PEAK CONSULT DRAGON LEGEND SPEAKERS REVIEW


"Intense is the emotion, when the ear begins to hear, and the eyes begin to see; When the pulse begins to throb, and the heart begins to pound; The soul to feel the music, and the flesh to feel the sound." (Taken from Emily Bronte’s poem The Prisoner, 1846). As Isabelle Faust's bow glides across the violin strings of her 1704 Stradivarius, her seemingly lighter touch on the bow is short on vibrato, but dazzled with compelling precision. I am completely drawn into Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901944,) as I await Alexander Melnikov's complementing burst of energy on the lidless Steinway concert grand piano. Faust and Melnikov are at times marching in tandem, and at others, they wrestle with intense vibrancy but never overpowering each other. As the Adagio sostenuto Presto comes to a close, the room is met with utter silence as if the performance has taken a knife and sliced it through the atmosphere. 

It took a few minutes for the audience in my audio room to compose themselves. Then, David Chan of DVL Audio, Canadian distributor of CH Precision and Viola Labs, breaks the silence by saying, “Wow, That was one of the most intense, lively, and realistic performance I have ever heard, the Mighty Dragons have roared”. 

Indeed they have. The Peak Consult Dragon Legend speakers have been singing in my living room for the past ten months ever since Canadian distributor Excel Stereo delivered them back in December of 2016. They represent the single biggest sonic breakthrough my system has encountered in the past decade.   Numerous speakers have gone through my listening space, including some very expensive top of the line models, but only the Dragon Legend have managed to displace the Dynaudio Temptations which I have owned since 2006.  

Peak Consult was founded by Per Kristoffersen in 1996. Kristoffersen emphasize strongly that he is first and foremost an audiophile and a music lover. His designs are not just a laboratory engineered product which perfects the bench test, they must also touch his soul. Countless hours are spent on listening tests beyond the laboratory to fine tune every last detail to perfection. Peak Consult is not a large scale manufacturing plant with CAD machines and assembly lines. They are more like the Bugatti or Aston Martin of high end audio, everything is handmade to order so expect no mass production or Amazon Prime delivery times. Kristoffersen takes his time to hand craft every product with meticulous care and personalized attention.

The Dragon Legends replaces the Dragon, which occupied the flagship position for more than ten years. Its design principle is a natural evolution of the Dragon in technology as well as in aesthetics. The Dragon Legend is made entirely in Denmark, utilizing Audio Technology drivers made by Per Skanning (his father Ejvind Skaaning is the founder of Dynaudio).

Each speaker houses two 13” hybrid sandwich bass woofers, two 6” mid ranges, and a custom modified Scanspeak neodymium 1” silk dome tweeter in a D’Appolito configuration (Bass - Mid - Tweeter - Mid - Bass).  They are time aligned and designed to produce a wide dispersion pattern. The crossovers  are handmade by Kristoffersen himself, using custom designed capacitors, resistors, inductors and wiring by Duelund Coherence Audio, as well as Jansen. Kristoffersen keeps the impedance and electrical phase very narrow, they have an impedance response which is linear down to 30 Hz at 5 ohms, which mean they present a very constant load to the amplifier. Sensitivity is rated at 95 db @ 1W/1m. 

The Dragon Legends are truly behemoths. At 183 cm tall and 382 kg weight, they are taller than the Wilson Alexandria XLF by 5 cm, and heavier than both the Wilson XLF, and the Magico Q7 by 85 kg and 43 kg respectively. Nothing short of concrete can match the structural rigidity of the Dragon Legends’ cabinets, which are made of 36mm HDF (High Density Fiberboard), but in areas where rigidity is called for, they are as thick as 70mm with multiple laminated layers.    


