April 2004Energy Veritas V2.4i Loudspeakers
by Marc Mickelson
The $4000-$6000 price range for floorstanding speakers is hotly contested. Not only do most speaker companies have a floorstander that falls into this price range, the quality of these speakers is generally very high, with some of them outperforming much pricier models from other manufacturers. Speakers in this price range often use the technology and drivers of the respective companies' more costly models, but the implementation is scaled down, which means fewer drivers and smaller cabinets -- and the attendant reduction in low-frequency extension.
But in some cases, speakers in this price range are the company's top of the line, so you get the design team's all-out effort at a mid-level price. This describes the Energy Veritas V2.4i, the brand's flagship speaker. Energy is one of the product lines created and manufactured by Audio Products International, the Canadian company that also makes Mirage and Athena speakers. API is a large audio company, employing over 300 people, a good many of them engineers with expertise in various aspects of speaker design. API creates more than one brand of speakers, effectively competing with itself, because each line is different from the other. Athena speakers are high-performing budget-priced offerings, while Mirage adheres to its Omnipolar wide-dispersion philosophy. Energy speakers are designed to attain three important characteristics: flat on-axis frequency response with wide bandwidth, wide and constant dispersion at all frequencies, and low distortion and resonance.
Energy has been chasing these goals since its inception over 25 years ago, and presumably improving on its speakers in the process. Energy currently has five different speaker lines that include floorstanders and minimonitors, as well as center-channel and surround speakers for home-theater use. The Veritas line is Energy's best, followed by Connoisseur, XL, Encore, and Take -- all of which are designed with Energy's professed goals in mind. We've reviewed speakers from Energy's Connoisseur line, naming the C-9 a Reviewers' Choice and the C-3 our Budget Leader award winner for 2002, so the Veritas 2.4i ($4000 USD per pair) has some big expectations to fulfill.
Energy is one of the rare speaker companies that makes its own drivers, and for the Veritas line, these are the same for the V2.4i and V2.3i floorstanders, and the V2.2i minimonitor: a 6 1/2" Dual-Hyperdrive woofer and a Convergent Source Module that houses a 2" midrange and 1" tweeter, both utilizing aluminum domes. I could burn a lot of space talking about all of the features of these Energy-designed and -manufactured drivers, but I'll instead mention a few that are key.
The Convergent Source Module houses a dome tweeter and midrange in close enough proximity to each other to function as a point source, but they're in separate chambers to isolate them from the other drivers. This latter feature is said to lower their resonant frequencies and thus the crossover points used for the speakers, which, among many other things, helps Energy achieve its goal of wide and constant dispersion. The Veritas woofer uses a dual voice coil that is said to provide "uniform inward and outward excursion, effectively reducing distortion by two-thirds." I remember from my visit to API in 2000 that Energy is particularly proud of this innovation. The woofer's composite cone, the formula of which Energy is not willing to divulge, is faceted for rigidity. The woofer is literally bolted to the panel behind it to reduce distortion and further brace the cabinet.
About the cabinet: It's made of MDF and locked together with dovetail construction along with conventional MDF braces and metal rods that connect to the drivers. It's also internally lined with a material that looks like thick crumbled felt to further cut down on resonance. The top and front of the Veritas V2.4i are dressed with injection-molded plastic pieces that are coated with a special rubberized paint. These areas feel like rubber, but you can tell that they are rigid and especially inert parts of the speaker cabinet. The plastic panel on the front bottom of the cabinet also contains the front port and has inserts for two of the included spikes, which you can use in trio or quartet configurations. When three spikes are used, none threads into the cabinet itself (the one in the rear has a plastic footer of its own), so all are somewhat isolated from it.
If it isn't obvious, I'll spell it out: All of the design elements of the Veritas V2.4i are carefully chosen to work in concert and create a precision instrument. Cynics who believe that most loudspeakers are drivers stuffed into boxes will discover much to shake their worlds in the Veritas V2.4i.
The Veritas V2.4i is a medium-sized floorstander, 46"H x 8 3/4"W x 18 1/8"D and 95 pounds. It's actually a five-way design, with the trio of woofers crossing over to each other at 150Hz, 300Hz, and 550Hz, and tweeter/midrange point set at 2kHz. Sensitivity is stated as 87dB in an anechoic chamber and 90dB with two speakers playing in a room. Frequency response is quoted as 30Hz-20kHz, with usable bass response down to 25Hz. There are front and rear ports, and two sets of binding posts for biwiring/biamping.
