One of the of the first rooms that Carolyn and I stepped into last year at Axpona 2016 was Underwood Hifi. Boy, am I glad that we did, because not only did we see and hear some completely amazing and innovative speakers, we were also greeted by two of the most friendly and welcoming personalities in hifi: Walter Liederman (aka Underwood Wally) and Mark Shifter.
Their knowledge and experience in this industry also know no bounds. Being an engineer (hey there, WPI engineering degree…) also makes me completely appreciate the innovation going on with these.
I chatted with Wally a couple of years back, when I had fairly recently acquired a brand new pair of the venerable Gallo 3.1, and was happy as a clam. He was telling me that the Emerald Physics, with the onboard pro-audio Behringer DCX2496 EQ running the electronic show, were even better.
“Yeah Right,” I thought.
Now, after hearing a pair of Emerald Physics speakers, I know just how right he was.
Wally cued up an acoustic track for us and I’m pretty sure that within single-digit seconds, both Carolyn and I exclaimed in unison a full bodied “HOLY SHIT”.
Some speakers have a learning curve. There’s nothing wrong with this. With some designs, the profundity is in the subtlety. With time, you will grow to appreciate the nuance and the gentle neutrality encompassed within. Without calling attention to anything in particular, the speakers will get out of the way and let you enjoy the music. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Not this time, kids. From initial fire-up, these guys exclaimed “HERE WE ARE, and you are gonna like it!!!” In this case, liking it is an understatement.
The ambiance that we heard was literally like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The atmosphere of the venue was nearly physical, creating a full three-dimensional recreation of the space. I’ve heard a lot of systems, but in terms of spatial integrity, nothing quite like this. The twinkly and subtle highs in the track, little percussive bells and symbols emanated in 3d form, all around the room, extending far beyond where the speakers were placed in every direction.
Then, the low bass track dropped. A fully articulated, emanating from the depths of Hades, hard-hitting-while-being-completely-tight-with-no-bloat-whatsoever bass line that was completely staggering. Jaw-dropping is an understatement.
I’ve heard bass like this before. Well, a couple times. You know the kind, it’s low and deep and tight and fast and hard and not boomy. Those other times all had one thing in common: the price. As in, north of $50k price. The fact that Wally and Mark are pulling this off this level of sound for $8,495 is simply incredible.
So I’ve covered the bass, and the completely unique and amazing way this setup handled recreating a virtual, 3d space. What about the rest of the sound, you ask?
Freaking good. As in, no complaints. Very nicely balanced, even character, no harshness or stridency. No boominess, no bloat, not too warm or round. This is Goldilocks material here, as in “just right.”
The engineer in me wants to try and figure it out. Maybe it’s the unique open battle design? Maybe it’s the completely innovative DSP that Wally and crew have rigged up, creating completely magical results?
The inner child in me, however, doesn’t want to know. When it sounds this good, I’m ok with just calling it “magic” and leaving it at that.
The Emerald Physics EP-4.8 are a pair of must audition speakers for anyone considering buying a pair of speakers with a budget up to $50,000.