APOGEE DIVA LOUDSPEAKER
Full-range, three-way ribbon dipole loudspeakers
External passive crossover with 550Hz and 12kHz crossover points. Crossover slopes: 6dB/octave at crossover, increasing to 12dB/octave
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms, 2.6 ohm minimum
Adjustments for setting levels for woofer, midrange, upper midrange, and tweeter
Frequency range: 25Hz-25kHz
Sensitivity: 115dB SPL peak at 4 meters, C weighting, with 100W amplifier in 18' x 25' x 8' room
Dimensions: 73" H x 31" W x 3" D - Weight: 150 lbs. each
Call it preoccupation, fascination, or preference, but I have a warm feeling for planar loudspeakers. It all started at Bud Fried's City Line Lectronics store some 25 years ago. Already bitten by the hi-fi bug, I was frequenting audio stores-just looking, as they say. It just so happened that the system they played for me that day consisted of the Decca London cartridge, Quad tube electronics, and the Quad Electrostatic loudspeaker. In mono, no less.
What I heard was, for the first time, exactly what I had imagined and hoped for: the sound of my dreams. It was all there-the sound was transparent, warm, liquid, and, most of all, music to my ears. And this sonic imprint of freedom, presence, and coherence has stayed with me for years.
Since that day of revelation I have owned single Quads, stacked Quads, Koss 1As, Acoustat Ills, and Quad ESL-63s (which I modified very extensively). Martin-Logan CLSes and Apogee Duetta Mk.IIs have also had pleasant stays in my listening room. I have been observed in the company of Linn Isobariks and KEF R105s, in my own house no less. (They were moments of weakness, when I succumbed to the temptation of loudness and dynamics.) But I kept the faith, returning every time to that good ol' planar sound I love so much.
My experience with Apogee products has been favorable, to say the least. The first real "ear opener" occurred at the home of Hy Kachalsky, the president of the Audiophile Society. Dave Reich from Classé Audio was there to demonstrate his DR-3 amplifiers; the speakers then in residence were the Scintillas. Some members had stayed a little later than usual and, after the official business, we let it all hang out. Well, this was one of those magic events where everything fell into place; the sound was simply first-rate.
In 1987, I joined the staff of Stereophile, just before their High-End show bit NYC. Of course; I attended. It was no accident that I found myself in the Apogee room more often than anywhere else. I finally got to hear some of Jason Bloom's rare and excellent recordings from his famous record collection. I don't mind telling you that I was duly impressed by the music and the speakers, a pair of Divas. When I later found out that Apogee got the Best Sound of Show award, it was no surprise, I would have voted for them also.
Apogee has come a long way It all started with a bang in 1983, with the release of the Apogee Full-Range Ribbon Speaker. This was a gigantic effort that set off reverberations, not only because each speaker weighed in at 300 (!) pounds and stood 81" tall, but, as Apogee was quick to point out, it was a full-range ribbon*. Now the electrostatics and other planars had competition from yet another venue.
* As I pointed out in my original review of the Caliper (Vol.9 No.7), only the mid and treble driven of Apogee speakers are true ribbons in that they are not under significant tension other than that provided by their own weight. Although the conductor of the bass-driver design common to all Apogees covers the whole area of the diaphragm, as with a ribbon, that diaphragm is actually under tension, being suspended along all four edges like a thin metal drum skin. -JA
The original Apogee was not without problems, however. As good as this all-out effort was (the new speaker certainly put Apogee on the map), it presented some difficulties to the user, making it a product for a chosen few. It was a three-way system with impedances in the low to very-low range, with a sensitivity right in line with the impedance-very low. You guessed it, the problem was finding an amplifier that could swing enough volts and drive enough amps into this load. Expense and physical considerations aside, the amplifiers required to power this speaker had really not been designed yet. At that time only a couple of amps had the guts to tackle an assignment this tough, considerably limiting the choice of applicable candidates. This idiosyncratic speaker was headed for a showdown with the status quo.
