Gershman Acoustics – Best Room $200,000 – $300,000

The Gershman Acoustics room sounded incredible. They were playing their new POSH Statement loudspeakers at $129,000/pair driven by the VAC Statement 450S Amplifier for $46,000 and the VAC Master Preamp with Phono for $40,000. The source was a VPI Titan turntable at $40,000, and the cables were from Nordost.

The sound was rich with wonderful harmonics, a huge soundstage, and a deep and powerful bass. The midrange was transparent, very detailed and not at all etched, and the top end was absolutely beautiful.

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This is paragraph text. Double click here to edit and add your own text.ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine 39
Over the past 99 editions of
UHF Magazine, we have
reviewed products at greatly
varying prices, low to high,
sometimes very high. Never had we
reviewed a product this expensive, and
perhaps we should explain why.
It’s not because of the so-called law
of diminishing returns, the idea that,
beyond a certain price, you need to spend
a large amount of money to get more
than a negligible improvement. (Most
people, curiously, place that threshold
at 10% more than they themselves have
spent.) Rather, it’s because of our impression that the correlation between price
and quality is a bell curve. As price rises
beyond a certain point, quality actually
goes down. We have been known to say
that if you are willing to spend enough
money, you are all but guaranteed a poor
experience.
There is another reason. It’s well
known that certain expensive gear is
designed to be expensive, to cater to welloff customers who just want to spend a
lot of money, and are going to spend it
come hell or high water. Those customers don’t care about what we think, and
may not even care much about how the
product sounds.
These loudspeakers come with the
breathtaking price tag of $129,000. They
are by no means the most expensive
speakers you can buy, but we don’t normally wander around this price range.
Our own Omega system’s speakers, the
Reference 3A Suprema II’s, cost some
$17,000 when we acquired them late in
the last millennium. If they were still in
production, they would probably cost
over $50,000. That’s a lot, more than
most of our readers will budget for, but
still much less than this new Gershman
Acoustic flagship speaker.
So why did we decide to review it?
Is it just because this is our hundredth
issue, and we needed to do something
we hadn’t done before? Perhaps, yes, but
there was another reason: we thought
there might be a lot to love in this upscale
loudspeaker.
How did we know? We had heard
them at two different shows under what
can charitably be called difficult conditions. Hotel rooms are not ideal for
listening to high-end audio, but they are
positively luxurious by comparison with
hotel ballrooms. Even worse than hotel
ballrooms are fractions of ballrooms.
walled off with sliding partitions that are
only marginally better than posterboard.
Add fake ceilings with metal air ducts
that ring like a medieval knight in full
armor, and you know that exhibitors are
facing a challenge.
But these Gershmans easily met the
challenge. Each time we heard them,
they produced what sounded like music.
Even on the busiest day of the Montreal
Audio Fest, when we were seated so far
back we regretted not having brought
binoculars, they held their own and then
some. Did we dare try them in our own
reference system?
Now we have to mention once again
that we are neutral in our reviews. It’s up
to the product to perform, and up to the
designer to make it perform. That said,
we like to find gear that we can expect
good things from. We would rather
recommend products than warn you off
them. All this to say that no matter what
our expectations, these speakers had to
wow us…or else.
The Posh comes in two parts, a
top section with an Accuton ceramic
midrange and a soft-dome tweeter, and
a bottom section with two woofers, each in its tuned enclosure.
What’s unusual is that the
two sections are totally separate from each other. The top
is held up by a sculpted steel
frame, and the woofer section slides in
underneath, not quite touching it. Eli
Listening Room
Gershman Posh
This article was featured in UHF Magazine No. 100
(450) 651-5720 www.uhfmag.com
40 ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
Feedback Listening Room
Gershman has used this configuration
before, in his upscale (but not quite this
upscale) Black Swans. That’s why each
speaker has not four feet but eight feet,
each one adjustable. The steel struts
hold up the top (midrange-tweeter)
section, and of course they don’t touch
the low-frequency module. The spikes
on the upper section can be adjusted so
that the drivers will point right at the
listener. That will of course depend on
the distance to the listening area.
An upscale speaker must be built
from upscale parts, and the Posh is
exactly that. The enclosures, made of
2.5 cm HDF (high-density fibreboard
rather than the usual MDF), are reinforced by 6 mm stainless steel plates and
are tapered to reduce the incidence of
standing waves. The finish is an attractive glossy black, but — as you’d expect
from a product of this price — they can
be any color you like. You may or may
not be pleased by the large number of
visible screw heads. There are two dozen
of them, and we would have preferred
them hidden.
