‘Man suffers most from the suffering he fears’. That quote came to mind when I left the Dutch distributor for Guru loudspeakers. I had promised the editor a review of the largest Gurus, a brand that I only knew from hi-fi shows here and abroad. I never got excited about the performance at the shows, especially not from the big ones, somehow I always moved on to another room. No wonder, I learned today that Guru speakers are designed for domestic use, in my opinion that doesn’t mean shows with crowds of people trying to talk louder and louder. Quite the opposite, you need to sit down at home and relax to enjoy the music you like. That is exactly what I did at the distributor’s home and wondered why I worried at all?
The second reason to visit the distributor and not to bring the speakers home is the fact that I live on the 3rd floor and the landlord never thought of an elevator. A twenty minute drive got me to the Guru distributor’s place and after some small talk to get used to the room acoustics and little time to get rid of the monotone sound of the car engine serious listening could begin. Later we discussed the speakers and the technology. I think it is a good idea to explain first what product we are talking about. The QM60 is the largest Guru made, a two-way system that carries a soft dome tweeter that starts around 2 kHz and a woofer/midrange delivering all tones below 7 kHz, so both drivers cover the midrange. The cone is made of a doped polymer in a rubber surround. The cabinet is based on the principle of a Helmholtz resonator, but not in the way for instance the French brand Elipson uses it. Looking from the underside we find that the woofer is housed in the top compartment of the cabinet, coupled to the lower part with a large reflex port. This lower part is opened with slots on three sides and on the bottom. Due to this construction the QM60 is best placed on a hard floor or on a piece of flat stone. The tweeter is recessed on the stepped baffle to align it with the woofer’s voice coil. A nice spin off is that it looks good too and since no grilles are used the dome is kept away from children’s fingers. The cabinet is made of MDF and aluminium and lacquered in piano black, white or covered in a choice of wood veneers. Guru does not believe in spikes, on the contrary the QM60 is supported on foam feet to decouple the speaker from the floor. The manufacturer promises an easy load for an amplifier with a nominal eight Ohm impedance; the frequency response looks a little optimistic, Guru says it ranges from 20 Hz to 22 kHz, although no decibel limits are given.
“For domestic use” Guru tells us in the brochure. Well we find ourselves in a room 36 feet long and 12 feet wide. Sparsely furnished and therefore suffering from obvious reverberation. After a couple of tracks we lay down a carpet in front of the speakers with good results. On the left hand side is a system built around the latest incarnation of the famous CEC TL0 3.0 belt drive CD transport, coupled over the Superlink connection to a CEC DA3N converter. The preamp is a passive Music First Baby Reference, connected to a PS Audio HCA2 power amplifier with Cardas Golden Cross cables and Sharkwire loudspeaker cabling. Cable with banana plugs at the end, a Guru does not accept any other kind of termination. The speakers are placed very close to the back wall, in this case patio doors with a lot of glass. In the corners behind the QM60 we find thin curtains. A wooden floor together with uncovered walls adds to the reverberation, this should be taken into account when reading the listening notes.
As a starter we take studio recordings from amongst others Lori Liebermann. Her CD Bend Like Steel is well mastered and sounds pure, just like the rest of her latest work. The Guru gives me a clear, well articulated voice above the guitar Lori is playing. No sound sticks to the speakers, the voice is projected into the room. When extra voices join her, setting up the correct volume is not as easy as it should be. But please note this was before we laid down the extra carpet. On the following track, called Mr. And Mrs. Make-Believe, a male voice is added. It has nice timbre and is natural sounding against the acoustic instruments from the two soloists and the band. Next is Agnes Obel’s Aventine. The piano is overdone, till we lay down the rug, this lowers the stereo image but a far more normal level of reverberation is reached. After which we can listen to Agnes with more pleasure. We hear a lot of detail coming from the mechanical part of the piano, more than usual I would say. A cello is ‘snoring’ happily away during the track, sounding a bit less obvioius than I am used to. You lose here, you gain there, as always since any speaker is a compromise. That the stereo image is not only lowered but also shrunk a bit has no real effect on the enjoyment of the music.
