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Positive Feedback ISSUE 55
as reviewed by John Brazier
Having come across the GamuT product line here and there over the years, I have always had a positive impression of the brand. I have also made multiple requests to review any one of their speakers but for one reason or another, it never worked out—until now.
Not long ago, I received a press release from the USA distributor, Tom Vu of KT Audio Imports, that they were now shipping their new line of speakers, referred to as the M'inenT line. This includes the 3 way M'inenT M7, the 2.5 way M5, and the stand-mounted 2 way the M'inenT M3. When I say "stand-mounted" I mean "stand-mounted", the M3 are shipped pre-mounted and as one unit. While the M3 is the subject of this review, the M5 was promised by Mr. Vu to be my next speaker review. I am looking forward to this, especially after my time with the M3s.
When it came to GamuT, my interest was most highly piqued by the "El Superoires" line sometime last year, and I have to say that I really hope to include a review of one of these in the future. But for now, I have the M3. I do hope these are a glimpse into the Gamut speaker design philosophy and sonic predilections.
The M3 are a sharp looking 2-way and, as aforementioned, "stand-mounted". The drivers are sourced from Scanspeak and modified to GamuT's specifications. The speakers them selves measure 400mm (H) v 226mm (W) x 456mm (D) and are said to be constructed of MDF with a real wood veneer, the review samples are a very nice walnut. The stands are fully integrated and are shipped attached to the speaker, thus the (2) boxes you get look as if you're getting two flooring standing speakers, but when opened the speakers slip out as one unified and solid speaker/stand. The stands themselves are a single pillar matt silver finish that rakes toward the rear. I am told they are fillable and after moving these units around a bit, I would recommend they be so filled. On my carpeted floor the added weight would have made them more stable, and certainly would have eked out the bottom of all the possible bass.
GamuT describes the tweeters as an "impulse and resonance optimized double ring radiator, with GamuT stainless steel wave guide" and the woofer a 7" sliced cone, dynamic optimized, GamuT Hand treated cone structure." Internal wiring is accomplished with GamuT's own "Worm Hole Signature" wires and is connected to the rest of the world via bi-wireable "machined gold plated bronze and aluminum terminals." Impedance is 5 ohms and sensitivity 87.5db/2.83V.
Visually, the speakers are very handsome, I would describe them as being an understated refinement. Grills are provided and attached to the speaker with two prongs but for all the time they were in my home, the grills were off.
Tom Vu graciously offered to personally deliver and set them up on a Saturday morning convenient to us both. I gave him free reign to set them to where he believed they sounded the best. After 30 minutes or so, Tom had them about 12 feet apart and greatly toed in, so much so that the drivers were directed to cross paths about 2 feet in front of my listening position (very different from any other speaker placement set up in my home before). Tom thought this set up would provide the largest possible soundstage, and he was right. The soundstage was as large, and as expansive as any speaker I have ever heard. Moreover, Tom's placement option was limited by my left speaker wire, as it was just a bit too short to allow the speaker to be set "exactly" where he had wanted them to be. If it had been set that way, Tom advised, the soundstage would have expanded even further and any signaling to where the speakers were physically located would have completely disappeared. Even with this limitation, the soundstage was huge, and the speakers themselves were virtually un-locatable with one's eyes closed. We used Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing as the key set-up disc. The drums were tightly focused in one location, and the guitars in another. It was very nice.
It has been a while since I had stand-mounts to listen to, and I have never had any in this particular listening room. My personal speaker history is a long list of stand-mounted 2-ways from Sonus Faber, B&W, and more recently I had a long term relationship with the Reference 3A MM De Cappo i. In short, I had always preferred the advantages of well-executed stand-mounted speakers over the deeper digging floor-standers. It has been my experience that the soundstage and midrange sweetness in the 2- ways that I could afford always beat out the bass advantages in speakers in the same range.
Tom let me know the break in time for the M3 would be between a minimum of 100 hours and as long as 600. When first set up, I felt they need some time to settle in and break in, as right out of the box the sound was not very involving. So over the next week, I kept them going day and night as best I could in a family home. A week latter, I would estimate there was between 80-100 hours on them and they sounded much, much better.
It was at this time that I also began to experiment with placement. While there was no arguing the incredible soundstage thrown by the M3's as Tom had set them up, I thought I would see what I could accomplish, nonetheless. After an hour or so, I ended up placing them about 9 feet apart, and only slightly toed in. While the soundstage did compress slightly, I found the vocals became much more centered and focused, and they had much more presences. The bass so was much more impactful than when first set up. All in all, I preferred the results of this second placement exercise.
The first concern most people have with a 2-way stand mounted speaker is the amount of bass output. There is no sugar-coating the fact that bass will be limited to the upper 30's at best. Thus, it becomes imperative that the bass that is produced is well produced. In fact, the trade off between the quality bass versus the quantity of bass is a no-brainer for me—I'll take the former all day long. On this point, the M3's will not disappoint. In fact, I found that while listening at moderate to even elevated SPLs, the bass was nearly as satisfying as what I am used to with my reference speakers, the Verity Audio Parsifal Ovations. There was less, of course, but the tightness and tunefulness of what they did produce was exceptional. Really, it wasn't until I began to push the volume that the real differences began to show themselves. I have a largish listening room (23x22x9), and I can only image that in a more modest sized room, for which this speaker is most likely intended, the bass response could be remarkable at all SPLs.
Aside from the above, there was a real punch to the bass too. No bloat or masking of the frequency range just above. The M3' are ported, and by placing my hand over the port, I could feel a lot of air moving, not a really solid test, but impressive none the less.
At $7500 a pair, these speakers are no doubt targeted to be a "reference" caliber speaker. As I intimated above, it's my opinion that a well-executed stand-mounted 2-way speaker can offer just as much musical satisfaction, if not more, to the audiophile than a floor standing speaker, certainly as compared to one in the same price range. In fact, I have not heard the $7500 floor-stander that can sing, image, or throw soundstage as the M3 does.
Whereas my reference speakers are pleasingly on the warm side of neutral, I would set the M3s closure to "neutral" without crossing the line over to analytical. The vocal presentation is inviting and detailed, without ever sounding "decapitated" or devoid if humanity. I recently picked up Adele's 21 disc after falling for her 19 début disc of 2008. While the interviews I have read and seen with her don't really project a woman of complexity, her talent as a songstress is certainly both sophisticated and complex. I found the M3's were able to extract an honest smokiness out of her vocals that has not necessarily been present when projected through other quality speakers. The tune "Rumor Has It" is a bit on the shticky side, but it has a great hook, and the M3s were able to capture a maturity in her that was not part of the 19 disc. Accordingly, I often found the M3s compelling in the way they pulled detail from media without sounding too lean, forward, or emotionless.
I have written about this before, and will again in the future, but Imogen Heap singing "Blanket" on Jeff Beck's DVD Live from Ronnie Scott's is as pure as it gets. Unfortunately, it's not on the CD of the same name, and I have only found a copy of the track as an Amazon.com Mp3. Thus, it has been a frequent test of mine to listen how much better (or worse) a particular piece of gear can make it sound. Most recently, the Cary SLP 05 preamplifier elevated it to a "listenable" and almost "satisfactory" sounding track (heretofore unheard of for an Mp3). With the M3s, the track was elevated once again. There is an accuracy with the M3s that, when combined with the purity of the tweeter's grain free presentation, worked exceptionally well with this Mp3 track. To be clear, the Mp3 still sounded like an Mp3, and there is nothing that can be done about such a flaw, it is in the "original", but the with the ease of the M3s, it just sounded better and, dare I say, enjoyable.
Next up is Nora Jones' new release, Featuring Norah Jones, so named, presumably, because not one track is Ms. Jones on her own, but instead, each track is a joint effort with a contemporary. One of my favorites is "Blue Bayou" preformed along with M. Ward. Captured with the gentle strumming of the acoustic guitar there is a natural and captivating "air" about the vocal track. It is my experience that such "air" is relatively easy to convey through a competent speaker, but it is much more difficult to truly capture the ambience or mood at the root of the performance. Here, I found the M3s to not only convey the performance's fundamentals on the "Blue Bayou" track, but on each of the other seventeen tracks throughout the disc. Reminiscent of the "venue" flawlessly captured in Dianne Reeves In the Moment: Live in Concert, the M3s were able to capture and convey the emotion of the performance of each track, distinctly different from track to track.
The separation between the midrange and the tweeter was indistinguishable, as you would expect in this range of product. In all instances, I found the vocal range to be only complimentary to the higher frequencies, and vice versa, not noteworthy bumps or holes. Working so well together, there was an utterly convincing musical "illusion" laid out before the listener. Moreover, I have no doubt that in a room smaller than mine the bass response would be even less of a concern. Though, admittedly, but not surprisingly, a speaker this size (or price) will always be limited to some extent.
The M3 is a top-notch speaker hitting the mark on nearly all points an audiophile could ask for in a 2-way speaker. As such, I believe the M3s possess all the characteristics a sophisticated listener would require: tight, tuneful bass; an accurate and compelling mid-range; and a high reaching and sweet sounding high end; all of which is presented through a wide and deep soundstage. I reviewed the Verity Audio Parsifal Ovation Monitors as part of my full range Parsifal Ovation speaker review a few years back, and comparing the two I would not hesitate to put the M3s right up against the Parsifal Ovation Monitors. Side by side, there is no doubt that the Verity Audio Monitors are more "lush," whereas the M3's will be more truthful and straightforward. Neither is a "fault" as much as a "preference". It is speakers like the M3 that force me to question my priorities, where I can get the amount performance of the M3 for $7500: do I need to spend more? John Brazier
KT Audio Imports