Tag Archives: Loudspeaker

Graham Audio LS5/9f Loudspeaker

The $7999-per-pair Graham Audio LS5/9f is essentially a floorstanding version of Graham Audio’s LS5/9, which is itself a contemporary embodiment of the medium-sized monitor released by the BBC in 1983. As is typical with the BBC, production of the original LS5/9 design was licensed to commercial manufacturers. And while it uses modern drivers, the quite recently issued Graham LS5/9 is close enough to the original’s specifications to qualify for an official BBC license, all these many years later. 

The LS5/9 is thus a BBC speaker in the literal sense, while the LS5/9f is not. BBC monitor designs did not come in floorstanding versions. But the LS5/9f shares the drivers of the Graham LS5/9. And it shares the designer, too: Both were designed by Derek Hughes. Hughes has a deep connection with the BBC tradition. His father Spencer Hughes was the co-founder, with his wife Dorothy, of Spendor Audio, which produced the Spendor BC1 in 1968, a speaker that deserves to be called legendary if ever a speaker has so deserved. And the Spendor BC1 became the BBC LS3/6, another BBC speaker reissued in contemporary form in a design by Derek Hughes, this one for Stirling Broadcast. We are very much in the design presence of the BBC tradition with the LS5/9f.

Long-time TAS readers will have inevitably become aware that I have taken a strong interest in speakers of the BBC ilk for decades. And I still do; I reviewed the Graham LS5/9s with enthusiasm in Issue 270. And the interested reader can find reviews of other Hughes family designs at regonaudio.com, going way back. But there is more to my interest in these speakers than just my respect for tradition and the power of long exposure to the general type of sound they produce. 

The BBC and its associated designers and engineers were part of a unique development in audio. Never before, and I rather suppose never again, were so many capable and creative engineers offered the opportunity to work on speaker design with almost unlimited resources and, most of all, with an ongoing opportunity to compare on an almost daily basis their work with live sound, and especially with live orchestral sound. 

Of course, any serious speaker designer pursuing the goal of reproducing music as music actually is will compare the results of designs with the memory of live sound and perhaps with the literal sound of individual instruments and voices. But the chance to compare at will the sound of the speaker designs with a literally present orchestra is simply not available to ordinary commercial enterprises. 

Others have run live-versus-reproduced demonstrations. Acoustic Research had their live-versus-canned public demos in the early days of stereo. And John Dunlavy played Blumlein-miked recordings of concerts on his speakers right after the concerts for the interested public. But these were occasional matters, not an actual part of the ongoing design work. The BBC work comparing their designs with live music all happened decades ago. But there has not been anything like it since. Today, people design by theory and listening in the abstract. No company today that I am aware of hires in an orchestra on a regular basis to check how they are doing. The expense would be prohibitive for a private company.

One might ask how much this mattered, this constant comparison to live orchestral sound. I believe it mattered a lot. Most speaker companies, then and now, design on the basis of models of speaker behavior and of theoretical ideals. They really have very little detailed information on how well their designs will do in reproducing real sound and what is crucial in a recording/playback paradigm. And “research” in the subject of speakers tends nowadays to be based on preference testing and/or agreement with unverified theories of how speakers ought to work. Unverified, and really unverifiable in the context that no comparisons can be arranged.

The results speak for themselves All you have to do is go around an audio show with a single recording to see how much variation there is among the speakers and how little match there all too often is with anything like live sound. A BBC-school designer (not Derek Hughes) said to me not many years ago that all one had to do to hear that there was a lot wrong with most speakers was to play a single recorded piano note and then play the same note on a real piano. This had to my mind an almost terrifying ring of truth. If a speaker cannot reproduce single piano notes, what hope for a full orchestra?

And Now the LS5/9f
The Graham LS5/9 was and is very good at producing, with the right recordings, sound that resembled the real thing. It suffered, however, from a limitation. While the bass was warm and full as low as it went, it vanished a bit too early to make large-scaled music completely convincing. It just did not have quite as much bass extension as one would like.

Powering it with the Devialet SAM [Speaker Active Matching] system was a revelation. The SAM system extends the bass by an ingenious electronic control of bass behavior, which has a built in limiting so that the speakers are not driven into damage or overload. In effect the speakers are EQed but in a level-dependent way. This really brought home to me how superb the LS5/9 could be if it just had a bit more bass extension. (The review does not identify the LS5/9 by name—I did not want to induce any prejudice about the LS5/9, as it was alone).

Enter the LS5/9f. The LS5/9f has the same driver complement as the LS5/9. But it has a larger enclosure. The floorstanding enclosure does not just function to lift the drivers into position. The woofer is actually radiating into a considerably larger interior space than that of the LS5/9. The LS5/9f’s enclosure is not dead-air space. It is functioning acoustically to give the mid/bass driver an actively involved, larger, ported enclosure, providing increased bass extension and dynamic capability. 

The added bass extension thus provided does not sound like all that much in numerical description—40Hz versus 50Hz, –3dB. But that is just enough to give one the sense of full-range sound on most music. The bottom note of standard orchestral music is around 40Hz, and the same for the rock-music bass guitar. The LS5/9f is not a bass powerhouse for large pipe organs and earthquakes. But it has the orchestra covered—and rock bands.

This is not to suggest that anyone is likely to buy the LS5/9f because it is a bass powerhouse. But the larger enclosure has moved the response down far enough to eliminate the feeling of missing bass. For most music, you will not feel bass-deprived. The 10Hz additional extension in numbers may not seem like much, but in this frequency range it is, in audible effect, quite a lot. 

Moreover, the LS5/9f is somewhat warmer in the lower regions than nominally flat. In room, the bass response is fairly abundant. This is a complex issue which I shall discuss in more detail in a moment. But in any case, the LS5/9f definitely does not suffer from puny little-speaker sound. And the LS5/9fs will also play quite loudly, with plenty of volume for a room of ordinary domestic size. Orchestras are convincing in dynamic scale, for example. 

Musical Impressions
As it happened, I spent an unusually large amount of time with the LS5/9f. They arrived for review somewhat before the virus outbreak and, things being as they are, they stayed on partly because I was not finished with reviewing them but also because it was not really practical to return them safely. So, I ended up listening to them a lot. If one of the functions of audio reviewing is to evaluate the long-term satisfaction that a review item offers, I surely gave the LS5/9s a good run. And a most satisfying experience it was. 

Listening to a speaker has short-term aspects and long-term aspects as well. The former is based primarily on perceived tonal balance, on frequency response in some sense of combination of anechoic and in-room responses. Changing quickly from one speaker to another brings response differences to the fore, so far to the fore as to all but obliterate other considerations. 

Now the LS5/9f does well in the short term. (We shall get to long term in a moment!) They have a slightly idiosyncratic bass character, but overall they are quite “neutral” over the whole range—as speakers go—with certain characteristics that are distinctive. There is a vestige of the excess energy between 1kHz and 2kHz that the LS5/9 stand-mounts have, but that is easily fixed. The really high treble rolls a bit down. The tweeter level is switchable from 0 to nominal + or –. But none of the settings bring up the really high treble to the level that audiophiles have persuaded themselves is “accurate.” If “air” in the very high frequencies is your big thing, you could add a super-tweeter to lift the output from, say, 14kHz on up. And as noted the bass will tend to be warm. Finally, the speaker does best if it is far from side walls and/or there is high-frequency absorption at the first side-wall reflection points. Still, overall one is looking at a very nearly neutral sound, not surprising in a BBC heritage design. (In spite of the roll-off in the extreme top, I found a reduced tweeter level preferable. Otherwise there is a bit extra at 4-6kHz that is better not there.)

But this frequency range-by-range description is far from doing justice to the LS5/9f in long-term listening. For a variety of reasons, the LS5/9fs make recordings sound like live concert music to an unusual and very satisfying extent, far beyond their basically correct balance alone. There are more subtle aspects of their sound that add a lot to one’s musical satisfaction beyond just getting the tonal character of sound correct.

