I don’t have measurements on these speakers, but for once I’d be intrigued to see some, simply because they sound so unlike all the other MLSSA clones on the market. Tonally, there’s a sweetness and roundness to the sound, a sense of warmth, substance and a welcome lack of edge. In part I’d put that down to the use of larger than fashionable bassmid drivers, reflected in the lower than average 2450 Hz mid-treble crossover frequency. In part I’d put it down to the really well behaved, silk-domed tweeter. Together, the drivers blend seamlessly to create a coherent sound of considerable scale, impressive weight and real presence, a sound that rewards longterm listening and banishes fatigue.
The downside of this comfortable balance is that the speakers need to reach a certain level before they really wake up. It’s not super loud and doesn’t demand a bottomless pit of power to deliver it, but these aren’t the best speakers for late-night, low-level listening sessions. Instead, they like a bit of stick and a healthy dose of dynamic range – one of the reasons they work surprisingly well with modest amounts of valve power, amps that deliver exactly the sort of uninhibited dynamic coherence they thrive on. The other danger is that you inadvertently apply a “nice filter” to everything you play – attractive at first, frustrating after a surprisingly short time. With that in mind I ran a little exercise in compare and contrast, using various recordings of that old orchestral warhorse, Scheherezade. It’s music that should play straight to the Ushers’ strengths and sure enough, they had no problem encompassing the scope, romantic sweep and drama of the Reiner reading. But impressive as their performance was (and I ended up listening a lot longer than I’d intended) what really ticked the box was the way they rendered so obvious the different acoustic, perspective and orchestral tonality/ bias of the Royal Philharmonic as opposed to the Chicago, the poise and dynamic contrast of Beecham as opposed to the more lyrical and flowing rendition of Reiner, the quality of the EMI CD in comparison to the RCA SACD. No collapsing of differences or nuance here. Wheeling in Karajan and the BPO, on record, as well as Chesky and Classic transfers of the Reiner merely served to underline the fact that the 6371s are happy to reveal even the subtlest of mastering differences, without allowing them to distract from the music.
Big speakers that do big are not exactly news, but big speakers that are able to sound small are altogether harder to find. The beautifully crafted delicacy of Eliza Gilkyson’s Hard Times In Babylon, complex, intricate arrangements embellished with tiny flourishes and musical accents test’s a speaker’s balance; too much detail and the tracks stutter and lose momentum, too much muscle and they lose much of their sheer beauty. The 6371s tread a near perfect path, Eliza’s distinctive voice is spot-on, the subtle workings of the interlocking melodic strands clear to here, the little touch here, the almost throwaway riff there, highlighting and lifting the music, capturing the haunting poignance of the title track, the dirty smooch of ‘Twisted’, contrasts that makes this such a special album. But if you want to get the most out of the big Ushers, bi-amping should be a serious consideration, adding crisper dynamics and greater control to the overall mix. The slightly lean yet powerful balance of the Audionet V is a near perfect match in this regard, the 6371s are easily able to accommodate the slightly hollow tonality of the amp but thrive on the life and dynamics it delivers. It’s a combination whose lively, engaging sense of musical presence also lowers the threshold level for satisfying listening, bringing greater intimacy and immediacy to smaller works into the bargain.
So, if you major on the structural, the mathematical symmetry and patterns in music, the Ushers might disappoint. But if you want music to draw you in and carry you along; if you want to hear who’s singing and why; if you want a system you can simply listen to rather than one that demands attention then these could be just the ticket. Just be warned; the 6371s bend the rules when it comes to budgets and expectation. You will end up with a lot more speaker and a lot more bandwidth than you were probably anticipating. Make sure they’ll fit and your room can handle the bass before you fall in love. They worked beautifully in my room, but I’m blessed with a really well behaved bottom end. If they don’t work in yours you could struggle to find an alternative this musically satisfying and all embracing without spending a lot more money. To say that the 6371s redefine notions of value when it comes to both material and musical delivery rather understates their achievement. Prepare to be surprised… No, make that prepare to be shocked.