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Soliloquy SAT 5 Bookshelf Speakers

[Italian version]

Product: Soliloquy SAT 5 Bookshelf Speakers
Manufacturer: Soliliquy
Approx.cost: $ 649 USD
Reviewer: Scott Faller - TNT USA
Published: March, 2003

[Soliloquy SAT 5's]
the sat 5's with a cherry finish


Trivial Bits

The Soliloquy name isn't new to many people here in North America. It may be a relative unknown to those of you in Europe and the rest of the world. Soliloquy is based in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina on our eastern seaboard. Since it's inception in 1997 by it's original founder and ex-CEO Bernie Byers, Soliloquy has garnered some pretty positive press and more importantly, the consuming public seems to really like the product.

These days, Soliloquy has a new CEO, Dave Berman, formerly of California Audio Labs, Loewe, Mitsubishi, Monster Cable and Polk Audio. Dave is taking the company to the next level with bringing cabinet construction in house, new product offerings, new exclusive distributorships (with the American Acoustic Developement speakers and Marsh Sound Design lines) and international distributorship negotiations. So for those of you overseas who haven't physically heard a Soliloquy speaker, be patient, they are on the way.

This brings me to my interest in the Soliloquy speaker line. Like everybody else out there, I read the mags, eZines and online discussion groups to keep up with the market offerings. For an industry that is supposed to be on it's last leg, there sure is a boat load of product out there to choose from. This seems completely contrary to everybody else's opinion that the Hi End market is dead (or at least dying).

Granted, there will be a thinning of the herd that takes place. It's only natural. Even in the animal kingdom, survival of the fittest is primal in nature. If what I hear in these little speakers holds true for their big brothers, I personally think that the Soliloquy will be one of the survivors during these (purported) lean years.

Manufacturers Published Data

Model Name

Soliloquy SAT 5

Type

Bookshelf, 2 way, Sealed Enclosure

Driver Compliment

1" Tweeter, 5.25" Woofer

Frequency Response

60Hz to 20kHz

Sensitivity

87 dB in room

Nominal Impedance

8 ohms

Power Handling

8 to 200 watts

Size

7.5"w x 12.25"h x 6.25"d

Weight

18 pounds

Crossover Frequency

3.2kHz @ 12dB/octave

Lets Listen for a While

The SAT 5's behind the Korato/AKSA Combo
In this system, I found the SAT 5's very nice sounding. They are everything I anticipated them to be. Clear and concise. Since the SAT 5's are a small sealed enclosure with a 5.25" mid-bass driver, the bass response doesn't reach very deep. That said, I decided to play to the speakers bass limitations. I chose my reference music carefully. I leaned more towards acoustical jazz and classical duets, trio's and quartets. This way I wasn't unduly influenced by the SAT 5's lack of bass.

In the case of Jazz, I have some great reference music. One in particular, is a box set that Verve put out a few years ago. It's called A Night Out with Verve (Verve 314 535 316-2). This is a four disc set of some of the juiciest Jazz on the planet. Straight out of the good years. Jazz great's like Oscar Peterson, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald come alive. Boy, if you can't find something on this set that you like, you're a lost cause :-)

And Now For Something Completely Different
All That Jazz aside (and I talk about it quite a bit below), I decided to see what these little puppies would really do. I drug out a 12" powered sub. It's one of those cheap, Big Box Store ones that I have modified. I did a bit of tweaking and changed the driver out for a far better one. Not the best sub in the world but a damned sight better than it was.

Anyway, I wanted to rock out for a while. Now I'm not talking about slipping on some CSN or some other adult contemporary artist, I'm talking real rock. Deep Purple Machine Head, Montrose's first Album, Black Sabbath, Nine Inch Nails, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Creed and loads of others. I wanted the in yer face stuff. It took a bit of fiddleing with the sub, the crossover point and slope but I finally found the right combination. It was around 80Hz (or so) at a 24dB slope.

