AUDIO SOLUTIONS Virtuoso-S floorstand speakers

AS 21 SF VIRS
NZ$ 33,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Audio Solutions

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Virtuoso series employs much of the advanced technology originally developed for the company’s flagship Vantage 5th-anniversary series. Virtuoso series sits comfortably between AudioSolutions’ Figaro and Vantage 5th anniversary series.
In the Virtuoso line of speakers they have incorporated a box-in-a-box system, self-locking cabinet technology, a mini-horn loaded tweeter, an extended frequency midrange driver, and a user-friendly adjustable crossover with three programmed listening profiles.

S" = "small" – but that is only relative when it's compared the the "M" & "L, the Virtuoso S is still 1130mm tall and is a very serious speaker indead, beautifully integrating in the majority of audiophiles rooms.

The Virtuoso S is a slightly minimised version of the Lithuanian manufacturer's Virtuoso M, which was introduced last year. Nevertheless, it still weighs 50 kilograms, due to the box-in-box construction consisting of an inner and an outer cabinet. For bass it is equipped with two 17 cm speakers, while a 13 cm midrange driver is responsible for the wide frequency range from 500 to 7000 Hz. A silk dome tweeter with mini horn attachment takes over the high frequencies. A three-position switch with the positions Balanced, Soft and Enhanced allows the sound to be adapted to the room acoustics and personal preference.

We are very proud to present our last speaker series in AudioSolutions family which finalises our portfolio – Virtuoso. Virtuoso series speaker is located between Figaro series and Vantage 5th anniversary speaker series. It is a missing link between these two very successful series. Virtuoso takes most technology advantages from our Flagship – Vantage 5 th anniversary, meanwhile design-wise Virtuoso shares sweet middle reminiscing Figaro sophisticated looks but at the same time having sharp prestigious character from Vantage 5 the anniversary model.

Notable highlights of the new series include a box-in-a-box system, mini-horn loaded tweeter, an extended frequency midrange driver, a user-adjustable crossover with three listening profiles, as well as innovative self-locking cabinets.

Virtuoso is offered with 7 different standard finishes which includes a grey-ish colors which easily integrates in environment. 
Available in 5 saturated colors with mind blowing Metallic effect and one never seen Flame Chameleon color which changes from cold grey to all temperatures of flame/spark 

MINI-HORN:
Virtuoso is equipped with Mini-horn which is already a standard at AudioSolutions. Mini-horn was introduced along with Overture series speakers to fight unwanted soft dome resonance problem (at lower frequencies due to usual soft suspension). These distortions said to be like harsh sound when driven heavy. To fight that AudioSolutions introduced Mini-Horn which raises tweeter sensitivity (thus lowering THD after normalisation) at the most distorted area and at the same time loading driver diaphragm with additional dampening. System proved to be very effective and now is being used in every new speaker series AudioSolutions introduces.

MID-RANGE DRIVERS:
A very wide-range is covered by single driver unit. AudioSolutions is known for using mid drivers to cover wider than usual band and for very simple reason. Evolution of human made our ears most sensitive in region 800-2000Hz because simply here lies most sound information radiated from our predators (note that ear’s sensitivity axial diagram points forward and down as most sensitive). Even if ideal mathematical model of crossover is introduced in this area phase distortion and THD rises in crossover region not to mention that we can detect different point sources when sound is emitted from two different drivers at the same time in crossover region. Some uses extreme low crossover points to avoid this area extremely loading tweeters as a result which in return also raises THD. We chose to use band-enhanced mid drivers to make crossover points as distant as possible, we do sacrifice a little bit of dispersion but this is nothing compared to benefits. Virtuoso midrange driver covers 500-7000Hz.

ENCLOSURE (Box within a Box):
A significant highlight of the Virtuoso loudspeaker series is its advanced “Box in a Box” cabinet system, which consists of two boxes - inner shell and outer shell glued together. Originally developed for the Figaro series as partial Box-in-a-Box, the structure of this cabinet has been further improved to enhance the sonic performance of the Virtuoso series. The weakest points of a traditional speaker cabinet are the corner joints since they behave more like hinges, rather than tight joints in a vibrating environment. The “box in a box” approach resolves this issue by combining two cabinets, arranged in an offset pattern. The internal cabinet is fully sealed and outfitted with heavy internal bracing and dampening.  It is then covered with an outer box, which is glued tightly to the internal cabinet. This technique allows the cabinet to achieve 10 times the stiffness of a single layer enclosure. The sonic gains from the stiffer cabinet are enormous. Due to excellent vibrations dampening sound is neutral and ever so authentic..

