《Stereo Sound》評論 L-509X 時提到，它雖然是 Class AB 合併機的旗艦，但滲入了 Class A 的音色。實際呢? 他們只說對了一半，假如以它推動 B&W 802 D3，音色的確帶點暖和感，溫度偏高，不過，這對大型座地揚聲器對它來說，駕馭得有點吃力，要試出它最佳表現，B&W 702 S2 才是最佳選擇，L-509X 能夠把每邊三隻 6.5吋低音控制得張弛有道，同時展現極為中性、直率的真本性。
厚? 濃? 錯! 這叫做高密度
將 Luxman L-509X 放到大房，以 Accustic Arts Drive II、Tube-DAC II Mk2 作為訊源，揚聲器是剛才提到的 B&W 702 S2。電源線分別是 Burmester Power Cord (CD轉盤)、Analysis Plus Power Oval 2 (DAC)、Analysis Plus Silver Apex (合併機);線碼線是Analysis Plus Golden Oval Patent AES/EBU;訊號線則有 Analysis Plus Silver Apex XLR;最後是喇叭線，選來 Audio Note ISIS LX168。 接連播放兩張Erato/Virgin Classics CD，分別是 Artemis Quartet、Jacques Ammon的《The Piazzolla Project》;Jean-Guihen Queyras、Alexandre Tharaud 的 《Brahms: Cello Sonatas & Hungarian Dances》。 L-509X 控制力不俗，把一對揚聲器合共六隻低音單元 控制得貼服，但並非控制狂，不會侵吞了各種音尾，保持鬆緊有致，起與收同樣完整而線性。 聲音厚度出色，又或更準備地說，是高密度，因為它既表現出木製樂器的厚度，尤其是大提琴，你可以非常清楚地聽到琴弦直徑、韌度，還有琴腔外壁的厚度，同時又聽得到內部細微的共鳴變化，而鋼琴高音的通透感，亦十分出色。透明的高音、厚度剛好的中音、量感充足又收放自如的低音，結合出一種高密度，一種你覺得實在、輪廓 清楚、弱音明顯的密度，而非濃度，因為它的聲底還是乾淨的，不會化大、肥厚或是霧化細節。
三頻各有特點，但不會各自獨立，一切都是線性、連貫的。音色上，不是朝 Class A的 L590AXII 進發，L-509X 沒有暖聲傾向，亦非 L-509u 那種銀色光澤，新機依然光輝， 不過色彩更加純白，高音純淨度也更加出色。這種高音純度，在重播 Warner Classics 近年得獎的《Aida》中，通過 小號、長號展現出來，光輝而不帶沙石，音色非常中性， 不是銅管樂器常見的金黃色、厚暖。 只不過，L-509X 其實是直率，而不是帶有強烈固有音 色，只因一次過播放多張Muse的專輯，Hard Rock 風格的電結他，總是帶着結他手用心調校的結他 amp 失真聲， 才可令聽眾覺得火辣、刺激，假如重播系統出手修圓、打 磨，那就完全不對味。這台合併機不是「手多之人」，只是注入更多厚度之後，就對所有訊息進行全面放大。錄音 是細緻的，它會給你聽到那是細緻的;應該粗獷的，它亦會將火力直接傳遞。 有人認為，聲底乾淨的器材，播 Rock 會失去味道，只不過真正「乾淨」，其實不會吃走錄音的火氣與刺激感， 會吃走細節的變得「乾淨」的，不是真正的「乾淨」。 實際上，應稱前者為背景寧靜、能夠反映更多細節， L-509X就是這種低噪聲地台、不會流失弱音的器材，懂得 直接重現錄音原貌。那種聽甚麼都有火氣、播任何專題也粗邁的，其實只是一種強烈個性、音染。L-509X 沒有這種固執，所以播放大部分音樂種類的入味，這傳真就是如此。
今次試聽以 SME Model 20/3 唱盤和 SME V 唱臂配上 My Sonic Lab 的 Ultra Eminent BC 唱頭和 T+A PDP 3000 HV CD/ SACD 播放機作為音源，再以 Kubala-Sosna Expression 喇叭線將 Luxman L-509X合併擴音機連接到 Tidal Piano 揚聲器來進行試聽。由於這台 L-509X 是全新的關係，所以接駁完成後再將它堡煉約三十小時後才正式進行試聽。先聽 「Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring LP」，這張專輯是 Joan Baez 於 1988 年在西班牙 Bilbao 鬥牛場舉辦一場演唱會。此專輯的錄音達到很高的水平，今次只是使用 L-509X 的內置唱放，但竟可讓我感到十分驚喜，表現絕不比分體唱放遜色，除了底噪極低之外聲音也十分細緻迷人， Joan Baez 嘹亮的嗓音加上感性的表達方式，徹底展現出她獨特的氣質和成熟的韻味，將歌曲中的濃濃情感詮釋得淋漓盡致，還能如實地展現出結他那份樸素無華的感覺，音場寬廣且深，整體互相配合之下絕對讓人盡興。
試聽 lsolajazz專輯，這張於2017年在意大利熱拿亞舉行的演奏會現場錄音，由Venus旗下多位爵士樂手及歌手演出，整張專輯的現場氣氛相當濃烈」讓人有置身現場的感覺。碟I頭兩首純音樂已讓人感到興奮，特別是敲擊手 Ernesttico 在Theme From Mash 一曲中展現出高超精湛的技藝，L-509X 擁有強大的動態和極佳迅變能力，完全能將快、狠、準的音效重現出來。碟 2 的Quando Quando Quando 由 Denise King 引導現場觀眾一同高歌，全場的情緒非常高漲，可說是彼此打成一片。整張專輯能讓人感到滿載歡樂與熱鬧的氣氛，如此豐厚的現場感覺確實盡顯 L-509X 的功力。
首先，我最想知道的是 330 的頻率兩極伸延及音色的平衡度，於是我選來一首來自Oscar Peterson Trio一張1964 年的名盤「We Get Requests」中的 “You Look Good To Me”，一台鋼琴、一套爵士鼓加一支低音大提琴奏出的音樂，雖然沒有交響曲那麼複雜，但足以考驗器材最主要的音效，樂曲開首那段低音大提琴的旋律，真的鋸得要多低有多低，但它卻沒有累贅的感覺，而且是十分清爽和極之有質感；鋼琴每一粒音都是清晰無比，同時散發著一點一點光芒，但卻沒有一點搶耳的感覺。聆聽 Ed Thigpen 那套爵士鼓組合更是一種非比尋常的享受，因為 330 的速度感變相讓樂曲更生動活潑。坐在皇帝位上，很清楚聽到每一件樂器的音像線條，而且輪廓是極之細膩自然，沒有半點人工化。很多人都說瑞士高級音響器材的聲音有一份獨特的氣質，是充滿文化氣息，我覺得330 正正具備了這種聽感。330 播這首 “You Look Good To Me”，由第一秒鐘開始，都不斷給我驚喜，想不到連最後一組鋼琴的琶音都給我衝上雲霄的感覺！
