Although Jørgensen checked the system’s operation by playing music so loud I had to leave the room, I still wasn’t convinced the S-15s would deliver the kind of oomph needed in a large home theater. So my first test was a Vudu stream of Real Steel, a movie that combines cool robot boxing with sappy dialogue.
I found that the S-Series easily reproduced the massive footfalls and powerful punches of the robots, with incredible impact and no audible distortion even when I cranked the system way, way up. The S-Series also exhibited a compelling “acoustic bubble” effect, giving me a great sense of the spaces in which the action took place.
The sappy, dialogue-driven parts of Real Steel might have proved more challenging due to the system’s unusually high subwoofer crossover point: 300 Hz, compared with 80 Hz for most systems. My worry was that the Steel dialogue might sound unnaturally full because it would be coming in part from the LS woofers. However, even though I was listening for this flaw, I never noticed it in 5.1 material from Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, nor with stereo CDs and LPs.
You really get the payoff of the S-Series’s advanced technology when you play stereo music. “It’s weird to hear a sound with so little identifiable character,” I wrote in my notes when I played Holly Cole’s “Train Song,” one of my go-to test tracks ever since it was released 17 years ago on her Temptation album.
While the mids certainly impressed me — the vocalists from my test CD all sounded as natural as I’ve ever heard them sound — I was really blown away by the bass and treble. The bass sounded distinct, powerful, and incredibly even from note to note; most systems are lucky to achieve two of those goals. The treble rang out with incredible clarity without sounding in any way exaggerated, edgy, or distorted.
My most stirring moment with the system came when I played “The Holy Man,” from the World Saxophone Quartet’s Metamorphosis. This track features four saxophonists soloing simultaneously over rambunctious African percussion. The S-Series gave me the most distinct sonic image of each saxophonist that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard this track on at least 1,000 audio systems.
With stereo music, RoomPerfect seemed to kill the treble detail and the punch in the bass, so I bypassed it. With movie soundtracks, I usually liked the sound best in Focus mode. Compared with the Global mode, its more radical taming of my room’s flaws delivered a more realistic reproduction of explosions and impacts, and its smoothing effect on the treble made dialogue (which often isn’t well recorded) sound more natural.
For the price of Steinway Lyngdorf ’s S-Series, you could have your choice of any number of great home theater audio systems. What’s special about this one? It sounds amazing; it’s the only small system I’ve heard that’s muscular enough to rock out a large media room; and it has a cool remote that would look right at home on Paul Allen’s yacht.
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