For one thing, these speakers are very coherent. It is all very well to claim that speakers with a lot of drivers and crossovers between them are coherent. But the ear/brain is not easily fooled. And there is in my experience some special attraction to a full-range speaker (or close to it) where one driver produces most of the sound. For one thing, the absence of a crossover means that the lower-order harmonics of midrange musical notes are in-phase with the fundamental and with each other. (Phase differences among fundamentals and lower-order harmonics are known to alter timbre, and such phase alterations always happen except with first order crossovers, or unless DSP correction is used.)

But there is a price to pay: If the driver is large enough to produce bass in a reasonable way, it will inevitably become “beamy” at higher frequencies. Two-way speakers with a high crossover point tend to sound their best for only one listener. But the benefits of a single driver, reproducing almost the whole range of piano fundamentals and their lower harmonics, for example, are considerable.

The LS5/9s sound like a point source even when you sit quite close to them. And this gives one, among other things, ideal stereo, aided by the excellent pair matching (in my review-sample pair anyway, but I rather suppose this will be true in general).

Another feature of the LS5/9f is that the mid/bass/driver is well behaved out-of-band. Polypropylene drivers can have the important property of not having “edge” arising from narrow-band high-Q break-up modes. In the contemporary world, a lot of manufacturers are using drivers of harder materials, which tend to have such “hard” breakup-mode behavior. This may not look like much in measurements of overall balance, with little resolution frequency by frequency. But it makes a difference. Such bad-driver behavior tends to give a hard and edgy sound, which at first might sound “detailed” but wears out its welcome over time. 

The LS5/9f is very much free of this effect, much to its credit. The sound is non-edgy, independently of how one might set the tweeter controls or the balance by EQ adjustments. Nothing wears one down. Pianos, for example, have the character of real pianos, with no untoward “bang-iness.” This becomes more and more appreciated as time passes.

Another feature that makes the LS5/9fs welcome long-term visitors—or potentially permanent residents—is the bass energy already referred to. This is a point that audiophiles seldom discuss honestly. Harry Pearson used to say that he liked his midbass “lean.” Unfortunate preference! The truth is that when one plays a recording at less than live volume—and one really has to do this for various reasons—the famous Fletcher-Munson curves pull the perceived bass level down relative to the rest. This is a very large effect. Back when people seemed to care more about the exact perceived balance of audio, preamps had a “loudness” control for this reason! 

Think of it this way. Up close to an orchestra, where microphones are typically placed, it is very loud. I have measured 100dB for short intervals in, say Scriabin, from the first row. You really do not want to have this level at home. In fact, you really do not want to have it at concerts, either. There is a good reason why most of the audience sits back a bit by preference. But if you drop the level of the recording by x dB, the bass level drops in relation to the mids by surprisingly close to that same x dB. The equi-loudness curves are spaced nearly twice as close together in the bass as in the midrange. Turning the overall level down reduces perceived bass.

The inconvenient truth here is that if you want to hear natural balance at plausible levels, a certain amount of bass excess over flat response is needed. I am not a fanatic about this. Indeed. when I was working with the Sigtech people years ago setting up their DSP room correction, they commented that I seemed to like flatter response than most people. 

Still, everyone ought to know this problem is out there. All the room-correction people offer down-sloping “target curves.” Experiments about this in audio practice date at least back to Ortofon’s “target curve” before DSP correction existed.

Another feature of this is that it is much easier to attenuate bass then to boost it. If a speaker seems too warm for some particular recording, you can tone down the bass easily enough whereas turning bass up by EQ is a tricky business (except if one does an adaptive protection system like the Devialet SAM). All this adds up to the fact that it is a good thing having speakers with adequate bass energy—and maybe a little bit more.

Yet another aspect of the lower frequencies is that almost all floorstanding speakers tend to develop a dip between 100 and 300Hz from the Allison effect of the floor. Look at contemporary in-room measurements of most floorstanding speakers. There is rarely adequate energy in this crucial frequency range. This is one thing that makes audio sound also stupidly wrong to people that have an acute memory of actual music. But the effect is so widespread that a lot of people who spend more time listening to reproduced music than to real music have come to feel that it is normal—and even to like it! 

One can EQ this away—the Allison effect affects the power response and is thus correctable with EQ. But it helps to have a speaker that has some extra energy in the sub-300Hz range. As it turns out, through correct placement and some judicious EQ, I found it quite easy to get the LS5/9f to sound really correct in this region. Indeed, with careful enough placement, it did this quite well without any EQ.

I do not want to leave any impression that the LS5/9f is “boomy” in any sense. Not so. But it does give music an appropriate warmth and fullness without turning the volume up excessively and in spite of “the usual floor dip,” as Martin Colloms used to call the frequently occurring hole between 100Hz and 300Hz. (Incidentally, the correction of this hole is almost always the largest effect of DSP room correction, the one thing where even really smooth speakers tend to change a lot when “corrected.”)

What It All Adds Up to Musically
The Graham Audio LS5/9f, with its warm balance and slightly rolled-off extreme top, is not typical of contemporary speaker designs. One thinks of Peter Walker’s dictum that a speaker succeeds or fails by 10kHz, though the actual top end –3dB point is 16kHz (manufacturer’s specification). Nor does the LS5/9f make an overt attempt to break new ground in terms of peculiar or unusual radiation pattern or driver type. But it is, in fact, unusually adept at making recordings sound musically correct. With everything set up just so—not too close to side walls and with first sidewall reflection points damped, correct placement to counteract Allison effect, tweeter level adjusted right (attenuated in my room), and perhaps a slight cut between 1kHz and 2kHz, something remarkably close to what is actually recorded emerges.   

Piano recordings are startling in their realism. No bangy sound, no exaggerated ringing resonances, just the solid sound of real pianos. This is a rare and for me very valuable aspect of speaker sound. My old favorite, Freddy Kempf playing the Kreisler-Rachmaninoff Liebesleid on BIS [CD 1042] sounded almost precisely like a real piano, far more so than with most speakers. So did Volodos’s recording of his transcription of the slow movement of the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata [Sony Classical SK 64834]. And Songs My Mother Taught Me [Mobile Fidelity CD877] with violinist Arturo Delmoni and pianist Meg Bachmann Vas, recorded by David Hancock using the legendary Cambridge ribbon microphones, offered excellent piano sound and superb violin sound as well, with a remarkable truth to timbre. Flat response is crucial for this but the phase coherence between fundamentals and harmonics also contributes to this effect of tonal truth. Flat response is crucial for this, but the coherence between fundamentals and harmonics arising from a single driver covering much of the frequency range also contributes to this effect of tonal truth. And the absence of cabinet and driver colorations also plays an important role. Here “neutral” is not a cliché buzzword but essentially the literal truth.

The same truth to timbre extends to more complex music. Orchestras sound really right, instrument by instrument. My standby favorite, Telarc’s Ravel-Borodin-Bizet disc [Telarc 80703], sounded right in timbre and also very detailed. The thin-wall damped-enclosure approach developed initially by BBC’s research pays off here: The speaker sound very “compact” in the sense that things stop when they should, and nothing rings so that the real ringing of music from reverberant halls or the like is revealed extraordinarily well. (The trumpet solos on the Telarc bounce around the hall with a tactile realism.) This “compactness” is I think likely attributable to very clean decay behavior in the midrange. In any case, you will know it when you hear it. The LS5/9f make most speakers sound somewhat ill-defined in the mids.

This is not all just a question of how classical music sounds. Sonic qualities apply across the board. And the impressive truth to timbre, non-resonant and highly resolved character, and spatial character were all pleasing evident in, for instance, “I’m Ready” from Dave Wilson’s Cruising with the DeSotos recording, which is anything but classical. It does, however, have natural voice recording and saxophone, too, and on the LS5/9fs, these were shining through. And the whole thing had the “compact,” well-defined sound I have been trying to describe, the sound associated with very rapid and clean decay, in the midrange especially.

