Rarely does a speaker, small or large, come along that is as thoroughly satisfying as the Anima. True, at its price it faces competition in all weight classes. However, if you’re looking for a seriously intentioned speaker, musically substantial yet ultimately inconspicuous and with the magic of a pure disappearing act, the Anima is nothing less than irresistible.
The Sonics Argenta ($1500) is also a two-way reflex design, but in many ways an entirely different kettle of fish than the Anima. Nearly half its cost and significantly bigger, its spirit is defiantly retro. Just one look at its squareshouldered silhouette and front-porting screams “BBC control room, circa 1970.” At first, however, the Argenta sounded a bit strident and forward, especially after I’d spent some time luxuriating with the Anima. Quasi-nearfield on-axis listening emphasized its thinner tonal balance and a treble rise that flagrantly etched harmonic details. However, after a few more hours of playtime I tried firing the Argenta squarely forward. To my relief, this shift resulted in a tonal balance that was much closer to what I was getting with the Anima. Treble response smoothed appreciably. Unlike the depth of field the Anima creates, the Argenta’s perspective remains tilted toward a front-row listener. In true monitor style it presents music in great detail by delicately straddling the line between the neutral and the analytical. The soundstage won’t match the multi-layered dimensionality nor the liquid treble extension of the Anima, but once the speaker is properly set up, it’s consistent with that of well-executed two-ways in this range. The Argenta may lack the sheer magic of the Anima, but it’s much more forgiving of electronics and an easier speaker to drive with less power.
With a larger internal cabinet volume and woofer on tap, the Argenta seems to rely less on port-tuning than the Anima and arguably has more natural low end. Timbre resolution—as, for instance, on the triplet figures Stewart Copeland plays on the kick drum during the Police’s “King Of Pain” [A&M 45RPM]—is especially well resolved. The sounds associated with the mallet and the skin are superbly defined and even at “monitoring” levels brimming with character and lacking in perceivable port augmentation. There are still moments when hard piano transients or a soaring soprano can sound a bit glassy and brittle (e.g., “Chopin 6 Chants” from Horizons [EMI]). However, what you get in trade is greater dynamic headroom and the sense that this speaker is comfortable with all musical genres— from headbanger to Holst. TAS