March 1, 2010
Verity Audio Amadis Loudspeakers
When I began paying attention to audio gear, each new
acquisition -- speakers, an interconnect, even a simple isolation cone -- made me gravid
with excitement. Id rush home with my new item, unwrap it with little regard for
instructions or packaging integrity, maneuver it into position, and let the music fly. I
was in my early 30s then, but my mental age with regard to audio was really at least a
Anyway, Id sit there, poised on the edge of my seat,
listening to that component, trying to hear whether it was going to affirm my purchase of
it. Those were tense seconds -- nascent, encapsulated moments when the placebo effect
could spontaneously generate a miniature black hole, even an entire other dimension.
In those days I was listening for my grail -- detail --
and, of course, more and tighter bass. I know that I was enduring some really atrocious
systems, but if I heard more detail and more bass, I felt I was making progress. But,
laboring away in my vacuum, without regard for musicality or ease, I probably
wouldnt have recognized a good-sounding system had it punched me in the nose.
This sport that is audiophilia can engender that sort of
listening attitude. Ive sat around with some knowledgeable industry experts and
listened to systems that were bright enough to put a new edge on a hunting knife. Everyone
seemed to be enjoying things immensely. One things for sure: Some people arent
listening for music, but searching for something that may well be unattainable.
There are ways to get off the treadmill. Right now Im
listening to Rickie Lee Joness Pop Pop (LP, Geffen/ORG 007) through the third
set of Verity loudspeakers to cycle through my system. Im relaxed, happy, and
blissfully unaware that theres a stereo playing in my room. Ive left the
system behind and am enjoying the music. I cant stress this strongly enough.
Everyone always says theyre in this thing for the music, but Im not
sure I believe them.
That Verity speakers dont jump out and grab your
attention is both their blessing and their curse. Its a curse because I imagine that
many people sit down in front of a pair for a quick audition and arent immediately blown
away. Veritys dont lunge for the jugular, they dont go for the quick
showroom kill. You need to spend an afternoon listening to Veritys, and as the day wears
on, your shoulders will drop, youll sit back, and youll relax out of your The
Thats what happened to me, and here I sit facing a
pair of Veritys newest speakers. With the Amadis ($30,000 USD per pair), Verity
plugs the hole between their venerable Parsifal Ovation ($21,000/pair), formerly their
premier product, and the Sarastro ($42,000/pair). Besides the doubling of price from
Parsifal to Sarastro, theres also a fair difference in size between those two. The
Parsifal is a reasonably compact floorstander; the Sarastro leans toward the scope and
scale of a component that will truly dominate a room. At 44"H x 12.8"W x
17.9"D, the Amadis -- especially in its light-sucking, hand-applied, multi-layer,
piano-black lacquer -- blends nicely into my 17L x 14W room. I get the feeling
that the Sarastro might be a touch overwhelming -- not that Id be averse to finding
out for myself.
The Amadis is immediately recognizable as a Verity speaker.
First, it comes packed in the companys signature flight cases, which Ive
always found a very classy bit of filigree. More expensive speakers have arrived here in
wooden crates -- even in cardboard boxes. Verity speakers are a high-end product, and the
company appropriately presents them as such.
Each Amadis consists of two graceful, subtly sculpted
cabinets: a two-way monitor speaker resting atop a woofer module, the two enclosures
separated by a weighty aluminum plate and Sorbothane pucks. Despite closely approximating
two rectangular prisms separated by a platform, there are, as near as I can tell, only two
parallel panels in the entire assembly: Its not immediately noticeable, but the
Amadis widens slightly toward the rear even as its top panel slopes downward. In profile,
the Amadis has a swaybacked grace that vaguely evokes the hood ornament of a Rolls-Royce
-- a flying sprite hinting at motion while remaining firmly rooted. The Amadis showcases
all of the research and development chops built up by Verity over the years. And its
a dense little guy -- according to Verity, the Amadis weighs 75 pounds, though to me it
seemed substantially heavier.
From where I sit, the Amadiss main focus is its
midrange cone, made by the Danish company Audiotechnology to Veritys exacting
specifications. (I saw Veritys list of extensive changes and revisions during a
visit to their factory.) This 6" short-coil, long-gap symmetrical drive-unit is also
used as the midrange driver in the Sarastro. As with their other speakers, Verity
doesnt use a low-pass crossover at the top of the midranges frequency extreme,
instead letting the drivers mechanical limitations roll off the highs.