It goes without saying, all of the music I listened to begs to be played really loud, concert level loud. Well, the limitation of the Aspen would only let me get to just over 100dB but that was just fine for my smaller room. I have to say right here and now, that without the aid of a sub, you may as well forget this. Rock like this was meant to be felt as well as heard. The design of the SAT 5's, force the roll off around 100Hz or so (when they are away from the back wall imaging at their best). It's just plain physics.

[Holy Shit !!!!!!!!!!!]


This is where it got really interesting. My choice of music was the typical distorted lead guitar, heavy bass notes, and screaming vocals. Basically, right up my alley. Head bangers music played loud enough to set your hair on fire :-) This is the type of stuff I loose myself in on a regular basis. Playing the SAT 5's at these extreme volumes, they didn't fold under the pressure. If anything, they may have opened up a bit. The soundstage got wider. It also got deeper (but I think that was because of the addition of the sub).

You know, It's really hard to be objective when you are really getting into the jams. On the other hand, that's a good thing. If I'm so absorbed in the music that I stop listening to speakers and gear and all I hear is the tunes, that's saying something pretty good. One thing for sure, during all of this, the definition of the SAT's stayed and didn't waiver a bit.

I was really surprised at how well the SAT's sounded with a sub blended into the mix. I didn't limit my music choices just to hard rock. I tried some of everything while I had it set up. Not only did it sound great this way but when I'd go to crank it up (even on acoustical music) I was amazed at how stable and natural the image stayed. I was pretty impressed.

While the SATs were here, I made several ventures into Rock and Roll oblivion. For me, this is like a junkies heroine fix. About once a week, I need to inject my soul with the music I grew up on. Quite honestly, this sub/(sealed) satellite combination works really well. The sealed nature of the speaker lets you can keep your crossover point fairly high. The SAT's natural roll off doesn't fight the sub at all (or it didn't in my case).

The SAT 5's Behind RAM 301
The Soliloquy's faired pretty well behind the RAM 301. Granted we are into another low efficiency speaker so your volume levels will be a bit subdued, but generally the SAT's sounded great behind the 301. One thing, the sealed enclosure provided a bit more stable load to the RAM. It didn't see those big spikes typically associated with a vented enclosure when you reach the speakers resonant frequency.

The SAT 5's Behind the HH Scott 299
Just like the RAM 301, the SAT's sounded great behind the old HH Scott. The pure tube setup provided some really great sounds. Completely enjoyable to listen to on all kinds of music. The slightly forward nature of the SATs helped to offset that bit of veiling that comes with older tube gear. They sort of cancel each other out yet you still retain all the magic of the tubes.

The Soliloquy's Behind the RAM 301's and Side by Side with the Dynaudio 42's
These two speakers are very similar in their presentation. Not identical, just similar. They are both (essentially) a front row center speaker. The SAT 5's obviously have an edge in the bass department, but the Soliloquy's actually provide a slightly better defined mid-bass. The midrange on the Soliloquy's is just a bit warmer than the SAT 5's and subsequently the soundstage depth is a tad deeper. This is (no doubt) due in part to the crossover frequencies. The SATs are crossed at 3.2k and the Dyns are crossed at 1.8k.

In the same vein, the treble of the Dyns is slightly better than the SAT 5's. There is a bit more "presence" or "air" in the treble region. The treble is also slightly smoother too. By that I mean the crossover transition and area where the sibilants live. Don't mistake me, this transition isn't bad at all, it's just that the Dyns are a bit smoother.

