McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Monday, October 27, 2014

EAN Audiophile Review!
Legacy Expression Ribbon-Tweeter
2.5-Way Passive Tower Speaker

Price: $3,000
Likes: silky top end, good bas
Dislikes: no way, too good for the $
Wow Factor! a serious entry tower
More info: Legacy Expression

by John Gatski
  Since Bill Duddleston re-acquired his Legacy Audio speaker company a few years, ago, he has been kicking out a whole new generation of speakers that appeal to a wide range of audio enthusiasts. Although the big speakers (Whisper, Aeris and Focus) get all the press, the small speakers are genuine bargains. Check out my StudioHD review from 2009.
  Legacy’s entry-level tower, the Expression, is an example of super-sound delivery, yet reasonable price from a USA-made speaker. In fact, for smaller rooms that can fit a tower speaker, It is a genuine bargain

  The Legacy Expression is a 2.5-way driver tower loudspeaker, utilizing a 1-inch neodymium-magnet, spiral ribbon tweeter, a 8-inch midbass/midrange woofer (silver/graphite woven diaphragm, cast basket, phase compensation plug) and a second 8-inch subwoofer/bass driver, augmented by a ported enclosure. The silky smooth highs and spot-on bass output down to the low 40-Hz region — with the extra throw of a small tower — makes these speakers ideal for small-to-medium listening rooms, or as part of a home cinema system with use of a Legacy center channel or the small StudioHD two-way that I am a big fan of.

“The Expression gives those with more limited budgets a chance to sample the renowned Legacy loudspeaker sound. Dollar for dollar in a typical small-to medium room, the Expression is hard to beat for stereo or multichannel duties. It gets a well-earned Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.”

  The compact tower measures 38.5-inches tall 10.75-inches wide and 10.75-inches deep. Its solidly braced MDF cabinet helps contribute to its 70 pound heft. The 2.5-way crossover, as described in the marketing literature, refers to the traditional two-way crossover of the mid-woofer to the tweeter at 3 kHz, plus the subwoofer crossover at 500 Hz to the midbass/midrange woofer. Spec-wise, rated frequency response is 38 Hz to 22 kHz, plus, minus 2 dB. Impedance is 4 ohms, and the room sensitivity is listed at 94 dB, with a 2.83V signal input. Power handling is 250 watts RMS continuous.
  The speaker includes bi-wire binding posts with included jumpers for single-wire use. The Expression contains two tone-tailoring switches to allow a mild cut in the treble and bass: -2 dB at 10 kHz and -2 dB at 60 Hz. Up is flat; down is the cut for each switch. The treble cut can even the response in a bright room, while the bass trim can knock down some bloom when the speaker is too close to a boundary.
  The Expression is a great-looking speaker and comes in a variety of finishes including the test samples rosewood option. The grill is removable, and to my ears, is more present sounding without it attached. Perhaps in a more live sounding roof, you can get away with leaving it on.

The set up
  During the review process, I set up the Expressions for use as an audiophile stereo playback speaker system, and as the L-R in a 5.1 system. I also used the 5.1 system at the 2014 Capital Audiofest for hi-res surround and movie soundtrack playback.
  Stereo listening components included a Rogue Audio Medusa hybrid tube/class D amplifier, Pass Labs XA30.5 Class A MOSFET amplifier, and the new Benchmark AHB2 amplifier. For preamps, I used either a Coda or the discrete output of an Oppo HA-1 DAC/headphone amp, via 1/4-inch-to-RCA adapter. Other demo DACS included the Benchmark DAC2D, Mytek Stereo 192-DSD and a Resonessence Concero linked to a Dell tablet. All interconnects, including digital and speaker cables, were furnished by Wireworld. Power products including Essence Reference II cords and power strip, were from Essential Sound Products.
  The multichannel system was set up in my main home cinema listening room and at the 2014 Capital Audiofest. I used the Expressions for the L-R, and three Legacy StudioHDs, which are very close in audio character to the Expression, for the center and rear surrounds.
  In my main 5.1 room, I powered the speakers with the audiophile caliber AudioControl AVR-6 multichannel receiver. At CAF, the speakers were powered by three Benchmark AHB2 amplifiers.

The audition
  I set up the speakers in the midfield — about eight feet away from the listening position with the grills off. The sound was immediately familiar upon first play of the Warren Bernhardt — So Real SACD. The similarity to my smaller Legacy Studios was undeniable. That silky smooth top end, generous helping of width in the imaging and very good, clean bass extension, plus more of it, were projected by the Expressions. But they filled up the room quite a bit more and offer increased oomph under 60 Hz than the Studios.
  The neo ribbon HF driver is key to the Expression’s, er, expressive top-end. This ribbon is accurate with zero harshness, making the Expression a speaker you can listen to all day long. The two-way crossover for the midwoofer/tweeter also keeps the audio focused in the more ear-sensitive frequencies.
  For a $3,000 speaker, the piano tone was very convincing when reproducing the a Steinway D from the Bernhardt recording. I heard much of the upper-register piano key percussion that I hear on much more expensive speakers. Perfect for that cocktail jazz sound.
  My jazz guitar SACDs sounded open and warm through the Expressions. Grant Green — Green Streets, for example, exhibited that warm, tube amp tone that I like. Anthony Wilson’s honey-hued Gibson guitar tone also was golden via the Expression when playing the Anthony Wilson TrioOur Gang SACD, Love that “Briitta’s Blue” track.