This is the world I grew up in: iPods, ear buds, tinny laptop speakers. Most people my age don’t think twice about their equipment, so long as it makes sound. Your average iTunes aficionado isn’t going to shell out big sums of cash on stereo equipment, especially when everything seems to have speakers built in these days. Why bother?
But there is good sound at approachable prices, fantastic sound really, the sort of sound that people obsess about. It’s not a mystical thing; it’s a visceral one; and younger people are finally starting to figure it out. Vinyl’s comeback is proof of that. The iPod generation is ready for quality; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get it. And for me, it always starts with speakers.
There’s nothing better than opening something new, which is probably why people watch videos of strangers unboxing hardware on YouTube. The Wharfedale Diamond 225s sat wrapped in plastic covers sandwiched between tight foam inserts at the top and bottom, keeping them secure in transit. When I finally got them up and out, I stared at the gorgeous rosewood-veneer boxes, with their black-lacquer MDF baffles and the small Wharfedale logo just beneath the woofer. I leaned back in my desk chair and thought: “Wow, those are pretty.” They’re clean, unpretentious, and clearly put together very, very well.
OK, the speaker grilles were a little weird. They’re two round foam pieces with little plastic rods that snap in over the tweeter and the woofer, leaving the rest of the baffle exposed, as opposed to something that covers the whole front. It’s not my favorite aesthetic choice, though it’s not necessarily a bad one, either. Just a matter of taste, I guess. At least they’re easy to remove, so I popped them off and forgot about them.
The 225s are fairly compact, though deep and solid. Sound is always the most important aspect of any audio component, but you still have to live with these things, and it’s easier to live with beautiful stuff. Fortunately, they’re exactly what they need to be: simple and attractive. Clearly the people at Wharfedale know what they’re doing, which makes sense, considering how long they’ve been around. Wharfedale is a relatively large British outfit founded back in the 1930s, and they’ve been a big name in British hi-fi ever since. The Diamond series debuted in 1981, and Wharfedale has been slowly improving the Diamond designs and sound without inflating cost, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.
The 225s list at $450, which is a price an actual human with a real job could potentially afford. If you’re like me, and you’re sick of “affordable” equipment pushing easily into the $1000 range, this review is for you. Fact is, the majority of people can’t shell out the cash for the absurdly hyper-expensive audio equipment that clogs up most blogs. If we want to get the next generation to fall in love with great sound, I think it’s about time to accept that there’s some seriously good, affordable stuff worth writing about.
