I recently took a trip to Singapore where they have a whole mall dedicated to hi-fi. Prices vary from UK, some brands are much much cheaper but some are more expensive. Before starting the review, I would like to say that I had spent the day listening to speakers around the 3000 pound mark so my ears were very tuned to speakers in that price range. I remained underwhelmed mostly till I entered the Roksan dealer.
The setup was the Caspian integrated and cdp with the Caspian FR-5 speakers. Since everything was from the same range it can be safely assumed that they were all designed to compliment each other. The store had the usual 'audiophile selection' of music, which was terrible. We settled on a cd called The Worlds Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings, but this cd had only great songs on it and was free of the usual gimmicky stuff we hear at hifi shows. I would absolutely recommend the cd, I am still looking all over to find it.
The speakers came in beautifully finished maple, the finish is the kind you see on luxury cars. Beautifully made and frankly made the similarly priced cm9s look a bit tattered in comparison. The speakers were also very understated. So the music started, with the volume at 9 o'clock. I noticed the speakers weren't of the highest efficiency and is going to need an amp with some finesse but the Caspian did a good jod driving them and 9 o'clock was comfortably loud. What struck me was the vocals, it touched my heart. I could connect with the vocalists, heard her breathing, it was so intimate. The treble was very nicely integrated, even better than the Mezzos and was clean, detailed but never bright. The bass was palpable but didn't stand out from the other frequencies. I could feel the hands on the percussion. In a way, it sounded real. Like full range driver and single ended triode real, but with nicer bass and a less coarser treble. I keep banging on about my Mezzo and Cayin combo when it comes to realism and this one just nailed more of the same but was just better by I would say 15-20%. Some would remember my bryston/dynaudio audition, the Roksan could eat it for breakfast when it came to realism (no offense to any owners). What was even more shocking that this combo was waaay cheaper. I being a tube junkie, never thought that you could get the sort of vocals you get from a tube amp but the Roksan amp really got me thinking otherwise. This is something that 3000 pound amps like the Hegel couldn't muster and this guy coming in at half the price seems to be taunting the Hegel like a highschool bully.
In short, I fell in love and her name was Roksan. I just couldn't believe how musical a relatively midrange setup could be. After spending quite a frustrating day, being agressively picky, I found a setup I just couldn't complain about. It is a strong case for system matching and shows that a cheaper well matched setup can sometimes better an ill-matched expensive one. I judge all amps against the Gryphone Diablo, while the amp didn't have the absolute power, detail and soundstage of the Gryphone, it had a bit more delicacy and woudn't be totally embarassed in a head to head. If you don't want to fiddle, just buy the Caspian range blind, its perfect for jazz, acoustic, vocals and the ocassional rock. Look elsewhere if you want immense power or listen exclusively to dance although these don't do it bad at all.