collapsed and was no longer believable. Instead, it merely sounded as if the large portrayed space was in front of us, as if we were merely peeking into that ballroom space from the doorway, not as if we were immersed in and had been transported to that alternative space seen in the film.
That's why it's important that all the loudspeakers of your surround array be substantially full range loudspeakers, capable of reproducing at least this octave of upper bass (40 Hz to 80 Hz) at sufficiently loud levels to accommodate your particular home theater needs. Only in this way can you experience accurate bass, proper surround sound, and that magical sense of being transported out of your small room and into an alternative venue. That's also why we generally don't recommend that you employ small satellite loudspeakers for your surround array, not even for the rear or back surrounds, unless you are constrained for space in your room. As to low bass, from 40 Hz downward, it might be sonically feasible to route all of that to subwoofers (and the more subwoofers the better), but that's another story for another time.
Now, most surround processors and subwoofers do include flexible controls for you to vary and choose the low pass filter frequency (the upper frequency cutoff for the subwoofer). But, as things stand today, many surround processors do not offer you similar flexibility for choosing the high pass filter frequency (the lower frequency cutoff) for the signal fed to all the loudspeakers of your surround array. Instead, they only offer you a choice of large or small, where large feeds the full bass spectrum to all your loudspeakers, while small cuts them off at a preselected fixed frequency of 80 Hz. And 80 Hz, as we now know, is too high a frequency, since it robs you of the surround experience for that critical 40-80 Hz upper bass octave, and also degrades the bass by forcing you to electrically mix the bass in this critical octave to feed instead to the subwoofer(s). If your only two choices are to run your whole surround loudspeaker array completely full range, or to cut it off at 80 Hz, then full range is by far the better choice, if you want the best quality surround sound and bass.
This of course is where the Tamino's limitations in bass quantity become severely restrictive. It is wonderful that the Tamino has honest bass response extending way down to 30 Hz, and that it has such high quality bass transient response. This makes for a truly wonderful surround experience when running the whole Tamino surround array full range -- provided the volume level is kept low enough so that the Tamino's tiny 4.5 inch bass pistons don't get into trouble. But what do you do with the Tamino if you want to play your surround system louder? You could change your surround processor's setup parameters to small, and feed all the bass to a subwoofer or subwoofers, but this is only half an answer because, as we have seen, this will degrade your bass accuracy and surround sound quality. Presumably you bought the Taminos because of their wonderfully revelatory qualities, including convincing portrayal of a surround space, so it would seem silly to throw some of that away every time you want to crank up the volume.
And the true situation is even messier than this. Consider that most films consist of a story involving many different scenes. For example, the film Daredevil has an outstanding soundtrack, including some quiet scenes with rich surround ambience where you would definitely want the Taminos to be running full range (e.g. the large ballroom scene, chapter 19), and then some other scenes where loud bass effects severely bottom the small Tamino woofer (e.g. the fight scene, chapter 8). How should you watch this one film? Do you want to pause the movie every time the scene changes from quiet to loud and vice versa, then go into your processor's setup menu to change all the Taminos from large to small or vice versa, and then finally resume watching the movie?
-- Tamino X3
There might be a much better solution. What if Verity could develop a Tamino that could put out almost 4 times more bass quantity than the Tamino X2 reviewed here? As luck would have it, there already is such a Tamino. The Tamino X3, a model which actually predates the X2, has two 6.5 inch woofers instead of just the one that the X2 has. So right off the bat you get twice the bass loudness capability (for a given driver excursion limit before bottoming), by having double the piston area. The Tamino X3 has similar overall cabinet dimensions as the X2, but it subdivides its internal volume into two bass enclosures, so that each of the two woofers sees only half the bass enclosure volume as the single X2 woofer does. This raises the system's bass rolloff frequency, so that the X3's bass extends only down to about 40 Hz, instead of the X2's bass extension down to 30 Hz. But this slight diminution of low bass extension is not important if you run a subwoofer with the Tamino to cover the low bass frequencies, which most of you would want to do anyway in a home theater system. And, more importantly, this slight diminution of bass frequency extension in the X3 should allow it to play bass even louder, perhaps even up to twice as loud.
