PRICE:$1,395/pr in black ash
other finishes extra
The Role Audio Windjammer is a 2-way, floor-standing transmission line speaker with a 4.5" carbon fiber woofer, 1" soft down tweeter with first order order crossover. All drivers are magnetically shielded. Rated frequency response: 35Hz - 20kHz (-6dB). Impedance 8 ohms (min. 9 ohm). Efficiency 86dB 1 watt/m.
Dimensions: 37" x 5.5" x 6", 22 1bs. each.
I had no idea that it was snowing in August. None! Downstairs in my upholstered dungeon, I was listening to a great old CDP through a Mapleshade modified Scott 222C which was sending the music to a pair of the skinniest speakers you could ever imagine. I mean, those speakers are skinny!
Skinny is good, of course, a narrow baffle means less cabinet “interference” with a room, less room interference with the sound. This, of course, is a real good thing if you want to place a pair of speakers wherever YOU want to place those speakers, not where they MUST be placed. If they didn’t sound good placed where they fit into your décor, your living space, then what good could they be?
Not everyone is a die-hard, sounds good-looks lousy audiophile. There are spouses to contend with, “Not in MY living room, you don’t!” and anyway, everyone likes a good speaker that doesn’t dominate a room. The Roles dominate a room only by their sound; look good, not obtrusive.
But as I said, it was snowing in August. Well, that’s what it looked like when I came upstairs to see what my son was yelling about. Nickel sized hail, totally covering our yard. Some was quarter sized! I had been listening to Oscar Peterson and then all hail broke loose!
Oscar was sounding great, as were all of his buddies entertaining me on his Telarc disc from the past millennium. I have to admit I just don’t buy that many CDs, I buy them for the music, the sound is secondary. I think the folks who would enjoy owning this speaker probably do much the same…there’s no shame in NOT being an audiophile, but of course, a good speaker satisfies everyone. Only a hail storm could pull me up from the basement, and sure enough…it was hailing!
It lasted long enough for me to start getting antsy…the thrill was gone and I wanted to return to my second system because it had sounded so good…so good. Sure enough, Oscar had left the stage and I had to load in another CD…I have to remember that on the AMC, a CD loads normally. On the main system, the AudioAlchemy with its Pioneer drive loads upside down. I am easily confused and instantly assume something is wrong when no music issues forth after I hit PLAY. Load a disc upside-down and for some reason, no music!
I put a Norah Jones CD on…I’m sorry but she just doesn’t rip my trigger. I walked into the main listening room and grabbed Ella’s 40th Birthday CD. It’s not a superbly recorded CD with far too much applause and not enough Ella, but it is what it is and it is a good musical CD I’ve enjoyed for years (OK, I promise to order more CDs).
OK, I just did…some Rudy Van Gelder remasters, so they should be in before I finish this review. I’d order some Artia releases, but that’ll have to wait until next month. I will tell you about one Artia CD, though. If you want string realism, this CD, through any good system, will deliver it to you in spades! I heartily recommend Jordi Savall’s Artia CDs, go get some!
Mr. De Sainte Colombe Le Fils Pieces de Viole Artia AV9827 A+B will astound you with its realism. I’ve heard this disc on a number of very different systems and it has always shocked me, reawakened the belief that CD playback just ain’t that bad, not bad at all. The shimmer, the resonance of Savall’s Viola isn’t just good sound, it’s great sound. With that comes a number of amazing performances. The Role speakers, although never delving into the subterranean caverns my Infinity speakers can reach, still give you that feeling we call presence, that sense of reality. I feel the weight of the strings; the box of his cello. Few speakers have that thereness. I never ran into a speaker that conveyed that feeling until I heard a pair Sound Dynamics 300ti. It had to be over ten years ago that Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound went ga-ga over that $600 pair of speakers. Mike, I recently gave my pair to the Salvation Army. The foam speaker surrounds finally blew out. While they were good for the money at the time, there are many speakers today, some smaller and cheaper, that kill them. I never thought they were the miracles that HP hyped, a sentiment shared by many -publisher
I’ve heard a lot of speakers, before and since, and few have achieved that magic (heck, I couldn’t even identify it until I’d heard it with the 300ti’s). Magic it is and must be, as all speaker designers want their speakers to deliver that feeling to a listener. It’s a sound that isn’t dependent upon room placement as much as the mistake of choosing the right drivers, the right cabinetry, the correct crossover points (and the parts of that crossover, of course).
Wherever I stood or sat downstairs with the Role Audio Windjammers connected to the Scott 222C or now, upstairs in my living room, connected to Grant Fidelity integrated I really enjoyed the sound of these speakers. Everyone who came over, my listening partners Bob and John, my wife, friends; they all were stunned that a little skinny-assed pair of speakers could assert themselves in that manner.
