The CLS-12 sub is a very good one, with plenty of depth, articulacy, and power to spare. You can wade right in to bombastic low frequency effects without any fears that the sub will wilt (unless you like to listen at well and truly cuckoo volume levels). Indeed, if I were writing this review purely about the subwoofer, I’d be tempted to describe it in pretty glowing terms. But with this said, let me acknowledge that the CLS-12 is almost but not quite perfectly matched with the rest of the system in terms of bass textures, details, and transient speed.
The reason why this is so is that the Classico models in general, and the CL-3 in particular, exhibit rare clarity, speed, and coherency in the lower midrange, upper bass, and mid bass regions. Though the CLS-12 is a ballsy and full-blooded woofer, it does sound like a woofer, meaning that in subtle ways it sounds a hair slower to respond than the CL-3s do (the woofer’s sonic “reflexes” aren’t quite as cat-quick as those of the main speakers). This isn’t something most listeners would even notice, but is something sonic perfectionists might note if they paid close attention.
In talks with Anthony Gallo, Gallo acknowledged that in certain respects the 10-inch version of the Classico sub (the CLS-10, $699) might offer superior voice matching with the rest of the Classico system, but with the tradeoff that it is less powerful (600-watt amp vs. 1000-watt amp) and does not go quite as low. Fans of big, full-bodied LFE moments in action films will probably be best served with the 12-incher, while perfectionist, music-first listeners might consider the 10-inch model instead.
The film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo builds suspense through an unfolding series of mysteries within mysteries that journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and research assistant/hacker/girlfriend Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) seem almost but not quite able to solve. Tension ratchets up as the investigation proceeds, where the harder Blomkvist and Salander press for answers, the more the truths they seek seem to slip just beyond their grasp. To signal the mysterious, foreboding quality of their search, the sound designer uses a recurrent motif where we hear an eerie, gamelan-like theme with chime/gong-like sounds that fall primarily in the midrange, but occasionally plunge much lower down. Whenever the mysterious theme appears, it is as if the soundtrack is acknowledging, “things have are about to take a turn for the weird.” I was impressed by the clarity, subtlety, and realism with which the Classico system reproduced this theme, and was particularly impressed by the way the system continued to reproduced conventional sound effects (for example, the sound of fingertips on computer keyboards, or notebook pages being turned) while still allowing the mystery theme to hover ominously (and three-dimensionally) above the entire soundstage.
While The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo rarely resorts to outright dynamic bombast in the way that some action films do, it definitely has its share of big dramatic moments. One such moment involves the chase scene where the just-discovered serial killer Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgård) flees from his home in a big SUV while Lisbeth Salander follows in hot pursuit on her motorcycle. The sound designer let’s us hear the passing SUV and then motorcycle from without (as if from about 75 – 100 feet away) and then—to add dramatic punch—gives us a first-person taste of the sound of the bike as if from Salander’s point of view. Speaking as a motorcyclist, I found the first-person sound of the bike at speed to be astonishingly realistic and believable. It wasn’t simply a case of the sound becoming louder as heard from the seat of the bike (although loudness did increase considerably), but that the whole tonality of the engine sounds changed, becoming much more urgent and aggressive-sounding. The little details were accurate, too, such as the way the exhaust note changed as it reflected off the steel framework of a bridge Salander was crossing over, or the way wind noise mixed with engine noises to convey the heat of the chase. Details like these are precisely what I have in mind when I say that this system is “dynamically expressive.”