Remember back to the time you heard your first high-end audio system? If you are like most of us, it was a magical experience. Suddenly, the musicians were there in the room with you, and you forgot you were listening to a recording. You were transported through time and space, and transported spiritually as well. Despite decades in high-end audio, and having heard what must be many hundreds of systems, that is the feeling I get each time I listen to the Sadurni Acoustics Staccato. And I am certainly not alone in feeling this way; amongst the numerous visitors to my room, the most common comments were to the effect of “the best I’ve ever heard,” and “I want these speakers.”
What is it about the Staccato that causes listeners to react in this way? Not surprisingly, it is not one thing but rather, a combination of traits; to wit: breath-taking dynamics, full-range sound, vanishingly low levels of distortion, superb coherence, and an overall lifelike quality. There are other speakers that have one or two of these characteristics, but never in my experience all of them, and certainly not to such a polished degree.
Let’s begin with dynamics, which is the trait most commonly associated with horn speakers. Dynamics are a topic about which I often write, because of its primary importance to music and because misinformation abounds. A musical signal–for example, that entering a speaker from an amplifier–is a rapidly changing voltage, wherein the voltage represents the volume. Simple as that. What is not simple is transducing that electrical signal to a mechanical one, which is the job of the speaker. A phono cartridge does just the opposite, converting a mechanical signal—from the grooves in the record—to an electrical signal. Changes in loudness are what are commonly called “dynamics.” If a speaker does not faithfully convert the rapidly changing voltages to rapidly changing volumes, then it has poor dynamics. A common misconception is that dynamics are important only when playing at very loud volumes, as is common with rock or symphonic music. While it is certainly true that such music places much higher demands on a speaker than say “a chick with guitar” type of music, the reality is that dynamics are always important. Sadly, poor dynamics are so common in modern audio systems that many audiophiles have never heard a truly dynamic system and as a result, have come to expect music to have truncated dynamics; in fact, systems that meet this expectation, often along with second order harmonic distortion, have even been given a moniker: “musical.” In point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth. A musical system is not one that is missing information, nor one that adds information, such as occurs with resonant cabinets, or other colorations; rather, a musical system is one that faithfully reproduces all the information on the recording. Nothing more, and nothing less. It should further be noted that a system with poor dynamics doesn’t just suffer from a lack of energy or excitement; it also lacks fine or inner detail, which results from the tiniest and often most rapid changes in volume. A system that cannot respond to very rapid changes, cannot reproduce detail. Because most speakers are deficient in this regard, many speaker designers intentionally introduce exaggerated peaks in the upper mids/lower trebles so as to give the appearance of detail. But let there be no mistake: That is not detail and while initially ear-catching, it is what often leads to listener fatigue. So, if you want a system that is truly detailed, it must be dynamic, which means it must have lightning-fast reflexes. Which brings us full circle back to the Sadurni Acoustics Staccato speakers.
The Staccatos are dynamic to the nth degree. As I will expand upon shortly, they are dynamic from the deepest bass to the highest highs. What is most apparent when hearing the Staccatos, especially for the first time, is that music—of any kind—is alive with energy. Especially noticeable are the rising phase of notes, which seem to burst forth in an explosive fashion, much as they do in live music. To hear this is to realize the degree to which most speakers compress dynamics. Because of the Stacccato’s ability to follow every nook and cranny and every musical nuance, the music’s subtlety and shading are presented in exquisite detail. It has become something of a cliché for reviewers to say that with some new component, they heard details they had never heard before, even in recordings with which they had intimate familiarity. Cliché or not, this is precisely what one experiences with the Staccatos, and not just on one or two recordings, but on virtually all of them. Moreover, the better the recording, the better the Staccatos can reveal what remains hidden with other speakers.
The Sadurni Acoustics Staccatos have the least coloration of any speaker I’ve heard. The midrange and treble don’t just have veils lifted; they are crystal clear like a mountain stream, almost spookily so. They are tonally neutral, and no one part sticks out. Voices in particular are crisp, clean, natural, and in the room with you, but equally so are horn and strings, and every other type of instrument. Each note is produced with crystal clarity, in its own physical space, and with a clear beginning and end, again much like the real thing. There are very few speakers that can compete with the Staccatos in this regard, and most don’t even come close.
The Staccatos are virtually devoid of horn “honk,” which I had previously assumed was an unavoidable consequence of the Tractrix expansion. I asked Jorge how it was that his horns lacked it, and he explained that the honk is not due to the Tractrix geometry per se but rather, is the result of resonances of the materials commonly used to construct horns, such as fiberglass and plastic. It is for this reason that Jorge goes to great lengths—and great expense—to build his horns from MDF.
The loudness of the Turbine and tweeter horns are individually adjustable via attenuators located on the back of the Turbine horn. In the case of “conventional” speakers, the issue of time alignment is somewhat controversial. Some speakers have sloped front baffles, so that the signal from the various drivers arrives at the same time; in my experience, there are many superb speakers that are not time aligned in this manner. As Jorge pointed out to me, whereas in conventional speakers the drivers are relatively close to one another in the vertical plane, in a large horn speaker such as the Staccato, the drivers are at a considerable distance from one another. For this reason, proper time-alignment is critical. To align the tweeter and turbine horns in relation to one another, and to the upper bass horn, one simply loosens a screw, and slides the horn(s) in their track. Once the optimal position has been identified, the screw is tightened. What took me by surprise was the difference in sound that resulted from even very small movements of the drivers with respect to one another. Once you get it right, the sound “locks in.” Though a somewhat tedious exercise, it is well worth the effort. In fact, I will go so far as to say that any horn speaker that is not time aligned either mechanically or electrically is severely compromised.
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