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Salk SongTower SC






Optimal Placement
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Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver)

Specifications

  • MTM 2-way Quarter Wave Tube Transmission Line Tower
  • Frequency Response: 34 Hz – 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
  • Power Handling: 150 W Tube Power, 250 W Solid State Power
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB (2.83 V/1 m)
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms Nominal (or "Stated"), 6 Ohms Average
  • Woofer Size: 5.75”
  • Tweeter Size: ribbon
  • Crossover: ?? Hz
  • Tuning Port: Single, On Front
  • Dimensions: 44.5" H x 8" W x 10.5" D
  • Weight (Each): ~40 lbs.
  • MSRP (Pair): $3,499
Configuration

The Salk SongTower SC is a Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange (MTM) 2-way design with a Quarter-Wave Tube Transmission Line, a RAAL ribbon tweeter, and two Seas Excel W15 midwoofers.

Salk Website

Setup and Placement Flexibility

The SongTower SC went on quite a journey around our room to find its ultimate best placement location. It ended up being a worthwhile trip, giving us a very engaging soundstage - wide, deep, and natural, with good depth acuity - and sharp, stable imaging. We were a bit surprised that this was as hard to achieve is it was. Someone suggested we start out with the oft-recommended equilateral triangle zero-listener-angle setup. It sounded pretty good that way, although the wide, deep soundstage we look for was missing. They also spent time widely spaced and close to the Primary Listening Position (PLP), but ultimately worked best widely spaced and quite far from the PLP. Leonard gets the credit for doggedly insisting we try and try again, and ultimately got the SongTower SC to where they performed best. The length of that search is not a negative as far as I am concerned. Many speakers we work with end up being very particular with their placement requirements. With the SongTower SC, the reward is well worth the effort.

Impressions

I was very pleased with the SongTower SC. There was something delicate about their nature, their sound, and their look. "I am not here to knock you over the head for blow you away," they seem to be saying. "Let me sing you a little song." And they start to sing and before you know it you are mesmerized.

There is a cohesive quality that makes their sound seem simple and extremely natural. I found myself taking more notes than usual about the SongTower SC, yet when I later sat down to decipher them, they all boiled down to a few simple descriptions. My final notation says it best: "Pretty and nice." They are speakers I can see being easy to fall in love with and become very attached to.

Frequency Response, Bass Extension



Room EQ Wizard MDAT file for download:

If someone someday figures out how to use water as a transducer element in a tweeter, the RAAL tweeter's liquid-smooth presentation is what it would have to sound like. That tweeter always strikes me as having a liquid smoothness which never ceases to grab my attention.

The fiddle and mandolin on Ode to a Butterfly were extremely lifelike, tactile, present in the room. When plucked, those mandolin, guitar, and fiddle plucks really jumped out at us. Guitars all sounded like they had brand-new strings, with an extra little bit of liveliness and clarity. The cymbals on Chant were WOW-smooth and natural, and all the drums and percussion on that track jumped out with liveliness.

The standup bass on Strange Fruit seemed just a little uneven on certain notes. Bass response extended low enough to support the lowest tones in our test tracks adequately, although I would not say with real authority. The SongTower SC is probably not the speaker for the insatiably bass-hungry, but I lean toward preferring a flatter response, so their bass level seemed about right to me. The recessed range from 500 Hz to 1 kHz, just broad and deep enough to be noticeable, only occasionally evidenced itself as a slightly hollow effect.

Vocals were particularly clear and natural, harmonies simply melted together to perfection. On the piano solo on Chant, each note had a wonderfully round "tang" on the hammer strike, another "wow" sound. The synthesizers on Rhinestone Eyes soared with a smooth richness that was just yummy. Male and female vocals also seem to liquid smooth. Joni, on California, sang "My heart cry it out for you," and it just felt good. Sibilants on that track and on Ain't It A Shame and Reasons Why seemed clean, natural, and properly balanced.

Soundstage and Imaging

The MTM three-driver configuration of the SongTower SC is one I have always liked, in particular with the RAAL tweeter. There is a cohesive nature about the presentation that has immediately grabed my attention with similar designs and did again with the SongTower SC. It almost sounds like a single-driver speaker, but has the advantage of that RAAL liquid-smoothness in addition.