You see, for any given woofer piston size, playing bass all the way down to 30 Hz requires twice the cone excursion as playing bass only down to about 42 Hz. So, simply speaking, a woofer system that cuts off below 42 Hz instead of going all the way down to 30 Hz could play its bass about twice as loudly (technical aside: this simplification is further subject to the chosen parameters of the bass vent alignment, and disregards complications such as vent unloading below resonance). In a sense, Verity's noble pursuit of purist high end fidelity, in getting the newer X2 model to extend all the way down to 30 Hz instead of the 40 Hz of the older X3 model, backfired, at least for home theater use, since it may have virtually halved the system's loudness capability.
Thus, the Tamino X3 can play bass twice as loudly as the X2 by virtue of having twice the woofer area, and should be able to play bass up to twice as loudly again by having a bass cutoff up around 40 Hz instead of down around 30 Hz, thereby giving you a total of almost 4 times louder bass capability. Since bass loudness capability is a prominent and important limitation of the otherwise excellent X2, it seems natural for us to consider the Tamino X3 as a preferable alternative to the X2, especially for home theater use (the X2 would still be fine for quiet to moderate music listening).
The best news of all, the icing on the cake, is the price of the Tamino X3. The X3 naturally has to cost more than the X2, to pay for the extra woofer driver and the extra internal cabinet construction. But the difference is surprisingly small. In fact, there's merely a 9% price difference between the X3 and X2. That's a pittance to pay for curing the main limitation of the Tamino X2 for home theater use.
In light of the above reasoning, and our findings after evaluating the X2 that the manufacturer chose to submit for review, we strongly suggested to Verity that the X3 Tamino would be more appropriate to the home theater market, and that it would be better for them and for you if we evaluated and reviewed the X3 instead of the X2. But Verity declined, so we have no personal experience with the X3, and we cannot testify whether its various sonic qualities actually match the sonic virtues we found in the X2. You, however, can easily ask your Verity dealer to play for you both the X2 and the X3. Since you know in advance about all the sonic pros and cons we found and report here regarding the X2, you can simply compare the two models in a direct A-B, and see if they sound very similar, except for more bass loudness capability in the X3.
Alternatively, if you have adequate space and budget, you could put together a dynamite surround system by buying 7 subwoofers to discretely reproduce each of the 7 channels at the 7 loudspeaker positions. Then you wouldn't have to worry about the Tamino X2's bass limitations. Of course, these subwoofers could handle both the lower and upper bass, so you could then employ the new Tamino satellite model, instead of the X2.
Speaking of subwoofers, Verity makes one model, called the Rocco, to serve their whole loudspeaker lineup. The Rocco is an impressively large unit, with a built in 300 watt power amplifier, and is very handsomely finished in gloss black, to match the Tamino.The Rocco is also an impressive performer. It employs twin 12 inch woofers (each with an 8.5 inch diameter piston), facing in opposite directions and rigidly coupled to each other by rods, so that their mechanical forces largely cancel (instead of causing the cabinet to vibrate or move). Rocco has very good reach to low bass frequencies, and good power to rattle the walls. It is pretty good with respect to bass tightness, definition, and impact kick, having just slightly more boomy overhang than we'd like to hear.
The Rocco has just a slight bit of upper bass or warmth region coloration, perhaps associated with the skirt of a nasty peak seen at 370 Hz in the manufacturer's own measurements. As we found by running listening experiments, this coloration makes it sonically advisable to set your subwoofer low pass filter (upper frequency cutoff) no higher than 110 Hz. This limits the Rocco's ability to help the main surround array loudspeakers with the warmth region above 110 Hz, if needed (see discussion below of Tamino's warmth region, especially with regard to room placement). But for normal surround array loudspeakers, crossing over the Rocco somewhere from 80 Hz to this 110 Hz limit should work fine.
