Another 2.1 Review
It's so wonderful to have a positive first impression surpassed by a longer-termed affection...
Much has been said about the packaging and aesthetics of the Swan line, and it's all true; the care put into these products is impressive. Intangibles such as double boxing, bagging of the speakers, and those silly yet useful (at least for wiping the glossed endcaps) gloves might not do anything for sonics, but speak volumes about the pride and confidence Swan, Hi-Vi, and The Audio Insider take in their product. Likewise, those polished endcaps, slabs of Rosewood, and general heft and build quality of my little standmount 2.1's might not be assurance of good sound, but they're reassuring. At least our wives/girlfriends/significant others don't have too much to complain about, no big black boxes cluttering up their homes.
Audio/HT is all about sound, however. I decided to audition my 2.1's w/ a variety of "value-driven" amplification and sources, ranging from Old entry-level Onkyo and Pioneer Elite receivers to Rotel 1066's and Outlaw, along w/ Pio Elite combi's and Sony DVD changers. Hardware compatibility is beyond the scope here, but suffice it to say that the 2.1's will present well w/ a variety of equipment, and certainly won't "hold back" a "high-end" system.
Finally, my listening impressions. People don't usually begin a review w/ their final analysis, but I have to; my Swan 2.1's are fantastic speakers, articulate, subtle, and unoffensive, with razor-sharp imaging. Utilizing a variety of music, ranging from Nora Jones ubiquitous SACD, the Dixie Chicks, Joss Stone, Dave Matthews, to Ole' Blue Eyes, Garth Brooks, 50 Cent and Los Lonely Boys, I continually found myself switching focus on the various good qualities of this speaker.
Low end is sufficient for non-sub audio, deep for a standmount, but more importantly tuneful and dexterous. There was no boominess in the speaker whatsoever. Kickdrums whacked w/ a surprising authority and heft. Bass guitars thrummed w/ welcome richness while at the same time voicing each note distinctly. I didn't hear the 2.1's struggling to reach into the deep depths of bass, fattening the overall presentation as some bookshelf speakers do; rather, they simly stayed within their limits and played the bass that they could, and left the rest out.
Male and female vocals were clear and articulate, perhaps a bit airy, with a sense of "cleanliness." The midrange overall is very clean. Here is where I believe processing or power makes a difference. Auditioned on an old (read; dirt cheap and crappy) receiver, vocals were a tiny bit recessed, guitars slightly dry, and not as delineated as I like. The presentation was laid back just a touch. In relation to the rest of the music, the midrange sounded slightly behind the bass and treble.
However, when switched to slightly more powerful unit known for music ability (still dirt cheap), the midrange pushed itself slightly forward, and became both more full and more detailed. Norah sang w/ her touch of sweetness and shyness, Joss belted her rich, honkey soul, and Muddy Waters' grainy voice was just as course as it should be. Guitar plucks were as sharp as the musician's fingers made them. It simply sounded as if the music was as the musicians and mixers had intended them.
Treble reproduction was incredible, again. Neither tipped forward nor recessed, cymbals crashed with sharpness and "quickness," a high hat snapped w/ welcome energy, yet a flute's lingering note brought so much sweetness it was a revelation. The sense of air brought out by 2.1's tweeter is truly impressive. Triangles and bells rang out, appearing to linger throughout the listening room.
Speaking of air, imaging and soundstage from this speaker is PHENOMENAL, perhaps it's defining characteristic. I could precisely place when a singer was standing slightly off to her left, and beyond the speaker itself. A bass guitarist was clearly set off to the left and in front of the drummer's kick. The soundstage extended far beyond the physical boundaries of the speakers. Stage depth was as deep as the Fillmore at a live Dave concert, yet as intimate as the room where Patty Griffin recorded "Time Will Do The Talking."
Trying to categorize the 2.1's w/ an overall sound type such as "forward, laid back, bright, smooth, etc." was difficult. Jon Lane says it best when he describes his product as one that imparts little sound to music by itself. It simply reproduces sound in the way it's intended to sound. If it sounds as if I love my Swans, I do. I'm by no means an audiophile, but I have owned and heard many different speakers, from the Rockets the Axioms, to various B&W's, Missions, and Paradigms. Each have their strenths, and many are very good values. I believe, however, my 2.1's are a top value in their class.
No speaker can please everyone. These Swans, as good as they are, might not appeal to everyone. Other manufacturers, such as those mentioned above, make fantastic speakers as well. However, my Swan 2.1's have consistently made me go through my music collection again, not to critique the speakers, but to enjoy songs I'd thought I'd tired of. I can't give them any higher praise than that.
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