My listening room is definitely looking a lot like a high-end audio store these days, especially with the present speaker lineup I have in there. In addition to my own B&W Nautilus 800Ds, the room sports Usher BE-20s, Daedalus Audio Ulysses and Coincident Speaker Technology Total Victory IVs. Talk about throwing a bunch of Alpha Dogs in the same dog run…
These Puppies Are Unique Pure Breeds
(They May Look Like The Same Dogs, But Don’t Be Fooled)
The Total Victory IVs are the second tier of Coincident’s lineup, right after the Pure Reference. It is a three-way design (less complicated than the four-way design of the Total Victory III) and its drivers are completely upgraded from those used in the TV III. It uses a planar, isodynamic ribbon tweeter with a radiating surface three times as large as the ribbon used in the TV II. This is the same tweeter used in the discontinued Total Reference. The midrange consists of two proprietary 7” paper treated cones that are located above and below the ribbon tweeter. The woofers (2 in each speaker) consist of a pair of 12” Nomex fiber cones that are side-firing and aligned diagonally in the lower half of the speaker cabinet. These are the same woofers that are now used in the Pure Reference.
Despite being called the Total Victory IV, in my mind the major changes from the TV III make the Total Victory IV a different alpha dog from the TV III, not just the next progression of the same old breed of puppies.
The Total Victory IV is tall at 52”, quite deep at 22”, but fairly narrow at 9”, and as a result, relatively unobtrusive for a large speaker that weighs in at 200 lbs. The frequency response is 22Hz ~ 27kHz, the impedance 10 ohms and the sensitivity 95 db @ 1m/1watt. It is designed to be usable with low power (3 watts) tube amps, but also has very high power-handling capabilities. I used them exclusively with high power solid-state amps: Plinius SA-201, Pass Labs X-600.5s and Electrocompaniet Nemos.
Initial Impression of These Puppies
(Keep ‘Em On A Leash Until They Learn To Behave!)
As has been my recent custom, I first moved the Total Victory IVs into my basement (secondary) listening room to break them in and to listen to them in a difficult (narrow room, ceramic tile floors, woodwork, etc.) environment. They were set up with the woofers pointed inward and the speakers slightly toed-in, pointing toward a listening position about 14 feet away.
The amp was the excellent Plinius SA-201, the preamp was the really excellent Plinius Tautoro, and the source was a Pioneer DV-38. The speaker cables were Shunyata Orions, the interconnect the Shunyata Orion, and the power cords for the Plinius components were the Walker Audio Silent Source Signatures (the DV-38 has a captive cord).
My first impression of the Total Victory IVs in my basement: “Wow! That’s fast”. Indeed, the TV IVs are the fastest speakers that I’ve heard in a long time. I hadn’t forgotten how quick ribbon tweeters can be, but it wasn’t just the top-end. The midrange had no trouble keeping up, and even the 12” woofers were blazing fast. I could tell this was going to be fun.
My basement listening room really restricts the soundstage and also tends to make equipment sound bright and/or analytical. Rich-sounding speakers tend to do the best in that room if the electronics are solid-state. The Total Victory IVs are definitely not rich or euphonic, which should not have surprised me. Even though I associate Coincident speakers with tube electronics, in retrospect it stands to reason that a 200 pound floor-standing speaker with 12” woofers, that is designed to be usable with 3-watt tube electronics, would have to be quick, airy and neutral, not slow or euphonic.
When played in my basement with the Plinius electronics, the Total Victory IVs were neutral, but on the “analytical” side of neutral. Of course, the room is also too narrow to test the soundstage. However, their detail, PRAT and dynamics were impeccable. I was simply limited with what I could do to enrich the sound in my basement listening room. The room is small/medium, but it is also narrow, which forced me to place the speakers so that the woofers fired inwards, toward each other. This produced very accurate bass, but did not convey much richness or slam to that bass. Bass performance was further hampered by the fact that I did not immediately install the supplied feet/spikes, which I only installed when I subsequently moved the TV IVs to my main listening room.