So with all that in mind, I put the 225s on top of my cheap stands, hooked them up to my (also British) Cambridge Audio CXA80 integrated, and turned it all on. Truth is, my listening space isn’t ideal. It’s small, oddly shaped with a sloping roof, and my speaker placement is limited. They have to be up close to a wall, though fortunately for me, these Wharfedales were designed with that in mind. The slot-loaded bass port fires downwards, instead of back, minimizing room interaction. So don’t worry about sticking them on either side of an entertainment system in the living room, for example, or squeezing them into a small office. Like I said, we have to live with these things, and space is sometimes at a premium.
Diving into the sound, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Bookshelf speakers typically aren’t known for deep, earth-shaking bass, and the 225s are no different in that regard. They aren’t going to rattle anyone’s bones and dig deep into that 40Hz bass region, which is fine—that’s what a sub’s for. Still, when I started with “Sparkle,” the first track on Tatsuro Yamashita’s City Pop masterpiece, For You, I got such a satisfyingly deep drop that I didn’t find myself missing the lowest of the low registers. Frankly, I didn’t find myself missing much of anything at all, especially when that clean, twanging guitar played its insanely catchy riff. The opening of “Sparkle” features a heavy, show-stopping reveal, and the 225s were more than up to the task of reproducing that big moment. I was surprised by how much weight I was getting from these things, more than enough for my small listening space. I can’t say how well they’d do in a much larger room, although I suspect they’d be up to the task.
The other good thing about “Sparkle” is the way Yamashita’s voice is recorded. There’s tons of reverb and space, his notes just drifting off into the background, and the 225s highlighted that nicely. For such small speakers, these things could create an impressive soundstage. Not the greatest, most spectacular presentation, but plenty to keep me engaged. Sound hung, drifting, projected nicely in both directions. At some points at higher volume, I noticed a bit of gristle in the upper registers, and sometimes the lower end felt a bit soft. I have to admit though, I was having fun just running through my favorite sides, one after the other, looking for any sonic detail that might be worth delving into. That’s the best sign that a piece of equipment is working. These little boxes just seemed to get me.
But I had to push the 225s, give them something challenging. That’s the whole point of a review, after all, to see how these things really perform. I turned to one of the strangest and most complicated albums of the year, King Krule’s The Ooz. This double-LP is as idiosyncratic as it is fascinating. On the most basic, surface level, it’s an experimental trip-hop masterpiece, but I think it’s so much more than that. It’s a sonically difficult album, with deep, rolling bass lines, up-tempo shifting beats, and Krule’s own morphing, grinding voice switching registers at will. The 225s did not disappoint me. They had a solid grip on the bass, keeping up with the hairpin-turn bumps and rumbles. The horns blaring in the background of “Dum Surfer” were rendered butter-smooth, along with that catchy guitar floating over the tight snares. I was drawn to the way the 225s made The Ooz somehow more accessible. It’s such an intricately layered album, and little details such as Krule’s English slang could easily be missed if anything muddy got in the way. I could feel the details of his voice despite the heavy synths and shimmering guitar effects. The 225s did a great job of creating a solid soundstage with minutely differentiated pieces. These songs felt so simple at first listen, but it took a piece of equipment like the 225s to do this level of complexity justice.
Finally, I wanted to hear how the Diamond 225s would deal with rich, complex upper-range vocals. These speakers could handle bass and midrange, but I was curious as to how they’d do when it came to subtlety. For that, I turned to Moses Sumney’s odd, pared-down, R&B-influenced album, Romanticism. Sumney’s music focuses so much on his intense, wonderful, lilting falsetto, which nicely showcased the 225’s ability to highlight delicate high-end and midrange detail as he moved through registers. I had a feeling the 225s would be plenty engaging with a softer sound, and I wasn’t disappointed. The bass guitar on “Man on the Moon (reprise)” barely kept pace while Sumney’s vocals played above it, yet through the 225s the layers of Sumney’s voice came through clean, uncolored, and almost liquid. I didn’t really understand this album on first listen, but as I went through it again and again on the 225s, I came to really love its low-key cleanliness. In the end, I think that’s the real strength of the 225s. They weren’t throwing the deepest bass or resolving the upper registers absolutely perfectly, but they had weight right where I needed it, along with the detail and the clarity necessary to resolve complex tracks into enjoyable musicality.
These speakers remind me that the “entry-level” isn’t a bad place to be. Inexpensive components are getting better and better as high-end design trickles down into supposedly budget hardware. The Diamond 225s take everything good about high-end audio, the power of beautifully reproduced music, and they make it accessible to a wider audience. I believe the 225s would satisfy just about anybody looking for fantastic-sounding speakers designed by a respected manufacturer at a reasonable price. They’re not perfect, but man, they’re still more than good. I highly recommend them.