The Overall Picture
Much as one may admire speakers designs which depart from conventional behavior in various ways, seeking new approaches to the whole question of speakers in rooms, the truth is that wonderful things can happen by carefully perfecting the right traditional approaches combined with modern driver technology. And so it is with the LS5/9fs.

I had no excuse at all for adding yet one more BBC School speaker to my permanent collection. But I was tempted.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Two-way, bass-reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Enclosure: Damped thin-wall construction, birch plywood
Drivers: Diaphnatone polypropylene (developed and manufactured by Volt) mid/woofer, Son Audax HD13D34H tweeter
Frequency response: 40Hz–16kHz, +/-3dB
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 89dB (2.83V, 1 meter)
Max. output: Over 104dB per pair, 2m
Recommended amplifier power: 50–200 watts unclipped program
Dimensions: 35 x 105 x 37cm
Weight: 25 kg
Price: $7995 standard cherry veneer finish (other custom veneers slightly higher)

Ringslade House, Ringslade Road
Newton Abbot, Devon
TQ12 6PT England

ON A HIGHER NOTES (U.S. Distributor)
26081 Via Estelita, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 488-3004

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Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Sonner Audio Legato Unum Loudspeaker | REVIEW

The story begins with my coverage of the Sonner Audio (website) Legato Unum at hi-fi shows, and what I found accompanying the brand. Touring the hi-fi show circus circuit I often found myself face-to-face with many of the audio industry’s most interesting characters. The bulk of them are pleasant and interesting people. A select few are extraordinarily engaging and charming. Gunny Surya, the President of Sonner Audio, easily fits into all of those aforementioned descriptions. If you care to explore our past show coverage of Sonner Audio loudspeakers, those articles can be found here, here, here, and here. Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook I feel very comfortable around people like Gunny Surya. His personality is not an act. The idea of him having a facade seems totally unfathomable. There is no artifice with him. Whether it’s the genuine passion he expresses for his company, or the earnest way he treats others with the same respect often reserved for long-time friends and family. It’s these little actions and details that collectively tell the same story: Gunny is true to himself and to those around him. He cares about what’s really important in life and so he guides Sonner Audio [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Heavenly Soundworks Introduces the FIVE17 Active Loudspeaker System

The following is a press release issued by Heavenly Soundworks.

Thousand Oaks, CA | December 2020 – Heavenly Soundworks, a new, premium loudspeaker manufacturer, started by the father and son team of Kevin and Jonathan Couch, are looking to transform the hi-fi experience as they launch their brand with the introduction of their first available product, the FIVE17. The FIVE17 is the smallest in their lineup of active loudspeaker systems and the first available for purchase. Intended for the discerning audiophile, the Heavenly Soundworks product offering sets a new standard for audio performance and ease of use.

“At Heavenly Soundworks, our vision is to provide the ultimate audio experience in the easiest way possible,” said Jonathan Couch, Co-Founder of Heavenly Soundworks. “We do this by using the latest science and technology available and we are excited to announce the FIVE17 as our first available product that meets those high standards”.

This loudspeaker system is the first in their lineup that aims for the very best audio reproduction without all of the hassle typically associated with high end audio. “The typical audiophile journey is littered with misinformation and requires large investments of time, money, and trial and error in an effort to maximize the performance of your audio system” says Kevin, “With Heavenly Soundworks products we deliver an audio experience as close to perfection as possible right out of the box. No need for expensive amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, digital to analogue converters, speaker cables and conditioners, receivers and tuners, etc. All of the complicated stuff is built into the system, all you need to do is give it a music source, we’ve handled the rest.” 

This combination of performance and ease of use is made possible by the technology built into these systems. With integrated amplification and powerful DSP (Digital Signal Processing) the system achieves perfect alignment of time, phase, and crossovers of drivers while also perfectly addressing driver power and sensitivity requirements. All of this results in a frequency response that rivals that of much larger and more expensive systems, +/- 1dB from 30 HZ up to 20,000 HZ and usable low frequency output down to 24 HZ.

The FIVE17 is a bookshelf or stand-mount design standing just over 15” high with a width of 8.5” and depth of 11.5”, but even in this small footprint, Heavenly Soundworks has not compromised on sound quality, choosing to go with a full-range, 3-way design for optimal sound reproduction. Being an active design, each driver has a dedicated amplifier built into the enclosure with total available power of 350 Watts (125 W for the woofer, 125 W for the Midrange, and 100 W for the Tweeter). Bass extension down into the 20’s is made possible using two 8” High Excursion Passive Radiators. 

A unique feature of the FIVE17 system is the three distinct tunes, or presets that are programmed into each system, each meticulously designed for a specific volume range. These presets are based on the latest science available concerning the sensitivity of human hearing at different volume levels. This setup ensures that you experience all of your music no matter the volume level. Changing presets and adjusting volume is all handled easily with the included remote control.

Don’t let all the technology scare you, the Heavenly Soundworks team has worked tirelessly to ensure the listeners experience is more about the music than the tech. Or, as Kevin (the man behind the presets and tuning) puts it, “If hearing the music the way the musician heard it matters – think Heavenly Soundworks”.

Each Heavenly Soundworks loudspeaker system is designed, engineered and hand built in the USA. The FIVE17 is available now and built to order. Each set is priced at $10,000 USD and includes power cables, digital audio cable (for connecting the two speakers) and remote control. Additionally, matching stands are available for an extra $1,000 USD.

The post Heavenly Soundworks Introduces the FIVE17 Active Loudspeaker System appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker, Subsonic Subwoofer, and ActivXO Crossover

Every audiophile knows the futility of describing to the uninitiated the experience of hearing music through a high-end audio system. You can resort to all the usual jargon of dynamics, timbre, soundstaging, etc., but until that person experiences music through a great system for himself, he just won’t understand. Five minutes in the sweet spot, however, may forever etch on his consciousness just what his favorite music can sound like when reproduced with exquisite fidelity. Those five minutes might indelibly change his relationship to music; he can’t un-hear the newfound musical expression. But without this firsthand personal experience, there’s absolutely no way of even imagining how reproduced music can sound, never mind knowing and understanding it.

This phenomenon isn’t confined to neophytes. A seasoned audiophile can think that he’s reached the pinnacle, but he’s just as oblivious to the next level of realism as the neophyte who has never heard even a basic high-end system. Despite decades of experience, the sophisticated audiophile simply can’t know what musical expression has been lost. Of course, we can all hear a flawed system and imagine how the system would sound without the flaw, but that imagining utterly fails to fill in the missing musical expression.

We can’t conjure in our minds the missing artistic intent because music’s meaning is encoded in the physical sound. Change the physical sound and you change the music’s meaning. For just one of countless examples, if a loudspeaker has thick, slow, plodding bass reproduction, the music’s sense of rhythmic flow and drive will be diluted. The way that great musicians lock into the groove, get “in the pocket,” will be diminished. This aspect of the musical expression disappears just by the changes in the physical medium—the patterns of air-pressure variations striking your eardrum. Contrast this with expression through the printed word, which isn’t dependent on its physical characteristics to convey meaning. This review could be printed with gold ink on the world’s finest paper, or on the cheapest newsprint, and the meaning wouldn’t change. The printed word’s meaning isn’t dependent on the physical characteristics of the medium. But music’s meaning is physically encoded in electrical signals and resulting acoustic waveforms that are susceptible to infinitely variable degradation, alteration, and dilution.