Listening to one of my CD workhorses, the XRCD of Bag’s Groove, I’m off axis, sitting at this computer and I hear that assertiveness. Again, not deep bass, just correct bass, correct midrange, correct highs. Davis’s horn sounds like Davis’s horn. Does it have as much weight as my Infinity speakers? Hell no! You want miracles, ya gotta spend the money. But every single music lover that walked into this house has asked about them, how much they cost, and commented how nice it would be to have a pair in their living room (House Beautiful types), their bedroom system or their office system. I don’t think they would have made comments like that about a crappy sounding pair of speakers, do you?
Because they look as nice as they sound! The slim baffle allows for more than simply good imaging, and the imaging from this speaker surpasses that of many higher priced systems. That slim appearance is just the opposite, it does not appear! Fitting in with my oak décor quite well even though the speakers are birch…but they are so darn pretty!
That feeling of presence, of reality, fails a bit at low levels, the sound remaining quite appealing, but not with the richness that the speaker has at more realistic (club, stage, symphony hall) levels. A problem with KT88’s? Who knows. I’d like to hear them connected to the beefy sounding (yet only 100 watt) Monarchy SS amps. Perhaps I’ll be able to tell you more about that sound, but of course, with any equipment you need to find out for yourself what it sounds like with your equipment, in your room. I’m betting, they will stand up like the big speakers they aren’t. Why? Because with the EL34 amp (Scott) they sounded great at all levels, quiet and loud. At only 86db rated efficiency, these might well benefit from higher output amps, particularly in the low end - publisher
Rudy Van Gelder reissues sounded wonderful through these speakers, as did the Telarc Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 20CD-80463. There was a sense of shimmer, of natural overhang to strings I felt was about as real as reproduced sound can get. The full symphony effect was again, not the huge, chest pounding sound I hear from my big speakers, but that’s 200 watts of power (the subs are powered) per channel into a rather large speaker!
Later, setting things up for my knee replacement, I’m listening to music through these speakers in the very large great room of my home, to hear any hugeness from these rather small speakers would be a miracle, and yes, they do perform a good bit of that miracle. Through a Grant Audio integrated amp, I just don’t think you could ask for much more from a speaker without spending a considerable amount of coin.
The Andrew Hill Black Fire (Blue Note RVG edition -7243 5 96501 2 8) is a darn good sounding recording on top of being really superb Jazz. Every instrument is so well portrayed with this speaker; perfectly sized! The Role throws a hugely deep soundstage, width consummate with the size of the group. You really could not ask for more as an audiophile, you surely couldn’t ask for more as a Jazz aficionado.
Playing CDs is a relaxing, enjoyable experience for this nutcase vinyl-crazed individual. Listening in my Barcalounger instead of the love seat in my listening room makes it a wonderful musical tour de force. What’s really amazing is that I want to play more and more CDs, not pining for my vinyl set-up and my 10,000 buddies. Heck, the LP collection’s gotta be more than that, I keep adding and haven’t culled a thing in a long, long while.
I am constantly amazed by the quality of everything in audio these days. The trickle down theory works! These speakers are really great sounding speakers, at any price. The fact that these speakers are affordable in the actually affordable for the common guy sense of the word makes me salivate…or at least I know I would if I was in the market for new speakers.
How do I know this? Three audio buddies said the exact same thing as I said, “I wish I had room for another system so I’d have a reason to buy these.” I have three systems, as do those other guys…one of them has seven: 4 bedroom systems, a living room, a listening room, and his garage. Don’t tell his wife, but I think he’s going to get a pair…shhhhh!
I am amazed with the tonal balance of these speakers. Nothing deep, but really, really true to the source. Listening and watching the Olympics with the TV speakers defeated and the Role WIndjammers driven by a Grant Fidelity amp, my wife NEVER asked, “What did he just say?” I turned on the Jazz station that Dish TV carries, listened to music while I tried to grab a short nap and never fell asleep. I kept listening to the music, sometimes complaining about the speakers in most (if not all) TVs, but most of the time enjoying the music. There’s audio cues in that there satellite receiver!
In fact, connecting some decent interconnects to the audio out of your TV will give you rather good sound. Connect that IC to your satellite or cable box and the sound is as good of a source as anyone has the right to expect. With most material it comes close, maybe equal to CD quality sound.
Sheesh! CD sound…it just keeps getting better and better. I’m enjoying CDs played through the WIndjammers as if they were LPs. Don’t get confused with that last statement; CD’s aren’t just like the sound of LPs. For this die-hard vinyl fan, they are just as satisfying!
O.K. I have to stop gushing and tell you exactly what I’ve been listening to and hearing! Those Rudy Van Gelder remasters, as far as I’m concerned, are damned fine sounding CDs. I’ve read a lot of complaints, but folks, what can you do with almost 50 year old tapes? I’m a year short of sixty myself, I don’t look or sound like I did when I was fresh from the recording studio…er, womb. Why should we expect a medium to last that long with no degradation in sound?
