Listener, know thyself. Then instinctual reactions paint a quick picture. Of course it'll be subjective but still can prove to have surprisingly consistent implications. Do you find yourself pulling out your biggest baddest bombast to go on a symphonic/soundtrack binge? Do you pursue small intimate slow numbers to draw you into a zone of reverie? Do you go after virtuoso how-many-notes-in-a-bar fare? Are you in critical observer mode to notice stuff left, right and centre? Are you in uncomplicated immersion without internally ticking things off? Do you play loud or sotto voce? Electronica or acoustic? Such questions could break down into quite the list depending on listener. From my early reactions, I quickly understood that the Direkt was no HD speaker. It was a real MFer: not a high-definition number but about more fun. How so? It didn't edge-limn the virtual stage in holographic focus. It created no performer haloes of illuminated venue reflections. It didn't do a number of special ultra-contrast effects. It put me in easy listening not critical observer mode. The latter notices things against a constant reference. Maintaining said reference creates distance. With it comes a certain measure of abstraction or aloofness. On the other hand, no distance, no watcher. Things aren't noticed, they just are. With immersion, one partakes instead of judging, comparing or measuring. And the Direkt triggered such immersive involvement, not the critical faculties.

It sounded big, meaty, relaxed and easy. It wasn't nearly as dialled for punch and shove as had been the hard-hung Zu Druid V which share with our Germans the general 11-12" two-way concept plus hornloaded tweeter. If the Direkt were a tyre, it wasn't as inflated. It proved completely non-fatiguing even on tracks which on high-resolution speakers betray heat or brightness. The obvious body-building aspects of its 11-inch Kraftwerker handling even dainty vocals meant that thinner more nervous productions filled out noticeably to come across chunkier and more chilled. Soundstaging was panoramic as usual but within in, separation and layering were medium not high. The Direkt made ordinary tonally compromised recordings sound better. Then it embraced them at higher levels without backfiring like a Judas flinter. That's a sneaky reference to Jonathan Gash's first Lovejoy novel, about a dead collector of antique flintlock duelling pistols. One of these guns had been intentionally designed to kill whoever fired it. Thus it insured that the dueller's opponent would always win.

Meanwhile top recordings didn't sound as spectacular as they do on true high-definition speakers like our EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1. That was the price which the Direkt exacted for its retro treatment. That live music never matches hifi spectaculars on soundstage exactitude, transparency or airiness is an old hat. Just so, for many, such FX become a reference whereby 'realism' or at least audiophile desirability are judged. If you've seen through that lie to neither expect it nor fault a speaker for not telling it, the Direkt could be talking to you. It'll help you rediscover non-audiophile fare at robust SPL and enjoy it a lot more.

If from the above you triangulate back to think that I probably found myself listening to many lesser productions at stouter levels, quite. All the usual off-limits stuff that gets short shrift or no play because sonic woes overshadow musical significance was fair game. My guilty pleasures included assorted Arab Pop from singers whose voices I love; like Fi Hadret El Mahboub by Wael Jassar. As such, the Heco Direkt was a heckler of a reminder. Unnatural resolution—that is, resolution ratcheted up well beyond what's normal 'in the wild' of live venues—is mostly counterproductive to musical enjoyment. Whilst top productions do benefit, a vast swath of popular music suffers. And what is popular music if not music which millions of people love to listen to? Heck, there must be very good reason why audiophilia is such a fringe pursuit. It does very little for popular music. For the Direkt, it means prioritizing tone, density and dynamics and in that sequence; and touching upon but not specializing in micro detail and separation. In my book, that doesn't make it a low-resolution speaker at all. It's a speaker with perfectly natural resolution. Music sounds big, bold and easy, not small, excessively sorted and fussy. With the basics sorted, it's time for the hardware shuffle to compare and contrast.

