Battle Of The Big Hitters

Battle Of The Big Hitters

OK so we confess that we do this type of demo often and sometimes just for ourselves! We call it the battle of the big hitters because these loudspeakers are the champions of their respective brands. Now I should qualify this statement. This is not to say that these are the biggest, most eye-wateringly expensive examples within the portfolio of each manufacturer, but moreover representative that addictive ‘sweet spot’ between performance, size and cost that secures their position as the most popular and universally appreciated. These big hitters include the elegant Vimberg Mino, the muscular Rockport Avior II and the new Swiss kid on the block, the Stenheim Alumine 3.

A customer recently came in with just such a requirement. He was looking to find the very best sounding and most practical speaker for his listening space, but something dynamic and efficient enough to drive a larger than average room, without being overtly bulky. As with all such setup’s, the amplification at the heart of the system needs to be up to the task in hand and able to assert its control over the loudspeaker, ensuring the very best response from each of these reference designs – enter the Vitus SIA-030. This mountain of an amplifier is unapologetic solid-state design that can produce a prodigious 200 watts in Class A/B or, depending on the listeners preference, 30 immaculate Class A watts, at the touch of a button. It is exquisitely executed, both inside and out and, anyone who believes that more power is better, needs to take a quick listen to this beauty and take a leaf out of the Vitus school of thinking – quality is always better than absolute quantity, albeit one that is difficult and a little more expensive to achieve. Such is life.

We started with the Stenheims being, as they were, the easiest to accommodate amongst this particular grouping due to their compact dimensions. Their ultra-simple form belies their pedigree and technology, with an all-metal enclosure hosting larger than average drivers that are braced and damped so effectively, that the speaker cabinet effectively disappears entirely, leaving an effortless, tactile and hugely impressive soundstage to fill the room. There is zero overhang, no bass bloom or colouration, regardless of where they are positioned and yet they remain sweet, natural and with bags of headroom to spare – it’s an intoxicating presentation and one that will instantly make you question how such a large and involving musical image can come from such a small box. In fact, it should perhaps be titled the ‘Tardis’ amongst this loudspeaker grouping and the Doctor would be proud!

The Vimberg Mino

Next in line was the ever-popular Vimberg Mino, a loudspeaker that has become synonymous with quality and luxury in terms of loudspeaker design. Packed full of unique design flourishes and driver technology, this starkly handsome loudspeaker is thoroughly contemporary, featuring a gently sloped face that adds drama and scale to proceedings. It is tall, poised and the physical opposite of both the Stenheims and Rockports – this is a loudspeaker that demands attention and wants to be noticed. Sonically, much is the same, with a sense of drama and dynamic enthusiasm that’s all its own. Its bouncy and involving and wants to get into the action as quickly as possible, meaning that slightly more care is needed in respect to positioning, but the reward is a speaker that always sounds fresh and insightful, revealing new layers and textures within the music that others merely hint at.

Enter The Rockports

Finally, it was the turn of the Rockport, the most expensive design in this comparison and the largest. In its piano lacquered black, the design is brooding and powerful, but lacking any edge or design flourish that may distract the viewer – this is all about the music, with the speaker itself disappearing into the background. With the Rockport, form clearly follows function. The cabinet dissolves away in much the same way as with the Stenheims and the shared all-metal cabinet design of these two may well be the determining factor, but that’s where these two depart sonically. Where the Stenheim is articulate and box free, the Rockport is more perhaps more superficially fixed in its imagery and separation, but then it builds on this foundation, providing depth, scale and cohesiveness that is all its own. The musical background is blacker than any other here – indeed you may be convinced that it’s not even connected to an amplifier until such time as the first note emerges from that inky black background! Then the weight, confidence and sheer gravitas that the Avior II’s possess is unique to this design and once experienced, incredibly difficult to live without. Yes, it’s the largest cabinet here, yes, it’s the most expensive, but does it justify the additional expenditure? Well, I’ll leave that to the listener.

What is certain is that whilst all three of these loudspeakers are completely different, all are equally deserving of the moniker ‘best’ and, depending on the system context, each can provide a truly magical and immersive musical performance; one that potentially could last a lifetime.

Got your mind thinking?  Wondering where the Magico A5 fits in this picture!!? Drop us a line and we can arrange an initial in-store demonstration followed up by a home visit and extended trial at home to ensure you find the loudspeaker that takes your music experience to the highest level.