SPEAKER TERMINALS:
WBT Nextgen bi-wiring binding posts for lossless signal path.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Features

A significant highlight of the Virtuoso loudspeaker series is its advanced “box in a box” cabinet design, which consists of two boxes glued together. Originally developed for the Figaro series, the structure of this cabinet has been further improved to enhance the sonic performance of the Virtuoso series. The weakest points of a traditional speaker cabinet are the corner joints since they behave more like hinges, rather than tight joints in a natural vibrating environment. The “box in a box” approach resolves this issue by combining two cabinets, arranged in an offset pattern. The internal cabinet is fully sealed and outfitted with heavy internal bracing and dampening.  It is then covered with an outer box, which is glued tightly to the internal cabinet. This technique allows the cabinet to achieve 10 times the stiffness of a single layer enclosure. The sonic gains from the stiffer cabinet are enormous - the sound is neutral and more authentic.

ADJUSTABLE HARMONICS CROSSOVER
On the rear panel of each speaker there is a large three-position switch/knob that allows user to choose between the following settings / profiles (let me use the description prepared by the manufacturer):

BALANCED | this mode is a sweet spot with a perfect balance of musical clarity and an immersive soundstage.
MODERATE |
this mode is ideal for prolonged listening sessions when less dramatic and less detailed sound required.
The continuous evolution of high-end audio components and speakers means, that today's equipment reveals many recording imperfections that can make the sound seem distorted, loud and tiring to our ears. This is especially true when it comes to classic rock albums. The soft mode uses a technique similar to a one used in a recording studio, manipulating distortion and very sharp peaks in terms of the transmitted frequencies.
ENHANCED | engaging this mode will allow the listener to experience the finest level of musical details from their recordings. This mode is especially well suited for quiet evening listening sessions when ambient urban noise is reduced, and micro details in the music come alive. This mode can make the difference between simply listening to music and establishing an emotional connection with your music, prompting you to get up and dance or shed a tear, when listening to your favourite tunes. ♦

Virtuoso is equipped with a new type of speaker tuning device which encloses three different crossovers in one speaker to choose from. This system does not change SPL of speaker response and should not be mistaken with room/system tuning devices where levels of individual drivers are being changed. In Virtuoso we decided to take a step further and use natural drivers' distortion pattern to manipulate listening experience.

As it is known all speaker drivers have more or fewer distortions present across the spectrum which is the natural behaviour of the driver. However, each driver's distortion pattern is different creating unique sounding units. This is why aluminium cone drivers have a metallic/harsh sound or ceramic cone drivers have analytic sound, or better yet this is what makes two different violins sound different, just in music it is called overtones rather than distortions. Different overtones create a unique sound character. By adding more drivers to the speaker we create a speaker system with its crossover points in each driver and at the same time in each driver's distortion pattern. By manipulating with crossover frequency and steepness of slopes we can create different distortion patterns which will give to sound different character. It is a unique feature which allows us to have three different listening experiences without actually changing speaker characteristics.

VIRTUOSO  STANDARD FINISHES:
Xiralllc high-gloss colour options: Perl White, Silver Grey, Zink Grey, Black
 
VIRTUOSO EXCLUSIVE FINISHES: ADD 10% 
Xirallic high-gloss colour options - Glacier Blue, Ice Blue,, British Racing green, Gold, Lemon
 
CUSTOM COLOURS: ADD 20%
If you are interested in customising veneer type and colours for your taste, do not hesitate to contact us by mail or phone for further information.

Specifications

Design: 3way - bass reflex
Drivers : 30nm silk dome tweeter, 132nm Hard Pulp paper cone mid, two 165mm Hard Pulp cone bass drivers
Sensitivity : 91.5 dB @ 2.83V 1m
Frequency response (in-room environment) : 26-30000 Hz
Nominal power handling : 130 W rms
Maximum unclipped power handling : 260 W
Impedance : nominal 4,0 ohms
Crossover frequency : 500 Hz; 7000 Hz
Dimensions (HxWxD) : 1130mm x 391mm x 547mm
Weight : 50kg each
Shipping weight : 80kg each

Reviews

The Virtuoso are extremely elegant loudspeakers and I am talking here both in terms of the external appearance and their performance. These are truly classy, high-end speakers! ■
<arek Dyba

| SUMMARY: The Virtuoso are extremely elegant loudspeakers and I am talking here both in terms of the external appearance and their performance. It is the ELEGANCE, COHERENCE and REFINEMENT that first come to my mind when I think about the long listening hours I spent with the Virtuoso S, and that I will remember them by in the future. Plus, of course, VERSATILITY, or the ability to "tune" the sound to my own taste in a very simple way. ....... These are excellent loudspeakers for top, well-balanced systems. Simply, as befits good loudspeakers, the AudioSolutions Virtuoso S are to be "only" the last, key element of a system that will convey its full potential without taming it or imposing its own character. These are truly classy, high-end speakers! 