In retrospect, I should have installed them even though I wanted to avoid the hassle of taking the feet/spikes off when relocating the TV IVs to the main listening room. (Israel Blume of Coincident told me in advance that the feet/spikes were necessary for the best bass performance – you should always listen to the designer!).
As break-in progressed, the very obvious strengths of the Total Victory IVs manifested themselves: great speed, excellent PRAT, superb extension at the upper extremes and a very accurate and clean presentation. It seemed clear that these speakers would sound good mated with tubed electronics, and I now regret that I did not have any on hand for a comparison. However, I’m guessing that that was one of Israel Blume’s goals: to have a review done with hugely-powered solid-state electronics.
Transition to the Main Room
(Let’s Let These Puppies Run!)
The TV IVs are about the largest/heaviest speakers that I can move down and up my basement stairs (which have a 900 turn that is a challenge), so it took me a while to muster the attitude (and the additional manpower) needed to take them back up and install them in my main listening room. I was immediately rewarded when I did.
The Total Victory IVs bloomed in my main listening room, which is on the large/moderate side. I was able to position them nine feet apart with the woofers firing outwards, while still eight feet from the side walls. The soundstage really opened up. I also was able to experiment more broadly with toe-in, and determined that pointing the speakers to a position approximately two feet to the outside of my shoulders produced the best soundstage in my room.
Finally, I installed the feet/spikes. In addition to opening up the soundstage, these steps made the bass go much deeper, become more powerful and exhibit more richness than in my basement. My definite impression is that the Total Victory IV is at its best in a moderate to moderately-large room, and that you don’t need much bass absorption. This is not the case with several other speakers that I’ve auditioned, all of which needed extensive bass traps to lose their boom and sound their best.
I first connected the Total Victory IVs to the Pass X-600.5 monoblocks. The detail, microdynamics, PRAT and airy upper-end extension were very, very good. Delicate music was almost ethereal. However, the TV IV’s heavily damped woofers, which produced each bass note with phenomenal detail, dexterity and extension, lacked the type of body that I like on earthy bass passages, so I switched to the Electrocompaniet Nemo monoblocks. The difference was immediate and obvious, reminding me for the umpteenth time that system synergy trumps individual component excellence most of the time (much like a championship team can beat a team of allstars most of the time).
With the Nemos in place, the TV IVs performance stepped up another notch. They were how I imagined them with a high powered tube amp, completely devoid of bloated or slow bass, while delivering the rest of the musical spectrum with agility and grace.
I should note at this point that over the last few years I have determined that my room has significant standing waves that negatively affect bass performance. This will probably be news to many people who have been in the room and enjoyed the system’s bass performance. However, most simply don’t realize how insidious room anomalies can be. As a result, I eventually installed a digital room correction device, the Lyngdorf RP-1. Even though the Lyngdorf’s correction parameters indicated only a 10% correction to the room’s acoustics, the acoustic result was huge, with improvements that were not subtle. Listeners who have been in my room before and after room correction will attest to this.
One consequence of installing digital room correction was an adjustment in my standards relating to bass performance. What I used to think was great bass is now merely good bass. You may want to read my review of the Lyndorf RP-1 to understand its effects. In the case of my listening room, I had previously tamed most of the boom with bass traps, but did not realize the nulls I had until I added the Lyngdorf RP-1. Taming the nulls added a lot of body to the sound.
The problem is that speaker manufacturers have no choice but to assume good room acoustics. Since every room is different, they can’t know what will need correction. They must voice their speakers in ideal listening environments. This creates an insurmountable difficulty. Full, tight and deep bass in a top flight speaker may sound much boomier or much thinner, or even both simultaneously, after it is set up in a customer’s room. The customer will then either: a) think the bass is great because he doesn’t know any better (this actually happens a lot), or, b) he’ll tell others that the bass is OK, but not the “best”.
