involvement is very important and that is exactly what was happening as these drivers broke in.
The Solists kits from Madisound delivered everything one would expect from Scan Speak drivers. I have a few suggestions based on the time spent with these speakers. First, if the Solist is going to be used as main speakers and a higher budget is allowed, consider the upgraded version. Even though I did not listen to the upgraded version I can't imagine they would sound worse. If you get option 1 or 2 you may not want to rush into the redesigned crossover. Consider the room in which they will be placed; is there a lot of reflection? Try the stock crossovers and let the drivers break in for at least 30 hours. If the mids still don't satisfy after thorough break in, contact Madisound for the new crossovers. I'm not sure if they will make this redesigned crossover an option or if they will charge for the LEAP design. Maybe if they get enough requests, they will make it an option to the kit. No matter which way the Solist is configured they deliver as good a sound as speakers for at least twice the price.