Its Alive Review of Cabasse Baltic/Thor
When was the last time you heard a system and said to yourself, its so natural, sounds so real, "its alive"!
My quest for a better spk begain when my HT setup started to sound like a serious contender compared to my main stereo rig. Something must be wrong, how could a hastily put together HT setup be better than a carefully assembled and expensive stereo?
I also had the opportunity to listen to some serious hi end stereo spks from Dali - the Euphonia MS4, which still is an extraordinary spk by any standard. So I set out to get a replacement in the same vein as the Dali. Went to audition a German Physics spk supplemented with a REL sub, which was an eye opening experience. Very pure tones, fast response, however with a slight edge in the highs.
At the same time, TS Lim casually mentioned that Cabasse made good spks, and not just the tweeters, but the mids were also very accurate. Never did I imagine how prophetic those words would be.
I then arranged to visit the local dealer and borrow the Cabasse iOs + Thor sub home for a trial. It was really an eye-opening experience [pun intended]. Fast, dynamic, detailed, bass went low. Drawback seemed to be a little thin sounding and the bass was somewhat lose, but it wasn't ideally setup, so could probably be improved.
I toyed with the idea of getting this HT spk, but since funds permitted, and I didn't want to keep on upgrading - too troublesome. I just decided to bite the bullet and go for the bigger Baltic/Thor II.
The wait was a very, very, very long 3 weeks+ without stereo. I had to make do with my headphones meanwhile. Finally it arrived and the day it was setup for testing at the shop I rushed down to catch a quick listen. Was I going to regret my impulsive purchase? Or was I going to transported to audio heaven?
My initial reaction to it was - Wah! So big huh! Mmm nice WBT plugs at the back. The finish was very smooth. So smooth it wasn't impressive initially due to the mat finish. I listened to some familar tracks from Dire Straits' "On Every Street" remastered CD and it was amazingly good. Gone was the lean presentation of the iOs, and in its place a fully developed and tonally accurate midrange. Mark Knopfler's voice came over with a husky rawness and with such ease. The wait was worthwhile - phew!
The next day it was delivered in 3 large boxes nicely packed. Quickly setup and placed firing straight ahead [I didn't quite like the idea of those eyes looking at me while listening to music - kinda eeerie]. The ideal spots happen to be the same place where my previous spks were placed. I cut my 8' pair of Belden 8461s to 1m and 1.5m, 1m to the sub, 1.5m to the satellites.
What was to follow was music of the most beautiful tone, shocking speed, dynamics not unlike a live performance, soundstaging of the disappearing spks sort. The music came across with a natural ease, which made critical listening near impossible, for it was so beguiling, that I was swept away with the moment.
I threw everything in the arsenal at it - rock, pop, jazz, classical both small and big scale, yet it didn't flinch. I have nothing but admiration for the engineering and technology that went into the development of this spk. How does one put 3 spks in one and yet make it to sound right and dynamic at the same time? How does it succeed at what it does? Well being a point source certainly helps. The cone materials would have to be very light to respond so quickly to transients. A phase correct and high quality crossover. Certainly the shape of the spk also has to play an integral part in the spk's ability to disperse the sound waves without confusing the first direct sound eminating from the drivers.
The Cabasse tweeter is one of the best there is. The highs have a pristine quality and yet never sound stressed when pushed, even to obscenely loud levels. Cymbals were reproduced such life-like realness, it was positively scary.
The Thor sub is a worthy companion to these satellites. Powered with an integral 250w amp, with a signal sensing circuitry which switches on the sub automatically. Cool. It matched the speed of the Baltics note for note. Starting and stopping on a dime. Somehow I can't help but feel that the separate housing of the sub has given the Baltics the freedom to reproduce music without the unnecessary weight of those nasty bass notes clouding the lower mids.
Some further listening allowed me to discern way into the soundstage. Instruments which previously were masked were laid bare, and it did not take golden ears to hear it. There are times when you listen to good spks and you know it sounds so real, so unrestrained, so un-hifi. Of particular note was the way it fleshed out the harmonic structure of a note. The initial pluck of a guitar to the reverb of the note and its decay clearly evident. Notes started as they should, lasted as they should, and ended just as quickly as they began and the next note takes over, allowing you to follow all the detail if you want. But heck, with music sooo beautiful, who want's to dissect this or that, just enjoy the music before time flies and leaves you still wanting for more.
Is this the one for me? Most certainly, without a doubt, you can lay your last penny on it, that this is THE ONE!