Despite a week long careful planning by Excel Stereo and a team of 6 Schwarzenegger sized piano movers, moving the Dragon Legends into my basement living room proved to be a very daunting task. Kristoffersen does not want to compromise the rigidity by dividing the cabinets, so each speaker is housed in a single wooden crate sized bigger than a coffin. The crates sit on six wheels with a combined total weight of over 450 kg.     The handles on the crate are not designed to carry 450 kg, so the movers had to improvise 3 sets of straps held by 3 movers on each side. Battles are never won without sacrifices and in our story, the fallen soldier happens to be the railings on my stairs which couldn’t bear the weight and broke off entirely on one side. Between damaging the stairs versus the speakers, or worst yet, injuring a mover, it is but a small price to pay for the luxury which ensues. It is also the first time I have ever seen a wheel caster being crushed in half, as the crate lands onto it as it came to the bottom of the stairwell, it simply isn’t strong enough to bear the weight. But after all that ordeal, they unboxed the mighty speakers and there was joy in the heavens as the Archangels blew the trumpets - The Dragon Legends landed safely without a single scratch!

Standing tall in the room, the Dragon Legends have a commanding presence in size and in looks. Aesthetically, they are the epitome Northern European classic elegance, exhibiting traits of classic English wood work combined with a high gloss piano finish reminiscent of modern Fazioli pianos. Kristoffersen spared no expenses, the wood trim on the side and the top of the speakers are made with 15mm thick solid walnut instead of paper thin veneers. The black piano finish accent are actually made of high gloss black acrylic. The front baffle is lined exquisitely with leather.  Every person who has ventured into my living room has commented on their elegance which looks much better than in photos. The timeless classical design of the Dragon Legends blends in nicely with the design of my room, more so than futuristic automotive paint finish or post industrial hard metal cabinets. Aesthetically, the Dragon Legend’s classic design will not fade over time.

The speaker comes with 4 aluminum bars which are bolted to the underside of the speakers horizontally. Each bar is supported by 2 metal feet at each end. They are internally embedded with a steel ball rather than a spike, according to Kristoffersen they are less “harsh” sounding. 

Even with the weight of the speakers distributed evenly across eight supporting feet, each still bear the load of nearly 48 kg.  To move the speakers, I have to use a two ton tow jack to lift one end of the speaker by 2 cm and inserting a teflon sidling pad under each feet.  Moving them, is always a difficult task due to their weight. 

As with most new speakers, the Dragon Legends require approximately 200 hours of break in time. At the beginning they sound muffled and nasalish, the sound did not really open up until I left them playing nonstop for two weeks straight with a music server at 40% volume. When the day finally came for me to sit down for some serious listening, “Shock and Awe” is too gentle a term to describe the first listening experience of that day. Think of me as the “Blown Away Guy” of the famous Maxell commercial.


Sondre Bratland’s Rosa Frå Betlehem (KKV FXCD121) is a legendary recording captured live in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.   It is the only recording which can rival Proprius’ famous Cantate Dominos in terms of scale, dynamic range, ambience, detail and realism. Little do I know that in all the years which I have been recommending this title, I have never heard it in its full magnificence - until now. The opening song Stille Natt has a low octave pedal on the pipe organ which was simply unreachable by the vast majority of systems. On my Dynaudio Temptations which only goes down to about 30 Hz, the entire lower octave was missing which meant segments of the track is rendered as silence. Kristoffersen wasn’t kidding when he told me the Dragon Legends can go down to 15Hz with almost no roll off. The net effect of four 13” bass woofers working tirelessly in a ported cabinet 75 cm deep, is the reproduction of the very church organ of the Church of Nativity which not only shakes the foundation of the walls, but my composure as a veteran audiophile with seasoned ears, at least I hope my readers think of me that way. In all 33 years of my audiophile journey, I have not heard pipe organs played with so much authority and exuberance. The amount of low level definition is a sound not easily reproduced by sub woofers, what came through can only be matched by a real pipe organ. The same experience was repeated with Wilson Audiophile’s Discovery and Music for Christmas Album (WCD-806/8419), with deep organ pipes sending sending vibrations up my spine.   


But deep organ notes are only the beginning of the story, what came afterwards is a truly massive sense of scale and live presence, way beyond anything I have heard save for a few truly exceptional setups.   On Proprius’ Leif Strands Kammarkor (PRCD9035). As the chorus comes on, over a backdrop of bass guitar and piano, music fills with room with a solid commanding presence, projecting solid holographic images with three dimensional layering. Instruments occupy their acoustic space with a solid presence. The individual voices of the mass choir are distinctly identifiable, versus the usual garbled mess in the majority of the systems I have heard them on. These recordings are notoriously difficult to reproduce, and I am thrilled to say that my system is playing ball!

