First a confession: a lot of audiophile speakers can’t rock out. They are « voiced » to sound best with acoustic jazz or classical music. Nothing wrong with that, but when you want to party, too many of them just can not cut it. It is usually due to their lack of bass response and the inability to reproduce complex sound and being loud at the same time. The new System Audio Saxo 8 from Scandinavia is very much an audiophile-oriented design; so sure, it sounded clear and clean playing any track from the oh-so-popular Audiophile Voices series albums.
[nggallery id=55] But what really made me sit up and take notice was the way the Saxo 8 performed remixed recordings by Terminalhead. These selections of songs are supposed to sound like a controlled cacophony when played using the appropriate speakers and much to my surprise, the Saxo 8 reproduced the sound faithfully. I listened at a relatively loud volume to feel the techno track energy, and the Saxo 8 did not hold anything back. These bookshelf / on-wall speakers are only $549 per pair (estimated Canadian MSRP); they are very slim and miniscule but sound like much larger bookshelf speakers double their size.
System Audio speakers seems to use soft dome tweeters and woofer drivers produced by Vifa / Scanspeak, the same driver manufacturers of Dynaudio and many other studio-reference-quality speakers. Clearly, the Saxo 8 are not your typical bookshelf / on-wall speakers.
The Saxo 8’s truncated shaped cabinet reduces internal standing waves, and its black cloth grille covers the front of the speaker with a sense of elegance and grandeur. The entire surfaces of these speakers are finished in gloss black. The rear panel hosts a pair of sturdy, all-metal, superbly high-quality binding posts that accept any speaker cables terminated with banana plugs, pins, spades, or bare wires. Build quality is first rate with its piano black’s super gloss finish.
I compared the Saxo 8 with my PSB Century 300i bookshelf speakers, with yet another track remixed by Terminalhead and it was immediately clear the Saxo 8 was superior in every way. The PSB sounded less detailed, with less bass, coarser treble, with a more closed-in soundstage. The improvements in stereo imaging surprised me; the Saxo 8 can project a huge, nearly three-dimensional soundstage. The PSB Century 300i is no slouch as I have been using them for my multiple systems, from professional studio monitoring to background-music to home theatre since the inception of those speakers back in 1996, so I was taken aback by how much better the Saxo 8 was. It combines audiophile refinement with a high degree of accuracy… two things that usually tend not to go hand in hand. Terminalhead’s fast beats sounded remarkably precise over the Saxo 8, and the bass extended to the high 40 Hertz range in my computer room. That’s very deep bass for a small speaker especially considering the size being approximately 50% smaller than the PSB Century 300i.
Furthermore, the sound coming out from these speakers are multi-layered while still being cohesive without being overly separated and artificial sounding like many so-called high-end speakers even at quadruple the SAXO 8 price. It’s very impressive indeed that such glorious sound can be reproduced by something so tiny and so affordable!
Just for your reference, I used the SAXO 8 in an NAD stereo system (courtesy of Lenbrook Canada) that consists of NAD C316BEE integrated amplifier and NAD C546BEE CD Player (with built in my favourite Wolfson DAC). This system then interconnected using Kimber Kable Hero with WBT connectors and Kimber Kable 12TC speaker wires (courtesy of Kimbercan).
Granted, I would rather use a pair of tower speakers such as System Audio Saxo 30, but for buyers looking for a small, wall-mountable alternative or even something to be used as an alternative to PC speakers, the Saxo 8 offers a very solid and bona-fide audiophile sound from an incredibly sexy and compact speaker.