|REVIEW:  AudioSolutions was founded in 2011 in Lithuania with its headquarters in Vilnius. The founder and chief designer is Mr. GEDIMINAS GAIDELIS. The company specializes in expensive and very expensive loudspeakers. The lineup consists of four series. For this test we received the floor-standing model from Virtuoso line, called VIRTUOSO S. ⌋+

Each time few years passes between my reviews of Gediminas Gaidelis products. It is a bit too long to reliably compare individual models, but the gaps are not large enough to blur the positive impressions and associations Audio Solutions loudspeakers leave behind. Obviously, every year they are presented during Munich’s High End Show and Warsaw’s Audio Video Show (and, I bet, many others) and also there they impress with their performance, but listening to them during any show’s is not quite the same as experiencing them in my own system.


My earlier reviews of AudioSolutions speakers offered a lot of information on this brand and its founder, so this time let me recall only the key information. The company has been founded in 2011 (so next year it will celebrate its 10th anniversary - I wonder if we will see some special products on this occasion?), with its headquarters in Vilnius. It is one of those highly specialized companies - it designs, develops and manufactures only loudspeakers.

Lines | The current Audio Solutions lineup consists of four series. The portfolio opens with the OVERTURE line, than there is FIGARO and I had the pleasure to test representatives of these two series so far (as well as the no longer offered Rhapsody). At the top of the lineup there is the VANTAGE 5TH ANNIVERSARY series. Its name suggests that it was developed for the brand's first round anniversary. The prices of this series reflect their positioning at the top of the offer, in contrast to - of course relatively - reasonably priced Overture or Figaro speakers.

The Virtuoso series, based (for now) on two models, price-wise sits roughly in the middle between Figaro and Vantage. These are loudspeakers that already cost a lot of money (much more than Figaro), but still significantly less than top models. The two models, designated with the letters S and M (for Small and Middle), differ in the size of both the cabinets and the mid-woofers. Arek Sztander from Premium Sound, the Polish distributor of the brand, left the decision to choose between the models to me. I decided that smaller loudspeakers would better fit into my room. Plus, as a man not cruel by nature, I thought that the crew delivering the product for the test would rather carry 2 x 50 kg (net) to my apartment instead of 2 x 75 kg (admittedly, their faces showed only moderate gratitude, but still ...)

| VIRTUOSO S

The reviewed loudspeakers are quite large - 1130 mm high, almost 550 mm deep. They look thoroughly modern. I am a fan of classic shapes, natural wooden surfaces, etc., but I have to admit that the perfectly finished Ice Blue version with shiny varnish sitting on top of solid bases looked great in my room. The special finish of the base and top panel, as well as the side walls, with a custom-made polyurethane varnish with an admixture of crushed stone and carbon, appeared clean no matter how many times I touched the speakers nor how much dust they gathered - it's a big advantage from my point of view.

As we read on the company's website, AudioSolutions, when developing this line, used several solutions from the top Vantage series. That’s something that many companies do - they develop the best possible solutions for the most expensive products, and then trickle some of them down to use for cheaper series, on the one hand upgrading performance of the latter, and on the other, using the economies of scale, as manufacturing larger quantities of said elements makes the production less expensive.

One of the elements taken straight from the Vantage Classic is the adjustable crossover ... or actually three of them. The manufacturer himself uses both terms, but as he explained to me in an interview, it is more appropriate to use the term "three crossovers", because the offered adjustment is not a simple solution based on resistors changing the tonality of the sound, but a more advanced one that changes the character of the sound, but not the tone. You can read more about it in the "A few simple words ..." section.

| ADJUSTABLE HARMONICS CROSSOVER




On the rear panel of each speaker there is a large three-position switch/knob that allows user to choose between the following settings / profiles (let me use the description prepared by the manufacturer):

BALANCED | this mode is a sweet spot with a perfect balance of musical clarity and an immersive soundstage.

MODERATE | this mode is ideal for prolonged listening sessions when less dramatic and less detailed sound required.

The continuous evolution of high-end audio components and speakers means, that today's equipment reveals many recording imperfections that can make the sound seem distorted, loud and tiring to our ears. This is especially true when it comes to classic rock albums. The soft mode uses a technique similar to a one used in a recording studio, manipulating distortion and very sharp peaks in terms of the transmitted frequencies.

