Silverline Audio Prelude Plus Loudspeakers
Back in 2007, I reviewed an improved version of the Silverline Audio Prelude speakers, which impressed me to the point that they became my Reference loudspeakers. The upgraded version had an improved crossover for smoother treble response than the original model that I’d reviewed previously.
Both the original and the improved versions use two aluminum-magnesium mid-woofers and aluminum-magnesium metal-dome tweeters. By contrast, the latest Prelude Plus, although their dimensions are alike, are really different animals.
The drivers are the same as those found in the Minuet Supreme speakers but instead of one 3.5” mid-woofer per speaker there are four, and unlike the original Prelude models, not only are there double the number of long-throw mid-woofers (the “Plus”) but instead of staying with the aluminum-magnesium metal cones, the Prelude Plus uses treated paper-cone drivers. Likewise, instead of the original metal-dome tweeter, the Prelude Plus uses a high-quality silk dome tweeter with a chamber for ferro-fluid cooling. This translates to a speaker with low distortion, fast transient response, and the ability to hit 118dB power peaks. Add to that the efficiency is now boosted to 92dB/watt, while presenting a benign 8-Ohm load to the amplifier. This makes the Prelude Plus an ideal candidate for either solid-state or tube amplification. Recommended power is specified as 12 to 300 watts. Nice!
The Prelude Plus is a two-way, rear ported design that may be bi-amped or bi-wired using the dual pairs of heavy-duty gold-plated binding posts set near the bottom of the rear panel. Instead of the original painted MFD bases, the Plus uses two aluminum outrigger-style supports per speaker and includes leveling cones that can be screwed into those for a firm mounting to the floor. Since the cabinet itself is only 5-inches wide, the outriggers provide the needed extra stability.
Alan Yun is proud to note that all the cabinet panels of the Prelude Plus are finished in real Rosewood veneer. Also, the speakers come with removable black cloth grills that go from the top front of the speaker to just below the lowest mid-woofer on the front baffle. A silver “Silverline” emblem is mounted on the rosewood just below the grill and lends an air of elegance to the speakers. About 18-inches of rosewood shows on the front baffles below the grills. This makes for a nice looking and aesthetically pleasing package. My wife liked their look right away and she’s been known to be quite picky about such things. Another plus is that the Prelude Plus has a small footprint and can blend into almost any décor. Because of their narrow front baffles they are not nearly as imposing in the room as most other floorstanders.
The first time I fired up the Prelude Plus speakers I used my modified 60watt/channel Tripath amplifier, which was built in a gutted Marantz chassis with extra power supply filter capacitors. My source was the laughable arrangement of my trusty Lenovo T-60 laptop feeding the Tripath amp from its earphone output via a cheap stereo RCA adapter. While this may seem stupid to some it is not as stupid as one might believe since headphone amps normally have very low output impedance. And my main objective was to put more break-in hours on the speakers. I set the speakers about 6.5’ apart with minimal toe-in and that worked well in the 12’ wide section of my listening room.
Listening to my first few songs I was quite taken with the vocal, midrange, and high frequency performance. The midrange has a rightness to it that is unmistakable, and the treble was quite extended and natural sounding. What was truly amazing was that the 2 Cello’s cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” ripped to my hard drive from their self-titled CD (Sony/Masterworks 88697 91011-2) sounded more pleasing and correct than it had on any other speakers I have played it on. The sound of the cellos rang true and the high frequencies were less, well, irritating. Certainly this bore further investigation.
All in all, my first session using the make-shift associated components I mentioned was quite enjoyable and satisfying. This is because the Prelude Plus is not at all harsh—but it is exceedingly musical, detailed, and dimensional. I was struck in particular by how natural and focused both male and female voices were presented, virtually bereft of all haze and/or bloat. This was uncommonly fine reproduction.
A few sessions later when I had more hours on the speakers I swapped in the Benchmark DAC2-HGC processor via USB cable and it was on! The reproduction of vocals and instruments took on a greater solidity and presence while maintaining that great musicality and freedom from harshness that first drew me in. Yes!
Vocal performances were now incredible. Chris Isaak’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” from Best of Chris Isaak (Wicked Game/Reprise 49981-2) was so well rendered that I believe Roy himself would’ve been blown away by Isaak’s talented performance. And my favorite female vocal, “So Nice,” performed by Jim Tomlinson and Stacey Kent (Best Audiophile Voices Vol. 1) was not merely “So Nice,” it was more like “So Awesome”! This is a truly excellent recording, in that it is quite holographic, super-engaging, and it has great “SAX” in the middle. The Prelude Plus allowed the song to shine in all its’ mesmerizing splendor.
On Jack Johnson’s CD On and On (Universal 440007 50122) Johnson’s vocal performance on “Taylor” is amply full-bodied and the quick snap to the guitar licks is very clean, clear, and musical without being overdone. Those licks can go a bit over-the-top on some systems but the Prelude Plus speakers handled them like only true virtuoso’s can. Add in the ethereal envelop of high frequency energy produced by the cymbals (near the end) and the crisp percussion and bass, and you wind up with one delectable gourmet feast for the ears.
