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April 2014
Superior Audio Equipment Review
Enjoy the Music.com's Top 20 Best Gear Of 2014
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SoulSonic Impact LE Speakers
An interesting value among $90,000 loudspeakers.
Review By Matej Isak

 

SoulSonics Impact LE Loudspeakers  Miro Krajnc is one of those people who never rests. This is the urge I've repeatedly seen with the people that created most memorable products in high-end audio industry. There is something both special and unique in striving for perfection, which moves these people forward and never let them rest. Miro Krajnc designs loudspeakers for over twenty years and in his quest he traveled through all the permutations and loudspeaker designs. At the end he interestingly "settled" down with his own dipole/ribbon design that culminates his life's long search for the most natural performing loudspeaker. Even the most natural sounding loudspeakers won't hold much without the substantial dynamic range. This is something that needs to be addressed from ground up and refined to perfection in order to work in real life. Often we hear and even discuss the ultimate sense of musical reproduction, but it is one thing to contemplate around the theory and something completely different to bring such performance to the real world application. In the ultra-fidelity all the little things are being taken into the loop and the final outcome is based on all the combined efforts and design choices. There is no hit and miss when designing such products. Everything down to the smallest details must be planned and taken into consideration.

 

The Upper Echelon
No matter how we turn things around, it is a fact, that some audio components have an inherited cost attached to them. With the really great upper echelon products, this has little to do with the luxury appeal, but more so with the actual functionality of the design. Technological and manufacturing choices being made are of the top most importance. High-end audio is still a niche market compared to something like computer or mobile telephone industry and as such cannot massively produce the products that would have a more affordable price sticker. Sometimes I do dream about the times when such R&D and funds would be on hand as with other industries. This would for sure make our beloved high-end audio a completely different place.

It seems there will be always an ongoing debate regarding which audio component is most important in a high-end audio system. Let us for the sake of objectivity focus in this review on the loudspeakers as the epicenter. They do present the direct immediate link to the listener and are the interactive medium for translating the music from our electronics. As they are transducers there should be little if no doubt regarding their importance. To get to the level of a certain performance so far I've only heard few $90,000 loudspeakers being truly able in bringing the amount of reality back to the listening space, that we associate with the real experience. For example MBL 101 X-Treme, Sonus Faber The Sonus Faber and Aida are few of the exemplary loudspeakers, that I've enjoyed highly when heard under right circumstances. They offer a level of audio reproduction, that most other speakers fail to deliver. Up in the clouds it is all about the credibility and pace of the musical dynamics. Now, no speaker reveals itself as being perfect. It's the same with both MBL 101 X-Treme and Sonus Faber flagship speakers.

MBL 101 X-Treme has this grand ability to draw a remarkable 360 degree sound field, which other types of speakers fail to deliver. On the other hand Sonus Faber manages to bring the instrument body three-dimensionality that only closed boxed dynamic speakers seems to reproduce in the best possible way. So is it impossible to have the best of the both worlds?

 

The Design
SoulSonics Impact LE SpeakersEnter the new realms of SoulSonic Impact LE loudspeakers. Miro Krajnc managed to combine those two opposite attributes of Radialstrahler concept and dynamic loudspeakers under one product. It took him a lifetime to perfect it and bring the Impact LE to the level of a true ultra-high-end audio performance, but the result is avid and worthy of the highest praise. With the upper echelon loudspeakers the real musical universe is starting to unveil in a special way. Like with great mirror cameras, loudspeakers offer a certain amount of anchor points that recreate the complex aural event. Some speakers do this to a higher degree, some to a lesser degree and some remain pale in the way they reveal musical messages. In the high-end audio we're dealing with a level of musical reproduction that is really a much more complex task then we are willing to recognize it. Human body acts as whole in being an aural receptor. As recent studies incline, it's not only our ears, that deal with the sounds around us, but the whole body reacts as a web of sensory receptors in recreating an illusion of musical event. This is why both approaches, scientific and subjective listening, are needed in creating something musical and of reference status.