ENHANCED | engaging this mode will allow the listener to experience the finest level of musical details from their recordings. This mode is especially well suited for quiet evening listening sessions when ambient urban noise is reduced, and micro details in the music come alive. This mode can make the difference between simply listening to music and establishing an emotional connection with your music, prompting you to get up and dance or shed a tear, when listening to your favourite tunes. 

I will return to these settings and their influence on the sound in the part describing the sound, trying to confront the above description with what I actually heard. Still, you have to admit, that it is an interesting solution and can help user to adjust the sound of these loudspeakers to his sonic and musical preferences, and even to specific recordings. As the manufacturer emphasizes, changes to the settings do not result in a different SPL level, so they do not involve a change of the levels of individual drivers.

The Virtuoso uses a much more advanced system, which utilizes the natural patterns of distortions of the individual drivers so as to influence the sound perceived by the listeners. All drivers have their own inherent distortions, smaller or bigger, but there are always some. AudioSolutions engineers, by manipulating the crossover frequency and the steepness of the filter slopes, affect these distortions, slightly changing the character of the reproduced sound. As they claim, this unique solution allows them to offer three different presentation characters using the same speakers. Sounds interesting, doesn't it?

Let us return, however, to the specific features of the Virtuoso S provided by the manufacturer. One of them is a cabinet called box-in-a-box. The solution was developed for the Figaro series, and further enhanced for the Virtuoso. Let’s see how AudioSolutions explains its usage:

The weakest points of a traditional speaker cabinet are the corner joints since they behave more like hinges, rather than tight joints in a vibrating environment. The “box in a box” approach resolves this issue by combining two cabinets, arranged in an offset pattern. The internal cabinet is fully sealed and outfitted with heavy internal bracing and dampening.  It is then covered with an outer box, which is glued tightly to the internal cabinet. This technique allows the cabinet to achieve 10 times the stiffness of a single layer enclosure. The sonic gains from the stiffer cabinet are enormous. Due to excellent vibrations dampening sound is neutral and ever so authentic.

Other special features of the Virtuoso S are a three-inch silk dome placed in a small wave-guide, a 132 mm midrange driver with a paper (basically papyrus) diaphragm and a wide frequency range (up to 7 kHz), two bass woofers also with a paper membrane, each 165 mm in diameter.

Virtuoso S on paper are not particularly difficult to drive with their 91,5 dB sensitivity and 4 Ω nominal impedance, plus on option of bi-wiring or even bi-amping due to the two pairs of high-quality WBT Nextgen speaker terminals. It offers users a fairly wide choice when it comes to choosing an amplifier to drive them. Still, the designer makes it clear - the more (high quality) watts and the higher the damping factor, the better for the performance.

Cabinets | The cabinets that manufacturer also calls self-locking are one of the developments that AudioSolutions is particularly proud of; it is an element borrowed from the Vantage Classic series. As I wrote in the Figaro S review, a number of materials with different own resonances were used to make up these cabinets, creating a so-called sandwich. In addition, individual elements of these cabinets have been modeled and connected with each other so that some of them eliminate / cancel resonances of others. In this way, solid, rigid boxes with very low resonances were built, which translates into sound’s particular purity, especially in the lower range.

Their shape has nothing to do with a classic cuboid, which on the one hand eliminates standing waves inside the cabinets, and on the other increases the visual attractiveness of Virtuoso. The cabinet’s width is the biggest at about a third of its depth, and the narrowest at the back. The whole structure is placed on four adjustable anti-vibration feet with felt pads, although these are almost completely hidden in the solid, heavy bases of the speakers.

Bass-reflex | In theory, the rear-firing bass-reflex port does not make the setup of speakers in a room easier, but this model does not abuse the b-r port to (excessively) „pump up” the bass, so even placed close to the wall they perform really well, better than most. Besides, Gediminas claims that according to the measurements, also due to the appropriate profile of the b-r tunnel and the outlet, the distance from the wall is not of great importance. As he told me, some people even place these speakers only a few centimeters from the wall. Which does not change the fact that during my listening sessions, the distance between the rear panel (and the B-R outlet) and the wall in my room was 70 cm, because for my taste such placement simply worked best.

Finish | Let me add two more cents regarding available finishes, because in this respect AudioSolutions has a lot to offer, to be honest more than many bigger loudspeakers manufacturers. There are as many as seven standard finishes, from white through gray, green, to two blue options. Additionally, there are six non-standard ones - metallic high gloss, including slightly more extravagant colors such as yellow, orange or one self-explaining called "chameleon".

