Floor-standing Speakers

Legend Acoustics Tikandi Speaker System with DEQX HDP-3 Processing

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The Tikandi system is the best music reproduction system I have ever had in my listening room, regardless of price, and is one of the best sounding systems

I have ever heard in any room. Once the system was dialed in, Larry and I listened to some tunes. One of the things Larry played for me was an audiophile epiphany. He played a Japanese drumming track from the YG Acoustics demo CD. This track was recorded with gigantic dynamic range. In real life, drums are loud. Very loud. We turned up the Tikandis until Larry started to get uncomfortable about blowing something up. I just sat there like the Memorex guy with a stupid grin on my face. The power delivered by the drums was something I have NEVER heard from a stereo system. It wasn't that it was just loud. Lots of speakers can play loud. It was the sharpness of the transients, the subterranean frequency extension, and the shocking dynamic contrasts that did the business.

As I listened to the Tikandis over the next few weeks, it became clear that these speakers were the audio equivalent of an electron microscope. You can hear, with startling precision, every last detail in every recording. This is a trick usually reserved for headphones. With the Tikandis, you can have that headphone-like super resolution and also get the realistic soundstage and physical impact loudspeakers deliver. This is another double-edged sword. Bad recordings are done no favors. You can hear every bit of compression, limiting, crappy artificial reverb and autotune in every one of your recordings. The super flat frequency response also is not kind to dynamically compressed recordings. Typical speakers and room interactions, with 10 dB or more of deviation from flat frequency response, create "fake" dynamic contrasts as they play sounds of different frequencies. The super-flat response of the Tikandis gives these dynamically compressed recordings no help.

Some of my favorite albums, like Bebel Gilberto's Tanto Tempo Remixes, or Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga had their recording compromises laid bare. Not that they were unlistenable. It was just annoying that some of my favorite music was recorded badly, and in a way that was being covered up by my normal system. I always knew that the Spoon album was dynamically flat, and the remix album was, well, a remix album where all kinds of stuff had been done to the original source recordings. With the Tikandis, Spoon sounded even more flat than usual, and every sin visited on Bebel Gilberto's voice by the remix artists was clear as day. On better-recorded albums, like Bebel Gilberto's eponymous album, or any number of "audiophile" recordings like the 24/96 DVD release of Jon Faddis' Remembrances, the resolution and accuracy of the Tikandis was intoxicating. The bass extension was ridiculous for such small speakers. They really were flat to 18 Hz, all from a pair of waist high floorstanding loudspeakers. The tonal smoothness, pitch accuracy and speed in the bass were truly spectacular, mainly because all the normally encountered room resonances and suckouts were non-existent. Imaging was as razor sharp as anything I have heard. The soundstage width and particularly depth, were also first rate, and in some cases unmatched. Naturally recorded tracks with lots of ambiance from the recording space were the most expansive. On Shake 'em on Down, by David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, the reverb and echos from the converted church used as the recording studio put its imprint on every part of the sound. It was possible to hear the back wall and sidewalls of the room in 3D in a way I've not heard before. The ambiance was always there and audible, but only through the Tikandis did it snap into a clear 3D sound model of the room.

Taken as a whole, I can't imagine anyone who would not be thrilled with the Tikandis in their room, even at over $19,000. Actually, given this price includes the processor (which replaces the DAC and preamp), the amp and the speakers, its actually quite reasonable. All you need to add is a digital source.

The HDP-3 Processor Alone

If shopping for a new system in the $20k range, you'd be crazy to not consider the Tikandi system. Few audiophiles buy a system that way, though. Most, like me, upgrade component by component over many years. How would the HDP-3 processor fit into a more generic system with typical speakers? I tried the HDP-3 processor alone, replacing the Emotiva RSP-1 preamp and Bel Canto DAC-1.1 DAC in my normal system. The HDP-3 drove my Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks, Gallo Reference SA subwoofer amp and Gallo Reference 3.1 loudspeakers. I tried this setup in three configurations: as a normal full range speaker using only 2 outputs from the HDP-3 driving the XPA-1s, as a 1-way plus stereo sub configuration using the XPA-1s to drive the main inputs to the Ref 3.1s from 125 Hz up, and the Ref SA to drive the woofer from 125 Hz down through the second voice coil inputs, and third as a hybrid using the XPA-1s full range and the Ref SA below about 40 Hz to beef up the bottom end. The final configuration is how you'd normally set up Gallos with the sub amp, even if it sounds a little weird.

I measured the Gallos in my room from a distance of about 0.5m, trying to move furniture out of the way to give the longest time before the first reflection hit. I was able to time gate out long enough to get good data down to about 80 Hz. Verification measurements made after the correction filters were created showed response flat to 1 or 2 dB! In the first configuration I had to do all room correction, including the bass, by hand. Only in the second configuration could I measure the entire frequency range of the woofers at the listening position as I did with the Tikandis and get the room correction built into the speaker correction filters. In the third hybrid configuration, I measured the bass at the listening position below 40 Hz, and had to apply manual correction above 40 Hz. Once completed, the measured frequency response for all three configurations was just about as good as I had gotten with the Tikandis. I saved each one of the three configurations to the three presets on the HDP-3, so I could hear the effects of all three setups.

I was quite impressed with the sound. I was actually expecting to lose more going back to my speakers. The sound was remarkably similar, with the main losses being subtle ones. The primary loss was the resolution and speed of the sound in resolving details. The sound through the Gallos, while vastly better than the Gallos alone, was a bit slower and less detailed than the Tikandis, with transients and fine detail smeared a just a bit. In addition, the bass was less smooth, less powerful and less deep. The Gallos began to roll of between 25 and 20 Hz in my room, a few Hz higher than the Tikandis. The best bass smoothness was achieved with the 1-way plus stereo sub configuration, but the best bass power and tone was achieved with the "hybrid" approach where the big Emotiva XPA-1s were able to exert their control over the Gallo's woofers. The 1-way configuration was more difficult to deal with, since the parametric EQ correction does not work in stereo mode. The frequency response of the left and right channels in my room were very different, so it was impossible to apply a good correction for bass below 100 Hz for both channels simultaneously.