ON A PERSONAL NOTE
My job as a “Reviewer” can only be to provide information and insights to those of you taking the time to read my reviews. I would hope to be entertaining from time to time as well because we do not read all reviews from the stand point of a potential purchase. My ears are not shiny, much less golden, and my system is less impressive than those of many who will read my reviews, so all I can hope to do is to impart to you some of my experiences listening to various components provided to me as a “Reviewer”.
My fondest hope is that you are not bored, or feel as if my thoughts and experiences are of little value or a worse case, misleading. I will do my best not to fall into revelatory praise or make pronouncements beyond my knowledge and experience. I will also try very hard not to use phrases and descriptions which do not inform or describe anything relatable to the quality of the listening experience. For example: If I say it blew my socks off, I’ll try to tell you what did the blowing. Hopefully you will see me as a friend that has access to some gear and tells you what he experiences in a fashion that is entertaining within the constraints of a “Serious Audio Review”. What you should really do is grab some beer and head over to my place in Annapolis Maryland and take a seat on the couch. We can play some tunes, swap the gear around and enjoy a few beers. But if you can’t make it over to my house, open a cold one, put something not too distracting on the box and enjoy the review - Joe DeChamp
Well said, Joe. That is true of all of us. Until now! You just haven't seen my new invention I plan on debuting at CES next year. They are called "The Stereomojo SuperMojo Golden Ears". They will surely set a new paradigm not only for all reviewers, but also for every single audio enthusiast and music lover in the world - once they become commercially available. They are so revolutionary that it will no longer matter whether you are playing CD, SACD, vinyl or even Blue Ray. Every single listener will be able to hear the slightest nuance in every recording. I was going to save this announcement for our April 1st addition, but since you gave me such a perfect segue, I could not contain myself from taking the super secret wraps now! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and the technology involved is such that everyone will want to steal it, I'll dispense with a technical description. ...
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Stereomojo SuperMojo Golden Ears!
I just need to paint them gold..... publisher.
Acoustic Zen Adagio Jr.
$3,500 per pair, plus stands
The Adagio Jr’s. are junior in the sense that they are a stand mounted version of their floor standing sibling the Adagio. The Jr’s spec out with bass response down to 40hz while the Adagios boast 30hz response courtesy of a ported transmission line cabinet. I am not comfortable with calling these Juniors. They are big for stand mounted speakers and are heavy and solid. They are also absolutely beautiful. Maybe they are juniors in the same sense that Junior Seau is a junior. Not that I’m saying Jr. Seau is beautiful or anything, even though he is a good looking...never mind.
One of the first pieces of critical listening I did was Respighi’s Church Windows from Reference Recordings using the VTL Deluxe 120 amps. The massed strings came into my room sounding pure and full-bodied with no sensation of thinness. The orchestra was presented with an image height typical of most speakers in my room, but the width seldom stretched outside the speaker cabinet’s edges and the depth was lacking a bit. I knew that better results could be had with some effort on my part so I set out to optimize the speaker set up in my listening room.
First off I did what I should have done during initial set up and placed three dime sized dabs of Blu-tak between each speaker and stand. Then I pulled up the rug which sits on top of wall to wall carpet in my room. It didn’t feel like the spikes were really able to connect with the floor beneath until I removed the additional layer of rug. After several experiments with placement, finally ending at 50” inches from the back wall and 74” between the inner corners of the stands, I put Respighi back on and was rewarded with significantly more depth and improved width.
With the Jr.'s placed six and half feet apart the image size was believable, while not as large as my VR-6s or the B-V BG780s produced. You will want to spend some time getting these set up correctly, my efforts resulted in improvements in almost all aspects of reproduction.
After working through some varied source material (Zappa, Rusty Weir, Pretenders, Maynard Ferguson, Eminem) I was feeling like the VTL's were coming up a little short on horsepower. I almost always run the VTL's in triode mode as the sonics are better and there is usually not a problem driving most speakers. The Adagio Jr’s were much happier with the VTL's switched into the higher output Tetrode Mode. When the bass and tympani got going the Jr’s gave no hint of giving up even at “the wife is out of the house” volume levels. The low frequency output of the Adagio’s was impressive, not just for a stand mounted two-way either. If you need more bottom end extension, then you just might not be a good candidate for stand mounted speakers. Conveniently Acoustic Zen can put you into a set of floor standing Adagios for only about $800 bucks more than the Jr’s.
Reaching the last cut of side two, St. Gregory the Great was reproduced in my room with surprising power. Things in my room, including me, were set to vibrating even at moderate SPLs.
