Skanda

Active Member
May 3, 2020
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Last weekend, I went for my first demo/audio related meetup since the beginning of this pandemic. Scott Bierfeldt of Verdant Audio in Jersey City graciously invited me over to listen to some Art Audio gear (which he imports) and Verdant Audio speakers, which he designs and manufactures. Given that this would be my first time listening to a new set of speakers and a new rig in months, I eagerly hopped in an Uber and made my way over.

Arriving at Scott’s, I was greeted by the sound of his Nightshade speakers playing across the room and my eyes caught the bluish glow on the mirrored chrome of the Art Audio Quartet monos. The sound from the living room was clean, smoothed, and relaxed, but before we sat down for a listen Scott went through the quick audiophile checklist of the equipment that would be playing today and the even more helpful task of making margaritas. Scott is quite the bartender. Margaritas in hand we proceeded to fire up Roon and get the tunes going.

Verdant Audio currently manufactures two models: the Nightshade and the Blackthorns. While we tried both sets of speakers (plus a Scansonic MB1 B as a palette cleanser between speakers) the upstream gear remains static Upstream: dac+endpoint is a chord hugo2 + 2go fed by a Roon Nucleus+, art audio conductor tube pre (12bh7 and 6922), art audio quartet monos (845 tubes, 45w class a push pull), kimber cables.

For those unfamiliar with Verdant Audio, I have to stress, the speaker construction is a technological tour de force. The materials engineering is impressive not just for a small manufacturer but even by the standards of some of the most prestigious speaker manufacturers in our hobby.

Both speakers leverage prefabricated composite sandwich panels. These are used in the transportation industry for sound damping in the interiors of planes, trains, helicopters, etc…
For comparison, Vivid also uses sandwich panels but Scott believes they have a balsa core while the Magico M9s are carbon fiber over an aluminum honeycomb core. Here is a link to an academic paper that explains why these lightweight panels are so effective at damping: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:531193/FULLTEXT01.pdf

By using prefabricated panels, Scott saves on fixed costs of a mold which he suggested were significant. These materials are cut and assembled by an aerospace company that works with these materials on a daily basis. The speakers are rounded out with WBT binding posts, etched plates. The crossovers use ClarityCap capacitors, Goertz foil inductors and kimber kable wire is used inside the speakers as well.

Nightshades - $7500/pr (no stands)

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The cabinet is a fiberglass composite panel and can be finished in automotive finish or a wood veneer. We were listening to a pair in a beautiful greenish slate gray that Scott had matched to an old Ford Explorer of his. He also had a natural walnut and natural cherry wood veneer cabinets that would be assembled shortly.

The sound has great speed, wide soundstage, not super deep but that might be the placement. Vocals pan beautifully and female vocals in center stage sound lush with dynamic S’s and T’s i.e. explosive and sharp without stinging. The sound stage height is smaller than what I’m used to but I believe that is a function of stand mount vs. a full range floor stander. The height on my system is also something that is further enhanced by the Taiko Extreme, so I have an unfair advantage there.

The cabinet is not overly damped and the Eton drivers display great coherence and energy. Scott is the only importer of this specific Orchestra driver with a phase plug in the US. There are low level details above the 45-50hz range that are being retrieved nicely and placed accurately in the sound stage. This is the type of detail that emerges when the speaker is nicely balanced and the cabinet is quiet - not to be confused with details that emerge when the tweeter is cranked up a notch.

The edges of the soundstage and elements within it are diffuse, leading to a sound that hangs in front of you in soft relief with certain transients popping out. I would attribute a lot of this to the silk dome tweeters, but no doubt the crossover and other materials are adding to that. I liked the dynamics of this sound and I find myself thinking about how this is a much more refined sound than a dynaudio of kef at a similar price point. The diffuse soundstaging is something I’ve grown to like. My ultimate preference is my reference with the soulution 721 pre, kraft 300, and taiko extreme coming together to create a wide and large sound stage with slightly sharp edges and outlines so that I wouldn’t call it diffuse nor narrow - just right...this is not far off though and given the option I would always choose diffuse over sharp. This is something I learned about my preferences with my magicos as it’s my main knock on them; however, a good speaker will teach you a lot about audio and your preferences.