Objective Stuff

Fit, Finish and Basic Design
First, these are some extremely well built speakers. For a really small bookshelf speaker, these things are damned heavy. I was shocked when I got the box from the factory. At an initial glance, these speakers are very deceiving. It's almost like picking up lead weights for the first time. They are small and really heavy in comparison to others out there. These are built out of 1" High Density Fiberboard (HDF as opposed to MDF) with luscious veneers applied to the cabinet. The internal bracing is even routed into the side panels to provide extra rigidity. You could park a truck on top of these things and not have them collapse :-)
Hey Dave, theres a promotional picture for you :-)

Second, the finish. As a woodworking hobbyist and builder myself, I have a special place in my heart for cherry wood. The review pair of speakers I have here are a beautiful red cherry finish. Somebody back at the cabinet factory really knows what they are doing. From the evenness of the stain, to the joints and joining's, to the perceptible depth of finish, these cabinets are impeccable. This is a true measure of a craftsman (or group of craftsmen). Very, very nice.

Lets talk about the basic design a bit. Here we have a sealed speaker, compromise number one. As any speaker designer can tell you, seal a small cabinet and you aren't going to get much bass out of the design, regardless of the driver you choose. Hence the 80Hz roll off quoted by the factory. Now, the 60Hz figure in the specs is probably based on in room response with the speakers backed against the back wall to get some extra bass gain.

Since we are dealing with a small sealed speaker, in the "real" room response with the speakers set up to image properly will start to roll off somewhere near 100Hz or so (at least in my room). The use of a subwoofer for deep bass would be (and is) a definite benefit. To that end, I talked to Dave Berman about the bass response. He told me that the SAT 5's have a low cutoff filter built into the crossover. These are designed to roll off at 50Hz. That way the 5.25" driver doesn't die a premature death due to low frequency overload.

[Dynamics aren't just bass]

Dynamics
Going back to the sealed nature of this speaker, the SAT 5's are very dynamic. The air tight enclosure helps tremendously to control the woofers ability to damp itself. Therefore, things like overhang are kept at a minimum. This also helps dramatically improve the definition of the mid-bass.

Treble Extension
The treble extension is quite good. Light and airy all the way up the scale. Playing with my Sencore SP 295, I measured the in room treble extension using a test CD near flat up almost 20kHz.

Treble Clarity
Just like the SAT 5's, these speakers are crisp and clean, they hide nothing. On Monty Alexander's piano duet with John Clayton called Love You Madly, Monty's venture to the upper registers come through with amazing clarity. Johns finger snaps between notes on the double bass are as crisp and clear, just like they should be.

Midrange Clarity
No veils here at all. The midrange comes through very clear. This is a bit surprising considering the crossover point of 3.2k. There's not many mid-bass drivers out there that are clear enough to let you crossover that high. Many are limited to the 1.5 to 2kHz range and then they die off. Since Soliloquy manufacturers all of it's own drivers, they have ability to design drivers so they can crossover at (nearly) any frequency they want.

Listening to Jimmy Rogers, the harmonica solos are just fantastic. Warm and inviting and not the least bit analytical. Next up, I popped in some Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra play On the Sunny Side of the Street was just magical. The tenor sax and trombone came through rich, thick and full bodied, just as they would if you were in person. Moving on to Joe Pass and his hollow bodied guitar styling on Li'l Darling. In a word, wow. This is how a jazz guitar sounds up close and personal. The rich harmonics of the guitar coupled with the fact that you can occasionally hear Joe's pick as he strokes the strings, shows just how detailed these speakers are.

Bass Clarity
This is a point at which these speakers excel. Though the bass isn't very deep, what you do get is of extreme quality. It's very well defined and articulate. Instruments like the piano and double bass shine on these speakers.

[the bass isn't very big but it is well defined]

Bass Extension
As I mentioned before, Phil Jones made a compromise here. He traded bass extension for midrange clarity and detail in the lower mid-bass region. As far as I'm concerned, it was well worth it. For not much money, you can add a killer sub like DIY Cables Rava For me, I slid a sub in for a big chunk of the listening tests and was extremely happy.

Soundstage Depth
The SAT's soundstage depth was pretty good, just slightly better than the Dyns. One cut in particular showed this very well. Broadway by Tal Farlow, has Vinnie Burke on the double bass who does a short solo. In listening closely, I found that the depth and detail was slightly better than the Dynaudio's. Not by much, but it seemed a solid 2-3 feet deeper making the depth at about 12 to 13 feet.