The connectors, from Furutech, are
larger than most and can be tightened
thoroughly with only finger pressure.
There is a pair of these connectors
on the midrange/high unit, but the
bass module has two pairs, connected
together internally. You connect the
cable from the amplifier to one pair, and
then run the supplied Gershman cable to
the upper module. Since our own reference speakers also have two modules and
are bi-wired with two separate cables, we
didn’t need that convenience.
There is no crossover in the lower
(bass) module. The top module uses a
top-grade capacitor, a Mundorf MCap
Supreme Classic Silver-Gold Oil. It is
oil-filled, and, as its name suggests, its
stators are made with very pure gold
and silver. The crossover also uses a
Mundorf resistor, an MResist Supreme.
The resistor is in a casting compound,
to stabilize it and prevent it from acting
like a microphone.
Lest you suspect that this might be
some voodoo theory, in fact almost any
product used in audio reproduction
can be a microphone. Connectors and
soldered joints are especially apt to be
microphonic, and there are plenty of
both in a loudspeaker.
Like our own reference speakers,
these Gershmans are heavy, and we were
happy that each speaker comes in two
parts. We began the session by listening
to several recordings with our Reference
3A Supremas, then whisked them out of
the way with a hand cart, and slid the
Gershmans into the same position.
Not all speakers are happy in that
position, often exhibiting thin bass,
excessive bass, poor stereo imaging or a
combination of such symptoms. A quick
preliminary listening session confirmed
that the Posh speakers would be perfectly happy the way we had placed them.
Our typical listening session includes
three of us, not always the same three,
but this was not an ordinary session,
and all four of us wanted to be present.
A fifth (Kathe Lieber) would have liked
to participate but was out of town that
week.
Our Moon P-8 preamplifier includes
an LED volume readout precise to a
tenth of a decibel, which helps us maintain consistent loudness from product
to product. The Posh, however, were
clearly much less efficient than our
Supremas, and a few comparisons led to
the conclusion that their sensitivity was
in the order of 85 dB, a full 7 dB less than
our own speakers. We adjusted listening
levels accordingly, to keep apparent loudness constant.
The test was done with six vinyl
recordings we consider especially revealing, but also delightful to listen to. This
would be a working day, but there was
no reason for it not to be fun.
We began with the superb Reference Recordings version of Stravinsky’s
Firebird ballet (RM-1502). The suite
opens with a moody passage for cellos
and double basses. There’s a lot of lowfrequency energy in that passage, and
you might be surprised to learn that
pretty much any speaker will let you hear
it…sort of. What most speakers will not
do is actually reproduce the sound of
those instruments. In many cases, the
low-frequency energy will excite the
resonances in the speaker enclosure, and
it is the enclosure that you will hear.
With our reference speakers we have
no difficulty picking out the individual
instruments and their characteristic
timbres. We weren’t surprised that we
heard them just fine with the Posh speakers too. They don’t have the obviously
“bassy” sound of lesser speakers, but the
bass was there when it was needed.
The passage was initially less involving, though, and we weren’t sure why.
We had been running the system with
2 dB more volume than our reference
needed to satisfy us, and that clearly
wasn’t nearly enough. With some experimentation, we settled on 7 dB. We ran
the opening of the piece again, and we
were now happy.
We were also more than happy with
the more dynamic parts of the suite,
which were energetic without sounding
strained. The brass and percussion are
what this recording is famous for, but
there are passages for woodwinds, representing twittering birds, and they were
a delight, with totally natural precision.
ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine 41
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Gerard especially enjoyed the timbre of
the oboe. “It’s all very smooth and less
brutal,” said Toby.
One characteristic of our reference
speakers we especially like is the sense of
space that they give to properly recorded
music, especially with recordings like
these. The Posh easily did as well, at
least once we had determined that a little
more volume was needed. Even sitting
off-centre (away from the legendary
“sweet spot”) didn’t make the space collapse into the near speaker.
We continued with a recording
made back in 1984 by another speaker
designer, Dave Wilson, who had just
died. The Olympic Fanfare was composed
by John Williams (yes, the John Williams) for the Los Angeles Olympics,
played by the “National Symphonic
Winds,” with Lowell Graham conducting what are probably members of US
Air Force bands.
