Coincident Speaker Technology Total Victory IV
So good that I'm really going to miss this one.
Review By Rick Becker
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Factory Direct Price: $14,999
In the August review of Coincident's new Super Victory loudspeaker
I could not compare it with the Total Victory IV (TV IV) since I had neither seen nor heard it. Coincident only shows at CES, which is a bit out of driving range from Rochester, NY. And while they have a widespread network of international dealers, the factory itself is closer than any dealer, which begs another question. But before I could raise it, Israel Blume asked if I would like a short stint with the TV IV before it must move on to another reviewer. Being a slave to curiosity and fine music reproduction, I accepted.
In one sense, it was almost a sure bet to give the TV IV to a reviewer who has raved about two other loudspeakers in the Coincident line-up. And it might also be deemed a waste of my time to review the upscale TV IV which has a larger complement of the same drivers, as well as a larger enclosure than the Super Victory. But the question of the value added for the additional $5500 won out. I asked Israel to send them with the understanding that the review would essentially be an "update" to the Super Victory.
I thought it would be a quick and easy write.
I was unprepared for the response I had to this loudspeaker. First of all, the large cardboard boxes were intimidating. The Styrofoam batting is increased from 2-inches in the SV to 4-inches surrounding the TV. The reason for that is the increased weight. Each loudspeaker weighs 200 lbs. Hand trucks or dollies are the order of the day, coupled with serious experience in moving furniture. (Keep your back straight, bend at the knees). The broadloom carpet, grippy bicycling gloves and leveraged lifting also played significant roles. I installed the extender feet and set the spikes on the Sound Dead Steel IsoFeet with the face of the loudspeaker in the same position I used for my reference Kharma and the Super Victory — 64 inches in front of the wall behind them, facing straight ahead. Experience has taught me this is what works in most cases and the TV was no exception. In my room, the loudspeakers are on the long wall with long, unequal distances to the right and left. Side reflections are a non-issue. The listening triangle is about 90 inches, center to center between the speakers, and 85 inches from tweeter to nose.
The units provided were in the natural cherry veneer, but they had already darkened somewhat since I was not the first reviewer with this pair. This is to be expected and highly cherished. The resulting warm medium patina looks very rich as I've witnessed on my Partial Eclipse model in the video rig in the family room. Coincident loudspeakers are also available in a deep red cherry finish and a black lacquer finish to adapt to a variety of décor.
See my review of the Super Victory or consult your decorator if you need coaching on which to choose.
Size matters. Israel has no interest in breaking the laws of physics. Yet once in position, they did not seem as big as I thought they might, given the size of the shipping boxes. They are bigger than the Super Victory, for sure, but the word "humongous" does not apply. In fact, there was a "rightness" of proportion given the size of my room. There was also a "rightness" of design attributable to the double side-firing woofers and double mid-ranges. The TV IV looks like a more serious and formidable loudspeaker than the SV. Whereas the Super Victory has to prove its competence by actually playing music, the TV IV exudes an expectation of very high quality playback — just sitting in the room. It's kind of like a motorcycle that gets a speeding ticket simply because it looks like it is going 160 mph while parked at the curb. Of course the monolithic TV IV is not as zooty as a sport bike. It will look right at home in the residences of those who can afford it, as long as you are not expecting an object d'art. With all those visible drivers, it's got "music" written all over it. Visitors to your home will immediately brand you as a person who is very serious about music.
Because of the D'Appolito configuration of the ribbon tweeter and two midrange units, the tweeter is positioned closer to ear level on the TV IV than the SV. Raising and lowering my sitting height produce only a small shift in tonal balance, unlike the SV where the shift was more pronounced. Of course, in a configuration where the distance between the listener and the loudspeaker is greater, this effect will be less pronounced. It was never objectionable because I rarely bounce up and down when listening. Perhaps another benefit of the D'Appolito configuration is the seamlessness between the ribbon tweeter and the two midrange units. My friend Tom noted this first, but it didn't grab my attention since I am accustomed to seamlessness, given my reference loudspeakers with their ceramic tweeter and midrange. In fact, I thought the TV IV was seamless from top to bottom, right up there with the Kharma in this respect.