This line of thought was prompted less than 24 hours after the Wilson Audio Chronosonic XVX loudspeaker and a pair of Wilson’s Subsonic subwoofers were installed in my listening room. After the dust settled from two intensive days of installation and setup by three Wilson personnel, and I was alone with the system and my music library, I felt just like the neophyte hearing high-quality music reproduction for the first time. I’ve lived with many, many of the world’s greatest loudspeakers in my home, and heard countless others at shows, but I’ve never listened to a speaker quite like the Chronosonic XVX. It is the most realistic sounding, the most musically expressive, and the most intellectually and emotionally engaging loudspeaker I’ve heard.

I’m not saying that the XVX produces a sound that I happen to like. Or that if you favor multi-way dynamic loudspeakers you’ll love the XVX. Or that this new Wilson will appeal to some listeners more than others. Rather, I’m going to assert in this review that the XVX sets a new standard of realism in reproduced music—a realism that more fully conveys artistic intent regardless of your favored technologies or sonic priorities. I can’t imagine anyone, no matter what their preferred speaker brands or listening biases, not being captivated by the XVX’s lifelike presentation. After all, real is real. The XVX isn’t just a milestone for Wilson Audio; I believe that it is a landmark achievement in loudspeaker design.

If you’re familiar with big Wilson speakers, and even if you’ve lived with a speaker like Wilson’s XLF, it’s natural to look at the Chronosonic XVX and see just a bigger and more elaborate version of the speakers Wilson has been building for decades. It’s easy to project on the XVX your expectations based on Wilson’s 47-year track record. But whatever you imagine the XVX sounds like, you will not be prepared for how the XVX actually performs. Although the XVX is most assuredly a technical evolution of nearly fifty years of loudspeaker engineering at Wilson Audio, the XVX is a sui generis creation that deserves to be considered as its own entity.

Wilson Audio calls the Chronosonic XVX the flagship in the Wilson Audio line. But what about the $850,000-per-pair WAMM Master Chronosonic? David Wilson’s magnum opus is a limited-edition statement product that has nearly sold out its 70-pair run, leaving the XVX as Wilson’s top model. As we’ll see, the XVX has much in common with the WAMM MC, but the XVX is not “merely” (if that word is applicable in this context) a scaled-down version of the WAMM MC. Instead, this new speaker incorporates cabinet materials, drivers, crossover components, and technologies that are unique to the XVX. In fact, the XVX introduces more innovations than any other single product in Wilson’s long history. The two-year development project was led by Daryl Wilson, who became CEO of Wilson Audio in 2016 shortly before his father, David, passed away. Daryl has led the design effort of the most recent—and best, in my view—Wilson speakers including the Sabrina, Yvette, Alexx, and Sasha DAW.

The Chronosonic XVX carries a price tag of $329,000 per pair, positioning it in the upper echelon of the high end. The optional pearl finish’s $30,000 price tag is reportedly justified by the labor-intensive process needed to create that special paint. Although the XVX is clearly a full-range speaker, Wilson offers the Subsonic subwoofer to extend the system response down to 10Hz. Wilson installed two Subsonics in the review system, along with Wilson’s ActivXO electronic crossover. Between the pearl finish, two Subsonic subwoofers at $40,000 each, and the $4500 ActivXO, the total system price comes in at a breathtaking $443,500, making it the most expensive audio product I’ve reviewed. Unlike many speakers of this lofty price, the XVX is a full-production model, and one that can be auditioned at eleven U.S. dealers as of this writing (see the Wilson website for a list of dealers demonstrating the XVX).

The Chronosonic XVX is a four-way, seven-driver dynamic loudspeaker. This new flagship is a massive, and massively complex, piece of loudspeaker engineering. The Chronosonic moniker the XVX shares with the WAMM Master Chronosonic indicates that the XVX is built around the ability to time-align the drivers at any listening position with the same accuracy as that of the WAMM MC. Although time alignment has been a hallmark of Wilson products since the first iteration of the WAMM back in 1984, it is realized in the WAMM MC, and now the XVX, with unprecedented precision.

The XVX architecture consists of a lower woofer module that houses the reflex-loaded 12.5″ and 10.5″ woofers (the same drivers developed for the WAMM MC), and four separate enclosures for the five upper drivers (two lower midrange, one upper midrange, one forward-firing tweeter, one rear-firing tweeter) that can be independently articulated. The upward/rearward-firing tweeter is mounted in the upper-most midrange module. An open-air “gantry” that is bolted to the woofer enclosure forms the infrastructure for the midrange and tweeter modules, as well as for the intricate mechanism for time-aligning the drivers.

The XVX’s technical and mechanical complexity is partially revealed by standing behind the speaker. In addition to the individual driver modules, you can see the wiring system used to connect them, the terminal block for that wiring, the interchangeable resistors that can fine-tune the tonal balance and that also protect the drivers, as well as the massive carbon-fiber-encased crossover network. It’s quite a sight.

The XVX has a large physical presence, standing 6′ 4″ and weighing in at 685 pounds (per speaker side). Yet despite its size and weight, the XVX is astonishingly svelte and elegant. As you stand next to the speaker and allow your eyes to explore its many contours, you gain an appreciation for the myriad design touches, some of them miniscule, that contribute to its overall organic appearance. The result is a large speaker that doesn’t have the boxy appearance of previous Wilson designs. Everywhere you look are radiused edges, subtle contours, gradations of depth, and flowing curves that together create a harmony of visual design. That’s important when you consider the strong statement the XVX will make in a living room.

Each speaker is supplied with seven grilles (available in a variety of colors), one for each enclosure plus a pair of large grilles that cover the gantry’s open sides. The gantry grilles, machined from Wilson’s X-Material, are held in place magnetically. You can elect to leave them off, exposing the gantry’s machined aluminum frame as well as the time-alignment mechanism. In a nice touch, the aluminum surface is machined with a fine ribbed finish, further enhancing the elegant presentation. You can specify a natural aluminum finish (silver) or black-anodized.

The XVX’s build-quality and paint finish are absolutely spectacular. Wilson’s paint quality has long been the standard of the industry, but the XVX seems to have taken the finish to another level. For the past 15 years I’ve made a hobby of car detailing, and have some experience looking at and evaluating fine painted surfaces. I can say that the XVX’s paint is a step up from even the finest luxury-automobile finishes. To create a painted surface of the XVX’s size, with that level of flawless mirror finish, is a remarkable achievement, and reflects the large investment Wilson has made in developing its in-house paint facilities and techniques over the decades. The closer you look at the XVX the more there is to see and appreciate.

I’ve broken out the details of the XVX’s remarkable design and construction in the sidebar, and also included sidebars on the Subsonic subwoofers, ActivXO crossover, and the set-up process for such an elaborate system.

Whenever I’ve experienced a new standard in loudspeaker performance throughout the years, it’s usually been a case of the new speaker achieving an incremental improvement in a few or several areas of sonic performance that outweigh that new speaker’s shortcomings in other areas. For me, judging a loudspeaker that aspires to the state of the art involves weighing tradeoffs and then perhaps concluding that, on balance, the new speaker is the best I’ve heard.

This wasn’t the case with the Chronosonic XVX; it is markedly superior to any other speaker I’ve heard in many, many specific areas and, most importantly, in musical realism and expression. That musical expression is the synergistic combination of its myriad sonic attributes that infuse reproduced music with a sense of life and realism. These attributes include dynamic contrast, transient resolution and coherence, transient weight, bass power and articulation, midrange beauty, soundstaging, timbral resolution, and clarity of instrumental line.

I customarily begin this part of the review by describing the product’s most salient virtue. But the XVX has so many outstanding performance qualities that choosing just one to begin with is difficult. Nonetheless, I’ll start with the XVX’s reproduction of transients and dynamic contrasts, and the sense of realism and life this transient fidelity brings to music reproduction.

