Next we wanted to listen to some good old fashioned classical music: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performing Vaughn William’s Concerto for oboe and Strings. We noticed the depth of the cello and bass strings – rich and full, well-spoken. But again, we heard a little lift in the low-midrange frequencies. This gives the speakers a welcome richness, but on the downside, it artificially pumps the recording up, giving it a lilting, operatic tenor voice, even if you’re listening to an alto.
We wanted to listen to some more modern stuff, so we picked up Wilco’s Hotel Yankee Foxtrot. A fun recording filled with all sorts of bells and whistles, literally. The opening track, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, opens with lots of electronic whiz panning back and forth across the sound stage. Some alarm clock- like glockenspiel then ensues, giving way to acoustic guitars and electric bass. There’s an incredible transient response on the acoustic guitars. What that means is that you get a very crisp, clean attack on the initial strum of the string. You can almost hear the finger on the string before it plucks it. This is due in large part to the planar magnetic tweeter. You get a very live and airy presentation, imbued with a rich (and relatively natural) midrange. The electric bass is right on. The Strata’s sub is incredible. It doesn’t have super low-end response, so for home theater you’ll want to invest in a larger powered sub. But we were very impressed with the way the 8″ sub integrated seamlessly with the rest of the speaker. It provided a pleasing and deep foundation, but never got in the way or became too overbearing.
A true test for a powered sub is acoustic bass, especially of the jazzy sort. As the bass “walks” (basically plays one note per beat in a scale-like fashion), the notes bridge the point at which the subwoofer and midrange driver meet. This is a great test because it really shows how well the bass and midrange are integrated. Hopefully, if all goes well, there’s balance, or put into measurable terms, equal volume, between the low, mid-low, and mid notes. Kenny Garrett’s Black Hope is a great album, and the tune Jackie and Bean Stock is a real burner. The acoustic bass is all over the place on this recording so we knew it would be a great test of the sub. When we played the track, we were amazed at how the bass sounded real, true, articulate AND musical. This subwoofer was performing a little bit of magic. It had plenty of depth and command, but remained elegant, almost polite. Most importantly, it was enjoyable to listen to.