Atlantis Acoustique Seolane Mk2 LoudSpeaker
Review by Neil Walker
The singer was female, a soprano, auditioning to be the cantor for our High Holy Day services. The background info? Operatic training and a career in European opera houses as well as performing as a cantor and teaching. She was tall, attractive, and a little nervous at the size of the room, my listening room. After all, the synagogue’s entire board of directors was assembled in a room measuring 11 and a quarter feet by 19 and a half feet, with an eight-foot ceiling. Her voice can fill a concert hall without amplification.
We had never done this before, so everyone was a little tense, excited and happy. We are only 50 families and have always had students of music perform as cantor. They had been extraordinarily good and we had been exceptionally fortunate, but this year, our young students had grown up and moved on. This year, we were auditioning a professional cantor.
She began by singing a few blessings. Then she sang the Kol Nidrei. Omig-d! What a voice! What depth, what sparkle, what dark shadings, what control. Our little room was bursting. And here she was, even when singing loudly, a rich and strong voice. No squeakiness, no harshness, no loss of control. Just beautiful and very clear music.
Our treasurer looked as if he would weep, but not at the thought of paying her. He was thinking of the many times he had heard this most beautiful of songs and how evocative and lush was her singing.
Me? I looked askance at my sound system. What a lousy A-B test this one was!
In reality, the cantor taught me what music can be. She also left me with a memory of how closely the gear I review can come to that stirring sound. Like the day about ten years ago when I walked into a local art gallery to discover the famous and brilliant guitarist Norbert Kraft performing for over an hour in the gallery’s large open lobby. Free Sunday concert.
These two events taught me something about sound, reality in hi-fi and how music fills a room. They also showed me what audiophile listening is – truth in deception. Or the magic of music through the sorcery of recorded music, because any reproduction of sound is in the realm of psycho-acoustics. Just as we see pictures when there is nothing more on the tv screen but a point of light, we hear voices and musical instruments when electrical current causes a diaphragm or cone or some other thin and light to vibrate.
Do I Ever Stop Talking?
About now, you may be asking why Walker is making such a long-winded introduction to this review. I had just finished reviewing one fine loudspeaker, the Gershman Caméléon, and then started to listen to the next one for review, the Atlantis Acoustique Seolane Mk2. The Seolane is a two-way bass reflex loudspeaker that costs about four or five hundred dollars more than the Gershman but provides a totally different listening experience.
As it turns out, I enjoy listening to both speakers. I could be happy living with either one. And that is what puzzled me. How can this be? Is not truth in music the goal? If so, which loudspeaker is more truthful? Or is my enjoyment of both inexplicable? I cannot answer these questions to my own satisfaction, but I have tried to review both speakers as fairly as possible.
I said that the Seolane sounds very different. It also looks very different. It is compact and attractive. The upper third of the cabinet is angled backward, creating a small offset of the tweeter, presumably in the interest of ensuring greater phase coherence. At the back of the speaker is a second tweeter whose purpose is to improve imaging.
The finish is a beautifully executed lacquer, although I did not like the color of the review unit, champagne, very much. The ink-blue is my personal favorite, although this or any of the other colors might dictate any number of other decorating decisions for you. Another aspect of this speaker’s appearance I liked was its size. At 33.5 inches high, it looks impossibly small, or at least short, compared to most other floorstanders. However, when you sit down to listen, the tweeter is at or slightly below ear level; in all the listening I did, there was never any sense that the speaker was too low.
The Enjoy the Music.com Badge
The Seolanes arrived with a set of major spikes, but, on the advice of the distributor, I removed these and replaced them with three Mutine cones, little cones of a hard conglomerate that I have already used to improve the sound of several other components in my system. The bass reflex enclosure belts out a solid bass and the series crossover does a lot to ensure phase coherence.
After installing them, I broke them in – Mutine recommends at least 50 hours, but by the time I got to critical listening, these speakers had accumulated at least 200 hours. Critical listening means that I am supposed to be able to tune my hearing to pick out which frequencies are missing, too strong or just right. I am also supposed to be able to hear where each speaker rolls off and the other comes on. If it is a really good day, I can identify the brand and date of manufacture of the woodglue used to hold the speaker cabinet together and whether drywall screws anchor the drivers, regular round head wood screws or odds and ends from the left over parts bin. (You thought I was kidding about the Enjoy the Music.com "This Reviewer Has The Ears of a G-d" badge.)
Why I Like This Job
In reality, I just listen to music that I love. My problem is that sometimes, I love the music so much, that I forget to listen to the speaker instead of the music. When that happens, I know it is a good speaker, since what we advocate at Enjoy the Music.com is that musical enjoyment is the purpose of high-end, high-fidelity audiophile gear.
