Last year I had an opportunity to drop in on Bill Dudleston at the Legacy Audio “world headquarters” in Springfield, IL.

I first visited him about 3 years ago when I was given a tour of the facility (Legacy tour) and had a chance to listen to a pair of Whispers. During this last visit, he introduced me to a new project he was working on that would later be released as his Wavelet DAC/ preamp/ crossover. He was running it with the Aeris speakers, as I recall. Little did I know that he was also working on an in-wall speaker system called the Silhouettes, which would challenge the idea of having a home theater with traditional tower speakers in the front of the room. Unlike most in-wall speakers, the Silhouettes would use the natural reinforcement of the room boundaries to their advantage and accomplish amazing sound without the use of special electronics or manipulative DSP electronics. Usually I find in-wall speakers to an anathema. Can a wall mounted speaker perform as well as a standard tower speaker?

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Highlights

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speakers

  • Sound stage extends far beyond the front wall
  • Overall sound quality rivals many tower speakers
  • Zero footprint and solid cabinetry build
  • Efficient enough to be powered by solid-state or tube amplifiers
Introduction

The Silhouette provides great performance in an artful 5.125″ deep on-wall/in-wall design. The profile appears even thinner due to the anti-diffractive contoured edges that are made from a ribbed aluminum. French cleat-mounting brackets make for quick installation on the wall surface, or optionally, they can be mounted into the wall itself. The driver complement and specially designed electrical network yield the best response at the listening position. On-wall speakers can often be a tad weak when producing the lowest frequencies, but I did not find this to be the case, as I will explain later.

LEGACY SPEAKERS REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Application:

Full Range for Mains or Side Channels

System Type:

Three-way, Passive Radiator

Mounting:

In-wall or Wall Mount with Bracket

System Directivity:

60 Degrees Horizontally, 45 Degrees Vertically

Tweeter:

4” AMT

Midwoofer:

7” Silver/Graphite

Bass:

10” Long throw Low Profile Motor and 10” Passive Radiator

Frequency Response:

48 Hz – 28 kHz

Sensitivity:

92 dB (Room, @ 2.83V)

Crossover Frequency:

250 Hz, 2.5 kHz

Inputs:

1 Pair Binding Posts, Recessed Cup

Dimensions:

36.6” H x 15.5” W x 4.5” D

Weight:

49 Pounds/each

MSRP:

$3,960/pair

Company:

Legacy

SECRETS Tags:

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speakers, Silhouette Speakers, In Wall Speakers, AMT Ribbons, Secrets Speaker Reviews 2015

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

The three-way design features a newly engineered 10″ low-profile long-excursion woofer and pneumatically coupled radiator which provide a robust bass foundation. There is also a high acceleration 7″ silver/graphite midrange just below the AMT tweeter. The tweeter is a 4″ Legacy designed AMT ribbon, consisting of a pleated Kapton diaphragm and neodymium motor. It appears to be similar in design to the one on the Aeris.

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

The internal crossover divides the spectrum precisely where the wall boundary creates a strong dip in the response of conventional speakers. This compensation in the electrical network allows for the appropriate response at the listening position. The result is a speaker that does not sound like an on-wall speaker system, with staging well beyond the front wall.

Design and Setup

My review samples came in a rosewood veneer that looked beautiful. The grille covers most of the wood finish, but you can remove the grille (I left it off for this review) so you can stare at the drivers and gawk at the gorgeous finish. Legacy offers several different woods to choose from, so if you are contemplating getting a pair, check out your options on their web site. As you can see from my photos, the fit and finish are superb. Notice the beveled edges of the wood around the midwoofer. The machines edges of the AMT are perfectly flushed with the cabinetry. Did I mention the gorgeous wood finish?

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Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

For my review, I decided against an in-wall installation and used the supplied mounting hardware. If I were going to keep these, I would have gone with a permanent in-wall mount. A few notes here; these speakers are heavy and I could have used another set of hands to lift them onto the wall mounted brackets. Be sure to mount the wall brackets into the studs or use the supplied dry wall bolt holders. Over time, the weight of these could lead to a mounting failure if not properly secured to the wall.

Sliding the speakers down onto the wall mount bracket was tricky, so I recommend another person giving you a hand (as per the revised user manual). I missed it a few times on my initial attempt. Each time I failed to catch the bracket, my muscles started to protest and by the time I finished hanging both of them, I was breathing hard (OK, I am a bit out of shape, too). I might suggest that one of the bracket sets should have its lip bent outward slightly to help it catch the other bracket, as both brackets meet each at opposing angles. I mounted my speakers equidistant from both sides of my TV, about 8 feet apart from each other and 9 feet from my seating position.

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

My biggest concern was that you cannot toe-in the speakers as you could with towers. Once mounted, they are “fixed” and you cannot move them around to optimize their placement. As it turns out, this was not much of an issue. Also, I recommend that you pre-measure their height on the wall so the AMT is close to your seated ear level. Measure twice, mount once! You will need to connect your speaker wire prior to wall mounting.

