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- Written by Tim Shea Tim Shea
- Category: Full-Length Equipment Reviews Full-Length Equipment Reviews
- Created: 01 January 2011 01 January 2011
Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at
There are many ways to reproduce sound -- with domes, cones, ribbons, panels, etc., made from a cornucopia of materials that include silk, aluminum, beryllium, Kevlar, Mylar, various other composites, liquids, and up to and including the exotic and exceedingly rare (and expensive) ectoplasmotic unobtainium. Well, that last one might not actually exist, but I’m certain someone out there is working on it.
As with entire audio systems, I find that the level of success of an individual component is driven as much by how all its pieces work together as by anything else. Spending a lot of money on drivers, cabinets, and electronics doesn’t ensure a coherent-, uncolored-, or even a pleasant-sounding speaker (though it probably doesn’t hurt).
I pondered this as I took a look at the Verita speaker from Selah Audio. The Verita, sold factory-direct, includes components that, were they sold through traditional dealer networks, would boost its price to multiples of its $2650 USD per pair (including shipping). I’m perfectly fine with factory-direct-only sales, so long as there’s a relatively painless way to audition a product before pulling the trigger. In this case, I found myself staring at a traditional cone mid/woofer in an attractive and traditionally styled cabinet punctuated by a [gulp] ribbon tweeter. Never before had one of those in the house. Already, I was wondering how these radically different drivers could possibly be made to play nice together without some sort of discontinuity somewhere. But that was the designer’s problem. All I had to do was to listen.
Background and description
From what I can tell from reading various audiophile forums, Selah Audio’s products have been very favorably received. That made me feel a smidge better about that little ribbon tweeter, but only a smidge. Rick Craig, the brains behind Selah, got his start in audio by repairing the stuff -- a good way to begin to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what’s built well and what isn’t. Craig began making one-off speakers for himself, and was soon fielding inquiries from people who wanted him to build them a pair. It’s not a bad thing to know that people really like what you make, before you make a business out of it. Thus was born Selah Audio.
Selah’s models range from inexpensive monitors up to “If you gotta ask . . .” floorstanders. The Verita, the top model of their line of stand-mounted speakers, is offered in both ported and sealed-box versions at the same price. My review samples were sealed, but given my decent-size room, cement floor, and medium-size reference speakers, a pair of Soliloquy 6.2 floorstanders, I kinda wished Craig had sent the ported version for the added bass extension such a design usually offers. The sealed puppies quickly disabused me of that wish.
The Verita measures 14"H x 8.5"W x 13"D and weighs 28 pounds. The cabinet, which curves in attractively toward the rear, is made of MDF and damped inside with a composite material. Around back is a single pair of binding posts, but for a nominal upcharge Craig will provide a pair ready for biwiring. The frequency response is a claimed 67Hz-20kHz, +1.75/-3dB, and down to 45Hz at -10dB. The specified sensitivity is 84dB/2.83V/m, the minimum impedance 4 ohms at about 150Hz. Craig maintains that the Verita can be driven with tubed amplifiers, but that lower-powered single-ended-triode (SET) amps won’t have the juice to do the job. All I can say is that the Veritas required no more from my volume knob than my fairly tube-friendly reference Soliloquy 6.2s, which supposedly have an additional 5dB in sensitivity.
Around front, the Verita turns from beauty to functionality. The black baffle looks to be about 1” thick, and houses a 7” Scan-Speak Illuminator mid/woofer (made in Denmark) and, up top, a RAAL tweeter (made in Serbia). The crossover is proprietary, but is said to comprise top-quality parts. Clearly, the quality of its components will not be this design’s major limiting factor. The only area of build quality I found a little weak was the grille, which is secured by a small magnet at each corner. Although I was always able to fasten the grilles, it felt a bit hit-or-miss as to whether they were secured in their proper places, and the little magnet covers on the grilles’ inner surfaces seemed too ready to abandon their positions. That said, they worked just fine during the review period, though I never listened with them in place -- for reasons that will soon become obvious.