To facilitate convenient A/Bs against the Russian amp with pot, I left the Nagra Jazz preamp in the loop. I simply set it to 0dB gain to act as an actively buffered passive of sorts. This drove the XA30.8 balanced; and the S.A.Lab Blackbird single-ended. The latter's volume control was fully open, hence bypassed. For standard SPL, the Nagra's volume sat at 10:00 o'clock, meaning a full 30dB below unity gain (the fixed output voltage of the Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII DAC). Yousa. If you hadn't figured it out yet, 95dB in-room speaker sensitivity has loud and clear benefits. In our 100sqm listening space, I had headroom galore for all civilized and even raunchier purposes - with an 8/15wpc into 8/4Ω valve amp. Being of the push/pull sort to cancel most 2nd-order THD of equivalent 300B SET, the Blackbird lacks their octave-doubled fuzz. Its softness belongs to the temporal horizontal domain of melody not rhythm. It's more fluid, elastic and pliant than the Pass transistor amp. With the Direkt's virtual suspension more softly sprung than a sports car, the combination was fantastically redolent and tonally generous. Tube lingo would call its colour palette saturated. I'd sign off as long as one subtracted from it the humidity and blur of no-feedback single-ended triode behaviour. The Blackbird's climate isn't tropical but moderate. Its low-bass definition and impact meanwhile fell behind the XA30.8 where the vintage 6V6 bottles gave up some grip and reach. Here the higher power and current delivery of the Mosfets had the aces. That was little surprise given that into the speaker's 22/23Ω port peaks at 28/70Hz, most amps deliver a 1/3rd or less than they do into 8Ω. If the 8Ω rating be excessive for this application, no problem. If not, those bands in the low and mid bass will attenuate and dynamically compress. If Heco wanted to really welcome low-power tube amps all around, they'd need to linearize their impedance plot with many more crossover parts.

On Mercan Dede's superbly recorded Nefes, the Direkt's natural resolution left things under the table relative to soundstage holography, depth of stage and very high recorded image specificity, i.e. aspects of deliberate studio trickery to achieve sonic HD. Dede is an expert DJ and producer whose canon of Sufi-inspired ambient albums sets up vast soundscapes in which experts on acoustic instruments commingle with his synths and faux acoustics. By prioritizing tone and density, the Direkt gave less attention to audible space. On fare with this calibre of spaciousness, it clearly flipped the 'I'm there' perspective to 'they're here'. Instead of feeling transported into an acoustic other than ours—here one that's deliberately enormous but very precisely mapped—the performers materialize in your digs stripped of surrounding context: meat without the sizzle. Here the hornloaded soft dome tweeter didn't shed additional light as might be expected. The wave guide's primary sonic contribution seemed to be a smoother radiation transition. By the same token, massed strings didn't show as many defined upper harmonic 'white caps' to demonstrate their multitudiousness within the general sea. Cymbals and triangles sounded mellower and heavier. I'm sure you can do the math. Again, payback came as lower fatigue factor and a friendlier rendering of bright hot recordings. Once more also, the lateral expanse of the virtual stage was just as broad as usual. It's primarily determined by how wide or narrow you place your boxes.

Depth is likewise influenced by front-wall distance but other things factor as well. Here the Heco staged more shallow as though the rear stage lights were dimmed. With mellower transitions and lower recorded reflections—I heard far less of that pixilated faux reverb trailing Wael Jassar for example—what happened within the borders of the stage focused softer. This same gentler less illuminated focus also meant that images were bigger if a tad more ambiguous. In the immortal famished words of ex contributor Chip Stern, this was comfort food à la meat, potatoes and gravy, not some overpriced food paintings on plates in a swanky bistro that still have you hungry afterwards.

Contrasting Heco's version of a higher-eff speaker to a super-eff specimen like Voxativ or Rethm would net big offsets. Their smaller widebanders have far more presence-region energy and insight, higher microdynamic jump, more expansive aerated spaciousness and they come on song like true hifi whisperers, i.e. sooner. In trade, they're tonally leaner, texturally more striated and far more brutal on mediocre recordings. They're seriously more critical of ancillaries and nearly invariably favour specialty valve amps. Heco's Direkt is far more of a fair-trade partner or equal-opportunity employer. If anything, it should favour transistor amps. Where the 100dB+ brigade are champs of the micro realm both dynamic and detail, the Heco look after the macro. They go loud very willingly and without putting even a toe forward into the screechy and edgy. They're big-iron V-twin cruisers, not 11'000RPM red-lining whiny crotch rockets. Because of it and their price, they're perfect for owners of affordable 50wpc integrateds or even receivers. Great matches would be the original €629 Clones Audio 25i and the now discontinued €3'000 FirstWatt F5. Whilst I loved the Direkt optics particularly in the two-tone white, Ivette was thoroughly unimpressed. She found them far too "old looking". When I confirmed that retro was indeed the whole point, she agreed that retro had been attained; in full. She just didn't like them any better for it. Appearance will probably be divisive. For what I view as the main audience, it could be a real asset however. After all, when the air-guitar axe man cometh, who'd fail to make the connection?