Also, we were able to overload the Rocco, causing either woofer bottoming or power amplifier clipping, by playing film soundtracks at merely moderately high loudness levels (in an admittedly very large room, which we deliberately use in order to allow long bass wavelengths to fully develop). But overload should not be a problem in average size rooms.
Our only real reservation about Rocco concerns it price of $9995 each, which gets multiplied by our earnest recommendation that you always employ at least two subwoofers. There are other subwoofers with similarly very good performance, but at much lower cost (e.g. the $1695 Nola Thunderbolt from Accent Speaker Technology). And, if you're willing to pay the price for Rocco, you might want to get even better performance by springing for a different premium subwoofer (e.g. one from Wilson Audio). Since subwoofers are often hidden or masked (perhaps by tablecloths and art objects atop them), many of us are not that concerned about a subwoofer's native appearance. But, if you want a subwoofer that visually matches your Taminos, the Rocco makes a very good performance choice for you.
Midrange Colorations -
As noted, the Tamino boasts excellent transparency and excellent neutrality, and it does so throughout most of the spectrum, including the deep bass and the upper treble, which are the most difficult regions for loudspeakers to master. This mastery of these difficult regions marks the Tamino as a true and worthy high end loudspeaker. But the Tamino does have one coloration of significance. In the midrange, from about 2 kHz to about 4 kHz, some colorations are noticeable, and they are peculiar in nature.
Most loudspeaker systems have colorations in the midrange, especially two way systems, since this is the tricky area where the crossover from tweeter to woofer/midrange drivers occurs, and is also where the woofer/midrange driver typically starts behaving nn-pistonically, breaking up, and emitting spurious mechanical breakup noises that color the reproduced sound. But, to its credit, the Tamino's drivers themselves are extraordinary performers, and seem to have very low inherent coloration. So the source of the midrange coloration seems elsewhere (we believe the crossover design), and the sonic nature of this coloration is therefore different than the usual mechanical material breakup we find in most other loudspeakers.
The Tamino's midrange coloration has two principal sonic properties. Firstly, in the affected region, the tonal balance seems recessed, as if there were less energy than there should be. Secondly, musical sounds have a peculiar ghostly or phasey quality in this region. This midrange region is very important for the overtones of the singing voice, as well as many musical instruments. Consequently, on most vocals this coloration in the Tamino makes singers sound far away instead of up front, and like phantoms instead of solid flesh and blood. Other loudspeakers, that we directly compared the Tamino to, did a much better job of portraying vocalists as being right there in the room, with solid flesh and blood vividness and reality, and they clearly put out more energy in this midrange region, with more tactile solidity. The Tamino coloration makes a bold singer sound shy and withdrawn.
This midrange coloration in the Tamino can be of euphonic advantage for many vocal recordings, which are typically too closely miked. Music recordings of singers usually place the singer's lips mere inches from the microphone, which, when played back on an accurate system, puts the singer artificially in your face, rather than at a realistic distance up on stage. Likewise, film soundtracks usually have the voices in the center dialogue channel close miked, which is totally incongruous with the rich sense of distant and large surround space portrayed from all the other loudspeaker positions, and is inconsistent with what your eyes are seeing on the screen, which is the character speaking in that large space. The Tamino's midrange tonal balance recession places all these voices at a greater and more reasonable and consistent distance, and the Tamino's phantomizing coloration softens the artificially punchy directness that close miking imparts to voices. Through the Tamino, a singer sounds more naturally distant on stage, and the voices on a center channel dialogue track blend more consistently with the large space you see portrayed on screen and the large space you hear portrayed through all the other surround loudspeakers.