The speakers also give a dazzling performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, with Szeryng performing with the Concertgebouw directed by Haitink (Philips 6500 513). It is an outstanding display of Szeryng’s violin finesse reinforced by the complexity of the accompanying orchestra, the violin danced with nimbleness and a sharp focus, as if the violin had a spotlight focused upon it, never once drowned out or blurred by the background instruments. The Dragon Legends can render minute details with ultra fast response when called for.

If you are looking for chest pounding, forward and immediate bass notes, look elsewhere, perhaps towards the Wilsons or Magicos. The bass of the Dragon Legend goes deep but in a very different kind of way. Surely if you are watching gunfights on home theatre, that tight chest pounding punch is as exciting as a Disney ride, but on classical and chamber music, Disney like portrayals do not reflect live instruments. I have had the pleasure of being invited by Dr. Edward Pong to one of his private concerts held is his home on more than a few occasions. Dr. Pong is the owner of one of Janos Starker’s actual cello, and having heard it in close proximity, I can say with confidence that the sound displayed by the Dragon Legends resemble as close to the real thing as possible. Put on Boccherini’s Cello Concerto, performed by Rostropovich (DGG 2530 974) or the famous Bach Cello Suites by Janos Starker (SR3-9016), and you will hear the Dragon Legend deliver lower notes on a cello presented with all the realism, resonance, and  natural decay of a real cello.  

If you want glittery special effects, super sharp lines and ultra fast responses, also look elsewhere. The Dragon Legends are not “Hi-Fi” sounding speakers and will likely not grab your attention at an audio show. They will certainly not impress with 30 second clips on demonstration disks. Coincidentally, that’s what a lot of manufacturers like to do at audio shows, they make you line up for 15 mins, only to play a series of 30 second clips of either Stevie Ray Vaughan, Take Five, or some movie special effects where you’re supposed to go “Oh Wow” while they attempt to educate you on how things are supposed to sound.

My idea of a real demonstration, however, is to play real music such as Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman- Barcarolle (on RCA Living Stereo’s famous Venice album, with Solti directing the Orchestra Of The Royal Operador House at Covent Garden, LSC-2313) on a quiet evening over a glass of 1970 Ch. Drucru Beaucaillou. Here is where the Dragon Legend will truly shine with a non-glittery musical continuity which will gently caress your soul with comfort and realism - all without special effects.

To drive a speaker the size of the Dragon Legend with power and dynamic contrast, comes with a price and a very hefty one. At 95 db sensitivity, surely even a 100W tube amplifier can deliver plenty of volume and loudness, but to drive them well with proper bass texture and definition, will require power and lots of it. With a pair of McIntosh 2301 monoblocks fitted with UK Marconi Osram made GEC KT88s, delivering over 300W of tube power per channel, the Dragon Legend performed flawlessly on Michael Rabin’s Mosaic album with Leon Pommers (Capitol SP 8506).   

Rabin’s violin on Elgar’s piece La Capricieuse -- Morceau de Genre Op 17, danced in the air with all its natural colors and ambience, over the clean notes of Pommer’s piano. Both instruments are rendered with remarkable details, almost as if they were coming from a pair of bookshelf speakers or ribbon tweeters. Power wasn’t a problem with simple recordings featuring a few instruments. But as I played demanding orchestral pieces, such as the Allegro in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, with Andris Nelsons directing the Boston Symphony Orchestra (DGG 4795059), the MC2301 clearly ran out of juice as the soundstage began to get disorganized and congested during complex passages. And on Mussorgsky’s Picture at an Exhibition, with James levine directing the MET (DGG 437 531-2), the bass drums clearly fell apart as I played La Cabane Des Pattes De Poule, the Dragon Legends wanted more but the tube amp simply cannot meet their demands.


