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20.02.17
Sigma Acoustics MAAT loudspeakers

The revolution at home

The big audio systems and the big systems of loudspeakers have always impressed the audio enthusiasts not only for the extreme dimensions and the realistic dynamics, but also for the sense of a huge sound and a poorly proportionated image. These two last characteristics have been recognized, with the passing of time, as the true weakness of the big loudspeakers. The systems that come to my mind are the Genesis or the Infinity IRS V or the Gryphon Trident II, as well as the imposing high efficiency horn-loaded speakers like all the Acapella, the Cessaro, the Avantgarde Trio or the Volya Bouquet reviewed here by Giuseppe. All these systems have undeniable merits but also some tricky problems.

Now, there are two categories of big systems: the low efficiency systems like Infinity and Genesis or the omnidirectional like the MBL 101 X-treme Reference Line, and the high efficiency systems like Avantgarde and Cessaro. In theory, the first category would require powerful transistor amplifications while, the second, tube amplifications that, only on paper, can be of low-medium power. In the end, however, most part of the high-efficiency loudspeakers force to the use of very powerful tube amplifications since the pace of the impedance is not completely linear. Moreover, this fact does not help the performances of the low power tubes, meaning the most refined and well performing.

In brief, the enthusiasts of both systems of speakers do not have easy life.

The compromises that you have to accept are many. First, you have to resign yourself to a poorly balanced and proportionated image. An image so enormous that you regret the reliability of the scene given by the small systems. Then you have to accept the idea of using demanding amplifications, absolutely necessary to comply with the tantrums of loudspeakers with hysteric impedances. Not to mention the almost forced choice of adopting the multi-amplification that, de facto, triples the difficulty of getting a good synergy between amplifications and connection cables. Therefore, a great commitment for the enthusiast that, facing a difficult and expensive path, in the best case can only get richer of experiences and skills, but only after many delusions, failures, disappointments, and loss of money. In the worst case, he definitely gives up on the passion for High-End.

For my part, only few audio systems of big dimensions have really satisfied me. In effect, the exaggerate extension of the image and the doubtable proportions of the sound plane have not convinced me ever. I remember with embarrass systems where the strings of the acoustic guitar seemed tensed from one speaker to the other, as well as the female voices that seemed reproduced by huge mouths!

Well, luckily we can avoid all that now.

The Sigma Acoustics MAATs are born and are a revolution in the field of the musical playback. A Revolution Made in Italy.

 

The MAATs

Things have changed.

We have the MAATs now.

The MAATs are very huge, taller than I am and weigh hundreds of kilos. End of the flaws. From now on, only merits.

You can drive them easily. You can place them in the room without big traumas. They have a proportionated image and a remarkable live sound.

They are Columbus’ egg. A great high-efficiency system with a flat impedance into eight ohms. A real pleasure for any kind of transistor or tube amplification. My question is: if everything is so simple, why no one has done this before?

The answer is simply too. In order to get such results you need drivers with well-defined mechanical and electrical characteristics that obey to a precise design. The global market of the transducers is not enough, as well as the personalized changes/adjustments, the so-called custom realisations. This is because the electromechanical characteristics of an array of drivers of a well-defined system must be synergetic. Furthermore, the drivers must have strict tolerances in order to facilitate the work of the crossover that will be simple and with few components. In this way, the signal has to cover a very brief path. It does not have to cross too many coils, resistances and capacitors or soldering points. It will remain as pure as possible. The high efficiency, mostly the efficiency of the big woofers, is an important aspect to be considered. It must be obtained and correlated also by the high efficiency of the damping. It has to impress elevated sound pressures also with short excursions of the light cone, so to have a very low distortion.

Reduced excursions mean facilitated control of the response in temporal phase and also mean using fast and performing tweeters like the Heil Air Motion Transformer that reach 40thousand hertz.

 

Description

The MAATs are two meters and ten centimetres high and ninety deep. A huge size indeed. You can install them with or without the base. They are elegant, refined and suitable to all kind of furniture. The three designs are Orchestra, Classic and Modern, but the system of drivers is the same for all models. The lateral curvilinear finish is available in wood or with colours in metalized varnish of your choice.

