Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature Monitors
|Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature Monitors
Just Plain Nice
T.H.E. Show 2004
I remember stepping into the Tyler Acoustics room at the T.H.E. Show this past January in Las Vegas and being thrilled by the sound of their towering flagship loudspeaker, the Woodmere ($12,000). There was a pleasant young lady present passing out literature and off to the side was Ty Lashbrook, the man behind those wonderful speakers. I only had time to listen to a couple of tunes before having to get to another appointment, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to the man in person. But I was so taken by the beauty of his work; both aesthetically and sonically, that I made a point of contacting him once I was back home.
A couple of months later I finally talked to Ty and found him to be as engaging and unpretentious as his speaker designs. During our conversation I found it refreshing to hear him talk about the aspect of speaker building that was nearest to his heart. “I love to build the cabinets,” Ty said in his slight southern drawl. He keeps the crossovers simple and uses only the best quality parts. These speakers feature Hovland capacitors and Alpha Core inductors in the critical signal path of the crossover and Seas drivers to achieve the best possible resolution. Ty believes that the real work is in building the cabinets and the look and feel of the ones he makes is first rate. Most speaker designers I’ve talked to usually like to go on at nauseam about special crossover topologies or drivers secretly designed by German physicists. But not Ty Lashbrook. This is a simple man who is passionate about what he feels is the most important aspect of speaker design. Another advantage of his cabinet-making wizardry is that he also makes the stands that match the footprint of monitors such as the Linbrook Signatures, which he was kind enough to send me for this review.
The Linbrook Look
After weeks of anticipation the speakers finally arrived. They were shipped in four easy to manage and well packed boxes; two boxes for the speakers and two for the stands. The Linbrook Signature Monitor is a fairly straightforward design. It’s a 10” x 15” x 22” box that is slightly rounded along the edges of the front baffle. The Italian Carpethium Elm Burl veneers on the pair I received were called everything from slick to dreadful by my friends and fellow audiophiles. My girlfriend diplomatically described them as “not matching any of the furniture.” But don’t let this be an issue because you can choose from many other gorgeous looking veneers from the Oakwood Veneer Company who supplies Tyler with high-quality veneers. The front of the cabinet has two 7” Seas magnesium woofers and the popular Seas Millennium tweeter. The drivers are arranged in the D’Apollito configuration with the tweeter centered on the cabinet and a woofer above and below it. The rear of the speakers has two sets of gold-plated five-way binding posts for bi-wiring and a port. The very attractive stands are 24” high and have brass coves on the bottom to help couple the speaker to the floor. There are rubber feet on top of the stand that the speaker then sits on. There is also a chamber in the stand for mass loading to increase overall rigidity.
Set up was a breeze. I placed the speakers about 4’ out from the rear wall, spaced them about 8’ apart, and gave them about a five degree angle of toe-in. That was it. They were ready to rock and roll.
The Linbrook Sound
Out of the box, the Linbrooks sounded a bit rolled-off on top and they lacked stage depth. These of course are fairly common traits for freshly built speakers, which these were. I let them burn in for a couple of weeks before I started doing any serious listening. Actually, I often listen to a lot of AM talk radio while burning in speakers and have found that even Rush Limbaugh’s voice sounds kind of mellifluous on speakers that lack a little upper frequency extension. Of course, once they started to break in and sound a little more true to life, I could no longer tolerate Limbaugh’s voice: that and the fact that he’s a pompous blowhard.
But a voice that the Tylers certainly did allow me to enjoy was that of Jill Scott on her jam-packed debut CD Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 [Hidden Beach EK 62137]. Her seductive neo-soul vocal stylings are entrancing, and this recording plays to the Linbrook’s strengths: deep bass, a wide soundstage, and speed. Track 11, “Love Rain” is a tune that I had only listened too in my car while I was enduring the 1 ½ hour drive to and from work everyday. But when I finally got a chance to hear it coming through the speakers I was floored by the holographic quality of Ms. Scott’s sensuous yet powerful voice. Baby girl can boom as well as put you in the mood for romance. Though for all the good things the Linbrooks were doing, I was still longing for a little more extension in the treble.
I talked to Stereo Times jazz critic Craig “Craigy G” Fitzpatrick who had come by to hear the Linbrooks and asked him what he thought of their sound and his response was quite telling. “They sound nice for now, but …” he said as though trying to choose his words carefully. “But what?” I asked. “Well, that Millennium tweeter is one of my favorite drivers and the one thing I know about is that it takes a long time to break in.” “Well it’s been about three weeks!” I said. “See me again in about three more,” he said calmly. He was right.
After about three more weeks of break-in via CDs, radio broadcasts, movies, and even my nephew Joshua playing Halo on his Xbox, the speakers were ready for another extensive listening session. But I didn’t want to bias my opinion by inviting Craig back over, so I did this next listening sessions by myself. The first disc I threw on was an awesome sampler of Naim recording artists whose recordings had all been engineered by Ken Christianson of Pro Musica, Chicago, called True Stereo [Naim].
True Stereo is just that: two-channel, unprocessed analog recordings. I couldn’t think of a better disc to use the get the true measure of how far these speakers had come. The second track is called “Goin’ Back To Joe’s” by pianist Laurence Hobgood. It features the unique vocals of Kurt Elling and immediately establishes the Linbrook’s ability to accurately reproduce a wide vocal range. These speakers were now imaging like gangbusters. Elling and Hobgood are rendered in believable spaces in relation to each other and the treble is now satisfyingly extended. The fourth track, “Poetspeak” by another pianist, Fred Simon, has a wealth of detail that is easily fleshed out against the deep black background of the soundstage. The Linbrook truly does require extensive break-in but your patience will be rewarded. I even played the Jill Scott disc again to confirm the speaker’s improved sonics.
The next disc was the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra playing Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain [Mobile Fidelity]. This disc showed the Linbrook’s ability to play loud and big. The staging gets a bit “dodgy” (as my British friends say) as you push the volume level upwards, and there’s a slight loss of focus, but the bass remains fairly tight and doesn’t get bloated. Bear in mind that I am comparing this speaker to my nearly twice as expensive reference Talon Audio Peregrine X. The Tylers more than held there own against the Talons though the Talons were more musical at louder volumes … but not by much.
The Linbrook Conclusion
There is a lot of competition in the $2500 – $5000 price range. Particularly from the shockingly good Mobile Fidelity OML-2 ($2200), the Escalante Design Pinyon ($4400), and the Hyperion HPS-938 ($4000). I could be very happy with any of them for a long time. My time with the Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature Monitors was a joy. After I allowed them to truly break in and got over Ty Lashbrooks wonderful cabinet making, this speaker made it easy for me to settle in and enjoy music. What was really interesting was the degree to which this speaker adapted itself to the distinctive characteristics of both tube and solid-state equipment. It’s ability to resolve the nuances in systems and music made me want to listen to a wide variety of music and try different amplifier combinations. Whatever your tastes in music (or amplification for that matter), you’ll find this speaker will seduce you into many nights of long and happy listening.
Frequency response: 35-25k
Power handling: 25 watts minimum, 200 watts maximum
Impedance: 8-Ohm nominal
connections: single or bi-wire/amp
Size: 10″w x 15″d x 22″h
Weight: 55 lbs. each
Price: $3,250/ pair (Factory Direct)
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