Earthworks Sigma 6.2 loudspeaker Page 2

The Sigma 6.2 had a slight tendency to brightness that was more apparent the farther away I sat, and made the speaker very revealing of recorded detail. I am leery of calling this analytical quality "accuracy"; strictly speaking, it is something that can be associated with a departure from a truly accurate tonal balance. Stereophile columnist John Marks refers to such speakers as being more "intelligible," a usage I think more appropriate. Certainly it is an essential quality in a studio monitor.

I used the Sigma 6.2s while assembling Stereophile's Editor's Choice CD (STPH0016-2), due to be released this month and featuring cuts from many of the recordings I have made over the past decade. The Sigmas were invaluable in this role, proving very revealing of small differences in the noise floors of the various tracks that needed to be compensated for at transitions. And despite the 6.2's superb intelligibility, this was not allied to any tendency of the speaker's balance to become hard or fatiguing.

Listened to from 9' away, the Sigma's extreme highs were slightly reticent, compared, for example, with the Mission Pilastro, which I reviewed last November and which uses the expensive ScanSpeak version of the Vifa ring-radiator tweeter. But listened to in the nearfield, the Sigma's top octave sounded extended and grain-free.

Other than the slight plateau in the mid-treble and a touch of congestion in the lower midrange, the Earthworks was about as free from coloration as I have experienced. Its midrange was simply superb. Voices and instruments were reproduced with their unique tonal identities intact, free from speaker-sourced formants. Vesko Eschkenazy's solo instrument, on his new SACD of Mozart and Mendelssohn violin concertos (Pentatone Classic PTC 5186 001), sounded deliciously real. But even the Earthworks couldn't conceal the lispy treble and coarse midrange quality of Norah Jones' voice on Come Away With Me (Blue Note 5 32088 2), which sounded as if it had been recorded with one of those ElectroVoice dynamic cardioids so beloved by radio talk-show hosts. And the differences between the CD and two-channel SACD layers of this issue's "Recording of the Month," Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol 82136-2), were laid embarrassingly bare (see "As We See It" in this issue).

The speakers handled the DSotM dynamics without apparent strain at moderate levels, though there is only so much that can be expected in the way of dynamic range from a pair of 6.5" woofers.

Imaging specificity was excellent. A consistent feature during my auditioning of the Sigma 6.2s was the dome of ambience they threw up at the rear of the soundstage. Not only did this occur with recordings where the engineer had an eye/ear on capturing the soundfield—my Let Your Voice Be Heard CD (Cantus CTS-1201), for example—it was apparent even on recordings from which I hardly expected it. The Police Live SACD, for example, had the ecstatic Atlanta audience singing along with "King of Pain" way beyond the wall of my listening room, behind and above the band.

I finished my formal listening sessions with the latest in ECM's series of superbly recorded, superbly performed, small-group jazz discs: Changing Places, from the Tord Gustavsen Trio (CD, ECM 1834). Gustavsen's piano, recorded by the continuingly impressive Jan Erik Kongshaug, had a superb mix of percussive attack and tonal bloom through the Earthworks. The treble register had a consistent presentation, without some notes jumping forward and others being reticent, which so often happens with lesser speakers. The sonic picture of Jarle Vespestad's drums was spread across the stage behind the piano, and Harald Johnsen's double bass spoke with a natural, even rich-sounding balance of weight and definition over most of its range. Only the instrument's lowest notes came across as a bit light in weight. The Earthworks Sigma 6.2 got out of the way of the music in a most satisfying manner.

Summing up
Earthworks' Sigma 6.2 was apparently developed by David Blackmer with some boundary support expected for its low frequencies. If it is used in a free-space environment, such as sitting on high stands out in the listening room, its bass will sound somewhat light in weight and the balance a little bright. But provided you sit fairly close, a pair of them then offers an astonishingly clear view into the recorded soundstage and an articulate, uncolored presentation of the music. Although the cherry cabinets raise the price of a pair to an undoubtedly expensive $5000, this version of the speaker is a beautiful piece of furniture in its own right. If you can accommodate its particular needs, the Earthworks Sigma 6.2 is one heck of a recommendable loudspeaker.

37 Wilton Road
Milford, NH 03086
(603) 654-6427