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Positive Feedback ISSUE 30
march/april 2007


sp tech

Timepiece 2.1 loudspeakers - the Sound of One Hand Laughing

as reviewed by Jim Merod









TETRA 606s (also: Apogee Stages, SP TECH Time Piece 1.2s, Vandersteen 2Ce-modified, Acoustic Zen Adagios, van Scweikert VCL-15 monitor reference and sub, Tetra Manhattans),

Z Systems UDP-1, Birdland Odeon-Ag 24-192/SACD Upsampling DAC, Manley Shrimp, Meridian 518 mod plus, Audio Research SP-8 Dahong Seeto version preamplifiers. McCormack 125 Platinum Full-Rev Edition, Nuforce P-9 mono blocks, KR VT600-MK tube mono blocks, McCormack 0.5 "Lady Day" Edition amplifiers.

OPPO DV 970HD, Denon 1650-AR, Pioneer Elite DV-45A , Samsung DVD R135, McCormack CD Drive-plus, Alesis ML 9600 MasterLink 24-96 digital recorder, Tascam RA1000 DSD recorder, Marantz "Professional" Recorder, Tascam RW750 Pro CD Recorder,

Nordost Valhalla, Stealth Meta-carbon and Stealth ZERO limited edition, Kubala-Sosna Emotion and Emotion "cryo'd", van den Hull carbon, Acoustic Zen Matrix and Silver Reference "Exact", Magnan Silver Bronze, Silversmith Paladium, Analysis Plus ULTRA PLUS, Wireworld Eclipse III, Audience Conductor, Bogdan Silver Spirit, Silverline "Alan Yun Special Edition" balanced digital, Acoustic Zen MC-Squared, Magnan digital RCA. Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Analysis Plus, Acoustic Zen Absolute. Gargantua, Krakatoa, and Tsunami power cords, VH Audio Flavor 4, Stealth, PS Audio, WireWorld power cords.

Audience AdeptResponse 12 outlet power conditioner and Magnan ultra power strip.


Statement of the Problem

The old Zen Koan asks about the sound of one hand clapping.

I solved that problem long ago. It's derived approximately from the asymptotic approach an isolated low-frequency sound wave creates, curving outward mid-trajectory toward infinite silence, following the tree's fall in a forest without witnesses.

SP Tech's Zen-inspired Timepiece 2.1 speakers suggested that formulation. I'd been puzzling for years how to prepare my response to the Koan's riddle. I figured someday maybe a grand kid or drunken pal, loose in his socks late at night, might pull that one on me and I'd be stumped—nothing but the lonely stare of leisure's incomprehension to gird my honor. You wonder how a pair of fairly small but very (very) heavy monitor speakers could provoke such mathematical precision?

Easy. You may've noticed that the famous, apparently unsolvable problem in Lie-group transformational math, contrived in 1887 (in Norway), was recently solved by a team of eighteen mathematicians over a span of four years and seventy-seven hours of supercomputer number crunching. They conquered the mathematical enigma of an essentially unvisualizable fifty-seven dimensional, perfectly symmetrical object with 248 distinct rotations that never alter the object's (graphically impossible) appearance.

This effort constitutes nearly ineffable activity in quest of an ineffable object. That's about as concrete as one's likely to get to seeing or knowing (or naming) the ineffability at the heart of the Zen Koan's robust pugnacity. It's merely one step from such hyper-complexity to the awareness that a pair of world class speakers, set up correctly with the right sonic load of soul-pleasing music, offers immediate insight into the quantum field computations of Lie-group sub-structural elegance, as well as that teasing little Zen riddle.

Pursuit of Legible Possibilities

How does that work? Well, think about it. The nearly infinite possibilities of phase cancellation emanating from a badly-mic'd orchestra recording are astoundingly similar to the calculation challenge presented to this paltry gang of eighteen math characters wholly dependent on their supercomputer infrastructure.

Thus, once you come face to face with the oblivion of such dense thinking as this problem's solution renders, you're instantly in touch with the nearby world of music with its un-scripted sine wave interference patterns of whole and half as well as quarter and (even) eighth and sixteenth notes plus their charming or disorienting sonic clusters—with all the variables that comprise the high-end audio mayhem. Thus (which, used twice in one paragraph, may eventuate in a "squared" notation here or a "third power indicator if used once more), one extrapolates the obvious from these assembled fragments. What was the question ?

I remember now: this is an issue of the mobility of infinite silence as an unsubstantiated variable in non-linear equations expressing the thud or unheard die off from a one-handed monk slapping air in a distant forest otherwise depopulated. Note: in this formulation wild life auditors have no bearing on the ontology of its result. Therefore (a useful variation approximating the semblance of logical inference), the move from Lie-group calculations driven by a dozen and a half math experts, and nearly six dozen hours of super-data hyper-computing, to a world class set of speakers suggesting, with poetic dignity, the answer to a proximate age old philosophical problem is evident. Voila! Can I go home now?

