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|Listening to the music
I wanted to get serious but the Jupiter wouldn't let me. I wanted to investigate and it kept imploring me to have fun instead. The Jupiter won out which is to say that, above all else, it is a most enjoyable loudspeaker in no small measure because it plays all kinds of music with equal aplomb. With many speakers -- even exceptionally good ones -- I find myself unconsciously favoring one or another segment of my record collection. More often than not, I have avoided large-scale classical works and large choral pieces. That is not because my room cannot support the large sound field necessary to render such program material persuasive. The room is certainly large enough for that purpose. Rather, most speakers experience some difficulty at reproducing bass with sufficient authority and weight. My room seems to create a Bermuda Triangle somewhere in the 50-60Hz region that few speakers have been able to fully overcome. The Wilson Sophia never fully did nor have the many back-loaded horns (a misnomer in my book by the way) that have taken up residence.
The Duevel Jupiter not only overcame the apparent black hole but also behaved as though it were oblivious to it. Indeed, most aspects of bass performance -- depth, weight, authority and timing -- were as good as bass has ever been in my room. I found myself listening to more large-scale orchestral music than I have before.
On setting up the Jupiters
There is simply no denying that speaker/room interaction is among the most important contributors to overall performance, yet so few listeners take this lesson to heart. They expect their speakers to perform pretty much plopped down anywhere within a general neighborhood. Drop them in, assess them as failures, put them on AudiogoN and move on.
In my book, the quantity of goods that appear on AudiogoN (and other such sites) and more importantly, of how recent vintage the products often seem to be, is testimony to three lamentable features of our hobby: the tendency to try to put a system together as if ordering from a restaurant menu a preamp from column A, an amp from column B, and so on; the absence of context, which is the lack of knowledge about what to listen for and how to listen; and the absence of patience, the unwillingness to work with components to bring the best out in them and in their relationship to one another as a system.
No speaker performs optimally everywhere and no speaker sounds equally good from every spot in a room - not even an omni. One of the great advantages of an omni is that it maintains much of the character of its performance from many different locations within a room but it hardly follows that all such locations are optimal. Indeed, finding the optimal location for listening critically as opposed to casually is much more demanding in the case of an omni than, say, an electrostatic.
In the case of many but not all electrostatics
(the classic Quad 57s as well as the Innersounds for sure, but not to the same degree as the Sound Labs) locating the optimal listening position is relatively easy, so discontinuous is performance drop-off between optimal and less than optimal positions. An omni is seductively misleading in this regard because those differences are harder to identify. But they are neither less real nor is their impact on one's enjoyment of the music less important.
Over time, I have identified a few listening positions within my room that seem to match well with different kinds of speakers. I normally sit between nine and ten feet from the midpoint of the speakers when listening to dynamic speakers and electrostatics. That position has proven less than optimal with large panel speakers like the Magneplanar 3.6R and multi-driver horns like the Hørning Agathon Ultimates and Alkibiades but for different reasons. The big Maggies may be directional but they nevertheless seemed to work best when firing down the long wall to thereby charge the room. After communicating with several Maggie owners, I learned that my experience with the Maggies was by no means idiosyncratic.
Horns are so immediate and dynamic that they take on a more coherent and relaxed presence when sitting some distance from them. I have found this to be true not only in my room but in nearly every listening room in which I have heard horns and I have listened to a lot of horns. There are exceptions of course but horns typically like to breathe and multi-driver horns especially need some distance to fully come together in a coherent picture.
At first the only real difference I could discern between listening to the Jupiters at nine feet and at sixteen was one of hall perspective. I inferred from my initial findings that I would probably shift my seat depending on program material and the nature and quality of the recording I was listening to. In fact, I found myself doing almost all of my listening from about 14 feet away. The sound just seemed more fully developed at this distance. I can only surmise that my room is such that the reverberant field created by the Jupiter's omni-directional presentation meshed most persuasively and naturally with the direct radiation pattern at this distance.
In the case of the Jupiter, the difference between easy-to-achieve satisfactory performance and more-difficult-to-achieve stellar performance is not insignificant. It is the difference between perfectly credible and simply stellar bass performance on the one hand and -- given the familiar complaint that omni-directional loudspeakers do not image well -- the difference between uncertain and perfectly credible imaging on the other.
