January 1996, Vol 3. No. 1
An Annotated Guide to True Love
Acarian Alón Point V Loudspeaker
BY FRED MANTEGNIAN
"Alón, what light from yon window breaks"
Carl Marchisotto, president of Alón, is on a roll. Last year, he pumped up our irreverent leader (in whose ears we wax-poetic) with the $995 Alón Petites (reviewed, July 1995), These small, two-way speakers received accolades galore, lacking only for deep bass.
Marchisotto's response- the optional PW-1 subwoofer ($500)- extends the low end of the Petites, and the "Petite Trio" sets new standards for affordable speaker systems. Not content to rest on what looks like particularly comfortable laurels, however. Marchisotto has designed the two-and one-half-way floor standing $1,095 Alón Point V speakers, which reach nearly as far into the basement as the Petite's dedicated subwoofer -but for $400 dollars less than the "Trio" package.
While the Point V has two 6.5-inch drivers, the bottom one rolls off above 200Hz, while the upper driver continues up to the 3,000Hz crossover to the tweeter-hence the two-and-one-half-way designation. In classic Alón tradition, the tweeter is mounted on a freestanding, but sealed, baffle atop the 32 inch cabinet housing the twin cones. Bass is supplemented with a "restrictively loaded distributed port"-four small holes on the rear of the cabinet. Construction quality is excellent, and while my room frequently rattled on some bass notes, the speakers never did.
Over the last several months, the Alóns became something of a reference in my listening room. Not because they were so light and easy to move around (verily, we reviewers are a lazy lot), nor because they could be driven by any amplifier thrown at them. No, they became a reference for the right reasons-the Alón Point Vs are, quite simply, wonderful speakers.
"Alón, what might yon woofer makes"
Mighty bass indeed. The Alón's bass was not only powerful, it was ridiculously articulate- at this price, don't you get quantity or quality? The Alón gives you both. While the Point V doesn't go down to 20Hz, I never felt anything was missing, and down to the mid-30s, nothing was! When asked, the Alóns positively slammed. On more sedate material, they impressively reproduced what was in the recording, without coloration or undue emphasis. While room placement wasn't a real problem, don't treat them like floor standing minimonitors. Placing them too close to the wall could lead to a midbass rise and other nasties.
The Point Vs' dynamic performance was best portrayed a half-minute into the Eagles' acoustic "Hotel California" on Hell Freezes Over (CD, Geffen, 20642 47252), when what sounds like a huge resonant bass drum at stage right is whacked senseless (actually, it's the loose risers under the kickdrum contaminating the microphone signal). Meanwhile a congo in the other channel joins shakers from both sides of the stage to challenge the Alóns' transient integrity The Alóns reproduced this difficult low frequency thrombosis without polluting the more delicate percussion instruments in the mix.
"Alón, What sight from yon image shakes?"
From the word go, the Point V did the image thing with aplomb, a Moby Grape- you name it, it did it. Gentle Giant, a little known band whose fifteen minutes of fame occurred somewhere in the mid-Seventies, consistently produced what we today call "audiophile approved recordings." The song "Schooldays," from Three Fiends (CD, Columbia CK 31649), is a roller coaster of surprises -voices weaving in and out, bass playing in a different time signature than the rest of the band, and enough deep and zing-free reverb to give special effects a good name. The Alón presents layering and distance with great alacrity and precision. The Point V 's iron grip on transients meant instruments appeared and disappeared exactly on queue, preserving the artificial soundscape in this recording. Outstanding! On less studio-intensive fare. the imaging was still scarily good. James Taylor Live (CD, Columbia C2K 47056) is so good you may consider chucking your Weaver's Live At Carnegie Hall (consider doing so in any case). My favorite cut is "Traffic Jam," with its infectious rhythm and too cool backup vocals. The audience must agree, because they're clapping and hooting throughout the song. The Point Vs bring you the experience with first-person-present conjugative skill, letting the audience approach, but barring them from storming the stage for autographs. Again, transients are crisply replayed, but exhibit a slight degree of smearing in the upper midrange that is totally absent on the nine-times as expensive Magnepan MG-20s. Well, that's fair.
"Alón, what wondrous flight yon rhythm wakes!"
The Alóns sweetly captured the drive of the orchestra in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 "Italian" (CD, Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra, Anton Nanut conductor, Special Music Company SCD 6025- four bucks, they work cheap in Ljubljana- pick it up!). I had my air-viola out within two measures. Ditto for Bizet's Symphony in C Major (same CD). The leading edges of pizzicati were full bodied but fast, propelling the work along. Pace in general was very good, but occasionally the Alón's valiant efforts to extract all that it could from the bass placed enough demand on its drivers to slow things down a hair.
The Alón's tweeter speaks with dynamic authority and seems to move volumes of air that belie its size. Transients are powerful, but not burnished. If pushed beyond its operating range and be certain it's not your amplifier that you're pushing beyond its operating range- there is some compression, but no pain. The Alón's top end is smooth.
When Marchisotto compares the Point Vs with more expensive speakers in his line, he opines that they don't have quite the same level of resolution. Then 'splain me this, please, Carl. How come I can hear the oboe's valve stops thunking during the Adagio in Bizet's symphony? True, the Point Vs aren't the last word in microdynamics, and the subtle shadings of stringed instruments are somewhat softened and glossed over. But if this is what Marchisotto considers "low-rez," I've simply got to hear the bigger Alóns!
If you're considering spending around $2,000 a pair for speakers, don't make your move- until you've auditioned the Point Vs. If, on the other hand, you're looking for speakers around the kilobuck point, the Alóns are easily a "gotta' have." These speakers are so easy to love, I'm recommending them to all those about to take the plunge. Marchisotto is to speaker design what William Shakespeare was to literature- speaking to the gallery and to the Royal Box as well.
Read any good plays lately?
Acarian Alón Point V Loudspeaker
Tonality 83 Bass is articulate and midrange is wonderful, with only the slightest thinning in upper midrange. Treble has very little grain.
Dynamics 82 Shockingly good. Microdynamics are good, but not as reactive as I would have liked.
Resolution 79 The Point V lets you hear into the recording, but low level microdynamic limitations ultimately, well limit just how much information you'll retrieve.
Imaging 85 Stable, wide and pin-point. Depth is very good, and stage height is taller than the speakers.
Timing 84 It's not important just in comedy
Overall 82 The numbers don't tell the whole story. This is one great speaker.