Coincident Speaker Technology Super Conquest Series II Supreme.
Manufacturer: Coincident Speaker Technology, 51 Miriam Cr., Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 2P8; 905/886-6728, -2627 (fax)
Price: $2,499/pair (black), $2,599 (cherry)
Source: Manufacturer loan
Reviewer: Tom Lyle
About a year ago I had the opportunity to audition Coincident Speaker Technology's now-discontinued Super Conquest (non-Series II, non-Supreme) for a rather long period in my home. Judged on its own I guess it would be thought of as a capable transducer, but when compared to others within its price range it fell short. There are reviews of some other CST speakers that rave about their soundstaging abilities, but I did not find that to be the true, at least not in my listening room. I also thought the speaker severely lacking in some important areas, including bass energy, especially given its size and claimed frequency response. Its mids and treble were OK, but I didn't think it worthy of the praise other CST speakers have received in other publications (including T$S). Its price of about $2,500 seemed excessive.
I'm pleased to announce, then, that the Super Conquest Series II Supreme has none of the shortcomings of its predecessor. It is a superb speaker.
In their literature, the folks at CST claim that the most significant improvement of the new Supreme (this shorter name I will use for the sake of brevity) over the Super Conquest is that they have replaced the polypropylene woofer of the older model with an anodized aluminum cone driver. Also, there are changes in the woofer position, the cabinet construction, and the tweeter. It seems odd that CST chose to continue to call the new speaker a "Super Conquest," because it appears to be a totally different design. It also sounds like a totally different design.
The enclosure of the Supreme uses what CST calls "spline joint construction," a type of tongue and groove technique that creates a very tight and rigid enclosure. The midrange driver is housed in its own sub-enclosure, which isolates it from the air turbulence generated by the woofer. The front baffle is also more steeply beveled than the old Conquest to further reduce diffraction effects.
The greatest change in its appearance is the positioning of the woofer. Rather than having a 10" woofer mounted on the front of the cabinet, the Supreme has mirror-imaged side-firing woofers. This allows for a narrower front baffle, as well as many sonic advantages that are claimed by CST -- among them greater flexibility in positioning and decreased interference between the bass and mid frequencies.
The Supreme also uses a new titanium dome tweeter that was chosen for its flat response and a very high frequency resonance point that is claimed to be inaudible. CST says that this particular tweeter was selected because of the benefits of a metal tweeter, which is usually very precise and detailed, but does not have a metallic, bright sound as the case with some of the other metal-domed models.
The cabinet of my sample was finished in black lacquer. The whitish-silver metallic color of its side-firing woofer on the side of the cabinet that is not covered by grille cloth, combined with its rather small footprint (it measures 38"H x 12.5"D x 10"W) gave this three-way a unique appearance. Despite this, it was still a very attractive speaker.
CST says that in the future the cherry veneer finish will become standard when the current stock of black is depleted. I'm sure it looks very good in the cherry finish, but truth be told, I often prefer speakers finished in black. They seem to fit a bit more with the decor of my listening room (which is also called our living room).
Setting up the Supremes was rather simple, but some may run into problems with connecting the speaker cable. The binding posts are not spaced for dual banana plugs; thus it may make connection a little difficult for those who have their speaker cables terminated in this manner. Plus, the models I auditioned were not equipped for bi-wiring. I use adapters to convert my spade terminals to bananas, so it wasn't the end of the world. Yet it took a while to get my bi-wired speaker cable hooked up because I had to fit two spades on each lug. The life of an equipment reviewer is tough, isn't it?
After some experimenting, the Supremes were positioned about 2.5 feet from the rear wall, and slightly toed in. I thought they looked as if they might be a little to close to the wall, but my ears told me otherwise, and the owner's manual said that this distance would be appropriate. My room is relatively small at 14' x 18', so a distance of closer to three feet away would probably be more appropriate for larger rooms. I sat a little farther away from the speakers than the distance they were spread apart, and this was also in accordance with the instructions from the rather detailed, well-written manual. The slight toe-in helped focus the soundstage and decreased interference with room boundaries. Wall reflections are usually not a problem in my listening room because of the relatively close distance between my listening position and the speakers, and the irregular placement of objects either on or stacked against the walls. Plus, there is other furniture in the room besides my listening seat, and I am careful that they don't affect the sound of my system in any way other than benignly or beneficially. I'm very conscious of how speaker placement and the room affect the sound of a pair of speakers, and set them up as carefully as I could, experimenting until I could find the best arrangement.
Because the speakers are mirror images of each other, CST suggests trying them with the woofers facing toward the center of the two speakers, or toward the outside of the two speakers. I found that the bass (and the sound overall) was much better with the woofers facing each other. My equipment rack is located not that far from the left speaker, and having the woofer directed toward my equipment was very detrimental.
My system has remained virtually unchanged since my last equipment review. Front end analog was played on a modified Oracle Delphi turntable with a Benz-Micro HO Glider cartridge mounted on a Triplaner VI tonearm, and digital was spun on a Meridian 200/263 combination. The preamplifier is a conrad-johnson PV-12a, and the power amp a Krell KAV-250a. My reference speakers are Legacy Classics.
I started my audition of these speakers not intending to perform any serious listening, but by breaking them in by playing music, and doing other things or leaving the house while I was performing the task. But curiosity got the best of me, and I found myself planted in the sweet spot, playing some of my favorite music. These speakers surprised me, to say the least. I thought that if they could sound this good before they were broken in, imagine how good they'll sound in a week's time? After about 100 hours of use, I started taking notes -- and those notes started, "Soundstage, soundstage, soundstage!"
