This is my third pair of Teresonic speakers to review and I’ll tell you right now these people know how to build beautiful and musical cabinets for Lowther drivers. The little Magus with their stands have been my personal favorites so far of the mini-monitors I have heard, and they looked so great, too. The Integrum JLs with Lowther DX3 drivers are literally works of art, and sound incredible too. Now comes the new Ingenium Silver. They are tall, thin, and shapely examples of the cabinet maker’s art. They are just breathtaking to look at and listen to.
Not only have I had three different Teresonic cabinets; I have also had three different Lowther drivers. The little Magus had the, oh-so-articulate and sweet DX55s. The Integrum had the wonderfully versatile DX3s. The DX3s have plenty of that Lowther Magic, but they are a little warmer sounding than the DX4s. This warmth is a byproduct of the DX3s having slightly less speed and detail than the lighting fast DX4s that were in the Ingenium Silver. Which brings me to a good starting point for this review of the Ingenium Silver’s, their description.
The Ingenium Silver’s are 73” tall, 10” wide by 20” deep at the bass but 8” wide by 4” deep at the top. Their shape is that of a very gentle “S”. The Lowther drivers of your choice can be mounted in the opening a little over half way up the speaker’s front in the curve of the very gentle “S”. The transmission line opening is a 2” by 9” opening in the front at bass of the speaker. The three binding posts are about three and a half feet up the back of the speaker; that means you may need a little longer speaker wire than with some floor standers. The Ingenium’s come with gold-finished spikes that have adjustable tips so you can tighten the spike to the bottom of the speaker and still level them.
I mentioned that there were three binding posts; the explanation for this is the first of three things that have been changed with the release of the Teresonic Ingenium Silver‘s. You now have a choice of hooking up the speaker cables so that there is notch filter in use; or simply by changing your red cable to the other red binding post, you can connect directly off the drivers with nothing in between. This is a very useful addition to the speakers. I think most everyone will really appreciate this feature considering how long it takes to break in Lowther drivers. I even expect some will always use the filters, but I expect most people after a few months will decide to listen without them.
The other big change is the ability to use other Lowther drivers besides the DX3 and DX4. There is now a way to adjust the internal bracing that is at the back of the driver so that you can use the other 7” Lowther drivers. This means now that people who love the legendary Lowther PM2a’s or one of the others can now also use them in a Teresonic speaker cabinet.
The last change may seem small, but in designing the speaker they experimented with different sizes for the grooves that are cut into the inside of the wood so they can make them curve like they do. They decided to change the size of those grooves to a size they felt would offer a more natural sound. Now, since I have no way to really compare the Silver’s to the originals, I will have to take Mike’s word that this was indeed an improvement, although I am impressed that someone would even think to compare such a small thing.
“[Teresonic engineers] have come to believe that speaker cabinets should be built like musical instruments. They do not believe that speaker cabinets should be built as dead and damped as possible. They feel that a dead cabinet does not produce a natural and alive sound.”
Like I said in the Integrum review, Teresonic speakers, right down to the varnish, look more like musical instruments than high-end audio speakers. Mike Zivkovic says that the shape, woods, and even the varnishes are part of the Integrum design. I would be remiss if I did not share with you that Teresonic speakers are designed by good engineers who also have a lifelong love for music and audio. They have come to believe that speaker cabinets should be built like musical instruments. They do not believe that speaker cabinets should be built as dead and damped as possible. They feel that a dead cabinet does not produce a natural and alive sound. That is why their enclosures are built by fine musical instrument craftsmen and shaped somewhat like fine musical instruments. It is no easy task to make such beautiful curved cabinets.
The front of the Ingeniums have a beautiful Rosewood veneer while the sides are finished in a high gloss black and the backs have a textured black veneer. There is layer upon layer of a special varnish applied to the cabinet, and then it’s polished to a mirror like finish. There is no way around it: these speakers are just a work of art. They are much more than just beautiful cabinet work though. They are a result of a 20-year endeavor by real music lovers and engineers to make the most natural sounding speaker they could. Your choice of Lowther drivers can be mounted in what Teresonic calls an Enhanced Tapered Quarter Wave Tube (ETQWT). This special transmission line is a key design priority for Teresonic speakers. They say this is what enables the extremely clean and accurate midrange, the widest range of sound audible to our ears, along with extended low frequency response.