There followed a progression of other fullrange ribbon models, decreasing in size with each new release. Amplifier designers also did not sit on their hands: new models could look at low and complex loudspeaker-impedance loads without flinching. I strongly suspect that, just as Edgar Villchur changed the direction of power-amplifier design when he introduced the Acoustic Research acoustic-suspension speakers, Apogee similarly exerted an influence on the power amplifiers of the '80s.
Fortunately, each new Apogee model carried a lower price tag and was significantly easier to drive. The Scintilla was the first model to follow their initial three-way flagship, with the Duetta and the Caliper following at yearly intervals. They were priced at $3500, $2780, and $1650, respectively
Then, just when customer needs and price points seemed covered, and the technology exhausted, Apogee announced the Diva. Once again the speaker is a three-way, full-range ribbon, but most of the similarities end there. This time around the impedance is civilized, the frequency response is vast, and the sensitivity is respectable.
The Divas are representative of the continuous evolution undergone by high-end products. Like numerous other excellent products, the Divas' performance has been carefully honed over the years, their predecessors paving the way. Thanks to these "point men" the technical and conceptual logjams can be cleared up. I'm sure timing is also a large part of the picture; availability of suitable materials and techniques today is more in tune with the requirements posed by sophisticated products.
As far as appearance is concerned, the Diva is unmistakably a member of the Apogee family. The elegant, trapezoidal outline is intact; the inside edge is vertical, the outside edge slanted. It's all there, except that everything is bigger. The Divas are 72" tall, 31" wide at the bottom, and 26" wide at the top. The basic speaker housing is only 2½" thick, and is aligned vertically by a support structure that protrudes another 6.5" at the front and extends 10" in the back. Each side weighs 150 pounds.
Viewed from the front, the very narrow ribbon closest to the inner edge is the tweeter. The next, slightly wider, element is the midrange ribbon, while the very large trapezoidal surface taking up most of the radiating surface handles the low frequencies. Apogee claims to cover a frequency range of 25Hz to 25kHz with this three-ribbon array. A separate crossover network, with crossover points at 600Hz and 12kHz, splits this spectrum into three portions.
A classical ribbon loudspeaker consists of a strip, or ribbon, of conductive material loosely suspended in a strong magnetic field. When current is passed through the ribbon, it sets up a magnetic field of its own which interacts with the constant flux field set up by the permanent magnets, causing it to move. Should the current be alternating, the ribbon will vibrate and reproduce the sound that this current represents. (If Apogee's Leo Spiegel reads this, he is sure to wish that things were really this simple In the real world, problems permeate the design: low resistivity, resonance's in the ribbon and the structure supporting the ribbon and magnets, flux nonlinearities, and material fatigue are just a few of the trouble spots.)
The woofer portion reacts; slightly differently since it is not surrounded by a magnetic field, but is merely immersed in a flux. The woofer magnets are located behind the woofer ribbon; when the woofer conductor moves, it encounters a flux density of lower intensity as it moves away from the magnets. This single ended design is subject to nonlinearities at large excursions.
The nature of the Divas' design mandates a heavy support structure to provide an extremely positive foothold for the magnets. Since any movement here translates directly into distortion, substantial rigidity must be provided in the frame holding the magnets.
Fortunately, all this weight works to the advantage of the vibrating ribbons. Being extremely light in weight-that's to keep the moving mass to a minimum-the ribbons are not likely to energize resonant modes and cause standingwave disturbances in the heavy-duty structure of the support frame. The ratio of the stationary mass to the vibrating mass should be as high as possible to provide a firm and unyielding foothold against which the ribbon can be free to move. This is especially true in a free-standing, vertically cantilevered design such as the Diva, where only the lower end is planted firmly on the ground. At 150 pounds/ side, this should hardly be a problem.