Imaging and soundstage were very good -- wide and spacious, very open with good depth and a clear sense of depth acuity. The vocal sheen and sibilants on Ain't It A Shame and Reasons Why stayed centered on the vocal core for rock solid imaging. On Rhinestone Eyes, the air was thick with rich synth sounds, each clearly localized in its proper place. This is the kind of soundstage we strive for, are sonically addicted to, and delight in when we achieve it.

Clarity & Power Handling

Using the Also Sprach Zarathustra / Star Trek sequence played at a standard SPL level as our bass-power-handling test sequence, the SongTower SC bottomed out on the deep bass impact notes at the beginning of Star Trek. This is not to say that they cannot fill a nice-sized room with music at a good volume. In fact they seemed to like being pushed a little, enjoying playing at volume. They are simply not going to be a speaker for handling lots of deep, bone-crushing bass.

Clarity for the SongTower SC overall was nothing short of superb in my assessment. Leonard thought he heard some midrange distortion, and measurements showed small distortion peaks around the crossover frequency. Leonard's ear is much better at catching small amounts of distortion than mine. For me, cymbal crashes and "ride" strikes all had that wonderful complex nature where every strange harmonic rang true with no sign of hash. Even on Shallow, the cymbals stayed clean along with the crunchy guitars. Orchestral bells and triangles burst out bright and true like a baby right out of the bath, all wet and fresh with a big, happy grin.

Performance at Final Position With Audyssey MultEQ XT32

Audyssey MultEQ room correction tightened the imaging and soundstage slightly, and evened out the frequency response, filling in were there was just a little something missing and evening out the tonality nicely.

Performance Close to the Front Wall

The SongTowers SC performed reasonably well close to the wall, with good imaging and a soundstage that was adequate but not deep -- far from perfect but quite nice. I felt I could listen to them in this configuration and not feel horribly cheated. Bass response suffered, though, was a bit boomy, and there was an occasional boxy tone. The zero-toe-in aiming gave a more open soundstage then the zero-listening-angle setup. The SongTower SC could live close to the wall like this and still be considered to sound quite nice, although nothing at all like they would perform well out into the room.

Physical and Visual

The SongTower SC definitely have a delicate slant to their appearance. The unique finish was flawless. Salk is known for their beautiful finishes using out-of-the-ordinary woods, and they tend to come across as nothing short of stunning.

Overall Listening Experience

The SongTower SC were very easy to listen to and enjoy. They scored high in all the areas that are important to me in a 2-channel speaker. Their only flaws were only rarely noticeable, and never a real distraction. The long journey to that ideal location gives the impression they are difficult to get good sound out of. Not so. They sound very good almost anywhere in a room, and sound great with some extra placement care.

I have a hard time imagining any serious 2-channel listener not being completely happy with these towers. For me, the name seems to say it all. "I am not a loudspeaker, I am a Song Tower." Try to find something not to like about that.


Leonard Caillouet (lcaillo)

This was one of the speakers that I was most exited to hear. I had heard an older version without the RAAL tweeter recently and have heard much about speakers that use it so I could not wait. Of course the first thing I was listening for was the high frequency performance. I found the very high treble to be very smooth and detailed. This is obviously a very low distortion driver out to higher than I can hear. I was also listening for the bass performance near the wall, as Salk advertises that their design performs better than others in these locations. As expected, the bass was less defined and more exaggerated in both of the near wall positions we tested, compared to the optimum placement well out into the room. They were one of the better performers near the wall, however, and did have a decent image there. The orientation did not make much difference in the bass definition, but did have a slight effect on the soundstage. The image was more seamless, not losing the middle as much when they were perpendicular to the wall compared to on axis with the listener. Near the wall the bass was a bit more slurred and it was hard to distinguish notes on, for instance, the deep bass on the right near the guitar on Ode to a Butterfly. The image was indistinct and the speakers were obviously the sound source in the on axis orientation. In the perpendicular orientation the image got a bit better, and filled in the middle, and it was easier to “lose” the speakers. Not ideal, but for this location I would rate them very good.


