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Salk Sound SongTower speakers Review

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I first heard a pair of Salk Sound speakers at the California Audio Show a number of years ago and I was impressed with the presentation. The Salk Sound website indicates that several of their models utilize transmission line designs, an approach that can give extended bass of high quality. I have an old pair of ESS Translinear speakers from the 1970s also using a transmission line design, which I refurbished and still occasionally use. The best part of those ESS speakers is their Kef B-139 woofers and the ability of those woofers to take advantage of the extended bass. The worst part is the speakers are very big and very heavy. They also sound dated when you compare them to more modern designs. Sadly, you don’t see this design much anymore due to the high cost to manufacture.

Salk Sound owner and chief designer Jim Salk keeps its speakers affordable by selling them factory direct. The company offers a very large selection of speaker models. My Dagogo colleague, Doug Schroeder, recently reviewed the Salk SS9.5 ($10,595 in standard finish) from Salk’s SS Series. The Salk Song Series of models, of which there are many, range in price from $1,495 to $5,995 per pair (in standard finish). About half of the Song Series models feature transmission-line designs. The SongTower model, the subject of this review, is from that series and comes in at $2,295 per pair in standard finish.

I became interested in the Salk Sound speakers featuring the transmission line design at the same time Doug was contacting Jim for his review project. Jim suggested the SongTower floorstanding speakers, which would be compatible with a variety of components in different rooms in my house. I felt this would work out nicely.

The very first thing I noticed upon unboxing the SongTowers was their beautiful gloss white finish, which blended into my family room like no other pair of speakers. These had that modern art deco look that I think would enhance the decor of any room, even if you like your speakers placed all the way into the room. I normally do not factor the look of speakers in my purchase decisions, but the design of these speakers is stunning, and they are available in a very wide range of finishes and colors. These definitely look like a pair of handcrafted custom made speakers. Now I understand why they take so long to build: they don’t come off an assembly line.

Salk Sound includes great instructions to make setup fairly easy. You even get a speaker birth certificate signed by everyone involved. Since we just put in brand new hardwood flooring in our home, I did not use the spikes that are included. Also, since the previous wall to wall carpet is gone, the room is now much more lively and perhaps not as ideal as a listening room. After experimenting with placement, the Salks ended up about 80” apart and about 24” inches away from the front wall. I angled the speakers slightly towards me. The SongTowers come as a matched left-right pair, and I placed them with the tweeters on the inside.

After my recent review of the Rotel A14MKII integrated amplifier, I kept the unit so that I could hear it with the SongTower speakers. I felt that this would be the perfect amplifier for the Salks because it worked so well with all of my other speakers. The turntable used is the outstanding Thorens TD-147 combined with the Nagaoka MP-110 phono cartridge. This and the AR “The AR Turntable” are my favorite turntables.

I was curious to hear a more updated transmission line design compared to my ESS Translinear speakers. I particularly wanted to hear if it could approach the deep extended bass that I get with the Translinears. I first played various jazz albums, including some that I played in other reviews. This included Hiroshima, Gerry Mulligan, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. I also played some classical albums, starting with my favorite composer, Aaron Copland, in addition to a variety of other classical music, such as Borodin, Handel and Mozart. A number of my fellow audiophiles love rock music, so I also played some General Public, Police, and Steely Dan. The first thing I noticed was that the SongTowers had precise imaging and a very large soundstage that made the music sound very natural. The SongTowers had a much more refined midrange and more extended highs compared to my 50–year-old ESS Translinear speakers. I found it interesting that the SongTowers with their smaller woofers went as deep as my Translinears and the bass was much more refined. It could be that the SongTowers removed some of the bloated bass of the Translinears. This may also be the outstanding engineering with this Salk transmission line design.

Jim Salk included a CD sampler, which I used to start my CD listening session. I was listening to Jazz Kaleidoscope Sampler (Reference Recordings RR-910) and  I noticed the front to back layering of sound that separates a well-made pair of speakers from a mass market pair of speakers. The SongTowers are so refined and natural sounding, no matter what genre of music. The SongTowers and the Rotel A14MKII were such a great combination, that I was not motivated to try any other components. I just wanted to sit and listen to the music. When I closed my eyes, I felt the speakers disappearing and I was transported to a live concert.

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