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Perlisten S7t tower speakers and D212s subwoofers Review

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From the author: In a bid to lessen the inordinate amount of time spent on development of reviews, I have determined to alter their format. For the past 14 years I have typically conducted technically inclined interviews and woven into the articles the information gleaned. Now, in order to save keystrokes and allow you to hear directly from the manufacturer, I will have less of that information infused into the article and attach the Interview. Thorough readers will gain a similar amount of insight as with my prior style of article. You will notice that in my Interview some questions are not answered, typically because the company feels the information is proprietary.


Perfect listening is what the audiophile wants. Perceptual listening is what Perlisten offers. There is a gap between them, but that gap has been closed to a great degree over the decades. Companies vary in their ability to reach listening perfection. Considering the variables and constraints placed upon manufacturing high-end two-channel audio systems, the conceptualization and execution of speakers and subwoofers by Perlisten are extraordinary.


Aesthetics and quality are important to high end listeners, and so is a good deal

I have always been able to find products that perform well and look good doing so. I have fond memories of the Pathos Classic One MkIII, the Vapor Audio Nimbus White, and the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers, which I am currently enjoying. I prefer to have both killer sound and killer looks. The Perlisten products have that very high end appearance that smacks of big money and premium sound. Thankfully, they do not disappoint in either respect.

Back when I was a Chintziphile, I thought I could get extreme sound on the cheap. I couldn’t, and you can’t. It’s a fool’s game to pile up budget gear in the wish that it will yield exceptional performance. Audio performance is on a spectrum and companies gain a reputation as typically offering a certain level of value to performance. The Chintziphile dismisses anything that is deemed expensive as having diminishing returns. If that applies to you, then you may as well stop reading because you likely will not appreciate what Perlisten Audio offers. Those who understand that a certain level of money expenditure is necessary to achieve superior sound, I adjure that Perlisten is giving exceptional value while seemingly cutting no corners in terms of quality. The experience of reviewing Perlisten products has the feel of handling premium wares versus ones that are merely good values.

The cabinet construction, selection of veneer, and detail work, such as the quality of the stands, fit, and finish are all first rate. This company is not a scheme to get rich by peddling pricey items with questionable engineering or build quality. Evidently, there has been a lot of time and some big money put into development of these products and, like Apple products, manufacturer costs have been reduced by building in China. If you hate that, buy holistically North American products. Given the novelty of the DPC-Array and the unique features of the D212s subwoofer, you will find that the average speakers will not have the technology discussed in this review. I am interested in high end performance; I support companies globally that bring it, and I do not engage in political proselytizing in reviews. Seemingly ever-escalating brinksmanship is one reason I ceased participation in online forums.

Regarding the S7t, I appreciate the HDF (High Density Fiberboard) and well-braced cabinets, as well as the high gloss finish. Also notable are the robust, long binding posts, which seem easier to torque than most. As to overall appearance, the grills — I hate grills of all sorts when it comes to sound quality, but see the interview responses — combined with the diminutive midrange complement make the speaker more visually appealing. I suspect many sets of Perlisten speakers will enter homes with partners picky about décor. The D212s subwoofer is uncommonly svelte, with an understated matte black finish, contoured edges, and racing vents. Actually, they are not racing vents, as they allow for air flow for the push-pull action of the 12” drivers.


Personal delivery

As Perlisten’s headquarters is located close enough to my home, following a favorable listening impression at AXPONA 2022 and discussion with Dan Roemer (CEO and Co-Founder) and Erik Weiderholtz, who is also a partner, these two delivered the first pair of S7t Speakers made and a pair of D212s to my home.

Dan and Erik wrestled with the oversized containers but found some relief due to the slider-footers built into the subwoofer boxes to ease moving the beautiful monsters. The partners unable to be in attendance are Lars Johansen (CSO) who brought his subwoofer development experience from M&K, Stephen Mascenik, who wrote the software for these very active subwoofers, and Peter Yang.

With their excellent build quality, excepting long-term assessment of operation, which is not possible in a short-term review, I put these Perlisten products further along the value to performance spectrum than the bulk of competitively priced products. At about $30K for the set, this is not budget audio, but is atypically upscale in every respect. This is a premium product and at a price point I would not expect for the result. I place the sonic signature, the quality and character, closer to the Magico and YG Acoustics, and Gamut speakers of the world, not Salk, Daedalus, or Audio Note speakers, as nice as they are.

The Perlisten experience brings a very tidy high-tech package with no muss, no fuss. That “no muss” applies to the sound as well. I was able to gauge the degree to which the D212s settings enhanced the blending of the subs by conveniently controlling them from my chair through the Perlisten software app. Switching between engaging and defeating the PEQ settings, more about them in the Interview answers, I was informed as to the contouring being done in addressing integration with the S7t and the room. The joining of the S7t and the D212s became more thorough as the PEQ settings were employed.

