The work that Ollie and the team put into improving dispersion manifests in an incredibly open sound, this has the effect of bringing the soundstage into the room and making the speakers disappear. If the source is up to it. With many CD players this is not the case, the sound remains resolutely between and no higher than the speakers, but a good streamer produces a truly walk in sound field that is replete with spatial detail and cavernous depth. Playing Laura Marling’s ‘Breathe’ proved an intoxicating experience not least because of the dynamic range that this speaker reveals. The nuances of her vocal, the shape of bass notes, the all round immersion created by Marling and her team but usually only hinted at, it’s truly transporting stuff. A veil has definitely been lifted and it’s going to be very difficult to go back. That extra transparency means you not only hear all the quiet bits that other speakers fail to resolve but the influences behind the work. For the first time, it became apparent that there’s a lot of Led Zeppelin in the guitars and drums on Once I Was An Eagle. The truly perceptive Zep head will probably have spotted this without so much assistance, but I need all the help I can get.
I worked my way through Herbie Hancock’s River, the songs of Joni Mitchell and got to ‘The Jungle Line’ where Leonard Cohen speaks the lyric over some superb piano. His voice is deep, rich and sonorous, revealing more of the insight in the lyrics than Joni’s version, while Hancock shows just how solid his left hand can be. The fact.12’s bass is unfeasibly fluent, there is no sense of overhang whatsoever, which is uncanny for a box loudspeaker. This is not an ordinary box of course, apparently the ATL is a high compression type which requires very stiff drivers but gives much tighter control over what comes out of the vents. That also explains the low sensitivity of course. But it’s worth it.
Out of interest I persuaded PMC to lend me a pair of Bryston 28B monoblocks to find out what benefits would accrue if serious amounts of power were available (they’re good for a steady 1,200 watts, I believe). The result was higher resolution, quieter backgrounds and a greater appreciation of the speed this speaker is capable of. The bass got tauter and I was able to switch the level to the 0 or flat setting without running into trouble. Now it was possible to hear exactly what type of colourations were afflicting various components in the chain and I soon realised that the Naim NDS streamer is rather better than it had previously seemed.
Compared to the Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond the fact.12 sounds lean and fast. It’s not as obviously detailed but has a greater sense of musical fluency. It’s not as substantial sounding in the bass but goes down virtually as far in extension terms and, again, is faster. I didn’t have any other speaker that comes close to the performance and musical thrills that the fact.12 can deliver, but I did have a few other sources and amps to try. Not least among them being the Longdog Audio VDT1 tube DAC, suffice to say for now that it worked a charm with this speaker. You can hear the tubes, but what they do has such a positive effect that even for the most fervent solid-stater, all is forgiven as you are swept away by the music.