ROLE ENTERPRISE SPEAKER

PRICE: $3,495 to $3,795 per pair

 

Can a good speaker become a great speaker? I'm sure there are speakers out there in Hi-Fi land that would blow my mind, but I've been having an awful lot of musical fun with Role Audio's Enterprise speakers. I thought they were lovely sounding with a Nightingale amp I'd had in for review, they sounded good with just the Monarchy amps, too. I could have easily listened and enjoyed them driven by a single amp.

But bi-amping with the Nightingale on top and the Monarchy on the bottom, well people, we're talking magic! All along I said, ÒWell, I like them a lot, but I miss the big bottom end that the Infinity P-FR speakers give me. C'mon, let's face it, the Roles are NOT going to give me a huge bottom end (I already have one of my own) but not with 4 inch midrange drivers, even if there are two of them.

The Enterprise speakers were placed where my speakers normally resided, about 4 feet from the side walls, 5 feet from the rear wall to the front of the speaker. My room is 16 X 28.

Interestingly enough, I was so impressed with the imaging of the Roles, I began wondering about my Infinity’s placement. At my previous home they had always astounded me with the images presented, the soundstage being enormous when the recording showed it to be so. Though very good, the Role’s superiority made me wonder if I’d placed my speakers correctly or not; they were NOT!

Out came the measuring tapes, and using the Cardas Golden Ratio method, my friend Chris and I decided to move the speakers. I moved the Oriental carpet that sits on the floor in front of the speakers and there, to my amazement, was tape…placed on the floor exactly where the speakers should sit according to the Cardas’ calculations! I have no idea why or how they’d been moved back. Always very good sounding, there was nothing neither I nor my fellow listeners ever heard that indicated there was something wrong. Suffice it to say they sound more right, now.

Then, why did the Roles sound as good as they did? The biggest reason is what the designer wished to do when creating the Role speaker line, to have the Enterprise loudspeakers sound great in one’s living room wherever placed. Another reason, of course, is that placing them closer to the rear wall reinforced the bass…the Infinity speakers have a side firing powered subwoofer, the bass does not need reinforced, for a variety of physical reasons, of course. Obviously, since I hear many small improvements, the word variety is an understatement.

 

 

                              

 

The Enterprise:

Magnetically shielded drivers
Dual transmission bass alignment
1” soft dome tweeter, ferro cooled
2- 4.5” carbon fiber woofer
True first order minimum phase crossover
10 year limited warranty

43” X 5.5” X 10.5” (H x W x D)
Rated impedance 8 ohms
Minimum impedance 4.5 ohms
Recommended power 25-150 watts
41 lbs. each

 

It may not be huge, but baby, it's there! They do the sound pressure into your chest thing so many speakers are incapable of doing. My Infinity speakers do it, but the authority the Roles possess is mind-numbing! A guitar isn't a tuba or a bass drum, but if you have a friend over and he plays a guitar, you feel the sound pressure emanating from his instrument. You feel it in a small venue with a quartet, you feel it in a large room with an orchestra.

 

Few times do you hear it reproduced in your home, unless of course, your speakers and the rest of the system can deliver it to you. I didn't expect the improvement the bi-amping could deliver. It is marvelous. It is difficult to sit in the other room (as I am right now) and write rather than go into my listening room and just sit and listen to music.

 

The soundstage was deep and wide with just the Nightingale amp, as it was with just the Monarchy monoblocks. It is so immense with this configuration that my jaw drops every time I listen to a recording. It doesn't matter whether it's a CD or an LP, the depth is such that I have no rear wall, the width revealing I have no side walls!

I knew the Role speakers were something special when John Rich and I opened the boxes and saw how they were packed; an awful lot of thought went into protecting those speakers from the vagaries of shipping. But even more thought went into the owner's manual. An owner's manual for a speaker that is more than 2 pages long - amazing! There's nothing earth-shattering within those pages, but for someone who's never put a system together, that information is invaluable. The manual covers a number of placement options and that alone, shows an attention for detail more manufacturers of all types of equipment should strive for when supplying their customers with owner's manuals. I used to be the typical male, never reading the manuals; let me tell you folks, it can save you hours of frustration.

 

The new Stokowski Everest LP from Classic records (SDBR 3070-200G) is a great example of being taken to another space, directly to the Houston Civic Center; it is a gorgeous recording! Each instrument is depicted within the space it should occupy, the size and its weight is portrayed beautifully. There is a sense of space the engineers caught on that recording that really makes it easy, with these speakers, to be transported to the concert hall. I have to admit I've never had mega-buck speakers in my own system, in my own house, but I've heard them at other's homes and at audio stores. I really can't imagine asking for much more than these speakers are able to give. I'm enthralled with every recording I've put on since it was bi-amped. The Enterprise would be welcomed by me to replace my Infinity speakers if I could afford to do so. I am shocked at how beautiful, how real the music is; every recording, every one!

