As a check on both surround sound imaging quality and on tonal purity and timbral accuracy, I put on an old favorite: the track “Country Roads” from Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland’s Like Minds [Concord Jazz, multichannel SACD]. What is, to me at least, endlessly fascinating about this recording is that it captures an intimate and free wheeling jazz performance, not from the point of view of the audience (as in most recordings), but from the point of view of the band—as if you have been privileged to stand among the players onstage as they perform. As you might expect, this recording perspective places unusual demands on surround sound systems in that there are moments in the track where systems are called upon to produce focused, vivid sonic images that appear directly to the side of the listener! Happily, the Classico system passed this test with flying colors—performance I attribute in part to clarity, transient speed, and ultra-wide dispersion of the Gallo CDT 3 tweeters. Even though the TPV/Playback listening room is relatively deep and narrow, the Classico rig had not trouble at all in showing performers in action directly to the left or right of the main listening chair. The effect is really quite impressive in its seamlessness.
I was also pleased with the purity with which the Classico system reproduced the full-bodied, 3D voices of each instrument. In particular, the crisp attack and slow, ringing decay of notes from Burton’s vibraphones was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was impressed with the low, powerful, and yet well-focused and tautly controlled sound of Holland’s acoustic bass. But in terms of timbral purity, one real centerpiece of the song is the unmistakable voice of Metheny’s jazz guitar. On first listen the tone of the guitar sounds much like honey tastes and feels on the tongue—warm, rich, and full of flavors and sub-flavors. But in spite of this honey-like tonality, Metheny’s guitar never sounds “thick” or “viscous”, but rather has a fleet, quicksilver-like quality where multi-note phrases seem to burst forth at will, exhibiting in equal parts both articulacy and sweetness. That combination (articulacy + sweetness) is a tough one for many speaker systems to manage: more often than not, they get one element or the other right, but fail to deliver both at once. Not so, the Classico rig; it captures all the textures and timbres of Metheny’s guitar with real grace and ease.
One point I did note during my listening tests, though, was that the ultra-wide dispersion of the CDT 3 tweeter could—and sometimes did—cause reflection problems that made the system sound a bit bright. To address this I could potentially have tried using different sets of transformer output taps to trim back the tweeters’ output levels. But instead, I took a different approach and spent some extra time carefully tweaking and tuning the speakers’ positions within the room, and working specifically on toe-in angles, until I found a sort of “happy medium” sweet spot where the inherent clarity of the speakers remained, but where bright-sounding reflections were for the most part tamed. Once I found this “sweet spot,” the overall presentation sound became at once clearer and yet more relaxed on musical selections of all kinds. I mention this point by way of letting readers know that the Classico system is probably not one of those “plunk and play” systems that will work well no matter where you position the components. If my experience is any indicator, the Classico system is one that requires—but then richly rewards—careful trial and error placement adjustments.
Consider this surround speaker system if:
Look further if: