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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 2
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soliloquy

5.0 loudspeakers

as reviewed by Francisco Duran, Larry Cox, and Victor Chavira

 

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FRANCISCO DURAN'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2s.

ELECTRONICS
Reference Line Preeminence IA passive. Monarchy Sm70 amplifier.

SOURCE
EAD DSP 1000 III DAC, Pioneer DP 54 as a transport, and Musical Concepts DV414 DVD player.

CABLES
Kimber Hero interconnects, Acrotec 1050 speaker cables, and LAT digital cable.

ACCESSORIES
Panamax PLC.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)I have lived with small stand-mounted speakers for quite some time, so it seemed natural that the Soliloquy 5.0 speakers would come my way for a listen. Some floor-standing speakers I’ve listened to have made a synergistic match with my listening room, but the all-round performance and design (read: small) of monitors works quite well for me. My ProAc Response 2s are pretty much all I need. There is enough bass to be satisfying, so I don’t have to wrestle with blending them with a sub (although a little more bass would be nice). My room is just big enough to show their nice soundstage spread and pinpoint imaging, and they don’t dominate the landscape.

The Soliloquy line of loudspeakers has always caught my eye. They have a clean and elegant appearance. Some clever and practical engineering goes into the construction of their speakers and stands. For instance, take a look at the spikes on the metal stands. (It must seem odd for me to mention this, but their design is so unique and user friendly.) The four large knurled knobs poking through the tabs on each corner of the bottom plinth make it a snap to level the stand. The stand is a beauty. I appreciate the way the top plinth is padded so you can firmly secure the speaker to it with three machined screws. No more fuss with messy bluetack or sorbothane, as I do with my speakers. By the way, Soliloquy recommends filling the stands with sand. I recommend you make darn sure where you want them before you do. If not, you will need Arnold, or the Rock, to help you move them. The stands are sold separately, but one look at them and it’s hard not to consider them mandatory.

What about the speakers? Their construction is also first rate. The cabinetry and finish are flawless. For those of you who haven’t read other reviews or checked out their web site, here’s a little something about the 5.0s’ innards. These speakers are relatively compact at 7.5w x 14d x 11h, and weigh in at 22 pounds. They are rear-ported two-ways. The bass/midrange drivers have 5.25-in. rigid poly fiber cones with cast magnesium baskets. The tweeters are 1.25-in. double-chamber silk domes. All drivers are magnetically shielded. The crossovers are 3.2 kHz at 12 dB per octave. In the back of the speakers, black metal plates hold both the double sets of gold-plated binding posts and the ports. I really appreciate that the binding posts are flush- mounted. No freaking recess-mounted binding posts. Thank you, Soliloquy!

But enough of the stuff that true music lovers don’t really care about. How do they sound? Better yet, how do they make music? Well, these are very well-balanced speakers. I started off with my Reference Recording Tutti CD. I think this audiophile-approved disc is on somebody’s best-of list somewhere, but what the heck, it works for me. Horns, strings, and piano had a nice tone. There was a full, three-dimensional spread of the orchestra across my listening space. While the overall sound was a tad thinner than with my speakers, the bass seemed to have slightly more bloom and a tad more fullness, with a little less definition. The ProAcs sound more taut in this area. In fact, the Response 2s are such tight and fast-sounding speakers that any differences in these areas are readily apparent. For small fry, the 5.0s put out some satisfying bass. Their low end performance was well paced and articulate for most of the music that I listened to. They filled my medium sized room with enough low end heft to keep my bass air guitar plugged in. The specs say down to 45 cycles, and I don’t think you’re getting cheated.

This next disc might be on another list or two, but like the Tutti CD, it works. Diana Krall’s (or, as Victor C’s wife dubbed her, "Diana Cole") vocal delivery sounded natural and detailed. Lyrics could be easily followed and there was no excess of sibilance. The soundstage was layered and image placement was solid, even off axis. Another CD I picked up was a sampler from Higher Octave Music for $.99. It was fun listening to this disc with its array of musical styles. The band 3rd Force sounded solid and deep, Brian Hughes’ sound was full and round, and The Young Dubliners had a sound that was fast and a tad dark. The 5.0s did a good job of showcasing the different recordings.