Once we moved the speakers out and located the best position, the soundstage was very precise. The speakers got “out of the box” nicely. In other words, closing my eyes it was difficult to hear that the sound was coming from the direction of the speakers. The mid base cleared up significantly. Lower strings on a guitar became much more defined and realistic compared to near the wall. The deep bass improved as well but not as much as I expected. It extends deep enough to be satisfying with most music, but lacks a bit of authority for what I would like in a speaker in this price range. I am not surprised, considering the small size of the drivers used. But considering the size of the speakers and how well they did relative to others in near wall locations, I think they are a very good choice for a situation where you can’t move your speakers five or six feet out in the room.


There is one way in which the SongTower SC was clearly a standout. That is the finish. This is one area that I had heard high praise about and it is well deserved. This is a speaker that you would want to show off. If I had these in my home I would invest in some nice lighting like one would for a fine piece of art. While none of the speakers we reviewed in this event were in any way below expectations in finish, Salk obviously takes unusual pride and effort to create a unique and quite beautiful product. This is a speaker that would have a high approval rating in most homes.


I was pleased with the experience with the SongTower SC. In fact, while we heard some great things from it initially, we sensed that we could get more. We went back to it again to see if other placement would extract more performance out of it. On the second attempt we ended up with the speakers a little farther from the listener and the soundstage became even better than before. So while the speaker is apparently designed to perform well near walls in less than optimum positioning, and it took a while to find the optimum placement, it can become quite magical when careful attention is paid to positioning. It does not seem to lack bass extension even well out into the room, and the soundstage is deep and wide. The rain sticks on Chant started well outside of the left speaker and as they panned ended up well outside the speaker on the right.

So how did it make me feel to listen to these speakers? Well, I clearly got a sense of space and the feeling of performers performing as opposed to speakers playing a recording. I won’t say like a live performance because no system sounds like live, but on live recordings, it very good. The Jazz at the Pawnshop track, recorded live, gave a sense of an actual jazz club and listening from the back of a club. I know, many of you are rolling your eyes at reading this because if you have been around for a few decades you probably became sick of those recordings as they were used so much for demo and listening tests. But while they do not have precise imaging because of the nature of the mic placement, they do capture much of the excitement and feel of a live performance with real instruments. I got that with the Salk. My fabric analogy here is a no iron cotton dress shirt or maybe one with just a bit of poly. Banks, certainly, not Arrow.



What about running them hard? You might expect a speaker with small drivers to complain when cranking the SRV or the Talking Heads tracks up to near max with the Emotiva amp, but they did not. The output is impressive. They don’t move as much air as others so you don’t get that knock you down power, but they remain very clean up to quite loud levels. The tweeter never seems to get out of control on the very highest treble, though there is a bit of roughness at high levels in the midrange to upper midrange when pushed. When Eva Cassidy soared, they went there, but not with quite as much grace in the midrange as the very top end. They did have a bit of trouble handling the big bass in the Star Trek intro.

Who should own these? I think a better question is who should not, as most people interested in very high quality sound would like them. If you really want power and authority and listen at extremely high levels, these might not satisfy. For more moderate levels, for superb imaging with deep bass, and an impressive visual performance these are a great choice. 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Joe Alexander (ALMFamily)

Here
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I will be editing post #1 directly. Please post changes / additions separately so we do not have any collisions. I will combine them all before posting.

Next will be:
  • Phase Technology
  • Axiom
  • PSB
  • Tannoy
  • Polk
Yes, I changed them again.
 

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I have heard Salk speakers many times - not only the SC Songtowers, but many others as well. For me, I was really looking forward to seeing how these sounded in Sonnie's room as I have heard the Songtowers... well, I have lost count of the number of times. :)

As far as finish, again, I have seen quite a few Salk speakers, and if you have ever read any of my thoughts on them, you already know I love the effort that is put into the finish on every Salk speaker. These do not disappoint – it looks like the fiddleback sycamore was used for these (the material looks the same as my surrounds at home) and the finish is really quite stunning. They have the standard cabinet design, but I do like how the gold “dust cap” adds a break-up to the front baffle. There was only one small annoyance that I may not have noticed had I not been on hook-up / moving duty – the connections are not color coded. There is a “+” sign on the plate next to the positive side that I did not see until I grabbed a small flashlight. Not really a big deal I guess since once they are plugged in, you are set, but there it is anyway.

