So yeah, I like to dabble in tweaks and stuff that might add that much more to our musical enjoyment. Something that gets us that such more from our music. I admit it, I am a junkie for such things. People who have visited here look at the system and comment about its complexity and that I am crazy blank or whatever… for sure I may have gone to extremes, but then they sit and listen and walk away with a love and appreciation for the sound we have here. Yeah, us too. We love what we hear… but can we stop? Is there a gadget that simply does not do what one is promised? Are there things we can plop in that do not quite live up to the hype?
The ENGIMAcoustic's Self-Biasing Sopranino Super Tweeters offer the promise, or suggestion, that they will add air, ambiance… oh screw it, from their site…" Utilizing our patented SBESL™ (Self-Biased Electrostatic) technology, Sopranino is a groundbreaking product. As add-on super tweeter Sopranino brings the magic of electrostatic performance to essentially any full-range loudspeaker system, capturing air, texture, focus, and inner detail that you otherwise would not have known were there. Its ability to retrieve ambience and to reproduce music with a true listen-through quality simply must be heard to be believed."
All right, way cool. Exactly the sort of thing we are after… more more there thereness. And yes, they do work as advertised. But, and this is a qualifying but… they are not universal in application. That is, they do not shine or perform fully depending on, well… depending on several things, but… they can shine as suggested doing everything quite well. At least here that is. And Here is what I know and can write about.
A little about placement and use… here, that is. The Vandersteen Quattro Wood CT loudspeakers are phase and time correct and their carbon tweeter is amazingly clean, articulate, and extended… grain free, and airy as all get out. Toss in the Synergistic Research Atmosphere with the Red ATM and well placed HFT units… and you get that sense of the room disappearing. You get space, ambiance, resolution, and a massive soundstage. Nice. Want more? Sure… place the Shakti Hallographs in the corners and it gets even better. Better in the sense of the room disappearing that much more. For sure it is still there, but the soundstage becomes just that much more enveloping… that sound detached from the speakers and the room being way bigger than it really is. So, that is what we have… and so what could the Sopranino's bring to the table that we already have with these items in place?
Our preferred setting of mid and 0dB of gain.
Placing them so that they line up with the tweeters on the Vandersteens, all in hopes of not affecting the Vandersteen's superlative performance, the Sopraninos do get us more air and space, but not a lot more, say a wee bit, more subtle more. But as with other super tweeters, the bass does not get tighter and more defined… as I wrote way back in Issue 15 in a review of the Townshend Audio Super Tweeters, "Tannoy concludes by stating that, "Even with the conventional CD sources, the addition of a super tweeter reduces phase error and improves transient performance (of a speaker) significantly below 20kHz." This makes sense if they are affecting the output of the other drivers as suggested above by the STs' own output below 20kHz. And since they do have considerable output within the audible frequencies (down to below 12kHz), it would appear that their presence helps to clean up the interaction of the mid and treble drivers, or, as a teacher might suggest, the Super Tweeters get the other drivers to play together just that much better. Ahhh, harmony."
I am thinking that the issue here, why the Sopraninos do not affect the bass, is that the Vandersteens are phase and time coherent, so there is not much they can do to make the Vandersteens' bass and speaker integration that much better. They are already are that good, they are already playing well together. Which is what we hear.
But the Sopraninos do add that touch of air and airiness to the music that makes it just that much more engaging. We can hear this on anything we toss their way. But no audible addition in terms of resolution, soundstage, etc. So, they do work, just not as overwhelmingly as we had expected based on demos at various shows. There, the audible improvements were rather dramatic. But then they were not using our speakers, nor the Shakti Hallographs or the Synergistic ATM/HFT devices—all of which do the vast majority of what the Sopraninos are designed to do.
But here is where it gets interesting… while I did not take out the Hallographs nor the Synergistic HTMs (too difficult and too lazy now that I am retired), I did turn off the Synergistic ATM and there ya go… the Sopranino is now adding, or doing more of what we had expected based on the demonstrations. The improvement was now quite apparent and quite lovely. I now was hearing a lot of what the Synergistic ATM does… space, soundstage expansion, resolution… etc., but with just the Sopranino sitting on the Vandersteens. Way cool. Am thinking that if the Hallographs and the Synergistic HTMs were out of the room as well… well, then there ya go… the Sopraninos in all their glory. Yes, they do work, but if you are already doing other things that do what the Sopraninos are designed to do, well you might not hear much, if anything. Nor are they are not going to fix a speaker's tweeter—unless the tweeter is somewhat rudimentary, but then not sure you would be spending this amount for the Sopraninos. Buy better speakers first. Anyhow, this is not really their intention. The will add more extension and air for sure, but if your speaker already has SOTA tweeters, they are not going to make as big of an improvement to the treble as one might expect—you already got that! But they can and will add more space and air.
I can recommend these, though many will find the cost somewhat off-putting. At $3690 a pair, the Sopranino is considerably more than other super tweeters, but then again, those costing less tend to not be nearly as attractive nor feature the design and construction of the Sopraninos. If that is important, then the price of admission is what it is. I did not like the thin pad that came with the tweeters to protect the finish of any speaker it is places on... they actually caused an ever so slight yellowing to the Vandersteens, so instead I used small rubber like hemispheres used for glass tops. Worked like a charm. The Sopraninos came with their supplied speaker jumpers, but since the Vandersteens use a narrow barrier strip, the supplied cables were a real PITA when swapping in and out various other speaker cables. Having a spade on top of a spade on top of a spade was not fun, so Justin at ampandsound offered to make me up some long speaker cables using his super cool NASA-spec'd wire so that I could tap off the extra binding posts on the rear of the PS Audio BHK-250 amplifiers. Easy cheesy. Are these for you? I can't tell you that you just have to have these, but even with all that we have going on here with the Synergistic and Shakti stuff, I like the set I have. Highly recommended. Roger Gordon has more HERE in Positive Feedback about his experiences with the Sopraninos.