December 28, 2006

Verity Audio Holiday Tour



Every holiday season my family travels up to Quebec City to visit with my wife’s family. This was the second year in a row I paid a visit to Verity Audio. Verity Audio manufactures some of the most physically beautiful and beautifully musical speakers I have seen and heard.

Last time up I had a tour of their facilities and listened to a couple of their models in their amazing listening/testing room. This year I was hoping to hear their new Rienzi model. The Rienzi slots second into their line above the Tamino’s, which I reviewed (and loved) last year. The Rienzi’s use the same two drivers that the Tamino does (midrange/woofer and tweeter), but breaks the cabinet in two like all the other models up the Verity line, and adds a woofer to an either forward-firing or rear-firing bass cabinet. Unfortunately their new Rienzi was just packed up to go to CES. I look forward to a review of the Rienzis for sometime next year.

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My disappointment (very slight) in not hearing the new Rienzi was immediately squashed when I walked into the listening room to see a gorgeous pair of the new Lohengrin II’s in quilted maple (pictured above). Last year I heard the Lohengrin’s in their imposing plus five foot tall piano-gloss black finish… very ominous looking. This new quilted maple finish makes the Lohengrin’s really a much more visually appealing object in my opinion.

This was an industry exclusive I was told. This pair of the new Lohengrin II’s were just set up a couple of days ago and are being shipped out to CES in a day or two. They’re the latest Verity Audio offering and I was the first reviewer/writer to hear them. Just my luck really… I’m sure Julien and Bruno would have liked golden-eared Fremmer or Harley to have a session like this. They’ll get their chance at CES but no way will the room and gear be as optimally tweaked as it is here in Verity’s own room.

The new Lohengrin II has a new and larger lower-midrange driver, new internal bracing and a new, Verity Audio designed and in-house built tweeter. This will be (for the near future) the only Verity speaker to have this special tweeter. Julien described some of the sonic benefits of the new II design… there’s a better integration of drivers, they’re easier to place in a room, move vertical dispersion, you can sit closer to the speaker, and improved midrange musicality. I heard all of this, especially the improved vertical dispersion and more involving sound compared to last year. The amps were different this time around, being near top-of-the-line Wavac’s with those gigantic Frankenstein tubes. Wild! I’m sure they contributed to the greater musical involvement and impact I heard as well.


The Lohengrin II’s in the quilted maple finish will sell for around $80k a pair. Verity says they did quite well with the Lohengrin’s last year and their biggest market was… guess… Russia. Go figure… I’m sure you could. Certainly the Lohengrins make a grand (or should that be multi-grand) impression.

I was mightily impressed. I listened to Ella Fitgerald’s “Good Morning Heartache” from “Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie”. I brought my generic Verve CD. Julien had the Classic Records re-mastered 24k gold CD and we compared and heard a huge difference. We better have heard a huge difference on this megabuck system. Next up was the Raconteurs song “Together” from “Broken Boy Soldier”. The Raconteur’s album has a very pronounced low end that causes most systems I have heard it on to buckle under the low output… go flat, lose tune, distort. Of course that was not the case with the Lohengrin II’s. They reproduced that entire low end with ease that revealed the Raconteur’s album is recorded/mastered heavy.

We also listened to a few tracks from Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York album. That’s a great album. Julien says he’s driving his employees crazy with playing that album too much. But I can see why he can’t get enough. The Lohengrin II’s connect you emotionally to the music better than any speaker I have ever heard. That huge vertical dispersion is so big it makes everything that much more realistic and the overall sound quality is so tuneful and reminiscent.

Two feelings I experienced help me to realize what this crazy hobby is all about and why grown men sacrifice family and funds for such audio “Nirvana”. One characteristic is emotional recollection. I have many memories of a time in my life when Kurt Cobain’s music toyed with my emotional state, and listening to him through this system brought all those emotions back in absolute like-it-was-yesterday clarity. The second characteristic was one of desire. I have pretty much dismissed mega-buck systems since I have been in this hobby. I always justified my not being able to afford this type of gear with the feeling that what I could afford was close enough. Well now I have heard exactly why people are so crazy for this super high-end stuff, and I am stuck trying to figure out a way, besides playing the lottery, that I could ever afford such a reference system. Man, Verity Audio is one “Together” company. Thanks for the visit Julien… see you next year.