Verity Tamino X2, Rocco Subwoofer
Verity's loudspeaker line comes from the world of perfectionist high end music systems, where the paramount goal is transparent revelation of musical information, where typical home theater goals such as loud volume are secondary, and where typical home theater foibles (such as boom and sizzle to impress na´ve listeners) are anathema. Virtually the entire Verity line is designed with these purist goals in mind, and without compromise or concession to the vulgarities all too common in loudspeakers designed primarily for home theater.
The result is that the Verity loudspeakers provide a startlingly revelatory experience for home theater, transparently revealing much more information from film soundtracks than most other loudspeakers designed for home theater. And of course the Verity speakers also do very well at their primary design goal, revealing musical information from music recordings, both in stereo and in surround modes.
If you're upgrading your present audio system, your most important and precious goal should be to improve the transparency of your system links. It is transparency that reveals more of the timbre and texture of musical instruments and sound effects, making them much more real and believable. It is also transparency that reveals more of the spatial imaging cues contained in both music recordings and film soundtracks, thus making all surrounding sounds and the surrounding space itself more realistic, and thereby immersing you in amore believable and convincing surround experience.
The Verity loudspeakers, including the entry level Taminos, deliver this desirable, precious transparency in spades. You'll hear subtle information and spatial imaging from film soundtracks and music recordings that you probably never heard before through other loudspeakers, especially those geared toward the home theater market rather than the perfectionist high end audio market that Verity comes from.
Indeed, even the entry level Tamino is so transparent that it fully justifies using other system components of the highest order, even very expensive system links that might well cost more than the Tamino. For example, we wound up using Nordost's very expensive Valhalla loudspeaker cable to feed all seven Taminos in our surround array, because the Tamino clearly revealed Valhalla's superiority to other loudspeaker cables, and made full use of Valhalla's transparency and speed. Likewise, the Tamino clearly revealed the sonic benefits of using premium links earlier in the system chain, such as the Von Gaylord Chinchilla interconnect cables.
The Tamino might be the entry model in the Verity lineup, but very few compromises are made in its design, just to achieve an entry level price point. From driver quality, to enclosure design, to cabinet look and finish, the Tamino still embodies the essence of high end perfectionism, in spite of its entry level status in the Verity lineup. Of course, high quality drivers and cabinetry still cost dearly, so the entry level Tamino's price has to wind up being what we would call moderate, not economical, in price. But you do get what you pay for. Verity is admirably unwilling to make a cheap loudspeaker that sacrifices their high end goals.
The Tamino now actually comprises three models, the original X3 mini-tower with dual woofers, the newer X2 mini-tower with a single woofer (reviewed here), and the brand new Tamino satellite, which puts the same drivers of the X2 in a small mini-monitor cabinet (and which naturally therefore has much less bass extension). The dual woofer X3 sells for $5995 per pair in the USA, the X2 reviewed here sells for $5495 per pair, and the new satellite called the Monitor sells for $3495 per pair.
The heart of any loudspeaker system is its driver complement. Without superb drivers, a loudspeaker system can't even get off the ground in giving you truly excellent sound. As an entry level model, the Tamino is just a two way system (Verity's more expensive loudspeakers venture into three way territory), but its two drivers are superb. Both the woofer and tweeter are very transparent, thereby revealing a plethora of information, and are also very low in coloration, thereby revealing very little of themselves and intruding very little upon your experience. With superb drivers like this, you hear a lot more from all your recordings (both music and soundtrack), and you hear a lot less of the annoying spurious colorations that lesser quality drivers put out, colorations that in other drivers distract you from the true recorded sounds and ruin your experience of suspension of disbelief.
