Reviewer: John Potis
Digital source: Pioneer DV-535 DVD player feeding the Bel Canto DAC2
Analog Source: Sota Jewel table, Sumiko Premier FT3 arm, Micro Benz MC Silver cartridge, Bryston BP-1.5 phono stage
Preamp: Herron Audio VTSP-1A
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Art Audio Symphony II [for review], Herron Audio M150 & Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks
Speakers: Silverline Audio Sonata Series II, Magnepan MG 1.6QR, Duevel Bella Luna Diamante [for review], Thiel CS 2.4 [for review] and Rethm 3rds [for review]
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire, DH Labs D-75 digital interconnect, JPS Power AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Audio Magic Stealth, Ultra-1 Z-sleeves by Z-cable
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling, speakers set up on long wall in quasi Audio Physic orientation
Review component retail: $8,500/pr
A Little Background
It wasn't originally my intent to, so closely on the heels of my Silverline Sonata III review, become involved with the Silverline Bolero loudspeaker. But sometimes, there's little correlation between a manufacturer's promise of gear and its actual delivery. When I thus found myself with some unexpected between-reviews time on my hands, I approached the ever-affable Alan Yun about the availability of a pair of the Boleros in which I had previously expressed an interest. To his credit, not only was Alan willing but he jumped right on it to fill my stalled schedule. Still, I wasn't sure if I was ready.
It wasn't as though I'd had my fill of Silverlines. Nor did I have reservations about the product - the Boleros had already set many an ear on end at various shows. It's just a lot more interesting to write about a product when it stands in stark contrast against recent projects. My hesitancy had nothing to do with the enjoyment of the product which I was fairly sure wouldn't be an issue. It's simply a reviewing fact that it tends to be a lot more revealing to write about chocolate ice cream when you've just finished a heapin' helping of vanilla. Even if you love vanilla, writing vanilla reviews twice in close succession can be tedious. Fortunately for me, this didn't turn out to a problem. The Boleros easily differentiated themselves from the pack and other Silverline models.
I've commented before on the fact that Silverline's Alan Yun has a funny way of filling out his product line. While there are definite similarities between some of his speakers, he actually produces multiple lines within his speaker offering, with certain models often in direct competition with one another. He's remarkably capable of breaking his own molds and thinking outside of his own box.
|And why shouldn't he? Who says that a manufacturer must produce a singular House Sound any more than a wine maker must produce only one wine? If a vintner produces two very similar wines yet of somewhat different characteristics, is one more right than the other? Is the slightly more assertive Les Perriere Chardonnay from Sonoma Cutrer more 'correct' than a Russian River from the same maker? Why can't a talented designer be encouraged to produce speakers for different people of differing tastes, priorities, rooms and systems? Even those who still believe in the fabled absolute sound surely must realize that there's no such thing as the one-size-fits-all speaker.
So, what then has Yun brought forth with this Bolero?
|The Bolero is no large speaker. In fact, it's smaller and lighter than its less expensive cousin, the Sonata III. The Bolero stands 40 inches high, a maximum of 12 inches wide and 14 inches deep. It's very close in size to the Thiel CS 2.4 I reviewed but tips the scales at a surprisingly robust 105 lbs -some 30 pounds heavier than the Thiel. This is due to construction details that include heavy bracing and panels that vary from one and a quarter to two full inches in thickness. Silverline specifies the 3-way Bolero's response as 28Hz - 32kHz with a +/- 3dB tolerance. I found the nominally 8-ohm/92dB speakers fairly easy to drive. Silverline suggests a minimum of 15 watts with maximum power handling of a kilo watt. For crossover points, Yun specifies 1.8 and 3.5 kHz.
The Bolero uses premium Dynaudio drivers throughout, starting with the T330D Esotar 1.25-inch tweeter, the 5-inch 15W75 Esotec midrange with oversized 3-inch voice coil and the 24W100X long-throw 9-inch woofer with 4-inch voice coil. The Bolero is vented twice to the rear: The midrange with its own sub-enclosure gets a dedicated vent as does the woofer.
Not only are the drivers of the highest order, so too is the incidental hardware. The Bolero comes ready for biwiring with two of the most substantial and easy-to-torque pairs of jumpered 5-way binding posts I've ever encountered - gold-plate over brass of course. Even the six supplied spikes (3 per speaker) are massive. My pair came finished in a piano lacquered Tigris finish that is absolutely first class.
Not too surprisingly, the Boleros ended up being placed just about where both the Duevel Bella Luna and Thiel CS 2.4 ended up in my room. The Boleros hunkered down with their tweeters about 32 inches from the long wall to form an equilateral triangle with my listening seat. I settled on a good amount of toe-in which resulted in a tweeter axis that just crossed behind my head. This orientation provided outstanding focus, a great soundstage with lots of lateral space and a well-balanced frequency response.
The Boleros are incredibly smooth and refined - demure and understated you might say. You could almost say reticent though not to indicate a rolled-off treble but rather, reticent in that the speaker doesn't reach out for you but summons you to move closer to it. More so than any other speaker I've ever used, the Boleros are alluring and exceptionally refined. Poised is another word that comes to me as the speakers seem well nigh unflappable.
Continuing with the wine analogy, the Bolero resembles a good quality Pinot Noir: Accessibly fruity yet subtle and with a velvety texture, relying on complexity of flavors rather than overt effervescence. For traction, Pinots rely on earthy tannin rather than excessive acidity, sweetness or aggressive dryness. And like a good Pinot Noir, the Boleros go with almost everything. But don't think unexciting or without personality - the Boleros are no wallflowers. In fact, they like nothing better than getting on the dance floor to shake things up. And while I'll get to their midrange performance in a minute, I'll say here that within the proper context and with the right music, the way this speaker retains its composure at both frequency extremes makes it a pleasure to get loud with. The Bolero's bass performance is outstanding - clean, powerful and transparent. In fact, the Boleros proved to be an invaluable reviewing tool in my recent evaluation of Z-Cable's Z-Sleeves. These Silverlines really allowed me to hear the changes in the bass as effected by the Ultra1 signal conditioners. Always both full and articulate --some speakers give you one but not both -- a little tweaking with the Z-Sleeves yielded a wonderful dose of microdynamic finesse.