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Legacy Audio Focus HD Review

Part II - Conclusion

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In pursuit of realistic playback, I rotated through source, power and cabling components over the months that I was conducting listening sessions with the Focus. Initially, I began with the Rega Saturn as my source, as it is a very fine slice of well-tempered digital sound. Along with the Saturn were the MIT AVt line of cables and the Dussun V8i (250wpc/8 ohms) integrated. As new components for review came in, I shifted towards time spent with the Ayon CD-1, McIntosh MA6300 (100wpc/8 ohms) integrated and Wire World’s Equinox speaker cables, Solstice IC’s and Electra power cords. The differences in these systems were instructive as to the sheer musicality of the Legacy speakers.

The Saturn, MIT and Dussun combo brought the roof down in terms of power, which the HD’s ate up. A very front and center presentation, the locus of sound was forward and intense; every instrument and voice had authority. The HD’s are able to project prodigious amounts of energy, which translated into very lifelike electricity in the music. I never had to reign in the HD’s for fear of pushing them too hard.

A yet higher-level of control and lush ease came from the second system in which every component upgraded the detail in the music. The McIntosh integrated was only slightly less powerful but more clean, especially in the bottom-end. The Wire World products were amazingly transparent, as swift and lithe as any cable I have ever heard. The Ayon CD-1, a tube player, has an openness that surpasses the Saturn. All three components together would have tested the outer limits of any average floor standing speaker, as they combined to yield a remarkably high degree of detail.

Yet, the HD’s fielded them with aplomb. I was sure that if I put too many components with too much laser-like precision into the mix the sound would spoil. But, it never happened. Just as moving up in pixel resolution for video does not fatigue the eyes but rather serves to improve the image, so also moving up in resolution sonically does not induce harshness to the ears. Sonically, the Focus was like moving from DVD to Blu-Ray.

Legacy Audio Focus HDMy favorite equipment pairing for these speakers was with the CD-1, fed through the Wire World cables, to the paired Pathos Classic One MkIII tube hybrid integrateds. The richness of the tubed cdp and tube hybrid integrateds was magical! The Classic Ones had noticeably more heft, and they buffered the precision just a bit. The HD’s are wonderfully sensitive at 96dB! It is a dream to have large towers with subwoofer capabilities, planar sensibilities and still be able to drive them with moderate amplification. With serious amplification, the HD’s show they are, similar to tornadoes, an F4 – not the biggest and “baddest” ever seen, but getting very close.

What would these speakers do if given some of the biggest and “baddest” amplification available? How would they propel a signal from a 1000Wpc amp? Could Jeff Rowland 501 class D mono amps take the music to Dynastic level?

For program material, I chose not to hear whispers in my right ear, but tons of Tympanis! I wanted the pomp and power of dynastic sound, and the HD’s delivered as they presented Synergy’s disc Impact.

The first track, “A Doll’s House Story” is anything but – it’s purely a percussion piece portraying a revolution which breaks out overnight in a toy department of a store! It is a sonic bloody coup, complete with the tympanis blasting out the percussive equivalent of bombs, which in turn gives way to the aftermath of war – the impression of toy’s bodies being broken from the conflict. Weird? Yes. It’s a piece on acoustic overload, and only a serious speaker can handle it in all its fortitude. I thrilled to the raw power and visceral impact of the drums, and could hear every scant tap of a cymbal.

Speaking of cymbals, Bill spends time listening to playback of Zildjian or Sabian cymbals. He listens for the “sh-shing” quality resulting from the shimmer after the initial strike. After my interview with him, I glued my ears to the Focus HD’s to see if they could pull it off. Oh, yeah, they sh-shone brilliantly in their ability to sh-shing!

Much more serene is Billy Smiley’s New Night, and his second track “Time Will Tell.” It sounds like it was recorded in a castle, the reverberation from his flugelhorn is so expansive. The horn doesn’t just die into the haziness of space.

One hears the echo bouncing around among the rafters like bats in a belfry. The size of the HD’s and the driver acreage adds depth and contour to the minutest details. Bill Dudleston is right, you can determine the quality of the treble from the shimmer of cymbals. In this piece, I can also tell it from the lag and clean reflection of the tambourine as it reflects off the hard surface of the recording environment. Bill learned that one does not want interfering secondary waves in the listener’s room. Since the HD’s are tuned in to focus at the listener’s position, what an incredible happenstance in the convergence of power and grace when hearing reflected waves on a recording! This speaker can recreate a recorded environment, and the principle players in it, as none others I have heard in its price class.

Returning again to the richest pairing of components with the HD’s, the CD-1, Pathos Classic Ones and the Wire World cables, I put on one of the most dynastic-sounding discs I own. Natural Wonders went bankrupt as a specialty retail store, but not before producing some very intriguing CD samplers. I cherish their 1997 disc as it has some of the most potent, energetic acoustic pieces in my collection. Almost every piece on it smacks of dynastic sound. One of my favorites is “Introduction/Sons of Somerled” by Steve McDonald. The piece is a Celtic tour de force, a tribute to blood soaked middle age Europe. Drums pound like horses hooves, and a dozen men’s voices thunder in the background as the tale of woe is sung. The HD’s are the first speaker to really do justice to the scale of this piece. In fact, the HD’s do justice to any material which requires both impressive scale and immediacy.