Once on the walls, you will not be able to reach behind to hook up those cables without pulling the bottom end of the speaker out from the wall. Even then, you can’t connect what you can’t see.

Once the mounting was done, I stood back and just took in how nice they looked on the wall. The floor space you save with these is immediately noticeable and effectively made the room look bigger. With the grills off, the lustrous wood was very eye catching. With the grills on, the speakers look like slim, black monoliths with curved black aluminum edges. I preferred the look of the wood and kept the grills off throughout my auditioning. Did I mention how beautiful the Silhouettes look?

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

In Use

If I could describe the sound of the Legacy speakers, it would have adjectives like; full spectrum, articulate, detailed and solid. I would ascribe those elements to the whole line of Legacy speakers, too. I reviewed the Studio HD a few years back have listened to the Aeris and Focus and they all have the same DNA when it comes to sound. Those speakers however, are more conventional in shape and I was not assuming the Silhouettes would have a similar sonic signature due their radically thin enclosure. I was more than mildly surprised when I played music through them and found that they sounded very good indeed. My initial impression was that the Silhouettes sound BIG. I am an avid fan of the AMT tweeters and fully expected the treble to be excellent on the Silhouettes, but what I was not expecting was the solid mid and bass performance.

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

The other surprise was how well they imaged. The imaging was not a laser, 3D, pin-point type of imaging, but the whole front wall seemed to disappear and extend well beyond the confines of my room. When listening to Rock music, it wasn’t like you could distinguish where each musician stood and how far apart they stood from each other on the stage, but their sound was more attuned with if you were in the audience a few rows back listening to the group as a whole. This sound staging worked particularly well with orchestral music. They soundstage was spread out L/R, yes, but the depth of the soundstage was impressively deep. Now, some may prefer the holographic soundstage and I consider myself to one of those people, but over a short period of critical listening, I really came to enjoy the depth of presentation here. Let me give some examples of what I listened to over my several weeks with these speakers.

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Music

Felix Hell

Felix Hell “Organ and Orchestra”

I started off with something symphonic because the natural sound of a big orchestral is what I find to be the easiest way to judge a speakers reproduction of music. Rock is more electronics, synthesizers, and buzz cutting guitars…a bit of a challenge in judging “accurate” sound. Felix Hell just released a recording of “Organ and Orchestra” (works of Barber, Jongen and Guillmant) that really showcases the depth of the soundstage.

It was recorded in a large church with nice acoustics. The reverb time was about 5 seconds, which gives a great sense of space. I include a picture of the actual recording session so you can see what I mean about “sense of space”.

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Listening to the Silhouettes, it was as if this picture was being superimposed on your front wall. The instruments sounded well blended and the delicate sounds of the triangle to the deepest pedal notes were all realized with great clarity and force. No one wants to hear an orchestra as though it were made up of individual soloists. This proved true with many of the various orchestral recordings I listened to over the next several weeks, whether surround or stereo SACDs. During my first week of listening, I ran the Silhouettes with a Raven Audio Nighthawk 40 watt tube integrated amp that I happened to have on hand and had no trouble driving them. These speakers are not power hungry and they sounded very good with tubes.

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”

Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” allowed me to evaluate two strong singers in stereo as well as a wide range of acoustic and electric instruments. They duo’s voices were well separated with the back-up musicians placed around and behind them.

Voice reproduction with the Silhouettes was natural and warm. The amount of bass produced was very good. Never did the speakers sound strained nor did they rattle/buzz while on the wall. The details of plucked guitar strings could be heard as well as the occasional breath intake before a phrase was sung. Listening “old school” to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, the stereo separation was good, depth excellent and the bass had plenty of punch. Keith Moon’s drums sounded natural and frenetic, good high-hat sizzle with punchy kick drum impact. That guy is a mad man on the drums…in a good sense. Can the Silhouettes rock? Yes, yes they can! The Silhouettes can hold their own with just about any other tower speakers I have ever reviewed.

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Movies

Let’s be honest. These speakers were really designed for home theater use. That’s why you mount them on/in the wall. They should flank your 109 inch screen with a matching center channel and surrounds. I listened to films with the addition of my Revel C12 center and S12 surrounds, coupled with a Velodyne SC 600 in-wall sub. They blended well and sounded fine with my current system. However, to be fair, I listened to a few movies down-mixed to 2.1. I wanted to evaluate the Silhouettes “solo” performance. I can confidently say the Silhouettes handle huge amounts of dynamic content without strain or compression. I drove these with my 200 watt monoblocks and the more power I fed them, the more open they sounded. I threw Dark Knight, Prometheus and Big Trouble in Little China at them, and yes, they still needed a sub to plumb the very deepest depths. However, the Silhouettes can still dig pretty deeply on their own accord. Dialog (in stereo) was well centered and voices were clear without sounding congested or overly sibilant.

