A neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered - PERLISTEN® Audio

A neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered

"The sound is completely neutral. Or actually you can say that the S7t has no sound at all and is nothing more than a neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered."

A neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered

Review

Sinan Kökbugur

The American loudspeaker manufacturer Perlisten launched its first products about two years ago. As a manufacturer you will have to come up with something new to gain a place in the overcrowded market. Perlisten has developed and applied original technical concepts. In our listening room is the S7t, a floorstander and the flagship of Perlisten. What sets Perlisten apart from its competitors and is the S7t a good speaker? We’ll investigate that.

Perlisten: American loudspeaker manufacturer

Perlisten is short for Perceptual Listening Experience. This American loudspeaker manufacturer was founded in 2016 and launched its first products in the winter of 2021. In the meantime, the portfolio has expanded considerably and models for built-in installation are even available. The driving forces behind Perlisten all have extensive experience in building dynamic loudspeakers and drivers. Perlisten is therefore a young company, but it has a wealth of knowledge and experience in-house.

This medium has previously published a review of a Perlisten floorstander. Read our review about the Perlisten R5t, which also tells something about the history of Perlisten. If you would like to know more about this, please refer to the aforementioned review or to the Perlisten website.

The present review focuses on Perlisten’s top model and that is the floorstanding loudspeaker S7t. The S7t is larger and heavier than the R5t. Furthermore, the S7t has four woofers (the R5t has two) and the drivers in the S7t are more advanced and more expensive than the drivers in the R5t. There are also similarities, such as the placement of the DPC array. We will explain what that is later. The fact is that Perlisten has made extremely original and technically advanced design choices when building its products. We would like to describe that in more detail.

Perlisten S7t: floorstander and flagship

The S7t is a floorstander and is the flagship of Perlisten. With dimensions of 1,295 x 240 x 400 millimeters and a weight of 55.7 kilograms, it is a hefty loudspeaker, but because the baffle is only 240 millimeters wide, the S7t still has a slim appearance. The buyer can choose from versions in black or white piano lacquer or one of the four veneered versions. Other colors can also be supplied on request.

Perlisten develops and builds its drivers and enclosures in-house and has incorporated original technical ideas into its products. Let’s take a look at the technique before we start listening to music.

Perlisten S7t: four-way bass reflex system

Perlisten’s flagship is a four-way bass reflex system with seven drivers on board. Anyone who looks at the S7t will immediately see the four woofers that have a diameter of 180 millimeters. If you do not want to see any cones, you can install the supplied magnetically mounted circular grilles. The cone of the woofers is called thin-ply carbon diaphragm (TPCD) by the manufacturer. The brand name of the material used is Textreme. The Textreme cone is made of multiple cross-stacked layers of carbon. With greater strength, the cone is approximately thirty percent lighter than a comparable carbon cone.

In the middle between the four woofers is what Perlisten calls the ‘Directivity Pattern Control’ array (DPC) for which the company has applied for a patent. The high reproduction is provided by three drivers in the DPC array, each with a diameter of 28 millimeters. In the center of the DPC array is a beryllium tweeter that is placed in a waveguide. The tweeter reproduces frequencies up to 37 kHz. That is far beyond the range of human hearing. The waveguide mainly spreads the sound of the tweeter in width and not in height. In this way, no or at least much less ceiling and floor reflections occur and the result is less smearing and a sharper focus of the highs. Another advantage is the wide sweet spot.

The middle driver of the DPC array, ie the beryllium tweeter, is clearly visible. Less visible are the two TPCD drivers, one above and one below the tweeter, which, like the tweeter, have a diameter of 28 millimeters. Just like the woofers, these two small drivers have a Textreme cone and take care of the mids and mids. The DPC array is located in the center of the drivers and in many situations will be about ear level with the listener. That’s exactly where a tweeter should ideally be located.

Perlisten S7t: Crossover focused on driver collaboration and tonal overlap

Perlisten has developed an original vision on how the crossover works. In short, the drivers have large overlaps in tonal range representation and work together as much as possible. Of course the beryllium tweeter doesn’t get low tones from a bass drum or bass guitar, but overlapping and not strict separation is the goal of the crossover. According to Perlisten, the overlaps are on average much larger than with other manufacturers.

More precisely, the crossover is distributed over two printed circuit boards. The upper and lower woofer play frequencies between 22 Hz and 550 Hz. The middle two woofers play frequencies between 22 Hz and 1,350 Hz. The two TPCD drivers in the DPC array play frequencies between 1 kHz and 4.4 kHz. Finally, the beryllium tweeter covers the range from 1 kHz to 37 kHz. Due to the relatively large overlaps of the tonal areas assigned to the drivers by the crossover, a more coherent sound is created, according to the designers. The listener hears a loudspeaker and does not hear individual drivers of the loudspeaker.

Perlisten S7t: Enclosure and bass ports adjustable with foam plugs

The housing of the S7t is made of HDF (high-density fiberboard). The vertical lines on the front are rounded to reduce diffraction and give the cabinet a slimmer appearance. The panels have a thickness of between two and three centimetres. The baffle is five centimeters thick. One vertical and five horizontal reinforcements are mounted on the inside. The inside is lined with an abundant amount of cushioning material.

