Review: Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature Speaker
TYLER LINBROOK MONITOR AND FULL SYSTEM
This review is a long time in the writing for me, and perhaps overdue now that Tyler has new models replacing the old ones. I have owned the Linbrook System (two-piece) for 6 years. Before that, I replaced speakers about once per year for 6 years. As a musician, I have found few speakers that reproduce the full spectrum of music as well as these speakers do.
The Linbrook monitor is a fair bargain (and then some) in my book. Using some of the finest quality drivers available, and a substantially made cabinet, few speakers compete anywhere near its price point. Since it has been around for a while, I won’t go into its construction and components, other than to note that other speakers using the same drivers cost anywhere from $5 - $20k and more.
I will concentrate mainly on the Linbrook monitors and then mention the addition of the bass modules.
Tyler speakers encompass some of the best attributes other manufacturers have to offer and make few compromises. The tweeter, as one of the best made, and associated highs are never fatiguing and are very detailed. Listening to the Linbrook monitors is refreshing in this regard if you are used to many other speakers, even those highly regarded. Many speakers’ highs leave you irritated after a while. And you may have bought THOSE speakers after desiring more detail. Imagine having best of both worlds - the detail, and never feeling like you have to change the recording or the electronics.
The midrange is splendid, offering fine insight into the sound of the instruments or voices recorded, space, and dimensionality. Guitars sound like guitars, oboes like oboes, sopranos like sopranos. In fact, I’d say that the Tyler midrange is one of its best attributes as compared to many other manufacturers. Many are natural, but this one is involving, timbre oriented, and beautiful. Some people have classified the midrange as warm, but I would disagree; it is natural. More on ‘warmth’ later.
…One of the Tyler’s other strengths. Some speakers give you good midrange or great highs but at a price. The Tylers can go just about as loud as you want without breaking up or losing something if you want to play them at otherwise perturbing levels. The Tylers will give out long after your room does in this regard (that is, your room being a quintessential component, its interactions and standing waves will interfere with the sound as volume increases long before the Tylers stop making music in strict regard to THD and staying true to the recording). Dynamics can also be talked about in terms of ’snap’ or attack. I have heard some speakers that have greater attack, but this seems to be at the expenses of ’hot’ treble. The Tylers, once again, seem to balance attack with other attributes. They are fast and crisp with rim shots and string plucking, to give a couple examples. At low volumes the Tyler’s continue to shine, not needing more volume to ‘open up’ like so many loudspeakers (though this attribute is best realized at near-field listening). Lastly, given the well made cabinets and drivers, you can enjoy full orchestral music at high volumes without changing the quality of the sound.
Few monitors can output quality bass down to 35 Hz. The Linbrooks do. Even with some heavy orchestral music depending on the room a subwoofer may not be necessary. I have measured them with the stereophile test CD2 and RadioShack SPL meter in several rooms to attest to the frequency response. Lastly, the bass is musical and true to the instrument.
ELECTRONICS & POSITIONING
I have tried the Tylers with many electronics (see below). Strangely, they seem to make the best of every amp from which they are fed. I once hooked them up to a 1997 vintage Harman Kardon AV receiver at about 50 w/ch and was amazed ate the quality of the sound. They are also very efficient, making just about any amplifier a contender, whether 20 watts or 200. I have not had any equipment on which they have sounded poorly.
It seems many speakers’ ability to be easily positioned is often overlooked in reviews, assuming everyone has a dedicated audio room. The Tyler’s deserve credit in this area. I have tried these speakers in 4 different homes and 7 different rooms, and they are always easy to place. While some loudspeakers seem to sound -bad- in some positions, requiring much tweaking to get optimal performance, the Tyler’s seem to just sound better the more you move them around, offering a great perspective even in initial placement. The Linbrook monitors are one of the few speakers I have ever owned that sound great just about anywhere. Even at 5 inches from the wall, bass is simply tighter; at greater distances in the room sound staging improves. But the point is that, even in compromising situations (I even tried them once sitting on top of a 4’ TV cabinet with no stands), the Tyler’s work well. More importantly, they are fantastic in near-field listening, but unlike so many smaller monitors which demand near-field listening, the Tyler's also offer a second perspective. Moving your chair back another 1/2 distance from the near field gives yet a greater perspective which is as fleshed out as the first yet yields a different, no less enjoyable take on the recording.