Upon first glance you would probably think they are simply a Voigt pipe, but there is more in this design then meets the eye. The sides of the cabinets are constructed from ¾ inch MDF. The front, rear, and top of the cabinets are curved and thus are built out of laminated layers of wood that built up to also ¾ of an inch thick. There are internal braces placed to achieve the desired cabinet resonances.
As most of you know, Lowther drivers can be forward sounding or as most often stated, they can have that “Lowther Shout”. Teresonic attempts to deal with this with the use of Helmholtz resonators which are designed for “picking out” particular frequencies from a complex sound. The resonators are purely acoustical, and responsible for the smooth response of Teresonic speakers without the veiling that notch filters can cause. These filters are based on the work of Herman L. F. von Helmholtz from His book, On the Sensations of Tone, published in 1862.
A Helmholtz resonator is a container of air with an open neck, or port. A volume of air in and near the open hole vibrates because of the ‘springiness’ of the air inside. A common example is an empty bottle: the air inside vibrates when you blow across the top. Teresonic loudspeaker uses the Helmholtz resonators to both smoothen out the ‘Lowther Shout’ and to boost the low frequency response. My understanding from talking with Mike is that there are two resonators in each speaker, with an additional third unit embedded in one of the two resonators. My ear tells me this works incredibly well after the speakers are broken in. Until they are properly broken in, you can use the notch filter option.
Lowther DX 4 drivers come with the ‘doorknob’ phase plug. To me the doorknob phase plug helps the speakers to disappear a little better, but in the end I prefer the bullet phase plug with its smoother sound and more precise imaging and detail.
I did almost all of my listening with the Wavac EC300B (all WE Tubes), Shindo Masseto preamp, Clearaudio Anniversary AMG Wood CMB turntable, Benz Ebony TR in a Clearaudio Satisfy Carbon Fiber tonearm. What digital listening I did was with the Slim Devices Transporter with and without the Audio Note DAC 5 Special I have in for review. All the cabling was with Teresonic’s cables. I did get to hear the speakers with Teresonic’s own 2a3 amp while I had it in for review and they sounded wonderful with it.
I feel I am much more knowledgeable of what things sound like with the Wavac than before. Therefore, by using it for the review, there wouldn’t be as much of a chance in telling you what the amp sounded like instead of the speakers.
Positioning speakers this size is never simple. I suggest you not put the spikes on until you know where they sound best. They sounded best in my room with the front face of the Lowther driver 36” from the wall behind the speakers, and 24” from the side walls. The centers of the speakers were approximately 90” apart, and my listening position was 10 feet away from the drivers measured like a triangle. I found they sounded best in my room with almost no toe-in.
The Listening Experience
Everyone who has listened to the Teresonic Ingenium Silver’s in my system has found them an unforgettable experience. It didn’t matter if it was the speaker’s co-designer, other speaker designers, audiophiles, music lovers, or someone who just wanted to know what those things were. The factors responsible for the magic could be that my Wavac EC300B just loves the load from the Lowther DX4s, or that the speakers just work wonderfully in my room. Regardless of what the major contributing factor was, these speakers were surely the icing on the cake for my system.
I had just finished the review of Teresonic’s Integrums when Warren of WGA showed up with the new, improved Ikonoklast Model 3HOs. I was really torn. There was so much I loved about both the Integrums and the new, greatly improved Ikonoklast (remember the Ikonoklast only costs $4k). Then, Mike Zivkovic, CEO of Teresonic calls and says he’s renting a van to bring over the brand new Teresonic Ingenium Silver’s. Well he shows up and we get them in and unpacked. We just set them where the Integrums had sounded best and holy cow! We had music!
I don’t mean they worked, I mean they combined all the best of both the Ikonoklast Model 3HOs and Teresonic’s own Integrums. Not only did they combine the best features, they were faster, fuller, and more relaxed all at the same time; but they are not about stuff like that. They play music like music. Guitars were in the room. You can easily tell the difference in one guitar from another. Likewise, play a piano recording and they let you enjoy the emotions of the performance. You would have to be a hardcore audiophile to think about things like detail, speed, soundstage, and stuff when listening to the Ingenium Silver’s. It’s much more likely you’ll want to talk about how can he play the drums like that, or what a voice. Listen to different Johnny Cash albums from different times in his life. I bet you talk about how the quality of his voice and guitar playing change with time instead of the audiophile concerns.
“They carry the tune, they open the window on the performance, and they are so full of life.”