As per SOP, the first bit of listening was done with them set up close to the wall. Spatial imaging is pretty good here with the speakers toed in to the LP. When they were pointed straight out, I noticed much better spatial imaging (spatial imaging to me is the amount of space between each separate component of the music i.e. vocalist, bassist, horns, etc) and the soundfield was wider. I was impressed with how these did with a close to the wall location as they had good low end with nice impact and the imaging was better than anticipated.

A quick note as this is the first of the six speakers posted for review - I decided to try to include each of my test tracks in my write-up and any specific thoughts I had during each track rather than summarize to give a better sense of what I was thinking at the time.



Track 1 - Ode to a Butterfly

Very nice depth to the soundfield here – really get a sense of depth in each instrument. Good detail on the harpsichord. Each instrument images where I expect.

Track 2 - Chant

The rainstick panning effect was handled perfectly – panned from left to right as expected with no hole. Excellent midrange punch. Piano key strokes readily apparent. Love that guitar pluck and resulting vibration sequence around the 3 minute mark.

Track 3 - Reasons Why

Image perfectly. Very light, airy female vocal sound. No sibilance issue for me.

Track 4 - Strange Fruit

Instruments image exactly where I expected them to – horn far left, bass in the middle, Cassandra just left of center, and the lap guitar to the right. Excellent blending of her vocals and instruments – no one piece overpowers the other. Wow – just got a sense of height differential where you can tell the guitar is on a lap below where Cassnadra's vocals would be coming from - cool!

Track 5 - Struttin' with some Barbeque

Nice depth – horn sounds deeper in the soundstage – no fatigue or feel of shoulder cringing with the horns.

Track 6 - One

Love the sound of the bass guitar here. Guitars sound like they are just outside the speakers. Very nice mid roll off – no sense of smearing.

Track 7 - Hells Bells

Excellent ringing of the bell and resulting vibration as well as high hat splash. Bass drum has great impact.

Track 8 - Let It Go

Sibilance just a little much here – turned the volume down to -10 from -4 and it was much better. Excellent piano clarity. Great vocal and instrument blending. Vocals dynamics handled really well – no signs of compression.

Track 9 - Where Do The Children Play

Great spatial imaging. Pluck of the guitar very clear and precise. Dynamic range and shifts in vocal levels handled extremely well – did not feel I missed any details. Nice bass drum impact – very tight and clean. No signs of compression at the 3:20 minute mark.

Track 10 - Tricycle

Great imaging here. Dynamic shifts show no compression. I am picking up on detail I do not remember when listening to it previously with the guitar toward the 1:50 minute mark.

Track 11- Just One Of Those Things

Very smooth piano sound – delicate. Imaging has good separation and depth here. Excellent piano detail and clarity.

Track 12 - Walking On The Moon

Fantastic high hat splash. Love the buzzing of the trumpet. I do not get a feeling of depth between the trumpet and drums – they sound like they are on top of the other.



I stayed in the room during Wayne’s session as there was one track I was really listening for - the Melody Gardot track. I chose to go with a different female track as I have been listening to it extensively the last couple months, and I really like it. But, I really love Melody’s voice and I was hoping one of the other guys would choose her! The vocals were so silky smooth. It has that light, airy vocal sound that I personally enjoy. Sibilance was not distracting at all for me until we turned the volume up a bit. Then, they were really grating.

We has some spare time on Sunday so we pulled these back into the room and moved them around to see if we could find a better location. They ended up closer to each boundary with less toe in once it was all said and done. Being closer to the boundary helped to reinforce the low end a bit and less toe in reduced some of the sibilance. It also helped to image the low end much better as it was a lot more precise. We then ran Audyssey and listened again. We achieved even better gains with the low end imaging and a reduction in sibilance. It was still not perfect, but the sibilance was at least more manageable.