But sheer weight is not enough to keep the Divas securely positioned, as far as Apogee is concerned. just to make sure, they provide four 10-32 pointed screws in the support brackets. These adjustable spikes serve double duty. First, a very intimate contact can be created to anchor the speaker to the ground, and second, the adjustable spikes allow the speakers to be brought into precise vertical alignment.
The tweeter and the midrange ribbons, in their full -length vertical slits, are long enough to act as line sources, providing a polar radiation pattern with excellent horizontal dispersion characteristics. A line source contributes minimal vertical dispersion, but there is a downside to this benefit. At distances of 10' to 15', the listener is restricted to a seated position. Standing up will put him above the high-frequency dispersion limit, where an obvious rolloff is encountered.
At this time I would like to bring up the soul of the Diva-the crossover. Up to now, none of the Apogees featured the frequency- dividing network except to call attention to the "seamless" manner of concealing the effects of the crossover points.
The Diva's passive crossover components are packaged in separate hem measuring 17" W x 13" D x 3" H, their intended placements right behind each speaker. The crossover assembly, isolated mechanically from the speaker, sits on the floor supported by four large rubber feet 1¾" high. It consists of two independent networks, one routing the portion of the spectrum below 600Hz to the woofer, the other feeding frequencies above 600Hz to the midrange and tweeter ribbons. Another sub-network splits the signal between tweeter and midrange at 12kHz. (Crossover frequencies are nominal, due to the 6dB/octave slopes, and there is wide overlap between the drivers.) Crossover construction is very impressive: huge inductors, banks of capacitors, and resistor arrays are connected by heavy-gauge wires from Monster Cable. Runs of SYMO (mine are marked Monster?) speaker cable complete the connections to the three ribbons in the main speaker housing, while pairs of five -way binding posts are provided for anchoring cables to and from the crossover.
For normal operation the two crossover sections are paralleled, bi-wiring being the recommended way to accomplish this. Nothing more than a stereo amplifier is then necessary. Apogee does, however, suggest a 100W minimum for each speaker. The next step would be to bi-amplify the Divas using the existing passive crossover, one amplifier being connected directly to the woofer ribbon, the other to the network shared by the MR and HF ribbons. If that's not enough, Apogee showed a dedicated electronic crossover for the Diva at the June CES. As far as I'm concerned, biamping is the way to go. However, the arrival of the perennial deadline prevented me from delving into bi -amplification for now.
The passive crossover provides switches for controlling the levels of each ribbon, giving the user a chance to tailor the response to taste. Four switches are included for setting the levels of the woofer, midrange upper MR, and tweeter With the exception of the upper MR, the response changes in each case occur as an across the-board 2dB increment for the desired range.
For example the MR switch in the Plus position (fig. lb) moves the contour of the midrange response up by 2dB at every point along its response characteristic. The same increment applies to the woofer and tweeter responses. The Upper MR switch is different. it initiates a response change commencing at 1.5kHz. The response curve then swings 2dB in the selected direction, taking full effect from 5kHz-2OkHz (fig. 1c).
When it comes to impedance, the Divas really come through. Apogee has obviously worked hard to make amplifier selection a simple task, and the stigma of the Scintilla requirements is history. The impedance is specified not to exceed 4.5 ohms, and never to dip below 2.6 ohms for the whole 20Hz-20kHz range (fig.2). Welcome news, indeed.
Fig.3 shows the Diva's frequency response at a distance of 1m measured with a third-octave warble tone The microphone height was 47.5".
The following equipment was used for this review: For analog, Ortofon MC-3000 and Krell cartridges, Air Tangent tonearm, VPI HW-19 Mk.II turntable, The Well-Tempered Turntable and Arm, and a Brooks-modded Oracle Premiere/SME V/Alpha Genesis 1000. An Arcici "Lead Balloon" turntable stand was there to steady the turntables. On the digital side, the Euphonic Technology ET650PX CD player, and the Onkyo Integra DT-2001 DAT machine did excellent jobs. The preamps consisted of the Meitner PA-6i and the ARC SP11 Mk.II, while the Krell KMA-100 Mk.II and Meitner MTR-101 powered the Divas. Interconnects were by Meitner, speaker wires by SYMO and Meitner.
