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2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Langerton Configuration 217 High End Speaker Review
Spring time in Munich, and the mother of all HiFi shows is well underway. A group of Wammers – bellies sloshing with beer and hearts burning with a porcine overdose of BabyShambles proportions are wandering around enjoying some seriously good HiFi -and some over priced and naff attempts in between.
At Munich the good tends to outweigh the bad. The ugly is common place for sure and not just the wammers. Good sounds are abundant. This is easy to explain; for the most part the rooms are good and solid with little or no leakage between them. The large majority of exhibitors keep volumes sensible and respect their neighbours. Exhibiting at Munich is an expensive gig so manufacturers put huge effort into getting the sound right. They all bring their statement pieces, those bits of HiFi designed to show off what they are capable of with no limits in terms of room size and budget. Prices are eye watering and sounds often re-define the listeners’ definition of good. When I sit here reviewing a £2k amp, or a £500 DAC I have to remember not to compare it unfavorably with the £100k set ups I heard in Munich. The point of this long pre-amble is this: Standing out at the Munich High End show is a real achievement. With that in mind I’m sure you can imagine my surprise that one of the stand out rooms for me was a German speaker manufacturer using £900 worth of second hand Rotel and Quad electronics to drive their babies to unreasonably good heights.
The Langerton room did just that. I’d never heard of them and neither had my friend John (Men in Black on the forum). As soon as we sat down we looked at each other with eye brows raised. This was a good sound, it stood out from a very strong crowd. Like Lionel Messi at Barcelona, it takes something special to get noticed in such exotic company, that Langerton achieved this with their shoe laces tied together was little short of miraculous.. The Speakers in question were the £35k Duo Capable, and capable they most certainly are. With nothing more than a Rotel pre amp and Quad 909 power amp, the sounds were right up there with the very best we’d heard all weekend.
So good in fact I dropped them an email when I got back to the UK congratulating them on their system. They responded and offered me a pair for review, sadly I was forced to decline, knowing they were far too large for my very modest listening room. So they offered to drive over from Germany and install their smaller model – the 217 Configuration in my room for me to review!
And they did. From their base in Bavaria, to West Sussex in a day! Talk about determination and passion for this business.
With 25 years experience building speaker systems for the pro audio and high end audiophile markets, speaker builder Norbert Heinz knows a thing or two. The build quality on these 25k Euro 217’s is Germanic in the best possible sense, every connector, mounting pad, internal wiring and cross over component is top quality. The drivers are Skanspeak and all connectors are Furutech, internal wiring is provided by Llangerton’s in house wire Guru Walter Langer. The third order crossover is inside the sturdy bass cabinets. I was surprised how light they are, some will question the price given the material value of a simple 2 driver set up in relatively light weight boxes. I know I did, let me suggest you let your ears be the final arbiter.
The pair I have here are in Piano black. You can also select smoked service tree veneer in high-gloss (no I don’t know what that is either) as an option. The piano gloss is mirror smooth and represents weeks of painstaking work for each cabinet, a truly stunning finish.
The base is not just a simple plinth, it’s a multi layer de-coupling device (similar idea to Bob Cusworth’s excellent Hush platforms) with adjustable feet. Get that level and then simply put the Bass cabs on top. Then the treble units sit on those with rubberised feet. The idea being that you can tune time coherence and indeed the entire speaker to your room by moving the treble unit back or forward on the top. The differences are not subtle and I must admit it took some tinkering before I was satisfied. Even though the Langerton chaps had gone to some effort to set them up, it took a bit longer before I had them really working in my room…
The first week or so was quite difficult. The initial impression was very positive but as I listened more I found the bass could be thumpy and the mid range was a touch too recessed. One Wammer described them as a bit Boom Tizz. I thought that harsh, but could see where he was coming from. It was frustrating. I could tell there was real potential here, but felt my room was probably too small.
In the event a bit more run- in helped the worst of the bass issues, the driver seemed to loosen up and become more tuneful, the thudiness went and some seriously deep tuneful bass came into play. Also changing Pre-Amp brought big improvements here with the bottom end having more control. These speakers are revealing of any weaknesses in the system driving it. Often a good sign in my experience.
But my memory was of the Duo Capable, I had been spoiled, I wanted more and I felt the 217’s were capable of better. And so, a week down the line I put some tape on the floor and marked out where Langerton had left the speakers and started tinkering. Moving the speakers further apart brought benefits, the way they had been installed left a very narrow sound stage. I hesitate to mention this given the efforts the Langerton team went to, but feel it’s justified. The guys from Langerton set them up for me on a Friday evening. At 4am that Friday morning they had set off from mid Germany, in a small van, and had driven non-stop all the way to my house, then shifted the boxes and gone to great effort to get a good sound. And had succeeded enough to please us , not least this wammer the following afternoon:
If you read my review of the CAAS audio system (used in this review also), you’ll be aware that I was massively impressed with the realistic sound-stage that system produced. Moving the Langertons out and apart brought that back to life. I was getting there, it was hard work tinkering, but I wasn’t prepared to be defeated. The quality was there, but not quite in rave review terms and not 25,000 Euro rave review terms. Eventually I found the sweet spot with the treble units, bringing them half way forward added the missing sparkle but also seemed to bring the mid range to life too and voices were suddenly clear and up in the mix where they deserved to be.
Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid really was special. Guy Garvey’s voice was a real treat, the bass notes in this album can easily be overpowering. But with the speakers somewhat contrarily moved slightly closer to the wall; and properly run in, I found bass to be controlled and tuneful.
You’ll also see from the CAAS review I talk about stunning realism. Well, that’s what happened once the 217 Configuration was correct for my room (as correct as it could be given the limited space available) and my system was matching the speakers better, things became a lot more fun. I forgot the troubles I’d had, my dodgy shoulder, the huge list of jobs to do and anything else come to that, I got to the whole point of a HiFi system, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the music! I was able finally to get writing about how much fun I was having, my view is if it stinks send it back. These were now sounding more the part, a true high end HiFi speaker system! Don’t get me wrong, they always sounded good, just not good enough at this price. With some moving about and careful listening I had them working to a point where I felt I could write a review that did them justice. It was now a real pleasure to have them here.
Almost all speakers need careful placement to work at their best, but these are truly configurable and therefore there is a steeper learning curve and perhaps greater frustration in the early days. However, once you have it all set up just so, you wouldn’t trade down to the simpler solution for all the tea in China.
That I can get a large, big box, high end speaker system like this to work at all in my 3m x 5m terraced house front room is a real testament to the design philosophy here.
The hour or so we had when the Langerton guys dropped them off got me so far, but the fine tuning took time. It was well worth it though. Once singing they put me in mind of the Wilson Watt Puppy configuration I heard at the Scalford show a couple of years back. That highly engineered, high end sound that is quite rare. They were perhaps not as smooth sounding as their bigger brothers, nor did they quite have the stunning mid range of the Duo Capable, but they did bring back pleasant memories of that room in Munich, they got close enough that I was often still digging through my music collection at 1am.. always a good sign!
They gave a really insightful portrayal of everything I threw at them, from Prokofiev to the Aphex twin. There was perhaps a slightly analytical sound to them, but that level of insight is not what I am used to with my modest budget so everything was sounding new to me. They are even handed, honest , revealing and with a bit of Rage Against the Machine utterly hilarious – in that they go from feeling quite relaxed and laid back to dynamic in extremis.
As mentioned in the CAAS review, with the right material everything sounded alive and real, I keep re-playing Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense. Live music, well recorded on a system that portrays realism above all other facets is a great pleasure, for me if not the neighbours.
I’d dearly love to hear these set up in a larger space, where they could be freed to do their thing with greater abandon and style. Hopefully a UK distributor will take these and the Duo Capable’s on and we’ll all get to hear them at Whittlebury or similar next year. As they paired so well with the CAAS audio system, perhaps there’s a real opportunity here for some cross border cooperation.
As mentioned, the day after the 217’s were delivered I had a small social gathering of Wammers here at Wigwam towers. Most of them were positive about the speakers, but I wish I could have had that get together a couple of weeks later when the system was really singing. Oh well,they’ll just have to take my word for it and/or seek them out at Munich 2014. That or visit Langerton for a demo in their castle.. oh did I not mention the castle?
As I write the closing lines, I am waiting for Andreas and Walter to arrive to collect them and I realise now, with the music really singing, just how much I will miss these. I wondered at the price.. perhaps I am just tight, perhaps I need to re-evaluate how one comes to a value or worth. Two drivers, in very nice boxes is only part of the story. The way they put me in touch with my music is the rest of it.. This price point offers a lot of very nice choices. I suspect many buying at this price will be more interested in the Duo Capable, but these are worthy of consideration before you spend the extra £10k. The flexibility could mean they are the configuration that really works in your room, and that makes them truly worthy of audition.
They have gone.. we had one last listen and they are now in a van parked outside a small hotel near Worthing before heading back to Germany in the morning.. I thought of making a joke about going and stealing them, then thought “what if they really are stolen”. So I’ll just leave it there…
Langerton are looking for distributors in the UK, The Duo Capables are truly remarkable speakers. The 217’s are a very good speaker and they have other products in the pipe line. Call them to find out more. http://www.langerton.de/engl/index_en.html Oh and they are nice guys too, which helps!
Discuss the review here
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