Better yet, in the manner of those classics, the unforced ease and character of the Accordo helps to take some of the edginess from some of the current crop of exceptionally detailed amplifiers. If you find the sound of many modern audio systems a little too exaggerated, but don’t just want to go for a too rolled-off romantic sound of old, the Accordo strikes a fine balance. Everything about the performance is a perfect ‘fit’. The soundstage is large and three-dimensional without being overt and exaggerated. It’s big enough to handle orchestral passages with aplomb, but it’s more ‘string quartet’ than ‘Mahler’s Eighth’ by virtue of physical size. No record perhaps sums up the Accordo’s performance better than the Takács Quartet’s take on Beethoven’s late string quartets [Decca]. This is arguably the best of the comparatively recent recordings, albeit with closer microphones than classic 1950s Decca recordings. However, the combination of soundstage, detail, microdynamic detail, and sheer musical passion the Accordo help bring out in this recording leaves you enthralled. While all those audiophile boxes are ticked in terms of detail retrieval, coherence, soundstage precision, and so on… beyond all that, you can hear why these pieces were so important and so beloved, and why many passionate classical music lovers place these recordings so highly.
There’s a subtle difference in language here that is too often blurred; the difference between ‘neutral’ and ‘natural’. In listening to the Accordo, you realise you can get both in the same loudspeaker, but at the extremes, ‘natural’ always wins out. I think for many that is precisely how it should be; while the carney barkers of audio will protest that absolute neutrality is the goal of every loudspeaker, the quieter counter-argument is you still need to like what you hear. A loudspeaker that could be considered the textbook of accuracy and fidelity, yet sounds so unappealing that no-one could stomach listening to it for more than 10 minutes at a stretch is fulfilling a goal of ‘fidelity’ by ignoring another. The Accordo’s inherent poise in all this means the loudspeaker makes a piano sound like a piano when it’s the title track Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debby [Riverside] and makes a piano sound like a much bigger piano when it’s the Wurlitzer piano break in ‘School’ from Supertramp’s Crime of the Century [A&M]. Too often, loudspeakers (or at loudspeakers of comparable size and performance) will nail one and fail one; either the subtlety of Evans’ tone is lost in all the excitement, or Roger Hodgson’s amplified and amped up performance runs out of control. The Accordo’s truly uncanny ability to balance ‘neutral’ and ‘natural’ means both sound good.
The trade-off in all this is one of headroom. This is a loudspeaker that excels at making a bigger, more harmonically rich and enticing sound that you would expect from the cabinet size. It delivers good bass and a very extended treble in a small to medium sized room. It won’t tear the roof off that small to medium sized room (although it can rattle the windows) and while the sound it produces scales well, the speaker will not scale to larger rooms unless you have a near-field zone within that room. Normally, that wouldn’t be worthy of observation, but given so many of Serblin’s legendary designs have that endlessly-satisfying ‘squeezing a quart into a pint pot’ ability, it’s perhaps worth noting when you get a very good pint in a very nice pint pot.