These speakers have set my foot tapping more often, sent shivers up and down my spine, got me immensely involved, and projected a sonic ambience more beguiling and gripping than any other speaker in my experience.
But, you say: at $7500 a pair, they damn well better do all those things real good! Absolutely But I'm not done yet.
Are you aware that, at $7500, the Diva is one of the lowest-priced top-echelon loudspeakers? Sound Lab A-1s, Duntech Sovereigns, Martin-Logan Statement, the IRS Beta and IRS V from Infinity, and, of course, the WAMM are systems costing more, even much more, In the context of the high-end marketplace, therefore, I feel that the Apogee Diva loudspeaker should be considered a Best Buy.
Outrageous? Hear me out.
The Diva is generally less cumbersome, its drive requirements are simple, the $7500 price puts it at a distinctly advantageous price point, and its overall capabilities are at least on a par with every one of the other systems.
But how can I claim that a speaker over 6' tall and weighing 150 lbs/side is not complex? Simple. With the exception of the Duntechs, which weigh at least twice as much, competing systems are two pieces per side. Only the Sound Labs leave a similar footprint, but, of course, only when the woofer panel is discounted. And don't forget the high-voltage power supply for powering the electrostatic panels. All things being equal, it's an added complexity Nor do I think I'll hear any argument that the IRS V, the IRS Beta, the Statement, the full-blown Sound Labs with the electrostatic woofer, and the WAMMS aren't far more complicated.
Complexity aside, how about the sonics? I like to be in a position to definitively back up my contentions, but in this case I fall short. My firsthand exposure to the other systems ranges from none (the WAMMs) to show conditions (the Statements and Infinity Betas) to showroom auditions (Infinity IRS). Only the Duntech Sovereigns have been examined with reasonable care at three different locations.
It would seem not unreasonable to expect a $40,000 speaker system, as is the case with the IRS, to clearly blow away a speaker costing $7500. What experience I have had, however, does not support this premise. Without a doubt, there are areas of performance-deep-bass response and loudness-where the IRS is obviously superior to the Divas. But in other areas the law of diminishing returns appears strictly enforced, because the Divas more than hold their own in imaging, spectral balance, soundstage presentation, and timbral accuracy.
On the good side of the $7500 price point, my expectations are exceeded by a wide margin. Here the law of diminishing returns appears to have been legislated in favor of the Divas. For example, I feel that the Divas are indeed roughly twice as good as the $3000 Duetta Mk.IIs or the $3500 Quad ESL-63s. In both cases the Divas cover a significantly wider frequency spectrum, most noticeable at the low frequencies. On top of that, they are significantly more dynamic, can play much louder, and are every bit as satisfying musically I concede that, set-up-wise, the ESL-63s have the upper hand, but that's about all. They cannot compete when it comes to conveying the impact of large-scale performances or imparting the feeling of power.
When it comes to amplification requirements, a fancy lady like the Diva is surprisingly easy to keep satisfied - performance anxiety should not be a concern here. I achieved excellent results with the Meitner '101, the Krell KMA-100 Mk.II, and the Mirror Image amplifiers (the larger stereo units). By high-end standards, these are reasonably priced electronics, and yet in each case the results were outstanding. Notice that quality performance was achieved with only 100Wpc stereo amplifiers. The other speaker systems start with a requirement of four amps minimum: two for the woofers, and two more for the mids/tweeters.
Sad to say, not everything comes up roses, even with the Divas. You would think that after parting with over $7k for a pair of Divas, everything would be marked Paid. But, no! Yet to be covered is a good news /bad news scenario.
By now, I should think that you would have a realistic sense of the good news. This speaker can do more things better than any other loudspeaker I have had the pleasure of using in my system.