Inferences Galore, Concretely Considered

SP Tech's "Timepiece 2.1" speakers really are that good. How good? What do I mean by good? How much good? Compared to what, as Les McCann used to shout?

Soberly one notes the interference such merely rhetorical queries plop in the dogged reviewer's path. I'll ignore them for the moment, much as the Head Decider does frequently. Unlike the Guy Who Runs The Empire's Recent Demise (no Clintonesque tongue in cheek, no Nixonian unshaved jowls, no W. Bush brusque demeanors here), I'll assert that light dawns at the tunnel's end.

My inference from such interferences is simply this: we audio cats select sound equipment without need for political fol-de-rol. We have a courageous dedication to sonic truth. Absolutes are our friend and enemy. Ergo, no more inferences and interference. Here we go.

Right back to the top where I assert (after the fact) that I wasn't kidding. Really, I wasn't teasing. These bloody "Timepieces" reside happily in one of my three mastering rigs. It's not my problem some smart aleck guy in St. Louis or maybe Barcelona reads that and shakes his scatological noggin. That's for him to unload. As for me, truth's truth. Ask any philosopher my former pal Mendacious Elliott, a Socratic joker of sorts (out of sorts, mostly) who'll give you truth in a second or possibly in third or fourth place after he's fleeced you for dinner, your reputation, and anything else his double-talking hypocrisy concocts by way of establishing "New Standards for Truthfulness At The End of the Once Indomitable Free Surveillance Sphere." I'm not kidding. Mindy-the-philosophical-fool will roast your toes (or bust your walnuts) faster than you blink. It's all for the purpose of truth-seeking. He never gets there and figures it's better to seek than arrive.

But these bloody heavy (did I tell you they weight 65 lbs. each?) truth-telling music-makers of SP Tech's are bought and paid for right here in River City, home of the planet's best bean burrito (and high-definition 24/96 live music captures). So don't give me no jive talk about whose walnuts are biggest and best. We got that covered, so let's move on to the main topic at the end, waylaid a moment only. Apologies to no one in particular.

The Point, The Whole Unfettered Zero

Because this is the first of a two-part review regarding a set of speakers that genuinely serve me well—that keep my mastering work straight down the middle and directly on course—I take a moment's liberty here to whiz ungraciously because I feel like it... notwithstanding the fact that :

  1. speaking or writing about any object or person you admire is difficult;

  2. if you care deeply about a deep topic, encumbrance upon your lack of depth may tilt your boat to leeward;

  3. items i and ii above circumscribe the whole of an agreement between these parties this day; to wit no extraneous or prior codicils, covenants or stipulations preclude or intervene upon these full and entire representations of understanding and agreement by parties attendant to it;

  4. thus, therefore, and to wit: that's the whole of it (whatever "it" was): the end, close caption, last scribbles - finis !

So, you get the point. SP Tech's "Timepiece 2.1" speakers are unusual because they are gloriously open; effortlessly dynamic; accurate from top to bottom in reproducing sounds and musical capture I feed through them virtually every day (weekends included); utterly engaging to listen to; partners in my work; an unassuming presence on the home front (a domestic plus); instructive because revealing of small audio details that demand exquisite sonic accuracy; fun to spend time with; for me, an unimpeachable ally in the grueling effort to improve my recordings and to enhance BluePort mastering work—which includes the appreciation of my professional partner, Steve McCormack, in such daunting labor and its audible aftermath: e.g., listening to our work on four distinct sets of speakers, one of which is the "Timepieces," which never fail to improve what we know because of sonic clarity and full spectrum audio reproduction taken from their gloriously accurate (and just plain lovely) engineering pedigree.

I'm not teasing or jiving here. All that be the main deal that tugs these heavy (did I mention that before?) speakers close to my heart's warm core. These speakers are among a handful of speakers that literally define the concept of "value" in the high-end audio price/performance ratio. Today that ratio needs supercomputing assistance to unravel hyperbole from fact. When I listen to my Timepiece 2.1 speakers, I am the sound of one hand laughing because, these speakers are among the best I've ever heard at any price. (Remember, tears ago, I reviewed the monstrously large, truly iconoclastic, but disarmingly unique Sean McLaughlan In the presence of this beguiling, instructive sound, I'm aware (sworn upon my mother's Buddhist purity) how irrelevant price is when the issue is truthful sound reproduction. Jim Merod

Note: This first of two reviews on Timepiece creations follows from the provocative fact that, nearing the conclusion of this review, I was notified that upgrades will soon craft a "Timepiece 3.0" speaker with serious refinements: a crossover upgrade, a new wood finish, and internal wiring enhancements. When those are available, a review of the 3.0 iteration will find its way here at Positive Feedback - jbm

Timepiece 2.1
Retail: $2995 a pair

SP Tech
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