The Tamino's tweeter is a .75 inch soft dome. It boasts excellent sonic transparency, in the same league as many exotic hard dome tweeters, and much better than most other soft dome tweeters, which sound soft, veiled, and defocused in comparison. The Tamino soft dome tweeter is very articulate, with excellent individuation of transients and a transient attack quality that is incisive and sparkling, yet at the same time very natural (not excessively hard as many hard dome tweeters sound). This tweeter also sounds very neutral and uncolored, so that the driver itself and the materials of its diaphragm do not intrude upon the information it reproduces so transparently from the recording. In most other tweeters, an astute listener can easily hear the material of the diaphragm (and perhaps the surround) intruding with its artificial mechanical colorations upon the reproduced sound (metal diaphragm tweeters often sound metallic, while soft diaphragm tweeters often sound soft and veiled, with non-pistonic defocus). This Tamino tweeter is so revealing that it would surely reveal its own diaphragm colorations if it had any to speak of, but it doesn't seem to, so all you hear is the program source information, revealed with startling transparency. This excellent tweeter is one of the outstanding features of the Tamino, and it plays an unusually prominent role in the overall sound of this loudspeaker system (for reasons to be discussed below), so it in large measure accounts for the Tamino's achievements in revelatory transparency. There are to be sure some other exotic tweeter drivers, far more expensive than the Tamino's tweeter, which reveal even more information, and are even faster and more accurately pistonic. But the Tamino's tweeter is so good that, when listening to it alone (as opposed to comparing it directly to those other far more expensive exotic tweeters), there's no sense that anything is missing. So, for the entry level price range of the Tamino, its tweeter is an outstanding choice, and establishes the high standard of reproduction for the Tamino system as a whole.
The Tamino's woofer/midrange driver is also an excellent unit. It too boasts excellent transparency and neutrality, thereby duplicating for its own operating range (up to the 3500 Hz crossover) the high reproduction standard set by the tweeter. This woofer/midrange is a 6.5 inch driver, with a cone actually measuring about 4.5 inches across. The cone is made of a clear plastic material, probably TPX. Both the cone and the surround of this driver seem to have excellent self damping qualities, since this driver, like the tweeter, has very low sonic coloration.
In most other woofer/midrange drivers, an astute listener can easily hear the material of the cone and/or surround intruding with foreign mechanical colorations, especially in the region where these materials typically break up (go into spurious self vibration), and where these spurious vibrations are inadequately damped, so they reflect from the diaphragm or suspension boundaries and thereby cause noticeable colorations from the prolonged echoing multiple bounces off the inadequately damped boundaries. For example, in many woofer/midrange drivers (and midrange drivers in three way systems) inadequate damping or termination of the diaphragm and/or the surround will produce the spurious noise of papery crackling from a paper cone, plasticky quacking from a plastic cone, or rubbery twanging from a rubber surround, and these spurious noises then accompany all music and reproduced sounds as annoyingly foreign colorations.
In contrast, with this Tamino woofer/midrange driver, the inevitable breakups of cone and surround seem very well controlled (well damped and well terminated), so the end result is very natural, very transparent reproduction with very low driver coloration. Indeed, the coloration of this excellent driver is so low in its breakup region that Verity can utilize this driver's natural rolloff above 3500 Hz as part of the system crossover, without needing to cut off the driver's response prematurely (as is necessary with most other woofer/midrange drivers, whose sonically coloring breakup misbehavior prior to their natural rolloff must be subdued by crossover intervention). Moreover, because this driver is so well behaved, and no crossover intervention is needed to cut off misbehavior, the part of the Tamino's crossover network dealing with this driver can be much simpler - and this crossover simplicity translates into yet better transparency that the Tamino can offer you.
Cabinet Design Features
After the drivers, the cabinet plays the most important role in a loudspeaker system's performance. The cabinet's bass enclosure design determines the type of bass that the system can put out. The cabinet's external geometry determines the alignment of the drivers, and has a great influence on the system's spatial imaging performance. The cabinet's rigidity and inertness is crucial for low system coloration and for transparent clarity (freedom from muddy blurring). And of course the external look of the cabinet determines the aesthetic appeal of the whole package, which will play a dominant visual role in your listening room (when the lights are on), since there will likely be seven of these boxes arrayed all around you.