The elements you expect from a great
wind band are here, including brass and
woodwinds, but there are tympani rolls
that most speakers turn into mush. Bass
reflex speakers, in particular, are unable
to control cone movement at frequencies
below their resonance points. The pushpull woofers in our own speakers do well
on this recording.
And so did the Posh, to no one’s
surprise. Both Toby and Steve especially appreciated the way the many
instruments were separated, yet blended
into a coherent whole. Toby noticed an
instrument to the right of the sound
stage, possibly a tambourine, that was
reproduced with enhanced clarity. “It’s
a privilege listening to these speakers,”
said Steve.
We continued with Eric Clapton’s
Tears in Heaven, one of his best-known
songs, from his double LP Eric Clapton
Unplugged. This is a live performance,
and in truth it did sound uncannily live.
Clapton’s own guitar (“Nylon strings
without a pick,” said Toby) was clearer,
and so was the second guitar, a bottleneck. Both Steve and Toby commented
on the clarity of the backup singer’s
voice.
Albert had slight misgivings, finding the sibilance too evident, and even
commenting that the applause at the end
of the song was altered. But we found
ourselves listening more to the lyrics
and the rhythm than to any artefacts of
the reproduction.
We wanted to include a female voice,
because the higher tones can make an
otherwise competent speaker seem shrill
and ultimately unpleasant. We turned to
Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat,
from Jennifer Warnes’ multidisc rerelease, not from the 1986 original.
We listened twice, initially mesmerized by the song itself, and then for the
pleasure of hearing the elements that
make the song what it is. The Posh
speakers made Warnes and the accompanying instruments better than ever,
and we mean really good, with an added
clarity to the text and all of the emotion
of the remarkable performance.
But listening again allowed us to
notice even more. Steve praised the
realistic decay of the plucked bass, and
the natural “personality” of the bowed
instrument, as well as the complex harmonies of the saxophone. Toby singled
out the counterpoint between the double
bass and the sax, and also mentioned
Warnes’ fast vibrato. There was no quibbling: this was the best we had heard this
song, and we would have gone on with
the rest of the album.
But we had two more albums waiting for us. The next one was Hugh
Masekela’s Hope, from which we played
Brand/model: Gershman Posh
Price: C$129,000
Size (HWD): 150 x 30 x 45 cm
Sensitivity (estimated): 85 dB
Most liked: Superb articulation and
detail, superior separation and blend
of instruments.
Least liked: Numerous visible screws.
Verdict: Expensive, sure, but reference quality.
Summing it up…
Speaker Sensitivity
At one time, sensitivity was commonly rated
not in decibels but in percentage. So a typical
speaker might have 4% efficiency. That meant
4% of amplifier power was turned into sound,
and 96% was wasted as heat. That wasn’t the
message speaker makers wanted to send, hence
the modern decibel figure.
Here’s what it means. If you feed a signal
of 2.83 volts rms (root mean square) at 1 kHz
into an “85 dB” speaker, and you place a sound
pressure meter one metre from the speaker,
on axis, it will read 85 dB. Note that these are
acoustic decibels, not the relative decibels used
in electronic measurement.
That measurement really works only in an
anechoic chamber. Most speaker designers don’t have
access to such a chamber (Gershman does), so the rating tends to be somewhat
arbitrary.
But note that sensitivity should not be considered an indicator of quality. A good
enclosure design can result in high sensitivity (a horn speaker may have sensitivity
of well over 100 dB), but some designers will opt instead to obtain deeper bass
reproduction in a compact enclosure, sacrificing sensitivity.
Sensitivity is subject to fashion. When very high-powered solid-state amplifiers became available at relatively modest cost, it was common to design compact
speakers with full-range response but low efficiency. More recently, smaller tube
amplifiers have made a comeback, sometimes using a single tube per channel, and
providing only modest power. Accordingly, high-sensitivity speakers have come
back into vogue. But low sensitivity is a choice, not a flaw.
42 ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
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the best-known number, Stimela. This
Apartheid-era song about a coal train
bringing Africans to Johannesburg
features Masekela’s jazz trumpet and
his own vocal mimicry of the train
itself. This number benefits from being
heard at substantial volume. The Posh,
as already noted, require more power
than many modern speakers, but we had
500 watts on tap, and we didn’t let the
amplifier loaf.
The result was magnificent. “The
song took a clear form for the first time,”
said Toby. “The voice and the trumpet
are linked in their intensity.” Albert and
Gerard praised the effortless intensity of
both voice and instruments. The impact
was superb.
