The sound in the underwater sequence is highly realistic, so that when Beck, Travis, and Mariana re-surface you half expect to find yourself drenched from head to toe, but things get even better once the treasure hunters climb out of the pool to explore the cave. Once inside the cave, overall resolution levels in the soundtrack increase dramatically, with really expert blending of the surround channels—qualities you can easily discern with the LSA system in play. The trio soon discovers that the cave opens upon a chamber whose roof is made of boulders that are upheld by a veritable forest of intertwined support beams. At the very rear of the chamber is a niche that appears to contain the Gato, but the problem is that in order to reach the Gato it will be necessary to remove at least some of the beams. Travis quickly figures out that the chamber is designed as a deadly puzzle, where some beams (those that rest upon flooring stones marked with the image of a jaguar, or “cat”) can safely be removed, while removing others will bring boulders crashing down upon the unwary (or unskilled).
What is downright eerie—and a little too realistic for comfort—is the sound of beams creaking and groaning under the enormous weight of the boulders, coupled with the sounds of air currents wafting through gaps in the roof and curling down the length of the cave. As Travis works his way toward the Gato he makes a few missteps, accidentally dislodging nearby beams and causing them to burst with explosive force. Beck is forced to grab two of the main support beams, which are beginning to tremble, and to hold them in place by brute strength, until Travis and Mariana can retrieve the Gato and escape the chamber just as the final beams shatter and the roof caves in.
Just how realistic is the LSA system in its handling of the soundtrack for this chapter? Very realistic, as it happens. For example, I sometimes invite guest listeners to hear systems under test, and then watch from the far back end of the room. As the soundtrack for “Behind the Moving Curtain” unfolds through the LSA rig, it is not uncommon to see guests experience the vivid sounds of the creaking beams with such intensity that they involuntarily blurt out “Whoa!” and whip their heads around to look for trembling beams that, of course, aren’t really there. Similarly, I’ve seen guests literally jump in their seats when the first beam bursts or to wince and cringe when they hear the ominous, grating sound of the boulders shifting overhead. In short, the LSA rig achieves levels of realism that not many surround systems can equal, bringing heightened levels of emotional impact to the movie-watching experience in the process.
Like all fine surround speaker systems, the LSA rig is equally adept at reproducing movie soundtracks and high-resolution multichannel music. For a simple but telling example of this, consider the LSA system’s sound on jazz vocalist Beat Kaestli’s rendition of the Cole Porter classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from Kaestli’s Invitation [Chesky, multichannel SACD]. Unlike Sinatra’s famous upbeat take on this song, Kaestli’s is simpler, quieter, much more reflective, and imbued with darker and more disquieting undertones. Recorded, as are many Chesky efforts, in the interior of a small church, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” has a distinctly intimate feel and features relatively simple instrumentation, most notably a jazz guitar on the left, congas on the right, vocalist Kaestli in the center, and—later in the song—a haunting sax just to the left of center stage.
One of the first things you’ll notice through the LSA’s is that they produce a very large and compelling soundstage that places you right in the midst of the acoustic of the recording venue, while showing each of the performers at precise and unwavering positions on stage. Next, you’ll appreciate the timbral purity and finesse of the LSA’s as they define each of the human and instrumental voices you’ll hear. Specifically, the guitar has a sweet, almost honey-like tonality, while the delicate, multi-pitched “thomp-thoomp” of the congas sounds wonderfully taut and well-defined as the player’s hands gently slap the heads of the drums. Late in the song, I was floored by the intensely realistic sound of the solo sax, whose reed sounds and golden, brassy bite were both spot on. But what was best of all was the tightly focused sound of Kaestli’s voice at center stage.
Two things proved impressive about the LSA system’s handling of the Kaestli’s vocals. First, the system showed a lot of resolution and overall finesse in capturing the dry, subtle, moody inflections in Kaestli’s voice, where the singer uses very small shifts in tone and emphasis to suggest deeper, darker emotions within. Some systems get the basic outlines of the notes right, but the LSA’s go further to explore not just sonic but emotional overtones in the performance. But the second impressive element involves the fact that this is a 4-channel, not a 5-channel, recording, meaning that it was deliberately made without a center-channel track. Despite this fact, however, the LSA2 Towers had absolutely no trouble in casting a strong center image of Kaestli’s voice—an image so vivid, so stable, and so rock-solid that most listeners would probably swear the center channel speaker had to have been involved (though in fact it was not). This is the kind of precisely focused imaging performance you can consistently expect from the LSA’s.