In all these important aspects of cabinet design, Verity again devotes a lot of attention to pursuing high end audio perfectionism, for most of their loudpseaker models, including even this entry level model the Tamino.
First, the overall geometry of the cabinet features a narrow front panel, and the requisite cabinet volume for the bass enclosure is achieved by giving the cabinet much greater depth from front to back, than width across the front. This is the correct perfectionist design approach for optimizing spatial imaging, since a narrow front panel restricts cabinet edge diffraction effects (which degrade spatial imaging) to just affecting higher frequencies and shorter echo delay times. This narrow frontal geometry also strengthens aesthetic appeal, by making the cabinet attractively slender as seen from the front, so that the loudspeaker system appears smaller (and less visually intrusive), visually hiding the largeness of its actual cabinet volume that allows better bass performance.
Second, the Tamino cabinet is tapered from bottom to top, in all dimensions. This enhances cabinet rigidity by making the panels more self bracing with one another than the usual plain rectangular panels would be. It also provides the further benefit of staggering and spreading panel breakup and resonance modes, thereby reducing coloration from vibrating panels, since the narrower top portions of each panel will break up and vibrate at progressively higher frequencies than the wider bottom portions. This is in contrast to conventional rectangular panels, which break up and vibrate at a single frequency for their entire length and width, thereby causing greater, more pronounced, and more annoyingly obvious system colorations at those single frequencies. You can easily verify for yourself the Tamino's superiority in this regard, without needing any scientific instrumentation. Simply start rapping on the side panel, starting at the bottom and moving upward, and notice how the pitch of the cabinet panel sound keeps rising, as you move from bottom to top. Ideally of course the cabinet panels would be completely inert, and would not answer back to your rapping at all, but achieving such dead inertness would require far more expensive layered and composite materials for the panels than the Tamino budget allows for.
Third, the tapering of the side panels provides a tilt backwards of the front panel, thereby providing at least some degree of beneficial temporal alignment among the drivers, here between the tweeter and woofer/midrange. The Tamino does sound its best at standard seated listening height, so its vertical listening axis is well designed by this backwards tilt of the front panel.
Incidentally, the optimum horizontal listening axis for the Tamino is very critical, so you will be well rewarded by rotating each loudspeaker to precisely the same horizontal angle relative to the ideal listener hot seat. The Tamino is so superbly revealing that it even reveals nuanced differences in its horizontal radiation angle to your ear. In extensive placement experiments, we found that we preferred the Tamino to be oriented directly at the ideal listener center hot seat, and we found that we could hear sonic differences if a given Tamino was horizontally angled off center even by a fraction of one degree of arc. We could easily hear the ideal center point by listening for the best transparency and airiness in the upper frequencies, from each loudspeaker in turn.
The three cabinet design factors above enhance the chief sonic virtues that the excellent drivers bring to the Tamino, so the cabinet design works hand in glove with the driver performance. The rigidity and spread out resonances of the cabinet design mean that there is very little spurious noise radiated from the cabinet at any one frequency, so this minimizes unwanted sonic coloration, muddying, and blurring by the cabinet. This in turn allows the excellent transparency and low coloration of the drivers to shine, without being degraded by the cabinet. In other loudspeakers with less sophisticated cabinet design, the vibrating panels can cause significant coloration and muddying blur at particular frequencies, thereby degrading the transparency and neutrality that their drivers might possess (and the radiation from such cabinet panels can be nearly as loud as, or even louder than, the output from the drivers themselves, since the panels have a much greater radiating area, and also couple to the room air more efficiently, than the drivers themselves).