On nearly all our loudspeaker reviews,
our final recording has been Victor
Feldman’s Secret of the Andes (Nautilus
NR50). Most of the album is lively but
intimate jazz, but the introduction of the
title piece includes a plethora of instruments, from an Andean harp to folk
percussion of varied materials (metal,
stretched skin and wood, notably). The
poor woofer control of ordinary speakers
will let those instruments sound disturbingly similar.
Of course, by now we knew the Posh
would sail through this piece without
trouble. “There’s a large stretched skin
instrument that was no longer hidden,”
said Toby. Gerard commented that the
kick drum and Feldman’s piano, both
more difficult to reproduce than you
might expect, sounded superb. Albert
put his pen down and enjoyed the lifelike
energy of the piece.
What more can we say about these
utterly remarkable loudspeakers?
Let us emphasize once more that
we’re not here to talk about their price,
because you know more about your
financial capacity than we do. The
Posh are more expensive than any
other speaker — or indeed any other
audio product — we had ever tested.
Price guarantees you nothing, however,
beyond a wound to your budget.
The Posh are also better at reproducing music than other speakers we have
reviewed. Despite their height, they
don’t overwhelm a normal living space
as too many upscale speakers do. They
are, we think, easy to live with.
But it is their sound that makes
them such great companions. They defy
comparison.
Something unsettling happened after
I experienced a breakthrough of this magnitude in this listening test. The key word
here is after, not very obvious during the
test, but later on. During the test, letting
my first impressions come to the surface, I
started to notice differences. Consciously
or not, my brain wanted to focus on separate parts, so to speak, breaking the music
down into elements such as depth, image,
detail, instrumental timbres, voices, and so
on.
It didn’t last long. The music flowing out
of the Posh speakers seemed so alive that
it was impossible for me to carry on in that
way. The music drew me into each performance, recreating each venue right before
me, blocking irrelevant analytical thoughts.
Now, for the after-effect.
Nothing that I listened to later on,
through other speakers, seemed satisfying
any more. It was as if I had lost the taste for
the sound that I used to like. It just wasn’t
right. Something crucial was missing or,
more likely, something was added, blurring
the core of the music experience.
—Albert Simon
The very notion of a “best” speaker
is problematic. We know that no speaker
is perfect and none ever can be. What’s
more, because designers take such varied
approaches to making their speakers, two
speakers can sound “good” without sounding at all alike.
I listen through a great variety of speakers, but my favorites are the Supremas that
are the reference in our Omega system. I’ve
heard speakers that do one thing or another
better than the Supremas, but none that can
top them for overall musical satisfaction
with a wide variety of recordings.
But the Posh do it. I’ve spent time listening to the six recordings mentioned in
this review, but also a number of other recordings, analog and digital. I was happy
with everything I heard, happy enough not
to yearn for any other speaker.
Yes, they’re expensive, and you can buy
a lot of musical excitement for less than the
sales tax on the Posh. Perhaps they’ll be on
your list, perhaps not, but they won’t make
you sorry you chose them.
—Gerard Rejskind
I suppose one reason to upgrade your
speakers could be home decoration. The
Posh don’t look like furniture. They don’t
absolutely dominate the room, though, as
some expensive speakers do. Your decorator
might possibly be able to fit them in.
The other reason to spend a lot of money on speakers is, of course, music. Not that
technical excellence should be written off
either; these Posh represent a set of skilful
answers to certain perennial problems. But
the music!
Whatever your reasons for buying a
speaker, if music figures, you can take these,
no matter what kind of music you like.
Everything we asked the Posh to play was
revealed, and with more transparency, detail, expansive and breathing airiness, massive thrust and simultaneous clarity than
I have heard ever before at the magazine.
Just one telling detail: the intense drive of
Jennifer Warnes, who sang a story of heartbreak because she had no other choice.
You could buy these, or you could buy
a nice piece of land not too far from downtown. You might get the same amount of
pleasure and fulfilment either way.
—Toby Earp
“Price no object“ products began to appear at audio shows not too long ago, referring to just how high the cost of audio
gear could go. But price has always been an
object for me, so I sat down to experience
these speakers wondering how good they
could really be.
What a shock! The magnificent blend
of beautiful sound captivated and entranced me from the first note to the last.
Timbre — perfect; dynamic — flawless.
An astounding sound feast that drained me
emotionally and left me wanting more.
Maybe a winning lotto ticket will solve
my “price is always an object“ dilemma. In
the meantime, I’m happy to have had the
chance to hear these speakers.—Steve BourkeCROSSTALK