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Silverline Audio Prelude Loudspeakers
Slender Towers with Serious Clout!

 

May 2006





My first experience with the Silverline Audio Preludes took place when I happened upon Room AP1910 in Alexis Park at this year’s CES. There it was my pleasure to meet Mr. Alan Yun, Silverline’s talented designer, who was demonstrating their new lineup. Mr. Yun was playing some music that portrayed a particularly vivid sounding cello and it caught my attention.

Next, Mr. Yun put on some very dynamic percussion that sounded very lively, dynamic and clean—at a relatively high volume level. I saw that he was using a pair of Pass Labs 600-watt monoblocks for amplification and asked which speakers were playing. To my considerable surprise, he pointed to a pair of slim towers, which he confided were Silverline’s new entry-level speakers, the Preludes. Grinning, I queried, “Okay, where’s the subwoofer hiding?” Mr. Yun politely assured me that there wasn’t any subwoofer in the system, and that’s when it hit me! How could Silverline coax such potent and controlled bass out of such a small speaker? Heck, they were well out into the room, not getting that much benefit from room-boundary reinforcement.

I was further impressed when Mr. Yun took out a tape measure and showed me that the Prelude’s two woofers measured no more than 3.5 inches across. “What is their efficiency?” I asked. “91dB,” Mr. Yun replied. “Impossible!” I thought. Not only were the Preludes capable of delivering fairly deep and controlled bass (rated down to 35Hz), but they were also efficient enough to use with even low-powered tube amplifiers. To me, this seemed to defy the laws of Physics. Normally, you’d expect to see much larger woofers in a speaker that can delve so deep with articulation and control. I knew I’d have to request a pair of these impressive new speakers for review. I had to get to the bottom of this enigma.

Description and features
The Silverline Prelude is a slender, two-way, floor-standing tower speaker measuring 40”H x 5”W x 8”D and weighing 30 pounds each. The rear-ported bass reflex design contains two 3.5” magnesium alloy mid/woofers, and a 1” aluminum/magnesium alloy dome tweeter in the mid-tweeter-mid (MTM) configuration. Frequency response is given as 35Hz to 28kHz and the sensitivity is 91dB/W. Nominal impedance is 8 ohms and recommended amplifier power is 10 to 300 watts, indicating a rather efficient and robust design. Located on the lower rear panel are two pairs of heavy-duty gold-plated binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amping.

Available finishes are light Cherry or dark Rosewood. It’s a durable vinyl finish as opposed to real wood veneer, obviously intended to hit their $1200/pr price point. My pair arrived in Rosewood, which is very dark and looks almost black if the room is not brightly lit. I’ve seen both finishes up close, and even though they are not real wood they look quite nice. Both carpet spikes and rubber nubs are supplied with the bases, so whatever type of flooring you have, Silverline provides an effective speaker-to-floor interface. There are even small protective discs that come with the spikes if you prefer to use the spikes on hardwood or ceramic tile.

Initial set-up and first impressions
Mr. Yun told me that the Preludes perform very well in rooms from 100 to over 400 square feet in area. I installed them in my smaller 12’ x 14’ listening room about 28 inches from the side walls and with the front baffles about 46 inches from the rear wall, with a moderate degree of toe-in. The listening position was approximately 80 inches from the front lateral plane of the speakers, and close to the vertical tweeter axis. This configuration resulted in expansive and precise imaging with solid center fill and very good tonal balance.

My initial listening was done with an all solid-state electronics chain. While the solid-state gear provided excellent detail, soundstaging, and articulation, it seemed that the lower treble was a bit more prominent than I prefer. With a couple of days of break in, the lower treble did calm down a bit, but I elected to run the signal through a TAD-150 Signature tube line stage to see if that would yield an even more pleasing result. It did.

