Derek Cottrell

I have owned a lot of hi-fi over the years, enjoying sharing my time with both classic and new equipment. Now retirement looms and finances dictate other priorities, I now need to rein in my shopping habits.  If there was one system I once owned that I would love to revisit, it would be the 300B amp and Proac Response 3.1 I had in the late 90’s. On paper it should never had worked but it did. My audio memory of it is a sumptuous detailed sound you could spend all evening listening to. So as retirement approaches I have made a conscious decision to own a system that pays homage to that 90’s system. However, I was a long way away from it but in two short steps I am back there.

Step 1 – The Amp – jumping ship from solid state to valve (KT88). I am not really sure why I left the valve ship in the first place. The KT88 is a good halfway house between the detail of say the EL34 and the accuracy of the mid-range of the 300B..

Step 2 – Speakers – enter stage left (& right) the Pearl Acoustic Sibelius. These speakers are so beguilingly wonderful, they are a tad shy at fully revealing all their charm on day one. I mean, yes, they sound great on day one but just get better as you tune in.  This is hi-fi as it is truly intended, emotionally engaging, detailed, organic, but above all totally at one with the domestic environment. Good hi-fi is not loud, it should be conducive to living with family and especially neighbours. 

Let me expand. Brass doesn’t shout, the older I get the more the brass in hi-fi shouts, why is this? Hearing is meant to deteriorate with age but the older I get, the less tolerant I become of noise – and shouty hi-fi brass gets into the noise category for me.  In real life brass instruments don’t shout, and neither do they on the Sibelius speakers. Their sound is detailed and delivers all the blah de blah good stuff audiophiles endlessly ponder over. The harder trick is to deliver all that but also be emotionally engaging.  Then even harder, is to do all that but at low volume levels. The Sibelius speakers do everything that is required of a really top loudspeaker, they really do, but for me their USP is the simple pleasure of enjoying music at home. Reproducing sound in the home is not meant to be a continual struggle against technology, it is meant to be a love affair with music and that’s exactly what the Sibelius speakers give you. I really can’t say any more than that. Thank you.

One final observation – I have heard Stephen Harper’s (hmm) £ n 0000 ss amps driving n £0000 Peak Consult speakers and they couldn’t resolve the beautiful first track  Click here

but a Hegel H90 and a pair of Sibelius SG’s has. For the first time I have heard this where  the acoustic and the vocals are separated. Else, you just can’t work out what is going on. In my books a sign of any great hi fi is how it portrays true reverb. 

Mr.  Harley sir – you have nailed it.

PS did I say that the Sibelius SG’s look fabulous – single driver so stylish and so technically elegant. These are not loudspeakers – they are handmade musical instruments. In fact, I believe they should not be approached from a hi-fi perspective at all. 

That’s it – shutting up now and going back to listening to music.

Derek Cottrell 2019