The 5.0s handled poorly recorded music with kindness, but at the same time revealed the shortcomings. My new Taddeo Digital Antidote goes a long way toward making CDs sound better, but it helps when the speaker gets things like timber and tonal balance right. When I switched the speaker cable from my regular Acrotec 1010 to JPS Superconductor+, and then to the top-of-the-line JPS, the NC series, there was an overall improvement. The soundstage was more open and small details seemed to snap into place. The low end was more extended and the music had more body. These speakers are revealing enough to show the changes brought about by the different cables. Although they have very good resolution, they never seem to be too bright. The treble was extended and clean and the tone of high frequency instruments was pretty neutral.

It was in the top end that the differences between the Soliloquy 5.0s and the best speakers were evident. The 5.0s lack a slight degree of air in the top frequencies. I found the top end slightly thin and a tad dry when bells chimed and cymbals were struck. The decay sound that floats out into the room also sounded a bit flatter. So I did what any red-blooded audiophile would do, I tried a tube amp. I couldn’t resist trying out these speakers with the Audio Note Zero system that I just happened to get for review while I still had the 5.0s. This system sounded detailed and dimensional, with a sweeter top end than with my solid state combo. I felt the Audio Note system, along with the Soliloquy, made a very musical combination, more so than with the Monarchy/Reference Line. Just listen to me, a devout solid state guy, praising the merits of tubes. Although the tubes did round things out a bit, the slight anomalies mentioned above were still evident. But wait, we are not listening to a pair of $7500 monitors here. These things retail for just $895. Something’s gotta give. When I did a quick switcharoo back to my Response 2s, the treble range was rounder and a tad sweeter, and transients had more air around them. The music definitely sounded brighter from the upper midrange to the lower treble, though. This is a problem area with my speakers.

At the end of the day, the Soliloquy 5.0 speakers offer you a lot for your money. First of all, they play music in a very well-balanced manner, especially for their size. They look great, and they come with several veneer options at no extra charge. Third, they are flawlessly built and have an optional stand that simply is one of the best you can buy. They also mate well with a variety of amps. It is always easy to fall into a comparison mode with equipment. In some cases it is unfair due to the price differences, but in the case of the 5.0s, I felt the difference in sound quality vs. price when compared to my speakers was a lot smaller than one might think. While not the equal in every way of almost-four-times-the-price speakers, the Soliloquy 5.0s have many strengths that add up to a lot of music. Francisco Duran

 

 

LARRY COX'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ATC 20.

ELECTRONICS
E.A.R 802 preamplifier, Classe CA100 amplifier, and Musical Design DM100B.

SOURCES
CAL Icon MkII CD player. Oracle Delphi MkII turntable, AudioQuest PT7 tone arm, Koetsu Rosewood cartridge.

CABLES
Silver Audio Silver Bullet 4.0s interconnect and Beldon 1219A speaker cables.

ACCESSORIES
API Power Pack and ACPEAM line conditioners.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)I had an equipment pileup in my listening room when the Soliloquy 5.0 speakers arrived, so I took them to Simone’s place to break in. Simone the audiophile didn’t exist when she bought her all-Sony system, a low-powered receiver with a low-end CD player and some Bose 101 speakers, the former two excusable, the latter not! I figured the Soliloquys would sound pretty horrible, given the quality of the electronics. Shazam! They sounded wonderful, right out of the box. Through the soft-sounding Sony, they were liquid and had good pace and fine imaging. For a mere $890, Soliloquy delivers fine-sounding speakers. They also sent stands, but I kept those at home. I’ve read many reviews of their quality and ease of use. I won’t repeat them here, except to say that the design, which allows the user to bolt the speakers to the stands, is simple, wonderful to work with, and makes setting up speakers a breeze.

The midrange of the 5.0s is a bit lean, which imparts a sense of transparency. Leanness in this case doesn’t translate as thinness or brightness. The thin, bright sound of other relatively inexpensive speakers (only in this hobby is $900 inexpensive!) grates over time. Not so with the Soliloquys. In fact, in many instances their leanness was well hidden by a full and rich bottom end. The 5.0s’ midrange allowed an illusion of being in the room with the performer, which I usually associate with much more expensive products. The vocals on Mary Black’s No Frontiers sounded sweet, liquid and bell-like, much to my surprise. Mary Black has a great voice, and it was rendered on the Sony/Soliloquy system in a way that was not recognizable on the Sony/Bose system.

