Verity Audio Otello Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Founded in 1995, Verity Audio hit the ground running in 1996 with the debut of their first speaker, the Parsifal. The Parsifal has gone through at least four iterations since its introduction, retaining the qualities that made the original so special. The speaker was known for a smooth treble that tended oh so slightly toward the dark side of neutral, a midrange that was transparent but is somewhat laid-back and bass that has weight and meaningful extension. They were a speaker that was never in your face but drew you into the music in a very relaxed and enjoyable way. Since Parsifal's introduction, Bruno Bouchard and Julien Pelchat, the company owners and designers have not rested on their laurels but have expanded the line to include seven speakers ranging from the entry-level Finn to an all-out assault on the state of the art, the Monsalvat. Each speaker in the line carries the same overall sonic signature of the Parsifal, just in different degrees of refinement and extension.
Now I must admit that I have been in love with the Parsifal since I was introduced to the speaker in the late 1990s by the late Lars Fredell, audiophile extraordinaire, and reviewer for Ultimate Audio magazine. For many of us "old guys," Lars was a legend in audio circles due in large part to his knowledge of the hobby as well as his friendship with other audiophile journalists. Lars, and his delightful Swedish accent, always seemed to be at the center of these stories. After I got to know Lars, he became a great source of ways to improve my system as well as a great source of music that should be in the rotation in my system.
As I said, I have wanted to listen to the speakers in my system ever since Lars introduced them to me at one of the NYC-based shows. Sadly, I was never able to try a pair before my unexpected "retirement" from reviewing due to a stroke I suffered in 2008. Fortunately, Steven R. Rochlin of Enjoy the Music.com kept after me to come back to writing simply because it would be fun and stimulate my brain. I agreed as long as I could, at some point, review a pair of Verity's.
Steven put me in touch with the delightful Paul Manos of High Fidelity Services, the USA importer for Verity. After discussions with Paul and Julien Pelchat, I received a pair of the Otello Loudspeaker for review. The Otello's are part of Verity's mainline and fall right below the Parsifal Anniversary in the lineup. Replacing the Leonore in 2017, the Otello offered redesigned woofers allowing for smoother bass response, changes in the crossover network to allow for more balanced midrange reproduction, and a redesign of the front baffle to allow for better midrange tweeter alignment.
The tweeter is the latest innovation in ring-domed tweeter designs from S.B. Acoustics. In ring-dome tweeters, the voice coil activates the cone from its center rather than from the edges, as in most tweeter designs. The benefits of using a domed tweeter of this design are that it offers exceptional linearity and a smooth decay throughout its operating bandwidth, which extends from 4.5kHz to over 50kHz. One surprising thing that you will notice about the Otello's tweeter is that it has a dimple in the middle. Don't panic when you see it, that is how they designed it. Depending upon the complexity of the musical passage, a tweeter's dome can move more than 20,000 times per second.
This movement can generate significant G-Forces, which can cause the center of the dome to collapse. To remedy the issue, various types of cone material such as metal to combat the problem. However, many of these alternatives, such as the metal dome, resonate and store energy. The tweeter, as used in the Otello, addresses and solves these issues. According to Pelchat, the tweeter is also very close in performance to their in-house manufactured ribbon tweeter found in the company's top offerings.
The custom 5" midrange driver manufactured by Audio Technology covers the frequency range from around 200Hz to 4.5kHz. Audio Technology is a Danish company owned by Per Skaaning, the son of the company founder, EjvindSkaaning. Skaaning was well known in the audio world as he founded ScanSpeak and is a co-founder of Dynaudio. The midrange driver is a revised version of the unit used in the Lohengrin, one of Verity's two flagship models. Its unique geometry, mineral-filled polypropylene cone, is optimized for maximum cone rigidity, low cone storage, and smooth breakup.
The lower cabinet contains two highly accurate 7" woofers wired in parallel, increasing the resistance of the drivers to 4 Ohms from 8 Ohms. By doing this, Verity was able to make the speakers compatible with a broader range of amplifiers. The woofers are a one-half inch larger than the woofers used in Otello's predecessor lowering the speaker's bottom end to 30Hz from 35Hz. The lower cabinet features a pair of Furutech high-quality binding posts.
The speaker presents a nominal 8 Ohm load that drops to 3.8 Ohms at its minimum, indicating that it should be an ideal candidate for most amplifiers. In the course of the review, I used both the Audio Research VT-80SE and the amazing Audio Research Reference 160 monoblocks with the Otello's. They did not care which amp was upstream; they just did their thing.
The Otello also includes Verity's Mechanical & Airborne Sound Isolation System (MASI). The MASI System is an insulating base that diffuses vibrations between the loudspeaker and the floor while, at the same time, it absorbs excess sound waves. The base performs two functions by preventing sound waves from bouncing off the floor. It also minimizes excessive vibrations from the cabinet and the floor, particularly when the speakers are played at high volumes. The MASI System consists of a plate made with a material with a high level of acoustical transmission loss sandwiched between two sheets of elastomers that control low-frequency vibrations.
The resulting composite is assembled within a thin shell and sits between the bottom of the loudspeaker cabinet and a set of four round feet. The impetus of the design of the MASI System was to create an optimal performance that is consistent regardless of the type of floor (e.g., hardwood vs. carpet). Spikes, for example, impart a difference in sound depending on the type of floor that they are on. An additional benefit of the base systems feet is they allow for easy movement of the speakers via carefully sliding them vs. having to pick up spiked speakers. As a reviewer, this is beneficial, given that I am continually moving speakers around my listening room.
