Lansche Audio No.7 Loudspeaker

Smitten!

When powered on, a pinkish-blue glow can be seen in the tweeter horn’s throat. This light is created by the corona discharge between the two electrodes of the corona-plasma tweeter. The metal horn and the surrounding baffle get rather warm from the intense heat inside the driver. A corresponding blue Lansche logo at the baffle’s bottom illuminates when the loudspeaker is powered on.

Lansche’s U.S. importer Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports visited for the setup. We positioned the No.7 in the usual spot in my listening room, about 85" from the rear wall (measured to the front baffle), a location that has never failed to deliver smooth bass. Toe- in was moderate, with the speakers’ axes crossing a few feet behind the listening position. We found that sitting farther away from the No.7 made the sound more coherent, so I moved the listening couch about a foot toward the back wall.

Listening

As Nelson Pass said of his massless “ion-cloud loudspeaker” described in the sidebar “[the speaker] gave new meaning to the word ‘transparency.’” And so it was with the Lansche Audio No.7. This loudspeaker’s midrange and treble reproduction was absolutely sensational, and different from that of conventional loudspeakers, whether cone, electrostatic, or ribbon. The Lansche simply disappears as a sound source, not just spatially (which it, along with many other great loudspeakers, does), but also mechanically. By that I mean the physicality of the loudspeaker’s operation—the mechanism by which is creates sound— disappears, replaced by the physicality of the instrument it is reproducing. It’s the kind of sound that produces a “fool-you” realism of timbre, as well as “fool-you” palpability and immediacy. There was an ethereal character to the sound, as though the music existed independently of any electro-mechanical contrivance—“conjured out of thin air” to use Jonathan Valin’s wonderful description.

These qualities were nothing short of magical on female vocals, particularly with LP playback. Jennifer Warnes’ voice on The Hunter (Impex LP reissue) crossed a threshold from sounding present to startlingly lifelike—almost eerily so. So great was the reduction in coloration that the impression of being in the same room with another human being was suddenly and vividly unmistakable. For some reason, trumpets were also particularly well served by the No.7. They were reproduced with a full measure of treble energy, sheen, blat, and dynamism, but without the hardness of timbre that we’ve become accustomed to in reproduced music. This sheer realism of trumpet sound spanned a wide range of instruments and recordings. Listen, for examples, to the stunningly recorded muted trumpet on Count Basie’s 88 Basie Street (engineered by the great Alan Sides), Roy Hargrove’s liquid tone on Jimmy Cobb’s Jazz in the Key of Blue, or Conti Candoli’s burnished flugelhorn on the Chiz Harris CD Confirmation (which I recorded live in the studio to two-track). On each of these instruments, the timbre was vivid yet at the same time smooth. In fact, despite an overall presentation that leaned toward a lively treble balance, the No.7 was remarkably relaxed and unfatiguing. I think that the No.7’s reproduction of trumpet was so beguiling because the loudspeaker didn’t add a glare to the instrument the way most conventional loudspeakers do. A trumpet has a complex harmonic structure with lots of energy in the upper partials, characteristics that exacerbate the audibility of treble distortion in conventional drivers. With this distortion non-existent by virtue of the corona-plasma driver, I was able to hear a more natural rendering that, although lively in treble balance, sounded more like the way a trumpet sounds in life—a rich density of high-frequency energy without the edgy glare.

The treble had the wonderful quality of being highly resolved without sounding bright. The No.7’s reproduction of cymbals, and of brushes on snares, was revelatory. The corona-plasma tweeter beautifully resolved the transient detail of the stick hitting the cymbal, the shimmer that changes character slightly as it decays, and then revealed the finest inner detail at the end of the decay. This lack of smearing of fine transient detail was spectacular and alone worth the price of admission. When combined with the top- end openness and transparency, this treble resolution produced a stunningly lifelike feeling of actually being in the same room as the instrument. All these qualities were taken to their ultimate when the No.7 was driven by the 18W Lamm ML2.2 SET amplifiers. This combination produced perhaps the greatest midrange and treble realism and palpability I’ve heard in my home, but it’s not a combination I would recommend. The No.7 isn’t quite the right load for the ML2.2; the bass was soft and dynamics somewhat compressed. (The Stella Utopia EM is a much better match for the ML2.2.) I spent a brief time with the No.7 driven by the ML2.2, but most of the listening was through the outstanding Rowland 725 monoblocks.

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