The SAT 5's have a very good depth quality to them but it comes down to two things as I see it. First is the crossover frequency. The SAT's cross at 3.2k and the SAT 5's cross at 1.8k. Naturally, extending the mid-bass into the 3k range will provide you a slightly less forward presentation.

If you noticed in the pics (not the stupid ones :-), the SAT's sit on your speaker stands upside down. The design has the mid-woofer on the top and the tweeter below. Thinking from a design aspect, this does a couple of things. First, it takes the tweeter and puts it below ear level, making it off axis in two planes. This will help to ease many tweeters (apparent) harsh responses in the listening position. Next, the mid-woofer now becomes on axis in the horizontal plane of the speakers at the listening position. As a result, you tend to hear a slightly warmer presentation of the music and you hear just a tad more midrange detail. As a side benefit, this adds just a bit more depth to the soundstage. It's a pretty nifty design trick actually.

Here's an experiment they you all can try at home (providing you have bookshelf speakers, of course). Walk over to your speakers and flip them upside down on your stands and give them a listen. I think you'll see what I mean about the increased detail in the mid-bass plus the slightly added depth to the virtual stage.

[could we all pay attention here for a minute.......PLEEEEASE]

Soundstage Width
In a word or two, very nice. Listening to early George Benson playing with Herbie Hancock on piano and Ron Carter on the double bass, the soundstage easily reached 3 to 4 feet outside of the speakers.

Soundstage Height
On the typical recordings, the soundstage found itself slightly above the speakers, maybe a foot or so. With recordings like Enya or Mouth Music, the stage reached within a foot or two of the ceiling and began to fade. All in all, pretty good considering the tweeter is below in the driver.

Imaging and Focus
I found that the SAT 5's imaged the best at 36 inches from the side wall and 24 inches from the back wall. Here, I was going for imaging, not bass reinforcement. Again, on the proper recorded material, the focus is very, very good. The SAT's disappear and only the instruments remain. One such track that that happened on was, Portrait of Jennie by Wynton Kelly. the SAT's all but disappeared and provided a really tight focus on Wyntons piano (center stage) Jimmy Cobb's brush on the cymbal and snare drum (left center). Very nice.

Subjective Stuff

Overall Coloration
Everything was pretty natural. From the double bass to a piano, it all sounds as it should, given the SAT 5's bass limitations.

Row
These are another (almost) front row center speaker. With the slightly better mid-bass due to the upside-down nature of the design, I guess you could say they are probably third or fourth row. Regardless, you are down in the front of the venue.

Weirdness
On occasion it seems the treble in the 5-6k range (or so) is a bit forward. This could be room buildups and reflections so I'm not completely sure. It's not overly obtrusive, just a dB or two. Don't mistake what I am saying. Overall, the speaker is very smooth but on a minority of recordings, I heard a slight forwardness to the treble in that range. On the weirdness scale, it will be very low.

Miss You
Integrated with a nice sub, I'd miss these speakers a lot (and will). Not only were they very musical but they were loads of fun (with the sub) on hard Rock and Techno (acoustic stuff was no slouch either :-).

Objective Ratings

Category

Mark

Comments

Fit and Finish

+2

Much beefier cabinet

Dynamics

0

Dynamics aren't just bass related

Treble - Extension

0

Very good

Treble - Clarity

-2

The Esotec tweeter is really tough to beat

Midrange - Clarity

+1

Ever so slight edge over the Dyns

Bass - Clarity

+1

The sealed box helped

Bass - Extension

-3

It's just physics

Soundstage - Depth

+1

Again, the XO and the upside down design

Soundstage - Width

0

Pretty even overall

Soundstage - Height

-1

I think it's the upside down thing

Imaging - Focus

+1

Slightly better than the Dyns

Subjective Ratings

Overall Coloration

0

Overall, a very neutral speaker

Row

4

4th Row

Weirdness

-1

It's that 5-6k thing

"Miss You" Factor

+3

With a good sub, this set up is hard to beat

[mate these little gems with a good sub and you've got one helluva combination]


So..........

