Layering of instrumentals was likewise phenomenal—“multidimensional” is not too strong an adjective. A great recording to reveal this is The Songs of West Side Story, the 1996 Grammy production. Selena’s “A Boy Like That” had a reach-out-and-grabyou rhythmic intensity, and in Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, and Sheila E.’s joint contribution, “America,” the slow buildup from simple vocals to full-scale roof-rattling gospel was as exhilarating an audio experience as any I’ve had in a long, long time. Superb performance with music would imply superb performance with movies, and I wasn’t disappointed here, either. Star Trek: Nemesis was delivered with earthshaking effects intact, as was the hilarious space spoof Galaxy Quest. The Voyage was equally adept with less demanding material. The dialogue of Being Julia, the wonderful theater-insider tale of a burnedout actress who finds new life in an affair with a much younger man, came through with every breathy detail as clear and memorable as if it were whispered in my ear.
Many loudspeakers sound their best at moderately loud volume—too low and they don’t have the right tonal balance, too loud, and they start to screech. The MartinLogan Voyage sounded perfectly balanced at every notch on the volume knob, from let’stalk- over-the-background-music to earsplitting THX levels. There aren’t many speakers that can do that, just as there aren’t many that offer the Voyage’s combination of versatility, musicality, clarity, and dynamics. At $1995 each, the speaker isn’t cheap, especially by in-wall standards, but by every measure of performance it so clearly outdistances the competition that it’s in a class of its own. MartinLogan has an undisputed winner in the Voyage. As a product category, in-wall speakers have enjoyed huge improvements in recent years, driven by the home-theater boom in general and by the popularity of flatpanel TVs in particular. Many of them are quite good, but in my opinion, MartinLogan’s Voyage is the new standard by which others must be judged.
Legacy Audio’s Harmony is a unique riff on the in-wall theme. Large and imposing, the Harmony has a threeway driver array—1" dome tweeter, twin 4" midranges, and 12" woofer aided by a 12" passive radiator, all of them mounted on the front baffle of a sealed box that fits almost rail-to-rail between studs in a standard wall.
With the grille in place, the front of the cabinet protrudes more than 3.5" off the surface of the wall, making this loudspeaker as much an onwall as an in-wall. The sealed box insures consistent performance regardless of conditions inside the wall— insulation, cross-blocking, and other unpredictable structural anomalies that could compromise the performance of an open-back design. The visible portion of the cabinet features Legacy’s signature fine wood craftsmanship— an oak baffle with perfectly- fitted top and bottom trim, contrasting fluted sidepieces, and a carved wooden flange surrounding the tweeter. The company offers the speaker in many different finishes, some at premium prices.
Installing the Harmony requires a cutout 38.5" high by 14" wide. I made my cutouts slightly larger to allow a bit of wiggle room in slipping the speakers into place. The installation kit includes two pre-drilled wooden blocks, six screws, a few cardboard spacers, and a structural drawing to show you how the speaker should be secured. Once the blocks are in place, you attach your speaker wires to the five-way binding posts at the bottom of the speaker, throw the adjacent impedance switch to match your amplifier, and slide the whole cabinet into place. It hangs on the blocks and is secured by two screws driven in from the front. At 56 pounds, the Harmony isn’t excessively heavy, but its cumbersome shape and lack of handholds makes installing it a two-person operation. One healthy person can do it, but there’s a risk of dropping it, and believe me, you wouldn’t want one of these landing on your foot. Nor would you want to damage the ornate woodwork.
The speaker’s appearance, like that of most Legacy products, is an homage to fine cabinet building. In direct contrast to the Voyage’s light airy look, the Harmony is ponderous. The look is intentionally at odds with contemporary décor but would work well in traditional settings or in home theaters with plenty of dark wood and heavy fabrics. I greatly admire the skills of Legacy’s craftsmen, whose products often call to mind the AM radios of the 1930s.
The Harmony’s midrange drivers are mounted so they touch in the center, with the tweeter nestled above them. The active woofer is above this assembly, and the passive radiator below. When used for music, the Harmony has a mellow, diffuse sound, less focused than the Voyage, but with seamless integration of the midrange and high frequencies. Its presentation of vocals, woodwinds, and strings is lovely and natural sounding; the soundstage as wide as Texas.