But, even though the Tamino's coloration can be of euphonic advantage, it is still a coloration, and a coloration that is quite noticeable in both its nature and its degree, especially when compared against other loudspeakers that do not have this same peculiar coloration. Human hearing is at its most sensitive in this midrange region around the Tamino's crossover, and is also at its most sensitive in analyzing when things sound right or wrong (evolved from our caveman needs to sensitively hear and analyze a snapping twig sound). So human hearing is particularly adept at hearing the Tamino's colorations, and hearing them as being peculiar, in exactly the spectral region where they occur. This factor of course makes these Tamino colorations even more noticeable than they would have been if they were to have occurred in some other part of the spectrum.
In short, the Tamino's midrange colorations are a sonic factor you must come to terms with. They might suit your listening taste, or they might not, and that decision has to be yours alone. The best we can do is to describe these colorations for you as best we can. Then you can be alert for them when you audition the Tamino, and, after hearing them for yourself, you can decide whether they suit your taste.
In defense of the Tamino, we'd like to point out that its midrange colorations are also made much more noticeable by the fact that the Tamino's performance is so excellent, and so opposite in nature, in the immediately adjacent spectral regions. Only because the Tamino is so revealing and accurate in other spectral regions do its shortcomings in the midrange crossover region seem by contrast so obvious. In particular, the Tamino's upper midrange and trebles, coming from the tweeter above the crossover region, are forthright, direct, and articulate (thanks in large part to the excellence of the tweeter driver and to Verity's decision to run the tweeter in correct absolute phase polarity). These sonic qualities from the tweeter of course make the sonic contrast with the immediately adjacent midrange crossover spectral region all the more noticeable, since the midrange sounds tonally recessed and shy instead of forthright, indirect instead of direct, and phasey instead of articulate.
Indeed, the recessed and phasey colorations of the Tamino's midrange crossover region can have a converse effect upon the upper midrange and treble spectral regions as output from its tweeter. The Tamino's upper midange and treble from its tweeter driver are in fact exemplary, but the Tamino system can sound overly bright, with the upper frequencies seeming too prominent. But it only seems so, firstly because the immediately adjacent midrange region is tonally recessed, and also has that phasey inverted polarity shyness, while the upper frequencies from the tweeter are bold, articulate, and direct. A second factor contributing to the sonic prominence of the Tamino's tweeter output is that, when the tweeter takes over from the woofer/midrange, it has a much wider radiation pattern into the room than the woofer/midrange driver does in the midrange, and also is outputting transient accurate pistonic sound instead of the naturally more phasey sound of the woofer/midrange driver in breakup mode (this factor is common to most plural driver loudspeaker systems). Thus, the upper frequencies from the tweeter sound disparate and separated from the midrange, rather than forming a seamlessly integrated portrayal of the musical spectrum and the music.
Many other loudspeakers that are less revealing than the Tamino might well mask similar midrange colorations amidst other sonic flaws in other frequency regions. For example, the woofer/midrange drivers of many other two way systems evince much worse spurious coloration noises from cone breakup in the midrange, and these cone breakup noises would distract our ear/brain from the phasiness that this non-pistonic driver is probably exhibiting in this breakup region. Alternatively or additionally, many loudspeakers have tweeters which sound soft, and/or have ragged response, and/or are connected in inverted phase polarity, so these loudspeakers would sound phasey and tonally colored in the upper midrange and treble regions, which means that, if they also had midrange colorations similar to the Tamino, those midrange colorations would not be so audibly noticeable, being accompanied by similar colorations elsewhere in their spectrum.
As the saying goes, you'll easily notice a strange noodle in clear soup, but you won't see it in opaque porridge. Many other loudspeakers have sonic performance like an opaque porridge, whereas the Tamino's transparent revelation for all other regions of the spectrum is like clear soup. Interestingly, it is the frequency extremes where most other loudspeakers get into trouble, due to compromises and the laws of physics. In contrast, the perfectionist high end heritage that the Tamino inherits from Verity has given it outstanding performance at these difficult frequency extremes, especially for a two way entry level system.
(Continued on page 97)