When my managing editor first approached me about this review, I knew very little about Legacy Audio. The images that popped into my mind were those of Legacy Audio's large, ten-driver speaker systems with lots of wood and a very strong, semi-retro design motif. The sheer size and complexity of those large speaker systems are a little overwhelming for some, but I quickly learned that Legacy Audio's line has a full range of speakers, including those geared towards use in the center channel and surround channel positions, as well as subwoofers. The speaker reviewed here is Legacy Audio's new Signature SE, a floor-standing tower design that is a scaled-down version of Legacy's popular Focus SE.
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews written by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore subwoofers in our Subwoofer Review section.
• Find the right amplifier for the Signature SE in our Amplifier Review section.
After doing some initial research on Legacy Audio and its recent offerings, I became anxious to get my hands on a pair of the Signature SE speakers and sit down for a listen. The Focus SE and Signature SE are much simpler designs than Legacy's flagship ten-driver Helix or Whisper HD speakers, yet they are still four-way speakers with six and five drivers, respectively. There are different schools of thought regarding speaker design. On the one end, there are those who use one or two drivers to cover the entire frequency range (such as planar or electrostatic speakers) and others who use a large number of drivers. Proponents of planar type speakers often tout improved coherence throughout the frequency range. The multi-driver camp typically acknowledges the potential for lack of coherence, but contend that well-designed crossovers and proper driver selection greatly diminish any coherence problems and let each driver perform within its optimum range.
The Signature SEs I received for review came in a beautiful Black Pearl finish and retailed for $6,995 per pair. Other finishes are available for the lower price of $5,995 per pair. The Signature SE is fairly large at 48 inches high by 12 inches wide by 13.75 inches deep. It weighs a very solid 110 pounds. A quick glance even from a distance reveals a large rectangular box, but a closer look reveals some nice design touches, such as a wedge-shaped bevel on the front corners that adds some style and reduces the visual bulk of the speaker.
The enclosures on my sample were beautifully finished and looked amazing in a well-lit room. The attention to detail and finish went well beyond the one-inch-thick MDF cabinet with the fourteen-step finish. The back panel sports two sets of nicely-finished metal five-way binding posts and heavy-duty jumpers for those who do not bi-wire. The binding posts are set on a metal plate that also holds two switches that provide 2 dB of trim at 10kHz and 60 Hz, for controlling overly bright rooms or a typical room resonance region, respectively. The attention to detail continues to the bottom of the speaker, where there are four elastomeric feet with threaded inserts to accept black chrome/brass feet. Legacy Audio is thoughtful enough to include matching discs to protect delicate floor surfaces.
The traditional black speaker grille hides an interesting baffle, which holds five drivers. Working up from the bottom, there are two ten-inch spun aluminum woofers, a seven-inch driver that is made of a proprietary silver/titanium/graphite composite weave over a rohacell core. In addition to this exotic blend of materials, the driver also has a second magnet under the phase plug, which is said to increase performance. In addition to these cone drivers, there are a pair of ribbons that come from the larger Focus SE speaker, a one-inch dual-pole neo-ribbon folded Kapton diaphragm tweeter and a three-inch dual-pole neo-ribbon vapor-deposited Kapton diaphragm midrange, which are mounted in their own sub-enclosure at the same height as in the Focus SE speakers. The height of the woofers was also carefully selected and designed to couple with the room boundary set by the floor. Those who have been following speaker design for a while may note the similarities between the Legacy Audio tweeter and those designed by Oskar Heil. As an entire package, the Signature SE has a nominal impedance of four ohms and a sensitivity rating 92dB at one meter with one watt of power. Claimed frequency response is 22Hz-30kHz, but the manual is silent as to whether this is a +/- 3dB measurement or if some other window was utilized.
The speakers were well-packed, yet easy enough for one person to remove from the box, although two people would be preferable. Due to some delays in receiving the review samples, I had to set the Signature SEs up in a downstairs listening room rather than my main listening room. While this room sounds different than my primary room, I have listened to quite a few speakers in it and am familiar with its sonic qualities. I utilized McIntosh and Krell integrated amplifiers for an extended break-in process (Legacy recommends using the -2dB treble switch until the 30 hours of break-in is complete) and then switched to my reference McIntosh C-500 and MC-501s for my critical listening. The source unit was McIntosh's MCD-500 throughout. Power conditioning was provided by Tributaries and cabling was Kimber and Transparent Ultra.
I initially set up the Signature SEs up about eight feet apart, with the rear of the speaker cabinets just under two feet from my front wall, with a slight toe-in. I quickly found that these speakers needed many, many hours of break in. Before the speakers were fully broken in, the highs were harsh and forward; thankfully this subsided once the initial process was over.
The Signature SEs are very sensitive to positioning. While the tonal balance did not dramatically change when I moved the speakers a few inches either way from their final positions, the soundstage changes were dramatic. After much experimentation, I ended up with the speakers about six-and-a-half feet apart and toed in to where they were aimed at a point just behind my head. In short, if you audition these speakers, make sure that they are fully broken in and experiment with positioning if you are not happy with what you hear at first.
Even before the speakers were fully broken in, it was apparent that they had very deep and dynamic bass. The Signature SEs handled every bass torture test I could throw at them, from the electronica of The Black Eyed Peas' from their album The E.N.D. (Interscope) to "Train Song" on the audiophile standard album It Happened One night by Holly Cole (Blue Note Records) . The synthesized bass lines of the Black Eyed Peas and the Crystal Method were reproduced by the Signature SEs with speed and power. The impact of the notes was visceral and sharp, especially the leading edge of the synthesized notes. On the other end of the bass spectrum, the acoustic bass on Holly Cole's "Train Song" was as detailed as I have heard, while remaining relaxed and natural.
Read more about the Legacy Audio Signature SE's performance on Page 2.