The Sensible Sound, Mar/97
Manufacturer: Coincident Speaker Technology, 51 Miriam Cr., Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 2P8 905/886-6728, -2627 (fax)
Price: $1495 US pr.
Source: Reviewer Purchase
Reviewer: Tim Parker
If you read my review of the Coincident Speaker Technology Triumph in T$S 61, you know that I found the Triumphs to be one of the finest bookshelf speakers I've come across, especially at the price of $799 per pair. I seriously considered buying the review pair from Coincident to install at my cottage for summer evening listening. The Triumph's strengths were many, its flaws limited really only to a lack of extension in the bass.
Of course, the $800 price tag is a bit misleading, as like many fine minimonitors, the Triumphs really need a superb stand on which to work. For my review of the Triumphs I had relied on the finest bookshelf stands I know of, the Target R4s, which normally sit under my ProAc Response 1s speakers, heavily loaded with sand and spiked at both ends. The cost of the Target stands is quite hefty by itself and bumps the price of the Triumphs up well over $1000 the pair. (You can use lesser stands for a fraction of the Targets, of course and get very darn near the same fine performance from the Triumphs, but make no mistake: stands do make a difference in both bass extension and soundstaging.)
Why didn't I buy the Triumphs? Because Coincident Speaker Technology's Israel Blume made the mistake of telling me about the Conquests. The Conquest is essentially a floor standing to hear Israel tell it and for only a few bucks more than the Triumphs could work out at less than the Triumph-Target combination price. Also, floorstanders should have a touch more bass extensions, so I managed to finagle a pair of Conquests through our highly respected editor (who probably thinks it was his idea) and looked forward eagerly to their arrival.
Arrive they did, right at the time of year I make a lot of trips to conventions and to teach at a Navy base in Virginia. So, the Conquests sat in their rather large boxes for a few weeks. Between trips, I unpacked the Conquests, realized they were brand new and needed breaking in, and set them going on my main reference system for a couple of hundred of break-in through both FM channels and CD-ROM.
Anyway, after a hectic November and December, I arrived back home in time to spend a couple of weeks around the holidays relaxing, catching up with mail and e-mail, reading and relaxing. A good part of the latter involves listening to music, either in background or as a raison d'etre of its own. The Conquests broken in, I put them in my second system replacing the ProAc Response 1s pair. The Conquests have the same look of the Triumphs: their finish is a black MDF covered with an attractive finish.
The soundstaging was an interesting part of this review. I remember the Triumph's soundstage quite well as I was so impressed with it. If anything, the Conquests are better, with a more defined, precise image extending to the speaker boundaries. The depth and width of the soundstage is very good on excellent recordings, such as those from Audioquest. Since a speaker can only throw a good soundstage when the recording makes it possible, many people misjudge soundstages by playing recordings with artificial panning or an indistinct recording technique (especially many multi-miked recordings). When properly recorded, though, a soundstage can be recreated by most speakers, it's just that some (like the Conquests and ProAcs) do it better than the majority.
I was so impressed with the Conquests that I schlepped them to my main reference system and grudgingly removed the cables from my ProAc Response 3 Signatures. The cables on those speakers cost more than some small cars and roughly sixteen times the cost of the Conquests. (Yes, Virginia, some of us are convinced cables make a difference to the sound and are willing to pay for what we hear. And no, I'm not a tweako nutcase. For whatever it's worth, I have two doctorates in science many years of accurate research in the labs to make me careful about what I do and hear. And I wouldn't drop that kind of cash without a damn good reason!)
The Conquests in the main system are driven by mostly Spectral gear, fed by Sonic Frontiers D/A converter and the new Sony ES CD player as a transport. This is as good a system as I can assemble and I derive huge amounts of enjoyment from it. Every change I make to the system I can usually assess for its impact and while there's been a lot of snake-oil disks, dots and devices tried over the years, the system remains tweak free. This system gives music, pure and pleasurable. With the Conquests, I didn't feel the system was a let down at all. Oh yes, there was a distinct difference between the Conquests and the ProAcs. The ProAcs go lower and clearer in the midrange and have a soundstage no other speaker can match. But the Conquests held their own in the high ranges and did a very credible job on the rest of the scorecard. I'm not about to replace the ProAcs, but several friends who auditioned the Conquests while in my reference system are now seriously thinking about using them with a good integrated amp (like the Copland) and decent CD player to produce a fine sounding system for a reasonable price.
