Sonics Amerigo Speaker System Page 3

Gerhard’s design delivers. When you crank the system up, it maintains its musical and spatial composure. It masterfully handles the midrange-tweeter transition. You won’t hear a hint of mechanicalness as one driver transitions to the other. Instead, you’ll hear an enormous, spacious, and utterly natural presentation, even in two-channel mode. This is a system that sounds equally open and uncongested at very low listening levels, which isn’t surprising given its exceptional microdynamic performance.

The center channel was equally impressive. It avoided the slightest hint of chestiness or congestion on male voices and shrillness and sibilance on female ones (except for Sunday Night Football’s Andrea Kremer, who has a shrill, sibilant voice on the sidelines). If the center has any flaws reproducing the human voice (aside from off-axis suckouts that might be measurable but weren’t audible in the context of my listening room), it was a slight reticence in the midrange area. This produced a slightly astringent, less than generous expression of vocal textures and individual timbre. But that’s just an attempt to find something not to like about this high-performance system. In any case, despite Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, mixers tend to process voices in order to improve intelligibility.

Speaking of football, I had my sister over to watch a Giants game on my big Stewart Cabaret projection screen lit by a JVC DLA-HD750 projector. Even though she was sitting just 3 feet from one of the Anima surrounds, the crowd surround audio blended perfectly with the front channels. It produced a sonic image that made her point at the living-room window 15 feet away and ask, “What is that noise out there?” When I explained that it was produced by the phantom sideline stands resulting from the seamless front/surround blend, this awed her almost as much as the picture did.

If you set this system up properly, you’ll rarely be able to localize the sound’s point of emanation. Instead, you’ll experience the vast, three-dimensional sound bubble that home theater writers like to talk about. But in this case, the sound bubble will be on steroids. The depth presentation extends well beyond the typical front-wall boundaries that lesser speakers produce. And the level of front/surround coherence exceeds everything else I’ve heard, with the possible exception of the mbl Radialstrahler 116 and an ambitious Aerial Acoustics system I reviewed for some years ago. Of course, Aerial’s Michael Kelly is easily in the same near-legend category as Gerhard. (Older car audio enthusiasts: Kelly designed ADS’s PowerPlate speakers, among other classics.)

I watched a variety of demo material, including the thoughtful, touching, and dialogue-driven Accidental Tourist. (This was at my wife’s insistence because it stars a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and we have two. One of them dutifully watched the movie with us and barked at the dog whenever it was on screen.) I also demoed the atmospheric and uplifting (despite the down ending) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, as well as Criterion’s superb Blu-ray edition of The Complete Monterey Pop Festival featuring the Eddie Kramer remix. There’s no doubt about one thing: If you watch a lot of music videos, a system like the Amerigo will bring you a level of musical pleasure you might not have thought possible—particularly if you’ve never experienced true high-performance audio. Even on the talky movies, the system’s transparency, low-level resolution, and microdynamic sophistication added to a truly immersive experience.

Yes, $10,000 is a significant chunk of change to drop on a surround sound system that requires the finest electronics to draw out its full potential. But if music is an important part of your home theater viewing and/or listening experience, this is an easy-to-recommend system. Many will feel that they simply must have that .1/LFE channel, so feel free to add your favorite subwoofer. However, you should proceed with caution. Once you hear a truly high-performance system like the Sonics Amerigo, you might not want to settle for anything less.

Sonics by Joachim Gerhard/Immedia
(510) 559 2050