What is more remarkable is this seamlessness bridges dramatically different driver technologies used for the midrange and tweeter, suggesting not only outstanding drivers, but some very careful crossover development. Fortunately, I had the same complement of amplifiers for both the SV and the TV IV. modestly improved in the TV. By this I mean that I could hear more subtle details deeper into the soundscape, yet the stage was only a little more brightly lit. Since the SV is already great in that department, there is less room for improvement. And as we know, those last incremental improvements are the most difficult. The biggest difference between the two loudspeakers seemed to lie in my emotional response to the music. Listening to the TV IV was more effortless, that loudspeaker being capable of moving more air with less power. This is not to suggest the SV was a tiring loudspeaker, but that the TV was even more relaxing and easy to listen to — thus freeing up energy to be more in touch with the emotions and moved by the music. I found myself consistently more emotionally engaged with the TV IV. That being said, the choice of amplifier can make a much larger difference in this regard than the choice between these two fine loudspeakers. Both loudspeakers are exceedingly revealing of upstream components.
In my review of the SV I suggested it might be at its limit in my roughly 6000 cubic foot room. When I factor in the adjacent family room and kitchen which both connect with the listening room, it would be fair to double that volume. I don't mean to diminish my evaluation of the SV, but the TV IV handled that room volume with an ease and sophistication that immediately justified its higher price. The TV reaches just a few Hz lower than the SV, down to 22 Hz, but it is also spec'd 2.5 dB more efficient. The net result is a more convincing and definitive room tone. The ambient noise of the venue is more clearly perceived, as is the tonality and timbre of the low bass. The single 9-inch Nomex Kevlar driver of my Kharma 2.3c does an admirable job in the bass, but the twin 12-inch Nomex drivers in the TV with greater efficiency simply out-finesse my Kharmas. It all happens so effortlessly down there with the TV.
With the 100 wpc solid state Aaron No.1.a integrated amplifier the bass in the TV was very fast and taut, giving a remarkable performance, but still leaving room for larger, more massive amplifiers to improve upon the force of the impact at higher volumes. With the TubeMagic M23SE monoblocks putting out 20 wpc from twin 300B tubes there was a loss of speed in the attack of drum beats, but more palpable inner detail of both the venue and the timbre of the drum beat. The TubeMagic evoked a strong emotional response to the music that made me less analytical of the music. The Aaron evoked a response that was equally cognitive and emotional, though with a lesser degree of overall involvement for me. The important point here is that the TV IV conveyed the sonic signature of each amplifier, seemingly without editorializing upon it.
While the entire Coincident product line is both very efficient and tube friendly with high and benign impedance curves, it is nice to know that you can also choose solid state if that is your preference. You won't be painting yourself into a corner with this loudspeaker, but you need to be prepared for the sonic consequences of the equipment with which you pair it. Israel summarized his design approach this way:
As with all Coincident speakers, they are designed firstly by computer aided components to provide the flattest, most accurate response. They then are subjected to a series of in room measurements. Lastly, they are evaluated with a series of diverse amplifiers. Never just one or a single type.
He maintains a stable full of amplifiers and is well equipped to advise you in this regard. His loudspeakers should also be revealing of cables connected to them. I do not have a closet full of speaker cables to swap in and out, but I can tell you the JPS Labs Super Conductor+ did a great job with the TV, as it has with so many others. Coincident also offers three levels of speaker cables. If my experience with the new Von Schweikert speaker cable with their VR-4SR Mk2 is an indication of what a house brand cable can do for a company's loudspeaker, you may want to try Coincident's TRS Extreme. It is the same wire used internally in the TV IV. The good news here is the provision for only single wiring of the loudspeaker (which will save you a small bundle of money). If you insist on bi-amplification, Israel will make up loudspeakers to meet your needs with dual binding posts. But the minimal crossover does such a great job with seamlessness and transparency, you run a risk of messing up the music by putting tubes on top and solid state on the bottom. The binding posts are positioned near the floor, below the rear firing port. This has the advantage of minimizing the visual impact of the speaker cable. The binding posts are made by Coincident and have a jewelry-like gold finish. Unless you are constantly tripping over your cable, they do their job very well.
All of my listening with the TV IV was done with the Extender Feet in place, which added stability. At 200 lbs each, however, stability should not be an issue unless you're playing touch football in the music room. In the Super Victory review you will find extensive testing which showed that using the spikes mounted directly into the cabinet and placing the points on Sound Dead Steel IsoFeet squares produces an even further improvement on my joisted floors. I would expect the same results with the TV IV. Note I also use 4x4 inch wood posts from floor to ceiling in the basement directly beneath the loudspeakers to damp floor resonances. This modest investment produces a modest gain, but it is worth the small effort if you have easy access below your music room floor.