The finish is unique for each sample. Hence, it is an exclusive object, a unique product for each customer. The front side of the MAATs Orchestra that I am reviewing is slimmed down by the vertical splits of the cabinet that serve as reflex outlet channel for the four 6” midranges. The two overlapping Heil tweeters are motorized and can be oriented mechanically via remote control. In this way, you can finely adjust the focus and the sound image in relation with the listening room. The two imposing woofers have a fine look thanks to the absence of the central anti-dust grid and of the reflexes and shadows of the carbon fibre cone.

Sigma Acoustics has been successful, as always, in creating an object that performs very well and is aesthetically captivating. I remind you that the pair of speakers use eighteen components: four woofers, ten midranges and four Heil tweeters.

 

Listening session

As usual, I have made the listening test with my ReMusic Artesuono’s disc, a complete CD Test to corner any audio apparatus and evaluate the quality of the performances. Every track has peculiar features that deal with the tonal colour of voices and instruments both electric and acoustic, the dynamics and the sound pressure, the resolution of the sound stage, the width of the frequency response, etc. I have made the listening test in Sigma Acoustics’ listening room, considering the dimensions of the MAATs. However, I have to say that it is not very difficult to move them, since the base has a roller table and you can orient the tweeters via remote control.

Anyway, I have decided to go to Rovigo bringing with me my lighter reference amplifications since Aldo Zaninello - Sigma Acoustics’ owner - affirms that also low power amplifications can drive the MAATs. Therefore, I have brought the Audio Innovation series 500 with the EL34, 25 watt in class A, and the transistor Sugden Masterclass FPA4, 25 watts, that performs like a tube amp. It can drive low efficiency loudspeakers without any debacle, and high efficiency speakers where it rises again with a refinement that is hard to find in other amplifications. I have left at home my AM Audio monoblocks since the Mark Levinson 20.5 were available; and that’s not a small thing!

Anyway, I have taken upon myself the weight of the Nadir MK101C, a fine 100 watt piece. The rest of the chain comprises the YBA Alpha 1 preamp and the two chassis digital source Mark Levinson N.30 and N.31. Connection cables by White Gold.

Let us start with the Sudgen. I confess that I was afraid of taking it back emitting smoke. Why? Because I had to connect it to two bulk MAATs with four 15” woofers. Although they seem standard low efficiency speakers - I mean those with reflex loadings in separate volumes and with several cone midranges whose only purpose seems to make the impedance pace like that of a rollercoaster - the MAATs behave as true high efficiency speakers. That is, an easy driving, micro and macro dynamics, absence of distortions in the tone colour and in the temporal out-of-phase, natural presence effect due to valuable mid frequencies.

Hence, the xiloaerophone in the first track vibrates in the air and makes a clear ring along the stage, which is described full of three-dimensional details. The acoustic panorama is more real than virtual and the sound does not seem coming out from the loudspeakers. The proportions are correct, credible, in harmony with the real instrument and with the way of making it doing its vibrations.

The low frequencies are amazing. As well amazing is how a small amplifier can move the big cones of the woofers and get that outcome. The acoustic scene, that has proportioned sound stage and performers, underlines the refinement of the performance. Amazing is also the tone quality of the voices and the instruments that have a surprising plasticity without any nasal or guttural aberration that is typical of some high efficiency realisations.

Anyway, the real surprise is verifying how the Sudgen can move the cones of these huge MAATs and, more surprising, is getting already good and convincing results at high sound pressures. With other loudspeakers of this size, the sound will probably be closer to the sound of a pocket radio.

At this point, I am thrilled and I connect quickly the Audio Innovation Series 500.

What I was expecting happens. A less refined sound with a thicker grain but with a livelier setup in the harmonic exposition, and a more vivid and immediate colour of voices and instruments.

It is as if the MAATs speak to me. Are you enjoying? These amplifications are yours. Do you recognize them?

Yes, I do. With more surprise, I must admit that the MAATs are sensational speakers. The fact that they comply perfectly with the nature of the amplifications makes me deduce that the problem now is choosing the ideal amplification.

At the beginning of this article, I said that the MAATs have started a real revolution. What do you think of having at your disposal a great system of drivers to connect the amplification you like most? How do you evaluate the fact of not being obliged to test an infinite list of gears? How do you judge the easiness of finding the amplifications that give no problem of tonal colour? How much do you appreciate avoiding long tests with infinite changes of cables and preamplifiers?

The Sigma Acoustics MAATs perform always and always well. They perform at the same level of the quality of the components in use. If you do not have a precise sound in your head, you can amuse yourself. In fact, all amplifications are a good match. You can just say that they do not match with your personal taste.

