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For this review, I figured the 100-watt push/pull E.A.R 509 monos would be just the ticket. Combined with the Music First Audio Silver TVC volume control, the 509s should be able to communicate the qualities of the AMR CD-77 source to the Jordan drivers with minimal signal degradation. With the drivers facing straight ahead approximately 5 feet apart center to center, the soundstage was unduly narrow but I like to at least hear how a speaker sounds in this configuration.  My listening position was seven feet from the drivers and I became aware that Ted Jordan designed his drivers to be listened to off-axis due to a rise in the frequency response of the JX92S. His recommendation is for toe-in such that the drivers cross in front of the listening position and I followed suit while moving the speakers another foot apart.

This was more like it. The soundstage extended quite nicely beyond the outer edges of the speakers, there was depth and the whole effect was much closer to the 'wall of sound' I regard as vital for listener immersion. A few minutes later I'd increased toe-in a smidgeon so the drivers crossed about two feet in front of me. Time for serious listening.

First up was the Kathleen Battle CD So Many Stars [Sony Classical SK68473] with "Hush" (Somebody's Calling My Name) where Christian McBride provides excellent bass accompaniment which was taut, deep and well defined, signifying excellent playing, an excellent recording and excellent playback. Kathleen's classically trained voice hung naturally in the air slightly left of center stage and couldn't really be faulted. My little Dynaudio Contour 1.3 mk2s showed a touch more warmth and presence which some may prefer though perhaps the Curvi was being more honest? 

Certainly neither presentation was cold or analytical and I could get engrossed in either so without having the lovely Kathleen at hand to determine which was more accurate, I'll just say that my SET-attuned ears gave the Dynaudios the edge on vocals. The no-compromise Special Edition version of the Dynaudios sounds quite different from my humble 1.3Mk2s due in part to better crossover caps while the Curvis have no capacitors whatsoever to impart their character.  The only components between speaker terminals and Jordan driver are a single high-quality Vishay resistor and an inductor which initially puzzled me as it seemed counter-intuitive to use any filter components on a single widebander. Jordan's website provided the explanation.

Q: Your design philosophy is firmly critical of the phase anomalies due to crossover circuitry. How then do you justify the use of passive bass compensation?

A: Crossover circuits sub-divide the audio spectrum into sharply defined segments, which are then radiated from spatially separated drivers of diverse sonic and distribution characteristics. The seamless re-integration of musical fundamentals and their upper harmonics throughout the listening area is outside the laws of physics. Frequency compensation involves no such division and the entire sonic structure is radiated from the same source. It can further be shown that such compensation can actually enhance the intrinsic frequency and phase characteristics of the drivers.

While I'm not sure anything in existence operates 'outside the laws of Physics', by my understanding the bigger point is that with this filter, there’s better frequency domain linearity at the expense of a very slight loss of resolution and around 4dB in efficiency. Interestingly, over the next few days I came to the conclusion that I may have been swayed in favor of the Danes not by a more natural sound but by their masterful holography which is the Contour's calling card. This had Kathleen's voice hang a little better between the speakers to make it more convincing. One might ask why the Curvi did not possess the same holographic qualities. Its baffle is very narrow after all* and there are no time alignment issues. This was an aspect of the Curvi I wasn't overly impressed with after expecting it to be a strength. It certainly was alright and perhaps the holographic Dynaudios and superlative £20K+ AN-E Silver Signatures had me overly critical. However, in the words of one Oliver Twist—I assume he was an ENRON director especially with that surname—it was a case of "please Sir, can I have more?"


* The propensity to equate narrow baffles with superior imaging has become quite ubiquitous but is faulty. Repeat mention as here merely continues an urban myth which anyone auditioning superior broad-baffle speaker using 15" or 18" woofers can easily debunk. - Ed

Despite dutifully following Ted Jordan's recommendation for severe toe-in, it was time to tinker more with positioning. I tend to position speakers as wide as my room allows before toeing them in between 10 and 20° so they cross well behind me and in fact a long way behind the back wall. Ten minutes later and the Curvi were apart 1.9 meters center to center toed in by approximately 10 degrees. This sounded much better. I've no doubt that frequency response was more ideal with Ted's positioning but soundstaging was compromised to be far more damaging to the whole experience. Being extremely directional in nature, finding the right amount of toe-in is critical for these speakers so be prepared to experiment.  The sweet spot is accordingly quite small so don't plan on sitting next to your beloved on a sofa to properly evaluate the Curvi properly unless your significant other is prepared to sit off-center. 

A few days after the final re-positioning, I asked Chris Liauw to provide an owner's manual and after downloading it discovered his recommendation was for pretty much the same toe-in I'd settled on. It should be noted that on the Ted Jordan website, the transmission line design shown uses a wider baffle so this could affect the performance of the JX92S and his recommendation for the associated extreme toe-in. It did become quite obvious over the next few weeks that the Curvi excels at tonal accuracy of both instruments and vocals to explain perhaps why there are so many devotees of single-driver transducers.