Usher first arrived on these shores, not so much with a splash as with a resounding thud. Two ranges of speakers were each given their own room at that year’s London hi-fi show, the one on the left containing the “JMlabs” look-alikes, the one on the right, those “inspired” by Sonus Faber. Imitation may well be the sincerest form of flattery, but this was taking homage at least several steps too far.
But the times they are a changing and the capability of emerging economies to both mimic existing designs and deliver astonishing value for money are now solid parts of the hi-fi landscape. It was Usher’s misfortune to be well to the fore in the first wave of such designs, but their products, like those of their compatriots, have started to develop and take on their own identity. I remain to be convinced by the beryllium domed tweeter that graces their more expensive models, but further down the range there’s definitely nuggets to be dug out – whacking great big ones too…
The 6371 is an imposing and impressively finished, two-and-a-half way loudspeaker; faintly ironic given the hoo-hah the manufacturer makes over their use of Joe D’Appolito as a designer. If the ‘central carcass and contrasting wooden side cheeks’ formula is far from original, then it’s fair to say that the 6371 at least offers its own take on it: the deep, sloping, central cabinet is beautifully lacquered and profiled, set off by the side panels that flank the drivers and the tweeter faring on top. At 1150mm tall it’s a substantial beast by anyone’s measure, but to that you can add the weight of a massive cast iron base. There’s even a cavity in the bottom of the cabinet which owners can fill with lead shot. The whole lot stands on four massive brass cones, threaded into the base to allow leveling. This is one speaker that’s absolutely, definitely not going anywhere. There’s a neat grille provided (but best discarded on sonic and aesthetic grounds) while the bi-wired crossover is fed from four good-quality terminals placed in a recessed panel at the bottom of the cabinet rear, beneath the howitzercaliber, carefully contoured reflex port. The 176mm woofers employ carbon-fibre reinforced paper cones, and are mated to a 28mm coated silk dome tweeter. The end result is a large, visually imposing and impressive speaker system that shows considerable attention to detail and a high-quality finish. But the best thing about all that substance and the performance it most definitely delivers, is the price: Usher’s 6371 costs just £2000 – a pair, not each! And as you’ll see, this is no “never mind the quality, feel the width” exercise in surface appearance over genuine achievement. This is both a very serious and a seriously good loudspeaker system. Rated at 91dB efficient with a flattish 4 Ohm load, ease of drive offsets the problems that could emerge from a speaker this large and this affordable with a –3dB point at 30Hz. Indeed, one of the things that becomes very obvious, very quickly with the 6371 is just how willing it is to work with a whole range of contrasting amplification. I ran it with everything from the Gryphon Diablo to the VAS Citation Sound 2 mono-blocs, 200 Watts down to around 40, and the sheer enthusiasm and gusto with which the Ushers took to the task was entertaining and encouraging in equal measure. But the amp that really clicked was the Audionet V, a five-channel design that allowed the 6371s to be bi-amped from a single chassis. Now, adding £3K to the bill for the speakers moves them well and truly outside bargain basement territory, but take a listen to this system and you’ll see that the whole is considerably greater than the sum required to purchase it. This is one hi-fi system that your non-audio friends won’t be able to ignore – and which you won’t end up making excuses or apologizing for. These two together deliver the real deal, and you don’t need audiophile sensibilities to appreciate that fact.
If you want one word to sum up the 6371s then it has to be “generous”: they’re generous when it comes to material content and they’re generous by nature too. These are not the sort of pinched, pained, ultra-high resolution, buttock clenchingly serious speakers that are all too common in these days of high-prices and less than highperformance; if you want to suffer for your art then look elsewhere, because the Ushers will be way, way too much fun for you. And this is no apology for an unruly or under-damped delivery. The 6371s do what they do because they’ve been carefully balanced and voiced that way. In this regard at least, there’s something rather quaintly traditional about them – loudspeakers done the way they used to be, but managing to incorporate recent driver and crossover technology along the way.