World Premiere Review!
was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, It
was the age of foolishness...
It is an age of caution. It is the time of cloistered living. I found two large boxes were left on my doorstep. Donning latex gloves I sprayed all surfaces of those UPS boxes with disinfectant, and I left them till morning. Bright and early I opened the boxes and found purposely shaped inserts cradling a pair of Alyssa speakers. It was then that I noticed the handwritten note informing me that the contents had been carefully sanitized. Alta Audio's Alyssa speakers, as reviewed here, are wrapped in a beautiful Beechwood veneer that covers the speakers with a single seamless sheet.
Alta Audio's Beechwood veneer on their Alyssa wraps over the top and covers both sides of the cabinet. The entire speaker's surface is buried under layers of shining clear lacquer. Alta Audio's Alyssa has the appearance of fine cabinetry and they conform to a very high standard of craftsmanship. I was impressed even before I listened to them.
A little more than five years ago, April 2015 to be exact. I reviewed another Alta Audio speaker, the Celesta FRM-2 that is priced at $15,000. Right about now the new Alyssa speaker, and the larger Celesta speaker, have some things in common. Both are stand-mounted two-way designs with a ribbon tweeter on top of a conventional mid-bass cone driver. The Celesta has a 2.75" ribbon tweeter and a 6" mid-woofer.
The Alyssa, by comparison, is priced at $5000 per pair. Given current trends in high-end audio loudspeaker pricing, this is becoming a mid-priced product. It has a 2.5" ribbon tweeter and an improved 6" mid-woofer. Despite their compact size, the Alyssa's are rated at 32Hz up to 47kHz (+/-3dB). Understand they are certainly not bass shy. It is quite obvious to me at this point that the new Alyssa speaker exhibits an advanced level of refinement.
This is a transmission line designed enclosure with a rear port. The company literature will tell you that they have an exclusive implementation called XTL (Extended Transmission Line) technology. Explanation: When employing Transmission Line loading the rear wave from the mid-woofer is directed through a folded labyrinth or duct inside the cabinet. The enclosure is a hybrid between a tuned port and a transmission line. Keeping the best of both, while removing the weaknesses of each of them. The port tuning works from resonance on up. From resonance on down, the transmission line controls and extends the output of the speaker. At Alyssa's rear panel within a recessed space is a single set of speaker wire five-way binding posts, which adhere to European plastic-covered safety standards).
In Star Wars speak Yoda might comment: "Fighting this many times you are". So the problem is that the Alyssa speakers go way below that to 32Hz. Please note that 32Hz from a loudspeaker this size is generally unheard of. Other than measuring and then setting both speaker stands at a 5' distance from the rear wall, I found the speaker placement was very easy. Note: This placement is room dependent.
To get an exact stereo image, I have been known to use a laser pointer to aim the speaker's toe-in directly at my listening chair. But this time none of this painstaking set up was necessary. They ain't at all set evenly, but still, the Alta Audio Alyssa speakers image like crazy. I can't figure out how the Alyssa can do it; they look so conventional. They are spaced five feet apart but they don't seem to care, they can work pretty much (within reason) where I place them. The sound stage image remains solid, deep, and wide and that is a quality I must have.
You only need to set the speakers down and turn on the tunes. Even with Pandora MP3 music playing I couldn't help but notice the nice stereo image they generated. The manufacture's literature recommends a break-in period of 100 to 200 hours. But as of now with only 50 hours on them, I do hear the mid-bass driver becoming tighter and more controlled. Confession time, long ago in a galaxy far away I use to sing Doo Wop songs with a group called the Devotions. So if I tell you my reference is based on the sound of the human voice, you will understand this is what I know best.
I was listening to a Kenny Vance and the Planotones CD on the Ace records label. The Soundtrack to the Doo Wop Era [London CDCHD 1117.] This is a four-year-old recording of classic love songs. I intended to just sample one song from this CD but I became hooked. I listened to the whole disc from start to finish, I couldn't shut it down. Two weeks later after Diana Krall and Nils Lofgren and many others made their debut I thought I could describe one unique quality that I found so captivating. So the following is my gestalt conceptualization.
There is a very subtle emphasis on what some have called the presence range of the human voice. It seems to affect the baritone voice range and it imparts a warm and organic quality that lends a very specific timbre that can only come from a human. This quality seems to focus and impart dimensional space within its range. The baritone influence helps localize a distinct layer coming from a bit farther back in the center. At the same time, the second tenor and first tenor benefit by occupying a separate and defined space of their own.
Now for something different, let's substitute my Sanders Magtech amplifier and my Parasound P5 Preamplifier in place of the Schitt Ragnarok 2 Integrated amplifier. Instead of the Bifrost DAC, I substituted my Music Hall 25.3 DAC. I immediately heard different shades and subtleties. The sound of Nils Lofgren along with his brother Tommy Lofgren their two guitars sound was at the same time crisp and clear but very slightly cooler. And I found myself missing that midrange warm edge that added body and placement specificity to the human voice.
Now a small part of that is due to the break-in of the Alta Audio Alyssa's 6" mid-woofer. Before switching anything I could hear that the driver had partially broken in and become better integrated with this Transmission line design. It produces a remarkably expansive soundscape, as the width and depth quality all remained intact.
The ability to look back into your system and its components are a testament to an ability to resolve minute details. A prime example would be my recent purchase of a new 180 gram pressing of the Beatles Revolver album [Gramophone PCS 7009]. The promotion said, Remastered from original master tapes. OK, I admit I'm very late to this particular party. But as I was researching a mastering technique called Flanging and Phasing. I found out George Martin and the Beatles experimented extensively with this while making this album. So as I listened to it I could hear noticeable variations in the quality between some of the tracks.
On side two, the first cut, Good Day Sunshine, it is crisp, clean, and more dimensional than most of the other tracks. This album serves as a history lesson in advances made in recording and mastering techniques. The Alta Audio Alyssa detail resolution makes this album's studio mastering abundantly clear. I attribute much of this resolution to the ribbon tweeter. It is smaller than my reference Aurum Cantus V30M ribbon tweeter speakers, but it projects a hell of a lot more information. As for the lower bass end of the audio spectrum, I will need to put more hours on the Alta Audio Alyssa speakers to be certain they have reached their best performance.
Three additional weeks listening time have passed and now with a bit more than 200 hours on the speakers, something has been added down below. The bass has gained a much better pitch definition. To illustrate, imagine the sound of a plucked bass fiddle string. Initially, you hear the sound of that very first instant the bass string vibrates. But now and more evident are the very subtle wooden textures and overtones of the bass fiddles' resonant body. With this increased coherence the sound decays and fades into silence. This is essential to understanding the live envelope of air surrounding the instrument. It is the textures of life that draw us believing in an alternate reality.
Alta Audio's Alyssa
Remember to Enjoy The Music and from me, Semper Hi-Fi.
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