 

As you may remember, in the Figaro series the customer was given a choice of a traditional grille or a front baffle with profiled openings for individual drivers. For the Virtuoso S, there is no grille option, and such a front baffle with cutouts for drivers is installed permanently.

| HOW WE LISTENED TO IT

During the test, I drove the Virtuoso S mainly with my 30-watt class A transistor amp, the GrandiNote Shinai, which seemed to drive these loudspeakers equally well as, for example, the 375 W (at 4 Ω) hybrid Pathos Kratos, which I had at my disposal during this test, confirming that the class or quality of the amplifier plays a big role while its output a bit lesser one. Which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter at all.

 

However, after talking to Gediminas who suggested using a high output amplifier to get a not "warm and slightly rounded" but "faster, tighter" bass, I switched to a separates setup with my AudiaFlight FLS 1 preamplifier and 350 W hybrid LampizatOr Metamorphosis monoblocks. The standard sources were the J. Sikora Standard Max turntable with the KV12 tonearm and the AirTight PC-3 cartridge and the LampizatOr Pacific DAC. Additionally, I used a very interesting, new Weiss DAC - the DAC501.

As a curiosity, I would like to mention that I connected the Virtuoso S to the 8 W SET, the Felix-Audio Arioso 20th Anniversary Edition for a short period of time. This setup was not perfect, and certainly not particularly versatile, but listening to acoustic and vocal music at low volume levels offered a large dose of SET magic. With no other amplifier the sound was so spacious and tangible, so airy, so ethereal (in the best sense of the word) in the treble area, so colorful (not colored, mind you) in its midrange.

At the same time, it was clear that the Polish amplifier was not able to fully control the woofers, and thus the lower part of the band. So the latter was rather soft and rounded and not particularly fast, which actually worked well in some recordings, but in most it was a bit disturbing. It does not change the fact that everything that was happening in the frequency range above the bass sounded really beautiful. I do not intend to suggest such a system to anyone to use permanently, but I think that the general direction may be worth exploring.

After what I heard with the 8W Felix-Audio, I would love to combine Virtuoso S with some 20-30 W, or maybe even more powerful SET (e.g. Ayon Crossfire), or PSE, or maybe SE - the Audio Reveal Second comes to mind. I feel that such setup could work really great (at least from the point of view of my personal sound preferences). Of course, still primarily for fans of acoustic, vocal and chamber music, but it would be a much more versatile system anyway than with an 8W SET.

Optionally, although bi-amping is much more difficult to properly set up than you may think, a SET driving the Virtuoso S's midrange and treble plus a powerful solid-state for the bass - both obviously top-notch - could do the job. This is just a hunch, not supported by an empirical test, basically a synthesis of the listening experiences with a few amplifiers, but I'm pretty sure of what I'm saying.

With the Felix-Audio amplifier driving the “S” I spent a few hours listening to Eva Cassidy, Patricia Barber, Martyna Jakubowicz or Etta James, admiring how beautiful and expressive their voices sounded, how they attracted attention with their presence and uniqueness. The more so because the Virtuoso S surprised me again and again with the spaciousness and tangibility of the sound. When, for example, the announcer during Oscar Peterson's concert began to speak standing over a meter to the left from the left speaker, I just started looking for him on the balcony because the illusion was extremely convincing ...

 GrandiNote Shinai

It was a very interesting and enjoyable experience but let’s move on to the main listening session, with the Virtuoso S being initially driven by the GrandiNote Shinai amplifier. It offers „only” a 30 W Class A output, but usually it is enough to drive even quite difficult loads. This time was no different - I did not find any shortcomings that could be a result of power shortages. The volume levels I set, as I realized at one point, were actually the same as for the very easy-to-drive MACH 4 speakers.

The bass was still rather on a bit softer side in this setup, but also fast and „springy” enough for this softness not to be an issue while playing music. I did not find any reason to complain about the dynamics of the presentation, I liked the differentiation, timbre, the pace and rhythm and the perfect coherence between bass and midrange. The latter, although not as palpable, not as present as with the Arioso amplifier, was still dense, very well differentiated both in terms of timbre and dynamics, and was as seamlessly combined with the treble as it was with the bass.

The treble presented by Virtuoso S, which was emphasized in some very good drums recordings, for example ones with the fantastic Steve Gadd, were exactly as I expected from high-class loudspeakers driven by the Shinai amplifier. It means pure, vibrant, full of air, lively, with long reverbs, but at the same time completely unobtrusive, full-bodied, yet light/carrying, rich in information, and presented in a very smooth, non-grainy way.