In short, the Jupiter offers a high level of performance from many locations within the room but if you want to wring the last bit of performance from them, they will be as demanding to set up as any Wilson or B&W loudspeaker. However, your efforts in that regard will be clearly rewarded.
The weight and power of the bass came at no cost to the speaker's nimbleness, which was surprisingly good given the woofer's size. The speaker had a bouncy feel, not at all ponderous or leaden. This combination of attributes -- nimble and agile yet weighty and authoritative -- was apparent on any number of recordings, from the dazzling interplay between Alphonso Johnson's electric bass and Ron Carter's stand-up bass on Chet Baker's "Love for Sale", the centerpiece of his landmark fusion album, You Can't Go Home Again [A&M SP 720]; to Bill Evans, Hank Jones and Red Mitchell's melodious rendition of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" from the Japanese pressing of the aptly titled Moods Unlimited [Paddle Wheel K28P 6216]. But nowhere was the combination of bounce and weight better illustrated than on the jaunty blues of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson's "Night Rider" on the album of the same name [Pablo Records 2310 843].
The most impressive feature of the Jupiter's low and mid-bass performance was its ability to portray accurate instrumental timbre. Many speakers fall short in this regard especially on instruments like double bass, cello and viola. Instrumental differentiation proved no problem for the Jupiter, which had a special way with both cello and viola.
Duevel's woofers, shrinking in size as the models grow smaller
In comparison to other speakers that I have had in-house for extended periods -- in particular my DeVore Silverback and the Hørning Agathon Ultimates and Alkibiades -- the Jupiter had more overall punch to render the macro dynamics more convincingly while offering more weight and authority to provide a more powerful presence down low than my DeVore reference. Both Hørnings were at least as punchy but only the Hørning Alkibiades appeared to move as much air and then only at higher volumes.
On the other hand, the Silverback exhibits superior articulation and resolution in all regions below the musical Mason-Dixon line, thus providing superior micro dynamics and more involvement. In this area of music reproduction -- indeed in all areas -- the Silverback and the duo of Hørning loudspeakers demand a more attentive listener than the Jupiter.
The Jupiter's paper-cone woofer crosses over to the titanium unit at 700Hz. I listened hard for discontinuities that might result from the crossover or might be traceable to the differences in driver material but could detect none. Unsurprisingly, the Jupiter proved absolutely splendid when rendering the body and especially the chest of the male baritone voice. The speaker really shone on deep resonant male vocals such as Leonard Cohen's on "I'm Your Man" from the album of the same name [CBS 4606421] and the spectacular bass baritone Bryn Terfel displays in his role of Figaro captured on Meet Bryn Terfel [DG 447 578-2].
This is not to suggest that female vocalists were shortchanged. Indeed, the Jupiter captured with stunning realism both the head voice and body of Cecilia Bartoli on her enchanting recital of 18th century Italian salon songs, If You Love Me [London 436 267-2].
|The piano is notoriously difficult to reproduce yet the Jupiter rendered piano timbre, tone and dynamics especially well. So much so in fact that I found myself spending an unusual amount of time in the company of Mehldau, Evans, Moran, Monk, Horowitz and Brubeck - among others. Different pianos, different styles, different ambitions yet each expressed in a way that was unfailingly inviting and true to the musicians' intentions.
Still, the Jupiter was neither as detailed nor resolute in the midrange as my Silverbacks or the Hørning Agathon Ultimates, the latter benefiting from an innovative deployment of the Lowther DX4 driver and the former from a proprietary SEAS-sourced midrange. These are two of the most detailed and resolving midranges I have heard, period. Both are substantially more detailed in the midrange than, say, the Wilson Sophia, which unlike previous Wilsons have a slightly forgiving and softer nature in the upper midrange, not quite recessed other than in comparison to many of the Wilsons that preceded it.
