or those whom are "agape, agog, alarmed, and amazed..." (Thesaurus.com) by the position of the Abby's in the photo above, they were pulled out for all critical listening. As originally stated in this Audiophile-PC series, my goal is to seek out High End Audio hardware designed (at least in part) to extract digital music files from one's PC. While I tested many music files types, from MP3 to Lossless, I chose a streaming audio format for a good deal of the critical listening. While many might argue Lossless would give the best result, I was so impressed with the signal quality from Deezer.com
and specially their streaming station Chanson Française
it has become my favorite source of new music. Not only is Deezer essentially free (insofar as streaming), the eclectic selection of recordings from Chanson Française are the highest quality I've heard to date. Once I'd found the best synergy among the components available to me, the Abby's became a musical conduit, allowing every nuance and detail in the well chosen recordings to flow forth. Such an "uncluttered" signal made identifying both product strengths and weaknesses an emotive activity as opposed to a task. Abby annexes new definitions for neutrality
in a loudspeaker. It is a prima facie
fact each amplifier and cable combination will have its own "sonic identity" with any given speaker, but at no time did the Abby's induce "sonic identity crisis." The audio (and Gastromonique) adage garbage in, garbage out
still applies, although the Abby's seem to reveal more with system synergy then speakers costing much more. This most definately attributable to a crossoverless design and the single driver concept.
Some patience is required in choosing components and cable matching will be imparative, after all single driver designs do have limitations when it comes to the full spectrum. Originally my experience driving the Abby's with Peachtree Audio's Decco
integrated hybrid amp and Unity Audio Solid Link
cables produced grain, forwardness and an absence of soundstage. Several weeks later as the speakers broke in, I tried the primarily solid state Decco and Zu Audio Julian
loudspeaker cables exhibited a metamorphosis in sound. The additional break-in time and Zu Audio cables made a marked improvement in sound aging, detail and upper-midranges. Perhaps most surprising was the bottom end, which dipped much lower, was taught and controlled. I had no idea until that point the Abby's could produce such bass. I had very good results with Unity Audio Basic Link
cables, which for their affordability live up to their name. I wanted to leave it as was with the Decco, but I knew the Abby's had a secret weapon. As their designer had intended they were a perfect match for valve amps of the single ended variety. SEP amps are in a world all their own, their strengths are, supple, lissome midrange while presenting a three dimensional soundstage with vocalists and instruments so realistic its spooky. I mated two SEP (Single Ended Pentode) integrated amps previewed here recently with our Abby's, each with a "meager" 5Wpc. Seen below (right) the Tecon Model "55"
and (left) Glow Amp One
Both of these 5Wpc integrated single ended integrated amplifers feature USB fed onboard DACs and both utilize EL84 output tubes. The GLOW Audio Amp One
utilizes a single chip D/A solution in the C-Media CM102S
, while Tecon
chose a more traditional Audiophile grade DAC in the Texas Instruments or rather Burr Brown PCM2702
. Both integrated amps are built to Audiophile grade standards, hand crafted in China where companies keep a watchful eye over production. While the GLOW Amp One is a great all around performer I constantly came back to the Tecon Model 55. The Tecon is not only a true Audiophile product in every sense of the term except one. At $398 shipped it is perhaps the best find I've come across in almost 20-years of High End Audiophiles.
The final components behind the Abby's were the Tecon Model 55
, Oyaide Eelectric Tunami Nigo
loudspeaker cables with music files streaming from Deezer
. It took all of five minutes to set-up the Abby's once their out of their crate. Several weeks break-in period and they opened up in ways I never thought a $1,500 pair of single-driver speakers could. While you’re not going to get air movement down to 20Hz everything above 40Hz was emotionally engaging, that is to say I was having fun for the first time in years, rather then focusing on sacrifices. They are the first pair of speakers I would apply the term dexterous, they don't have a sonic signature per se, they earnestly represent the signal (music) presented. At $1,500 the Abby's are not inexpensive in the genre of PC-Audio, to others they will be one of their best investments in performance value. Mated to a system which takes advantage of Online music their stature and the choice of nearfield drivers adds to their value. Whether your into burning CD's or downloading music files to other devices there many Online choices including the world of FLAC
. For now I've been having a great time simply trying different streaming stations. With all due respect to those expecting the typical Audiophile format, where the Reviewer describes a few of their favorite musical selections and how the product reiterates playback, I think you can choose your own music. I only recommend Deezer's Chanson Française
streaming station because its so clean with an endless supply of quality studio recordings. The system as mentioned above has given me some of the most enjoyable musical experiences I've ever heard. The Abby's are adroit at communicating substance from recorded music, so long as you’re willing to put a little thought into component mixing and matching. E
Evaluating speakers so people can purchase them sound unheard
has been described as an exercise in futility. However, on some level purchasing speakers from a Dealer can be just as risky. Without inciting a Philosophical debate involving Universal Quantification or Possible World scenarios, it’s next to impossible to expect a pair of speakers will sound the same in your home as they did at the shop. In a High End store you’re using their associated equipment, in their listening environment and even if you have the same room dimensions and associated equipment the Laws of Physics cannot be purchased. That's not to say High End Dealers aren't the back-bone of the industry providing an invaluable service, I just don't believe direct marketing a product is some nefarious threat to High End Dealers. I spent many hours on the road driving all over New England visiting different High End shops and every piece of equipment I schlepped home sounded different in my listening environment, mated to my hardware. I've acquired as much or more experience researching equipment through well written reviews as I have visiting High End shops, especially with someone leaning over your shoulder "selling". The best High End shops will leave you in a room alone (provided you don't go pulling out interconnects or lighting cigars off direct heated triodes) allowing the hardware to literally speak for itself. C
a.k.a. Cain & Cain have produced what is arguably the best value in a single driver speaker under $2k in the Abby
. They are a musing of the chain of events which eventually are connected to their gold plated binding posts. In the best circumstances they extricate beyond a "sum of the parts" scenario, providing a wealth of musical information infused with that metaphysical synergy engineers cannot quantify, or measure. If you over complicate what comes before them with numerous interconnections, transports, dacs, pre-amps, and amps, they can be bad. In fact I think their ideal for integrated amplification, especially those devices with well integrated on-board DACs, products designed to serve the signal simply and that's when their oh so good
. Whatever components or cables drive the Abby they will give an honest representation thereof which is the most exciting prospect. Theses are speakers you can spend years mating with different electronics and never be bored. I wonder how many products, whether solid state, hybrid or valve based the Abby's would bring to life. And that's saying something for the last link in the Audio chain. I would recommend the Abby's without hesitation.