My first pair of review samples were adorned in exotic-looking and visually stunning imbuya wood. You know how some speakers aren’t acceptable (mainly to significant others) because their appearance is just not on a par with the rest of the room? Well, here was the reverse situation: these things would have most people upgrading their furniture.
Looks are one thing, sound another. On firing up the Veritas for the first time, I heard nothing that hinted that they hadn’t already been fully broken in. There were no sharp edges, no anemic bass, no closed-in sound to indicate that these units needed more burn-in time. But after a short while, there was a slight burning smell. I didn’t at first suspect the speakers -- amazingly, they still sounded fine -- but I eventually followed my nose to one of the tweeters. This probably speaks to how robustly these ribbon tweeters are designed and built. Turns out that, apparently, my solid-state amp wasn’t playing nice with the Veritas, so Rick Craig sent along another two, these finished in a flawless piano black, with some crossover resistors rearranged. I cranked the heck out of the new pair to make sure they’d hold up and, without a hitch, they took everything I threw at them for the remainder of the review period. Problem solved. I could hear no difference between the first and second pairs, which speaks well of Selah’s consistency of quality and manufacture.
The Veritas were very easy to place, and perfectly happy in the spots where my reference speakers usually live: front baffles about 5’ from the front wall and the side panels about 2.5’ from the sidewalls. But the Verita’s sealed-box design opens up the possibility of placing them closer to the front wall if need and/or taste requires. I set them on 23”-high stands (Selah recommends 22-24”), but that seemed a bit low; I jacked them up a few more inches with some bricks, which I preferred visually and thought resulted in a touch more detail, though the difference was definitely not night-and-day.
My first impressions can be summed up in two words: effortless resolution. That’s great, I thought; who doesn’t want that? Of course, one man’s effortless resolution is another man’s laid-back or polite. But I get ahead of myself.
A few other things jumped out at me immediately, and for the most part held true throughout the listening period. First was that these relatively little guys sounded big. Everyone’s heard the anecdote: At an audio show, a manufacturer displays a pair of floorstanders, but actually playing are two hidden minimonitors. These are revealed as the sources of the sound and everyone gasps. The Veritas could play that role superbly. A significant part of this was the depth and impact of the bass they delivered, which in my experience rivaled more what I hear from midsize floorstanders. That this solid foundation was being produced by two sealed-box minimonitors was striking.
Next were the resolution, dynamics, density, and expressiveness of the midrange. My Soliloquy 6.2s fare well in this range, where many speakers initially disappoint (or at least don’t over-impress). Not so with the Veritas; in fact, I felt they were outgunning my references in dynamic range and image density. These properties and capabilities also contributed greatly to the Veritas sounding much bigger than expected. I found myself becoming quite enamored of that Scan-Speak mid/woofer and how it had been integrated into the rest of the Verita.
Last, I was intrigued by the Verita’s top octaves but not completely overwhelmed. What was there was very clean, which is what I’d expect from a high-quality ribbon tweeter. But just as important as that cleanness, there needed to be a good bit of tonal richness available in those upper octaves -- and here I was quite skeptical. I was concerned, for no reason other than preconceived biases, that cymbals, for example, would sound very clean and crisp, but lack the tonal properties that can make it easy to discern, say, a heavy from a lighter ride cymbal. Just goes to show the dangers of preconceptions: the Verita was exceptional at capturing the complex characteristics of properly recorded cymbals.
Although I’m breaking down the Verita’s sound to its individual components and traits, the speaker struck me as very linear. Often, when I hear speakers with the Verita’s density and fullness of midrange, that character can dominate the audioband in musical passages that feature, say, larger stringed instruments or male voices. The Verita was able to integrate this midrange fullness as a strength without highlighting it, and I suspect that may have been due to the bass and treble components being able to hold their own rather than one being knocked into relative submission by the other. This might be one of the benefits of using top-notch drivers and a carefully tailored crossover network. I suspect that latter also because, despite determined attempts, I could hear no discontinuity in volume or tonality in the critical transition from mid/woofer to tweeter. Another of my preconceived notions about seamlessly marrying disparate driver designs fallen by the wayside.
