Review by Todd Warnke
I like two-way tower loudspeakers; they make a lot of sense to me. Unlike a mini, where part of the budget has to go to stands, with a tower the entire budget goes into the loudspeaker. Plus, a tower can use drivers of similar quality as a mini/stand combo while the larger cabinet of the tower allows for better bass extension than the mini. And, where a comparably priced three-way tower may spec with deeper bass than a two-way, that extra driver is not free and so cheaper drivers or cheaper construction have to used. That same three-way also has more parts in the crossover and so cheaper parts have to used there as well. From my viewpoint then, this gives a well-designed two-way tower a leg up on the competition, at least in the moderate price range. So when Soliloquy asked if I had an interest in the 6.2, a two-way tower for $2495, I immediately forwarded my shipping address.
What arrived at the Warnke Mountain Bike and Music Lodge was an elegant, maple finished, 42" tall, 9" wide, 13" deep, 90-pound loudspeaker. The 1.25" tweeter, a silk dome unit, is mounted above the 6.5" poly-fiber mid-woofer. Round back is a 2.5" port, mounted on the lower third of the cabinet, and just below that a pair of 5-way binding posts that allow bi-wiring, should you swing that way. The near floor level posts make dressing loudspeaker wires a tad more difficult, but also have high Non-Audiophile Significant Other acceptance factor as the wires, literally, lay low (rant mode on - the posts on the 6.2 are well designed and quite sturdy, but have a large diameter, such that I had to insert a single leg of the spade connectors on my reference Cardas Golden Cross loudspeaker wire through the bare wire hole on the posts. I wish someone would standardize these things! In fact, while we're standardizing, let's redesign the whole post to accept an O-ring type mount so that a loose wire can't cause a short - rant mode off).
The supplied loudspeaker grills, of the standard black mesh type, as is standard 'round here, were left in the loudspeaker boxes where they are easy to find when packing the review samples back up. The veneer is very nicely done and covers five sides since the bottom of the loudspeaker is attached to a metal plate, which, at the corners, has threaded spike inserts. The supplied spikes come with locking nuts and allow for easy leveling of the loudspeakers. The overall fit and finish of the 6.2 loudspeakers was very impressive and significantly beyond reasonable expectations for this price range.
The specs on the 6.2 are equally as impressive. The -3dB range for the 6.2 is 35 to 20,000 hertz, and this while presenting a 12 ohm nominal load. With an efficiency of 89 dB, this loudspeaker is as friendly as a hungry barn cat at milking time. As for setup, it was a breeze. The loudspeakers ended up 47" from the back wall, separated by 88" and toed ten degrees away from dead aim at my forehead. I sat about 102" back from the plane created by the front of the loudspeakers.
The arrival of the 6.2 was fortuitous for several reasons. First, I have been looking for an "affordable", near full-range loudspeaker to call my reference, and it certainly has the pedigree for that task. Second, right after the 6.2 landed, the Art Audio Gill Signature, an EL34 based, single-ended amp, also showed up in the wilds of Colorado (look for the full story on that next month). And third, right after the Art Audio appeared, so did the Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B monoblock amps (review of those beauties will show in a couple of months). My long-term listening room standard is also a single-ended amp, albeit of the transistor variety, the Blue Circle BC6, and while it has powered loudspeakers by Merlin, Dunlavy, Silverline, Greybeard, Triangle, Totem and Kharma without issue, every amp loves a good dance partner, and so even the Blue Circle was happy to waltz with the 6.2s at the other end of the loudspeaker wires.
I seldom put a new arrival in the main room right away, but since these loudspeakers had come to me directly from another reviewer (at the seriously cool Italian site TNT, home of the Flexy-Table equipment rack DIY project among other articles) they were subjected to a listening session almost right off the UPS truck. I'm glad I did so, as any time spent in the office system would have been a waste. After lashing them to the Blue Circle amp and giving them a couple of hours warm-up I popped Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth [MCA MCAD-10475] in the CD player and settled down with a cool beverage. After a trip through the revival meeting spectacular of Church, the resigned broken heart of She's Already Made Up Her Mind, and the tragi-comical history of Family Reserve, I knew I was listening to something very special indeed.
To begin with the 6.2s have tone. To me at least, one of the oddest things in high-end audio is that pro musicians will spend years searching out just the right instrument, one with perfect tone, and then, literally, mortgage the house and future to get it. Then we throw much of that tone away in a search for clarity and microscopic detail. Sure, wallowing in tone at the expense of clarity, detail and pace is a poor choice, but let's not ever forget that it all starts with tonal accuracy, and that tonal accuracy starts in the midband, and that's exactly where the 6.2 starts.
Take voices, for example. North Dakota, from the aforementioned Lovett disk, has a cameo from Rickie Lee Jones. With the Soliloquy loudspeakers, Rickie didn't just sound like a singer I know well, but rather like a life-long friend or perhaps a sister. Like someone whose voice I know intimately, who's every nuance and inflection is not a surprise but a personal reality. Switching to the J.J. Cale anthology, Any Way The Wind Blows [Mercury 314 532 901-2], the same rich tone, the same complete and accurate harmonic envelope, gave guitars complete individuality. Even better, J.J., who has one of those voices that any sweetening at all will blow the dust off of, but any thinning will drain the underlying tenderness away, was so spot on that the listening experience really was akin to listening to the disk for the first time. Finally, listening to Richard Thompson, whose albums I know quite well, and with whom I have talked with several times during his annual visits to the Denver/Boulder area for concert tours, revealed a voice so close to what I know it to be that, several times I sat stunned that a loudspeaker this affordable could sound so astoundingly real.