Expression (R) is a bit smaller than Legacy's ClassicHD

  On classical music, the ribbon tweeter is aces on string instruments. On a 2L, 24/352.8 Haydn cello duo. I could definitely hear the bit of extra depth of cello tone overtones that the best speakers pull out of this ultra-hi-res recording. Bigger, multi-driver speakers may give you more level in a bigger room, but the Expressions are remarkable in what they bring to the listening position. Lots of detail for a budget USA speaker.
  The Expressions could handle anything I put through them. Pop, Rock or Country? No problem. Daft PunkGet Lucky” disco/funk retro sound was presented in its full flair; nice bass, keyboard and guitar layers. David Bowie’s, hi-res version of “The Rise Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars” is a great transfer from the original master tapes with improved width and depth around the various guitar layers. All that extra sound comes through the Expressions. I especially liked the acoustic guitar intro on “Rock and Roll Suicide." Nice natural presence from the Expression’s ribbon tweeter.
  The Expressions vocal performance also is smooth — without excessive sibilance or peakiness. Frank SinatraNo One Cares album, now on SACD, features Sinatra at the peak of his phrasing and vocal power. The Expressions definitely do that recording justice. Just listen to the vocalist’s velvety tone on the “Cottage For Sale.”
  The Expression’s two-woofer system, augmented by the port, produce clean bass and were flat in my room down to 40 Hz, which is plenty low for most kinds of music. If you get closer to the back walls, the midbass may pump up a bit, but I kept my distance. You can engage the bass roll-off switch and plug the port if you can’t avoid closer wall placement. I tried it, and it definitely tightens up the bottom end — even at eight-inches from the wall.
  I did not have any speakers, sans the StudioHDs, in the Expression’s price range during the trial, but i did have some more expensive ones: my reference MartinLogan Montis electrostats ($10,000) plus and a pair of Pass Labs SR2  three way towers ($21,000). The Pass SR2’s had a bit more richness in the upper midrange and low treble, and the Montis projects a nearly unbeatable capability to separate instrument layers. But the Expression hangs right in there relaying plenty of hi-res music nuances and subtle resonance cues. It is definitely better than its price would suggest — in terms of audiophile sound.

  On a 2L, 24/352.8 Haydn cello duos. I could definitely hear the bit of extra depth of cello tone overtones that the best speakers pull out of this ultra-hi-res recording. Bigger, multi-driver speakers may give you more level in a bigger room, but the Expressions are remarkable in what they bring to the listening position.

  In the EAN surround system, I used two Expressions and three studios, one for the center channel and two for the rear surrounds. The Expressions integrated seamlessly with the Studio’s, producing a convincing dimensional sonic portrait for several of Tom Jung’s wonderful recorded DMP surround SACDs, such as Warren Bernhardt - So Real, and surround Blu-rays from 2L and AIX. I purposely ran them without a subwoofer, to see if Expression could kick out enough bass. Other than the lowest sub-35 Hz LFE sounds, the Legacys kicked out solid music bass.
  I took the same system to the Capital Audiofest, powered by the new Benchmark AHB2 amp, three to be exact. The DSD surround music, courtesy of Mytek Digital’s music server and Blu-ray movie soundtracks, played through an Oppo BDP-105, sounded great in my little demo room. Numerous show attendees commented they were impressed with the speakers — especially its clean bass output and easy top end.
  I had no complaints with the Expressions. They are well built, and were a cinch to to connect with my big Wireworld cables, and they are not that heavy to move around. And as a small tower, you can put them in about any room — except a really big one. The finishes are first rate, and this company really knows how to package a speaker for safe shipping, yet easy to remove from the box. 
  Legacy used to be a mail order/Internet order/phone order factory-direct seller, but now it has a dealer network of 22 dealers in the U.S.A. And it also has distribution in 21 countries, and now features a second line of speakers — for pro installation.

The verdict
  If you get the impressions that I liked the Legacy Expression, you are correct. With the expanding line of Legacy offerings on the top end in recent years, it is good to see that the company has not neglected its entry points. Like the compact StudioHD that I reviewed in 2009, the Expression gives those with more limited budgets a chance to sample the renowned Legacy loudspeaker sound. Dollar for dollar, in a typical small-to-medium room, the Expression is hard to beat for stereo or multichannel duties. It gets a well-earned Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.

John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

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