The housing stands on a foot made of thick sheet steel, which is equipped with four adjustable feet. The loudspeaker can therefore be placed without wobbling and the user can optionally adjust the tilt angle.

The S7t has two downward-facing bass ports incorporated in the foot with a diameter of approximately nine centimeters. This makes the placement of the speaker relatively easy. If necessary, the S7t may be placed close to a wall behind it. Some distance from a side wall is always a good idea. Perlisten supplies two large foam plugs per loudspeaker to possibly push into the bass ports in case the bass reproduction is a bit too excessive. That is not a very easy job because the loudspeaker, which weighs more than 55 kilograms, will have to be turned upside down to be able to disassemble the base. If you would like to install the foam plugs, it is best to ask the help of a second person. We quickly found that the foam plugs could remain in the box in our case.

Perlisten gives a sensitivity of 92.2 dB (2.83 Volt / 1 meter) and that is high. The S7t therefore does not need a very powerful amplifier. The impedance is four ohms with a minimum of 3.2 ohms. For the home cinema enthusiast, it is nice to know that the S7t has received the THX Dominus certificate.

Perlisten S7t: test environment

The Perlisten S7ts are driven by a set of amplifiers from the American Pass Labs that play in class A over the entire range. We turned the speakers in toward the listening position, but we also played with the speakers set up straight with a parallel listening axis. The difference in sound is small. Turned in, the focus is a bit sharper, but the sweet spot, which is unusually wide, is also a bit narrower. Set up straight, the sweet spot is wider at the cost of a little bit of width information. Positioning is a matter of personal preference. In our case, the arrangement is approximately an equilateral triangle with sides of more than four meters.

Pressplay.

Perlisten S7t: sound, completely neutral and balanced

Testing a loudspeaker to successively write a review consists mainly of listening to music. It always starts with listening to all kinds of different pieces of music in a relaxed setting for a certain period of time. In this way a general impression is obtained of the loudspeaker and the interaction between loudspeaker and listening room. How’s the sound? Neutral or not quite neutral? A little hot? Or is there just a touch of coolness? Brand new loudspeakers sometimes have to play twenty hours or more to come into their own. Critical listening is therefore not useful at first. This does not alter the fact that music (playback) can be enjoyed in the meantime.

After a possible break-in period has passed and a general impression has been obtained, a few critical listening sessions always follow in which the speaker is listened to in a more technical way. During a critical listening session, well-known pieces of music or pieces of music are chosen that contain technically challenging passages. When it comes to bass reproduction, these are, for example, the loops of a bass guitar that go very deep or the pit-deep strokes on the timpani of a symphony orchestra. The double bass drum rolls of a rock band can be a challenge. Mid tones and high tones are also listened to critically. Do voices sound realistic? How do bells, cymbals or a triangle sound? And so we can give more examples. During the first listening sessions, we had not yet read ourselves into the technology and design choices that were made in the creation of the S7t. Let the sound come first. Later, we’ll delve into technique as we continue to listen.

Let’s jump straight to the conclusion, which we will explain later: the S7t is a completely neutral sounding speaker. When we say “colorless” it can be taken negatively. Perhaps “free of color” is a better description. What matters is that the speaker seems to disappear. The S7t has no sound of its own. We did not detect any trace of heat or coolness in the display during the test period. The S7t is a neutral conduit. All tonal areas are equally represented and no tonal area stands out. So no kicks in the stomach with the low reproduction, but also no turned on high reproduction.

What material would the cabinet be made of? We described it above but during the first listening sessions we didn’t know it yet. The sound betrays nothing. Speaker cabinets are often made of wood or a wood-like material such as MDF, HDF, chipboard and plywood. The edge of warmth that a wooden or wood-like speaker cabinet can give is absent with the S7t. Aluminum has completely different properties than wood, but is nevertheless an excellent material for making speaker cabinets. This is proven by, among others, the Swiss manufacturers Piega and Stenheim and the American manufacturer Magico. Aluminum speakers can sound a bit more analytical and add a small touch of coolness to the playback. No, the S7t is not made of aluminum either. After some research we know that the case of the S7t is made of HDF, a woody material. The baffle is more than two inches thick. The sound is neutral and does not evoke any association with HDF or any other woody material.

Another striking feature is the seamless cooperation between the seven drivers. With loudspeakers of this size, the listener may be able to perceive the reproduction of individual drivers at a short distance. Those who are less than a meter from the S7t may be able to perceive an individual driver, but at a normal listening distance of more than three meters for this size floorstanding speaker, the drivers of the S7t are not discernible. All drivers work together and despite its size, the S7t behaves like a point source.