The picture, however, becomes drastically different changed as I switched over to the six chassis 2000W McIntosh MC2KWs. The power they are capable of generating, prevents them from ever going into clipping, but the flip side of the coin is that very few speakers on earth can handle instantaneous power peaks of nearly 8000Ws. The MC2KWs are amplifiers not to be handled carelessly, as I have experienced their raw power first hand when I played Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8 in its entirety at 80% volume. They exerted so much energy on the woofers of the Dynaudio Temptations that they travelled way beyond their excursion points, literally ripping the cones from their suspensions. And to top off my stupidity, I repeated the incident once again when I had a little too much wine to drink, and played the Mad Maxx Fury Road soundtrack at 70% volume - that’s damaging 16 bass drivers over 2 incidents - A big Ouch - twice! 

I have yet to repeat any incidents involving temporary lapse of judgments, but so far the Dragon Legends seem to be handling the MC2KWs with ease, at least no drivers were damaged when I play Max Max Fury Road at 55% volume, registering nearly 100 dB on my decibel meter. When Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5, From the New World, with Istvan Kertesz conducting the VPO (DECCA ED1 SXL2289) is played through the MC2KWs, very few systems can fully demonstrative the dynamic realism of a full sized symphony orchestra in all its magnificent grandiosity. It is a lively sound, but it is not a sound which will cause listener fatigue.   The sound is Grand but not ferocious, it is commanding but not aggressive, the music flows with a continuity closely resembling the Vienna Philharmonic concerts which I have heard at the Musikverein in Vienna. 

As for human voices, I put on Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (LONDON Blue Back OS 25091), Giuseppe Di Stefano’s non-shouty voice will melt your heart with a romantic sorrow which very few large speakers can do, because it is delivered not with the sonic effects of Hi-Fidelity, but a non-fatiguing human pungency of a real person. His voice is projected with a proper height, and a sharp focus, with a stage perspective of an opera stage.

With a room dimension of 17.5’ x 29.5 x 9’ ceilings, my beloved Dynaudio Temptations will sometimes run into trouble filling in all the space with sound. The natural response is to crank up the volume but of course that will bring in another set of problems into the equation. With the Dragon Legends I ran into no such problems. They projected holographic images are solid and without gaps in the sonic space, with pinpoint imaging and sharpness. They have an enormous capacity to moving lots of air, so I would not recommend them for a small space, or you may find yourself having to mess with a significant amount of room treatments.  Speaker positioning are also key to these speakers.   They are almost a millimeter sensitive and I can detect a change in sound with a change in position as little as 5 millimeters.     

The overall tonality of the Dragon Legend is unmistakably North European, they carry the sonic characteristics of speakers such as Dynaudio, Gamut, Vienna Acoustics, but not as warm and velvety as some of the ATCs or Sonus Fabers. They definitely do not resemble the sound of Wilson or Magico which are at the further end of the opposite spectrum, nor do they resemble the more neutral Focal Grande Utopias. The strongest characteristics are the remarkably organic and human like qualities which it exhibits so well, and they also possess a mid range so rich and colorful which reminds me of the famous soft dome mid range found in ATC and older PMC speakers, but a higher definition and none of that boxiness characteristics.   
  
In my 10 years of writing, I have written hundreds of articles but I have only written one other review on speakers, but even that was mostly reviewed on my second system. Part of the reason for this is because my main system is rather large and they occupy a lot of real estate, it simply cannot be paired up a small pair of speakers and shipping a pair of large speaker for review is very costly. To this end, this endeavour has paid off handsomely for Peak Consult as well as for the Canadian distributor Excel Stereo because the Dragon Legends have truly captivated my soul and they will likely not leave my audio room. I just have to start saving up, may be I’ll forgo my retirement savings”. There will likely be no other speaker review coming from me for the next foreseeable future because frankly, I do not see myself falling in love with another pair of speakers within the high end audio horizon.   

