Steinway Lyngdorf S-Series Audio System

When the economy tanked in 2007, a funny thing happened in high-end audio: Many manufacturers prospered by creating even higher-priced products. As a speaker reviewer, I lack the economics chops to explain this turn of events, but I can tell you it has spawned some fascinating audio gear.

Take, for example, Steinway Lyngdorf ’s S-Series, built to be the Bugatti Veyron of compact home theater systems.

 At $58,400 for the whole system, this is clearly no home theater in a box. Nor is the S-Series merely a bunch of mundane components dolled up with fancy finishes and half-inch-thick aluminum faceplates. No, the S-Series costs a small fortune in large part because it’s one of the most technically advanced audio systems you can buy.

Peter Lyngdorf, the mastermind behind Steinway Lyngdorf, is one of the few manufacturers in high-end audio who shows no reluctance to adopt advanced technology. As a result, the S-Series employs high-efficiency, switching-type amplification, a technology Lyngdorf helped pioneer more than a decade ago with his TacT amplifiers. It uses the company’s own RoomPerfect processing to correct for room acoustics problems. More digital signal processing fine-tunes each speaker’s performance. The components communicate through the Steinway Lyngdorf Digital Link, a proprietary, high-resolution audio interface.

The key component in the S-Series is the S-15 satellite speaker, which stands 10 inches high. The S-15 can sit on a stand or hang on a wall. An Air Motion Transformer (AMT) ribbon tweeter handles the highs; it’s similar to tweeters found on recent speakers from GoldenEar Technology and MartinLogan. To increase ambience, sound waves coming from the back of the tweeter bounce off an angled reflector and out through the rubber-string grilles on the speaker’s sides. The AMT sits above a 5.25-inch woofer. Thick slabs of aluminum form the enclosure.

Lows are handled by the LS Boundary Woofer, a medium-density fiberboard box housing two 12-inch woofers. It can be used freestanding, but it’s mainly intended to be built into a wall or a piece of furniture. Steinway Lyngdorf designed the LS specifically for corner mounting, thus the “Boundary Woofer” tag.

The system requires an audio processor — the SP-1 for stereo or the P1 for surround — and enough of the company’s A1 stereo amps to power all the S-15s and LSs in the system. My 5.1 review system included five S-15s, four LSs, five A1s, and one P1, although Steinway Lyngdorf technician Henrik Jørgensen told me he could have used just two LSs in my room. The added woofers and amp brought the “as tested” price of the system to $72,200. But no worries: Perhaps the S-Series’s inconspicuous design will dissuade the Occupy movement from camping out on your front lawn.

The P1 has the capabilities of a typical surround processor, including video and audio switching plus recent variants of DTS and Dolby (although not height-channel technologies such as Dolby Pro Logic IIz and DTS Neo:X). It also has eight-channel Room Perfect processing. What it doesn’t have is a display, so you need to have a TV connected to adjust many of its functions. It also lacks video scaling.

The round remote has such an air of luxury that it could almost inspire an Occupy protest on its own. The chrome (or gold) ring around the edge is the volume control. This heavy metal ring spins with a soft, gratifying whir. Six buttons let you control power and mute as well as access various sound modes and the onscreen menu system. A small conventional remote is also provided.

Setup

You can’t set up your own Steinway Lyngdorf system; dealer installation is required, using a special remote. Jørgensen hung the three front speakers and two surround speakers on my walls, and placed the subwoofers in two stacks in the front corners of my room. All connections between the amps and processor used the Steinway Lyngdorf Digital Link.

After plugging everything in and configuring the inputs for my source devices, Jørgensen activated RoomPerfect setup. He used a test microphone in different positions while the system emitted test tones to adjust itself for my room.

Jørgensen provided three RoomPerfect settings: Global (for multiple listeners), Focus (optimized for my listening chair), and Bypass. He suggested that I use Global for most material, saying that it usually sounds about as good as (and sometimes better than) Focus.

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