|Don't Knock it 'til you try it
Acoustics makes its foray into the budget priced marketplace
wiith the introdction of the new Sonogram loudspeakers.
I first heard these speakers in April at the Festival Du
Son, the Montreal Consumer Electronics Show — and I
was impressed. Eli Gershman, principal designer of this family-owned
business, has been designing loudspeakers for about 18 years.
He has introduced new designs almost yearly, resulting in
a line of loudspeakers that ranges from a mere $2,700 to
a whopping $35,000. It is apparent to me that, in the process,
Gershman has established a signature sound, that is consistently
audible in each of the company’s models. The Sonograms
under review are brand new and the lowest priced pair of
speakers in the Gershman line-up.
Most Gershman Acoustics speakers traditionally feature a
pyramidal enclosure. However, this new model is a traditional
six-sided box design with a twist — a pyramid within
the speaker enclosure. Available in a number of different
veneers, these speakers may look like the many thousands
of models currently on the market, but there are a number
interesting and cost saving innovations. They do not look
as modern as Gershman’s other models, but they will
blend well with almost all interior designs.
I have auditioned and reviewed almost every Gershman loudspeaker (starting with
their first model GAP) and while I expected better than average performance,
I did not expect anything near the caliber achieved in high-end designs. I first
connected the Gershmans to the EAR amplifier reviewed in this issue and began
listening to one of my favourite CDs, Carmen McRae’s Fine and Mellow (Concord
SACD 1005-6). Imagine my amazement when I heard Miss McRae focused right in front
of me, centre stage, backed, quite literally, by bass, guitar, Hammond B3, drums — all
in their particular spaces. I would have expect this in some six, seven, or more
thousand dollar designs, but certainly not in loudspeakers priced under 3ks.
The Sonogram’s imaging capability is on par with the GAP design which retails
for more than 8Ks. However, this isn’t the speakers’ only accomplishment
as I quickly noticed tonal equlibrity second to none. Not one tone seemed out
of symmetry and all segments of the frequency range integrated effortlessly.
That’s bass with convincing whack, and quick reaction to every note below
50Hz. I played back some bass-dominated Jimmy Smith CDs and admired the speakers’ ability
to deliver a sense of reality along with impressive bass control. However, bass
resolution alone does not a speaker make as most of the music takes place in
the midrange areas which is devided into upper and lower mids. In the Sonograms,
midrange — and I mean all of it — is transparent and unconstrained.
When I connected the Musical Fidelity kW 500 integrated amplifier (reviewed in
Vol. 17, No.1) I was once again impressed. This system provided plenty of emotional
warmth with great bass resolution, outstanding midrange clarity and excellent
high frequeny extension. With the Simaudio Moon electronics — the W-8 amp,
P-8 preamp and Andromeda CD player (all reviewed in Vol. 17, No. 3) — the
Sonograms reacted like any high-end loudspeakers — clearly reflecting the
sonic charateristics of the electronics used to drive them. There is nothing
to nitpick and only one thing to do; sit back and enjoy the music.
Having lived with the speakers for a couple of months convinced
me that they can do everything a good loudspeaker ought to do
|Synopsis & Commentary
Try as I might, I can’t get worked up about low-end loudspeakers, which
is why some folks call me an audio snob. This may be so, but my experience with
inexpensive designs has clearly revealed many shortcomings with which the consumer
is asked to live. I will admit that many budget-priced goods provide good value,
but there will be compromises. Personally, I can live with some concessions (as
I have learned to be tolerant), but I can’t live with too many shortcomings.
Having lived with the speakers for a couple of months convinced me that they
can do everything a good loudspeaker ought to do. That’s excellent bass,
transparent midrange, great high frequency extension, superbly delineate image
and last, but not least, their ability to reflect quality amplifier performance.
So, one may ask the very good question: why spend more on a pair of loudspeakers?
The answer isn’t cut and dry as one must first understand the difference
between good vs. accomplished performance; or to put it in a more comprehensible
manner, the difference between a natural, great voice and one which has been
trained for a number of years.
I should, perhaps, be ashamed to admit that, had I not listen to Sonograms in
Montreal, I might have dismissed them as being too cheap. Needless to say, I
am glad I paid attention to these speakers and, in the process, discovered an
astounding sonic achievements in a reasonably priced loudspeaker design. I must
say that the Gershman Sonograms are likely one of the industry’s best buys.
If you are in the market, be sure to listen to a pair of Sonograms before you
make a decision.
The Sonograms are three-way ported
designs with an eight-inch woofer made to Gershman specs, a
three-inch Israeli-made Morel midrange driver and a one-inch
Vifa soft-dome tweeter. The speakers have a square port located
at the bottom rear which runs the width of the enclosure. What’s
interesting and a bit unconventional is the cabinet construction.
There is a secondary triangular enclosure inside the cabinet,
constructed to prohibit internal reflections. Gershman opted
for single wiring in this design, but suggests the use of premium
speaker cables. The frequency respond is quoted from 25Hz to
20kHz (+2, -3dB); efficiency is 90dB watt/metre; impedance
is 8 ohms.