|The Jupiter splits the difference between the somewhat forgiving midrange of the Wilson Sophia and the immediate, vivid and very dynamic midrange of the DeVore and Hørning. The emphasis is on an overall natural presentation while forgoing some of the ultimate resolution and detail that allows one to attend to the finest shadings of micro dynamics and tone color. The Jupiter does not hide warts but it makes no special effort to bring them to the listener's attention either. This balancing act carries right on through to the upper registers. Again, the 4.5" titanium mid/tweeter is not quite as extended as the DeVore or the Hørning. That is a consequence, no|
|doubt, of asking such a large-diaphragm driver to cover so much bandwidth. Unlike lesser composite titanium drivers, this proprietary one proved unusually sweet with no edge, etch or hardness. Violin tone was splendid, cymbals were natural with full decay, not in the slightest truncated. In saying that the top end of the Jupiter was less extended than the DeVore for example, I mean only to say that there was a slight loss of air and light - no more than that.
The DeVore and the Duevel are both extremely involving speakers that connect you to the emotional content of the music - but in very different ways. The Silverback is an extremely highly resolving speaker whose signature is an arresting, seamless and finely grained portrayal of music. In artistic terms, the Silverback is photo realist in its presentation: accurate and astutely detailed. You experience the whole of the music at once yet remain free to study the details and investigate their relations to one another should you be moved to do so. The DeVore falls in the general speaker genre that's marked by the best of the early Audio Physic and the recent Wilson System 7 yet warmer and more resolute than the former and better balanced than the latter.
In contrast, the Jupiter paints with a slightly broader brush in the manner of the impressionists. Like the impressionists, the seduction lies in the rich and diverse tonal palette. There is a slight price to be paid in terms of ultimate refinement and fine-grained detail. The Duevel Jupiter shares much with two of the most respected names in audio: Magnepan and Audio Note UK. The latter have long advanced the ultimate significance of tone and accurate timbre to long-term musical enjoyment.
And like the folks at Magnepan, Markus Duevel's apparent ambition is to design equipment that provides an overall natural and musically succinct performance. It sorts out what is necessary to connect emotionally to the music and worries less about presenting every possible detail. The Jupiter is a bit more detailed and considerably more dynamic than the best of the Magneplanars and more transparent and resolute than any Audio Note UK speaker I have heard.
It is no surprise that this particular balancing act is so at home with such a diverse range of music. It encourages you to maximize the music to which you listen, not to examine all your recordings for their potential shortcomings.
The conventional view is that omni-directional loudspeakers do not image well. Images are said to be diffuse, to drift -- especially with increases in volume or sound pressure -- and to lack sufficient density. Proper soundstaging is a minimal condition of acceptable musical reproduction. Instruments and instrumentalists wandering randomly about the stage and disconnected to one another is a disaster not just because the picture would be wrong but because the sound would be, too. Such wanderings would adversely impact the rendering of instrumental timbre and turn a composition into a random event.
|There is a good deal of room between this minimal standard of coherence -- which requires stability and adequate body or density -- and the pinpoint razor-sharp imaging that is the special provenance of mini monitors. Like most other speakers, omnis fall somewhere in between. Where they fall depends on the particular speaker and your setup of it. (See above sidebar on setting up the Jupiter.)
There is no question that properly set up, the Jupiter images well, especially for an omni. Particularly the center image is dense and stable. The soundstage boundaries are slightly less well defined. The aim of the Jupiter is not to create a soundstage in one's listening room so much as it is to recreate the experience of listening to the program material as one would in a music venue or concert hall.
In this regard, the Jupiter succeeds completely. Its portrayal of program material is mid hall or farther back depending on how far from the speaker one sits. This is largely a function of the fact that the Jupiter, like all omni-directional loudspeakers, brings the room so much into play. Doing so creates a large reverberant field. The sound one ultimately hears is a blend of both direct radiation and reverberant field, the latter making a much more significant contribution than it does with a dynamic, electrostatic or horn-loaded transducer.
Every design decision involves trade-offs and the price one pays for the natural mid-hall presentation is a reduction in the impact of the leading edge. The reduction in transient sharpness invariably impacts the extent to which images can be sharply defined and very fine microdynamic shadings expressed. Reliance on a large contribution from the reverberant field cannot help but make the presentation less immediate or vivid than it would be from a direct-radiating hornspeaker for example. Still, the Jupiter is considerably more immediate than other omnis.
