slightly degrading screen contrast. We suggested to Verity that they consider developing and offering you the option of a matte black polymer finish, particularly for those of you with projection screens.
The Tamino's external acoutrements are also high class. The Tamino comes standard with massive solid brass cones for feet, which can be fitted with the supplied stainless steel spikes if you so desire. The input terminals are also massive, and easily accommodate banana plugs and/or large spade lugs. There is, however, only one set of input terminals, so there is no provision for bi-wiring the Tamino (a puzzling omission, since bi-wiring capability is so prevalent in competing loudspeakers).
Bi-wiring can be sonically beneficial for several reasons, which would seem especially important for a loudspeaker so transparently revealing as the Tamino. Bi-wiring can improve overall fidelity by providing a more perfect star topology for the signal's ground reference circuit, between power amplifier and loudspeaker. With some cable designs, bi-wiring can also improve overall fidelity by separating the low and high frequency currents, thereby reducing intermodulation effects induced by current flow. Bi-wiring would also allow you to employ different loudspeaker cable types, each optimized for its own portion of the spectrum (one cable optimized for low and middle frequencies, the other for high frequencies).
Even the Tamino's C2 center channel loudspeaker bespeaks Verity's pursuit of high end perfectionism. In order to give you a center channel with the same voicing and sonic qualities as all your other Taminos arrayed around you, Verity designed a special center channel Tamino that is as similar as possible to the full fledged Tamino X2 mini-tower. The Tamino C2 has the same set of drivers as the standard Tamino X2, arranged in the same vertical array.
This is in sharp contrast to most other brands of center channel loudspeakers, which turn the driver array on its side, thereby supplying a sound and voicing that is quite different from the main and surround loudspeakers, with a very different radiation pattern into the room. These other brands turn the array on its side in order to give you a center channel loudspeaker with minimum height, so you can conveniently and flexibly place it on top of a direct view CRT, or inside the supporting console or stand under the CRT, or inside bookshelves behind and above (or below) the CRT. But Verity admirably refuses to compromise the Tamino's pursuit of perfection, just to suit user convenience. The Tamino C2 is a floor standing vertical unit, period.
In order to allow a clear line of sight above the Tamino C2, to a CRT mounted on a typical stand (or to any projection screen), the cabinet of the C2 had to be made shorter than the height of the standard Tamino mini-tower, so that's what Verity designed (the C2 is merely 28.5 inches tall). Then, in order to preserve the same deep bass response and high quality bass definition, the volume for the bass enclosure had to be preserved, so the Tamino C2's mini-tower is made with a deeper cabinet. In other words, the height is made shorter while the depth is made deeper, thereby preserving the same bass enclosure volume. The frontal width of this shorter, deeper cabinet remains essentially the same, thereby giving the Tamino C2 a similar horizontal radiating pattern, and very good spatial imaging similar to that you hear from the other standard Tamino X2s arrayed all around you. Because the Tamino C2 is shorter, its front panel is tilted back more, to preserve a similar temporal alignment for the two vertically arrayed drivers. This steeper backward tilt does tilt the vertical radiation pattern of the Tamino C2, so that it becomes more sensitive to optimal listening distance than the standard Tamino X2 mini-tower is. But this is a small point, and on the whole Verity has done an admirable job of giving you a center channel loudspeaker whose sonic signature is very close to the rest of your loudspeaker array.
Is the Tamino perfect? No. But its limitations and imperfections chiefly are dictated by the laws of physics, The Tamino's limitations and imperfections do not arise from Verity's lack of high end perfectionist zeal, but instead occur because Verity's engineers, like every loudspeaker designer, had to make tough choices dictated by the laws of physics. Indeed, in some aspects, Verity's admirably purist pursuit of perfection, their refusal to compromise important high end sonic qualities like transparency and neutrality, itself has forced some limitations on the Tamino.
To understand this better, let's have a brief background discussion as prelude.