By Richard H. Mak

Specifications

MSRP: € 175,000-
Design: 3-way ported
Crossover Frequencies: 140 Hz / 2,550 Hz
Frequency Range: 15 - 45,000 Hz +/- 3 dB
Sensitivity: 95 dB @ 1W/1 m
Impedance: 5 Ohm linear +/- 1 Ohm down to 30 Hz
Dimensions (H x W x D): 188cm x 41cm x 75cm
Weight: 382 kg / each

Review Peripherals 


Turntable Setup:

Turntables: TW Raven AC, JC Verdier La Platine Vintage, Rossner & Sohn Das Forumslaufwerk No. 26.
Tonearms: SME 3012 V1, V2, V3, Rossner & Sohn Si1.2, DaVinci Virtu, DaVinci Grandezza, Schroder Reference, Graham Phantom 2 Supreme B52, Reed 3P, Primary Control and more.
Cartridge: My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminient BC, Kondo IO-M x 2, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, ZYX Premium, Lyra Olympos
Phono Stage: Audio Research Reference 3, McIntosh MP1100, Tenor Phono 1, CH Precision P1+X1, Kondo M7 + KSL

Digital:

EMM Labs CD-SA SE
Oppo Sonica x 2

Amplification/Pre-Amp:

McIntosh C1000 Tube Preamp
McIntosh MC2KW
McIntosh MC2301
McIntosh MC3500 x 4

Speakers:

Peak Consult Dragon Legend

Cables:

Interconnects: Purist Aqueous Auries
Speaker Cables: Purist Venustas
Power Cords: Furutech FP-Alpha 3
Power Conditioner:
McIntosh MP3500

Honorary Contribution by Retired Enjoy the Music writer George Papadimitriou


It was a pleasure to have visited Richard Mak, and to enjoy a bottle of fine Bordeaux with him over 5 hours of music. The pleasant surprise was Peak Consult Dragon Legends which I wasn’t expecting to see.  

It took about half a song to realize that these are very exceptional speakers. The most obvious thing, and the thing that I noticed first, is their exceptional sound staging and imaging capabilities. This was in width, depth, as well as height. We audiophiles sometimes speak of a particular loudspeaker "disappearing" into the room. Nothing in my experience comes even close to the sound staging, layering and imaging abilities of these loudspeakers. They are significantly better than anything I've ever heard thus far. 

I remember the song Riu Riu Chiu by the Boston Camerata, on the album “A Renassiance Christman”, I heard a background singer whose voice was coming from the location of the door lock of the door located about 6 feet in front, and to the outside of the left loudspeaker. Absolutely incredible!

The speakers also have tremendous power and energy, which makes listening to music, especially large scale music, an absolute joy and a pleasure. They also have great attack and transient capabilities, while at the same time, have great body and musicality. This is one of the hardest combinations to achieve in all of audio. They are also very cohesive, the low, mid and high frequencies are cut from the same cloth, so to speak, and in addition, the relative loudness of these frequencies are the same. Voices are reproduced in a very realistic fashion, sounding clear, yet with great body.

Like I mentioned before, the imaging and sound staging capabilities of these loudspeakers, are first class, the best I've ever heard. They image well beyond the outside edges of the loudspeakers, with great height and exceptional depth, especially at the rear left and rear right corners of the soundstage, which is very difficult for loudspeakers to do. The speakers image so well, that I, at one point looked at one of the speakers and intentionally tried to "mentally force" the music to come out of that particular speaker box. No matter how hard I tried, I could not do that. The loudspeakers created a large and well spaced sound stage right in front of me, for my maximum listening pleasure. The bottom line is, that night I experienced the best speaker "disappearing act" I have ever heard in my life.

The loudspeakers are extremely cohesive, nothing "sticks out", and there are no glaring or obvious faults apparent, even after hours of listening. They are very, very hard to criticize, even with my most critical ears. What was equally fascinating was that, even though the speakers were positioned very wide apart, and the listening position was relatively close to the speakers, the centre fill was simply fantastic, with no missing holes or areas in the sound stage.  

The Dragon Legends reproduce classical music, or any large scale music, extremely well. For a long time, I did not understand why people listened to classical music on their stereo systems, but that all changed when I heard Richard’s system playing classical music, it was so good, that "I got it", I totally understood why people listen to and enjoy classical music.  With the Dragon Legends, the performance are taken to a whole new different level.   