Given the fresh and clear sound of the QM60 live concerts should do well. Indeed listening to Katie Melua’s Live At The O2 Arena is a pleasure. The atmosphere is intimate without losing the idea that the O2 is a concert hall. The recording of the band differs from the close mike performance from Katie, it’s a nice contrast to hear. The pure simplicity of Lilac Wine and Kviteli Potlebi (Yellow Leaves) is preserved due to the intimacy combined with the intense voice of the singer. How different from the next CD, Mary Black Live singing The Crow On The Cradle. I get the impression of sitting in one of the front rows but the Gurus create enough distance to keep me in my comfort zone. The heavy bass has all the depth I expected, it slowly fades away against the chorus and the power of the singer. It is easy to mark the spots of each band member on the stage. Turning up the volume to levels you might expect in the front row, the Gurus don’t get nasty or rough, they easily follow the tunes without getting harsh. I have attended many Mary Black concerts during the times she was touring the Netherlands, concerts I remember so well that on the start of Ellis Island tears come to my eyes. Part of the emotion is due to the speakers, that must be a compliment to them.
Those were the ladies, how about some male voices? Ingram Washington has this deep voice, a deepness that is not fully met in this situation. More power in the low part of the voice is what I am looking for. Advantages do come with the saxophone and the percussion which are not too big in size, just right given the rather small image. Positioning the Gurus along the sidewall of the room might be an option to make the soundfield wider, deeper and higher. The same goes for a song from the German band the Stimulators. Here the singer suffers from the restrained upper bass of the Guru, but trumpet is excellent. The acoustics of the studio, electronically added or not, do come out clear and open. With male voices that have higher pitch, like those of Paolo Conti or the King Singers, results are better. Not up to the best I have heard though and maybe the men should deliver more of the explosive power of Mary Black. The politeness of the QM60 seems an obstacle here for healthy tension and pure excitement. Money Money sounds more playful than impressive, whether you like that or not is up to the listener. By the way all these songs come from demo CDs by STS Digital, Blumenhofer and YG Acoustics.
Crystal Cable also made a demo disc, this one with classical music only. Amongst the tracks is Dance Macabre composed by Saint-Saëns. The solo violin is pure and rich in detail, while the orchestra takes care of the high volumes. This CD is mastered without dynamic compression and without restraint, so expect explosive orchestral bombs in your listening room. At low volumes you don’t miss tiny details and at high volumes the Guru is composed enough to highlight those subtle sounds that make recorded music engaging. Moving on to solo piano or string quartets is just as rewarding with parts of the Psalms Of David by the King’s College Choir of Cambridge. The conclusion is clear to me, this Guru is made for domestic use and is not a product that shines at hi-fi shows. I didn’t expect to find a Guru loudspeaker that is not only clear sounding, but also tender when it should be and nice to the listener. Under domestic conditions the separation of voices and instruments was impressive yet still they were part of the whole picture. Any reader of this review should take into consideration that I was in a room I’d never entered before, listening to a system I had not heard before. Despite this the listening session gave me a good impression of the main capabilities and very few shortcomings of the loudspeaker. No, it is not the perfect performer you wished for, no speaker is, but the Guru QM60 sounds good enough to earn a recommendation based on what I heard today. A great benefit is that a Guru needs to be placed very close too or against a wall. Your partner and interior designer will love you for that. It also means that the size of this box is less of a problem for most of us. While the shape looks rather square, I assure you they ‘disappear’ visually. Although the Guru QM60 might give the impression of a simple two-way floor standing box on the outside, a lot of effort was given to the development of a phase correct system, with great bandwidth, behaving like a sort of point source due to the high crossover point. The result of this R&D is a fine product if not a cheap one, but if you like the advantages of this loudspeaker you can have a lot of fun playing all sorts of music over extended listening sessions.