Moving up the scale, the tonal accuracy of the 6.2 was ever so slightly softened at the top of the range. Cymbals had all the burnished quality I favor but the leading edge was just a tad slighted. This is not to say that the top end was clouded or dull in any way. For example, Joe Fratus of Art Audio sent me an alternate rectifier tube for the Gill Signature amp, a Valve Art 274B, to take the place of the standard GE 5V4. The sonic differences were not subtle and the 6.2 showcased the top end changes as nicely as they did in the bass.
Speaking of which, the bottom end is full and reaches comfortably to the upper 30s with a slight emphasis in the 40 to 80 range. This gives the loudspeaker a warm and engaging personality but not cloyingly so. For example, male vocal never ventured into chesty warmth, nor did the bottom end of the piano jump out of the mix, rather most recordings took on an accessible and enjoyable character. Coupled with the treble response this allowed the 6.2 to maximize the pleasure of recordings without subjecting me to undo harshness.
Of course, even if it should be the first thing to get right, tone is not everything. Fortunately, the 6.2 also gets the second thing right, microdynamics - the subtle breath of life, the small changes in intensity that mark great musicians and performances. If a component has tone but lacks this the result is a primary color composition, lacking the shading and nuance that define the edges, the darkness and the emotional subtext. Play something like the Chet Baker soundtrack to "Let's Get Lost" [Novus 3054-2-N] to hear what I mean. By 1989 drugs had so mangled the voice of youthful innocence that what was left was not an aging youngster but something altogether different. The repertoire of the latter day Chet was nearly the same as the teen idol version, but the voice had the ability to communicate much more profoundly than the surface sheen of the younger man's. On a flat, micro-dynamically even loudspeaker this is lost as we find ourselves lost in the cracks of a voice gone bad, but when the soft pitch changes and intensity alterations flow unimpeded, Chet reveals the young man in his entirety - whole and even more vulnerable - lying, safe behind the aged and worn exterior.
While not an absolute on my personal hit list, the 6.2 also stages like a real champ. Depth, such as that on the opening track of one of my favorite test disks, the Belgian group I Fiamminghi doing 6 different versions of Arvo Part's Fratres [Telarc CD-80387], was simply superb. And those images remained stable at any volume. Width extended to and just slightly past the edges of the loudspeakers.
Detail and clarity are often but not always equal companions. The 6.2 is standard fair in this department, as both rise to similar measure. Detailing, such as the contrast between plucked string, vibrating string and resonant wood body on the Joe Pass disc, Songs For Ellen [Pablo 2310-955-2], were delineated with precision. Still, I've heard some loudspeakers in and around this price range, such as the Silverline SR17, that extract more detail, but none that so carefully balance detail with naturalness. In the same manner, I've heard loudspeakers that present a brighter lit, more see-through stage, but not without edging into hyper-reality.
Ok, so what's not to like? Well, while possessing nice bass punch, the 6.2 hits more like a welterweight than a heavyweight. You definitely feel it in the dynamic passages, but the knockout punch... the bone crusher, is not on everyday display. This is not to say that extension is lacking, as I am thoroughly impressed with the reach of the 6.2. Nor is it a criticism of the tonality of the bass, as that was rich and full. Rather, the full impact that, at least in my experience, can only be found in loudspeakers two or three times the price of the 6.2, is missing. Sure, an unfair comparison, but then again the skills of the 6.2 in other areas are such that it almost demands an unfair comparison.
Also, the conjunction of a slightly warm tonal balance and slightly soft dynamic kick results in a loudspeaker that at times and with certain combinations of gear tends towards the polite. This is not always a negative as I found that I could listen to early digital transfers of some my favorite '70s music for hours on end, and I might add, to great joy. Like I said, not an altogether bad thing. Of course there is a down side as sonic blockbusters had slightly reduced aural impact … wait, that might be the proverbial blessing in disguise. Who needs to listen to Jazz At The Pawnshop or Amanda McBroom anyway?
First Among Equals?
Of the loudspeakers I've reviewed over the last several years the Triangle Antal is probably the closest match in mission and price to the 6.2. It has since been replaced by a newer version, and it has been quite a while since I last heard it, but working from fleeting aural memory the French loudspeaker was more upfront, visceral and incisive than the 6.2, but also considerably more picky about ancillary gear and placement. Both had superb bass extension, and while both are noted for their compatibility with tube amps, the Antal seems to enliven your system presentation while the 6.2 is more of a blender, augmenting system strengths while slightly reducing the harsher aspects of system and recordings. Which is right is an entirely personal and system dependent decision. 'Twere I starting a system from scratch I would favor the 6.2 as it is the more forgiving and more immediately musical loudspeaker.
I was taken by surprise by the performance, build quality and compatibility of the Soliloquy 6.2 loudspeaker. For $2,495 USD it offers a skill set that embarrasses most of the competition. First, it has near full range extension, with a pleasing, musically accurate tonal balance. It also has the magic of micro-dynamic jump and involvement. Add in a build quality will satisfy the decorator in the house, and the ability to mate with high and low powered amp, tubes and transistors, and you have an amazing loudspeaker. Refined, balanced, composed and eminently musical, in it's price range it has my highest recommendation.
Price: $2,495 per pair
Soliloquy Loudspeaker Company