They carry the tune, they open the window on the performance, and they are so full of life. What the Ingenium Silver’s do; is allow a musical event to come into your room in a completely natural, unforced way, without any perceived barrier between you and the performers. It’s kind of unnerving at first because it’s such a sensual, and emotional experience. Now don’t poo hoo that statement. I’m just saying the music and the performance overcomes analytical thought because it’s such an involving event through the Teresonic’s. They draw you in and take your mind away from the things that were occupying it.
You’ve got to hear a big pipe organ on these speakers. It is really a transforming experience. I love to hear a really big pipe organ played live, but I’ve most often found it to be such a let down in my home. I think we misunderstand what it takes to reproduce a pipe organ. Who cares if your system can play down into the low 20Hz range. That’s not what organ music is all about. It’s about air, lots of moving air. It’s about dynamics. It’s about hearing the hall the organ is being played in. Hearing an organ played well is an emotional, auditory, and tactile experience; and that’s exactly what I experience with the Ingenium Silver’s in my room.
With the Ingenium Silver’s and the DX4 drivers you experience all the textures and harmonics of live music. They let you hear how the decay of instruments and acoustical environments sound. The music blooms and feels much more like real music. The whole listening experience becomes about the sounds and feelings of the music in a way that transcends an electronic listening experience. Well, I know I need to talk about things like midrange and soundstage; so I will, but I bet you that’s not what you think about when you listen to these. So I’m going to do this review differently. I’m going to talk about how they sound on a few important instruments. So let’s get started.
Plucked Stringed Instruments
You know, guitars, basses, harps, and the like. Well, these speakers play these instruments more naturally than I have ever heard. Like the Shindo Cortese amp they are just incredible on plucked strings and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a blues guitar, a standup bass in a jazz group, or a harp in classical ensemble. On these instruments, the Ingenium Silver’s allow you first hear the leading edge – fast, quick, and dynamic. After that they allow you to hear the decay and air inside and around the instrument. I’m just trying to say that they reproduce acoustical and electric bass instruments with incredible impact as well as a fundamental rightness that I have seldom heard in any system.
The impact of the bass was similar to what I heard a few years back from a $24,000 pair of Audio Note AN/E (the ones with the Alnico magnets) being played with the big Goldmund amps. The big difference is that the bass of the Teresonic Ingenium’s have much more air with a more natural, realistic sound than the Audio Note did with the Goldmund. The amazing thing is how the Ingenium allows you to hear this air and warmth without even the slightest hint of looseness or hangover.
This incredible character of the sound is just as true when listening to a great guitar player. I have literally been mesmerized for hours later than I meant to stay up, whether it be Wes Montgomery, John Williams, Hendrix, Clapton or even Chet Atkins. The amazing thing is with each of their different instruments and styles they each sound so alive, natural and tonally correct. If you have to think in audiophile terms, I think three things are partially responsible for this rightness. First, is the speed of the micro-dynamics, this really allows an acoustical guitar to sing. Second, is the incredible dynamics you only get from a speaker that is over 100dB efficient. This allows you to really get into a great electric guitar riff. Then, third and maybe most important is the fact that the cabinet is not dead but alive and breathes life into the sound. This is something I have noticed on the Shindo Latours and the Audio Note speakers as well.
Every once in a while I get in the mood for some bluegrass and the Ingenium plays dulcimers, and dobros like nobody’s business. I grew up hearing a lot of bluegrass and it’s a music genre with lots of emotion and incredible micro-dynamics from all the different handmade small string instruments. The Ingenium enables you to really experience the soul of a bluegrass performance.
When listening to classical music, plucked strings come from all kind of stringed instruments. The same traits talked about above make for some of the most enjoyable classical listening sessions I can ever remember. Whether it’s a harpsichord or a harp, with the Ingenium, it just comes to life. You can enjoy the performance and not be distracted by a speaker that plays these large instruments but in an unrealistically small scale. Neither will you be disappointed that you can’t hear the natural reverb and decay of these instruments. Without those kinds of shortcomings that I had come to take for grant from recorded music, the musical event is so much more enjoyable.
Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Most Importantly Fiddles
To me, bowed strings are a big test for any speaker. The Ingenium played these strings with the sweetness and air of real life. For example one of my favorite recordings is King of the Cellist, Starker plays Kodaly. This is one of the most beautiful recordings of a cello I have ever heard. I find Starker’s playing to come across as quite intense, but full of feelings. When listening to this recording over the Ingenium, I found it very hard to take notes, so involving was the experience. The cello was warm, beautiful, and quick. The Ingenium, when paired with the Wavac EC300B, have that special ability to exhibited a great sense of breath and space not only around the instrument, but within the instrument as well. Most speakers, and for that matter, electronics that come in for review can’t pull that off.