Now is the turn of the Nadir, a 100 watt in Darlington configuration, one of my preferred ones.

The MAATs seem appreciating the electrical solicitations of this power amp, but without presenting dynamic neurosis due to the lack of control, typical behaviour of the high efficiency that suffers of the excesses of the sound pressure. On its part, the sound seems to appreciate the shot of energy. What was convincing before as for tonality and tonal colour, is more dynamic and ready now in the musical attacks and releases. The rock music benefits, but also the wind quartets that are reproduced with a natural presence effect that involves the listener. The sound image is more defined and needs just a small adjustment in the direction of the tweeters. The remote control activates automatically the orientation of the section of the high frequencies so to get a focused image.

Obviously, I listened also to the Mark Levinson 20.5, which have proved to me how much the MAATs can valorise the quality of the amplifications that are connected. Actually, the neutrality of emission of the MAATs and their electrical transparency, allow you to recognize the value of the audio chain and help you to choose the best one. The ML 20.5 monoblocks give back amazing dynamic performances, showing the ability of the MAATs to reproduce the nuances and the dynamic peaks that you can hear only in the live events.

A top performance and an experience that I cannot define just interesting. I am on the right path when I think that the playback music must be convincing at high volumes, a paramount condition to verify the quality of an audio system. I am persuaded that the high efficiency is the right way because is the best in reproducing the detail, the sound image, the tone colour, the dynamics and the musical pressure with low distortion. However, to do something new, you need drivers with a specific target and design. You cannot rely only on schemes, calculations, or measurements that can – IMHO – flatten and standardize performances and sounds.

 

Cons

Remarkable dimensions and weight. Suggested for dedicated listening room or of big size.

Very demanding price but in line with the competitors’ products.

 

Pros

Very easy driving. Very easy having top performances. Very easy to place the MAATs in the environment. Modern design and easy insertion in the domestic furniture. Neutral sound setting. Connotations of live music.

 

Conclusions

In this contest, the MAATs are something new, never heard before, revolutionary. They upset an audio world that is dormant.

At last, something new. A new sound different from all the sounds that you normally hear around. A sound available also with the other models made by Sigma Acoustics. We will talk again of it, I am sure.

Those fifteen owners of the MAATs will be lucky. They will have a future full of pleasant and convincing listening experiences also at high volumes to enjoy the sound pressures that only the live music can give.

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Tone colour: ✳✳✳✳✳| Natural. Voices and instruments, both electric and acoustic, are extremely recognizable. The precision of the tone depends exclusively on the audio system in use. The more positive remarks are the balance, the transparency and the neutral setting-out of the emission.

 

Dynamics: ✳✳✳✳✳ | The macro is immanent, present and massive. The dynamic pressure and the sound impact are at the top, as happens in the live events. The micro is valuable for detail and naturalness of the emission. You have only to choose the amplification that can valorise, following your personal tastes, these fine performances.

 

Emotion: ✳✳✳✳✳ | A lot. These loudspeakers keep you stuck on your armchair.

 

Image: ✳✳✳✳✳ | Big but absolutely proportionated. The sound frame is three-dimensional and outlined with extreme precision. The sound stage could have holographic connotations if you are able to choose the right partners.

 

Manufacture: ✳✳✳✳✳ | The Italian style has found another leader to defend the tradition of the elegance, design, finishes and taste that give prestige to our country. All the models of this speaker are original and modern as only the Italians can do.

 

 

Official technical specifications:

Type: three-way bass reflex

High section: 2 Heil AMT Mundorf tweeters placed crosswise the midranges in specular configuration. It is adjustable via remote control in the cross-angle and focus with the midranges through a motorized system.

Midrange section: four 6" frontal midranges and a lateral midrange placed crosswise and inclined of 60°. Everything is loaded with decompression chamber and front slots for the emission of part of the rear energy of the drivers and of theirs harmonics.

Low section: two 15” woofers loaded with two tuned ports. The higher with QB3 cut and the lower in C4, adjustable in the tuned port.

Cabinet: three cabinets mechanically decoupled

Sensitivity; 100dB into 8ohm

Frequency response: 16-40.000Hz

Handling power: 1.500W

Weight: 380kg each with base

 

Official Italian dealerto Extreme Audio website

Official current price in Italy: MAAT Orchestra base price from 157,000.00 EUR per pair, exclusive finish on request.

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