The almost prototypical simplicity of the drum, bass and guitar opening to Bill Malonee and the Vigilantes Of Love’s ‘Goes Without Saying’ has the energy, agility and drive that characterize a really tight three piece, but driven by the Almarro the Cygnis deliver the track with a rollicking, seemingly unstoppable sense of presence and momentum, filling the stage with the three instruments. Yet later, in the quieter moments of a track like ‘Solar System’, with its more measured, reflective mood, there’s no missing the plaintive sense of loss in the vocal, the poignance of the deceptively simple melody – or the way it builds in density and complexity across the track. The joyous romp of ‘Hard Luck & Heart Attack’ is full of life and humour, preceded by the beautifully realized balance of the ballad ‘Nothing Like A Train’. This isn’t the uncontrolled enthusiasm of a boisterous, clumsy puppy. This is a sense of energy, carefully applied – serving the music in all its forms.
Nor is it limited to rock and pop. The recent EMI Classics release of Purcell’s Music For Queen Mary is full of joy and colour in the ‘Birthday Song…’ the speakers disappearing into a faithfully captured King’s College Chapel acoustic, space around and above the choir and Academy of Ancient Music, the side and rear walls clearly defined. Later, the progress of the funereal drum processional is clear, defined as much by the instrument’s changing relationship with the acoustic as by its shifting location. The distance to the drummer, the shifting balance of direct and reflected sound is fascinating and beautifully unraveled by the Cygnis, the speaker easily allowing you to separate the actual beats and the multiple reflections. Likewise, that special quality that defines the sound of a boy treble as opposed to a female soprano is clearly apparent.
In many ways it’s the latter disc that tells us more about this Revolver speaker and the demands it places on partnering equipment. Indeed, if ever a speaker brought home the folly of considering a speaker in isolation from its driving amp, this is it. The wonderfully, entertainingly obvious attributes of the Vigilantes certainly tell us just what sort of amp you want, but it’s the Purcell which will tell you why. The Cygnis requires both care and respect: care in set-up and positioning, respect when it comes to its capabilities, for this is a genuinely transparent and high-resolution device. There’s a lucid clarity to its presentation, a lightness of balance that on the one hand delivers detail and separation, underpinned by a deeper bass than you expect from the box, but on the other can tip over into coldness, even an almost glassy leanness if provoked. The good news is, that with resolution to burn you can afford to trade some in against the body and presence an amplifier can supply, a combination that makes the best of both. Hence the success of the Almarro, with its enthusiastic energy and drive; listen to this amp with the Cygnis and that’s what you’ll hear. But never forget that it’s the speaker that’s letting you hear it. Likewise, the Hovland RADIA delivers a crisper, more focused and transparent sound, which offers its own appeal and definitely plays to the speaker’s midrange agility. So it’s not that you can’t use a solid-state amp, but I wouldn’t want to go any leaner in balance than the Hovland’s sweetness… The Cygnis may lack the harmonic accuracy and development of some competing designs, offering instead a combination of coherent bandwidth and clearly defined musical detail, but it wears its heart well and truly on its sleeve. That means that you can hear all too clearly just what the driving amp is doing – and when you’ve got it right.
With the flood of high-value valve amps currently hitting the market, Revolver couldn’t have timed things better. Purists might argue that it’s a case of two wrongs making a right; those who listen and like the result won’t be bothered. Revolver’s Cygnis is both adventurous and different; get it right and it’s very right indeed.