The XVX delivered a physically startling sense of suddenness on transient attacks. Compared with the real thing, reproduced music typically suffers from a diminution of the initial transient, in both speed and impact. Horn speakers and electrostatics can have lifelike leading-edge transient reproduction, but horns are to my ears often tonally colored, and electrostats lack weight and impact behind the transient. The XVX has the speed of a horn speaker or an electrostatic, but without the respective shortcomings of those two technologies. The XVX managed to combine tremendous transient speed with a hard-hitting physical power and force that is nothing short of thrilling. The drum kit as reproduced through the XVX was absolutely revelatory, with a visceral verve and lifelike suddenness. The way that each drum strike pops out of the music, the way a live kit sounds, is one of the defining aspects of the XVX’s sense of realism. This quality brought a new level of rhythmic expression to familiar music.

Although some speakers sound fast, the XVX stands alone in its ability to convey great weight and energy along with speed. There’s a sense of massive power to transients, particularly those that have low-frequency energy, such as low-tuned toms, congas, and kettle drums. I had the impression that all the energy in the transient is delivered instantaneously rather than smeared over time, and with equal speed and decay across a very wide frequency band. There was no sense of the low-frequency component lagging behind the rest of the spectrum, either on attacks or decays. The track “Armando’s Rhumba” from Chick Corea’s Spanish Heart Band album Antidote [Tidal MQA] features an extended percussion break with low-tuned congas, timbales, and other Latin percussion instruments. I could hear and feel the low-frequency resonance of the congas’ wooden body (with superb pitch definition, I should add) coupled with the sharp attack of hands on the skins. The exuberantly played timbales during this break were reproduced with the startling force of the stick hitting the head, and accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the metal drum resonating. The XVX sounded as though it had virtually unlimited dynamic range; peaks were reproduced in their full expression, with no compression. Concomitantly, decays were equally fast, without smearing or overhang. The XVX seemed to have a very fast settling time, swinging from loud peaks to deep silence instantaneously. It was like hearing music without a compressor in the signal path.

It’s impossible to overstate the effect of this transient fidelity on the sense of realism, and of conveying the life, vitality, and energy in the music. This speed, weight behind the transients, and lack of overhang were amplified by the XVX’s ability to extend this performance into the bottom octaves. It wasn’t just fast and powerful through the mids and treble, but also down to the very lowest frequencies, and without any bloat or bass artifacts that called attention to themselves. The resulting sense of physicality was unlike anything I’ve heard from any other loudspeaker. To say that the XVX is hard-hitting is an understatement. It is whole-body thrilling, from orchestral climaxes to propulsive grooves. The XVX reveals the absolutely perfect lockstep between the kick drum and bass guitar on Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues [Tidal MQA], for example. This music demands this level of dynamic agility and bass precision to fully convey the musicans’ intent.

But the XVX wasn’t only about bombast. At the other end of the dynamic scale, the XVX was equally adept at portraying very fine transient information such as gentle shakers toward the back of the mix. Low-level information was rendered with tremendous clarity, making instruments sound like distinct objects in space rather than undifferentiated sounds buried within the musical fabric. I greatly enjoyed the way the XVX revealed a wealth of subtle nuances in the most delicate cymbal work. I’ve appreciated drummer Billy Higgins’ work on many records (he was the house drummer for Blue Note for many years, and appeared on more than 500 albums), but the XVX’s transient fidelity and low-level resolution revealed the full extent of his artistry. I heard newfound expression through the XVX, such as the way Higgins maintains a shimmering rhythmic pulse on the riveted ride cymbal, snare accents that surprise and delight, subtle modulations of the volume of kickdrum beats, and rhythmic interplay with a soloist. Listen to the track “Second Balcony Jump” from Dexter Gordon’s album Go [Music Matters LP reissue] and marvel at how adeptly he shifts from the oddly syncopated head to a full-on swing when Dexter launches into his soaring solo. (Incidentally, there’s a funny story in Sophisticated Giant, Maxine’s Gordon’s biography of her late husband, about how this piece was named.) This kind of connection with a musician’s expression is the raison d’être of high-end audio, and the XVX delivers like no other speaker I’ve heard. It wasn’t just Higgins’ drumming that I came to appreciate more; I had the same experience with many other drummers. The XVX’s lifelike rendering of the drum kit, from its transient impact to subtleties of dynamics, brought to the fore the playing of my favorite drummers, including Peter Erskine, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, and Leon Chancler.

The XVX’s dynamic agility paid dividends not just on percussive sounds, but on virtually all instruments. The entrance of a brass or woodwind instrument or section, for example, had a similar kind of physical immediacy. The way the XVX portrayed the initial attack, followed by the sense of expanding air around the instrument, was sensational. The XVX presents a powerful sense of presence and immediacy; a vocal entrance momentarily startles the brain’s primitive response into thinking another human has suddenly appeared in the room. I heard this quality, uniquely before hearing the XVX, during a 90-minute audition of the WAMM MC at its introduction several years ago.

I had a hard time wrapping my head around the XVX’s tonal balance. On one hand, it is extremely flat, smooth, and neutral in character, all the way down to the bottom octave. When playing music without much energy in the mid-to-upper bass, the XVX’s bottom-end is world class in pitch definition and clarity, but doesn’t sound qualitatively different from other reference-class loudspeakers. But when asked to reproduce instruments with a lot of energy in the lower registers, the XVX takes on an entirely different character. Suddenly, it’s as though there’s another level of weight, richness of tone color, solidity, and visceral power. The XVX, unlike any other speaker I’ve heard, fully reproduces the solidity, density, and weight of low-frequency-rich instruments such as an orchestra’s doublebass section, or brass instruments when playing in their lower registers. This is the classic “power range” of the orchestra, and heard through the XVX it is thrilling. Listen, for example, to the Dallas Winds brass section on the spectacular Keith Johnson recording John Williams at the Movies on Reference Recordings (176/24 downloaded from Reference). The big brass-section tuttis will lift you out of your seat with their force. Not only that, but the timbre of the instruments is fully fleshed out, without the common affliction of low-frequency-rich instruments sounding thinned in tone color and robbed of their weight.

I began the previous paragraph by saying that the XVX’s tonal balance was an enigma. The puzzlement is this: The XVX has a huge bottom end with seemingly limitless weight, extension, dynamics, and sheer ability to move air. Yet, at the same time, it’s fast, light, agile, and completely free from any thickness, bloat, or boom. The tonal balance is lean and light on music without much low-frequency energy, yet extremely dense, rich, and full when the music calls for it. The XVX’s preternatural ability to seemingly change its tonal balance based on the music’s energy distribution is unique in my experience. I was amazed by how much bass energy the XVX could put into the room without a trace of boom, as well as its ability to maintain an unflappable sense of precision and control at the lowest frequencies, even when reproduced at high listening levels. This is a combination that I’ve not heard in any other speaker, and one that takes reproduced music to the next level of realism. This sense of tight control was revealed in the XVX’s superb definition of the pitch and articulation of each note. I heard detail in bass lines that I’d never heard before, each note clearly distinct in timbre, pitch, and dynamics. This combination of clarity, massive weight, and unlimited dynamics, with those qualities maintained down to the very bottom octave, was viscerally thrilling. This was true of the XVX without the Subsonic subwoofers, but the pair of subs extended this remarkable performance to the infrasonic range—the subs are flat to an astonishing 10Hz.

I should add a caveat here; my only experience with the XVX is in my listening room—I haven’t heard it at a show, the factory, or in a dealer’s showroom. My listening room is atypical, designed from scratch with good dimensional ratios for smooth distribution of room-resonant modes. It was built with the ASC IsoWall technique whose primary virtue is the room’s ability to be driven hard by low-frequency energy and not overload or cause the building structure to store and later release energy (“wall shudder’). I don’t know how the XVX will behave in a conventional room, but can say that the XVX’s bass and dynamic performance in this room were uniquely spectacular.