Mr. Dudleston explained how these speakers were designed to use the wall to their advantage:

“The success of this three-way design hinged on setting the crossover frequency between the 10” and 7” precisely where the wall dip normally occurs with this boundary loading. The dip being the result of an out of phase relationship at that frequency between drivers’ direct radiation and the boundary diffraction and reflection (see diagram).

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Since we know the user is attaching them to a boundary, we then can factor the natural woofer phase accumulation in this problematic region as an integral part of the low pass filter of the 10” and high pass filter of the 7”. Customarily a second-order high pass and low pass electrical filter (crossover) are 180 degrees out of phase at the center frequency. As a result, manufactures usually just flip the polarity on the high pass side to smooth the summation (often neglecting polar tilt and the time domain). In our wall mounted case, however, the wall dip is introducing additional poles to each side of the center frequency. The side benefit is the 7” driver polarity no longer needs to be flipped. The acoustic summation now has an in-phase characteristic similar to an even-order Linkwitz-Riley network. In summary, the natural dip in frequency response that wall mounted speakers suffer is the result of phase differences between the direct radiation and the boundary diffraction and reflection at the listener. Legacy employs the additional filter poles introduced by this acoustic phenomenon within the crossover strategy to an advantage, thereby greatly reducing the response dip while reducing the electrical losses of conventional filter poles.”

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

Conclusions

Legacy Audio Silhouette Speaker Review

THE LEGACY AUDIO SILHOUETTE SPEAKERS has Excellent Sound Quality.

Likes
  • Deep sound stage
  • Gorgeous wood veneers with top quality construction
  • Excellent sound quality for music and movies
  • No floor footprint
Would Like To See
  • Mounting brackets with a slight lip
  • Better access to speaker terminals

After a few months of extensive listening, I can say that these speakers sounded as good or better than many tower speakers I have auditioned in the past few years. If I were going to move into a bigger home theater room and switch to a projector and screen, the Silhouettes would be near the top of my list of speaker choices. Getting speakers off of the floor can net you some real estate. They are not designed to simply play music, but they do that well. I think if you are just into stereo listening, you might be better served with a speaker that you can play around with the angle and separation, but you will not be disappointed with listening to tunes with these. And with movies, they add the realism and excitement you would expect from a speaker from Legacy Audio; big, bold and accurate. For all of you that like music and movies, you don’t have to decide what compromises to make in your speaker selection. The Silhouettes can do it all…and beautifully!

STATEMENT QUOTE: Silhouettes can hold their own with just about any other tower speakers

Addendum: Bill got back to me about the mounting brackets and has changed their design to make mounting the Silhouettes much easier. They now have a longer lip and the wall bracket has an elastomeric strip added to it to reduce speaker vibrations from being transmitted from the speaker to the wall.

  • OverTheHorizon

    Great review! Glad you reviewed these since listener impressions of the Silhouettes are hard to find. Hard to find a place to audition them, as well. Question: Legacy says the Silhouettes are 4.5″ deep. And yet they have a 10″ driver in them that can play down to 44hz. You can understand how that sounds too good to be true. Can you corroborate that and elaborate on your impressions of the bottom end they put out?

    Also, would you suggest looking at any other comparable or better on-wall for primarily movie use (other than Wisdom Audio, which is in a whole different price class)?

  • Jim Milton

    Thank you for your comments;

    It’s hard to compare the Silhouette with other “on wall” speakers because most others are not as large. I felt that the bottom end output of these was strong enough that coupling them with a sub woofer would not be necessary, should you chose to use these as a primary front L/R speaker. I was very surprised (pleasantly) that a speaker less than 5 inches deep could play as low…and as loudly as the Silhouettes. I am a pipe organ enthusiast and found the Silhouettes reproduced the deep fundamentals with relative ease. That’s why I said I would consider them as an excellent replacement for traditional tower speakers (mine are Revel F12’s with dual 8 inch woofers and if I had the extra coin….).
    You are correct, these speakers are a bit more difficult to try out at home as the mounting process is going to leave holes in your walls… and in the New England area, I know of only one shop that carries Legacy (and even then, not the Silhouettes). It is a shame more people are not able to give these a listen because I think they would be a big seller for Mr. Dudleston and Co.

  • OverTheHorizon

    Thank you for your response, Jim. I inch closer and closer to ordering the set. The only thing that is stopping me is a question about output capability. You said you were surprised at how loud they could play. The response graph seems to indicate they were playing at over 105db. Did you find the Silhouettes hitting theater reference levels with ease? I sometimes listen at peaks of between 95-100db and would love for my speakers to sing at that level. Think these will? I would be getting three vertical Silhouettes as LCR. Thanks

  • OverTheHorizon

    Jim, I just put in my order for 3x Silhouette Pros! Very excited to get them in a few weeks and put them through their paces. I think I will need to upgrade my power now… =)