OTHER SPEAKERS COMPARED
The most telling description of a speaker is how they sounded in YOUR room against other speakers. I have directly compared the Tylers against Aerial model 6’s, Harbeth SHL5, and Proac D25, and have owned prior to that B&W matrix 802’s, PSB stratus Gold i’s, and a few others. The closest in overall sound to the Tyler’s were the Aerials. The Tyler’s just produced more sound (or bigger sound) in-room, better bass, and more refined treble. The Tyler’s also seemed more relaxed than the Aerials in terms of dynamics, or ‘breathed‘ easier. The Harbeths were outstanding, exceeding the Tyler’s enjoyment in the area of midrange reproduction, but not by much. I have yet to hear a speaker beside the Harbeth that has succeeded in this area. Unfortunately, the Harbeth could not handle heavy music in terms of dynamics like the Tyler could. If I only listened to acoustic music or vocal, I might choose the Harbeth. The Proac’s in comparison were no match for the Tyler’s in most areas. Bass was lesser, treble was fatiguing (this could be a problem with electronics - see below), and overall the Tyler’s had a much more musical presentation. That said, the Proac’s were the best (of the three speakers) for solo piano music. They had a quicker attack than the Tyler’s and better spatial presentation. Overall however, the Tyler’s were much more enjoyable to listen to with highs as detailed as the Proac’s but non-fatiguing, better bass, and more midrange ‘bloom’ and positioning flexibility. The Proac’s had a small sweet-spot and required careful placement.
Like most audiophiles, having the ‘bug’ to upgrade, I have also auditioned many speakers at dealer locations. Listening to JMLab Electra’s (Be), Totem’s, Wilson Sophia (original), ML Summit, and others, few have impressed me enough to upgrade, and some left me wanting. Remember, this was with a dealer set-up and room, as compared to my own notion of what I was used to hearing in my own room, which has never been greatly prepared or treated. The ML Summit was one of the few that, given that I had a good sized room, might have ‘wooed‘ me to upgrade.
Some had said the Tyler's are 'warm'. I would not argue this point, although I believe they are not colored either. A way to look at this is associated equipment. Some would say a 'warm' speaker should be mated with solid state, and a 'cold' speaker with tubes. The Tyler sounds like the Tyler, regardless of what it is driven with. If it is in fact 'warm', perhaps it is neutral but leaning that way. Otherwise, as compared to Harbeth above (which are considered neutral in many regards), I would not consider the Tyler colored as compared to Harbeth.
MONITOR VS FULL SYSTEM
Along with the monitors (on Tyler stands) I have also had the bass modules (no longer a product offering - some years ago Tyler went with a one-piece system), which have two 8-inch woofers of the same SEAS high quality product. Before I bought them (I had had the monitors alone prior) I asked Ty about the difference, and he said that the bass modules would simply offer more bass of the same quality the monitors already provided. I repeat this because it is the best way to describe it. The full system is capable of true 25 Hz performance (as stated previously, I measured it) with no boom (given proper positioning) and providing quality bass, true to pitch and instrument. The only problem with this is that the bass modules are very deep in measurement, and therefore require proper distance from the front wall. Given that the monitors sit atop the bass modules, the monitors end up being perhaps farther from the front wall than you would desire. At that point you lose something in the midrange. Still, given a large room, the full system is an excellent performer. Given my experience however, I think the monitors with a good subwoofer (like REL) saves much in room placement flexibility and offers better overall low-frequency resolution. Perhaps the one-piece Linbrook solved some of this issue, not sure.
Over the years I have tried many tweaks on the Tyler’s. I have found weight to be a great thing. I have filled the stands with 50 lbs of kitty litter (each) and used the supplied brass footer cones. I tried placing the Monitors atop the stands with vibrapods underneath, placed 4 more vibrapods atop the speakers, and put 16 inch paver stones on top of that. This set up was really quite spectacular, however ugly! I think most speakers could benefit from such an arrangement (save speakers with the design like Harbeth provides which are meant to be ‘free air’). Otherwise, many speaker cables and such have not seemed to benefit or detract much from the Tyler’s.
The Tyler’s are a high quality and flexible product offering sonics few speakers under 5k can provide. They are easy to place, easy to drive, and the manufacturer offers a high level of customer service. After 6 years, I remain very content to enjoy these fine speakers.
System One: McIntosh MC 300 and McIntosh C15, or JRDG Concentra ; SONY SCD 777ES.
System Two: Bel Canto Pre6 and PL-1A, Cary Cinema 5, REL B-1
System Three: JRDG Concerto(int) and Meridian G08, Shunyata products
Cables: Transparent, JENA labs