The skinny
It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to like these speakers. For one thing, they delivered the most balanced and articulate bass I have so far experienced in this particular listening room. With the NuForce Reference 8 amplifiers supplying the power, the bass was exceedingly clean, articulate, punchy, and deeper than I would have thought possible. With my previous Audio Physic Virgo II speakers, I could never get the right bass balance. The Virgo’s bass sounded very good with some recordings, but too overblown or uneven with others. My more recent Newform Research Module 30s delivered tight and articulate bass, but were noticeably rolled off and had to be augmented with a subwoofer, which provided the extension, but not the coherency and articulation that the Preludes delivered with ease.

Listening to Bela Fleck’s “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo,” I was amazed at how adroitly the Preludes portrayed the lowest bass passage of that well-known tune. They just grabbed that bass line and dug in. Perhaps more impressively, was the Prelude’s ability to recreate the sound of Jeff “Tain” Watts’ drum kit on “Makin’ Whoopee”, from Branford Marsalis’ Trio Jeepy [Columbia CK 44199]. Every sound from the delicate brushes on the cymbals to the rapping of the snare to the palpability of the potent kick drum is reproduced with Tain’s special seasoning of dynamics, tonality, and attitude. It really sounded like old Tain was right in the room with me—in the right rear corner, actually. The dynamic contrasts were so poignant and lifelike. I was VERY impressed!

At this juncture, I have had the opportunity to use the Preludes with a variety of preamps, DACs, amplifiers, and cables. I can tell you that every swap I made resulted in distinct changes in the character of the sound, ranging from mild to very noticeable.

I have used both tube and solid-state electronics and found that a combination of the two worked extremely well in most cases. My opinion, after much time and experimentation, is that the Preludes benefit from having at least one piece of tube gear in the signal path. Indeed, I achieved great sound using the 8-watt, Dignity Audio DA08SE 300B monoblock amps with a solid-state ART DIO converter into a Parasound P/LD-2000 preamp. I also found fantastic sound by using my Parasound CD/B-2000 belt-drive transport into a Monarchy Audio M24 tube DAC, which fed my NuForce Reference 8 amplifiers directly. The Dignity 300B amps sounded a bit more lush and musical than the NuForce, but the NuForce could play much louder, with iron-fisted bass control and wider dynamic range (by virtue of their higher power).

I briefly tried a pair of Manley Mahi tube amps in their triode configuration with minimal feedback. With only 20 watts/channel they could play the Preludes quite loudly in my smallish room, but the bass seemed somewhat overblown. Both the Dignity 300B amps and the NuForce Reference 8s managed to provide better-balanced sound. Of course the results could vary depending on one’s particular room acoustics and personal taste.

Listening to the Preludes through the Dignity Audio 300B amps (on Trio Jeepy) gave Branford Marsalis’ bass sax an immediate and holographic sound that was all but hypnotic. You could hear the full body of the instrument, the valves opening and closing, and the high frequency sibilance of the reed. The double bass was extremely well rendered too. Hinton’s plucking of the strings was naturally snappy, and the individual bass notes were well defined in pitch and tone, and were very easy to follow.

Switching to the Monarchy M24 tube DAC direct into the NuForce Reference 8 amps made Ray Charles and Natalie Cole sound absolutely live on their duet, “Fever,” from Ray’s Genius Loves Company CD [Concord/Hear CCD-2248-2]. Again, the drums sounded like they were in the room with me while the vocal duet was extremely dynamic and convincing.

My personal feeling after much testing and listening is that the Preludes are extremely competent speakers that will not be easily embarrassed or outperformed, period.

To prove that point, let me tell you that I was almost shocked at how closely their performance resembled that of my Stax 4040 Signature headphone system. With the Monarchy M24 DAC feeding the Stax 006t tube amp/energizer, the sound of the Stax system is in some ways the absolute best that I’ve ever encountered. It bears the unique ability to pull you into the listening experience by providing sound that is so detailed, involving, and outright beautiful, that you just have to keep listening. If you love music as I do, then you simply have no choice in the matter. It’s that seductive.

The Preludes do not quite possess the utter beauty of the Stax presentation, or the Stax’s ability to retrieve ultimate detail. Indeed, with the Stax phones you can hear the exact point in time where a note starts and stops, you can follow instruments and backing vocalists more clearly than with any speakers, and they have a certain coherency that is inescapable.

