Audio Physic Scorpio II Loudspeakers

2011-01-31T19:10:47+00:00January 31st, 2011|Reviews, Speakers and Subwoofers|1,104 Comments

Montreal-based Dimexs is one of Canada’s premier importers of audio brands from around the world. The company is responsible for the Canadian distribution of brands including Naim, PS Audio, Nagra, Avid, Verity Audio, Atoll and Acoustic Energy.

The latest addition to its portfolio of brands is Audio Physic, a German speaker manufacturer that has been in the speaker business for nearly 25 years. Audio Physic goes by the slogan “no loss of fine detail” and prides itself by taking a non-traditional approach to speaker design and production techniques with the goal of achieving uncompromised sound reproduction. Today the company offers a wide range of speaker models designed for music and home cinema systems ranging from the Yara II Compact bookshelves ($1,595 for a pair) all the way to the flagship Cardeas floorstanding loudspeakers which will be released later this fall (approximately $36,000 for a pair). To complement the speakers, especially in home theatres, Audio Physic also offers a pair of subwoofers.

For this review, we arranged for a pair of the Scorpio II floorstanding speakers to be shipped to our test lab. Based on price, these speakers sit neatly in the middle of the Audio Physic product line-up. For $9000, you can choose one of the real wood venner finishes which include Cherry, Black Ash, Maple and Rosenut. For $10,500, you’ll get a choice between Ebony and high gloss white or black lacquer finishes. If you’re willing to spend even more, you can order the speakers with bi-wire connectors, signature-grade WBT connectors and even a crossover with various upgraded components. The Scorpio II speakers are tall and slim, measuring 43.3-inches high, 8.5-inches wide and 15.4-inches deep. Since their stands extend beyond the cabinets, they require a floor space that’s 11.4-inches wide by 20.9-inches deep. These easy-to-work-with dimensions should make them a comfortable fit in most listening rooms – they certainly fit very nicely into my open-concept living/dining room. I thoroughly enjoyed the ebony finish of my review pair.

From a design perspective, the Scorpio II has a design unlike any other speaker that we’ve tested to date. Its three-and-a-half way design utilizes no less than six woofers and a single tweeter. These 4 ohm speakers are said to deliver a frequency response between 29 Hz and 40 kHz and have a sensitivity rated at 91 dB. The bass frequencies are provided by four 7-inch paper-cone woofers (two one each side wall of the cabinet) which fire in a push-push configuration. This configuration was designed to cancel cabinet resonances. The front baffle contains two 6-inch coated-paper-cone drivers; the lower unit handles midbass/lower-midrange frequencies from 150 to 500 Hz, while the upper unit handles lower-midrange/mid-high frequencies from 150 Hz to 2.8 kHz. Anything above 2.8 kHz is taken care of by the 1-inch modified soft-dome tweeter. The speaker cabinets are both rear- and bottom-ported. The supplied metal stands raise the speakers a couple of inches off the ground to give the bottom port enough breathing room. The front baffles are tilted back 7 degrees and the side walls of the cabinet have a slight curve that tapers towards the rear. The slight tilt of the baffles allows the sound from the tweeters to arrive at your ears at precisely the same time as the sound from the drivers. At the rear of each speaker is a pair of gold-plated speaker binding posts.

The instructions recommend for the speakers to be set up at least 1-1/2 feet (or about half a meter) away from the rear and side walls. This will allow you to achieve a more balanced bass response in your room. I also toed-in the speakers slightly toward my listening position.

I connected the Scorpio II speakers to my long-standing reference components – the Classé Audio CA-2100 amplifier and CP-500 preamplifier. The source was a Classé Audio CDP-102 CD player, the latest upgrade to my system.