Violins and violas sounded just as good as the cello, very sweet, never bright or strident. The violin did seem very intense and even aggressive, as it should on the Kodaly piece. Just like the Integrum, the emotions relayed as the bow is slowly pulled across the strings are very involving. They allow you to hear different layers and textures of the tones of the strings as you hear bow passes over each of them. Massed strings were full bodied and extended while never being abrasive. They were both powerful and relaxed.
Horns and Woodwinds
I love woodwinds. I just purchased several Pete Fountain records; he plays a great clarinet. I love to hear the great saxophone players of jazz. On the classical side, flutes and oboes really appeal to me. To enjoy woodwinds through your system, your speakers have to have great balance from the upper bass through the top-end. It is necessary to have more than balance though. These instruments move small amounts of air but this air is a very essential part of their sound. You can hear it when you listen to them live whether you notice it or not. If your system doesn’t let these fine details come through, the music will sound nice, but not lifelike. Then, there is the matter of coherency with woodwinds. It is often in the very area that crossover messes up the sound. It’s like trying to get one sound from two different drivers that the amp doesn’t even see as one.
I mention all this because the Teresonic Ingenium Silver can really let you hear woodwinds so that they sound like live music. They take full advantage of the Lowther DX4’s speed and the coherency of a single-driver speaker. I was most impressed with the flute on the Opus 3 test record, on most two- and three-way speakers the midrange driver plays most of the flute and the tweeter plays the air you hear from the musician blowing into the flute. This often results in a sound that is not very realistic, sometime it sounds like someone is playing a flute and there’s lots of tape hiss. This doesn’t happen with these speakers. The flute and the breath are obviously from one source and the breath is not exaggerated. I hope I’m letting you know how beautifully and lifelike they play these instruments.
Horns are even more demanding, both of the frequency range and dynamics. Most speakers and turntable systems struggle with horns. It is just difficult to get the explosive dynamics, the bite, and the body of a trumpet or cornet right without sounding edgy or just downright bright. The Ingenium can almost bring you out of your seat when a horn cuts in and at the same time never gets edgy or bright. Likewise, they bring big-band music to life without hurting your ears. They have the ability to get really loud in a very effortless way. In my experience, only very efficient speakers can do this.
Drums, Cymbals, and Percussion
It’s so hard to know if your system is accurate when playing drums. I remember one night at the Pops during intermission they changed the setup on the stage for the guest that was coming. This included a new drummer and drum set. The difference was between what we audiophiles would call slow, overdone bass with the first set and fast, tight bass with the second set. Now, I ask you, how would you know this if you weren’t there? Yet, there is something I can tell you about both drum sets and drummers. They carried the rhythm and pace of the music. I think that’s what we always have to consider when judging the ability of a system when it comes to drums. It’s easy to rob all the weight and substance from your system if you try to get every recording to have fast and tight bass, but it is with few exceptions that the drums shouldn’t convey real rhythm and pace.
The Ingenium Silver with the DX4 driver, combined with the Wavac or the Teresonic SET amps, allow drums to convey rhythm and pace better than I have ever heard in my system, and I can only think of one or two systems I have ever heard that could even match them in this area. In both rock and jazz, this is so important if your system is going to bring a performance to life. I like slam and dynamic rim shots as much as the next person and the Ingenium can produce both, but it is this ability to carry the rhythm and pace that is the difference between a very good speaker and a very lifelike one.
It has always amazed me at the symphony when the percussionist would strike the little triangle and you could so clearly hear it with all the other instruments of the symphony playing. This is what a system with great detail should do for you. It’s not that everything should have its own etched-out space, but that you can hear everything distinctly as part of the whole. The more easily you can hear these little percussion instruments the more natural an orchestra sounds. Now, in jazz, often the same instruments are played by the drummer and are much more forward in the performance. Again, a really lifelike system can do both of these if playing a well recorded performance. I found the Ingenium Silver to do this with ease.
Then, there are the cymbals. They can range in sound from a startling crash, to a very brassy bright sound, and a very silvery shimmer. All cymbals do not sound alike just like drums don’t, but speakers that play cymbals right will let you hear those differences with ease and naturalness. I though these speakers played cymbals in a very natural and revealing way.