I did find similar tightness, or superior blending, of the D212s occurring with other speaker systems. As well as the S7t, I also used the Wharfedale Opus 2-M2 monitors, the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers, the Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition speakers, and the PureAudioProject Trio15 10” Coaxial Speakers. In every instance, considering the Whisper being used in passive crossover mode, not with the full Wavelet system, these passive speakers mated more tightly, seamlessly, than with the Legacy Audio XTREME XD. The configurability of the D212s allowed me to address each speaker’s idiosyncrasies via this subwoofer’s suite of controls, bringing a new best result with each speaker.

For that reason, I hold the D212s to be my favorite of these two products. That in no way shows lack of love for the S7t! It’s terrific and out competes all of these in terms of a pristine or crystalline presentation. It may be surprising to some, but among the others used in comparison, the speaker that is most like the S7t is the PureAudioProject Trio15 10” Coaxial! Before PureAudioProject fans become too excited, I have some moderating news. They won’t typically get the same effect as the S7t. That is because the design of the DPC-Array is similar to my Landscape Orientation setup but even more fantastically refined. In keeping with my propensity to explore, I have lofted the PAP Trio15 10” Coaxial speakers onto custom Sound Anchor stands to orient them horizontally, as I have with several other speakers. Even though the 10” is a coaxial driver, by orienting the bass drivers horizontally, they fill in the soundstage in that fashion. Users of the PAP Trio15 or Quintet15 Horn1 will capture a soundstage more akin to the S7t, however, these speakers do not have the information retrieval capabilities, the sheer cleanness with super-high resolution, that the S7t carries.

That is one of the secrets of the Perlisten experience that became evident to me early on. It’s essentially a Landscape Orientation speaker system. Some industry members laughed at me when I described or showed them how I was experimenting with Landscape Orientation, taking speakers like the Daedalus Ulysses, Magnepan .6, or various iterations of the PAP line, and lofting and rotating them to achieve the stretched soundstage. However, most were authentically interested or encouraging. Now look: Perlisten is using a waveguide to emphasize the horizontal dispersion — Landscape. It works extremely well and has a unique appeal. It successfully yields the properties of a Landscape Orientation system, but retains the appearance of a Portrait speaker system, and so will not offend the status quo or aesthetic sensibilities of family members.


Technical discussion

A Representative System:

Small Green Computer sonicTransporter and SONORE Signature Rendu SE with systemOptique (see also Update)

Clarity Cable Supernatural USB 1m

(In various configurations) COS Engineering D1 DAC + Pre-Amplifier; Exogal Comet with PLUS Power Supply; Eastern Electric Minimax Tube DAC Supreme

Legacy Audio i.V4 Ultra Amplifier (in various configurations from 2 channels bi-wired through to six channels)

All cabling Iconoclast Cables and all power cords Iconoclast BAV Power Cords

Speakers vary as discussed in article

In assessment of the S7t and D212s I built in excess of one dozen systems with four other speakers in comparison. I would sprinkle technical discussion of review products throughout the article under the old format, but with my format change henceforth I will confine exploration of most of them to this section.

Perlisten is all about arrays as the S7t sports two distinctly different arrays. The technical aspects of the DPC-Array and its relationship to the crossovers are covered with more detail in the separate interview article.

Perhaps the three 28mm drivers should be referred to individually as a tweeter and a pair of tweeter/mid drivers. Perlisten has kept such things as crossover points and slopes close to the vest, but I presume the operating range of the diminutive tweeter-sized flanking drivers is severely restricted in low output. Given the S7t’s frequency response starts falling off quickly at 80Hz, I wonder if its 7″ drivers rise higher up than normal into the upper midrange to facilitate coupling with the tiny tweet/mids. Extending the crossover region, or as Dan says, “overlapping bandwidths and varying slopes,” seemingly over larger ranges does not seem to harm the resolution and does seem to address weak points in crossovers between drivers. By that I’m referring to idiosyncrasies associated with steeper slopes.

Wouldn’t classic speaker design consider such things heresy, to result in a mess? I’ve never been shackled to convention in terms of speakers, so the novelty of odd-sized midrange drivers and extended crossover ranges does not particularly bother me, especially when I hear what it does. It sounds better overall than most conventionally designed speakers I have used. Score a point for Perlisten with their extended design and measurements to make such a system work!