The bad news: You can only get the good news performance if: a) the right environment is provided, and b) if you pay your dues during the set-up phase. By the way, the legal tender for settling dues is mucho TLC.
More than any other component, speakers can make or break a system. This is one component that is at the mercy of existing room acoustics. Sure, there's RPG, ASC, and Sonex. I have Tube Traps and Sonex in my listening room doing good jobs. But I'm inclined to believe that these are mere remedies, not cures.
Up to now, many designers have recognized the inherent advantages of dipolar radiators, but without quite knowing what to do about rearward radiation. Apogee's engineers have taken the well-tried dipole principle, and used the back wave to their advantage. First, they restructured the radiation characteristic so that the front and back polar patterns were equal. Line-source ribbon drivers take care of that. They then bounce the rear radiation off the wall behind the speakers by precisely controlling the speaker/rear wall relationship. This exercise in sonic trigonometry yields vivid soundstage presentation. When this is coupled to a speaker in which the basics have been refined to a remarkable degree, we are dealing with a special product.
The Divas are particular when it comes to the "stage", if you will, for their performance. Be forewarned that if certain minimum requirements are not met-and don't hesitate to consult the factory on that-the Divas will not be in good voice.
Some important considerations:
The Divas should be positioned with their rear surfaces absolutely parallel to the wall behind them, and four to five feet in front of it. Whatever distance is found to be sonically best, replicate it to an accuracy of ¼" for each speaker. The wall itself, besides being vertical, should be very solid and as bare of any ornamentation as possible. That is, no drapes, wall rugs, pictures, paintings, or plants are allowed. Only the amplifiers are conceded a spot behind the speakers should you desire, as I do, to keep the speaker cables short, and run long interconnects.
Since each speaker is 31" wide, allowing the recommended 7' of space between them results in a width of over 12' for the speakers alone Another important requirement: My experience leads me to believe that, just as the Divas like an unobstructed space behind them, they want room to the sides as well. My suggestion, therefore, is to provide at least 2' to the nearest side wall.
The listener can be as close as 7' to the speakers, and let's provide another 2' behind the listener. Adding all this up, we come up with a room at least 16' wide and 14' deep. These are not to be interpreted as ideal room dimensions, but are only suggested minimums. Anything larger is likely to be an advantage; anything smaller is a possible liability.
We do get a break as far as ceiling elevation is concerned. Fortunately, tall dipole speakers radiate mostly along a horizontal plane, making the height of the room not critical. A normal 8' ceiling should do just fine.
Here are two examples of what I went through during my Diva initiation rites.
Originally, I had planned to locate the speakers in my usual basement listening room. To get better acquainted with the Divas, they were first set up in another room. The speakers were positioned in front of a 13' wall, and played into a space 24' long and 9' high. Unfortunately, a set of louvered doors was located in the middle of the front wall, exactly where they were not wanted for this venture. The Divas were compromised right from the start, but I didn't realize it until much later. The next room soaked up much of the bass, and the louvers did little to help imaging.
Sonically the results were unacceptable. No amount of fussing improved the sound much above "satisfactory." Things did not gel as I knew they should, and could, until I moved the Divas into the basement.
Moral #1 Proceed with caution no matter how much you covet the Divas. Analyze the situation before you get involved or, worse, commit yourself. Remember, superstars are demanding and capricious.
The speakers ended up 6" to the left and 4" forward from their original position, the distance between the speakers also increasing from 80" to 86" Though fully aware that my listening- room layout is somewhat unusual, I was astounded by the resulting change in sound. The bass turned boomy, the image became diffuse - and the response lost most of its smoothness. It seems that I had forgotten the original set-up pains, and didn't know how good I had it. To be fair, I did have the Duettas to guide me the very first time around.
I returned the speakers to their original positions and, sure enough, things improved. But not enough. This was good sound, but that feeling of certainty along the lines of focus and smoothness was not established.
just to be sure, I went over the adjustments and zeroed in on absolute verticality for both speakers. And I do mean absolute. A good carpenter's level is mandatory here; nothing else will do.