We’ve all had the experience of walking down a street and upon hearing music, knowing instantly that it’s live. The XVX has that similar quality of presence and immediacy through the midrange. The mids are simply sensational in lifelike presence and vividness. This vividness isn’t the result of sounding forward or analytical, but rather from the sheer sense of realism, that impression of the instrument right there, in front of you. The XVX has a gorgeous and lifelike rendering of timbre that combines warmth and richness with very high resolution—often mutually exclusive qualities. There’s an organic, relaxed beauty to the sound, yet at the same time the midband is extraordinarily revealing of very fine textural, spatial, and dynamic cues. The result is an almost spooky sense of presence that makes it easy to forget that you’re listening to a reproduction. In addition, the XVX portrays instrumental timbre with a weight and density without sounding dark or closed in. The common affliction in reproduced music of thinning tone color and upper harmonics overlaid with a whitish patina was completely absent in the XVX. The sound of the violin (Hillary Hahn’s Retrospective on DG, direct-to-disc) was particularly revealing of the XVX’s unique combination of harmonic warmth with resolution of very fine detail. Her instrument was rich, full-bodied, and densely textured in the fundamentals and lower-order harmonics along with a sweetness in the upper harmonics that simply made the reproduction sound closer to the real thing. The sound was ravishingly beautiful in timbre and in the full measure of her expression. The trumpet is another example; the XVX conveys a tremendous amount of high-frequency detail and power yet without a hard, whitish edge. Consequently, I could listen to music at very high levels, when appropriate, without my ears closing down on peaks, and without listening fatigue. The XVX is a speaker you can listen to for very long sessions at high levels and not feel tired.

This realism may be the result of the XVX’s resolution of the very fine microstructure in instrumental timbre. For example, woodwind instruments don’t produce a purely steady-state tone on held notes, but rather a rapid series of micro-transients created by the reed moving back and forth. It could be that the XVX’s transient fidelity extends into this micro-realm, correctly reproducing the temporal microstructure that provides the brain with cues that trigger the impression of timbral realism.

The sense of ease through the midrange carried over to the treble, which was utterly without metallic hardness, grain, or excessive brightness. The silk dome tweeter never called attention to itself, instead blending seamlessly into the sound. The top end was natural and relaxed; the treble never sounded like a separate component riding on top of the music. Vocal sibilance was noticeably smoother and more natural, blending perfectly into the sound of the voice rather than sounding like an artifact riding on top of it. Cymbals seemed to float in air, their decays richly textured and resolved way down into deep silence. The treble openness contributed to the XVX’s sense of live air and space in a hall, no doubt aided by the upward-firing tweeter.

Despite the XVX’s size, this speaker rendered all types of music with the appropriate scale. Many big speakers sound big on everything, reducing the intimacy of smaller-scale works. But the XVX presented music with a realistic scale, from a solo acoustic guitar, to a violin and piano duet, to a string quartet or jazz piano trio, to a chamber orchestra, to a big band, to a 120-piece orchestra with choir. On really big music, the XVX is stunning in its sense of expansive size. The speakers completely disappear into a huge three-dimensional stage, with not just tremendous depth, but also with fine gradations of that depth. I could easily hear space between rows of instruments in the orchestra, like looking at a diorama rather than a photograph. Image precision was pinpoint, with clear delineation of the instrument’s outline, with well-defined space around that outline. Because this is a big speaker, it presents images higher than that of smaller speakers. The XVX beautifully portrayed the way air expands around an instrument, just as you hear in life. A good example is the brass on the Reference Recordings title From the Age of Swing; the XVX gets out of the way to fully reveal the instruments’ dynamic envelopes in both power and space.

There’s one other aspect of the XVX’s presentation that sets a new standard, in my experience; I could clearly hear every instrumental line no matter how complex or dense the music. The sound wasn’t composed of one big fabric of many colors, but rather of entirely separate objects in space, just the way we hear live music. Consequently, I could easily shift my attention from one instrument to another—I found myself more deeply appreciating great comping during a solo, for example. Herbie Hancock’s funky Rhodes playing behind Milt Jackson’s and Freddie Hubbard’s solos on the title track from the LP Sunflower sets the entire feel of the tune, and was never more clearly articulated.

Although a four-way, seven-driver speaker, with what must be a very complex crossover (including a crossover point within the two-way midrange), the XVX sounded completely coherent from top to bottom. There was no change in timbre, articulation, or dynamics as a function of frequency.

I could happily live with the XVX alone, but must admit that the pair of Subsonic subwoofers took the performance up a substantial notch, and not just in the bottom end. When I turned the woofers on and off with the flick of a switch on the ActivXO crossover, they were adding an extra measure of power and depth to instruments such as timpani and pipe organ. The pedal points on the Rutter Requiem (Reference Recordings) felt like they extended to the center of the earth, with subtle power and precise pitch as they pressurized the air in my room. The Subsonics added a new dimension of majestic sweep to this recording. The Subsonics also expanded the space and air of the Myerson Symphony Center by resolving very low-level, low-frequency components that cue the brain to the size of the hall. I also heard a greater midrange clarity on the voices with the Subsonics engaged, with more separation between the choir and the orchestra. Pipe organ spectaculars were just that—spectacular. The sense of limitless extension, limitless power, and limitless control, along with the precise sense of pitch with no port artifacts or bloat, was simply stunning. It’s really something you have to experience for yourself. I’ve never heard better bass from an audio system, or bass that extended this low and maintained its quality in the bottom two octaves.

If forced to sum up in one word the quality that makes the Chronosonic XVX stand apart from other speakers, that word would be “physicality.” The XVX projected a physical impression of instruments and voices in my listening room with startling realism. Physicality also describes this speaker’s hard-hitting and lifelike reproduction of music’s transients, not just in speed but also in weight and power. Physicality is the best word to convey the impression of a tangible soundstage populated by individual instruments, each of its own vibrant tone color. And then there’s the visceral physicality of the bottom few octaves that combine seemingly limitless extension and power with precise articulation.

Yet the word “physicality” merely describes the sound the XVX produces. Far more important is the rich musical expression contained within that sound. This speaker’s remarkable sonic attributes simply allowed me to hear more of the musical intent. Playing familiar recording after familiar recording, I was repeatedly amazed at the way I discovered new expression—how a drummer’s subtle but musically significant dynamic accents changed a piece’s rhythmic feel or how (for the first time) individual musical lines fit into a coherent whole, for just two examples. The XVX lets you instantly and deeply fall into that zone of complete musical immersion—free of distractions that remind you that you’re listening to an electro-mechanical recreation of music and not the music itself.

I’ve had the XVX system in my home for five months, yet every time I sit down and listen, I feel a profound sense of musical discovery. The Chronosonic XVX is an open window into a world of musical expression that has even this experienced listener feeling like the neophyte hearing a high-end system for the first time.

Specs & Pricing

Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker Four-way, seven-driver dynamic loudspeaker
Driver complement: One 12.5″ woofer, one 10.5″ woofer, two 7″ lower midranges, one 4″ upper midrange, one 1″ main tweeter, one 1″ rear-firing tweeter.
Loading: XLF port, front- or rear-firing (woofer); rear vented (two lower-midrange modules); bottom vented (upper-midrange module)
Frequency response: 20Hz–30kHz ±2dB
Sensitivity: 92dB, 1W/1m at 1kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms, 1.6 ohms minimum at 326Hz
Minimum amplifier power: 100Wpc
Dimensions: 16.5″ x 73.625″ x 33″
Weight: 685 lbs. net per speaker (1695 lbs. total shipping weight)
Price: $329,000 per pair, standard finishes; $30,000 additional for WilsonPearl finish

Subsonic Subwoofer Three-driver passive subwoofer
Driver complement: Three 12″ dual-spider woofers
Loading: Front ported
LF extension: 10Hz, –2dB
Sensitivity: 87dB at 1W
Dimensions: 18″ x 27.25″ x 65″
Weight: 612 lbs.
Price: $40,000

ActivXO Crossover Line-level electronic crossover
Inputs: Balanced and single-ended
Outputs: High-pass, balanced and single-ended, two stereo pairs; low-pass, balanced and single ended, two mono
Low-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
High-pass filter: 30Hz–150Hz, 6dB or 12dB per octave
Phase: 0–180°, continuously variable
Dimensions: 18.8″ x 4.5″ x 11.5″
Weight: 16.75 lbs. net
Price: $4500

The post Wilson Audio Specialties Chronosonic XVX Loudspeaker, Subsonic Subwoofer, and ActivXO Crossover appeared first on The Absolute Sound.

Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Wharfedale Pro Launches WLA-210XF Line Array

Wharfdale WLA-210XF
Wharfdale WLA-210XF

Huntingdon, UK (December 7, 2020)—The new WLA-210XF line array system from Wharfdale may use the same custom-made Wharfedale Pro 10″ drivers and the same 3.0″ Neo compression driver as the company’s WLA-210X, but the new model has the additional feature of having been IPX6 certified, making it appropriate for all-weather use.

Wharfedale Pro Ships I Series Loudspeakers

The WLA-210XF system reportedly delivers up to 138 dB Max SPL @ 1 meter, while its recommended adjoining subwoofer, the new dual 15” WLA-210XSUBF, offers a reported Max SPL @ 1 meter of 145 dB. Both models are constructed of up to 18 mm premium birch plywood, are covered in waterproof paint and use integral anti-corrosion, aluminum steel rigging hardware. Flat front grilles forged from 3 mm aluminum front the cabinets.

Helping keep the elements at bay, wax-wrapped components and an aluminum inner case protect the drivers and crossovers from water damage, and Neutrik NLT4 MP BAG waterproof connectors have been used as well. Both the WLA-210XF and the WLA-210XSUBF are supported within EASE.

Wharfedale Pro • www.wharfedalepro.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Star Spangled Panner Aims to Aim Speakers

The Star Spangled Panner
The Star Spangled Panner and Star Spangled Panner Mini.

London, UK (December 4, 2020)—Live sound engineer Matthew Russell has used pandemic downtime to invent the Star Spangled Panner and Star Spangled Panner Mini—tools for precisely setting the horizontal pan of speaker cabinets.

“These products have been specifically designed to address the difficulties in achieving the precise real-world realization of the orientation of event fixtures according to a CAD model, such as those generated in ArrayCalc or MappXT,” he told Pro Sound News. “From a sound perspective, which is my background, the purpose [is] to optimize HF coverage of point sources; however, I also see them having applications in the world of LX and AV.”

Yorkville Sound Launches Synergy SA102, SA115S Loudspeakers

While it is relatively easy to adjust the vertical tilt of a speaker cabinet to ensure coverage matches that suggested by analysis software, adjusting horizontal pan is often done by eye—so the Panner aims to bring a greater level of precision to that effort.

Designed to work with clamps by Doughty, the Panner is placed between the rigging frame yoke and clamp. The clamp is then used as a fixed reference to determine the pan of an individual fixture or splay of adjacent fixtures.

Produced and sold by Augment The Event Ltd., the Panners are CNC milled out of 6082 T6 Aluminum which are then black anodized and engraved for touring durability. The laser boxes are 3D printed out of matte black PLA.

Russell is a UK-based production sound engineer with 12 years experience in the UK theatre industry, working for a number of theatre producers including ATG Productions, RSC, National Theatre Productions, Fiery Angel, Headlong and Chichester Festival Theatre.

Star Spangled Panner • www.starspangledpanner.co.uk

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Yorkville Sound Launches Synergy SA102, SA115S Loudspeakers

Yorkville Sound's new Synergy SA102 loudspeaker and SA115S subwoofer.
Yorkville Sound’s new Synergy SA102 loudspeaker and SA115S subwoofer.

Toronto, Canada (December 3, 2020)—Yorkville Sound has added to its Synergy Array Series with the new SA102 active full range loudspeaker and SA115S active subwoofer. Paired together, they create a smaller, lighter, more portable version of the Synergy point-source system.

Equipped with a 10” LF woofer and 1 HF Compression Driver, the SA102 delivers 1,200 Watts (Program) and 2,400 Watts (Peak) and provides a 7 Degrees Up, 38 Degrees Down coverage pattern. Like its predecessor, the cabinet can be turned 180 degrees from top to bottom to flip the coverage pattern. Using multiple boxes in tandem, the SA102 can provide broader coverage; for example, three put together create a 90-degree pattern, wider than previous Synergy products.

Meanwhile, the SA1153 subwoofer sports a Danley-patented 15” tapped horn, allowing it to deliver 6,400 Watts (Program) and 13,000 Watts (Peak) in a compact cabinet. The SA102 can sit secure on the sub using interlocking feet or can be raised up by connecting a speaker pole to the SA115S built-in mounts.

The Synergy Array Series first debuted at the 2019 Winter NAMM Loudspeaker Showcase. Jeff Cowling, Yorkville Sound’s vice president of Sales & Marketing, recounts, “In 2019, we created the most versatile array system of its kind; scalable in both horizontal and vertical planes, and adaptable to suit any coverage pattern needed. We wowed club owners, retailers and sound technicians with its sheer output and bass. With the new SA102 and SA115S, we deliver our most accessible Synergy System with all the brand’s signature features in a smaller footprint, that is easy to lift and transport in a mini-van.”

Yorkville Sound • www.yorkville.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

EAW MKD1200 Series Loudspeakers Debut

EAW MKD1200 Series
EAW MKD1200 Series

Whitinsville, MA (December 2, 2020)– Eastern Acoustic Works has introduced the MKD1200 Series as an addition to its MKD Series of installation loudspeakers. The two EAW MKD1200 speakers—the MKD1294 and MKD1264—are three-way designs engineered to produce high output levels, for use in applications ranging from stadiums to small music venues.

Both models incorporate dual 12-inch low-frequency transducers with 3-inch vented voice coils, and coaxial 3.5-inch voice coil midrange and 1.75-inch voice coil high-frequency compression drivers. Nominal beamwidth of the MKD1294 is 90º horizontal x 45º vertical, while that of the MKD1264 is 60º horizontal x 45º vertical. The large-format horn utilized in the MKD1294 and MKD1264 may be rotated for altered pattern control, providing sound system integrators with installation options.

All models in the MKD Series employ EAW Core Technology including Beamwidth Matched Crossovers that are intended to eliminate polar irregularities in the crossover region, and Focusing, which uses advanced DSP to refine the impulse response of the loudspeaker in the time domain to reportedly eliminate horn “honk.”

Brooklyn Tabernacle Updates Audio System

The dual woofers are configured in the enclosures using a slanted mounting technique first developed for the KF860 touring line array cabinet and now used in QX Series loudspeakers. According to EAW, the configuration improves time coherency and also reduces the overall length of the cabinet.

Frequency response for the MKD1294 and MKD1264 ranges from 47 Hz to 20 kHz, and maximum SPL is 145 dB and 147 dB, respectively. Audio input is via rear-panel terminal block connectors, and both models may be operated in passive or biamped modes. All EAW MKD1200 Series loudspeakers feature enclosures constructed from Baltic birch, and are available in standard black or white finishes with options for custom colors as well as weather protection.

Eastern Acoustic Works • www.eaw.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Loudspeakers

Rocking out with some Slayer, it’s clear that Bowers & Wilkins has produced a winner here. To be honest, I’ve been punishing these speakers for about a solid week now, and it’s clear they have major dynamic ability.

Life isn’t all metal though, (though for some it is) and after seriously breaking these speakers in, an expanded palette of music was in order. Grooving on some Black Devil Disco Club, it’s easy to see that the 702 Signatures have plenty of low frequency ability too.

