When I auditioned the beautifully recorded big band album by Bill Holman called Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk (JVC), I immediately became aware of two great virtues of the Double Impact's performance. First, it has the transient speed and velocity of a horn speaker. When Holman's band let it rip on Monk's famous jazz classic "Straight-No Chaser," these speakers totally captured the sense of "aliveness" you get when a live big band really is burning/churning at full tilt. Secondly, the Double Impact is so transparent that I could easily hear all the little details (micro-dynamics) against a non-existent black background. However, none of this came across in an analytical or what I refer to as a "Hi-Fi" sound. Along with this transient speed/pop/aliveness was the ability to pressurize my large listening space with taut/powerful bass that rocked my room. I did not need a subwoofer to get the lowest bass frequencies in my music selections.
My next audition was Bob Marley's Legend (Island), which has both live concert recordings and studio sessions. This great music revealed another sonic trait of the Double Impact: its ability to create the illusion of real music through my reference system. The expression often used to describe the soundstaging abilities of a speaker is, "Are the players here, or are you there?" A great speaker has the ability to reproduce either experience based on how the performance was recorded. The Double Impact seemed to disappear like a great ribbon, AMT, electrostatic, or planar design in the way it re-created the height, width, and depth of the soundstage. However, unlike many of those types of speakers that reproduce distorted and unrealistic-sized images--along with not having a very accurate placement of the individual players within the soundstage--this speaker nailed all of these parameters with great precision and ease. The space between Marley and his band was rendered in a totally natural way. Each player was accurate in their size and had great palpability/three-dimensional "meat on the bones" presence. With the live concert recordings, I got the band along with the ambience of the venue, which gave the illusion that I was there in the stadium. On the other hand, if the song was recorded in the studio in a direct way with very little reflections of the room acoustics being recorded in the mix, the illusion was as if the players were in my room.
Next up was The Tenor Scene (Prestige) by my all-time-favorite tenor saxophonist, Johnny Griffin. One of the most important qualities to me when listening to a speaker is whether or not it can reproduce the tonality/timbres of different instruments in a clean/pure way that delivers the color and beauty of the artist's way of playing that instrument. The Double Impact is neither cold nor warm in its overall tonal perspective. It truly is a conduit. If you drive it with the right upstream gear, you will experience a liquidity with gorgeous tonal colors. To go along with the accurate reproduction of tonality/colors is extreme high-end extension, with decay trails that sparkle and have the delicacy and air found in real music. I heard Mr. Griffin in Chicago on many occasions, and this speaker did justice to the tone/color of his tenor saxophone when I heard him in his live performances.
My final selection was Keith Jarrett's highly acclaimed solo piano recording The Melody at Night, With You (ECM), which he recorded in his home studio. Both the way Jarrett played this series of beautiful ballads and how he intimately recorded his performance allow you to feel like you are sitting with him in the middle of the night as he plays his heart out. The Double Impact captured all the nuances (micro-details) of Jarrett's Steinway piano, regardless of how soft his playing was--along with all the slightest decays coming from the Steinway's sounding board. That's another great strength of this speaker: even when played at low volume levels, you do not lose the pace/feeling and micro-dynamics of the music, unlike other speakers that have to be played at a much higher sound level to get them to perform in their "sweet spot."
The only concerns I have about the Double Impact speaker involve its large size and the amount of lower bass frequency that it produces. If you have a rather small listening space, the Double Impact might be somewhat overwhelming in physical appearance. With its ability to produce thunderous, deep, and powerful bass frequencies, it could overload a small room sonically. Tekton Design has a smaller version of the Double Impact for those with tighter listening spaces.
You can drive the Double Bass with virtually any electronics; however, keep in mind that this is a reference-level transducer that offers complete transparency and clarity. So garbage in, garbage out. However, even if you start with entry-level electronics, the speaker will sound good--then you can build around it for years to get to its ultimate sonic potential.
Comparison and Competition
Because the Double Impact speaker has such an unfair advantage compared with any speaker that I know about in its price range, I decided to jump up to speakers that cost thousands of dollars more to compare their performance. The Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk2, which retails for $22,000/pair, has been one of my favorite high-end speakers over the last five years. It is great at rendering very natural timbres and tonality, along with excellent soundstaging. Its bass performance is extended but comes nowhere close to the Double Impact's more accurate and tighter bass response. Where the Double Impact really pulls ahead is its overall transient speed and sense of "aliveness" that I don't experience with the Acoustic Zen speaker.
The next speaker that I have enough experience with to compare with the Double Impact is the YG Acoustics Carmel 2, which retails for $24,300/pair. In virtually every important parameter--soundstaging, bass extension, overall dynamics, and clarity--the much more expensive YG Acoustics Carmel 2 was significantly eclipsed by the Double Impact's performance.
Other competitors priced right around the $3,000/pair range include the powered GoldenEar Triton Two+, the powered Definitive BP9080x, the MartinLogan Motion 60XT, the RBH Signature SV-6500, and the Paradigm Prestige 75F.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, I was and still am totally amazed at what Eric Alexander has achieved in his new revolutionary patented design that led to the creation of the Double Impact speaker. I want to be very clear that the Double Impact is not just a great speaker at its very reasonable price. Rather, it is a reference-level speaker that will compete and actually out-class the performance of some other speakers costing thousands of dollars more, from some of the most trusted names in speakers.
The Double Impact offers all of the attributes that you would be listening for in a beautiful-sounding speaker, such as clarity, bass extension, rendering of space and location of instruments in a realistic manner, beautiful tonality/timbres, and air/extension in the high frequencies. But this speaker adds something else that's difficult for me to put in words. There is a sense of "aliveness" that you hear in the music being played in real time that I have never experienced in other speaker designs. It allows you to connect to the music in an intimate/emotional way that is quite enchanting. That you can get all this for $3,000 is quite mind blowing.
For more than five years now, I have owned the Lawrence Audio Cello speakers, retail cost $18,000. They have been my reference speakers in my big system. I still love them, and they are great speakers; however, I go where my ears take me. Because of my experience with the Double Impact speakers, I have ordered a pair in a special finish and some internal upgrades that Alexander insists will take this speaker to an even higher level of performance. Yes, the basic Double Impact speakers outperformed my Cellos in ways I already explained in this review. Stay tuned for another review in which I share what a pair of upgraded Double Impacts has to offer over the basic ones I've covered here.
• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the Tekton Design website for more product information.
• Tekton Design Pendragon Floorstanding Loudspeaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.