The Prelude Plus appears to have very low levels of distortion and I believe this is the result of using multiple high-quality drivers of very low distortion. Every sound is clean, clear, and musical, and is precisely placed in its own unique location within the immense soundscape. Subtle nuances and faint details are effortlessly retrieved by the Prelude Plus and their octave-to-octave coherency is spot on, which in my view places them among today’s better loudspeakers, many at up to 5 times their price. Indeed, the Prelude Plus’s possess the kind of harmonic rightness that is sought after and cherished by the most demanding audiophiles. Selling for only $1,999 USD per pair, the most noticeable thing they lack is the inflated audiophile price tag.
The simple fact is that as far as midrange and high frequency reproduction goes I would consider the Prelude Plus much closer to State-of-the-Art than they have any right to be. As far as their bass performance goes, which is specified at -3dB at 35Hz, I must commend Alan Yun on the choice he made with this design.
Normally 3.5-inch drivers are thought of more as midrange drivers than woofers, but by using multiples of these smaller long-throw drivers, Alan Yun found he could obtain very good bass extension and articulation in the Prelude Plus, which uses a tuned rear-firing port to further reinforce the lower bass frequencies.
I observed the bass performance of the Prelude Plus to be quite taut and articulate. Drum kits, bass guitar and double-bases are more tactile and have better focus than they do on many other speakers. Thus the instruments are easier to recognize and bass lines are firm and easy to follow. The Prelude Plus does not possess the kind of authority and impact of more bass-heavy speakers like my Legacy Focus SE’s, but their bass is very satisfying to be sure.
In small and medium size rooms my preference would be to use the Prelude Plus without a subwoofer. But if you are a true bass freak (and you know who you are) there can never be too much bass, so you could always add a sub or two when you need the walls to rattle and shake. But when I play a bass-heavy CD like Mose Allison’s The Way of the World (Anti-87059-2), and particularly a track like “I’m Alright,” I am reminded of just how well the Prelude Plus reproduces the snap and runs on the double-bass, letting the palpable bass drum punctuate the interplay between the sax, piano, and Allison’s vocal. These slender Siren’s do a great job of making the band sound believable.
Toward the end of this review I installed the Prelude Plus in my Small Room Reference System next to the WaveTouch Grand Teton SE’s that recently received a rave review from me. And despite the fact that the Grand Teton SE’s cost $3,500 ($1,500 more than the Silverlines), I have to say it is a really close call between the two. Unfortunately, at this juncture, I can’t give a definitive answer as to which loudspeaker sounds best because although the room was the same, the associated amplifiers were not. If anything, the AMT tweeter in the Grand Teton SE may sound a little more refined, but that being said, using the Onix SP3-Mk-II tube amp on the Prelude Plus versus the modified Dignity 300B mono amps on the Grand Teton SE’s could account for the slight difference in treble character. I believe I’ll need to keep them both… Yeah, that’s the ticket!
One thing I noticed is that the cone feet that screw into the outriggers have a rather short threaded section meaning that you’re probably not going to get a lot more than 3/16” of adjustment in a given plane. I don’t think this is a big deal and if you need more adjustment on one side you could always use some sort of disk to set the point into and raise it a tad more.
Other than that about the only thing I could wish for is more weighty bass. As I mentioned, the Prelude Plus delivers very natural and articulate bass to below 40Hz, but since I had the Legacy Focus SE’s set up on the opposite end of the same room, and they deliver waves of bone-crushing bass, I can see where some audiophiles may want to add a subwoofer to attain greater bass slam in large rooms. Yet when I’m playing only the Silverlines and not comparing them directly to the Focus SE’s with their multiple 12-inch woofers, I find I can be quite content with the bass of the Prelude Plus—since their articulation and focus is certainly above average. Their bass performance is quite similar to that of the WaveTouch Grand Teton SE’s in my small room (FWIW).
To be honest I couldn’t be happier with Silveline’s evolutionary upgrade to the Prelude Plus. I can’t think of any other speakers at under $2,000/pair USD that are as detailed and nuanced as these while still being exceedingly musical and making the majority of my recordings sound their best. Add to that convincing micro and macro dynamic contrasts and an expansive holographic soundstage and you have a truly excellent pair of loudspeakers that can compete with other manufacturer’s models selling for up to $10,000. And I have a few local friends with highly rated speakers in that price range including my own Legacy Focus SE’s, so I feel fully qualified to make that statement.
When you can have this level of sound quality in a svelte, eye-catching 42”x5”x10” package wrapped in real rosewood veneer for only $1,999—the pair, exactly where do you think you’ll find something else that can hang with that? Then ask yourself if the “something else” will also sound great with both low-power tube amplifiers and powerful solid-state models?
P.O. Box 30574
Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Phone: +1 (925) 825-3682
Silverline Audio Prelude Plus Loudspeakers
Design: bass reflex, rear-ported 2-way
Frequency Response: +/- 3dB 35Hz - 28,000Hz
Max. Transient Output: 118 dB
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
Crossover Frequency: 12dB/octave @ 3,500 Hz
Recommended Power: 12 -300 watts RMS
Dimension (H x W x D): 42" x 5" x 10"
Shipping Weight: 65 lbs/pair
Speaker Connections: Bi-wire
Price: USD $1,999.-/ pair
Finish: Real Rosewood Veneer