Regardless of the amplifier, as I had similar impressions from listening to the Pathos and LampizatOr amplifiers driving Virtuoso S, the midrange is the key element of the presentation of the tested loudspeakers. The truth is that I did not have any absolutely neutral amplifier at my disposal (I generally don’t like them as listening to them brings me no joy). On the other hand, the ones that I used delivered the most important part of the sound spectrum in spades. And I think this overlapped with the Virtuoso designer’s decision to set the crossover frequency so high - at 7 kHz. Due to this decision, the mid tones are extremely coherent, rich and effortless. All of the aforementioned amplifiers are a bit warm, but without getting muddy, without losing purity and transparency, offering high density and intensity, and the Lithuanian loudspeakers were able to convey such character perfectly.

Perhaps the Virtuoso will sound differently with some "cold" amp, because they allowed me to hear the differences between the amplifiers driving them quite clearly, as well as between the signal sources. After all, Gediminas told me that he offers neutral sounding loudspeakers. It’s just that, I suspect that any doubts about what he meant, may come from the definition of that term. After all, when you listen to a guitar, violin, piano, double bass, saxophone, trumpet, etc. live, you can clearly hear that all acoustic instruments sound „naturally warm”, as I like to say. If this is what they sound like in nature, then perhaps this should be the definition of neutrality, which is equivalent of lack of coloration, right? If we can agree on that, the Virtuoso S offer the most neutral sound. And natural too. More precisely - naturally warm.

Moderate | This is why they are so easy to listen to, regardless of the music genre, and even, to some extent, of the selected crossover mode. Except that in my case, after playing around with these three options I actually spent most of my time with the "Moderate" setting which was defined, among others, as "the best one for long listening sessions". I often turn the system on in the morning and it plays until late evening - hence the moderate mode was preferred. This is, obviously, a matter of individual preferences, but also a tool that, to some extent, can be used to make listening to slightly lesser quality recordings more acceptable, or even pleasant.

Enhanced | Unless it was already evening, that is, and I had to set a much lower volume - then the "Enhanced" mode provided the most information, most complete, richest sound. And no, this was not a result of my susceptibility to the manufacturer's suggestions, who described this mode as perfect for such occasions, because I actually listened to the speakers first and read about them later. Even with such quiet listening, Virtuoso S impressed me with a presentation rich with details and subtleties in the whole frequency range.

I clearly heard the bass going as deep as any recording required, every gently brush touch on cymbals or drums, or every tiniest pluck of a guitar string. And there was still the same balance of all elements of the sound that was equally perfectly delivered while listening much, much louder. There was the same coherence and clarity, too. In the other two modes, when listening quietly, some information was lost somewhere in the background, despite the fact that the ambient noise drops significantly at night, so usually I can almost always hear more of the tiny musical information at that time of a day regardless of the system I use.

In the "Balanced" mode, listening to, for example, a recording with a double bass, that is over 60 years old, I found it touch too soft and too boomy. A change of the crossover setting helped - it was still an instrument that sounded quite soft, but more focused, tauter, with clearer, slightly faster transients accompanied by proper sustain and decay, that delighted me already in the previous mode. All this changes, insignificant in themselves, combined created a much more enjoyable, yet still true presentation.

Same happened with the highly non-audiophile tracks by AC/DC, Rush, and even Metallica - they also sounded better in the "Enhanced" mode. It is a matter of combining great energy, powerful, dense bass, great pace and rhythm and high dynamics with a gentle softening of sharpness, brightening, even graininess present in most such recordings. I got the impression that these were very delicate treatments applied by Virtuoso, introduced with great sensitivity, which allowed the presentation to stay true to the nature of these recordings. There was still a bit of aggression / sharpness /roughness left that is essential for such music. And yet listening to rock in this mode was highly enjoyable, even at higher volume levels.

Amplifier’s output | And here we also get to the issue of the output that Virtuoso S actually require to offer their best. Because I can’t deny that while for playing high-quality recordings 30 watts offered by the Shinai was enough, when it came to those of lesser quality, with a bit too „loose” or to „boomy” or too soft bass, the much more powerful amplifiers, such as the Metamorphosis or Kratos, did a better job and made such recordings sound better. Hence, for people who listen to a lot of rock or pop music, a powerful amp might be a better choice.

However, when it came to listening to a live concert by the Ray Brown trio (i.e. also quite an old recording), or a live production of Patricia Barber, I returned to the "Balanced" mode. It allowed me to hear even the tiniest detail of these recordings in a better, clearer way. Using it made that soundstage, the placement of instruments and vocals on it, their three-dimensionality, and the impression of the presence of musicians in the room most convincing. Plus, this large, three-dimensional stage was best filled with air, giving the instruments, but also Patricia, a chance to breathe freely. Similarly as in the "Enhanced" mode. It also creates an impression that the music consists of more low-level details, the so-called musical plankton. But the space is not as impressive as in the "Balanced" mode.