So, in any event, the last step I took in my evaluation of the Total Victory IV was to engage my Lyngdorf RP-1 digital room correction device. This is my usual listening mode, and I was absolutely thrilled with the result. Though the Total Victory IVs sounded good when driven by the Nemos without the Lyngdorf engaged, they were not as rich as I like my music, especially given the nulls my room produces. With room correction engaged, they sounded absolutely great. The PRAT, speed, dynamics, extension and transparency remained, but the bass now sounded tight but full. In fact, on a wide range of music I found that I liked the Coincident Total Victory IVs better in my room than the B&W 800Ds or the Usher BE-20s, both of which I regard as phenomenal speakers and both of which are more expensive (although the BE-20’s are not much more expensive). In fact, the TV IVs superior bass articulation revealed bass notes and hooks that had previously been indistinct. Ironically, this caused me to rethink my bass trap placement for my B&W 800Ds and resulted in an improvement to their sound.
My impression is that this speaker was made for lovers of warm-sounding (especially tubed) electronics. I did not know it when I received them, but it was an obvious conclusion from a few weeks of listening. This was further confirmed after I checked the Coincident website, which I did not read until I had listened for a few weeks. The Total Victory IV’ ability to handle high-power allows it to be used with any amp, but if you’re going to use solid-state equipment, I recommend you use an amp and preamp that are on the warm side. In my personal opinion, the TV IVs clearly sounded the best with the richest-sounding solid-state amps I have, which are the Nemos. The TV IVs also sounded the best with my MBL preamp, which is a rich-sounding solid state pre. The MBL-Electrocompaniet pre-power combo made the Total Victory IVs sound very natural.
Of course, you don’t need anywhere near the Nemo’s 600 watts per channel with these speakers, especially since they are said to maintain a flat 10 Ohms. They handled the high power with ease as they got very loud, but it was obvious that they would sound great on a tiny fraction of that power. This means that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on amplification. Contrast the Coincident TV IVs to the 800Ds, which have a 90dB sensitivity and impedance that can dip to 3.1 Ohms. The 800Ds just don’t sound their best without huge reserves of current.
As you might guess, the Total Victory IVs performed extremely well with small scale performances and with quiet passages. I was always able to turn the volume way up without encountering distortion, but I never felt the need to make the sound louder. The TV IVs were very good at conveying the music when played very quietly, something that I can’t always do with my B&W Nautilus 800Ds.
So How Do They Measure Up Against the “Big Dogs”?
[or, Can you Achieve Perfection at $15,000?]
Well, I can’t lay claim to having heard the best – I’d need to hear at least another dozen top speakers before I’d even consider such an evaluation. However, switching between the B&Ws, the Ushers and the Coincident Total Victory IVs was very interesting and educational, while also a major muscle-building exercise – the BE-20s are 295 pounds each, and the 800Ds are 275 each.
Listeners who dropped in from time to time liked all three speakers very much, even though the speakers all produced their own sound. The Coincident Total Victory IVs were the most neutral and transparent of the three. They had a terrific combination of speed and body that did not thicken the soundstage and left each performer clearly delineated in his own space. The treble was neither bright nor rolled off, with violins and cymbals reproduced impeccably. The transient speed of the midrange completely matched the lightning-quick treble and presented instruments and voices vary naturally.
I’m not sure if I was more surprised by the speed or the extension of the bass – I don’t think I’ve heard 12” woofers that were this damped and this quick, yet deep and fully integrated with the rest of the musical presentation. With room correction disengaged, which brought the rooms nulls back into play, the Coincident Total Victory IVs were the most “analytical” of the three, although I hardly ever listen anymore without the Lyngdorf. I believe that this is almost entirely because of their heavily-damped woofers, which were designed to remain lively even when used with a 3-watt triode amp.
In my opinion, the Total Victory IVs are a great high-end value for those with tube electronics, rich-sounding solid-state electronics or those who seek a neutral sound with more typical solid-state electronics. At $15,000.00 you can get a terrific set of speakers, save money by avoiding high-power amps, and focus your efforts on great-sounding electronics.
Now for the areas where the Total Victory IVs fall a bit short on the scale of “absolute perfection”. This is intended to be a comparison to the absolute best, cost-no-object (but not necessarily the most expensive) speakers that I have heard. Such speakers sound different from each other and with different equipment (based upon the designer’s goals), but will nonetheless will be at least a “9.5” in every department. All of these speakers are more expensive than the Coincident Total Victory IVs, some by very large margins, so this may not be a fair comparison. However, the comparison actually highlights the Total Victory IVs great performance. I’ll use a few specific examples.
