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RMAF 2013: Lawrence Audio, Jeff Rowland Design Group

DSC_3771 Lawrence Audio produces some of the most striking speakers I've encountered in recent years, both visually and in auditory terms. Over the past year I've had the pleasure of hearing their lovely Cello speakers, as well as the smaller Mandolin stand mounts. Their products always make my list of "best in show," but there has always been something holding me back from envisioning them in my own home (assuming price is not an object). The Mandolins sport gorgeous clarity of treble, but are just (say it with me) too small for my tastes. The Cello is almost right, but has struck me as just a tad too lean, not to mention difficult to drive with my current gear. Enter the Double Bass ($28,000) . Like the other Lawrence speakers I've experienced, it is designed to look like its namesake, with a graceful neck and a fat bottom. The Double Bass sports two AMT tweeters and a ribbon tweeter on the front, with an additional rear-firing ribbon tweeter on the back, plus an eight-inch carbon fiber mid-woofer and twelve-inch carbon fiber woofer. The MDF cabinets are painted a glossy black. The overall look seems to be a love-hate thing for show attendees; I personally love the look, but I definitely heard from others who seemed to just find them "weird."

These speakers take all of my concerns about the Cello and boot them out the door. The Cello’s minimum 3.2 ohm impedance is a thing of the past; instead, the Double Bass sports a much more tube-friendly impedance of 8 ohms. The frequency response goes down to 24Hz, taking subwoofers from “necessity” to “nice to have.” More importantly, these retain all of the clarity of treble I’ve come to expect from Lawrence, while adding a wonderful depth and heft.

When I entered the room, a selection from the Bach cello suites was playing, and I was most struck by how well the system captured the depth, texture, and tone of the cello. Next up was a classical piece I’m not familiar with, but bassoon was featured heavily. The speakers handled the bass notes from the bassoon beautifully, and I was delighted by my ability to hear the keys clacking softly on the instrument, as well as the soloist’s breath. Jeff Rowland’s Model 825 2-chassis stereo amp ($32,000) and Rowland Aeris DAC ($9,800) were a great match here, gleaming weightily between the speakers. This system takes pride of place at the top of my Lottery Wish List for this show.

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