Well let’s end with the two most important instruments: Pianos and the Human Voice
Pianos may tell us more about our system than any other single instrument. It plays over such a large frequency ranger. It can be powerful or soft. It reacts sonically to how hard or easy the pianist strikes the notes. It can sustain a note or the note can be quickly released. The piano is also capable of incredible dynamics.
The ability of the piano to cover such a large frequency range is what makes it show up as shortcomings in a speaker’s incoherency. The good news is that single-driver speakers are, by design, coherent, and escape this problem. The speed and great micro-dynamics of the Ingenium allow the versatility of the piano to be heard. The 102dB-plus efficiency allows us to enjoy the great dynamics of the piano. All in all, the combination of the Ingenium and the Clearaudio Anniversary Wood CMB Turntable played piano music more realistically than I ever dreamed possible.
The most important instrument for my system to get right is the human voice. With both of the other Teresonic speakers (Magus and Integrum) I talked about how articulate human voice was over them. The Ingenium with the DX4 drivers ups the ante on the others. They not only play vocals with transparency and articulation; they allow you to hear so much of the space and context of where the voice has been recorded. This allows voices to sound both very natural and very alive.
I think while I’m talking about voices, it may be a good time to also talk about the Ingenium’s ability to produce a believable soundstage.
I really like the way they soundstage and image. It’s more like a tall thin ribbon or electrostat than a conventional driver in a horn. They have such a clean and clear sound within the soundstage that it is so easy to locate sounds and to hear the perimeters of the soundstage. I think this is where the shape of the Ingeniums cabinet may be inherently better than the Integrums. Whatever the reason, most who listened to the Ingenium were taken aback by the naturalness and believability of the soundstage they produced in my room.
Conclusion And A Few Words Of Warning
I hesitate to say this, but it is the truth. So here it goes. The Teresonic Ingenium with the Lowther DX4 drivers have fundamentally changed how I listen to music. I know that’s quite a statement so let me explain by talking about a few of my favorite speakers.
When I owned stacked Advent’s I listened mostly to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Tchaikovsky, well you get the picture. When I owned Quad 57’s, I developed a taste for Cat Stevens, Carol King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jazz, and string quartets. I could go on and on and talk about how the different speakers I have owned have guided me to listen (no where near exclusively) to music that they really reproduced in the most life like and natural way. This is where the Ingenium’s has changed the way I listen to music. They have freed me. I can listen to Peggy Lee or Rosemary Clooney croon. I can listen to a solo acoustic guitar or I can crank up Led Zeppelin loud enough to shake the walls. I have not found a type of music they had to strain or just could not really reproduce naturally.
There are speakers whose bass goes deeper and whose top end is more extended. There are speakers that can produce a deeper and wider, but not more lifelike, soundstage. There are surely many good speakers that are more forgiving. In fact, if you like your system to be forgiving or slightly warmer than the DX4’s, I would go with the DX3’s. The DX4 drivers are speed demons. In my experience, they offer the ultimate word in transparency. These two things mean they are not very tolerant of bright, thin, or forward sounding gear. Don’t misunderstand: In no way are they bright, thin, or forward but they will sound that way if you feed them wrong.
The biggest warning of all, though, is simple. Don’t listen to them if you can’t afford them. You will want them. These are the most musically enjoyable speakers I have ever spent this much time with. I’m not saying they are the best speakers; there is no such thing. I am saying I have only heard one speaker anywhere I thought was this good; the Shindo Latour, and yes the Latour betters the Ingenium in some ways. The Latour also cost $30,000 more.
I want to thank both Mike’s at Teresonic for making a speaker that sounds so natural and alive and making it beautiful to look at as well. Dear reader: Forgive me for going gaga, but I genuinely do get this excited over great sound. At the end, I just couldn’t send them back.
Thank you for such in-depth review of our new Ingenium Silver speakers, the likes of which we never experienced in other reviews of any our products. It’s the first review we ever had that truly covers musical experiences so thoroughly, across the range of instruments and voices and across music genres. Very impressive indeed.
For a company that’s embracing natural music reproduction as the ultimate design goal, it was rather rewarding to see that delivered by our product and recognized by a reviewer that puts music above technology. As musicians and engineers, we at Teresonic share that passion for music and are very proud that the Ingenium Silver is the new standard in Jack’s reference system. Thank you Jack, for your amazing listening skills, and to Constantine, for enabling the review to happen.
The Teresonic team
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