I wondered how the Conquests would do in a video system, so as a final test I moved them to my large video room. The speakers in the video system are mostly Martin Logan electrostatics, with Mirage subwoofers and a second pair of surrounds. Replacing the left and right main speakers with the Conquests resulted in sound definitely different than that from the ML panels, but very enjoyable. With a center channel Logos speaker off, the imaging on my projection screen was spot on and the bass did a good job on most of the laser disks I tried. While the visceral booms of movies like Dragonheart (there are some real roomshaking bass frequencies in that movie when played through excellent subs like the Mirage BPSS210s) was diminished, I didn't feel robbed of bass. The Conquests could go loud, too, driven by my Mark Levinson amplifiers to fill the room. They didn't strain or show signs of breakdown even at annoying audio levels, thanks to their efficiency and excellent design.
While in the video system, I ran a few sweep tones from laserdisks and monitored on the sound pressure level meter mounted just behind my listening chair. The Conquests seemed almost flat from 33hz to well over 25khz, the limit of my meter (taking a couple of well known room bumps into consideration.) The impedance of the speakers measured an average of 8 ohms, with no dips that could present a problem to an amplifier (with the usual hills and valleys associated with ports and crossovers, but definitely a well behaved load for an amplifier.
The speakers are about three feet tall and a foot square. They don't need stands and come with a set of our spikes for each speaker base. The back of the Conquests have a pair of binding posts at the lower end and a port about half way up.
The driver compliment of the Conquests is similar to the Triumphs. An eight-inch woofer (larger than that of the Triumph) passes over to a one-inch tweeter at about 2.5 kHz. The tweeter looks like the same high quality unit I admired in the Triumphs. The speakers weigh in at a hefty 55 lbs. each, again with solid construction so that the rap-test results only in sore knuckles. There is no grill cloth, although one may be ordered from the manufacturer for $35 pr. As with the Triumphs, the Conquests can be ordered in different finishes and biwireable. I'm not so sure I agree with the manufacturer that biwiring doesn't make a difference, but the pair I was supplied with had single binding posts so that's what I used.
My system was the same as my Triumph review: a Copland integrated amplifier (still the best sounding, nicest looking and most $ensible tube integrated amp I've run across) and a Sony X707ES CD player. The speaker cables were MIT MH 750s. For those who like the summary fast before more details, here it is in sentence: The Conquests are better that the Triumphs in at least two important areas (bass extensions and gain) and should a mandatory listen for anyone buying a speaker in this price range or higher.
That sounds like quite an endorsement, doesn't it? The first thing I noticed about the Conquests (the sound of the Triumphs still in mind) was the bass extension. The Triumphs petered out at about 34 Hz. The Conquests push down a further 10hz or so. That's a lot of difference in the critical low bass area. The speaker's response measured flat down to about 32 Hz, and I had definite energy at 25 Hz. The Telarc bass drum whacks had a lot more whump than through the Triumphs, as you would expect, and organ music began to really become a presence. The diapason notes start to become visceral, where they were just lacking with the Triumphs. The Conquests still won't plumb the depths of the diapsons around 18 Hz, but they do a damn fine job from 28 Hz up. Since there is really very little below this in most music (organ, some low register wind instruments, synthesized bass and some low bass guitar) there's not much missing unless (like me) you happen to like getting really low.
The midrange and the treble was as sweet through the Conquests as I remember it with the Triumphs. The tweeter just soars, with no hint of distortion or harshness. Voice, such as Holly Cole, sounds just right. (I managed to catch Ms. Cole live one evening, then rushed home to relisten to her on CD through both the Conquests and my reference ProAc Response 3 Signatures, Both speakers were very good at reproducing her voice, but this type of comparison always shows just how poor our attempt to recreate live concerts through two speakers (or even six) is.) Through the Conquests, Holly's voice was clear and articulate, with the throatiness of her fine jazz singing definitely clear.
The Conquests are slightly more efficient than the Triumphs, coming in at about 92 db sensitivity. Since the Conquest is a larger speaker, I found this a little surprising but definitely welcome. With the Copland's 40 watts, I never had to turn the volume up to get reasonable levels. Readers with small power amps, including those mini triode beasties everyone seems to be raving about, will find enough power in their 7 watters or so to drive the Conquests quite nicely.
Positioning the Conquests is not difficult. The port on the back means a couple of feet from the back wall is required and a couple of feet in from a side wall minimum should be allowed. I ended up with the Conquests back in my second system, about eight feet apart, angled in. Angling in the Conquests improves the soundstaging a little, so it's well worth playing around with the positions before spiking them in place.
So, as I said in the early part of this review, these are wonderful speakers, Everything about them shouts quality and care and for the money, I think they will prove damn near impossible to beat. Coincident Speaker Technology many not be well known, but I'm trying to tell everyone who needs a speaker about them, especially since their price/performance ratio is so good. If you want a speakers anywhere the Conquest's price range, listen to them, You too should be impressed.
Now, which amp will go with the Conquests the best in the cottage? I think I'm gonna buy these babies.