You've heard various performances of Wagner's Wotan's Farewell to Brunhilda and The Magic Fire, from the opera Die Walkure but Stokowski's arrangement and the way he conducts that music is seemingly less dramatic, with constrained dynamics as if Stokowski's desire is to force you to listen more deeply, to perhaps give one the opportunity to form their own pictures of the scenes rather than those portrayed on TV or even with Elmer Fudd, or of course, seeing the opera.

Chopin and Thomas Canning on an LP with Wagner? Rather strange and different, but however you construe the combinations of music, Stokowski will make you think along with listening. And listening to this LP through the Enterprise speakers is a truly wonderful experience. Everest's 35 mm recordings have always been highly regarded, but I always thought they must have used recycled asphalt from various road surfaces to achieve their vinyl formulation. Thankfully, Classic records has tossed out that formulation and used their Quiex SV-P. The record surfaces, while not CD silent, are very quiet. While side one is not a work-out for your system in a dynamic sense, this LP is a work-out for your brain. The music and sound on side 2 is a work-out for your system and your mind. I felt smarter for having listened to it, that being an easy accomplishment for if brains were dynamite, I wouldn't have enough to blow my nose.

 

I recently had the honor of penning the world's first review of Classic Record's new Clarity Vinyl LP formulation; their LP reissue of Leo Kottke's 6 & 12 string Guitar is amazing musically. A link to the review appears at the end of this review. Their new vinyl formulation is quiet, quiet, quiet! The original (Takoma C-1024) is, surprisingly, almost as amazing but I can assure you the original's vinyl isn't a silent as Classic's.. I'm the type that reaches for an original even when I have a cleaner reissue, that's not the case with the Classic records release. Leo Kottke's fingers are easy to follow, you could learn how to play just like him by listening to this record if you had a system capable of three dimensional portrayal. Ya, and I can fly, too.

But that indicates how wonderfully this speaker delineates the images of any musician. It is marvelous. I want this speaker! All I need to do is avoid paying all of next month's bills and I could do it easily, it's beautifully priced! Surely my mortgage company, the electric company, the phone company, the insurance companyÉsurely they would let me skip one month so I could buy these. Wouldn't they if I explained the situation?

If you enjoy torture, not musical torture per se, but knowing your system can or can't reproduce the intricate sound of a hammer dulcimer, you should seek out Strayaway Child (Song of the Wood 7811, LP; 1981). The Roles do strings! The hammer dulcimer can sound strident to the point of being painful if it is not both recorded well and played back on good equipment. That equipment must be capable of not getting upset when treble formation is thrown hard; Strayaway Child is a hand grenade of treble info and the Role Enterprise speakers handle the attack with aplomb.

I bought my Infinity speakers using this LP as a test. The great thing is, if you like Bluegrass music, it is a fantastic LP. The Infinity speakers had no problem, the hammer dulcimer and guitars sounding sweet and real. The Roles did a superb job, too but when I first put the record on I had the volume a bit too high and that stridency I warned you about was thereÉit was not apparent in the least when I turned that knob on the preamp to the left. None the less, these speakers are not the choice for a large listening room if you enjoy bombast. Add a sub and maybeÉ

Listening to the Ray Brown double CD, Walk On (Telarc 2CD-83515), tapping my toes, doing the butt-dance boogie, I felt the attack was not as good, as mind shattering as it had been listening to LPs. I was none the less, happy with the sound. I moved to a chair closer to the speakers, my room is a large room and expecting the Roles to fill a space like that, to have the snap and the big bass power the Infinity speakers have is asking for too much. I have to admit that with my ears (and my butt) closer to the speakers they delivered more of that snap. Far more importantly, the slap of the strings on Ray's bass was very, very real. Along with the fabulous imaging these speakers are capable of producing, listening to music (not sound) is where these speakers sparkle. But tellingly, the applause on the Brown CD is real enough that I could have easily believed there was an audience in my room, enjoying the music as much as I was enjoying it. I'd love to hear these babies with a good subwoofer or two.

And that's what I'd recommend for someone who wants it all. If the budget doesn't allow one to get their sub right away these speakers will still deliver great sound; deep bass you'll have to wait for, but real bass, down below 40 Hz, is definitely there. Saving is good for the soul. Save those pennies and buy a sub down the road!

I listened to an LP rather early in the review period. Reggae is a phenomenal tattle-tale! If you don't get up and start bouncing around the room as if you'd donned dreadlocks and had accidentally inhaled an illicit substance, then you are dead or the system you're listening to is close to it. Rastaman Vibration (Island 9383) played through the Role Enterprise speakers, will prove life or death better than the mirror test. The mirror test, for those unaccustomed to throwing large parties, is a test to see if the most boring man or woman you've ever had in your home is actually dead. Holding the mirror close to their nostrils, one determines life or death by seeing (or not) the mirror cloud with their exhalations. Of course, administering that test, if the subject being tested awakens, may make the person angry and they leave. You've accomplished two very positive things. One is that they are, of course, alive. The other is that the person is no longer in your home, boring your friends.