Spirited and soulful, this fun speaker has DRIVE. Especially with this amp you get that tone and love that only an 845 can deliver. The combination has no trouble moving with the rhythm and punching the bass as demanded. The bass lines can roll in a way that makes this speaker so much fun to listen to - and I found myself hoping that Scott would make a floor stander of this soon!

The slightly warm of neutral sound makes most recordings sound good instead of ripping them apart. This was likely driven by the warmth from the 845 amps. There is a lot of groove to the sound, these speakers understand rhythm. The upper mid range particularly on male vocals airs on the flatter side with a “harder” sound than I’m used to. There is a bit of a nasally quality - however, I’d honestly blame this on the chord. This is a quality I’ve picked up on many systems using Chord DACs.

On a track like The Question by Mac Miller, a favorite reference of mine these days, the lower male registers are blending a bit with the bass. Nothing that’s distracting but it makes the lower sound stage a bit more congested - in general, this is a hard track for monitors because of the sheer quantity of bass and depth of bass notes. Maybe with a big SS amp this would not be an issue. Actually Lil Wayne’s verse is perfectly balanced as his voice has a higher register than Mac Miller’s.

Blackthorns - $10,000/pr (no stands)

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Same construction as nightshades except using carbon fiber sandwich panels instead of fiberglass. Scott believes the cabinet is very similar to the carbon fiber Magico M with the major difference being Nomex vs aluminum honeycomb core. These speakers have magnesium+ceramic tweeter and use Eton’s Arcosia driver which is made from a magnesium composite. It was my first time listening to a speaker with a magnesium and ceramic tweeter but the sound was coherent and the tweeter never drew attention to itself specifically.

Everything is a little brighter but you get additional details compared to the Nightshades. These roll off around 59-60hz and the bass, while it doesn’t have the drive of the Nightshades, it plays lower with more resolution. In fact, I would argue that the Nightshades, tonally, are like Wilsons while the Blackthorns are tonally like Magicos. The sound stage arcs forward, which is to say the edges don’t have much depth but the center does. The edges of the elements in the soundstage are more sharply defined.

As I listened, I continued to be amazed by how similar these are to my magicos in tone. The soundstage height is larger than the nightshades but still not as tall as a full range floor stander. On The Weeknd’s The Zone, the bass ebbs and flows and the atmospheric nature of the soundstage definitely allows it to play a bit taller. His voice is crisp and cutting through the haze. While not as dynamic as the Nightshades, the sound still has life. I think with a Magico S or M series you get more lower midrange heft on the vocals and the diamond coated beryllium tweeter injects more air into the sound - but when it comes to imaging, beating a 2 way monitor of this quality is a tough task for any speaker. Smooth, wide, precise is how I’d describe these.

Conclusion

I think these speakers are remarkably well made and at great price points given the R&D, materials engineering, and thoughtfulness Scott has put into these. Best of all, you could get one of each and have the audiophile/hifi sound when you need it for critical listening and the fun, “crank up the volume” sound for when you and some friends are pouring some beers and playing old school rock n’ roll. Amusingly, while I thought the Blackthorn was a better speaker and more how I like to listen to music, I had more FUN with the Nightshades. Maybe it was the novelty of sound I don’t get every day but these put a huge grin on my face.

I can’t speak much about the Art Audio gear as this was my first exposure to these however I can say the speakers were driven with substantial power and delivered great tone. Moreover, the fit and finish on the Quartett monos is first class. Could they power bigger speakers? Probably - 845’s have the power to do so. However, for those with higher efficiency speakers, they would be super interesting. Scott also carries Avantgarde for just that reason. We didn’t have a chance to listen to those and it remains a speaker I’d love to experience...but I guess that just gives me another excuse to Uber out to NJ for a fun afternoon of music and drinks.

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VerdantAudio

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2020
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I want to thank Skanda for coming by and then taking the effort to write up his experience. This was a fun day. But on to something truly important:

Regarding the Margarita, this is the recipe:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-make-the-best-marg_n_3208966

You can go a little heavier on the lime juice if you find it is a hair too strong. But this uses no Triplesec and is truly delicious. If you don't have Agave Nectar, you can find it in the sugar section in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. It often can be found with the mixers as well.
 
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Skanda

Active Member
May 3, 2020
122
150
43
yessssss! I know what I'm doing this weekend
 

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