Each layer plays an integral role in the design of the MASI. The high acoustical transmission loss layer captures excess noise and dissipates it as heat. At the same time, the elastomer layers absorb and neutralize excess energy produced by the speaker, especially at high listening levels. Excess energy in a speaker can result in an image that is smeared or unfocused.
Setup And Listening
The Otello's and all of the Verity lines are a feast for the eyes when finished in a hardwood veneer. I was thoroughly impressed with the Makore veneer on the Parsifals so many years ago, and I was happy that the quality has not diminished over the years. I am particularly impressed that you cannot locate a seam on the cabinets anywhere. I also was impressed when I discovered through my conversations with Verity that they keep two versions of the raw cabinets with slight differences in their dimensions to account for the differences in thickness between the high gloss paint and veneers. That is attention to detail.
Paul Manos, Verity's USA representative, was kind enough to send me recommendations for placement in my 22' x 19' x 9' listening room. The speakers ended up 15' from the listening chair, about four feet from the rear woofer's center to the front wall and about four feet from the center of the rear woofer to the side walls. It is my understanding that Verity's require no or very little toe-in for optimal imaging. In all of my listening, I found that no toe-in was needed.
Straight out of the box with no break-in other than what occurred at the factory, these speakers were terrific. Greeting me was a wall of sound that extended well beyond the outside of the speakers. The soundstage was genuinely three dimensional with pinpoint imaging. The treble was crisp, clear, and extended with no smearing or shrillness with a midrange that was supple, rich, and accurate. Bass was tight, tuneful, and very extended. The amount of bass was integrated with the treble and midrange. All were beautifully blended. My wife's only comment was, "these things are amazing. I know you are going to hate sending these back at the end of the review period." All I could do was nod in agreement, thinking what was going to happen as they broke in. How could they get any better?
As the speaker broke in, things just got better. The speakers never called attention to themselves. They just disappeared and let the music just flow. As I played album after album, there were many times when I noticed I had not written down any comments as I just became emotionally involved with the music.
While the Otello's don't call attention to themselves, one cannot help but notice that tonally the speakers are dead nuts on, as we folks in the precision shooting world like to say. Voices and instruments sounded real. My old audio buddy, Frank Peraino, introduced me to an album many moons ago that is worthy of being a reference for everyone. The album is Chris Jones' Roadhouses & Automobiles [Stockfish Records, SFR357.6027.2]. "The Last Fallen Leaf" is an acoustic guitar that is soul-stirring in its presentation. The Otello's realistically reproduced the tones, decay, and harmonics of Jones' guitar. They were not slow or thin. If the Otello's were bright, the lowest notes tend to sound lean and steely, while colored speakers tend to make them sound like they are coming from a bass guitar. With the Otello's, the guitar sounded like you would expect an acoustic guitar to sound.
Enjoying The Immersive Soundscape
Each instrument occupies a defined space with the front soundstage. As the piece continues, the music slowly fades until we only the organ playing pianissimo remains. Soprano Nancy Keith's comes in, and her voice helps fill the space. Once the men's and women's choirs join her, we get an accurate picture of the size of the hall's immersive sound. As the choruses and the organ swell, the music expands and gloriously fills the chamber. The Otello's presented an immersive listening experience that wrapped around the speakers and broadened into my room, giving me the impression that I was seated orchestra center in Meyerson Hall.
While the upper frequencies were airy and extended, they were also sweet and delicate. On the Analog Productions 45rpm reissue of Bill Evans' Sunday At The Village Vanguard [Analog Productions/Riverside Records, AJAZ 9376], Evans' playing was quick and light but did not give up any body. I also loved how the Otello's treated cymbals. The cymbals on Buddy Rich's Buddy Rich And His Sextet - Blues Caravan [Verve, V6-8425] have the right amount of sheen and extension without sounding metallic, clangy or glassy. They got them just right.
The midrange of Otello's is one of its many strengths. The Otello's have one of the best midranges I have ever heard on any speakers I have auditioned. This speaker is stunning on strings. I have been doing quite a lot of listening to the marvelous recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E-Minor, Op. 85 [Sebastian Music, Tidal] by Sara Sant'Ambrogio and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Her playing was passionately capturing the range of emotions Elgar was experiencing 1919 after the war. Her cello never sounded hard, swollen, or sugary but rather vibrant and true to life. The initial attack, followed by the natural decay, was magnificent.
I have never used a speaker with rear-firing woofers before, and I was concerned that the bass might be a bit boomy due to the lack of treatments on the wall behind the speakers. Following the guidance of Paul Manos regarding the placement of the speakers in my room, you are rewarded with bass that was articulate, full-bodied, and rich. One of Verity's claims is that their speakers' interaction with the boundaries of the room provides all the low distortion bass you could ever want. An album I have listened to in several years is Bela Fleck & The Flecktones' Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo [Warner Brothers Records, 9 26562-2]. This album was my introduction to the Blues, and I fell in love with them. On the track of the same name, you get a picture of a big ole hippopotamus lumbering around your room; The Otellos gave you a very real three dimensional of that lovable hippo as he is stumbling around your room stepping on your records and remotes.
Verity Audio's Otello is a speaker for the music lover who is not interested in colorations. These are the most natural-sounding loudspeakers to ever grace my listening room. They never call attention to themselves; they just let the music flow. It is a joy to listen to music with these floorstanders.
Well done, Bruno and Julien! Oh yeah, Julie, I figured out what I would feel at the end of the review period. Very happy. Why because I sent Paul a check.