This TLC yielded better results than I expected. The stage expanded, at the same time filling up with seemingly no room to spare. A sonic hologram of the performers materialized. It had a clearly defined shape, with very real boundaries this time around. At this point 1 just sat back and soaked up the good sounds.
Moral #2: Take Apogees word for it, and do read the directions. Don't be too smart for your own good, and call the factory. I said mucho TIC, and I meant it. Remember, once the set -up is complete you're home free. Your enjoyment will be worth the trouble.
End of bad news.
The Diva is not a snob. While very much at ease with arias (of course), requiems, cantatas, symphonies, and other upper-crust repertoire, it also is able to let its hair down and boogie. Just keep the tunes coming, be they rock, pop, jazz, or New Age. The Divas are truly A-to-Z speakers - Albitioni to Iggy Pop to ZZ Top they can do it all.
Loudspeakers have the ability to influence and very subtly, at that - the prevailing musical tastes of the listener. Gross examples of such polarizations are classical vs pop, large ensembles vs intimate groups, or vocal vs instrumental. The talent of the Diva is so multi-faceted that it does not seek out specific selections. it's more like a good actor's ability to lend credibility to any role he is asked to play. The Diva can sing and dance to any tune.
The more I listen, the more I sense that whatever limitations exist, I should not blame the Divas. That by no means implies that the Divas are perfection itself, but I do feel that my exploration of this product so far has been limited by the ancillary equipment.
The great variety in associated equipment is not listed for show. The intent here is to coax the Divas into revealing their true character. By nourishing the speaker with signals where the colorations are diversified, it is assumed that it will be easier to separate out the contribution that the Diva makes, and not confuse it with associated equipment problems. I did not want to penalize the speaker for a fault originating in the test equipment.
I don't mind telling you that this review has been very trying. On the one hand, I just want to sit back and take in every single note of musical bliss the Divas are able to summon: on the other, I want to tell this tale of good fortune to as many people as possible, so that they too may be able to partake of this delight.
For me, the desirable aspects of good loudspeaker performance are on full display here: transparency, soundstage, detail, focus, dynamics, spectral balance, loudness-it's all there. Yet each time I list another characteristic - I feel I do disservice to the Divas. Attempts to analyse and pick these speakers apart, even in complimentary terms, will not convey the spirit of this speaker.
The strength of these loudspeakers is their ability to communicate the essence of a musical event. It's an all-inclusive concept that suffers considerably when broken down to its component parts. Instead, we have to think in terms of the performance as a whole, and recognize that the constituent aspects have to act in concert, reaching us properly proportioned and mutually enhanced. Only then are we in a position to fully appreciate the significance of these loudspeakers.
But I'll strike a compromise. Let's say that the basics are all present and accounted for, and I'll try to concentrate on a few of the more involved performance aspects such as spectral balance, dynamics, and soundstage.
In general, slogans originating with the manufacturer do not sit well with me. As far as I'm concerned, they're all self-serving propaganda; I dismiss these attempts at influence. In the case of Apogee's reference to "seamless" I will, however, make an exception. I simply can't think of a more apt description of the crossover's non-contribution. i know it's there to act as traffic cop for routing the proper frequencies to each driver, but the discontinuities normally associated with crossovers are nonexistent, resulting in admirably smooth response transitions from one driver to the next.
The transition from the woofer to the midrange ribbon is handled in a most satisfactory manner, and is one of the most remarkable aspects of the Diva. It is a joy to hear the characteristic of the woofer match that of the midrange. Many high - performance speaker systems choose panel speakers for the upper ranges, leaving the lowest frequencies to dynamic-cone units; a well-trodden path, as we all know Those low ends go deeper, have more sock and loudness. But wherever I go, whatever I read, the conclusion in most cases is the same: loss of continuity and coherence.