Overall, I really like these as I enjoy that open, airy high end sound and they are a fantastic speaker to behold. Low end performance was good, but it did not stand out as there is not much impact. Crisp mid-bass really rounds out this speaker. The only real complaints I have is sibilance can be distressing at higher volumes and low end really did not have the impact I was hoping for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Salk SongTower SC






Optimal Placement
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Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver)

Specifications

  • MTM 2-way Quarter Wave Tube Transmission Line Tower
  • Frequency Response: 34 Hz – 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
  • Power Handling: 150 W Tube Power, 250 W Solid State Power
  • Sensitivity: 88 dB (2.83 V/1 m)
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms Nominal (or "Stated"), 6 Ohms Average
  • Woofer Size: 5.75”
  • Tweeter Size: ribbon
  • Crossover: ?? Hz
  • Tuning Port: Single, On Front
  • Dimensions: 44.5" H x 8" W x 10.5" D
  • Weight (Each): ~40 lbs.
  • MSRP (Pair): $3,499
Configuration

The Salk SongTower SC is a Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange (MTM) 2-way design with a Quarter-Wave Tube Transmission Line, a RAAL ribbon tweeter, and two Seas Excel W15 midwoofers.

Salk Website

Setup and Placement Flexibility

The SongTower SC went on quite a journey around our room to find its ultimate "best placement" location. It ended up being a worthwhile trip, giving us a very engaging soundstage - wide, deep, and natural, with good depth acuity - and sharp, stable imaging. We were a bit surprised that this was as hard to achieve is it was. Someone suggested we start out with the oft-recommended equilateral triangle, zero-listener-angle setup. It sounded pretty good that way, although the wide, deep soundstage we look for was missing. They also spent time widely spaced and close to the Primary Listening Position (PLP), but ultimately worked best widely spaced and quite far from the PLP. Leonard gets the credit for doggedly insisting we try and try again, and ultimately got the SongTower SC to where they performed best. The length of that search is not a negative as far as I am concerned. Many speakers we work with end up being very particular with their placement requirements. With the SongTower SC, the reward is well worth the effort.

Impressions

I was very pleased with the SongTower SC. There was something delicate about their nature, their sound, and their look. "I am not here to knock you over the head or blow you away," they seem to be saying. "Let me sing you a little song." And they start to sing and before you know it you are mesmerized.

There is a cohesive quality that makes their sound seem simple and extremely natural. I found myself taking more notes than usual about the SongTower SC, yet when I later sat down to decipher them, they all boiled down to a few simple descriptions. My final notation says it best: "Pretty and nice." They are speakers I can see being easy to fall in love with and become very attached to.

Frequency Response, Bass Extension



Room EQ Wizard MDAT file for download:

If someone someday figures out how to use water as a transducer element in a tweeter, the RAAL tweeter's liquid-smooth presentation is what it would have to sound like. That tweeter always strikes me as having a liquid smoothness which never ceases to grab my attention.

The fiddle and mandolin on Ode to a Butterfly were extremely lifelike, tactile, present in the room. When plucked, those mandolin, guitar, and fiddle strings really jumped out at us. Guitars all sounded like they had brand-new strings, with an extra bit of liveliness and clarity. The cymbals on Chant were WOW-smooth and natural, and all the drums and percussion on that track jumped with liveliness.

The standup bass on Strange Fruit seemed just a little uneven on certain notes. Bass response extended low enough to support the lowest tones in our test tracks adequately, although I would not say with real authority. The SongTower SC is probably not the speaker for the insatiably bass-hungry, but I lean toward preferring a flatter response, so their bass level seemed about right to me. The recessed range from 500 Hz to 1 kHz, just broad and deep enough to be noticeable, only occasionally evidenced itself as a slightly hollow effect.

Vocals were particularly clear and natural, harmonies simply melted together to perfection. On the piano solo on Chant, each note had a wonderfully round "tang" on the hammer strike, another "wow" sound. The synthesizers on Rhinestone Eyes soared with a smooth richness that was just yummy. Male and female vocals also seem to liquid smooth. Joni, on California, sang "My heart cry it out for you," and it just felt good. Sibilants on that track and on Ain't It A Shame and Reasons Why seemed clean, natural, and properly balanced.

Soundstage and Imaging

The MTM three-driver configuration of the SongTower SC is one I have always liked, in particular with the RAAL tweeter. There is a cohesive nature about the presentation that has immediately grabbed my attention with similar designs and did again with the SongTower SC. It almost sounds like a single-driver speaker, but has the advantage of that RAAL liquid-smoothness in addition.