It might seem that Virtuoso S offers too many options to the user, that they may have a problem of choosing the right one, but in practice, every time when I felt that perhaps a given album/track could sound better, it took me only a moment to determine the optimal mode. In short, it is a really useful tool, maybe not so much to "improve/fix" recordings, but rather to enhance the listening experience. By using the adjustable crossover, which most loudspeakers simply do not offer, one can make improve any given experience, make it better. And it works for virtually any recording and any kind of music.

| SUMMARY

 

The Virtuoso S are extremely elegant loudspeakers and I am talking here both in terms of the external appearance and their performance. It is the ELEGANCE, COHERENCE and REFINEMENT that first come to my mind when I think about the long listening hours I spent with the Virtuoso S, and that I will remember them by in the future. Plus, of course, VERSATILITY, or the ability to "tune" the sound to my own taste in a very simple way.

The smaller representative of the Virtuoso series is also absolutely versatile in terms of the musical repertoire. They did great in my favorite acoustic music, built a unique atmosphere and soundstage for good live performances, impressed with super punctual pace and rhythm and high energy in blues and rock recordings, or the momentum and scale of music when playing large classical pieces. The vocals sound great, convincing and present with these speakers, but also the slightly lesser in terms of recording quality tracks/albums can sound really good, better than usual, because some of their flaws may be slightly tempered. Whether I listened to an acoustic trio, a rock band or a large symphonic orchestra, the Virtuoso S treated every challenge the same - in an unforced, effortless way but still a highly precise one, and the only limitation to the quantity and quality of information reproduced by the speakers, was the signal they received, i.e. the quality of the recording and the system that „prepared” signal for the Virtuoso S.

These are excellent loudspeakers for top, well-balanced systems. Simply, as befits good loudspeakers, the AudioSolutions Virtuoso S are to be "only" the last, key element of a system that will convey its full potential without taming it or imposing its own character. These are truly classy, high-end speakers! 

 

SOME WORDS WITH GEDIMINAS GAIDELIS
Owner, designer

MAREK DYBA: Thank you for sending me the technical paper on Virtuoso. After reading it I still have some questions, if you don’t mind. Let me start with the one regarding tweeter. In the paper you have explained why you put the tweeter of your choice in a horn (to minimize distortion of the soft dome), but there is nothing about why did you choose this particular driver. If you need a horn to correct its issued maybe it would be better to choose a different one altogether?

GEDIMINAS GAIDELIS: The reason is the same as for why I use paper cone drivers - soft domes are the best "sweet middle" tweeters. They have probably best all around set of parameters to work with. And as we intend to manufacture neutral sounding speakers they fit perfectly. In general, horn is not there to fix a problem but to make system less distortive or more sensitive.

MD: Some people get an allergic reaction just at the sound of the word „horn” claiming, that using it always causes coloration of the sound. They usually mean using it for midrange, but still...
GG: Well, yes. That’s why we use a mini horn. A small one just for a specific region of bandwidth so there is no such thing as a horn sound in our mini-horn system.

MD: In the paper you’re describing the box-in-box cabinet concept. Do I understand correctly that the outer shell is fixed directly to the inner one?
GG: Correct. There is an inner structure with all the bracing. And the outer box is secured on top of it, so basically you don’t see inner box from outside.

MD: What materials did you use for both layers?
GG: We use MDF and HDF. The MDF is medium density material and it’s widely used, while the HDF is two times denser.

MD: What about internal damping?
GG: Dampening is a task to be handled by various methods working together. One way never works well. We use real wool for midrange as all hairs are of different thickness and it works flawlessly with upper frequencies. Synthetic wool for bass cabinets obviously. Then comes vibration control - bracing of the cabinet. Then we have inner cabinet which is very dense and outer shell which is less dense. You see, it is easy do damp something but if you use damping, it means that energy is being stored and dissipates slowly. While this method doesn’t give sharp spikes in response, it does make sound muddy due to a long energy dissipation. On the other hand material which is very dense and doesn’t store energy for so long, tends to have sharp spikes in response and some ringing too. So we use many different dampening techniques to benefit from all of them.

MD: OK, let’s move on to the key feature, which is the crossover. Or crossovers? Even in the paper you sent me I found you using both - a single adjustable one and crossovers (plural). So which one is it?