There is no such thing as a perfect loudspeaker. Compromises naturally have to made for the sake of reasonable price and physical size constraints. But, more importantly, even with an unlimited budget, unlimited perfectionist zeal, and unlimited engineering talent, it would still be impossible to design a perfect loudspeaker. That's because the laws of physics impose constraints that force the design engineer to make hard choices between cruel tradeoffs imposed by Nature, regardless of his budget, his noble perfectionist zeal, and his talent. Simply speaking, the laws of physics might decree that a loudspeaker designer can pursue sonic virtue A or sonic virtue B in his design, but he cannot have a full measure of both virtues. So he has to make a hard choice of which virtue is more important for him, for his intended customer, and for the intended application. Moreover, the laws of physics might decree that virtue A carries with it adverse sonic consequence F, while virtue B carries with it adverse sonic consequence G. So the loudspeaker designer not only has to choose which virtue, A or B, is more important for him to pursue, but also has to choose which adverse consequence, F or G, is more important to avoid.
This loudspeaker designer could try for a design which offers a half measure each of virtues A and B, and therefore also a half measure each of adverse consequences F and G, but such a product is apt to be an average, ho-hum loudspeaker, undistinguished in any sonic performance aspect and indistinguishable from many others on the market. Alternatively, he could with purist zeal do the very best he can in pursuing virtue A, and thereby produce an outstanding loudspeaker which stands above the competition in virtue A, and thereby strongly appeals to listeners and applications which value virtue A, but which also necessarily (by the laws of physics) has notable limitations in virtue B, and has a healthy dose of adverse consequence F. If such a loudspeaker therefore has limitations in desirable virtue B and has adverse performance F, the fault is not really that of the design engineer. He has nobly pursued sonic virtue A with perfectionist purist zeal, and he has succeeded in making an outstanding loudspeaker that excels in virtue A. The fault lies instead with the laws of physics, whose dictates we all must live with and accept.
The tradeoffs dictated by the laws of physics, that the design engineer must work with, are even more complex than our simplistic example. For instance, in designing the bass portion of any loudspeaker system, there are at least five basic virtues that the design engineer would like to be able to give you, but he can pick only three out of the five, and his choice of which three he picks will have many consequences for the whole loudspeaker system (including even tweeter performance). In the whole field of audio, the tradeoffs imposed upon loudspeakers are more complex and more cruel than for any other type of product. That's why loudspeakers necessarily remain so imperfect, despite the brilliant talents of many design engineers, and despite the high budgets allocated to the most expensive loudspeaker systems on the market.
The sonic personality of each loudspeaker is largely determined by the hard tradeoff choices that the designer has made, and the consequent nature of the particular inevitable imperfections he has chosen to live with, balanced against the sonic strengths he has focused on achieving (note that a hypothetically perfect loudspeaker would have no sonic personality). So each loudspeaker system must have imperfections, and will have a sonic personality that reflects the particular balance of inevitable imperfections vs. achieved strengths that the designer has chosen to make, in the face of the dictates of the laws of physics. It is the job of a good reviewer to describe and analyze the sonic personality of each loudspeaker, as well as to rate its overall competence. Then, only you can decide which sonic personality, among the more competent loudspeakers, you want to live with. It's rather like choosing a spouse whose personality you can live with long term, and appreciate and enjoy. Each of you would want a different personality in a spouse, and each of you might well want a different sonic personality in a loudspeaker.
This above background discussion applies to all loudspeakers, but is especially germane to the Tamino.
The Tamino was designed with the noble perfectionist zeal afforded to Verity's larger, more expensive systems. In order to be affordable, the Tamino had to be a two way (not a three way) system. Within this constraint, the Tamino design clearly shows the noble purist intent to pursue the important sonic virtues of excellent transparency, low driver coloration, extended frequency response to both extremes of the spectrum, high quality bass, and flat on-axis response. The Tamino design succeeds brilliantly at meeting these goals and achieving these important sonic virtues. And it does so much better than most other loudspeakers of comparable size and price. That's what makes the Tamino such a sonic revelation for music playback and also for film playback. That's what makes the Tamino such a noteworthy and outstanding (in the literal sense) loudspeaker instead of just another pretty face with ho-hum sonic performance. But the laws of physics dictate that, together with the particular and important sonic virtues so brilliantly achieved with such nobly purist design zeal in the Tamino, we must also accept some limitations and some adverse sonic consequences. And thereby hang several tales.