Imaging and soundstage were very good -- wide and spacious, very open with good depth and a clear sense of depth acuity. This is the kind of soundstage we strive for, are sonically addicted to, and delight in when we achieve it. The vocal sheen and sibilants on Ain't It A Shame and Reasons Why stayed centered on the core vocal sound for rock solid imaging. On Rhinestone Eyes, the air was thick with rich synth sounds, each clearly localized in its proper place. The Chant and Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm tracks and the B-52s medley all involve complex yet well-organized mixes where every note, every sound, every echo and effect is given its own area in the space of the soundstage with clear separation from all the others. When speakers produce a really nice soundstage, as with he SongTower SC, all this is presented with such clarity that you could sketch out a 3-D diagram moment by moment indicating all those locations with detailed dimensions, including a pretty accurate idea of the distance from the PLP.

Clarity & Power Handling

Using the Also Sprach Zarathustra / Star Trek sequence played at a standard SPL level as our bass-power-handling test sequence, the SongTower SC bottomed out on the deep bass impact notes at the beginning of Star Trek. This is not to say that they cannot fill a nice-sized room with music at a good volume. In fact they seemed to like being pushed a little, enjoying playing at volume. They are simply not going to be a speaker for handling lots of deep, bone-crushing bass.

Clarity for the SongTower SC overall was nothing short of superb in my assessment. Leonard thought he heard some midrange distortion, and measurements showed small distortion peaks around the crossover frequency. Leonard's ear is much better at catching small amounts of distortion than mine. For me, cymbal crashes and "ride" strikes all had that wonderful complex nature where every strange harmonic rang true with no sign of hash. Even on Shallow, the cymbals stayed clean along with the crunchy guitars. Orchestral bells and triangles burst out bright and true like a baby right out of the bath, all wet and fresh with a big, happy grin.

Performance at Final Position With Audyssey MultEQ XT32

Audyssey MultEQ room correction tightened the imaging and soundstage slightly, and evened out the frequency response, filling in were there was just a little something missing and evening out the tonality nicely.

Performance Close to the Front Wall

The SongTowers SC performed reasonably well close to the wall, with good imaging and a soundstage that was adequate but not deep -- far from perfect but quite nice. I felt I could listen to them in this configuration and not feel horribly cheated. Bass response suffered, though, was a bit boomy, although not terribly so compared to what happens with many speakers in that location, and there was an occasional boxy tone. The zero-toe-in aiming gave a more open soundstage then the zero-listening-angle setup. The SongTower SC could live close to the wall like this and still be considered to sound quite nice, although nothing at all like they would perform well out into the room.

Physical and Visual

The SongTower SC definitely have a delicate slant to their appearance. The unique finish was flawless. Salk is known for their beautiful finishes using out-of-the-ordinary woods, and they tend to come across as nothing short of stunning.

Overall Listening Experience

The SongTower SC were very easy to listen to and enjoy. They scored high in all the areas that are important to me in a 2-channel speaker. Their only flaws were only rarely noticeable, and never a real distraction. The long journey to that ideal location gives the impression they are difficult to get good sound out of. Not so. They sound very good almost anywhere in a room, and sound great with some extra placement care.

I have a hard time imagining any serious 2-channel listener not being completely happy with these towers. For me, the name seems to say it all. "I am not a loudspeaker, I am a Song Tower." Try to find something not to like about that.


Leonard Caillouet (lcaillo)

This was one of the speakers that I was most exited to hear. I had heard an older version without the RAAL tweeter recently and have heard much about speakers that use it so I could not wait. Of course the first thing I was listening for was the high frequency performance. I found the very high treble to be very smooth and detailed. This is obviously a very low distortion driver out to higher than I can hear. I was also listening for the bass performance near the wall, as Salk advertises that their design performs better than others in these locations. As expected, the bass was less defined and more exaggerated in both of the near wall positions we tested, compared to the optimum placement well out into the room. They were one of the better performers near the wall, however, and did have a decent image there. The orientation did not make much difference in the bass definition, but did have a slight effect on the soundstage. The image was more seamless, not losing the middle as much when they were perpendicular to the wall compared to on axis with the listener. Near the wall the bass was a bit more slurred and it was hard to distinguish notes on, for instance, the deep bass on the right near the guitar on Ode to a Butterfly. The image was indistinct and the speakers were obviously the sound source in the on axis orientation. In the perpendicular orientation the image got a bit better, and filled in the middle, and it was easier to “lose” the speakers. Not ideal, but for this location I would rate them very good.

