Available standard in Walnut, Oak and Black Lacquer at extra cost
Ofra and Eli Gershman are two of the nicest people in audio.They also happen to make some of the best speakers in audio at very remarkable prices.
You have probably heard of their Black Swan's which have gotten raves everywhere and compete with the bestest - meaning $100,000 or so - at about 30 grand. We were anxious to get our ears on this new, entry level speaker from the Canadian speaker makers.
As always, we begin by talking with and about the people behind the product.
First Eli, what should our readers know about you and Gershman Acoustics?
“Ever since I remember, I always had music around me, I always loved music. I was influenced by my parent’s old wooden tube radio that sounded warm and pleasant; I enjoyed listening to it. As a teenager, I wished to have my own system but not having enough money, I bought a Dual Turntable and an Amp ,and I decided to build my own speakers. It sounded good! My friends had asked me to build the same for them and so, this is how it started. I took courses, learned from books experimented it is my passion, and after years of experience I bring you the Gershman Acoustics line”.
What was your design goal for the Sonogram?
“At one of the trade shows, a faithful audiophile approached me after listening to the our Black Swan model. He was very emotional and said," I love the Black Swans, they are the best I heard, but let's be real, I know you sell many Black Swans but not everybody can afford $36,000 pair of speakers." He challenged me to design an affordable speaker which sounds real when playing any type of music, Jazz, Classical , Rock, etc. This design was to convey the music to the listeners in a way that the performer meant for to be. A bass which is low, tight clean and musical. A speaker with minimal compromise, yet affordable so any music lover can afford them".
If you are a parent, you are probably familiar with the term “sonogram”. This is the process of using ultrasound to peer inside a mother’s womb to determine the sex of a fetus and to detect any potential birth defects. When I asked Ofra Gershman why she chose such a name for the speakers, she said “Because these speakers are our ‘babies’ (meaning lowest priced) and they allow the listener to ‘see inside’ the music in a very real way”.
The Sonograms use three drivers to perform their X-Ray vision with an eight-inch woofer made in the USA to Eli’s specs, a three-inch Morel midrange driver and a one-inch Vifa tweeter. While it is not unusual to see a soft-domed tweeter, the use of a soft-domed midrange is. I’ve seen and heard one in the ATC studio monitors I’m reviewing which cost a cool $20,000. The Sonogram also uses a rear port.
Gershman is famous for their use of a pyramid construction in all of their other designs like their well known Black Swan, so it was a bit of a surprise to see a conventional squarish tower configuration with no pyramid in sight. That is because the pyramid is hidden inside the cabinet. Ofra told me that building it that way saves money while still benefiting the sound by reducing resonance, standing waves and stored energy.
Specifications are sensitivity 89 dB @ 1w/1m, Impedance 6 ohms, frequency response 28Hz-20kHz with recommended Power 40-250 watts. You should take note of the rather unusual claim of 28Hz on the low end. It is not a figure frequently seen in a speaker of this size and especially a speaker of this price.
THE BABY SINGS
After about 200 hours of burn in, the infants were sufficiently mature for critical listening. Using the Stereomojo test disc, the first track revealed one of the Sonogram’s great strengths – you need radar to detect the source of the music while they are playing. The slender cabinets completely disappear leaving a wondrously huge soundstage that extended from wall to wall on each side, well beyond the speaker boundaries and floor to ceiling in the vertical plane. The image extended far behind the eleven-foot apart placement with well defined layers. Linda, sitting well to the right of the center sweet spot, was able to hear a perfectly centered stereo image as well.
The 28Hz specified low-end response seemed realistic as bass drums, acoustic and electric and basses were fully and realistically rendered in the large room. Bass performance is another outstanding trait of the Sonogram’s. Mid and high ranges were especially smooth through dozens of digital and vinyl recordings ranging from classical orchestral to electronica. Male and female vocals were particularly well reproduced without significant coloration or the “chestiness” Eli mentioned.
Speaking of "electronica", the reference I use is one I composed and arranged myself. I originally put it together to test headphones, but it works well for speakers, too. It's funky and just plain fun and even contains a built it joke. Format is 320 mp3. Want to hear it? Want a copy for yourself? Just right click here and save it. A gift from me and Stereomojo!
Overall, the sound of the Gershman’s could best be described as effortlessly elegant and beautiful. There was never a trace of harshness or any other offensive distortion, even at relatively high levels up to 100dB. Dynamics were very good for a non-horn speaker, bested only by speakers such as the Zu Presence which were in house at the time and the aforementioned $20,000 ATC’s, however we thought the Sonogram’s were more musically satisfying than either of those. There was never a sense that the Sonogram’s lacked dynamic impact or range. Detail was abundant but never over-emphasized or etchy whether using tubed or solid-state amplification. The sound was just….beautiful! That quality was mentioned over and over through the many long listening sessions. That’s another thing we enjoyed about them; the baby Gershman’s lent themselves to long, immersive stretches with no sense of fatigue, ever.
You should not be left with the impression that “beautiful” equates to “polite”, “reserved” or “soft”. The Sonograms love to get down and dirty and rock! The sound is potent and gutsy, just not gritty.
Linda particularly loved these speakers. She still mentions them, long after they have been returned, as one of her favorites. She said she was surprised at how much she like them because, as opposed to the gorgeous glowing, lacquered Black Swans, the pair of Sonograms provided were early samples with cabinets in a very utilitarian-looking flat black. You can’t even buy them in this rather unfinished finish. The fact that Linda’s highly developed sense of décor was overcome by the sound of the Sonogram’s, pays particular homage to their sonic quality. And, as you can see, even our Shelties grew attached to them. When I went to take that picture, the older male came over and laid down as you see. I did not pose him there, which may be one of the most peculiar endorsements of a speaker ever. The speakers are, of course, available in several different finishes including, I believe, piano black lacquer.
As far as I was concerned, the Sonogram’s left me hungry to experience some of Eli and Ofra’s higher-end models, the logic being that if their entry level model sounds this good…
The Sonogram’s were chosen as one of our Best New Products at the New York show. My experience at various trade shows was borne out with this in-home audition. These speakers are special. Here you are getting a true full-range floorstander that images like a quality pair of standmount's. They will never offend your ears (or perhaps, your wife’s!) or your musical sensibilities. Spending more for something different will get you – something different, but not “oh my gosh” better unless you start talking significantly more money. Yes, you can get a little more here and a little more there in terms of performance – you need look no further than Gershman’s own line to see that, but achieving something many times better could prove difficult with the Law of Diminishing Returns coming into play. The Gershman Sonograms are right in the sweet spot of entry level, high performance, high quality speakers. Reaching for more musical fulfillment will be a long, treacherous and costly journey.
For info or purchase, call Ofra (1 (905) 862-2882) and she will direct you to a nearby dealer. If no dealer is in your area, you can order direct from her.
They do present enormous value at a high level of performance, the very definition of our Maximum Mojo Award which we heartily bestow on this excellent product.
Congratulations to Eli and Ofra. Please keep up the good work.
Back to Stereomojo Home