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Roksan Caspian FR-5 Floorstanding Speaker Review

Sandy Greene relates how the British Roksan's $3,495 Caspian FR-5 loudspeakers helped him understand his dad's music

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Roksan's $3,495 Caspian FR-5 loudspeakersThe Roksan Caspian FR-5 Speakers are tall, elegant beauties. Taller than both my Meadowlark Kestrel II’s and the Verity Audio Taminos, which are also in for review. With their high-gloss deep lacquer on black, and with their straightforward geometry, they are also very confident-looking speakers. Clean and simple, they look like a fine piece of furniture. Photos will not do these beauties justice.

Each speaker’s driver complement is two 130mm magnetically shielded, coated paper woofers below a 25mm coated fabric dome, magnetically shielded ferro fluid-cooled tweeter. The speakers are bi-wireable with very high-quality binding posts low on the rear of the cabinets. They also come with very beefy spikes, and rubber backed brass pucks to receive the spikes.

They have a black panty-hose like wrapped MDF speaker grill that I preferred leaving on (panty hose leaving on? What did he say?). (I’ll tell your wife. –Ed) The grills help the speakers sit back visually and tame the high-end just the very slightest bit, which to me was a little more natural. The grills did not impede on the sound staging at all… that by the way, was fantastic!

The Caspian speaker line is meant to excel both in 2-channel music and as part of a complimentary surround sound suite, as there is a matching center channel speaker available.

The documentation that came with the speakers mentioned that with their single rear firing bass port, the speakers could be placed close to the rear walls for improved bass output. I found that they needed no help in that area. They played deeper than my Kestrels; and the Kestrels are not bad in the bass department at all. I had always been pleased with that aspect of my Kestrels; but ya know, you sometimes don’t know what you’re missing until you experience it. And that was the case with the bass output.

The Caspian FR-5’s went deep but in a very tight, controlled and tuneful manner. They never sounded exaggerated or bloated in the bass. Over all, I’d say the sound was very coherent and the only reason I single out the bass output here is because it was noticeably more robust compared to my Kestrels, and that the extra bass output makes a big difference in music appreciation as described below.

I have had the Roksan Caspian FR-5’s for a couple of months and I have put them through their paces with a couple of variations in my system. I ran them from my Simaudio Moon i5 integrated amplifier. I ran them with the Monarchy Audio SM-70pro amplifier and M24 preamp/DAC that I reviewed previously. And I ran them off my tubed Rogue Stereo 90 amplifier and Magnum 99 preamplifier. With the Rogue amplification, I used both my Eastern Electric Minimax CD player and the Original CD-A8T CD player that was also in for review.

Of all these combinations, I found the Rogue amplification with the Original CD-A8T via its solid-state output (the Original CD player has both tubed and solid-state outputs) to be the best combination for these speakers. I was not surprised as I really liked — no — loved, the Roksan Caspian CD player with Rogue amplification. And I feel that the Original CD player, using its solid-state outputs, has a similar feel. I have to get the Caspian CD player back into my system, because of all the CD players I have had, my heart only lingers for the Caspian. But I digress.

By comparison, I much preferred the EE MiniMax CD player with same amplification with the Verity Taminos. It’s that system synergy thing we all work towards. But I digress again.

Have you heard the latest Sufjan Stevens album, Illinoise? It’s a 22-track, fully instrumental-ed indie pop album that is intimate and impressive and everything in-between. His previous album was titled Michigan, and his goal is to record an album for each of our 50 states. Hope he has as equally a talented sibling or child to carry on with this project… although he is still young, 48 more albums, especially of this caliber, will be quite a feat to accomplish in one lifetime. The songs on Ilinoise (that’s the spelling, like the state and “noise” combined) are grand and sweeping, dynamic and emotional. They are great little folk stories mixed with bits of state history and trivia. The Roksan Caspian FR-5 as fronted by the Rogue amplification and Original CD player wakes this music up and brings the stories right into your living room.

I am starting to listen to more and more classical music these days. Not quite sure why. Maybe I miss my dad. He died about 3 years ago, and I am starting to clean out my parent’s house as my mom prepares to move. I have taken his record collection, which was about 1/2 classical, 1/3 folk and 1/3 show/crooner. Whenever I listen to his albums, I think about what he might have been doing and what he was feeling when he listened to them.

I would have to say, that the extra bit of low-end extension from the Caspian FR-5’s helps draw me into his classical music. That low-end ambience is critical and the Caspian has a great way of portraying it… tuneful and tight and at the same time, bold. The Caspain’s portrayal of pace and rhythm, with their slightly more upfront midrange, also helps the music drive along.

Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with pianist Van Cliburn and conductor Kiril Kondrashin, I can hear the emotional beauty that must have engrossed my father and transported him to another place and time. The story goes that Van Cliburn, a tall Texan, won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War (1958) with his playing of this concerto. The recording followed immediately thereafter, and Cliburn became an international classical music celebrity.

So I’ve written a little comparing the low-end of the Caspian FR-5’s to my Meadowlark Kestrel II’s. It was very obvious when listening to classical music. I felt the increased low-end helped make the Sufjan Stevens album more enjoyable as well. Comparing against the sound of the Kestrel, I found the Caspian to be a little more direct, a little more upfront.

I love the treble from the Kestrel II’s. And the Caspian FR-5 also have a nice top-end; but I think the Kestrel’s excel in that category. The Kestrel’s are just a little more musical in the midrange and the treble. The Kestrel’s cost about $2k when new and are no longer available or supported. The Roksan Caspian FR-5’s cost around $3.5k and are brand new from Roksan. Roksan is a company that is not going anywhere any time soon. They are one of the most respected and trusted brands in audio and that is important. Overall, to sum up the comparison, I would give the nod to the Caspian’s even for twice the price of the Kestrel’s. The Caspian FR-5’s offer more and, with that, they make more music with more elegance.

The Roksan Caspain FR-5’s have a wonderful blend of detail, texture, impact and ambience. As I mentioned above, their bass range extends pretty low, allowing a great deal of low-end ambience to be relayed. Their treble is smooth and natural. The midrange is also very natural and believable. I found the midrange to be a little pronounced, which in my opinion helped to bring any music played through the FR-5 alive and active in my room. Overall, I felt the speakers have a very live sound with a fantastic mix of coherence and soundscaping.

In non-audiophile terms, the Roksan Caspian FR-5 enhanced the illusion of space, a space you would imagine the music being generated in. Their music portrayal was transparent. You don’t feel as if you are listening to speakers… again enhancing the illusion. Overall, I felt these speakers to be very comforting to have and for the readers, to potentially own. They are beautiful and visually elegant, and look and feel like they are worth the cost.

They also sound like they are worth the expense as they have the ability to handle any style of music and create the illusion that you are there, listening and feeling the music, with the performers in real time, whenever and wherever that time and place may have been. In this world of two-channel audio, if you can put together a system that creates this illusion, your money, in my opinion, is money well spent.

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