Finish options are cherry veneer and high-gloss black. In black the speakers look OK, but also somewhat disjointed in my opinion. Perhaps I'm too used to more uniformly finished cabinets, but I found the plastic pieces visually distracting and, well, plasticky. Thiel's CS2.4, which I compare sonically to the Veritas V2.4i, is much better-looking as far as I'm concerned, and will integrate better with décor -- at least my décor.
The Veritas V2.4i speakers took up residence in my new listening room with the regular collection of equipment: Lamm ML1.1 mono amps and L2 preamp, Esoteric DV-50 universal A/V player, Zanden Model 5000 Mk III DAC, and Mark Levinson No.37 transport. I also substituted liberally with a Mark Levinson No.383 integrated amp, an Odyssey Audio Khartago power amp (which sounded especially terrific with the speakers), an Esoteric UX-1 universal A/V player, a 47 Labs PiTracer CD transport, pairs of Atma-Sphere MA-2 Mk II.3 and Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks, and an Atma-Sphere MP-1 Mk II preamp. I noted no issues with any of the amplifiers; all drove the Veritas V2.4i's with apparent ease.
Interconnects and speaker cables were Nordost Valhalla and DH Labs Revelation and Q-10, the latter of which I used in a biwire configuration. Power cords were Shunyata Research Anaconda Alpha, Anaconda Vx, Taipan and Python; a Shunyata Hydra Model-8 scrubbed clean the power to the electronics. The Lamm electronics rested on Silent Running VR 3.0 isoBase platforms, while everything else sat on a pair of Michael Green Designs racks. For extreme isolation, the CD transports were supported by a Townsend Seismic Sink on top of a Bright Star Audio Big Rock base.
For direct comparison, I used the same pair of Thiel CS2.4 speakers I reviewed late last year. During this time, I also listened to my reference Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 7 speakers and a pair of ProAc Response D38s. I guess it could be said that I was in some ways comparing all of these speakers to each other as I listened to them.
Placing the Veritas V2.4i's in my room was something of a challenge -- I suspect their front and rear ports complicated the process of exorcising bass demons. The Veritas V2.4i's offer some very extended and weighty low frequencies, and when the speakers are sited incorrectly, the bass is thick and plodding. As a guideline, give these speakers as much room as you can from the front and side walls -- all the better to alleviate or eliminate boundary interactions. I ended up with the speakers 55" from the front wall, 61" from the side walls, roughly 9' apart -- farther from the walls and closer together than the ProAc Response D38 speakers they displaced.
After proper placement, deciding on using or abandoning the grilles was the next order of business. The grilles look like they are fabric stretched over a frame, but underneath the cloth is a wiry mesh. The combination of the two seemed to blunt the high frequencies some, which removing the grilles confirmed. I therefore did all of my listening with the grilles off, and this added a meaningful bit of sparkle to the speakers' presentation.
Once optimally placed and with the grilles packed away, the Veritas V2.4i proved to be a thoroughly satisfying speaker, although one whose sound was distinct. The presentation is more up-front than that of the other speakers I listened to during the same timeframe, and while the bass didn't quite equal that of Wilson Audio's WATT/Puppy 7, it has serious impact and power. These two things in particular make for bold, exciting sound. The Veritas is not a languid, laid-back speaker. It offers visceral punch and abundant musical energy.
You might think that these traits make the Veritas V2.4i a great speaker for rock'n'roll -- it is. Keith Richards's Main Offender [Virgin 86499 2] is a rock album I use for evaluating all types of equipment, and it sounded especially rowdy over the Energy speakers. I've commented in the past on the drums on "Runnin' Too Deep" -- you can hear the stick hitting the skin followed by a whomp that's not indistinct mush. That whomp has impressive weight and delineation over the Veritas V2.4i's -- at loud levels, the bass impact is tangible. The entrance of Keith Richards's guitar on this track points out another strength of the Veritas V2.4i's: their natural treble. Even though the tweeter uses an aluminum dome, the speakers don't sound metallic up top, which is not always the case with aluminum-dome tweeters. The Veritas V2.4i's sound clear and nimble, helping Richards's burst of guitar carnage blow into my listening room with tremendous speed and power. (OK, so I was listening with the volume at 11; I don't have neighbors close by.) The Veritas V2.4i's can play loud, very loud, and not turn ugly.