The intimacy of a speaker this size can be startling. India Aire’s “Heart of the Matter” on Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship (a very poor-sounding title for a very good-sounding singer) is exquisite in its literally breathtakingly close sound. She sings, “I got the call today; I knew that it would come,” followed by exhaling four times rhythmically, “hh… hh… hhhh… hh.” I delight that the most elusive aspects of the recording lost on many a fine speaker shines through.

Legacy Audio Focus HDLegacy makes components which are “Electro-Lux”, electronic and oh, so luxurious! I recall when I was young my grandparents had an Electrolux canister vacuum. It was sweet as far as vacuums go. It wasn’t some cheap Hoover upright, but a serious vacuum, with a canister as heavy as a missile, tough woven hoses and indelible metal attachments. It was still going strong last time I looked, more than thirty years running. It was built to perform a task well and to do so indefinitely. I’m guessing that it would still outperform a third of the plastic vacuums on the market today.

I see the Legacy Focus HD as a similar Electro-Lux device. It’s built not just to satisfy today, or even for the next six months to a year. It’s made to keep you happy indefinitely because it is a truly luxurious electro-mechanical device. Its parts are made to work long after the warranty is out. It’s going to be good looking and good sounding no matter what upgrades you make in source and amplification. It’s the kind of speaker that is a keeper, and at some point, becomes a personal treasure. And that’s why you’re not about to give it up easily. I am already treasuring them, and I’m not ready to give them up – they’re staying! Who knows – some day when I’m dead, one of my sons could inherit them. As a practicing Christian, I certainly do not wish to be irreverent. However, in a humorous moment this revised childhood prayer came to me:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
My Focus HD’s my sons can take!

But, not a minute before! Legacy Audio products are built to be just that – heirloom quality audio products that a discriminating audiophile would be proud to own.

Bill Dudleston has a gift for designing speakers, and he has given the audiophile community a gift in allowing a speaker the caliber of the Focus HD to be purchased at what I consider, for their performance, a bargain price. Though not inexpensive, they are fabulously loaded with value, and sonically may have no peers in their class. It is most encouraging to see authentic quality and tremendous value in manufacturing still alive in the U.S.A! It is easy to see, and hear, why Legacy Audio speakers are gaining in global popularity.

It’s a bit over the top to suggest mention of audio components in a will, but the point is intact. In an age when relationships are tenuous, family ties are poorly tethered, and where quality craftsmanship is too often subservient to the novelty of technological change and planned obsolescence, it’s refreshing and reassuring to discover a company with a long term perspective and no desire to compromise on its foundational values.

Legacy Audio – what a perfect name for a family owned company devoted to production of quality audio components – truly is a legacy in the making.

Manufacturer’s Comment:

In the urgency to get the speakers to Doug, we apparently didn’t install the new feet which have been standard for several months. I will install when I deliver the Helix. The original feet were designed to protect the cabinet in manufacturing

Doug’s review pair of the Focus HD’s was shipped with two pairs of ABS “rails strips” acting as footers. Legacy now ships every Focus HD with a set of four conical feet with threaded inserts, which may be utilized in three different ways.

Installing just the inserts allows the speaker to set on four 1.25-inch bushings for ease of movement, while attaching the solid rubber cones provides a stable, well damped base. Adding the oversized threaded washers onto the included chrome spikes, which seat into chrome coasters, accommodates leveling as needed. The feet appear as a vast improvement from the original design.

We love Doug’s choice of words on what a “dynastic” sound is. We are jumping in for the fun and here is our take on Doug’s dynastic dynamics: Vast yet intimate, formidable yet truthful, a potent and absolutely essential element of sonic realism… It is found in the slamming of the door, the wince from a well landed punch. Mastering engineer Steve Hoffman calls this intimate yet awesome element “the breath of life”.

We would also like to offer comment on Doug’s very perceptive observation on the Focus HD’s sheer size. Our testing indicates that if a loudspeaker has a well designed polar pattern, an optimized vertical acoustic center will fall between 39” and 52” above the floor depending on the distance from the loudspeaker. The advantages of getting the acoustic center above listener height are multiple: a larger sweet spot with reduced floor and furniture effects, a more natural perspective, plus a second row of listeners are much more readily accommodated.

Our thanks to Douglas Schroeder and Dagogo for the thoroughness demonstrated in fact gathering, careful sonic evaluation and fluent journalism. This is our first on-line review experience and it has been a pleasant adventure. We at Legacy appreciate the thoughtful consideration given to our product, and enjoyed the adventure.

Bill Dudleston
Legacy Audio

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