The absence of a crossover at the top of the midrange has
several consequences. First, it means that the midrange driver will beam -- that is, it
will disperse less sound to the sides the higher in frequency it plays. A side effect of
this is that there will be less reflected sound, and more sound directly from the driver
itself arriving at the listening position, which will result in a bit of a dip in output
near the top of the drivers range.
However, by disposing of the midrange crossover, Verity
gets that one driver to play from around 200Hz to somewhere north of 5000Hz -- a very wide
range. And since the tweeter doesnt have to kick in until a much higher frequency
than normal, its got an easier job -- which means, among other benefits, that it can
handle more power with less stress.
And the Amadiss tweeter sure is interesting. When I
first saw it, I thought someone had poked it with a finger -- it has the most
unusual-looking dimple in its center -- but its OK, really. This fourth-generation
ring-radiator tweeter from SB Acoustics lacks the previous generations nipple-like
protuberance, which some felt caused phase anomalies due to reflections. The tweeter cone
is supported in the middle from the rear; I was told that you can actually push on the
middle of it and feel the phase plug behind it, though I chose not to do so. According to
Verity, this tweeters range extends up to 50kHz.
The Amadiss rear-firing woofer, too, is a Verity
trademark. Another Audiotechnology design, this 9" short-gap woofer uses a
3"-long voice-coil to reach down to a claimed 20Hz, -3dB. The Amadiss ported
cabinet displaces 40 liters, in comparison to the Parsifals 28 and the
Sarastros 60 liters. By firing the woofer toward the rear corners of the room,
Verity claims that they gain some efficiency in the bass by, in effect, horn-loading the
driver. Also, since the woofer faces away from the listener, fewer midrange frequencies
reach the listening position from the woofer, and Verity thus nets an extra slice of
Verity rates the Amadis at 93dB efficiency with impedances
of 8 ohms nominal, 3 ohms minimum. I found that the speaker sounded best off my Audio
Research VT100 power amplifiers 8-ohm tap.
And the rest . . .
I strapped the Amadises to Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval
8 speaker cables and used Solo Crystal Oval balanced interconnects from preamp to power
amp and from phono stage to preamp.
My Sonic Frontiers SFL2 preamplifier continues to squat,
troll-like, on my equipment rack. Another longtime resident is my Pro-Ject RPM 10
turntable, and Im still using and loving my Roksan Shiraz cartridge, now on its
third rebuild. Somehow, I dont think Ill ever get sick of that wonderful
transducer. The Blue Circle Audio BC703 phono stage (review forthcoming) is still in
residence, but a major illness over the holidays has delayed that review. A Shunyata
Research Hydra Model-6 power conditioner handled filtration and distribution of AC, and
power cables were Shunyata Taipans.
Comfort is not the enemy of vigilance
Way back when, after I landed my first real job, I was
shopping at a nearby store that specialized in remaindered designer clothes. There was a
ton of dreck at that place, but every once in a while something interesting would
materialize. That day, rooting through one of the stores dustier sections, I hit
paydirt, a nugget the size of my thumb: a really classy Armani suit, in my size,
in a beautiful light gray, for $300. This was a genuine made-in-Italy number, not the
downmarket Hong Kong crap that, at the time, was beginning to appear.
I wore that suit for years, until the pants got shiny, and
after that I wore the jacket with jeans. The Suit, as I came to think of it, was the most
comfortable thing Ive ever owned. It also looked fantastic, and made me feel
like some kind of superstar. Many people equate true comfort with sweatpants and woolly
jumpers -- stuff that feels good but looks lousy. Its the same with audio: If
something sounds really pleasant and easy on the ears, of necessity, its going to be
loose and sloppy.
Not so, people, not so. The Verity Amadis was the aural
equivalent of The Suit. In every respect, it exuded quality, sophistication, and
refinement. I mentioned Rickie Lee Joness Pop Pop earlier -- its been
seeing a fair bit of rotation on the big Pro-Ject table since the Veritys landed in
my listening room. "Dat Dere" was the first track of this album I ever heard,
and its still my favorite. In its reproduction of this rich, evocative song, the
Amadis removes from the music every trace of the equipment. Im well aware that
thats a big, sweeping statement, but the musicality of these speakers gives me
plenty of ammo with which to back it up.
