Some people do not know this about me, but I spent many years of my life as a DJ. I mostly spun at weddings and private parties, filling banquet halls with the usual tired top 40 hits and disco. One of the most dreaded things for a DJ is the request. These are usually made by intoxicated guests who don’t have much knowledge of music but have worked up enough courage to get up and dance through the power of liquor and the beat. Often times, they don’t actually know the real name of the song they’re asking for, so they blurt out whatever passage of lyrics they associate with the song.
When drifting through audio shows, most audio manufacturers have very set ideas on what music showcases their product best, and they stick to that. However, the first time that I heard the Verdant Audio speakers, I happened to be the only one in the room, and their representative actually asked if I had any requests. Several songs went through my mind, but I looked over at him, asking for David Bowie’s “Black Star.” He smiled, instantly obliging.
It took many months for Verdant to be able to secure a set of Nightshades ($4,999/pair) for my evaluation, but they were worth the wait right out of the box.
The Nightshades are the first speaker that I have ever received that came with white gloves. These are to protect the black gloss automotive finish from fingerprints as the somewhat lightweight speakers are removed from the boxes and placed onto stands. The finish appears miles deep on these, and through talking with the folks at Verdant Audio, I know that it is a costly process.
The speakers include a single pair of very high-quality binding posts that were a very snug match for my Audio Art cables’ banana plugs. The burn-in process began with the Nightshades performing solo duty. After about 20 hours of time on them, I began to feel that, while they were giving a full-range sound all on their own quite adequately, the Nightshades would benefit from the addition of a subwoofer. I added my Canton sub, supporting the Nightshades at about 50 cycles and below. It was very easy to dial in a nice balance between the Nightshades and the Canton, and the burn-in continued.
Starting now with my initial request, Bowie’s “Black Star” sounds even more stellar in my listening room than it did when I heard the Nightshades at the show. Probably the first thing that stands out to me about these speakers is the absolute remarkable way in which they image. Bowie’s voice comes in and out of the forefront, as the engineer intended, coming into the center of the room, and then plastering against the wall. Instruments come from everywhere, with bass sounding huge but very sharp. The horn section flows seductively throughout and far back in the mix. There is punch, dynamics, and a wonderful fluidity as the Nightshades transform the room.
I don’t know what you were doing at 19 years old, but I was a bit of an idiot, trying to find my way in this world. At 19, Mike Oldfield recorded Tubular Bells, which I’m playing the original 1973 mix as of now. The 1” silk dome tweeter makes easy work of the very high frequencies in the first couple minutes of this track, without ever getting harsh. The keyboards ping to the very ceiling and around the room. Guitars are panned hard left and right at about 3:55 into the song, and the Nightshades image them ideally. The bass from the organ rumbles and stays clear. Again, the Nightshades are doing most of the heavy lifting, only getting a little support from the subwoofer, which I recommend. In the heaviest part of the song at seven minutes in, the Nightshades give the illusion of surround sound in my listening room, throwing the low organ behind and all around me. Then, guitars are brought back again to the front left and right. Note here, Verdant themselves recommend supplementing the Nightshades with a subwoofer at 65hZ, but after experimenting with my sub’s crossover point, found that 50-55 provided the best balance for my listening environment. I encourage you to experiment accordingly.
Switching over to vinyl, to the classic Rush release Caress of Steel, I lower the needle on “The Necromancer.” Here again, I have to come full circle back to the amazing way that the Nightshades image. Neil Peart’s drums move from left to right and back again as he runs the kit. Guitars swirl around the room. I don’t recall hearing the tambourine in this before, but I’m hearing it now, very clearly. Geddy Lee’s voice punches through over his heavy Rickenbacker bass. Suddenly, the guitar sound expands, and it sounds like there are dozens of them. Yet, it also seems like I can hear every one of them individually.
The bass from the proprietary 5.9” ribbed paper cone woofer stays very accurate, no matter what I throw at the Nightshades. Internally wired with Kimber Kable, the deep quality seen on the outside transfers all the way to the inside of the speaker. The Nightshade is indeed a high-end speaker through-and-through. The fiberglass enclosure further lends to the very tight sound of this speaker.
The Verdant Audio Nightshades have been a genuine treat, from the first time I heard them perform at AXPONA, to having them here in my listening room. A true enthusiast’s speaker, the Nightshades bring out a truth in your music that it deserves. The imaging that they provide alone make them worth the price of admission, let alone the smoothness of the drivers themselves. All in all, the Verdant Audio Nightshades are a highly recommended product. Happy listening!
Pioneer Elite DV-45A SACD/CD player
Schitt Audio Modi 2 Uber DAC
Pro-Ject One turntable with Sumiko Oyster cartridge
NAD 1020 Preamplifier
Integra ADM 2.1 Power amplifier
Canton AS 22 SC subwoofer
Audio Art SC-5 speaker cables
Audio Art Power1 power cable 1m (to amplifier)
AudioQuest and Monster interconnects