Day The First ….
I’d been ecstatically happy with the Leema Xavier speakers I bought on an “eBay whim” a few months previously, and this year’s hifi budget allocated by swmbo (aka Lindsey, my wife) was prett
y much depleted anyway. So I was looking forward to the rest of the year settled down with the hi
ghly musical Xaviers. Life could be worse.
But a few days ago we came into a bit of an inheritance and swmbo allocated a top-up to the 2009 h
budget (what a fine lass she is!). What’s a box-swapper to do? …. I hoofed it on to eBay pronto, that’s what, to
see what was cookin’!
I saw these on auction with a couple of days to go …. did a bit of on-line research, and promptly fell in lust with them. A query to the seller resulted in the offer of personal delivery for £40 petrol money – you cannot be more reasonable than that.
So, here they are, arrived around noon yesterday.
Big cabinet – 51 inches high, 18 wide but only 11 deep. 12 inch woofer and the legendary EMIM ribbon midrange and EMIT high frequency units.
The bass unit crossover is set at 300Hz.
They weigh-in at 53Kg each.
I’ll forego detailed sonic description for now, as after a few hours listening and positional tweaking they simply seemed to be the best speakers I have ever heard. More realistic vocals I have not heard from a speaker. Maybe it’s just a “1st day pride of ownership” thing. We’ll see.
They sound just fine with the covers in place, so that’s the way they are in my room.
Amplification …. from what I can glean these are power hungry monsters that go down to 2 ohms. I have a choice of 2 amps in-house – a pair of Cary 572-3SE SET valve monoblocks at 10-15 wpc, and a Bel Canto eVo4 class D amp at 400wpc. So far I have only plucked up the courage to use the Bel Canto!
Initial setup. The speakers only have very small pads on the base, no real feet or spikes as such, so I just plunked them down on my carpet and left it at that. Initial impressions on the first disc I played (Loreena McKennitt “The Visit”) were “Wow, stunningly clear vocals”. All was working AOK, so a large number of £20 notes exchanged hands and I was left on my own with them.
A very different sound to what I was used to, but generally exc
ellent. Over the course of an hour or so it became evident that there was a very serious ‘fly in the ointment’ – a thickness and ‘twangy’ bloom in the lower mids / upper bass. “Oh-oh”. Probably a colouration from the 12 inch woofer being asked to go too high? Oh Poo. Everything else sounded so good ….
It was a lovely day, so me and the missus went out for a cycle for a couple of hours. My mind pondering speaker placement issues and possible tweaks to overcome this colouration as I laboured up & down the forest tracks …. What to do? …. check the woofer bolts for tightness, change the toe-in angle, raise the speakers a bit to see if it was some sort of contact resonance from my floorboards …. ?
Got back, showered,and placed each speaker on three 1-inch high metal cones. Bingo! Colouration gone. Phew! – that’s a BIG relief. I couldn’t have lived with that colouration. They may be a bit bass-heavy still, in the American fashion, but the bass is of the lean & mean variety – no unwanted bloom or waffle at all. I would guess the bass level can be modified by raising them a bit further and the usual speaker-placement waltz. Loads of time for that – at the moment I am just stunned at having the best speaker I have ever heard actually in my living room! Now you cannot ask for much more than that.
I shall return with more sonic impressions and system tweaks as I settle down with the things.
Day The Tenth or So ….
To my surprise, when I finally plucked up the courage to try the low-powered Cary SET monoblocks I found that they worked remarkably well, and gave a more explicit and controlled sound than the big Bel Canto eV
o4 class-D amp, which is powerful but a tad laid back.
Over the last week a Krell 400xi integrated amp has arrived. Fancy that! The extra power control and tautness from the Krell have really tightened things up nicely. It’s a good match.
OK – I’ve been playing music and films over these for a week or more, and been Krell-driven for a fair part of that, so perhaps it is time for a more level-headed review of my thoughts so far.
The best speaker I’ve ever heard in every way?
A few comparisons are in order against 3 speakers that have graced my living room over the past year or so ….
Martin Logan CLS2z (full range electrostatics) have more resolution across the band, especially in the upper and mid-bass. But the MLs are forwardly balanced and don’t have the extension and bass rez of the RS2.5. I think the rez comes close in the mid and top, but would have to give the MLs the nod.
Leema Xavier and Audio Physic Virgo 2 (these are very similar to each other in many ways) have cleaner mid-bass and low bass – in comparison there is a slight upper bass honk to the RS2.5, although this improved with the coming of the Krell amp and is much less noticeable on LP than on CD. The RS2.5 go deeper though and with more heft than either of the other speakers.
The RS2.5 don’t do the 3D imaging thing like the Virgos either. The RS2.5 imaging is more recessed behind the speakers, but still darn good (I’m an imaging kind of listener – a very high priority for me).
The Xaviers fairly easily beats the Virgo2 in midrange rez, but don’t come very near the standard of the RS2.5.
So from the midrange up I have not really heard a better speaker, those EMIM and EMIT mid and high frequency ribbon drivers are marvellous – neutral, detailed and able to deliver high levels with ease; a smidgeon less rez than my old ML CLSs, but they more than make up for that for me with more control and authority across the bass and mids.
I can imagine a more modern woofer being superior, there is a smidgeon of “bextrene-quack” to be heard in the upper bass, but the better the control delivered by the driving amplifier the less this gets. It’s also very noticeable that this colouration reduces further when the speakers are driven at realistic levels, rather than just cruising along at lower levels.
In summary – a very fine vintage speaker that is a bit fussy about the amplifier used, but that gives modern audiophile equivalents more than a run for their money!
Author – Jerry
Manufacturer – Infinity
Type – Hybrid Ribbon Loudspeaker.
12″ (30cm) Infinity-Watkins dual Drive Woofer.
Two EMIM (Electromagnetic Induction Midrange) drivers in dipole configuration.
Two EMIT (Electromagnetic Induction Tweeters) one facing rearward.
Crossover – 300Hz (adjustable with electronic crossover) and 5000hz..
Dimensions (HWD) – 129 x 46 x 28.
Weight – 53kg each.