- Written by Rick Schmidt
- Published on 23 June 2008
Jaton is a Silicon Valley company making 2- to 5-channel amplifiers as well as speakers. The Lyra HD-661 DX speakers are a two-way design with an additional passive reflex woofer. I tested them with the accompanying stands. The midrange and woofer are 6.5" metal alloy, the 1" silk dome tweeter is in between those two. The unique cabinets are made of plastic, finished with a high gloss lacquer and pinched in the middle to make a slight hourglass shape. The port is on the rear. Connection is via five-way binding posts. They are bi-ampable but I did not try this.
- Design: Two-Way, Reflex, Monitor
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 6.5" Midrange, One 6.5" Passive Bass Radiator
- MFR: 48 Hz - 25 kHz
- Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 88 dB/W/M
- Power Handling: 200 Watts RMS
- Dimensions: 24" H x 9" W x 10" D
- Weight: 44 Pounds/Each
- MSRP: $1,600/Pair USA
My initial visual impression of the Lyra's was their striking design and high gloss. I've had and still have some high gloss piano black speakers. Perhaps it's because the Lyras have plastic underneath the multiple coats of lacquer, but for some reason they are even more black and glossier than just about anything I've seen. This makes them hard to clean as any bit of dust will be very visible. Fun to photograph though as they create some interesting reflections.
The speakers are remarkably light – owing to the plastic of course. But, when you pick them up you can still get a sense of the heft of the drivers. There is some damping material inside as evidenced by rapping on the side of the speaker, but the rap test also reveals that it is indeed a thin plastic box. The stands on the other hand are comfortably heavy and curved just right to match the HD 661s. Since the speakers are a bit taller than the average stand mounted speaker, the stands are a bit shorter than you might find with other stands. This is something to consider if you are looking at these speakers. Your old stands might be too tall.
I used these speakers most of the time as the left and right fronts in my home theater system where they were driven by my trusty old Outlaw 770 amp. Physically, in this system, the left and right fronts are tucked neatly between the rear projection Mits TV and side walls. They are not out and away from the walls as in a typical hi-fi setup.
I immediately noticed more transparency as compared to my reference Aperions. Highs were more extended but without peaks or glare that I often hear from metallic drivers. I poked at the drivers with my fingers, and they do have a little give to them, so I think they are not a solid metal cone, and it's reasonable that they do sound different. Better in my opinion than standard metal cone drivers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Lyras in this setup, listening to my standard VH-1 reruns of 120 Minutes (it was alternative-out-of-the-mainstream back then, now it's what everyone remembers as the music of the time). I also spent a lot of time analyzing and re-analyzing the sound for the indie movie project I've been working on (Generosity – hometheaterhifi review to come). The Lyras have a very clean high end, making it easy to discern which sounds belong in the movie and which didn't.
Much of this home theater listening was done in 5.1 or Dolby Pro Logic or Neo 6 etc, etc, etc. And some was done in stereo which I recommend. When the Lyras were working in concert with the other speakers, they only seemed to complement and never detract. The Lyra's high end doesn't stand out or irritate. There is a neutral quality to it.
I was anxious to get the Lyras into my regular stereo system to find out what they were like with some top notch two-channel gear. This had to wait, however, until I could get some help with the speakers that I already had in my living room, the Daedalus DA-2.1s. My lower back went on strike during this review period, and all speaker moving was suspended. The Daedalus' cost about three times as much as the Lyras, so it's not surprising that there was a drop-off in some areas of sound quality. There was a difference in the high end of the sound, although the Lyra,'s certainly held their own here.
I always try to listen to Hector Zazou's Songs From the Cold Seas on any speakers I audition. The first track ends with some sounds that I call 'effects'. A zzzzz-zzzz sound from a synth, rapidly panned left and right. With some lesser speakers I've heard, you don't even know it's there. The Lyras did not have this problem. In fact, their presentation of this sound was uncolored and as accurate (I think) as any speaker I've heard. I say 'I think' because I never have and probably never will hear the master tape.
There was some congestion in the lower part of the midrange. Listening to Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is pure heaven, and this congestion I heard couldn't undo that for me, but it was clearly there immediately after switching from the more expensive Daedalus 2.1s. It made for a less lively and real presentation.
I then went out of town for a few days, stereo unplugged as it should be. When I got back, I really needed to hear some music, and I played the same album as well as some others, and I enjoyed the Lyra HD 661 DX speakers plenty. Bass from these two-ways is quite good, extending lower than you might think without confusion from the bass reflex driver.
The drivers in the HD 661 DX are where the expense lies. Costs are kept down by using plastic enclosures. Resonances are addressed with internal damping as well as the shape. I found that the overall effect is a success as long as the speakers are carefully placed – as it was in my home theater system where the left and right fronts are essentially contained on all sides except the front.
The clean high end makes these especially impressive. There is no such thing as a Lyra center channel yet, but if one comes, I'd really be interested to hear it. If these speakers are in your price range, and especially if you concentrate on jazz or classical where the mid bass is not as busy as with rock, these speakers are something you should consider. Also, consider that Jaton is a Silicon Valley company, so engineering is what they are into, and they can't leave well enough alone. George Cheng of Jaton informed me that some upgrades for the HD 661 are already in the works.
Mitsubishi WS-65908 HDTV
Analog source: Nottingham SpaceDeck
Digital sources: Cambridge Axur 540D, Naim CDS2
Preamps: Simaudio P5.3, Arcam AV8
Amps: Simaudio W6, Outlaw 770
Speakers: GoldSound Kit #9