Likewise, the Tamino's cabinet design, with its narrow and tapered front panel, minmizies degradtion of spatial imaging, thereby allowing the excellent transparency of the drivers to shine in revealing spatial imaging cues from the original venue, as contained in the recording. The overall spatial imaging of the Tamino rates as very good, and it achieves very good portrayal of stage width, depth, and hall ambience, with only a slight hot spot at the loudspeaker location that betrays where the loudspeaker is located in your listening room. There a few other loudspeakers (chiefly mini-monitors) which do slightly surpass the Tamino's spatial imaging, by portraying even richer width, depth, and ambience, and by completely disappearing amidst the portrayed curtain of sound (i.e. not giving away their location in your listening room). The Tamino probably could achieve even better spatial imaging if its front cabinet edges were more rounded, and also if an absorptive felt blanket were placed on the front panel (the Tamino's drivers are surrounded by a thin matte flocking on the front panel, but its function is just cosmetic, and it is too thin to be of absorptive value).
The fourth cabinet design factor pertains to the bass enclosure, that determines the quality of the Tamino's bass. The cabinet's bass enclosure is unusually large for the single 6.5 inch woofer/midrange in the Tamino X2, and this allows the Tamino X2 reviewed here to achieve two bass goals of perfectionist high end audio: deep bass extension and high quality bass. The X2's bass response extends way down to an honest 30 Hz, which is a rare achievement for any system with such a small woofer. You can feel the solid foundation and impact of deep bass from the various quadrants, when the program source calls for it. And you can hear and sense the rich ambience of surround space all around you much better, since the bass waves propagating all around the original large venue are well reproduced all around you by the Tamino X2. The quality of the X2's bass is also excellent, with tight, dry control and very good definition, and without the excessive overhang or ringing boom that plagues many other loudspeakers (especially those designed to impress na´ve home theater listeners who think that more boom is better).
The large bass enclosure volume, for the X2's single woofer, allows the designer to get honest bass extension down to a lower frequency than you'd expect. And it also allows the designer the liberty to employ a more perfectionist bass vent alignment with a gentler corner (here a Bessel), which can deliver better quality bass with better bass transient response, hence better bass tightness and definition, with less overhang and ringing boom. Other loudspeakers typically use more hyped up bass vent alignments, which have a sharper corner to maximize bass quantity, but which, as a result of that sharper corner in the frequency domain, necessarily have worse transient response in the time domain, so they evince poorer bass control and poorer bass definition, with worse overhang and a ringing one-note boom.
Here again we see how the Tamino, although merely an entry level model, laudably employs perfectionist high end design tactics, to deliver the highest quality sound, even from a modestly sized driver complement. With most other loudspeakers (especially those oriented toward home theater), you hear a constant one-note lingering boom, at a single apparent frequency - a frequency determined by the loudspeaker system's sharp corner frequency and the periodicity of the resulting ringing in the time domain, not by the actual music as its bass notes go up and down the scale. Thus, for example, a plucked bass going up and down the scale is transformed into sounding as though it were playing the same single booming note over and over, through most other loudspeakers. But with perfectionist-driven high end loudspeaker designs, such as the Tamino X2, you only hear bass when it actually exists in the program material, and you hear it more accurately reproduced with higher quality, since there's less of the one-note boom and more of the actual bass frequencies of the music as its bass notes go up and down the scale.
The fifth cabinet design factor pertains to aesthetics. Here too Verity has put in the effort to develop a look that bespeaks a high end product, so you'd never guess that the Tamino is just an entry level model. The slim tapered geometry of the mini-tower cabinet, especially slender when seen from the front, gives this loudspeaker a light and graceful presence. And Verity has hit a home run with the Tamino's high class cabinet finish. The standard finish for the Tamino is a radiantly glossy black polymer, so mirror smooth that it comes close to the look of a very expensive hand rubbed lacquer finish. This polymer is also said to be beneficial in deadening the panels of the enclosure. The only negative aspect to this beautiful glossy finish is that it reflects light from the screen in a darkened theater room, further scattering that light around the room, and perhaps thereby
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