I began my listening session with the re-release of Pearl Jam’s “Ten” album, the Deluxe Edition – a fantastic gift that I received for my birthday, together with a pair of tickets to see Pearl Jam this past summer. This small box set contains the original album with newly remastered tracks on CD; a second CD which contains all of the original songs remixed by Brendan O’Brien along with six previously unreleased tracks; as well as a DVD of the 1992 MTV Unplugged session. I have always been a big fan of Pearl Jam and was a little skeptical of listening to a remix of one of my favourite albums but I must admit that I was very pleased with what I heard. The Scorpio II speakers delivered highly detailed remixes of songs like “Black” and “Alive”, revealing all of the various layers of instruments, vocals and effects. Their coherency and tonal balance were excellent across all frequencies. The sound that I was listening to had reasonably low and well articulated bass, natural mids, and was topped off with crisp, detailed highs. With this album the Scorpio II speakers delivered a clean, punchy sound but without the brightness that other highly detailed speakers sometimes exhibit.

Following the energetic rendition of Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, I decided to try something completely different and reached for a few piano recordings. I especially enjoyed a recently a recent addition to my music library – “Piano Music in a Church” on CD, a collection of Chopin and Debussy piano works performed by Endre Hegedus (Tone-Pearls Records, TPRCD1). This disc contains some of the finest, live piano that I’ve listened to on my audio system. The Scorpio II speakers conveyed the dynamics and full scale of the piano, as well as the ambience of the church extremely well. With eyes closed, many listeners would easily be tricked to think that they are listening to a real live piano performance.

While listening to “Audiophile Voices” volumes II and III, the speakers were able to precisely position the performers and instruments in a three dimensional space in front of me. When listening to “Fields of Gold”, the vocals were front-centre, an acoustic guitar at the left and slightly behind the singer, and a guitar with effects applied in the rear right. The vocals sounded silky smooth, while the instruments were dynamic and played with the realism of real-life instruments. With the volume cranked, the speakers never sounded harsh or seemed to strain. At high volumes, the sensation was very much that of a live performance.

Further proof of the Scorpio II’s ability to create a three dimensional stage came when I listened to Radiohead’s “Ok Computer” album on CD. Tracks such as “Paranoid Andriod” and “Subterranean Homesick Alien” were presented in enormously large sonic landscapes. Sounds were coming from several feet to the sides of the physical position of the left and right speakers. The depth of the soundstage was equally impressive – on many of the tracks, the sounds came from far beyond the back wall of my listening room. Unlike other floorstanders of this size, this soundstage also had a good height component to it. Of course producing a soundstage that has good width, depth and height is only part of the equation. A good speaker should also be able to precisely position and move sounds within this soundstage. And the Scorpio II speakers did this exactly right – at times vocals and instruments came from just behind my rear wall, other times they came from way further back (and everywhere in between). Ditto for the left to right imaging. All of theses variables resulted in some of the most satisfying 2-channel audio I’ve heard in a while. In fact, it wasn’t just audio – it was more of a multi-dimensional sonic presentation. What about the complex, multi-layered audio? “Ok Computer” contains many instruments and effects superimposed on top of each other, which can sound like a harsh sonic mish-mash on lesser speakers. But the Scorpio II’s didn’t have any problems resolving this type of audio. The combined presentation of the layers was pleasant to my ears and if I focused on a particular layer, I could easily pick it out from the audio. Perhaps the only aspect that I felt was missing from the overall sonic presentation were the lowest of the frequencies – the Scorpio II didn’t play as low as other floorstanders that I’ve listened to in the past.

The Scorpio II speakers aren’t difficult speakers to drive and should work well with most amplifiers. In fact, during the time they spent I my house, I also listened to them connected to a Fatman iTube 452 integrated tube amplifier (also reviewed in this issue). The added warmth and harmonics were a nice treat that some listeners would surely appreciate.

My first encounter with Audio Physic was an enjoyable experience. Its Scorpio II speakers gave me a glimpse of what can be expected from the company’s higher and lower priced speaker models. If you’re looking for a speaker that is coherent, dynamic and delivers a highly detailed sound, without unnecessary brightness, you should definitely give these speakers a listen. Top all of this off with a few choices of beautiful finishes and a very comfortable cabinet size, and you have a worthy contender in the speaker business.

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Audio Physic
Distributed in Canada by Dimexs

Audio Physic Scorpio II Loudspeakers
Price: $10,500 CAD

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