We choose “My Ugly Boy” from Skunk Anansie’s abum An Acoustic Skunk Anansie, Live in London. Distorting amplifiers have been omitted on this live album, or at least not turned up very far. The acoustic guitar parts sound slightly warm. Singer Skin’s voice sounds fragile and has a bit of sharpness. The listener is approximately in the tenth row of the podium. It could also be a little more or less. The buzz of the audience can be heard mainly from behind. For the record, we don’t have any speakers behind us, just the S7ts in front of us. The bass guitar is not only a layer of low notes in the music, but the melody line is also easy to follow. Cymbals, hi-hat and the dry drum hits are well articulated and sound realistic. The S7t doesn’t seem to be there. We are attending a concert.

Australian singer/songwriter Xavier Rudd makes extensive use of the typical Australian didgeridoo, a wind instrument that produces very low tones and is very suitable for the dreamy music he makes. We play “Pockets of Peace” from the album Food In The Belly. The didgeridoo lays a foundation of low tones. On top of that, Rudd builds a soundscape of, among other things, an acoustic guitar, slide guitar and djembee drums. The recording makes us think that we are in a very large empty room. The walls of the listening room have disappeared. The S7t also seems to have disappeared again. When Rudd starts singing he seems to be standing close to us, in front of all the instruments used. The sound is very realistic.

We select “Cry Of Achilles” the first track from Alter Bridge’s album Fortress. The song opens with a warm and realistic sounding acoustic guitar. We can hear the guitarist’s fingers sliding over the strings. At 0:32, drums and a fat-sounding electric guitar join in. The sound does not close. The S7t knows how to define all instruments separately. Effects are absent, despite the fat sound. The S7t likes all kinds of music and reproduces an intimate acoustic singer/wongwriter just as easily as a rock band with guitar amps turned up wide.

Perlisten S7t: sound, a passive loudspeaker without resonance

One of our favorite passages to judge bass performance is the opening of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons. This piece begins with a horn that is quickly joined by other brass. In one minute, bass reproduction, midtones and treble reproduction can be assessed. The bass reproduction between the counter positions 0:13 and 0:19 is a big challenge because the horn plays fortissimo and plays a piece of the scale starting high and ending low. Almost always a few notes jump forward in volume, regardless of the price range of the equipment used . The higher volume of some notes is, of course, caused by resonance. That could be resonance from the speaker itself, but some notes always jump forward.

We are now approaching the description of a very strong point of the Perlisten S7t. In short, the Perlisten S7t does not resonate. Just no. It is a passive dynamic loudspeaker and no form of signal processing has been applied. So there’s no tone control, no DSP, no room correction software, no special frequency-tuned attenuators, none of that. The low notes that we are used to being able to jump forward in our listening room keep a low profile. Never before have we been able to observe the horn and brass at the beginning of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in such a way when using passive dynamic loudspeakers. The reproduction of the horn is completely free of resonance. If the horn runs down the stairs between 0:13 and 0:19, all notes will sound equally loud. The listening room seems to have completely disappeared. The room resonance is effectively eliminated.

We have a similar experience with the rendition of the pit-deep bass guitar in the first track of Porcupine Tree’s album “Voyage 34”, which starts at 2:15. Again, we are used to some notes sounding a bit louder due to the resonance inherent in the listening room, but again resonance is absent. The throbbing bass drum now sounds very realistic, bone dry and well deep, as we are used to from this recording.

We are used to the lack of resonance when using electrostatic loudspeakers, but that a set of passive dynamic loudspeakers does not resonate at all is a new experience. That’s not because the bass reproduction is bare, far from it. The S7t produces an excellent and very deep bass reproduction without the pursuit of effects. The listener does not get unrealistic kicks in the stomach. The control over the bass is of a rare level and free of resonance.

In summary, we can conclude that Perlisten has built a very special loudspeaker. The S7t features highly original design choices. The DPC array, an invention of Perlisten, gives an excellent horizontal spread of the sound. The large overlaps of the tonal areas of the drivers ensure a coherent sound image. The listener hears a loudspeaker and does not hear individual drivers. The absence of resonance is a rare feature shared by few competitors. The still young Perlisten has proven its right to exist with its design choices and products and rightly claimed and received a place in the overcrowded loudspeaker market.

Perlisten S7t: conclusion

The Perlisten S7t is a special loudspeaker with a very realistic detailed sound and a wide sweet spot. The control over the bass reproduction is exceptionally good. The S7t is free of any form of resonance and behaves like a point source. The sound is completely neutral. Or actually you can say that the S7t has no sound at all and is nothing more than a neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered. Perlisten’s original design choices led to the creation of an exceptionally good loudspeaker.

RESUME

The Perlisten S7t is a special loudspeaker with a very realistic detailed sound and a wide sweet spot. The control over the bass reproduction is exceptionally good. The S7t is free of any form of resonance and behaves like a point source. The sound is completely neutral. Or actually you can say that the S7t has no sound at all and is nothing more than a neutral and clean conduit for the music signal offered. Perlisten’s original design choices led to the creation of an exceptionally good loudspeaker.

PLUSES

  • Very realistic and neutral rendering
  • Exceptionally well-controlled bass reproduction
  • Complete absence of resonance
  • Behaves like a point source
  • Very wide sweet spot
  • Heavy and solid build quality


MISCELLANEOUS

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