Once we moved the speakers out and located the best position, the soundstage was very precise. The speakers got “out of the box” nicely. In other words, closing my eyes it was difficult to hear that the sound was coming from the direction of the speakers. The mid base cleared up significantly. Lower strings on a guitar became much more defined and realistic compared to near the wall. The deep bass improved as well but not as much as I expected. It extends deep enough to be satisfying with most music, but lacks a bit of authority for what I would like in a speaker in this price range. I am not surprised, considering the small size of the drivers used. But considering the size of the speakers and how well they did relative to others in near wall locations, I think they are a very good choice for a situation where you can’t move your speakers five or six feet out in the room.

There is one way in which the SongTower SC was clearly a standout. That is the finish. This is one area that I had heard high praise about and it is well deserved. This is a speaker that you would want to show off. If I had these in my home I would invest in some nice lighting like one would for a fine piece of art. While none of the speakers we reviewed in this event were in any way below expectations in finish, Salk obviously takes unusual pride and effort to create a unique and quite beautiful product. This is a speaker that would have a high approval rating in most homes.

I was pleased with the experience with the SongTower SC. In fact, while we heard some great things from it initially, we sensed that we could get more. We went back to it again to see if other placement would extract more performance out of it. On the second attempt we ended up with the speakers a little farther from the listener and the soundstage became even better than before. So while the speaker is apparently designed to perform well near walls in less than optimum positioning, and it took a while to find the optimum placement, it can become quite magical when careful attention is paid to positioning. It does not seem to lack bass extension even well out into the room, and the soundstage is deep and wide. The rain sticks on Chant started well outside of the left speaker and as they panned ended up well outside the speaker on the right.

So how did it make me feel to listen to these speakers? Well, I clearly got a sense of space and the feeling of performers performing as opposed to speakers playing a recording. I won’t say like a live performance because no system sounds like live, but on live recordings, it very good. The Jazz at the Pawnshop track, recorded live, gave a sense of an actual jazz club and listening from the back of a club. I know, many of you are rolling your eyes at reading this because if you have been around for a few decades you probably became sick of those recordings as they were used so much for demo and listening tests. But while they do not have precise imaging because of the nature of the mic placement, they do capture much of the excitement and feel of a live performance with real instruments. I got that with the Salk. My fabric analogy here is a no iron cotton dress shirt or maybe one with just a bit of poly. Banks, certainly, not Arrow.

What about running them hard? You might expect a speaker with small drivers to complain when cranking the SRV or the Talking Heads tracks up to near max with the Emotiva amp, but they did not. The output is impressive. They don’t move as much air as others so you don’t get that knock you down power, but they remain very clean up to quite loud levels. The tweeter never seems to get out of control on the very highest treble, though there is a bit of roughness at high levels in the midrange to upper midrange when pushed. When Eva Cassidy soared, they went there, but not with quite as much grace in the midrange as the very top end. They did have a bit of trouble handling the big bass in the Star Trek intro.

Who should own these? I think a better question is who should not, as most people interested in very high quality sound would like them. If you really want power and authority and listen at extremely high levels, these might not satisfy. For more moderate levels, for superb imaging with deep bass, and an impressive visual performance these are a great choice. If your have to share a listening area without the ability to move them to an optimum position, they would outperform most speakers in this price range quite easily.


Joe Alexander (ALMFamily)

I have heard Salk speakers many times - not only the SC Songtowers, but many others as well. For me, I was really looking forward to seeing how these sounded in Sonnie's room as I have heard the Songtowers... well, I have lost count of the number of times. :)

As far as finish, again, I have seen quite a few Salk speakers, and if you have ever read any of my thoughts on them, you already know I love the effort that is put into the finish on every Salk speaker. These do not disappoint – it looks like the fiddleback sycamore was used for these (the material looks the same as my surrounds at home) and the finish is really quite stunning. They have the standard cabinet design, but I do like how the gold “dust cap” adds a break-up to the front baffle. There was only one small annoyance that I may not have noticed had I not been on hook-up / moving duty – the connections are not color coded. There is a “+” sign on the plate next to the positive side that I did not see until I grabbed a small flashlight. Not really a big deal I guess since once they are plugged in, you are set, but there it is anyway.