With the exception of what I hear from the novel DPC-Array, the older I get the less I like line arrays and arrays in general. I’m starting to get quite sensitive to the multiplicity of wave launches from grouping identical drivers. I can see why some audiophiles are coherence diehards, being willing to accept shallower bass for a tighter wave launch. Thankfully, the DPC-Array displays very low evidence of the use of multiple drivers. The DPC-Array is tight enough and uses the same sized drivers such that driver coherence is a nonissue in their range.

As for the grouped 7” bass drivers, which appear conventional in terms of placement, when using the S7t alone one hears the multiplicity of drivers, which cannot be avoided given the design. In terms of bass extension and output Perlisten seeks to obtain the best anechoic response whereas many towers with larger woofers couple with the room more to produce an additional several dB in the lowest frequencies when measured as in-room response. Perlisten’s towers are not designed to emphasize that room-coupled, reinforced bass. Often such reinforced bass is not all that pretty and can mask much of the midrange and treble performance. That is not a danger with the S7t when used in a reasonable sized room. My room is 13’x23’x7.5’ and the speakers sat respectively at a point centered at 6’ 8” from the front wall and 37” from the side walls. The distance between them was 78”, and they were 8’3” from the listening seat. The speakers were toed in to be aligned a bit wide of the ears. This is one of several configurations I use with various speakers. I do not have only one setup and positioning for speakers, but move them about liberally with varying systems, sometimes moving them as much as 2’ from their original position. In the case of the S7t I did not move them about as they were optimized with the subwoofers at this location.

Typically, a company will advertise their bass performance with specs showing the lowest frequency at a standard measurement. An example would be the Salk Audio SS 9.5 Speakers, which measure on the low end 25Hz +/-3dB. That is a very good specification, and it is a very good speaker. It differs from the Perlisten in that it is not specifically designed to be integrated with smart subs as is the case with the S7t.

In the design of the S7t Perlisten does not seek to impress chiefly with the output of the bass as much as with the accuracy of the bass. A speaker such as the Salk SS 9.5 will have more output in the 25Hz region than the S7t. The bass reflex or acoustic suspension variants of the S7t’s setup allow for this specification: Bass Reflex 22-37Hz -10dB and Acoustic Suspension 32-37Hz -10dB. The speaker achieves a very flat frequency curve, but with lessening output in the bass as the frequency falls. This is not a failing but a fact of the use of smaller bass drivers. I suspect if the measurement was represented more traditionally the bottom bass specification might be close to 35Hz +/-3dB.

The real-world application of this distinction is that one will not get the identical output in the lower frequencies from the S7t that would be expected with a speaker that measured 25Hz +/-3dB. The S7t will yield exceptionally flat, clean sound even into the bass region, but it will not give the presence, the output of a speaker that measures tighter in the lower frequencies. Dan succinctly describes the effect as tuneful with extension, but without the added blossom due to room interaction. Think of it as akin to the bass of a panel speaker, which is acclaimed for accuracy more than deep frequency response and output. The quality of the bass, as opposed to overwhelming output, is the priority.

Having used the S7t independently of the subs, the cleanness and tautness of its bass is captivating. One does not miss the additional output in the lowest frequencies unless accustomed to much larger speakers that measure more tightly at lower frequencies. In terms of the experience of hearing the S7t’s bass, I believe an accurate assessment would be that it splits the difference between a larger dynamic speaker with larger bass drivers, such as 10” or 12” woofers on the one hand, and a monitor with perhaps a 5” woofer on the other hand.

That brings us to the intent of Perlisten to couple the S7t with Perlisten subwoofers. The S7t is an immensely gratifying speaker on its own, and those with space limitations especially would find it an exceptional performer. As it will not excite the room boundaries or create the bass reinforcement associated typically with speakers having higher output in the lower frequencies, it will sound exceptionally clean in a smaller space but with more output and presence than the bulk of bookshelf speakers. It is capable of being played quite loud without a sense of strain, but the real solution to a grander experience is to mate it with Perlisten subs. If you can, you need to get the subs. The S7t is gratifying, but the truly glorious experience with Perlisten is the combination of DPC-Array and the subwoofer(s). As I describe in relation to other speakers, the D212s transformed the S7t into a truly formidable speaker system.

When I was young, I spent time flying Estes model rockets. A smallish rocket with an A engine was impressive — that is until I discovered what a rocket with a B engine could do. If I recall correctly, the sizes of engines reached the E designation, which powered the largest of the standard kit rockets. Consider adding a pair of the D212s to be like moving the speaker system from a C engine to an E engine. It will blast off and previous performance of the S7t sans subs will seem only remotely powerful both in extension and output. If you want the ultimate Perlisten performance, you do not neglect the subwoofer.

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