GG: Technically, there is one crossover. But to distinguish it from those who simply adjusts only level (Sonus Faber for example) I use the term "three crossovers" because it actually is like that. Three crossovers for midrange and tweeter, but one crossover for one speaker. It would make more sense if I stick with three crossovers everywhere.

MD: OK, but I understand that there are no three totally separate circuits, or are there?
GG: For midrange and tweeter there are indeed three different circuits. One can get it to work only with resistors for example, but we have developed a totally different solution for our crossovers and they don’t just change levels for individual drivers.

MD: What was your intention with this solution - do you think users will play around with it every day changing settings depending on what music they listen to, or how they listen to it, or will they choose one and settle on it permanently?

GG: I think they will use this feature. Just as they use sport button sometimes in their cars. If it is one button to touch or one handle to turn - they will use it, especially when differences on emotional level are quite huge. If a person feels lazy, of course they will leave the switch in neutral position. Which is perfectly fine.

MD: A practical question – can you switch the crossover settings while playing music?
GG: Yes, you can. But it’s better to ask someone else to do it. As getting near playing speakers usually makes you less sensitive to sounds for at least half an hour. I never understood people during shows getting close to speakers and trying to listen to every single driver from up close. If you do it you will get quite insensitive to sounds for a long time, hence it’s better if someone else changes the setting for you while you’re listening from your listening spot. If you have to do it yourself first pause playback, change the setting, go back to your listening spot and only than resume playback. It’s a much better solution for both, your ears and your amplifier.


MD: Guys who delivered Virtuoso S to my place mentioned „special feet”, but since these are large and heavy speakers I am not able to flip them over to check those for myself. Could you explain what makes them special?

GG: Our feet use felt dampers used in musical instruments. Mostly hi-hats to dampen ringing. The base itself is quite massive. You have to have massive base if you want to absorb vibrations. Remember what I said about storing energy and releasing it slowly? Here it works perfectly, we want to even out vibrations and slowly release them to felt dampers. Of course any special purpose feet will be an upgrade to felt dampers.

MD: Next issue - bass-reflex. I will not ask why you used particular tunel or outlet, but more generally - why bass-reflex design at all? (asked a fan of closed cabinets)
GG: Hmm... why not? Its like asking about turbocharged engine versus naturally aspirated. A different approach, different emotions, that’s all. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. I chose BR as it suited me more. There is really nothing more to it.

MD: OK, I see. So another b-r related question - it fires back which makes it more difficult to set up properly particularly in smaller rooms. The S version is not that big - you don't need a 40 sq m to use them but the back-firing b-r forces user to place them far away from the wall not to have any coloration. Wouldn’t a front b-r port be a better solution?

GG: I know that BR firing back got bad impressions. Some manufacturers of cheap speakers used firing back ports to boost performance of incapable drivers. But in the designing stage you can design cabinet and port in such way that a rear firing port will not do any harm at all. It is all up to engineer.


If you have good drivers that don’t need boost from back wall you can design port which gives better results than front firing one or the worst scenario - down firing. In our case rear firing port does not require speaker to be placed further away from the wall. It has absolutely nothing to do with which way it fires, it is up to how it is engineered and how it is calculated (frequency, volume etc). If you ever measure port output you will notice that not only bass comes from it. A good portion of lower mids comes from there as well.

So a port firing forward is not good as you can’t fine tune your system. Most of the times it sounds like it sounds and there is nothing much you can do about it if it sounds wrong. Where a back firing port allows you to fine tune your speaker. But again - it must be designed properly otherwise what you said will be true. In the case of the Virtuoso S, 25-30 cm from the wall should be enough. Some of our customers placed them as close as 5 cm from the wall if there was no other way, and they still sounded really good.

MD: Hmm... in my case I placed Virtuoso S 25-30 cm further away from the wall than my own speakers (so 75-80 cm in total), because that’s how they sounded best to me.
GG: Oh.., that’s a lot. But it was to be expected from the fan of closed-cabinet speakers :). Moving the speakers further to the middle of the room you heard a faster bass and that was what you, knowingly or not, expected. Alternatively you can try and plug the b-r ports. It costs nothing but may improve the sound so it is worth checking it out.

MD: For now you’re offering two models of Virtuoso, the S and the M – are there more coming?
GG: Yes, we have plans to expand the line. Information will be made available when the time comes.

 

MD: Do you have any suggestions regarding amplifiers customers should use with Virtuoso?
GG: As a rule of thumb - the more powerful the amplifier the better. Output stages with proper dampening are recommended. These speakers, unlike Vantage 5th Anniversary, are much quicker and more controlled, but I still prefer a proper control provided by an amp. Usually for model M a 300w per channel AB class with higher idle current will do just fine. GG

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