At about 80% of the way through Santana’s “(Da Le) Taleo” on the CD Supernatural, the band hits a passage where the instruments explode into a common staccato theme. When this passage is played live, you hear the notes distinctly, but you also feel them like a staccato force in your chest – like being near a big fireworks display on the Fourth of July. Only two or three speakers that I have personally heard can replicate this type of dynamic explosion when playing this CD, which requires very fast, plus very rich, plus very powerful sound. I’ve demonstrated this quality to a few friends who are Santana fanatics, and they are very surprised to hear this in music that they heard dozens of times before. The TV IVs did not replicate that complete experience, making it to approximately the 95th percentile. It did not quite ratchet up the dynamics to this elusive level, so that this passage, though very powerful, does not clearly stand out from what precedes it.
In addition, “Love of My Life” (also from Supernatural) begins with a passage that is meant to be deep and rumbling. With the TV IVs you hear every note and tone clearly, but that deep-in-your-stomach rumble is absent. Similarly, Robert Lucas’ Luke and the Locomotives’ “Big Man Mambo” literally growls from top to bottom when played on the absolute best speakers. While you can hear this in the midrange and treble when played on the TV IVs, the upper bass doesn’t convey the same feel.
Mind you, these two less-than perfect qualities are very subtle, and I have only experienced them on a limited number of speakers that are substantially more expensive. Furthermore, these “shortcomings” don’t affect the Total Victory IV’s superior qualities, which are its excellent speed, PRAT, resolution, transparency, bass agility and overall dynamics. Might the Total Victory IVs convey this “nth” degree of performance with great tubed electronics?
After all, these speakers sound like they would mate perfectly with systems that are built around warm-sounding electronics. This is a very different approach than starting system-building with speakers or with the front-end. My current reference system was built upon the speakers first, the front-end second, and the amplification last. If I had started with amplification first, front-end second and speakers last, it is likely that I would not own the speakers I own today. I would be looking for something like the Coincident Total Victory IVs.
To illustrate this point, I’d like to relate an experience I had soon after moving the Coincidents into my main listening room. I had some friends over while the Coincident Total Victory IVs were in place, driven by the Nemos and MBL. They had been to my home before when I was playing my B&W Nautilus 800Ds, but with a Pass XO.2 preamp and the Pass X-600.5 monoblocks. They commented that the Total Victory IVs sounded very much like my B&Ws. They did not realize that the pre and power amps were different, and they assumed that the two very different speakers sounded similar. In reality, it was the combination of components that produced the “similar” sound.
Finally, I could not test this directly, but I had the impression that the TV IVs would have trouble filling a really big (larger than 25’ x 30’) room. I do not regard this as a shortcoming, but as a natural limitation of its intended design. In fact, the Coincident website implies that the Total Victory IVs were meant for medium size rooms. Accordingly, if you are looking to fill a really big room you may need to look at bigger speakers – perhaps Coincident’s Pure Reference.
Unless you are looking for a truly analytical presentation, the Coincident Total Victory IVs are terrific speakers to use with electronics that have body and warmth. This clearly means tubes, and also means warm solid-state components, such as Electrocompaniet, Clayton, MBL and those of a similar ilk. The great part is that you don’t have to spend any dollars on high power – all of your amplification dollars can go to the sound quality. If you already have a lot of power, it still will sound great with the Coincident Total Victory IVs. If your tastes run more to an analytical sound, just mate the Total Victory IVs to more neutral electronics.
So here I am again really enjoying speakers I have for review. You’re probably thinking that I’m just an industry shill who writes good reviews about everything I audition. That is not true (I definitely do not get paid for this). I just happen to be on a lucky streak of very good speakers. Even the cheapest of these speakers are in the upper echelon of product lines that are designed by well-respected designers. The Coincident Total Victory IVs are definitely in the upper echelon of performance – just not the upper echelon in price. Hopefully my luck will last.
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