However, and going back to my statement that I was not completely overwhelmed by the Verita’s treble, what did seem somewhat diminished was upper-level air and space, accompanied by a slight softening of percussive strokes (think wooden drumstick hitting metal cymbal). Instead of a backdrop “clear as air” or “images floating in space,” there was more of an inky-black, dead-silent backdrop to the Verita’s overall sound. I tend to prefer the former, so I swapped out the Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II interconnects and Apogee Wyde-Eye digital cable I’d had in place and replaced them with the relatively more austere-sounding Stereovox Colibri-R and XV2, respectively. This definitely added some welcome sparkle and zip, but the basic character described above remained.
In fact, on many levels the Verita struck me as having an overall sound very similar to what I heard from Ayre Acoustics’ C-5xeMP universal player, which I recently reviewed. The Ayre leaned toward a slightly softer but tonally rich, fleshed-out, and dynamic sound that served to pull me a few rows closer to the performers. Elements such as space and depth were there, but were more indicated and hinted at than pinpointed and highlighted. This is exactly what I heard from the Veritas. Never thought I’d compare the sonic characteristics of a digital front end with those of speakers, but there it is.
Given the qualities I was hearing, I began my critical listening with the Dave Matthews Band’s Crash (CD, RCA 66904), not only because it’s a big-sounding recording with plenty of dynamic impact and slam, but also because it’s loaded with upper-level and spatial detail. Right away, playing “So Much to Say,” I could tell the acoustic guitar was being fleshed out extremely well, which gave it a more solid presence in my room. Likewise, the baritone sax really popped out of the mix, with impressive weight and dynamic impact, to an extent that I’d never expected to hear from stand-mounted speakers. Matthews’ voice still had a tiny bit of the sheen I’ve come to associate with his singing, but slightly less than I’m used to, and presented with a bit more fullness and heft without sacrificing clarity.
Given that the Verita is a sealed box, I was expecting tight, quick bass, and I wasn’t disappointed -- but I was very surprised to also hear a weight and depth to that bass that subjectively matched the bass produced by my floorstanding, ported reference speakers. Also impressive was the absolute size and scale of the sound, which expanded to fill the front half of my room. I seldom listen to Matthews’ “Two Step” all the way through, but I now found myself listening to it over and over -- all the qualities mentioned above made it an experience that much more involving and enticing.
The flute in “Say Goodbye” had a more a fuller tone than I’m used to hearing, which had the effects of making it sound larger, and pulled a bit more forward in the three-dimensional soundstage. Here was also where the slight politeness of the upper treble manifested itself in truncated reverberation trails that made the recording sound a bit less spacious and airy. Like the Ayre C-5xeMP, the Verita seemed happier telling me the full story of the musicians and their instruments, while sending subtler signals about where they stood or sat in the recording venue, and what that venue looked like.
Given what I’d heard with the Dave Matthews, I next reached for Hans Zimmer’s score for Gladiator (CD, PolyGram 467094), and specifically “The Battle,” which is often used by reviewers to assess a component’s ability to reproduce bombastic symphonic fare. But I was also interested in hearing this track because, through my own system, the brass sound just a bit zippy; I wanted to hear what the Veritas might have to say about this. As should by now be expected, it was what I didn’t expect to hear that turned out to be the more interesting part of listening to “The Battle” through the Veritas. Yes, the brass had a tad less bite and zip, but it also had more tone, and that was all for the good -- it sounded more lifelike and real. As with Crash, the soundstage was huge, but what surprised me were the timpani -- I could actually feel their low rumble in my chest as part of the music’s lower foundation. The thing is, I’ve got a cement floor in my basement listening room, so whatever I was feeling was being generated by these sealed-box monitors -- this was most unexpected, and really drove the music home to make it a more complete listening experience. What the Veritas were able to pull off was to make me feel as if I were missing nothing, and that there was no penalty in listening to smaller speakers. Of course, a subwoofer or two would have fleshed things out even more -- I don’t know of too many speakers with which that wouldn’t be the case -- but the Selahs never made me wish for subs, or my brain to start filling in gaps for sounds I knew should be there.