Anyway, losing myself in the music happened on several occasions with the Seolanes. Examples? The Beethoven violin concerto played by Hilary Hahn with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with David Zinman conducting is a beautiful version of this most beautiful concerto. It also happened to be a test against which I measure speaker performance. On this recording, the orchestra often presents an undifferentiated wall of sound on lesser loudspeakers. But the Seolanes provide clear imaging and the orchestra is a unified whole of discernible parts. The crystalline clarity of Hahn’s singing violin is another measure of a loudspeaker’s performance, which the Seolanes also passed.
On the other hand, DJ Shadow presents his own test of the speakers. He is a turntablist with a lot of drum and bass that pack a wallop on any of his recordings. For this review, I listened to Pre-emptive Strike [MoWax/FFRR: 314 540 867-2]. Right from the first second of the first track, the Seolanes slammed out the DJ Shadow beat. “This speaker rocks!” I thought to myself. Same thing with Ministry’s "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" (Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs [Sire/Warner Bros. CD 26727]) and the demanding bass on Lauryn Hillÿs "To Zion" and "Every Ghetto, Every City" on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse - Columbia CK 69035)
My first impression remains. Holger Czukay’s “Invisible Man” and “Dancing in Wild Circles” (Good morning story, Tone Casulaties, tclp 9944) give me shivers. With the Seolanes, the music still entranced me, although not to the extreme of some other speakers. Czukay’s voice was directly in front of me, an almost concrete presence. Then the drum play and guitar had the similar effect. However, the bass, as full and musical as it is, does not possess quite the precision I was loking for. On the other hand, when Elvis Presley performs "Fever" on the LP, Elvis Is Back [RCA Victor LSP 02231 re-issued by DCC as LPZ-2037], the Seolanes provide every bit of detail my reference amplifier gave them. Result? Texture (Elvis is so there!), imaging, sense of space, an upright bass and cymbal in my listening room.
So it rocks, you say. So, sensitive reproduction of Ministry notwithstanding, can it handle something as delicate as, say, the classical harp? Or the solo violin? Or Shirley Horn’s "If you leave me," [You Won’t Forget Me, Verve, 847 482-2]. The answer is an emphatic yes. The Seolanes bring out the creaminess of Horn’s voice as they do they metal of the cymbals, the brushes and the piano. Listen to James Carter start playing “Nuages (Clouds)” on Chasin’ the Gipsy [AtlanticCD83304]. You can practically count the vibrations of his bari sax reed. The piece, a tribute to Django Reinhardt, also features Charlie Giordano playing accordion. The Seolanes express every nuance of Giordano’s subtlety as he follows Carter’s sax.
You will find that these speakers provide pleasant, plummy detail right down to their limit of 32 Hz. When I tried out such music as Gary Peacock’s December Poems [ECM, ECM-1-1119], his bass sang and also powered out the deep notes. One of my favorite organ test CDs is Nicolas Kynaston playing Franz Liszt’s “Funerailles” [Organ Works, IMP Masters/Carlton Classics 30366 00032]. It opens quietly but very near the bottom of the organ’s pedals. No problem at all – the Seolanes gave it everything the CD demanded most satisfactorily. Not only did I hear the Hz, I also heard the music, a rare enough event in the range of 30Hz to 50Hz.
Another piece which reveals a lot about speakers is Clark Terry playing “Whispering the Blues” on his album Shades of Blues [Challenge Records, JAZZ CHR 70007]. Terry plays with a quartet made up of his trumpet and flugelhorn, Al Grey’s trombone, Marcus Mclaurine’s bass and Charles Fox’s piano. This piece features Terry doing one of his mumbles routines, and the Seolanes did full justice to the interior of his deep, rich voice. Also impressive was the lead-in of bass, muted trumpet and piano background. The Seolanes placed both instruments firmly in the soundstage. Then, on “The View From Glencove,” the Seolanes capture the rapidfire duet of bass and flugelhorn with unerring accuracy and swift response. A great you-are-there experience.
So, Are They Worth The Money?
Absolutely. In the $2,000 range, they are in a competitive rattlesnake nest. The price is just enough for the neophyte who is moving up from his or her first, basic loudspeaker. In particular, the Seolanes provide the high-end sound you look for after you have educated yourself with your entry level loudspeakers.
They are musical, precise, full and warm with good transient response characteristics. They also offer an attractive, well-executed finish. In this highly competitive price niche, the Seolanes more than hold their own, easily outperforming speakers costing a thousand or so more.
These are musical, attractive speakers with great bass extension, a warm yet transparent sound and the ability to give you shivers when you play your personal favorites. I would be happy to live with these speakers for a long time. The Seolanes offer more than enough depth and subtlety for either the audiophile or the music-lover to explore since only the most addicted upgrader would feel otherwise.
Connectors: gold plated, grounding connector
Weight: 50 lbs.
Dimensions: 33.5 x 10.3 x 16.1 (HxWxD in inches, including spikes)
Warranty: two years
Price: Canadian $3,290, American $2,190