Although the 5.0s are small-ish speakers, their bass response was more than respectable. While not deep, the bass gave good rhythmic swing to Pink Martini’s Sympathique. Melodramatic ballads like "Amado Mio" had much of the sweep and grandeur that I get with my system, albeit on a smaller scale. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald were swinging. Emotion, rhythm, and presence were all there in full measure. I was starting to think that I didn’t need to review these speakers in my system, and that I could easily and happily recommend the speakers to people unwilling to spend any more than $900 on a pair of speakers. I know my duties, however, so I took the Soliloquys home and inserted them into my system, $890 speakers taking the place of my $4100 ATCs.

With my electronics driving the 5.0s, I thought, wow, the Soliloquys sounded much as they did at Simone’s place, only better. My E.A.R. 802 preamp imparts a richness and liquidity that the Soliloquys benefited from. My Musical Design DM100B amp filled in the bottom more than the Sony receiver did. The bottom end was now full enough to be satisfying. I thought, "I could live with these speakers." At one quarter the price of my ATCs, I could afford a set of five of these pups along with a Soliloquy subwoofer, and I’d have a reasonable stereo system and home theater system all in one! I thought to myself, "I’m done with being held hostage to a speaker demanding high-powered, high-quality, high-priced amplifiers. I wish I were made of money, but I’m not."

It was a nice idea, but ultimately a no go. Once the ATCs were back in place, greater smoothness coupled with finer resolution was available. The Soliloquy’s imply resolution and smoothness, but don’t really have them when compared to finer-pedigreed speakers. The ATCs are also substantially better than the Soliloquys at portraying dynamics, at delivering a rich, full bass sound, and at sounding like the real thing, with a liquidity the Soliloquys couldn’t match. When cranked, the Soliloquys were crushed by the ATCs. Although not as lifelike at low volume levels, the ATCs sound appropriately smooth and liquid at all volume levels. The Soliloquys can only be played at lower volumes. The Soliloquys’ sound was less refined and leaner in the midrange. Before the comaprison, it was hard to distinguish a certain, beamy quality. Mary Black’s voice now had an edge. The vocals on "Amado Mio" were less silky, sweet, and angelic. I didn’t hear that quality with Simone’s system, or in mine, until I reinserted my reference speakers. Then I could hear it easily.

For the money, the Soliloquys have a damned fine midrange. The bottom end is not bad either, though it is clearly not as good as the ATCs’, in extension, tautness, speed, or reproduction of timbre. Of course, at more than four times the price, the ATCs should be better. On the other hand, the ATCs are not only expensive, but they require expensive amplification. The diminutive, inexpensive, and easy to drive Soliloquy 5.0s sound wonderful with both cheap and expensive electronics. They come close to satisfying many of the needs of an audio weenie like myself. If you are in a smaller room and don’t need to be punched in the chest by bass to be happy, you could have something wonderful with the Soliloquy 5.0s. Larry Cox

 

 

VICTOR CHAVIRA'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magneplanar 1.6 or B&W DM302 loudspeakers.

ELECTRONICS
Sonic Frontiers Anthem 1 amplifier.

SOURCE
Audio Electronics CD1 player.

CABLES
Kimber PBJ interconnects and Tara Labs RSC Prime Bi-wire speaker cable.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)Soliloquy grew out of a relationship with Cary Audio in North Carolina. All Soliloquy speakers are traditional, ported designs, but their implementation is unique. The back panel of a Soliloquy speaker is a cast aluminum plate with an integrated port that also anchors the binding posts and provides extra mass and rigidity. The speakers come with well-made steel stands, to which the speakers are secured by hex-head bolts. The stands also feature very effective leveling spikes. The 5.0s are slightly less sensitive (88dB) than the B&W DM302s (91dB) I used for comparison. They were set up away from room boundaries and toed in. I listened to a wide variety of music but performed critical listening with only a few discs.

Longtime readers will know that as an owner of panel speakers, I am not too fond of mini-monitors. They tend to sound small and boxy to me. Nevertheless, over time I’ve come to appreciate the precise imaging, transparency, and tight, tuneful bass that mini-monitors can produce. In these respects, the Soliloquy 5.0s earned my respect and admiration. While listening to "Latin Vibe", from the Colors of Latin Jazz series on Concord, I was pleasantly surprised by the 5.0s’ solid portrayal of six-string electric bass, especially when the instrumentalist dropped in notes from the lower registers. The 5.0s never lost pace. Flute sounded very clean and detailed, without the touches of harmonic hash that usually plague treble instruments. The musical presentation was elegantly laid back when compared with the up-front quality of many monitors in their price range.