Bass Loudness --
Let's begin with bass quantity. As noted above, the Tamino boasts excellent bass quality (well defined bass without boom), and excellent bass extension for this size system (down to 30 Hz). It's a minor miracle that this modestly scaled entry level system does so well in these two important aspects of bass. But what about the quantity of bass? How loudly can the Tamino play the bass that it reproduces so well? The laws of physics intervene, and dictate that the Tamino is severely limited in bass loudness (and therefore is also limited in overall loudness, for playing back any program material that contains strong bass energy).
What's the explanation for this limitation? This first story actually begins with the tweeter.
The tiny .75 inch dome tweeter driver plays a key role in making the Tamino sound so transparently revealing, fast, and neutral in the upper midrange and treble regions. But, for a tweeter to have these sonic virtues, yet still be reasonably priced, its moving system must have low mass. This means that the tweeter won't be able to extend very low in frequency, since it can't handle the larger excursions nor dissipate the higher power and heat implied by lower frequencies. And this forces Verity to cross over this tweeter to the woofer/midrange at a moderately high frequency, in this case 3500 Hz. That in turn means that Verity, for this two way Tamino system, must employ a woofer/midrange that can perform well to 3500 Hz, which is a pretty high frequency for such a driver.
Now, the bigger you make a woofer, the worse will be its high frequency capabilities, all other things being equal. A bigger woofer diaphragm is not pistonically accurate to as high a frequency as a smaller woofer diaphragm, and its reproduction is more ragged and artificially colored in these higher frequencies where its material is breaking up non-pistonically, and it tends to have a narrower radiation pattern into the room, which makes it even more tonally colored and creates a worse disparity in transition to the tweeter's wide radiation pattern at and above the crossover frequency. If you want a woofer to be pretty accurate and uncolored up to 3500 Hz, then it has to have a small diaphragm.
The 6.5 inch (nominal) woofer/midrange driver selected by Verity has a piston just 4.5 inches in diameter, which is an excellent choice for Verity's perfectionist high end goals, since it is about the largest size that can be pretty accurate up to the 3500 Hz crossover frequency. But this directly and inevitably leads to a severe limitation in the quantity of bass that the Tamino can output. A 4.5 inch piston just can't move enough air to play bass loudly. The Tamino's bass system is commendably engineered to have very good quality bass, and very good bass extension down to 30 Hz. But the woofer's very small piston size, limited by Verity's praiseworthy pursuit of high end perfection in wanting to get honest response up to 3500Hz from this woofer, collides head on with the laws of physics, which dictate that you simply can't get much quantity of bass from a 4.5 inch piston. That's especially true way down at the 30 Hz lower extension of the Tamino's response, since the physical excursion required of a woofer increases dramatically for progressively lower bass frequencies.
The end result is that the Tamino's tiny woofer bottoms out severely (with a violent flapping noise) when loud bass sounds come along. Verity has incorporated a clever anti-bottoming construction into this woofer, which acts like a soft limiter by compressing bass sound as excursion limits are reached. But this still did not prevent the Tamino woofer from bottoming out and violently protesting with that flapping sound on strong bass sound effects from film soundtracks. Moreover, we're not that happy knowing that the bass is being dynamically compressed by the soft limiting device, long before, and at bass volume levels far below, the point at which the violent flapping noise suddenly occurs. If the bass loudness level is severely limited, then of course the overall loudness level available from the Tamino X2 is also likewise limited, if you play the X2 full range and if your program material has strong bass energy.