SoulSonic Impact LE loudspeakers are unique creations. You don't feel the usual unpleasant pressure of dynamic loudspeakers with them. You do not crave for the Radialstrahler atmospheric dimensionality. With Impacts LE you simply forget about technicalities and immerse into the music. It is different kind of musical experience that intrigued so many at CES when hearing the SoulSonic Impulse speakers for the first time.

There would probably never be perfect loudspeakers. This is a material world and we're dealing not only with dualities, but always with the reflections. I guess in years to come we'll perfect some or the other audio concepts in the search for the greatest musical experience, yet we'll always stay at some approximate level in regard to the original source. Impact LE brings a strong glimpse of that future in the fast forwarding nature. It's the 21st century SoulSonic that take on the high-performance music reproduction with the greatest authority and believability I've heard up to date. And still under $91,000. 

What you'll notice with bespoke crafted high-performance high-end audio products is the ease of the musical "intake" and the overall feeling of correctness and rightness. Something you feel right after experiencing the acoustic un-amplified concert. The happening resonates with you for prolonged time in a pleasant and satisfying way. The same energy is radiating after listening to the complete audio system and mature audio products. This exact feeling or "flavor" is connected with listening and after listening experience with Impact LE. A very genuine design indeed!

I see the sole purpose of higher priced products in creating the musical atmosphere that feels not only right, but great and immensely satisfying. At these price points some attributes should be mandatory. Greatness is one of them. Not on paper as some thesis, but in real life performance. This is also where high-performance art comes in with it is best pace. At certain price point we cannot simply stop and consider only technical specifications, materials being used and mystical hype surrounded. The musicality and the feeling of energy transfer is a must. We should demand this as both, critics and consumers. SoulSonic Impact LE loudspeakers belong to the product family with an ability to evoke this sensual experience in a grand way that lasts and invites you to come back for more and more.

 

The Technical Aspect
SoulSonics Impact LE SpeakersEverything about the visual design of the SoulSonic Impact LE has a firm acoustical background. The woofers are located close to the floor in order to avoid the 100 to 200 Hz room dip which usually happens in smaller rooms and speakers that have woofers located high off the ground. The woofers are angled in a way that partially compensates of their movement, thus minimizing vibrations.

The shallow waveguide in front of the ribbon improves the efficiency and directionality of the ribbons, while enabling a symmetrical horizontal power response. Due to the shape of this waveguide, the reflections from the back wall are diffused upon reaching the back of the waveguide, which reduces the negative impact of the early reflections. This arrangement also gives more direct sound and hence is less dependent on room acoustics, giving a more intimate feel with the instruments and voices. The waveguide opening is 115 degrees, which still enables wider dispersion as from the horns, for instance.

All frequencies above 500Hz are reproduced by one driver, the pure ribbon that has about 360 square centimeters of active surface area and has extremely low mass. SoulSonic Impact LE represents a "wide baffle" approach to speaker building which is quite contrary to the prevailing "narrow baffle" philosophy. A wide baffle increases efficiency and also gives more believable subjective "weight" and authority to the sound of instruments and voices.

All of the above contributed to some special sonic qualities that were easily heard as soon as the music began to play.

 

The Music
The biggest difference between the sound of Impact LE (or Impulse SE for that matter) and a conventional boxed speaker is in the box-less character of the sound that is free of any air compression effects and box induced colorations. You hear only the instrument or voice without any artificial "bloom" or "euphonic" coloration. Nothing stands between you and the performers and once you experience this "honesty" and get accustomed to it, every music performance seems much more rewarding and believable. The instruments unfold in front of us in their lifelike tonal colours and life-sized dimensions and it becomes clear that if we are after the unaltered sound of live instruments and voices – the box is a big obstacle on the way to achieve this. True, many high quality boxed speakers can give immense listening pleasure and joy in music reproduction, at least with some more popular genres but for the "true to the nature" and honest sound – no box seems to be the best box.