Moreover, one gets a natural, not diffuse presentation - of a piece yet not homogenized. The emphasis is on body, warmth and harmonic structure. If you long for a mid-hall seat at Carnegie Hall, you will likely love how the Jupiter portrays music. If instead you are happiest when you can sit at a table closest to the stage when you go to jazz clubs like the Blue Note in New York, the Jupiter will likely not be your cup of tea.
The Jupiter presents big, full, dense and palpable images and moves the musical presentation along with natural feel and flow. In this important way, it simply allows the music to play on through. Unlike other speakers that impress immediately only to grow painful or boring over time, if you enjoy the way your music sounds through the Jupiter on first listening, you will only grow to love it more over time. One rarely sees a Duevel loudspeaker for sale on the used market - and for good reason.
Comparing the Jupiter to other omnis
I have owned Shahinian loudspeakers and have listened on several occasions to the big mbl loudspeakers. Of course Shahinians are not fully omni-directional and even the most expensive of them -- the Diapason -- are considerably less expensive than the Jupiter. Still, it is worth noting that the best Shahinians have very similar imaging properties to the Jupiters. The Shahinian are wonderful on large-scale classical music as are the Jupiters, but they are considerably less persuasive on other sorts of music like small jazz combos, blues and rock/pop for example. This is not to say that they are not good, just that the Shahinian are designed to excel on classical music. And they do. They also present a very difficult load. When I owned them, I used Bedini Class A solid-state amplifiers, musically an excellent match but power and current were always an issue.
|In contrast, the Jupiter plays all kinds of music equally well. Its bass presentation is rock solid and palpable. All music rests comfortably on the foundation it provides. The only limitation is that the Jupiter presents a larger-than-life image of soloists. In contrast to the Shahinians, the Duevel Jupiter can be fully powered by an 8-watt single-ended amplifier. In my experience, such low power tube friendliness is unique to the breed.
As for the mbl properly powered, there may be no speaker extant that can equal its capacity to reproduce macro-dynamics. It is a speaker largely about scale and energy. It images less precisely but more eerily than does the Jupiter. In a large enough space, the mbls completely disappear. They paint with a very broad stroke and while they love to be played at loud volumes, they can harden up quite a bit when they are. In addition, images can drift with increases in sound pressure. In the areas where they excel, they are unrivalled.
The Jupiter retails at 2/3 the price of the mbl. They won't play as loud and cannot do macro dynamics as convincingly - perhaps no speaker can. They will, however, fill nearly as big of a space. In doing so, they will play with considerably greater finesse and be much more attentive to musical nuance. They will never harden even when driven hard and they are very tube friendly. As everyone knows, you basically cannot find enough power to feed a hungry mbl.
The Duevel Jupiter may represent the state of the art in overall omni-directional speaker design. It plays all kinds of music with not just ease but pleasure. It makes very few power demands on an amplifier, which is absolutely unheard of among omni-directional loudspeakers. It presents a distinctive aesthetic and is based on creative and innovative technology. It is, after all, not merely an omni but sports a dispersion-lens compression driver as well. It likes big rooms but does not dominate them.
The fact that it works so well with lower powered tube amplifiers means that unlike other omnis, it can reproduce the subtleties of music as well as its power. It also means that the Jupiter has immediacy that other omnis lack.
However, it is by no means a perfect speaker. What speaker is? By comparison to the DeVore Fidelity Silverback, for example, its top end is just a bit less light and airy and its midrange slightly less immediate. It is overall less resolving and detailed than either the DeVore or the Hørnings.
|On the other hand, it is a completely natural non-fatiguing loudspeaker that compels you to listen to all the records and silver discs in your collection. It presents music in a way that is most reminiscent of how one experiences it live in a hall. If the sound of Carnegie Hall beckons, then so too will the Jupiter. And unlike the best speakers based on other design philosophies, you can share the|
|joy of the music with others, all in the same room and at the same time. If an omni-directional loudspeaker is in your future, then the Jupiter is the one to hear. Like it at first and it will only grow on you. It is often said that once you fall for an omni, you can never go back to be fully satisfied listening to a conventional dynamic loudspeaker. If you want to know what those who make such claims mean, find a way to listen to the Duevel Jupiter. You are unlikely to be disappointed - and you may very well fall in love.