Even though I had the Energy speakers closer together than others I was using around the same time, the Veritas V2.4i's were able to cast a very wide and deep soundstage, often surprising me with instruments that were seemingly outside the speakers' positions or so far back that they sounded like they were on the deck outside my listening room. There were many examples. On "The Man Comes Around" from Johnny Cash's recent album of nearly the same name (American IV: The Man Comes Around [American 440 063339-2]), Randy Scruggs plays acoustic guitar, and it envelops the area around the speakers, moving from outside the speakers' positions inward. Former Byrd Chris Hillman does a very good live rendition of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" on The FolkScene Collection, Volume Two [Red House RHR CD 137]. FolkScene is a Sunday-night radio show that originates from Los Angeles and features performances by many notable folk artists. On this "Mr. Tambourine Man," there is a squeaking guitar string that sounds as though it's four feet outside the right speaker. "Freaky" is what my notes say. On Jacques Loussier's Satie: Gymnopedies, Gnossiennes collection [Telarc CD-83431], the upright bass is dead center and way back behind the plane of the speakers. Given this depth and the bass energy the Veritas V2.4i speakers can convey, Satie made for especially involving listening.
Well-recorded material in all formats sounded stunningly real over these speakers, which don't have a wispy, overly airy presentation but rather one of abundant solidity throughout their frequency range. Images were strongly drawn and substantial. However, perhaps because of the bass and treble, the midrange of the Veritas V2.4i sounded a touch recessed. Voices in particular didn't display the same excitement that drums and guitars did, although I can't say I found this problematic or distracting. It was a characteristic -- more a difference from, say, the ProAc D38s' sound, which was notably smooth and pleasing through the midband. But at what point does such a trait become a flaw? A careful reviewer should be able to make the call, noting, for example, that an obvious trough in the frequency range is just that and not a matter of alternative voicing or a different design philosophy. But it rarely happens. With the Veritas V2.4i, what I note is the equivalent of a dimple, an identifying mark every speaker has, not a third ear.
And this is pretty much how it went during my time with the Veritas V2.4i's. Every time I thought I latched onto something the speakers didn't do as well as another speaker, it turned out to be a slight difference at best. Brass was always brassy, and cymbals had a gorgeous, splashy sound that broadcast into the room. The bass depth, weight and detail were always exhilarating. The soundstage was always large and populated with dense images. Earlier I used the phrase "thoroughly satisfying" to describe the Veritas V2.4i, and while it's not sexy enough to be potential advertising copy, I hope it does convey how accomplished the sound of this speaker is.
I've already mentioned that I prefer the way Thiel's CS2.4 ($3900 per pair) looks compared to the Veritas V2.4i, but what about the sound of these two competitors? A study in contrasts. The CS2.4 sounds leaner and subjectively more transparent than the Veritas V2.4i. This difference is particularly obvious in the bass -- the CS2.4 goes low but without any additive weight, while the Veritas V2.4i has striking low-end heft and authority. The Energy speakers can play louder and sound more pleasant doing so than the Thiels, which counter with a more airy presentation. The Veritas V2.4i's sound like larger speakers, while the Thiels can sound smaller and more readily disappear.
How can I account for such differences in speakers from two different well-known makers? I can't. But after all is said and done, the sonic differences between these two speakers are not profound -- one speaker is not right and the other wrong. I would argue that this is so because both Energy and Thiel know how to make very good speakers, ones that are fundamentally neutral but not identical in sound. With such speakers, listener preference is a far greater variable than any perceived or even measured sonic difference, and therefore both the Veritas V2.4i and CS2.4 will have their admirers.
In the end
I greatly enjoyed my listening sessions with the Energy Veritas V2.4i's, and I'm convinced that many other listeners will as well. The big, bold sound of the Veritas V2.4i is defined by the speaker's deep, weighty bass and even-handed treble, the immense soundstage and the strong images therein. However, proper setup is crucial to wringing all of the considerable performance from the Veritas V2.4i. If your room is small or has obvious problems with deep bass, no amount of repositioning will be a cure. But Energy has you covered with other speakers in the Veritas and Connoisseur lines.
On the back of the Veritas V2.4i is an expression of pride: a plate with all of the designers' signatures. The folks at Energy have much to be proud of with this speaker.
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