These are sit down and listen speakers. As with many designs the urge to get up and dance, which struck quite often in my time with the Jr's, is tempered by knowing you are about to lose a large percentage of the high frequencies. Moving back, in my case into the kitchen, is helpful but you only get the full package when seated. This did have a positive by product. Dancing in the kitchen often led to dancing with my wife in the kitchen which caused me to stop worrying about a little high frequency roll-off.
The Del Fuegos, a Boston based garage band, released their first album in 1984, The Longest Day (Slash Records). The record sounds as if there is about 80% less crap between the performance and the recording than almost any other rock album I own. Remember going out to here a local rock band at a really small club, or even someone’s house or garage? Well this record will take you back to that day, except these guys are better than the guys you saw. On Out for a Ride Woody Giessmann’s drums are rendered with speed and control. The amount of low frequency energy produced does not disappoint. Mitchell Froom produced the record and is credited with the raw, powerful sound that makes this a favorite of mine.
Rob Wasserman’s Grammy Award winning Duets is a really nice recording featuring Rob’s bass and several other artists performing duets. I particularly like the cuts featuring Rikki Lee Jones and Lou Reed. Rikki’s pure, clear vocal on the jazzy “The Moon is Made of Gold” is delivered with breath and texture through the Adagios. It was good enough that I got up and re-cued it for a second listen. Lou Reed’s paring with Wasserman on “One for my Baby (and one more for the road)” is as raw and biting as RLJ’s performance was beautiful and ethereal. This is electric guitar as it was meant to be, you can almost see the amp sitting behind Lou grinding out the chords. The Adagios reproduced this cut as well as any speaker in memory.
Listening to the AJ's has given me the impression that I am hearing more depth of information than I am accustomed to, not more energy or more clarity, but more of the texture and tone within the sound of the instrument. The result is a fuller, more three dimensional sound. Not dimensional in terms of soundstage, but in terms of the notes and chords produced by the instruments. This was especially evident when playing Scheherazade by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Chesky.
When listening to the Adagios playing a broad variety of music, never have the words crystalline, sparkle or bright come into my mind, which is probably a good thing as those words have never occurred to me at a live music venue either. The high frequency reproduction of the Jr's strikes me as very natural and consistent with the source but they lack the sense of a response that extends into the stratosphere that some tweeters are capable of producing. This may be a ribbon thing, but as these are the first ribbons I’ve had in my system I can’t confirm this. This perceived lack of extension was particularly evident to me on cuts with high frequency percussives such as a triangle strike.
Then I gave the Adagios what they wanted all along, power. Hooking them up to the Parasound JC-1s and their 400 watts into 8 ohms just plain made them happy. Bass response tightened up and gave the sense of even more impact and depth. You should be thinking about serious power when considering what amplification to pair with the Adagio Jr's These guys will make use of whatever you feed them. The change in amps made me think there might be even more to gain in fine tuning the placement so I went through another round of experimentation and was surprised to find how far apart they were, at just over 7 feet when I was satisfied that I had the optimal placement. The image size was now on par with my previous best results and the sonic image was solid and complete from wall to wall with very good depth. While not reaching as deeply into the corners as the Bolzano-Velitri BG 780s, this was not a distraction, producing all but the most distant sources in their correct locations. Everything I liked about the Jr's got better and while the character of the sound was influenced by the amplifier switch, I could not identify any notable negatives related to solid state vs. tube amplification.
I was playing You Created a Monster off of Millie Jackson’s Feeling Bitchy album and was really taken by the way these speakers rock. They are solid in the mid bass where a lot of the drive and rhythm in rock and roll lives and this will allow you to forget about that last bit of low frequency information the Juniors aren’t delivering.
I had a similar response to several of my favorites, which I thought would not deliver the goods through stand mounted two-ways. Frank Zappa’s Bongo Fury was every bit as fun and musically satisfying as when cooking through the big VR-6s. At another point in the spectrum, Alberta Hunter’s Amtrak Blues captured the depth and emotion of this legend’s well worn voice. When listening to recordings with true deep bass content the really low stuff was not there and I found myself wondering what the Adagio floorstanders would sound like. I don’t know if I could live with a speaker lacking real response below 40 hz, but I liked most of the other aspects of the Adagio Jr's enough to want an audition with the Seniors.
The Adagios produce an overall quality of reproduction that is consistent with their price point of $3,500 per pair, plus stands. Their strengths are in their physical appearance, consistency of character throughout the frequency range and the ability to rock and roll. If you are limited in amplifier power, be cautious and make sure you go for a test drive. If your room won’t allow for several feet between the speakers, you may be missing out on the stage these can produce. If you crave the bottom octave look for something else. Those caveats leave a lot of room for enjoyment of these impressive speakers.
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