I have low expectations, perhaps. All I know is that I’m damned happy to be able to hear that music reproduced as well as it is. Perfect, fresh from the studio sound? It isn’t possible so why try to compare it in any way except as a standard by itself, never expecting it to reach that standard.
Whatever. I just know the Role speakers spread the soundstage across the part of my living room I shouldn’t even expect to contain a soundstage. Sitting less than 3 feet from the back wall, about 6 feet apart in the center of a 50 foot room, the images and the soundstage, as I wrote earlier, are lifelike. I think that’s an incredible feat.
Grant Green’s Idle Moments Blue Note RVG edition (2439 90032 5) is an astounding piece of Jazz and not a poor sounding recording in the least.
Another Blue Note, an earlier CD offering of Art Blakey’s A Night in Tunisia (7777 46532 2 0) shows the difference between the two types of CDs. The WIndjammers don’t hide the truth that the RVG is a better sounding CD, but they do get the wood blocks on the Blakey CD just about perfectly (or should I say the CD gets it correctly?).
When I first listened to Cuadernos de la Habana, a wonderful set of CDs from Winter & Winter (910 030-2), the liveliness of the sound was a bit astonishing. With my full range system, it definitely sounded like I was in the room with these musicians, an old large bar with a huge dance floor (that’s what my mind sees).
The Roles, in this room, without the bass the Monarchy SE100’s and Infinity P-FRs, lose a bit of that reality…just a bit. Obviously there’s lots of information in those CDs well below what the Role can deliver. It was still remarkable, however.
Listening to Dave Grisman’s Tone Poems II was a kick. I’ve played the livin’ daylights out of this CD. I can’t recall hearing the life-like decay as well as these speakers portray the string sound of Grisman’s mandolins and MartinTaylor’s guitars. Easily distinguishing the difference in each of the instruments, its body, the particular tone of its strings and that decay…OH MY GOD, that decay! So pure and so unbelievably pretty! Not more, no less, just real. The instruments, in this room, are about 3 feet apart, just to the inside of each speaker, separate but blending within the recording venue quite well. You have a sense of the size of the studio; and realizing they were close miked.
As I write this, I’m now sitting off-axis, not in the Barcalounger, and as real as it sounded in the usual triangle arrangement, it sounds even more so here. If I wasn’t the arthritic mess I am, I’d play with the speaker placement some more. I think many buyers of a speaker duo such as these are going to be limited with where they place these speakers; the ability to sound really good in any arrangement will please them. What I’ve heard with off-axis listening leads me to believe that the die-hard audiophile will tweak the placement and blow his mind!
Deliver the truth. Isn’t that what we expect from a good speaker?
I played dozens of CDs whenever Barb wasn’t engrossed with the Olympics, enjoying one after another, driving Mr. Gamer crazy, “Dad, do you have to listen all the time?” With the system upstairs, it was playing music as soon as I walked out from the bedroom in the morning. I listened to them closely as I dank a cup of morning coffee or when I was goofing off or doing what I should be doing with this computer; I am always enjoying the music emanating from those skinny-butts.
It didn’t matter what CD I played, the Role speakers always delivered very pleasing sound. Sadly (or fantastically) they won’t make a bad CD sound good. Listenable, yes. But this is the type of speaker that draws you from what you were doing, reading…even sleeping, by reproducing some music in ways that are, well…a bit shocking.
The fact that this speaker delivers this great sound at its price, that it looks great, that wherever and whatever cockamamie position I placed the speakers, they gave me audiophile sound; spacious, full, three dimensional imaging and miraculously, a broad soundstage in the 50’ wide living room!
They sounded just as good on the Mapleshade mod Scott 222C, set up in a corner of the basement room; concrete floors, bookshelves haphazardly placed (surely not with good sound in mind). In a House Beautiful type living room they’ll look good, make the room look good, and sound fine.
You want that bottom end, BIG bass? Sneak a subwoofer into the room. (Check out Hsu Research) I don’t think most listeners will miss what a small speaker can’t do. I know I didn’t.
Are these perfect speakers? My thoughts are that Role might be able to make the perfect speaker, but this one isn’t it. It can’t be. When you think about it, there cannot be a "perfect speaker". Or even a "best" speaker. A speaker that may be perfect for one person, in one room and one system may be completely wrong for another person in another room in his system - publisher The Windjammer has big pluses in the area of easy room placement and wife acceptance. Also its superb imaging and small footprint are advantages. Value in the bang-for-the-buck arena is good, too. On the negative side, because of its rather low efficiency, it does require significant power - maybe a minimum of 100 wpc which may eliminate many tube amps. Again, adding a powered subwoofer or two will lower power requirements as your amp will not be called upon to drive the most power sapping lower frequencies. That may just be the ticket to complete audio Nirvana. Or one may feel they’ve gotten there. You need to hear this speaker, I can’t say it more simply.
All ROLE AUDIO loudspeakers are intended for use in music and home theater systems and are warranted against defects in materials and workmanship that occur in normal use for ten (10) years from the date of original purchase.
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