Review: Odeon Tosca Speaker
The Odeon Toscas are far and away the best speakers I’ve had (a category that has included Maggies, Acoustats, Reference 3As, and other highly regarded speakers). They are German speakers with a compression tweeter loaded in a spherical horn and an 8-inch woofer with a back-loaded horn, all in a beautiful walnut burl cabinet. They’re fairly efficient, at 92 db, and a ruler flat 8-ohm impedance curve, so 15 or twenty watts is plenty, and I understand that some people run them with 2A3 SETs, though I’ve never tried that myself. As you can tell from the associated equipment, I like tubes and the warmth and light they bring to music. As I heard one hi-fi salesman say, “tubes wake you up and let you relax at the same time.” Just like real music. I’m a musician myself of several decades standing, so my orientation is music first and sound second. In stores I've listened quite a bit to Krell and Wilson equipment and while I was impressed with their sound, I never wanted to listen for any length of time. When I went to the Stereophile show last year I had the same experience, being impressed by the monster Harry Pearson set up, but wanting to stay for hours when it came to the simple Lammhorn/Tenor room because it felt like music (and this was when they were playing music I didn't even care for). For me, that's the only meaningful test of hi-fi equipment: do I want to keep listening, do I enjoy the music I'm hearing?
The thing that most impresses me about the Odeons is how live the music sounds. By that I mean not only that instruments sound like real musical instruments, but that every recording sounds like a live recording. The risk and rush that is inherent in a live performance seems to be there even in the most one-track-at-a-time studio recording. I’m not sure how to explain this, except to say that the speakers are so agile and sweet that they can find the spark, however tiny, in any performance. It’s uncanny. It really is impossible to read when these speakers are playing. They command attention—or rather the music commands attention.
That, to me, is the critical difference I hear between these speakers and everything else I’ve listened to. Yes, you can tell what the horn player had for lunch and you can hear how the humidity in the recording space changed from one day to the next, but that is never the point. Those things never intrude on the music, any more than the smell of beer intrudes on the power of a great jazz solo in a club. On the contrary, just as all the sensory input in a club tells you this is live performance, that same level of detail in the speakers’ reproduction enhances the feeling of music here and now. It mainlines the musicians’ intent.
The Odeons are as sweet as my first kiss, and a whole lot more confident. They are the first speakers I’ve heard that sound equally effective on every kind of music (and I do mean every kind—I’m as likely to put on Cecil Taylor as I am Palestrina or John Fahey or NRBQ). They reach plenty deep for me, still quite strong at 31 hz, and the bass is clean. There is no horn honk or much of any speaker localization at all, which you might expect with horns (and this from a long-time Magnepan owner). In short, the Odeons are remarkable speakers. They are pushing me to upgrade everything else, just to see what’s possible, but they are entirely satisfying just with the mid-level gear I’m running them with now. That’s the highest recommendation I can think of.
Maplenoll turntable, Melos DVT cd player, Conrad Johnson preamp, Audio Research VT50 amp.
Magnepan 1.6, Reference 3A da Capos, Acoustat model ones