Other brands of loudspeakers, especially models designed expressly for home theater, get around this problem by compromising the overall fidelity of their loudspeaker system. For example, they might use a larger, heavier, more rugged tweeter, which would allow a lower crossover frequency and hence a larger woofer, thus better bass loudness capability. But such a tweeter would surely not be as transparent, as fast, and as uncolored and neutral as the tweeter Verity put into the Tamino in their quest for true high end sonics. Many of those home theater loudspeakers employ tweeters which have wretchedly ragged response and screeching artificial colorations, because they were designed for ruggedness rather than true high fidelity. Alternatively, many other home theater speakers mate a 1 inch tweeter with an 8 inch or even a 10 inch woofer/midrange, in order to provide a larger woofer diaphragm that can deliver louder bass. But these larger woofer/midrange diaphragms generally have wretchedly ragged response (as well as poor dispersion) in the midrange, with all kinds of artificial spurious sonic colorations, arising from the cone materials (and also surround materials) breaking up so badly, because they are being run up to a higher frequency than they should be, in order to try to meet that tweeter.
These kinds of sonic compromises with true high fidelity are anathema in the world of high end music systems, whence Verity comes, so they were doubtless not acceptable to Verity. Moreover, by bringing such revelatory transparency and low coloration from the world of high end music systems into the world of home theater, Verity has given you a loudspeaker that will reveal new vistas of sonic insight into film soundtracks. Thus, it's worthwhile for us to try finding ways for you to work to advantage within the Tamino X2's limitations.
-- Subwoofer vs. Full Range Array
So what's the best way for you to deal with this bass loudness limitation in the Tamino X2? You might think that adding a subwoofer would be the obvious answer. But actually it is only half an answer. We do strongly support the use of subwoofers (note the plural) in a surround system, but only as an adjunct to substantially full range loudspeakers all around you. If the loudspeakers all around you are not substantially full range, you'll run into several problems, and you won't hear accurate bass, and you won't get the full benefits of surround bass. For example, if you cut off the bass to all the surrounding loudspeakers, or if you use small loudspeakers that can't reproduce bass in the first place, then you'll have to electrically mix the bass from all channels, to send it to the subwoofer (and also mix it with the LFE channel if present). But electrically mixing bass from plural channels tends to cancel out bass energy, due to phase cancellations, so you won't be hearing full bass energy, nor will you hear accurate bass reproduction (since this phase cancellation continually varies over time, thereby artificially modulating and pumping the original bass sounds in and out at random). Also, with mixed down or mono bass you'll miss out on the rich spatial wafting effect of surround bass, with which you could have heard the bass waves propagating across the giant space of the original recording venue.
Additionally, in our research we have found that it is very important, for the realism and believability of being transported out of your small room and into an alternative large space, to have at least the upper bass (say above 40 Hz) radiated at you from all sides, even from the back surround loudspeaker. To test this research finding with the Tamino, we engaged the Verity subwoofer, and ran all the Taminos of the whole surround array full range, except for the center back surround Tamino, which we set to the 80 Hz cutoff that is the standard high pass filter (low end cutoff) frequency for most surround processors when a given loudspeaker position is set to small instead of large.
The center back surround loudspeaker is arguably the least important loudspeaker in a surround sound array (indeed, most surround sound systems don't even include this seventh channel loudspeaker). Yet we have found it to be very important, and we found that the sense of being transported into the alternative venue in a film (say a large ballroom) was severely degraded and diminished when we changed just this one center back surround loudspeaker from large to small, thereby rolling it off below 80 Hz. Evidently, that single octave of upper bass, from say 40 Hz to 80 Hz, is crucial for the believability of being surrounded by a space, and it is crucial for the listener to hear that upper bass information coming at him from all sides, including the back center. When the center back surround Tamino was fed full range, there was a rich and believable sense of being immersed in and surrounded by the large space of the recording venue. But when we simply cut off just that one back surround loudspeaker at 80 Hz, the sense of being surrounded by that large space
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