Review: Definitive Technology Bipolar SuperTower Speaker System Page 3

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Performance

The first thing I do with any new speaker is evaluate the critical vocal octaves. And I judged the BP-8060ST’s to be, well, perfect. In comparison after comparison, they sounded just barely warmer than my “brighter” everyday stand-mount monitor pair, and equally barely brighter than my other, “warmer” pair. In every other respect they were amazingly close to indistinguishable, which in my book makes them exceptionally neutral and honest — the highest praise I have.

And really, the BP-8060ST sounded just about as well judged in the remaining octaves, too. Top-octave treble was as extended and effortless as anyone could wish, without a hint of spit or sizzle (which would indicate peakiness), or the slight vagueness at high drive levels I think of as “plash.” Seriously recorded 2-channel material such as the 35-year-old classic Jazz at the Pawnshop thus sounded seriously “audiophile,” with the convincing top-octave transients and arresting textures such a descriptor conjures up. Overall, I’d judge the 8060STs to be as free of narrow-band colorations as any speakers I’ve auditioned seriously in the last few years.

Then there’s bass. With Definitive BPs, there’s always plenty, and the task at hand is more managing it than extracting more. Over time I found myself both pulling the BP-8060STs farther and farther away from the wall, and turning their rear-panel “sub” knobs incrementally down, until I wound up with the towers nearly 6 feet from front baffle to wall, and with the knobs closer to 5 o’clock than to 7. (This was with the passive, speaker-wire-only connection.)

In all frankness, the tower’s next-to-lowest octaves can easily overwhelm things if you let them get away from you. My solution here was twofold. First, little by little, I made adjustments that took into account realistic low-bass levels. When you go to Symphony Hall to hear The Rite of Spring, you don’t get knocked over by the bass drum and contrabassoon; they’re simply there. (Put another way, just because you can make the floorboards move doesn’t mean you should, every time.) My second adjustment began with changing my hookup scheme by employing the line-level sub inputs and resetting my main channels to “small,” deliberately “underlapping” the crossover by setting my preamp’s subwoofer crossover to 60 Hz. Now I could adjust deep-bass levels via the “Subwoofer” channel-level key on my remote without leaving the comfort of my chair, while the slightly lower-fat diet I’d prescribed for the 50 Hz-120 Hz range helped eliminate the occasional midbass surplus. Perfect.

While the 8060ST’s tonal balance is beyond reproach, it nonetheless sounds slightly “bigger” or more diffuse than other speakers of its size, shape, or price class. Definite though subtle, the difference can clearly be heard when you audition a transparent 2-channel session like Lyle Lovett’s “L.A. County” and directly compare the Def Techs to similarly excellent monopole speakers. Lovett’s voice sounded a bit more “out in the room,” and the slap-back drumstick clicks somehow deeper in space, on the 8060STs than on my tonally almost-identical everyday speakers. This is the classic bipole characteristic, but it’s dramatically less intense than from the company’s earlier BP Series speakers because the new models’ rearward output has been lowered by 6 dB. So, where the earlier SuperTowers sounded a bit more strongly “different,” the BP-8060ST matches other excellent speakers very closely.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s SACD of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and the Firebird Suite (Telarc) remains one of the best music-surround recordings ever. I could hardly imagine a better disc to show off Def Tech’s new design: The depth and intensity of the massed strings, and the rolling thunder of percussion and brass attacks, sounded truly majestic while retaining impressive definition.

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