As per SOP, the first bit of listening was done with them set up close to the wall. Spatial imaging is pretty good here with the speakers toed in to the LP. When they were pointed straight out, I noticed much better spatial imaging (spatial imaging to me is the amount of space between each separate component of the music i.e. vocalist, bassist, horns, etc) and the soundfield was wider. I was impressed with how these did with a close to the wall location as they had good low end with nice impact and the imaging was better than anticipated.

A quick note as this is the first of the six speakers posted for review - I decided to try to include each of my test tracks in my write-up and any specific thoughts I had during each track rather than summarize to give a better sense of what I was thinking at the time.


Track 1 - Ode to a Butterfly

Very nice depth to the soundfield here – really get a sense of depth in each instrument. Good detail on the harpsichord. Each instrument images where I expect.

Track 2 - Chant

The rainstick panning effect was handled perfectly – panned from left to right as expected with no hole. Excellent midrange punch. Piano key strokes readily apparent. Love that guitar pluck and resulting vibration sequence around the 3 minute mark.

Track 3 - Reasons Why

Image perfectly. Very light, airy female vocal sound. No sibilance issue for me.

Track 4 - Strange Fruit

Instruments image exactly where I expected them to – horn far left, bass in the middle, Cassandra just left of center, and the lap guitar to the right. Excellent blending of her vocals and instruments – no one piece overpowers the other. Wow – just got a sense of height differential where you can tell the guitar is on a lap below where Cassnadra's vocals would be coming from - cool!

Track 5 - Struttin' with some Barbeque

Nice depth – horn sounds deeper in the soundstage – no fatigue or feel of shoulder cringing with the horns.

Track 6 - One

Love the sound of the bass guitar here. Guitars sound like they are just outside the speakers. Very nice mid roll off – no sense of smearing.

Track 7 - Hells Bells

Excellent ringing of the bell and resulting vibration as well as high hat splash. Bass drum has great impact.

Track 8 - Let It Go

Sibilance just a little much here – turned the volume down to -10 from -4 and it was much better. Excellent piano clarity. Great vocal and instrument blending. Vocals dynamics handled really well – no signs of compression.

Track 9 - Where Do The Children Play

Great spatial imaging. Pluck of the guitar very clear and precise. Dynamic range and shifts in vocal levels handled extremely well – did not feel I missed any details. Nice bass drum impact – very tight and clean. No signs of compression at the 3:20 minute mark.

Track 10 - Tricycle

Great imaging here. Dynamic shifts show no compression. I am picking up on detail I do not remember when listening to it previously with the guitar toward the 1:50 minute mark.

Track 11- Just One Of Those Things

Very smooth piano sound – delicate. Imaging has good separation and depth here. Excellent piano detail and clarity.

Track 12 - Walking On The Moon

Fantastic high hat splash. Love the buzzing of the trumpet. I do not get a feeling of depth between the trumpet and drums – they sound like they are on top of the other.


I stayed in the room during Wayne’s session as there was one track I was really listening for - the Melody Gardot track. I chose to go with a different female track as I have been listening to it extensively the last couple months, and I really like it. But, I really love Melody’s voice and I was hoping one of the other guys would choose her! The vocals were so silky smooth. It has that light, airy vocal sound that I personally enjoy. Sibilance was not distracting at all for me until we turned the volume up a bit. Then, they were really grating.

We has some spare time on Sunday so we pulled these back into the room and moved them around to see if we could find a better location. They ended up closer to each boundary with less toe in once it was all said and done. Being closer to the boundary helped to reinforce the low end a bit and less toe in reduced some of the sibilance. It also helped to image the low end much better as it was a lot more precise. We then ran Audyssey and listened again. We achieved even better gains with the low end imaging and a reduction in sibilance. It was still not perfect, but the sibilance was at least more manageable.

Overall, I really like these as I enjoy that open, airy high end sound and they are a fantastic speaker to behold. Low end performance was good, but it did not stand out as there is not much impact. Crisp mid-bass really rounds out this speaker. The only real complaints I have is sibilance can be distressing at higher volumes and low end really did not have the impact I was hoping for.
 
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