Finally, I wanted to explore that ribbon tweeter. As mentioned above, it didn’t accentuate the upper treble, and was just as clean and clear about what it did reproduce, but I still wanted to know if it could project tone, shimmer, and sparkle. One of my favorite recordings for cymbals is Cyrus Chestnut’s self-titled album (CD, Atlantic 83140). In “Miss Thing,” the hi-hat at the beginning sounded very good, but the sound of the two cymbals loosely striking each other was not as defined as I’m used to hearing. Likewise, the ride cymbal favored the sound of the cymbal over the physical impact of the stick hitting it. But if I had any concerns about that ribbon being able to accurately reproduce tone, they were now gone. The tonal character of the ride was as fully realized as I’ve ever heard it, and, maybe because of that, I felt as if I could better picture in my mind’s eye how the drummer was articulating his striking of the cymbal. Nice stuff.
The unexpected surprise on this recording was Chestnut’s piano. Yes, the Veritas sounded way big with rock and classical music, but big-sounding individual instruments such as the acoustic piano also sounded big in my room, occupying a life-size space and producing a corresponding dynamic impact.
At first I was a little concerned that the only reference speakers I had on hand were my Soliloquy 6.2s, which, though of similar price to the Selahs when still available, are still floorstanders of pretty decent size, and ported to boot. My preconceived notion (and we know what the Veritas have done with those up to this point) was that my larger, ported speakers would make these much smaller monitors sound like, well, like much smaller monitors. Hah. If anything, most of the time it was the other way around.
Where the Soliloquys held an edge was in those upper-treble areas mentioned above. Overall they sounded lighter and airier, which let them better describe recorded spaces and venues, add more bite, more clearly highlight transient attacks and reverb trails, and provide a more overtly visible three-dimensional stage.
I found the Soliloquy and the Selah about equal in how low they could go, but the Verita was quicker, tighter, more punchy, and provided even more tone and weight in the mid- and upper bass. Ditto the midrange, where the Verita added more flesh to the bone, but without sounding muddy or overdone in any way. All this added up to a more physical and visceral portrayal of instruments and voices. Both speakers were capable of throwing off huge soundstages, but the Selahs had more physical presence throughout those stages, whereas the Soliloquys’ stages had a lighter, more ethereal quality, with the rear of the stage lit up more.
Going into this review, I expected the precise opposite of what I’ve just written. The Selah Verita seems to enjoy proving my expectations wrong at almost every turn.
I’m not sure I can unqualifiedly recommend the Selah Audio Verita to those in the market for small monitor speakers; I could very easily see them overpowering or being constricted by the smaller spaces in which such products are typically used. You’d have to hear them in your own room. I’m much more comfortable recommending these little beasts to those who think they want medium-size floorstanders -- the Verita probably sounds bigger and more robust than many, if not most, of them. It looks to me as if the money you save in not buying all the cabinetry of a floorstander has instead gone into the Verita’s top-notch drivers, without sacrificing the things people want to buy floorstanding speakers for in the first place.
But I don’t want anyone to think these minimonsters are all about physicality or brute force. They are supremely musical devices fully capable of uncovering and communicating the most important aspects of recorded sound. They don’t reach too far into the upper or the lower extreme, but they pretty much nail everything in between, which is where, for most people, music lives. They might not be for the ultra-analytical audiophile who needs to hear every detail spotlit and clearly etched in space, but it’s hard for me to envision anyone else not being mightily impressed by the total package offered in Selah Audio’s Verita.
. . . Tim Shea
- Speakers -- Soliloquy 6.2
- Amplifier -- McCormack DNA 0.5 Rev.A
- Preamplifier -- Bryston BP 6 C-Series
- Digital sources -- Oppo DV-970HD universal A/V player (used as transport), Electronic Visionary Systems Millennium DAC 1 D/A converter
- Interconnects -- Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II, Stereovox Colibri-R
- Speaker cables -- Acoustic Zen Satori
- Digital cable -- Stereovox XV2 coaxial, Apogee Wyde-Eye
Selah Audio Verita Loudspeakers
Price: $2650 USD per pair.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
1013 Oakwater Dr.
Garner, NC 27529
Phone: (919) 264-6776