The guys at Ruark must have been chanting incantations at their Southend-on-Sea stamping ground because the company's classic Talisman loudspeaker has risen from the crypt. The first version of this best-selling floorstander appeared in 1989.
Some things from that year aren't worth repeating: the Cold War, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and 'Another Day in Paradise' by Phil Collins to name a few. Ruark might be on to something, though. Besieged by requests from nostalgic audiophiles, the company has dusted off the design and employed recent technological developments to take it to another level.
For the Talisman III, there are new drive units to sit inside the hand-finished floorstanding cabinet. The styling is a little retro, which is either endearing or offputting depending on your taste. The wooden baffle is available in oak or walnut veneer as standard, or more exotic choices to order.
Ruark has pulled off various internal construction feats to dampen unwanted vibrations, and adjustable 8mm carpet spikes are included to keep the monitors level, while the binding post connections are gold plated and bi-wirable.
The two-way driver units are handmade by SEAS and are complemented by a large 27mm Sonolex textile dome tweeter. The result of these improvements is a wide frequency range, making the package particularly suitable for Super Audio CD. The Talismans are intended for hi-fi as opposed to forming part of a surround sound system - they don't quite have the slamming bass required for 5.1 soundtracks.
The sound is extremely pure and clean thanks to its broad range and apparently seamless crossover. It's sharp but not so piercing that it becomes brittle or bright. The soundstage is open and expansive overall but able to be focused tightly for vocals or centre-stage instruments.
Full orchestral performances are also recreated with convincing scale, such as Angelo Badalamenti's evocative score for the film A Very Long Engagement. SACD performs better than CD, giving you a more natural sound and presence. In general, the speakers don't draw undue attention to themselves, letting the music itself take most of the glory. Ruark's aim is to deliver a transparent experience and, for the most part, the new Talisman held us in its spell.