The 5.0s made my 302s sound coarse by comparison. Rhythm was much less responsive and dynamic. Bass sounded weak and sloppy. Tonal balance was tipped up in the midrange. Images and details sounded fuzzy around the edges. When I listened to Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen, as performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the 5.0s produced big, room-filling sound. I did not even attempt to listen to this grand-scale music on the 302s.

When compared with my similarly priced Magnepan 1.6s, however, the Soliloquys were brought down a notch. After compensating for reduced volume, the 1.6s produced the sweetest highs of all. Flute sounded lifelike, breathy, and palpable. The 1.6s created the sharpest images and deepest depth of field. Claves resonated with an in-the-room quality rather than sounding projected from a source. The 1.6s were clearly superior to the 5.0s with choral and large-scale classical music. The illusion and impact of massed voices they create is quite convincing. On the other hand, the 1.6s produced less dynamic bass than the 5.0s.

The Soliloquy 5.0s are fine speakers. They are very transparent and musical. They produce more clean bass than you would assume from their appearance. Their good sound, good looks, and integral stands are sure to be an attraction for many listeners stepping up from the doldrums of mid-fi. However, the Magneplanar 1.6s are still my recommendation in this price range. Victor Chavira

 

 

 

MANUFACTURER'S RESPONSE

I sincerely appreciate Francisco, Larry and Victor, for taking the time to listen to our Model 5.0 in three different environments. This unique and very commendable approach takes into account different ancillary gear and listening environments, as well as unique listening tastes. It stands to reason that if a product makes positive impressions during such a multi-faceted evaluation, it should perform equally well in the vast majority of prospective customer’s rooms. All of us at Soliloquy are very happy that all three reviewers feel the Model 5.0s is worthy of serious consideration. This concurs with our strong sales of this speaker and is also reflected in numerous other reviews posted on our website.

We are flattered that Francisco used his $3,200 7" two-way ProAc Response 2s in comparison and found that the much less expensive Model 5.0s measured up surprisingly well. Larry’s resident $4,100 ATC Model SCM20 speakers benefit from famously esoteric driver technology. This dome midrange is recognized as one of the best drivers in the world and is also used in Proac’s top model. ATC further engineers with pro audio output capabilities in mind. The SCM moniker stands for "studio control monitor." While Larry’s comment, "When cranked, the Soliloquys were squashed by the ATCs" is factual, it comes as no great surprise. What readers might be surprised to learn is that even in the affordable market sector represented by the Model 5.0s, proprietary driver technology is available. All Soliloquy drive units are purpose-designed by British speaker designer Phil Jones. They were engineered a priori to not only work together but also with the specific enclosures we use. They are manufactured just for us. This frees us from trying to match off-the-shelf parts requiring complex crossovers to force a harmonious synergy between drivers of different design criteria.

Victor’s comparison with the Magnepan 1.6 is very relevant for the following reason. Both his Maggies and our Model 5.3 (the floorstanding dual-woofer bigger brother to the 5.0 reviewed here) made it into Stereophile’s 1999 Speaker of the Year runner-up list. They were the two most affordable speakers in a group of twelve that averaged retail prices of $10K+. Comparing a mini monitor with a planar speaker shows off their respective strengths and weaknesses as a function of inherent design parameters. Victor’s observations concur exactly with what we would expect. Audio enthusiasts shopping for speakers would be well served to explore the different aural flavors of dynamic, planar, ribbon and electrostatic designs. They each excel in certain areas while having to compromise in other areas. To find the best match with one’s own listening tastes is not a matter of right or wrong but one of preference. Soliloquy has chosen the dynamic driver approach because we feel that it offers the best blend of those qualities that are important in the affordable, high-performance sector we serve (power efficient, living-room friendly size, and compatibility for both music and Home Theater applications.)

Thank you again to all three reviewers.
Bernie Byers,
President

 

 

 

Soliloquy 5.0 loudspeakers
Retail: $1598 w/stands

Soliloquy
web address: http://www.solspeak.com

 

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