If you're buying a Loewe TV, you might want to consider the brand's speakers, too
For many people in the UK, Loewe remains either a brand they haven’t heard of at all (in which case, you pronounce it ‘Lerver’!), or a German designer TV brand. It’s not a marque generally associated with audio.
In truth, though, Loewe is increasingly an AV ‘ecosystem’ brand, accessorising its TVs with both customisable design options (including furniture) and a range of audio accessories.
To prove the point, Loewe's lavished us with its Individual Sound Stand Speaker SL package. But, so we could enjoy the full Loewe AV experience, the speakers were shipped with a 46in Individual TV, a £300 ‘bar-style’ centre speaker that attaches to the TV/stand (and part of the system price quoted here), and Loewe’s £765 BluTech Vision Blu-ray player. And the whole lot was put together by a trained Loewe installer, as it would be for any normal consumer. I made him a cup of tea – you don't have to.
The TV and Blu-ray player have both been around a while now – and you can tell. The former is gorgeously built with its glass front, customisable side panel ‘accents’, and, in our configuration, spectacular chrome pole floor stand. However, its large bezel and bulky rear both fly in the face of the current trend for ultra-slim designs. Fed HD material, detailing is strong with HD, the core contrast performance is bold, colours are nuanced and motion is solid. Recordings to its built-in DR+ HDD are immaculate, too. However, the picture can look slightly processed with Loewe’s Image+ system in play, but a bit ‘routine’ in colour and contrast terms without it. Also, there’s some backlight inconsistency in the screen's corners and 3D images are prone to crosstalk.
As for the Blu-ray player, it looks oversized and curiously bland by Loewe’s standards, and our sample emitted alarming amounts of running noise when accessing discs. It also doesn’t appear to perform significantly better than typical Sony or Panasonic BD decks – not ideal considering its price tag.
But it's the Sound Stand Speaker SL package that I'm interested in here, and first impressions are superb. The left, right and rear floorstanders rise well over a metre high, but are only 1.9cm deep – considerably slimmer than the TV they accompany and a devilishly handsome addition to your décor.
Their sleek lines are made possible because the speakers are electrostatic, generating sound by exciting a thin membrane suspended in an electrostatic field. They lean gently backwards but stand steadily on a glinting metal plinth. They’re so stunning, they make their £2K-a-pair price look rather reasonable – especially when you consider how expensive electrostatic speakers have historically been.
Each speaker needs to be plugged in to your mains to charge the electrostatic panel. Yet these are not active designs. Rather, 500W of the Individual Highline subwoofer's power is split for each surround channel. The rest of the chrome-finished woofer's juice drives its active cone, joined by two passive radiators. Onboard controls include crossover and bass ‘intensity’.
I had concerns that the non-electrostatic centre speaker beneath the TV wouldn’t match the rest of the speakers with either the tone or size of its sound. For the most part, though, this worry proved unfounded. The centre’s wide dynamic range, unexpectedly open sound and ability to produce both dialogue authority and harshness-free treble details actually integrate remarkably well with the rest of the soundstage.
The centre sounds marginally harder than the electrostatics during loud action scenes, but even under extreme strain it didn't distort or fall out of line with its skinnier colleagues.
It’s the electrostatics that steal the show, though. The first thing that struck me is how warm and well-rounded they sound; there’s not a trace of harshness with even really high, tricky trebles, and no bass bloom or boxiness. They don't plunge the depths (Loewe rates them down to 150Hz), but the impressively powerful and well-timed subwoofer picks up the bass slack.
This bass handover is superbly managed, so long as you’re careful with the sub’s crossover frequency setting and don't leave a glaring ‘gap’ between the sub’s bass and the electrostatics’ lowest register.
The combination of clarity and power delivered by the Stand Speaker SLs is remarkable, too. They deliver the award-winning surround sound detailing of Se7en with exceptional precision, reproducing the most tiny, subtle effect beautifully while also creating an uncanny sense of space. Loewe's 'enclosures' make it appear as if there’s a huge audio space beyond – even behind – the physical space they occupy, which does wonders in making the film's soundstage more convincing.
In fact, the more detailed and subtle a movie mix, the more these electrostatic speakers impress. This isn’t to say they can’t go rambunctious when required; they can. But you don’t get quite such a lovely tone or as much detail when the going gets raucous.
This situation carries over into the system’s music performance. With relatively simple, spartan, pop or classical music it sounds gorgeous; hi-fi in a way some other home cinema speakers only dream of. Yet chugging rock 'n' roll it’s marginally less comfortable; a touch too refined, maybe. Overall, though, the Stand Speaker SL system impresses as much with music as it does with movies.
If you're looking to immerse yourself in the Loewe ecosystem – perhaps with one of the newer Individual ID screens – these speakers have to be auditioned. They combine form and function to spectacularly potent effect. Luxurious looks, luscious sound.
Loewe Individual Sound Stand Speaker SL
Highs: Crystal clear, spacious sound quality; accomplished subwoofer; gorgeous design and build
Lows: Centre channel not as adept; you'll need to find a few power sockets; costly
Want the latest issue of Home Cinema Choice? Use our magazine locator link to find your nearest stockist!
Want to see your home cinema system featured in the pages of HCC? Click here for more info.
Love home cinema? Sign up to our emails for the latest news and special offers!
Home Cinema Choice is proud to be a member of EISA.
Visit www.eisa.eu for more info.