I wish you could hear how the Amadises placed every
instrument on a real, holographic soundstage, how they put out bass that was deep, tight,
and correct without straying to either the sloppy or the dry side. If you heard the
electrostatic speed of the Amadiss midrange, its clear, unforced, edge-free yet
extended highs, youd immediately understand what Im blathering on about. But
Im getting ahead of myself. That happens when I have this much fun.
Perhaps the most striking and endearing feature of the
Amadis was, strangely enough, its self-effacing nature. From the lower midrange right up
through the highest reaches of the treble, there was not the slightest roughness or grit.
There were no peaks I could hear, and nothing to draw attention away from the music.
Closely recorded trumpet is instructive, as it clearly highlights any midrange anomalies.
Listening to Freddie Hubbard run through the registers on "Weaver of Dreams,"
from Ready for Freddie (LP, Blue Note 8 32094 1), I was struck by the clarity of
his tone, the shine from his trumpets bell, the precision of his phrasing. But my
attention was never drawn to the speakers. Instead, the music hung there. For the
purposes of this review, of course, I did have to actively pay attention to what the
speakers were doing. Let me tell you, it was work.
So its lack of any peakiness, and perhaps, just maybe, even
a tiny bit of reticence through the midrange, made the Amadis incredibly easy on my ears.
What this resulted in were long listening sessions completely devoid of listening fatigue.
As Verity doesnt cross over their midrange driver at
the top of its range, this single cone was essentially reproducing the entire fundamental
range of Hubbards trumpet. Perhaps the absence of a crossover is partly responsible
for just how stunningly fast the Amadis sounded through the midrange. Either that,
or this is just one heck of a good driver. More likely its a combination of the two.
The Amadis handled dynamic musical swings with ease.
Another side benefit of the Amadiss smooth, uncolored
midrange was that I could listen to these speakers loud. Oh, sure, most full-range
speakers do go loud these days, but these here Veritys were a hill of fun to listen
to at high levels. They didnt compress, they didnt get even remotely peaky,
and they didnt change character as the volume rose. As I leaned on the throttle, the
Amadises just became more enjoyable. Ive noted this with the other Verity speakers
Ive had in my system. Both the Parsifal Ovation and the Rienzi come alive as the
music approaches what I consider realistic listening levels. The Amadis continued that
In respect to tonal accuracy, the Amadis was a touch polite
through the upper midrange, possibly due to its lack of a high-pass crossover and the
attendant beaming near the top of the mids range. But Verity, well aware of the
consequences of the absence of a mid/tweet crossover, has refined the concept to net, in
the process, a light touch, a delicacy and sense of immediacy. Nancy Wilson, slinging out
"The Old Country," from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (LP, Capitol
SM-1657), sounded corporeal, slinky, and perfectly centered. The Amadises evocative
midrange reproduced a real, live singer surrounded by a delightful shimmering aura, right
here for my listening pleasure. From my listening position, Veritys choice of
midrange alignment is a fine one.
I was somewhat perturbed when Veritys Julien Pelchat
informed me that Verity was using a new ring-radiator tweeter in the Amadis. While
Ive enjoyed some ring radiators, I wouldnt have considered them conducive to
The Verity Sound. Here, I thought, was Veritys chance to mess the whole damn thing
I neednt have worried: The Amadiss tweeter
disappeared into the fabric of the speakers sound, never drawing attention to
itself. Even with poor recordings -- the bane of high-end speakers -- the highs were
silky, extended, and rich. And if the recording was truly abrasive, at least the
Amadis didnt batter me about the head and neck with the fact. My wafer-thin Canadian
pressing of Tom Waitss The Heart of Saturday Night (LP, Asylum 7ES-10015) is
a crispy piece of crap, but I love listening to the records Waits made back before he
started gargling with gravel. Even with the volume juiced to a level that would be
difficult to talk over, the cymbals on tracks such as "Drunk on the Moon"
didnt intrude. In fact, via the Amadis, they managed to retain a semblance of what
was most likely on the master tape. Considering the quality of this LP, thats quite
On better-recorded and -pressed fare, the Veritys shone.
Pianist Jeffrey Siegels performance of Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue, with
Louis Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony -- a Reference Recordings disc o
bombast (LP, Reference Mastercuts RM-1003) -- is my kind of orchestral piece.
Its big, lyrical, and doesnt take itself too seriously. Tons of high-frequency
detail are embedded in this album -- triangles, bells, cymbals, etc. -- and the Amadis
presented me with all that detail in an outrageously natural, unforced manner.