Like a hurricane just off the California coast, legislation requiring the testing of items using composite wood for out-gassing of formaldehyde is due to take effect in that state on January 1, 2009. This is serious business. Formaldehyde reportedly affects about 40 percent of children with asthma, a condition that is running rampant in our society. Testing will add to the cost of product, no doubt, but there are simply not enough facilities in place to test all the products that contain MDF. The furniture industry could be very hard hit by this. So could loudspeakers. Coincident uses a special MDF composite that is hardwood veneered on both sides. The interior compartments and bracing are fitted into routed slots, so there is perhaps minimal out-gassing potential. There is also formaldehyde free MDF available for a steep price, but who knows what it will do to change the sound of loudspeakers? Israel has been very particular about the materials he uses in his cabinets, as I mentioned in the Super Victory review, so I'm sure news like this thrills him to no end. Stay tuned for future updates.
The End of Bling?
As I was writing this review the stock market suffered a 22 percent decline in value, bounced back and fell again. Hopefully it will not plunge further before this goes to the internet. The United States is also embroiled in a political campaign that pits a party bent on making the rich richer against a party professing more egalitarian distribution of wealth. We've heard it mentioned in the presidential debates that we can no longer live beyond our means. In that milieu I clicked on an article proclaiming "the end of bling." A subsequent search of the web turned up even more articles. It seems that at a time when the world banking system is frozen in gridlock, many people are seriously questioning their consumption behavior and re-evaluating their priorities. Perhaps not the executives from AIG who indulged in expensive retreats after the multi-billion dollar bailout by the US government, but many.
In the High End it is easy to find examples of audiophile bling. Certainly, some bling is at or near state of the art performance. While the added cost of bling may not actually be as excessive as it appears, that is not the point. Visual bling is added to give the impression of value or wealth, as well as create a brand identity. And just as certainly, some manufacturers will argue that "Bling follows function." It may or may not contribute to the quality of the music. In times such as these when people's wealth is dramatically eroded and jobs are uncertain at all social levels, the value of bling comes under greater scrutiny, which brings me back to Coincident loudspeakers.
Aside from the lovely gold plated binding posts, Coincident loudspeakers are Bling-Free. And even the gold plating can be justified by the virtue of preventing corrosion and hence sound degradation, though some might argue even that point. The wood veneers are lovely, but do not come from exotic endangered species. The monolithic form with beveled edges, while not unique, is a strong element of the corporate brand, as is the absence of grill cloth. They do not pretend to be anything other than what they are — among the very finest loudspeakers at their respective price points. While the number of models has been reduced recently, the $5000 jump from the Partial Eclipse to the Super Victory, and the $5500 jump from the Super Victory to the Total Victory IV are not subtle, whether viewed from the pocket or the ear. While they thrive on tube amplifiers, they are robust enough to handle muscle amps. Just be prepared to make adjustments to your upstream components. The Coincidents will tell you all about them, and let you know when you've got it right. But even if the rest of your system is not quite up to the standard of which the Coincidents are capable, you will most likely still enjoy the music. Your non-audiophile guests, on the other hand, will be simply stunned.
The step from the Super Victory to the Total Victory will be necessary if your room is about 6000 cubic feet or larger. I expect when putting a TV IV in a smaller room the extra $5500 will buy you mostly the qualitative improvements, but waste much of its capability for moving big air. You might want to consider buying the Super Victory and spending the extra money on other component upgrades and tweaking your room and rig if you have not already done so. It is not that the three models sound dramatically different from one another in tonal balance. But as you move up the line the audible quality improves and they can play in larger rooms. The common denominators: slightly warm, non-fatiguing, very revealing, transparent, dynamic, totally enjoyable. Oh, and one more. I mentioned to Israel that I caught Linda fondling them on a couple of occasions. In a rare display of humor he wrote, "I can't be held responsible. Coincident speakers do have that affect on the women."
A number of signs indicate that the pendulum is perhaps swinging back, at least in the wealthier occidental countries. Ostentation and excess seem to be slowly ebbing, in favour of a return to more classicism, restraint, rigour, and (apparent) modesty.
-- Europa Star April-May 2008 Magazine Issue
If this is the case, the Total Victory IV is right on target. $15K may seem like a big step up from the $9500 Super Victory, but it is a giant step down in price from many in its sonic league that extends upwards of six figures. Its purposeful styling is more than acceptable. Surround it with other fine, but not outrageously priced components, tweak your rig and treat your room. The Total Victory will pay you back every penny and more in the coin of musical pleasure. I'm really going to miss this one.
Type: Large floorstanding loudspeaker
One Isodynamic planar ribbon tweeter
Two 7-inch paper treated midranges
Two 12-inch heavy duty Nomex fiber cone woofers
Frequency Response: 22 Hz to 27kHz
Impedance: 10 ohms
Sensitivity: 95 dB/W/m
Power Requirements: 3 watts to 300 watts
Dimensions: 52 x 9 x 22 (HxWxD in inches)
Weight: 200 lbs ea.
Price: $14,999 US/pr