That said, in many ways the Preludes were close to the performance of the Stax. On “Killer,” from Seal’s Acoustic Album, Best: 1991-2004 [Warner Bros. B00063F8BW] the reproduction of the xylophone, piano, and guitar were all but indistinguishable from that of the Stax. And I have to admit that Seal’s emotional vocals were right on the money, with the Stax perhaps sounding just a touch smoother. The decay of the echo around Seal’s voice was readily captured. And the unique high-frequency percussive instruments were so distinct and clear that it was difficult to pick the winner between the Preludes and the Stax. If pressed I’d say that the highs on the Stax, though equally detailed and clear, were just a touch softer and more delicate.

In the areas of bass and dynamics, the Preludes actually exceeded the performance of the Stax. The Prelude’s bass seemed to extend a little deeper and was more precisely controlled. Perhaps the superior bass control of the NuForce amps made the difference, but nonetheless, I was most impressed.

Having used the Preludes with a couple of very good tube amplifiers I can tell you that with tubes their sweetness and seductiveness increases, while their bass control is a bit diminished. Therefore one must consider that the sound of the respective amplifiers also factors into the above comparison.

Caveats
Obviously, the Preludes are somewhat limited in terms of their ultimate low bass extension. Bass aficionados who want to literally shake their home’s foundation may elect to add a subwoofer or two. However, extending into the mid-30 Hz’s, as they do, the Preludes definitely had sufficient bass for my taste in my room. Furthermore, the quality of the Prelude’s bass is so good that I believe many audiophiles will be content to leave better-than-well-enough alone.

When compared to my other speakers the Preludes seem to have a mild, narrow band of emphasis, or brightness, in the upper midrange to lower treble region. This serves to slightly enhance detail, but with the wrong combination of associated gear or wiring, it could be a minor distraction. It could also be a break-in issue since the brightness seems to have lessened over time. The effect was more apparent when using my NuForce Reference 8 amps, which have brighter-sounding internal wiring than the stock version. It is scarcely noticeable with good tube amplification. Generally, however, the Prelude’s high frequency reproduction is very incisive, detailed and clear. And the upper high frequencies are quite smooth and extended to my ears.

Conclusion
My educated view is that the Silverline Preludes are excellent speakers by any yardstick. Among speakers at and around their price range they are exceptional. They perform at a very high level in all the parameters that most audiophiles value. For speakers of their scant dimensions they possess amazing bass response and dynamic capability that seemingly transcend the laws of physics.

Furthermore, the Preludes offer an uncanny level of resolution, perhaps related to their generally smooth frequency response and the unique characteristics of their driver compliment. They never failed to instantly display the slightest differences between the various cables and electronic components I used during my evaluation. The slight prominence I previously mentioned in the upper-midrange/lower treble area is not particularly evident with many recordings and can be effectively negated or minimized by using synergistic components or cables.

The Preludes will work well with competent solid-state amplification and can really sing with good tube gear. Listening to the Preludes, no one would ever suspect that they are Silverline’s entry-level speakers. My hat is off to Alan Yun for what I feel is an outstanding accomplishment.


Frank Alles

                               __________

Specifications
Design (Bass Reflex): 2 way
One 1" aluminum/magnesium alloy dome tweeter
Two 3.5" aluminum/magnesium alloy mid/woofer
Frequency Response: 35 - 28,000 Hz
Sensitivity: 91 dB
Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
Crossover Frequency: 3500 Hz
Recommended Power: 10 -300 watts RMS
Dimension (H x W x D): 40" x 5" x 8"
Shipping Weight: 60 lbs./pair
Speaker Connections: Bi-wire
Price: US$1,200.-/pair

Finishes
Cherry in vinyl
Rosewood in vinyl

Silverline Audio
936 Detroit Ave., Unit C
Concord, CA 94518
Tel: +1 925 825 3682
Fax: +1 925 256 4577
E-mail: sales@silverlineaudio.com
Web: www.silverlineaudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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