There were times when I could imagine listeners who are
used to more incisive speakers becoming a touch bored by the Veritys highs. Not
bored with the quality of the treble, mind you -- that was truly impeccable.
Rather, I would imagine that those who live by the mantra of Detail Above All Else might
find the overall level of the Amadiss treble just a touch low for their taste. I can
empathize, but I dont agree. The Amadiss high end had plenty of air and
detail, and was of such a silken and jewel-like character that it just didnt need to
shout. I also suspect that the utter lack of abrasiveness in the Amadiss highs might
trick some listeners into thinking theyre missing something. Some wont
appreciate this sort of refinement, preferring, I suppose, quantity over quality. But when
I listen to Classic Records wonderful vinyl reissue of John Coltranes Blue
Train (LP, Blue Note 1577), and Philly Joe Joness high-hat work just leaps from
the front of my room, I think that theres more than enough HF information for any
sane listener. Once more, its all about how the Amadis serves up not detail, but
Ive left the bass for last; in some ways, its
my favorite feature of the Amadis. Ive had speakers with more bass in my
system -- the WLM Gran Viola Signature with Duo 18 subwoofer ($24,330 for the system),
from way back, featured a sub with two 18" drivers, and I really enjoyed feeling the
onset of an aneurism from total body shock. But sometimes a speaker gets the low end so correct
that I forget about the carpet-bombing side of audio LF reproduction.
Sticking with Blue Train proved instructive. Older
jazz albums arent exactly famous for the excitement of their bass work, and I
sometimes find the solos painful -- as if everyones just humoring the poor guy for
having to schlep around that huge instrument. But through the Amadises I could hear into
the bass, and discern behind the instrument the bassists intent. Somehow, the Amadis
managed to unearth a boatload of detail from a very complex mix. The bass solo in the
title track still sucks, mind you, but Paul Chambers accompaniment swings along with
loads of rhythmic intensity; and its neither elevated nor buried. As I mentioned
earlier, its correct.
You may be thinking that, for your 30 grand, you want more
than just correct. Dont worry -- the Amadis could crank out some serious bass
when asked to. Although the music on Cat Powers Jukebox (LP, Matador OLE
793-1) doesnt go that low (Id guess most of the bass and drum sound is
in the 40-50Hz range), "New York, New York" is a bass-hounds paradise. The
entire group sounds as if it was recorded in an echo chamber, but its a fun listen,
even if its an artificial acoustic setting. The opening bars are dominated by a
honkin great kick drum, and the Amadises slammed it out in no uncertain terms. I
know Im repeating my adjectives, but the bass was rich and deep, yet at the same
time tight and controlled. Rather than simply lashing out with a wallop to the chest, the
Amadiss bass seemed to infuse my room, thereby creating a thoroughly believable and
eminently satisfying acoustic environment.
A couple of notes on amplifier pairing: Despite the 93dB
efficiency rating, Verity recommends powering the Amadis with a minimum of 18W, and that
seems sensible to me. I did try a pair of 300B-based monoblocks on the Amadis, but in my
opinion, the 7Wpc that these amps put out wasn't quite enough to generate the kind of
sound -- levels and control -- that these speakers are capable of. With the 300B amps
there was a noticeable midrange suckout, and the bass was too indistinct for my tastes.
The Verity Audio Amadis is a very special speaker, but
its got to find the right home. Inveterate gear-swappers -- those looking for
something from audio thats missing from their lives -- should steer clear:
theyll end up taking a loss. This is no speaker for hobbyists.
The Amadis is a speaker for music lovers. I imagine that
the typical Verity Audio buyer will end up keeping his set for a long time. Once you
settle in to listen to these speakers -- and I mean really listen -- youll
likely find the musical satisfaction that you knew was possible but had never before
found. Once discovered, this kind of comfort is hard to let go.
Comfort? My couch is quite comfortable, Im settled
in, and Ive been listening to music all day. In fact, Im listening to Pop
Pop again. Its been a long listening session, and tonight, when a friend comes
to visit, it will probably just keep going.
. . . Jason Thorpe
Verity Audio Amadis Loudspeakers
Price: $30,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
1005 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Ave., Suite 150
Québec, Québec G2E 5L1
Phone: (418) 682-9940
Fax: (418) 682-8644
Tempo Sales & Marketing
P.O. Box 541443
Waltham, MA 02454
Phone: (617) 314-9296
9692 Trans Canada Highway
Montréal, Québec H4S 1V9
Phone: (514) 333-5444