Ahhh, did I omit to mention the soundstaging? The other thing that comes with deep, properly ordered low frequencies is the ability to reproduce a palpable sense of acoustic space, something the sonogram does better than anything I’ve heard at this sort of price. I’m not talking about the spot-lit, etched hyper-reality of the average minimonitor. I’m talking about the space in which a recording was made, the floor, side and rear walls, the volume of excited air, the space around and, most importantly, between the instruments. These Gershmans create a wonderfully coherent acoustic environment (where appropriate) as well as effortlessly separating and delineating the multi-tracks of studio mixes.
In turn this reflects the even, well controlled behavior of the cabinet. All that bass is only a benefit if it’s properly integrated and doesn’t mess up the rest of the range. This is where the massively braced construction of the Sonogram’s woodwork comes into its own, handling the mechanical energy generated by those low frequencies rather than simply shaking, rattling and rolling along with them. You hear it in the coherence of the acoustic space, you hear it in the excellent range of tonal colours on show. But most of all you hear it in the quickness of the dynamic response, the lack of hesitation and sure-footed step when it comes to rhythmic shifts and patterns. It’s this capability that stops the Sonogram being one of those worthy, polite, classical only transducers.
Feed the Gershman with the convoluted, sinuous rhythms, dense bass patterns and sudden hesitations of Mina Agossi’s ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ (is she the only modern singer who can scat convincingly?) and they lap it up, filling the undulating flow with substance and urgency, encouraging you to get out of your seat and advance the volume control. The rhythmic switches on Nanci Griffith’s Storms, and especially the hitch-kick that gets ‘Listen To The Radio’ well and truly into its stride, are encompassed with ease. The harmony vocals are beautifully distinct, the lyrics noticeably easier to decipher than normal. Nanci’s voice is instantly recognizable, and despite an overall warmth and noticeable lack of nasty edge, there’s no shortage of clarity here, reflecting the benefits of that dedicated midrange driver.
Essentially neutral, musically and spatially coherent, the Sonogram clearly carries a heavy dose of family DNA. Drive it properly and it produces a vivid and dramatic performance, full of substance and contrast. Under-drive it and the colours collapse, the dynamics compress, the rhythmic corners get straightened out and smoothed over, leaving you under-whelmed. And there’s the rub. This speaker demands the sort of care and attention to set up and amplifier matching normally associated with products at twice the price. The good news is that, take that time and trouble and they sound like they should cost twice the price too. I’ve always liked the natural, unforced dynamics, scale and rich, natural tonal balance of the bigger Gershman speakers. Now you can get it in a more manageable and affordable package. The Sonogram might not be Eli Gershman’s best sounding speaker, but it’s definitely his most impressive achievement.