This particular transition point has been a quest of sorts all through my adventures with planar loudspeakers. I have spent many hours trying to mate a woofer to a planar loudspeaker, mostly working with Quad electrostatics. To no avail - I have yet to find a woofer system that I liked. One or both of two problems always reared their ugly heads: If it wasn't the crossover coloration, the woofer discontinuity was sure to get in the way. My need for maximum transparency always won out, and I opted for the purity that only a single speaker could deliver.
The Divas handle this extremely difficult task very well, raising my esteem of these speakers considerably. Avoiding dissimilar drivers in this critical region eases the burden significantly, but I feel that the crossover is really the other half of the success story.
It all shows up in the Divas' expert handling of the whole spectrum. The midrange is extremely smooth, open, and transparent; not unexpected, judging by the performance of the previous models. But now the bass joins the midrange to enhance these qualities. Add to that the very impressive sound-pressure levels that can be enjoyed at frequencies where only subwoofers dared to tread. No, the Divas will not do 16Hz with ease. They will, however, manage to pump out some very respectable subterranean sounds, adding not only body and foundation to large ensembles but hitting home with vigor on bass drums and rattling windows when dealing with organ outbursts.
If you're thinking raw power-don't. That's not the Diva style. Everything is tidy, transparent, and controlled. Some might call it reserved, or even deficient, but I call it refined.
Rather than settle for a response that extends and distorts, I prefer a limitation. Even though the lowest octave is subdued, everything leading up to it is coherent and refined.
I encountered no problems at the other end of the spectrum. The treble extension is obviously very generous, and I was very gratified by the newfound air and etched transients.
The Divas also shine dynamically. Their capacity to handle musical material at louder levels has been upped markedly. Assaults of full orchestral sweeps or the indignities of heavy metal are handled with such remarkable ease that I consistently found myself playing everything at increased levels. I can only reason that the quality of the overall reproduction was performing to a much higher standard. The normal distractions, in the form of constricted dynamics, annoying discontinuities, spectral balance limits, and soundstage disorientations, have been suppressed, allowing essential musical cues to dominate.
As good as the Diva is, it has limits. When it comes to hitting home with ultimate impact, such as rim shots and vigorous bass and kickdrum assaults, the Diva holds back. Even though I hear undiminished detail and coherence, the slam has been tamed. At this point in our relationship, I have not heard the Diva do what its dynamic cousins are famous for.
But I've saved the best for last. As far as I'm concerned, the Divas present a soundstage that is simply phenomenal. Again, it's the total presentation that dazzles. This includes the overall soundspace that seemingly pervades the whole stage in front of the listener, and billows forward from there to envelop the listener as well. At the same time, individual performers do not get lost in this expanse, and are featured prominently. It's a stunning display of immediacy, and in my experience, the best.
Vivid images materialize and confront the listener. Each is usually enveloped by a sonic glow, and enhanced by a palpable roundness. The instruments are locked in space laterally and depthwise thanks to some remarkable focusing abilities. If there is an error in the rendition of size, it is toward the large. This is a very slight exaggeration at times, and applies mainly to single instruments. For a speaker this size, that's a compliment.
The panoramic presentation of the Divas is, in my experience, peerless. They operate with a sweep so broad that it's startling at times. Add to that a keenly developed sense of depth, and we are talking grandiose At first, I thought that the Quad ESL-63s had a way of immersing the listener in the soundstage, but the Duetta Mk.IIs bettered them by a healthy margin. The Divas go one better. A cut or two of an orchestra at full tilt, or sounds of the big bands, will put this point across spectacularly
The search is over. Congratulations, Apogee! As far as I'm concerned, the Diva is a clear-cut Class A component. The vacancy in this prestigious position of the Recommended Components listing for loudspeakers has been too conspicuous too long. I hope that the guiding forces at Stereophile see it my way and, as Aretha Franklin - another Diva-would sing, "second this emotion."
Reprinted from Stereophile magazine, August 1988
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