Leon Horizon 212 Speaker System Page 3
Aliens and Zombies
The Box combines surrealism with a meditation on ethics as it tells the story of a human-turned-alien who offers ordinary humans a choice: Press this button, and I’ll give you a suitcase full of cash, but someone you don’t know will die because of it. Frank Langella, as the coldly avuncular alien, gives a memorably creepy performance. Aside from the frequency gap above the sub crossover, I was intermittently aware of a hollow, resonant coloration, occasionally in music and more often in dialogue. It was especially apparent in the first few minutes, before my brain adjusted for it. Cabinet resonance from the lightweight enclosure was the most likely culprit. The memorable score—which includes music by Win Butler of Arcade Fire—evokes strings with both conventional orchestration and Mellotron. The soundbar’s top end, perhaps civilized by the textile-domed tweeters, imparted some attractive warmth to the music.
Legion starts with people trapped in a diner in the middle of nowhere, fending off humans-turned-zombies, and culminates in a battle between good and bad angels. Here the equalized sub came into its own. It sculpted a fiery explosion into a disciplined bass effect. There were times when its operation was so subtle that I walked up to it and felt the driver for vibration. Eventually, I raised the sub amp’s volume level, just as I always end up doing when I use an equalized sub. (The master level set using the R.A.B.O.S. kit is often too understated for my taste, regardless of the sub.)
Did You Hear About the Morgans? has few notable allchannel moments aside from a brief shootout, a cowboy dance, and a rodeo. Still, these scenes might have filled the soundfield more effectively if there had been a better tonal match—definitely among the three front channels, but also between the front and surround channels.
The More, the Better
Far More Drums by the Robert Hohner Percussion Ensemble, on multichannel SACD, gave the sub a chance to strut its stuff. By this time, I was operating the sub amp at two-thirds to three-quarters of its volume control’s range. Every time I turned it up, I liked it better—although I might have gotten even better results if I’d used Leon’s two-sub option. The precise pitches and long decay of the deep drum tones was impressive. It was also a surprisingly cerebral pleasure. I was reminded that this is what it’s like to be liberated from overenergizing your room’s resonant frequency.
Concert 1993 brings together pianist Sviatoslav Richter and the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart under Christopher Eschenbach. The SWR/Hänssler CD contains Richter’s only recorded performance of Gershwin’s Concerto in F as well as Saint-Saëns’ fifth piano concerto. With the stereo recording playing in the Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode, the tonal shift was at its most intrusive, both among the front channels and between front and surrounds. Like many German radio recordings, this is a good one, and a well-recorded orchestra never lies.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s debut LP, The Inner Mounting Flame, finally moved me to give up on surround and play the music in 2.1 channels. This lifted a great weight from it. The band always had a crowded top end, with Jerry Goodman’s violin and Jan Hammer’s electric keyboards competing with John McLaughlin’s mystical, ecstatic, rapid-fire guitar. Operating in stereo—and probably benefitting from the smoothness of the tube phono preamp—the soundbar did a good job of sorting out the instruments. I was able to play the vinyl appropriately loud.
On the whole, I was pleased with the Leon sub/amp combo—especially the sub’s tank-like aluminum enclosure, installation versatility, and the correction possible with the amp’s EQ. I was less pleased with the soundbar—not so much for the frequency gap as for the tonal unevenness and obvious coloration. The ratings reflect an uneasy compromise: subtract one point for the soundbar and add one for the sub/amp in each category.
Leon Speakers has certainly come up with some provocative ideas for how a soundbar-based system can function. The Aaros A10-UT sub—and especially the L3-1K amp—deserve the closest attention from custom installers and the clients they serve.