The next big difference comes in the perceivable size/height of the performers. It is obvious that a tall ribbon can reproduce this in much more believable proportions than a small dome and a midrange cone could. This don’t mean that the Impact LE don't differentiate between various instruments' sizes and different recordings, quite the contrary but when an instrument is grand, the Impact LE doesn’t squeeze it into one tiny point.

Moving on with the differences, the relatively large passive and active surface area makes every instrument sound much less stressed and hence believable. Very distinct difference in comparison to conventional boxed, "point source" speakers is when you approach the speakers, here, with Impact LE it sounds like you're getting closer to the actual instrument or human voice, unlike with conventional boxes where the sound seemingly falls apart – into fragments. Here were my music selections during this review:

Lekverk 21st Century Jump
Lekverk Everyday
Oscar Peterson Tracks
Kitty Hoff Zuhause
Alex Machacek, Jeff Sipe, Matthew Garrison There's A New Sheriff In Town
José James No Beginning No End

 

Conclusion
SoulSonic's Impact LE loudspeakers represent the pinnacle of high-end audio performance. They are designed from ground up in a different and much more elaborated way that follows the path of the music. I've stated many times, how only those who truly cherish the music can create the objects, which can thus bring out the highest emotional impact. This is an art. When the technology is being mastered for the one and only purpose of pure musical reproduction, technical aspects disappear and only music resonates on its strong grounds. This distinction separates the artisan way of creating from corporate production.

SoulSonics Impact LE SpeakersMiro Krajnc is among a few true artisans that have mastered his craft. He's humble enough to keep his efforts in striving for more. With SoulSonic loudspeakers, I always feel like being around an F1 racing car that uses state-of-the-art high-technology. Following the analogy In the car racing, everything matters. Each little detail can raise the advancement in performance. It feels the same with SoulSonic Impact LE. The aluminum base represents an upgrade from the Impact SE wooden base and offers a stunning complex construction that further deals with the rigidity, micro resonances, vibration control and its dispersion.

SoulSonic Impact LE loudspeakers can play all genres of music like no other speakers I've heard so far. Some speakers can really excel in certain parameter like for example MBL X-treme does with the classical un-amplified live music. But no loudspeakers so far managed to seamlessly close the gap in brining all music types under "one roof" so effectively and convincingly. Impact LE carries out such a highly demanding task in a highly effortless way. They will show their potential even with the entry level complementary electronics but when using the reference level electronics the real capabilities of Impact LE are taken much further. Yes indeed, the Impact LE loudspeakers are not affordable by any means, but they represent an interesting value among loudspeakers that not only cross the $100k price point, but go into the stratosphere of much higher pricing. These are the loudspeakers for the real connoisseur. They stand on their own with true authority and performance that is hard to match.

I'll work hard in my efforts to climb up to the ladder of SoulSonic loudspeakers becoming reference loudspeakers for my personal use. This company offers both reference tools for highest order of testing equipment as well as musical instruments that can convey back the music in its best fashion. It is a marriage made in heaven and one that is very unique in form following function.

Highest recommendation... provided you have the inclination to try something different and have the budget.

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way dipole loudspeaker
Drivers: 25mm wide, 145cm tall ribbon, low diffraction design
Two 12" underhung woofers
Design: The Plexiglas baffle prevents early dipole cancellation and provides waveguide loading.
Dimensions: 1685 x 900 x 600 mm (HxWxD)
Recommended Amplifier Power: 50W per channel or more
Weight: 195 lbs.
Price: €64,990 ($90,400 USD)

 

Company Information
SoulSonic
Brezno 71A
2363 Podvelka
Slovenia, Europe

E-mail: soulsonicspeakers@gmail.com
Website: www.SoulSonicSpeakers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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