All in all, the Soliloquy SAT 5's do a really fine job. Take into consideration the fact that they probably need a good sub mated with them, and you could have a pair of speakers that you may never want to upgrade. There is nothing wrong with this approach. Loads of guys out there build their system this way. Go for the detail of a sealed enclosure mini monitor and integrate a sub to fill in the lower end. Makes perfect sense to me. Thats what I did with the behemoth's I listen to (see my bio). Want a real thrill, add a second sub for the stereo bass effect. Bass is not omni-directional like others would lead you to believe, honest :-)

These speakers not only sound great but they are definitely eye candy. There's no wimpy finishes here. You will be buying quality piece of furniture with a gorgeous finish on it.

For those of you who like to crank the hell out of your music, you'll be glad too see the 200 watt power rating. I know I was. That means you can feed it inordinate amounts of power and not worry about cooking a driver (unless you run it into distortion of course).

If you are in the market for a pair of bookshelves and like the up front sound, the SAT 5's are well worth an audition. They are very nice sounding speaker and are beautifully constructed.

Thanks/Reference Gear

I'd like to personally thank all of the manufacturers who have made this series of speaker reviews possible. Remember, without these guys, you wouldn't be reading this :-) Surf on into their sites. They all sell affordable gear well worthy of your consideration.

Reference Gear

Gear

Manufacturer and Model

Distributor

CD Player

Njoe Tjoeb, Upsampled

Upscale Audio - Kevin Deal

Pre Amp

Korato KVP-20

Korato Group

Audio Switching

NEC AVX-910

NLA My personal gear

Amplifier

ASKA - Aspen 55 watt Amplifier

Aspen Amplifiers Pty. Ltd.

Amplifier(s)

RAM 301 - 30 watt Modified Jolida

Response Audio - Bill Baker

Amplifier

HH Scott 299A Integrated - EL84 PP

NLA - My Personal Gear

Interconnects

Silver Plated Copper, Teflon Insul

Home Brew

Speaker Cables

Silver Plated Copper, Teflon Insul

Home Brew

Speakers (ref)

Dynaudio Audience 42

Dynaudio USA Michael Manousselis

Speakers (review)

Soliloquy SAT 5

Soliloquy Dave Berman

Geek Toys

Sencore SP-295c

Sencore

Manufacturer's Comments

Our thanks to Scott for his complimentary and honest review. At Soliloquy, we strive to bring the highest levels of performance, value and build quality to every product we manufacture. The SAT 5 is a perfect example of this commitment. There aren't many loudspeakers available in this size that weigh a stout 18lbs. each. This is due in part to our belief that every speaker should start with an extremely rigid platform from which the drivers can launch. We use 1" high density MDF on all panels and cover them with a furniture grade book-matched hardwood finish. We even route the cross-bracing into these panels to further enhance the rigidity of the cabinet.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that the stated weakness of the SAT5 was actually intended in its development. We knew that a sealed box with these dimensions would probably go on the wall or on a shallow shelf; therefore we capped the bass extension of the speaker for its application as a surround channel, or mini-monitor joined to a sub. We offer a model called the 5.0s as our "stand alone" mini-monitor and this product uses a ported configuration in a deeper cabinet, to allow bass extension down below 45 Hz. Thanks again to Scott for bringing out many of the SAT 5s distinct advantages and for more information on all the Soliloquy products and companies, please visit us at www.solspeak.com.

Sincerely,
David Berman - President / CEO - Soliloquy Loudspeaker Company, Inc.

Next Up

American Acoustic Developement C-800's

[spaz]

© Copyright 2003 Scott Faller - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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