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Legacy Audio Studio HD Listening Test

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From the first track I fired up, I was struck with how well the Legacy Studio HDs image.  In stereo mode with minimal toe-in, vocals were reproduced with pinpoint accuracy right in the center of the left and right speakers.  When I sat my partner in the sweet spot and cued up the first verse of Ani DiFranco’'s track “Hypnotize”, she was convinced that the center channel was active.  I was also struck at the high frequency detail of the Studio HDs, bringing Ani’s voice into greater clarity than I had ever heard before, all without harshness which can lead to listening fatigue.

Ani DiFranco - Reprieve 

Ani DiFranco - Reprieve

I was struck by the high frequency detail of the Studio HD Speakers.

At the same time, cues not anchored in the center enveloped the listener marvelously.  In the first 8 seconds of Paul Simon’s “I Know What I Know” the snappy electric guitar danced in the left quarter of my room, while the long-decaying crash seemed to sweep around my right.  This was a perfect example of how good the 3D-ness of simple stereo can be.  I attribute a great deal of the Studio HD’s imaging quality to the flat high frequency response and detail of the quick-moving AMT tweeters. 

 Paul Simon - Graceland

Paul Simon - Graceland

I did find that I toed-in the Studio HDs far less than my other speakers.  To my ear, the on-axis high-end was a little more pronounced than I preferred.  Here is where I tried out that high-filter switch.  Flipped in the circuit, the reduction in high-frequencies was suitable for restoring balance in a bright, untreated room, or in a smaller room where positioning may not be ideal.  However, in my room, I felt the filter whittled away the lively high-end detail of the Studio HD.  In the end, I much preferred the filter “off” and the speakers with only slight toe-in.  The produced a spacious image with high-frequency sparkle that brought my music to life.

 Cassandra Wilson - Another Country

Cassandra Wilson - Another Country

Staying in Pure Stereo mode, I moved to focusing on low-frequency reproduction.  I cued up “Another Country” by Cassandra Wilson from the free High Definition Audio Sampler available at HDtracks.com.  With a frequency response rated flat down to 41Hz, I expected the Studio HD to hold their own, and the thrumming, low bass that bubbles below the verses was present, but not quite impactful.  In a smaller room, or near-field listening environment, I may have found the low-frequency response adequate for use without a subwoofer, and might have even reached for the low-filter switch.  However, when listening in my large, open room at spirited levels, I found that the Studio HDs didn't quite have the low end oomph needed to deliver the track in all its glory. 

Legacy Metro

Legacy Audio Metro Subwoofer

Don't get me wrong: the Studio HDs are sufficient for most music listening;  however, like any bookshelf speaker, they are best when mated with a subwoofer.  Legacy’s Metro is a perfect aesthetic match for the Studio HD, and would provide true full-range performance.  With a sub filling in the last 2 octaves, and the Legacy carrying the lion’s share of the spectrum with their detail, dynamics, and spaciousness, “Another Country” filled the large room with delicate shakers and percussion, Wilson’s rich vocals, and a bouncing bass-line.

Surround/Movies

Now in “.1” mode, it was time to fire up the full 5.1 system and test out some surround content.  I stuck with music content by way of Showtime’s “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued.”  This documentary details the partial history of Dylan’s “lost years” in which he retreated to Woodstock, NY and wrote so prolifically that he couldn’t keep track of it all.  Decades later, a cache of forgotten lyrics turned up.  These lyrics were given to T Bone Burnett to record with the super-group of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, and Jim James in a session that would become “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes.” 

 Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued | Official Trailer (2014)

The documentary details much of the writing and recording process.  The final compositions are multi-layered, but some of the most fun was hearing sparse, single instrument accompaniment build into multi-layered compositions as each artist added their instruments and voice.  The realism of these single instruments and the ambiance of the room was well-conveyed by the detailed Studio HD, and then, as the dynamics of the full compositions kick in, the Legacys kept pace with high-output due in part to their greater than average sensitivity.  The broad horizontal dispersion characteristic of the Studio HD in the 3 front speaker positions really created a consistent image up front, even when sitting off center, and the detail of these speakers continued to shine from the gravel in Marcus Mumford’s voice as he tries out an early version of “The Whistle is Blowing“, to Rhiannon Giddens’ trailing and fading vibrato in “Spanish Mary”.  

 Disney's Maleficent - Official Trailer

For blockbuster content, I turned to Disney’s “Maleficent”, a perfectly OK movie with great sound.  It’s easy to point to a scene, like the final battle with its fire, explosions, and huge orchestral score, and be impressed dynamic range of the Studio HD.  But, here again, it’s the audio detail present, even in more subtle cues, that continues to impress.  The way footsteps echo in a large empty room has a realism that really transports you to the cavernous hall.  When a chain is thrown, you would swear that you could count the links by sense of hearing alone.

 

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