Later on in our listening session, Richard put on the theme song of Cinema Paradiso, performed by Yo Yo Ma and Chris Botti in his live concert album, I felt like crying tears of joy. His emotional playing, and this particular piece of music, I could listen to all night until the morning. It was very cathartic, very cleansing, it stirred and cleansed my soul. I was reminded as to why we do this crazy hobby, which sometimes turns into an addiction; to me it's a form of therapy, a form of meditation, that no matter what stresses and challenges and frenzies surround us, we can all wipe them away, even if it be only temporary, for a short time.

The speakers, in addition to having great power and energy, great sound staging abilities, they also are very musical, very melodic, very sweet and soulful. The reproduction of the music was also very real sounding and very accurate. For example, on a mass drumming recording, you could hear the different skins of the different drums, as well as the different flavour and sound of each drum.

I did notice that the deepest and most powerful bass was a little loose, and did not have the ultimate tightness and definition. I originally thought that this was the result of the ported design of the loudspeaker. But I was wrong. We had  been listening to the vintage McIntosh 3500 mono tube amplifiers, the ones that powered the Woodstock concert. Then he switched from these amplifiers to the McIntosh MC2KW solid-state amplifiers, which produce 2000W, more power than you'll probably ever need. What I thought was the cause of the slightly loose bass, was not the loudspeaker at all. The Macintosh 2KW grabbed total control of the loudspeaker cones and refused to let them go. While the Macintosh solid-state amplifiers drove the speakers with great power and control, the emotional, soulful nature that the McIntosh tube monoblocks produce, was simply difficult to beat. 

With the tube McIntosh amplifiers, the music goes right into my heart. Overall, and by a wide margin, both Richard and myself, preferred the vintage MC3500 tube amplifiers on these speakers. What was very interesting to me was that these big heavy loudspeakers can also play very intimately, as well. At times, on small scale music, they sounded like a pair of really good mini-monitors on stands. Within that soundstage, the musicians and the instruments were dead stable, with no shifting or wondering, regardless of the frequency range. Very impressive.  

I asked to play one of the LPs that I had brought, called "Ella and Louis", the famous duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I have always thought that Ella's voice was tone and pitch perfect, but was not the most emotional singer in my experience. With the Dragon Legend loudspeakers, for the first time, I heard Ella produce some emotion in her voice.

The overall sound of Richard’s system is a little bit balanced towards the musical, organic side of the spectrum. I like my music just a little bit closer towards the clear and transparent side of the spectrum. The Macintosh 3500 tube monoblock amplifiers are not the most detailed amplifiers out there, but they are so emotional, so soulful, that I don't care. I don't miss the extra clarity, because I found the music to be so moving, so emotional, and so meaningful. A case in point is, when we listened to the song "Arms of an Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, which was so beautiful, so moving, and so breathtaking.

Previously, I had commented on the extraordinary capability of the speakers to reproduce, not only the soundstage, but the power and energy of large scale musical works. Nothing better illustrates this then when Richard played a cd recording of a church organ. By a wide margin, the best reproduction of a church pipe organ, I have ever heard.

As good as Richard’s previous Dynaudio speakers were, and they were very good speakers, the Peak Consult Dragon Legend are in a totally different league, a far superior league. The Dynaudio's we're a little bit more cooler, more matter-of-fact, more left-brain type of speakers, more yang like. The Dragon Legend loudspeakers have the ability to draw you into the emotion of the music, with all types of music. They are more emotional, musical, more yin like.

One of the highlights of the listening evening session, was when he played Sondre Bratland’s Rosa Frå Betlehem. Here the vocals were exceptional, the sound of the mass voices sounded uncannily real. This recording has a great combination of power, energy, mass if you like, along with the clarity and spaciousness of church ambience and decay. The speakers did reproduce this wonderful recording as close to real, as I have heard any loudspeakers reproduce it.

In summary, these speakers can do it all. They have exceptional sound staging and imaging, they totally disappear, have phenomenal power, mass and energy, are very coherent, very evenly balanced, and can play all types of music, including small scale music. In short, these speakers are, overall, and by a very wide margin, the best loudspeakers I have ever heard.  

George Papadimitriou