Bowers & Wilkins has always been a company driven by engineering excellence. I’ve owned a number of B&W speakers since 1980, and they’ve always made fantastic products. Having visited their UK factory a few times now, the level that they implement their engineering vision is second to none. Being a car guy at heart, I’ve always enjoyed the paint shop and the level of finish they are able to achieve. On both of my recent tours to the UK factory in Worthing, my tour guides have always made it a point to say that the B&W factory in China is a mirror image of the UK factory, though it concentrates on the 600 and 700 Series product. 800 Series Diamond product is made in Worthing. These are both huge facilities.

Even a cursory look at the Signature speakers proves that they’ve left nothing on the table, in terms of quality here. Where B&W has somewhat simplified the 700 Series is in the cabinet itself, with a more traditional box shape, instead of the complex, curvy shape of the 800 Series Diamond.

Unpack and setup

If you’re planning on buying a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 702s (Signature or not) read the infographic on the top of the box before you remove your speakers from their packaging. The 702 tweeter is housed in a bullet shaped aluminum enclosure that will be instantly damaged if you just put the box upside down once you’ve opened it. Get a friend to help you unpack your 702s because even though they are not terribly heavy, they are tightly packed and close to impossible to unpack by yourself because their slippery, smooth cabinets are hard to get a grip on. Save the little white rubber thing (that looks a lot like those rubber things they use in a nail salon to keep your toes apart) under the tweeter pod in case you move or ever have to ship your speakers. Trust me on this.

Once unboxed, you’ll also notice a pair of plinths that have been included for safety reasons in certain countries. If you don’t absolutely have to use them, I suggest leaving them in the shipping cartons, as they distract from the sleekness of the 702 Signatures, and B&W says the plinths do not improve the sound.

The last style decision to make is whether to affix the grilles or not. If you have kids, dogs, or a lot of guests, you’ll probably need them, but if you don’t, admiring the 702 Signature sans grilles is quite lovely. High technology doesn’t always look as good as it sounds, but in this case, the 702 Signature succeeds brilliantly. The three woofers, with their subtle chrome rings are just beneath the midrange driver with the big, silver Continuum™ cone, and the tweeter pod at the very top.

And, ooh those cabinets. From the outside, those stepping up to the $6,500/pair Signature series models over the standard $5,000/pair models you get a cool Datuk Gloss finish. I have to say, as a Sonus faber owner, Bowers & Wilkins is right there at the top of the mountain in cabinet finish, offering a level of quality that I’d expect to come from Italy. These speakers are absolutely beautiful to behold. The depth, and smoothness of the finish is outstanding. I’d step up to the Signatures just for the finish.

The Signature models are not just a cosmetic/finish update. Though the spec sheets between the standard 702 S2 and 702 Signature reveal the same numbers – this is the perfect example of specs not telling the whole tale. Thanks to upgraded bypass capacitors in the crossover, the Signatures deliver a more grain free presentation through the mids to the highest highs. The only downside here, albeit temporary, is those upgraded components in the crossovers take a bit more time to be all they can be. Expect a slight edge on top, and a bit of haze and fog through the midband for the first couple hundred hours of use.

To observe this process in action, play the same track every day at the beginning of the day. Make it a track you know intimately. In this case it was Robert Plant’s “Sixes and Sevens,” but I’m sure you have a couple of favorites that you’ll be able to notice the slightest differences. It’s almost as if the 702 Signatures get bigger and smoother sounding as you put hours on the clock.
Sticking with Robert Plant as my go to, shifting forward in time to “All the King’s Horses,” from his Mighty Rearranger album, the backing vocals started out somewhat buried in the mix, yet as the hours went by, I could hear the separation between Plant and the backing vocals much easier and more distinctively.

In our 13 x 18 foot living room, final speaker position ended up with the speakers being about five feet from the rear wall and about two feet away from the side walls. Only a few degrees of toe-in was used, but this and whether to slightly angle the speakers back will depend on seat height and personal listening preferences. Suffice to say that the 702 Signatures were easy to set up and get satisfying sound from quickly. Those needing to place their speakers close to the room walls or corners may want to take advantage of the foam plugs to insert in the rear mounted speaker port.

Other choices

With a sensitivity rating of 90dB/1-watt, the 702 Signatures don’t need a ton of power to be musically involving. Using everything here from the 30 watt per channel PrimaLuna EVO 100 to the mighty Pass Labs XA200.8s, proved a good match. Being that person preferring a more mellow approach, I gravitated more to the combination of the 702 Signatures with the Luxman L-550 Class A (solid state) integrated, the Pass INT25 (also solid state Class A) and our reference VAC Sigma 170i (tubes), but your final sound preferences will determine what you’ll pick. Bottom line, these speakers do not need a ton of power to sound great.

We also made it a point to try the 702 Signatures with a few different sets of speaker cable, from WireWorld, Nordost, Tellurium-Q, and Cardas. Again, all excellent results, how you want to achieve final voicing on your system will determine where you go here. The Cardas Clear cable in our reference system (a touch warm) was more to our taste, but the other three turned in great performances, but are slightly more forward and revealing. My living room is very lightly treated, so this contributes heavily to my leaning more towards a slightly mellow tonal balance.

One small tip, for those purchasing a pair of 702 Signatures: invest in a high-quality pair of jumpers, if you aren’t bi-wiring your speakers. Swapping a pair of Tellurium-Q jumpers in place of the factory issued, flat metal jumpers brought yet another level of clarity in the mid and upper registers.

What’s not to like?

Pretty much nothing really. Your decision will probably be B&W or the other choices, or between the Signature and standard models. However, in terms of what’s available in the $5,000 – $7,000 range that we’ve had the pleasure to audition, the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature is a solid player in terms of sound quality, engineering prowess, and aesthetic appeal. Not to mention, as one of the world’s largest speaker manufacturers, you can be sure of a great sales, service, and support network to go with your purchase.

The Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature
MSRP: $6,500/pair

Please click here to be taken to the Bowers & Wilkins website.

Original article: Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature Loudspeakers

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d&b Rolls into Radius Chicago

Radius, a former steel factory transformed into a 55,000-square-foot, is outfitted with a sizable d&b KSL system.
Radius, a former steel factory transformed into a 55,000-square-foot, is outfitted with a sizable d&b KSL system.

Chicago, IL (October 23, 2020)—Before the pandemic kicked in last Spring, Chicago’s East Pilsen neighborhood got its first taste of Radius, a new, 55,000-square-foot multi-room venue that can hold up to 3,800 guests. The unusual space—a retrofitted former steel factory—sports an open floor plan and mezzanine level, all of which is covered by a d&b audiotechnik KSL loudspeaker system installed by Brown Note Production of Thornton, CO.

The d&b system configuration consists of 11 KSL (7 KSL8, 4 KSL12) per side for a total of 22, 10 SL-GSUB,  four Y10p loudspeakers for front fills, a pair of Y10p bar area fills, two Y10p under balcony fills, five 10S-D for the mezzanine and VIP area fills, 17 D80 amplifiers, three D20 amplifiers and two DS10 Audio Network Bridges.

d&b audiotechnik, Autograph Launch d&b Fanblock

“The original spec was for a d&b J-Series as the project started four years before the SL-Series was available,” said Ryan Knutson, Brown Note Productions. “The KSL was the natural progression for the venue’s future sound reinforcement needs. As we went down the road with the J-Series, the clear replacement would be KSL as it fit the venue size and sound qualities needed to cover the venue throughout.”

“The d&b KSL loudspeaker system was essential – from the start, we wanted the sound to be a major differentiator for Radius and this system was the driving force,” said owner Nick Karounos. “With this system and the venue acoustics, we’ve essentially addressed a major complaint of other venues that were a theatre first and then retrofitted into a concert venue.”

The venue is set up to handle most touring shows and since the pandemic, has shifted to small socially distanced experiential events, private events and corporate events.

Brown Note Productions • www.brownnote.com

Radius • www.radius-chicago.com

d&b audiotechnik • www.dbaudio.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com