But playing Reggae is a lot healthier. That man may be your employer! Yet, if he doesn't jump up and act like a music-crazed fool you have determined he is one of the walking dead. One warning, however, with these speakers you may bump into Bob when he's jumping around. Make sure there's room for his image and your body, 'cause it's real, man!

 

The appellation work horse as applied to a recording is something that is played over and over and still delivers the goods. Few recordings qualify more than Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. I opted to listen to a CD rather than the number of LPs I have. In fact, I own a few CDs of the piece. This one, however, was recorded by a friend directly from tape. You may remember those things; they are a long piece of plastic wrapped around a wheel-like thing. No, not a cassette tape, a reel to reel! The sound is astounding. There are artifacts that would put a smile on the face of a chair squeak identifier. You know, those guys who listen for subway trains rumbling in Classical music recordings? I can only say they make the recording sound even more alive, and I guess perhaps, that's what excites the artifact folks.

There is an intimacy that the Roles give to this record, that gives me the impression this is a club rather than a studio recording. Everything is somehow closer, as if I'm sitting in the studio among the musicians. I can hear the spittle rattle in the horns, a realism which is disconcerting, to say the least.

I can follow the hammers of Evans' piano as they travel across the piano strings. I hear that a drum strike is in the middle of the skin and when it's at the edge; the musical hues more apparent than any time I recall listening.

Every musician and his instrument occupy their own space as distinct aural patterns. But then, this is a recording acknowledged as superior to many others.

I don't know if I've ever felt the feeling of the blues as blatant, piercing my soul as I did listening to the cut, Blue in Green. This is the quintessential blues piece. If you wished to introduce and explain what the blues means in a Jazz composition, this is the one. The Roles allowed me to hear Bill Evans' piano crying along with Miles' angst almost too deeply, affecting me as I'd never been before. I've listened to that record a few million times (well, close, but you get it, right?).

Perhaps those sounds can't be heard because I need to upgrade - that's a scary thought. Heck, I don't know why it should scare me, I already admitted these speakers sound better than my own. Are they perfect? Yes, and I'm perfect, too. My wife will tell you so.

A great CD for finding out if a speaker can take you on a vacation to another space is Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club (Nonesuch 79478). This was the CD darling of reviewers for months in 1997, and for good reason. It is a wonderful introduction to Cuban music and the sound is superb. The Role speakers allow you to see the cafe's dusty wooden floors, a room with bare tables with chairs haphazardly placed nearby. The room is large enough there could be more tables, as there can't be more than ten or so in the room. You can hear the old men conversing, see them lounging on those old wooden chairs.

THIS is how clearly the Windjammers portray the settings where the music you play has been recorded. I was sad and thrilled, sad because they revealed my room and where the Infinity speakers should sit needs plenty of re-working the set-up and thrilled with the sound in my room. The Roles are an easy speaker to get sounding their best, I thought I had the Infinity speakers placed well. The Roles are making me rethink that idea.

Yet, without that sub, when listening to music at loud levels, the upper mids become hard and brittle, not to any horrible degree, but they do. Listening at any normal level, they never left me wanting, never gave me any indication they would be unwelcome in an audiophile's house and definitely not a music lover's home! And to top it off they are a nice looking set of speakers - what more could one ask for than beautiful sound and great looks, too.

Is there a perfect speaker? There ain't no such thing. Even if you pay thousands more than the Enterprise speakers price you'll never hear what you hear when you listen to a live performance. The Roles do a great job of bringing you close to reality.

 

 

There are other speakers that do a great service to the music. These speakers are easy to set up, and again, sound wonderful. While impressed, I reiterate that for full-range most people will want and NEED a sub. AND, along with good amplification, a cheapo sub is NOT what you'd wish to mate to these speakers. Along with your ears, if buying a new set of speakers, let your pocketbook help make the decision.

Publisher's Note - How often do you read reviews in other publications that say something like, "This product sounds better than those at many times the price!" That is not the case here. At $3,500 per pair to start (upgraded finishes are extra), there are many, many speakers that we think are more competitive for the money. The AV123 Strata Mini and the LSA Reference 2 certainly come to mind, both less than $2,000 per pair. Then there is the Revolver Music 5 - a much more substantial speaker at $3,000/pair as is the AV123 LS6. At $3,600 the Gershmann Sonogram is an outstanding speaker with plenty of low end. In fact, we think that Role's own "Windjammer" model is a better overall value at $1,395/pr.

 

Leo Kottke Clarity Vinyl LP review

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