These speakers had imaging and instrument layering more like mini-monitors than floorstanding speakers. Whether this was due to the midrange driver and the tweeter positioned in a separate plane from the side-firing woofer, due to the shape of the cabinet, or a combination of both is debatable -- but the sonic results were not. Just before I set up the Supremes I acquired a copy of the recently released RCA compilation of Sir Colin Davis performing short works by Sibelius. Every piece, especially the very engaging Night Ride and Sunrise, acted as sonic showpieces for these speakers. The orchestra spread itself out between the two cabinets, and the images of either groups of instruments or individuals taking solos were easily identifiable in this complex, multi-layered soundstage.
This soundstage was better than the Legacies. There is no question that the Legacies are fine speakers, and remain the benchmark for speakers in the $2,500 price range. However, their soundstage cannot compete with the prowess exhibited by most mini-monitors, nor can they complete with the soundstage produced by the Supremes. This soundstage was the Supremes' greatest strength, and combined with other qualities I will go into made them very admirable speakers.
As I was playing an early '60s Decca LP that includes Stravinsky's Danses Concertantes as conducted by a much younger Colin Davis, I wrote in my notes that this recording sounded "perfect." Why? Well, I don't think I could properly describe in words the feeling on gets when sonically transported back to the original event, especially when it was almost 35 years ago. And since I would like to avoid excessive purple prose, I'll just state that this chamber piece was an excellent means from which to show off the Supremes' attributes. It was very easy to get lost in the music when coming from speakers with a tonal accuracy that made each instrument sound so transparent, together with such a marvelous soundstage.
Two albums that I've been listening to regularly are PJ Harvey's Is This Desire? and Bjork's Homogeneous. These are two very different rock albums, but both led by female vocalists. These two discs sounded fantastic through the Supremes, even though Ms. Harvey leads a more conventional rock band and Bjork fronts more of a pop electronica ensemble (but with a string section, no less!). Homogeneous is full of electronic bleeps and purrs, and these ultra-high frequency sounds stood out where they intended to, but otherwise joined the mix without the rest of the instruments obscuring them. The weird electronic effects became part of the huge soundstage that surrounded Bjork's voice. The Supremes' tweeters were first-rate, and although these effects were far from natural the tweeter's high quality was very evident, and the album was as engaging as ever.
The PJ Harvey album is a more traditional rock record. On this album, the Supremes demonstrated that they are truly full-range speakers. Their bass sounded as though it went down to the specified 26 Hz, which is pretty darn good for a speaker this size. Even though the bass was emanating from the sides of the cabinet, it was well integrated into the rest of the sound.
One may ask if their bass was as good as the Legacy Classics. No, it wasn't. The Classics have two 10" woofers compared to the Supremes' one, and that alone would make at least the amount of bass appear, at least on paper, to be superior -- and in practice it was. The Classics' bass went deeper, and moved more air to obtain a more convincing sound. Nevertheless I was certainly pleased with the bass of the Supremes as in respect to the rest of their sound, and even though I would have liked a little more quantity, it's their quality that impressed me. It was tight, tuneful, and pitch-specific. Plus, there was hardly any of the irksome mid-bass hump that some companies use to artificially inflate the sound of the low frequencies, especially on speakers this size.
The all-important midrange, which I've left to last, was excellent. But it was least noticeable as a quality only because it was part of the marvelous soundstage that I spoke of earlier. One may be initially impressed with a speaker's imaging and if there are a lot of high frequency sounds coming out all over the place. But in reality, live music doesn't sound like that. The midrange must have a natural sound, and the images of the instruments that have this natural midrange should be realistically placed within the field. Of course this will depend on the recording, and the Supremes midrange on the instruments on well-recorded material was excellent. The perfectly centered vocals on the PJ Harvey record sounded great, and even though there was a very slight lower treble emphasis that made some of the "s" sounds stick out, they still sounded markedly transparent.
In short, these speakers surpassed my expectations. If I didn't have such a tolerant spouse and had to use more modestly-sized speakers in my system, I could easily live with the Supremes. But one of the reasons I want large speakers is because of the varied musical material I listen to. I might be listening to a string quartet one moment, but them I'm very likely to put on some large, complex orchestral piece, heavy rock 'n' roll, or electronic music. Don't get me wrong, the Supremes were able to handle nearly all of this difficult music -- but within limits. I couldn't turn up the volume to the extent that I'd like to on much of the material. Their sound got a little confused.
My taste in music (or lack thereof) tends to push the limits of most speakers. I don't want to give the impression that these speakers couldn't handle a recording of, for example, a full orchestra pounding out the scherzo of a Mahler symphony. They could. But larger speakers with more driver surface area such as the Legacy Classics are better at this. Plus, I don't want to give the impression that I play this music at earbleeding levels -- because I don't. I was just able to turn up the volume on the Legacies more, and create a more realistic "wall-of-sound" that the Supremes can't match. But I may be overemphasizing this point. The Supremes were excellent for their size, but were just a little small for my taste (or again, lack thereof).
One may be wondering how the NHT 2.9s I reviewed in Issue 75 would compare to the CST Supremes. These also had a 10" side-firing woofer, and also had many likeable qualities. Without a direct comparison, this might be unfair. But some of their differences were immediately apparent even without both in the room. Even though the 2.9s could play louder, the Supremes had three important advantages over the NHTs -- their soundstage, treble, and bass. The Supremes' soundstage is one of the best I've heard from a dynamic speaker of this size and price range. The treble is more transparent and better integrated into the sound of the rest of the speaker, and the Supremes' bass, although the NHTs' bass was a bit more powerful, was of higher quality. On top of all that, the Supremes' footprint was far less obtrusive than the oddly shaped narrow and deep NHTs.
I would not hesitate in recommending the CST Super Conquest Series II Supremes to one who is looking for a speaker within, or even a little beyond his or her price range. At least give them a listen if there is a CST dealer near you. You will most likely be glad you did. -- TL
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|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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