Part II: Digging in to the Tekton Pendragon

The Pendragon from Tekton Design is a monster. With a sensitivity of 98dB, they are big, full range, and the sound is impressive as all hell. They’re also $2500.

My first thought on hearing that was “holy crap, that’s cheap!” But after saying this a couple of times, in a couple of different places, I now feel like I have to add an obligatory comment about pricing. Yes, it’s true — $2500 is a lot of money.


When loud speakers with similar specs — and similar sounds — are all lined up, I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that the Pendragons are the least expensive offering in the the “full range” category. By a lot. In fact, I can only think of a couple of speakers that can even come remotely close to the price/performance ratio of the Pendragons. But full range and under $10k? Sorry. That makes these speakers really, really unusual. And by unusual, I mean, like, unique.

So, let’s start with what I got.

Tekton’s new Pendragon

I didn’t get the default drivers that ship with the “normal” Pendragons. After chatting with Eric Alexander, Tekton’s designer, I was offered the choice of ordering with an 8ohm version of the drivers (with an entirely different crossover), that is, the greyish ones that ship with the very popular Lore model. Just an FYI, the Pendragons typically ship with bluish 4ohm drivers — the 8ohm grey drivers are a zero-cost option. Curious? Just talk to Eric at ordering and he’ll sort you out admirably.

[Editor's Note 2/3/12] Seems that Eric has made some changes to the Pendragon — including making the 8ohm drivers the default option. The link to the updated page is here. Guess he liked the way mine turned out! [/end Editor's Note]

The speakers are very precisely spec’d and Eric tells me that they measure flat between 30Hz and 30kHz. As for the bass, the speakers are only down 4.5dB at 20Hz.


[Cough] Excuse me.

Each speaker sports a pair of widebanders from Eminence, set in a D’Appolito Configuration with 3 tweeters sandwiched between them, are precisely separated by 20” (center to center). Exactly what this does, or why Eric chose this very particular configuration, is something he won’t tell me unless I sign an NDA. Secret sauce? Most definitely. While I have no problem with an NDA, it doesn’t really help me much if I can’t tell you about it, so I avoided temptation.

I asked about the time alignment, just to be thorough, and while the speakers aren’t exactly time coherent (“it is what it is”), Eric says its really close. What that says to me is that is so close you’re not going to notice.


If you asked the random audiophile about a speaker that had a sensitivity of 98dB — and had a nominal impedance of 8ohms — the first thing that will come to mind is “TUBES”. I think this is fair, too — well, at least that’s what I was thinking when I heard about the speakers’ sensitivity.

And why not? Honestly, the trend in high end speakers these days is really unfriendly to the tube amp. Haters! The goal appears to be to create an incredibly linear performer that will show textbook-flat measurements in a Stereophile review. Unfortunately, what this means is stiff drivers, lots of crossovers, and generally speaking, a speaker that requires a monster amp to sound even remotely like what the designer wanted it to. It’s really disappointing! Big amps are expensive to buy and expensive to own and run.

Tube gear isn’t cheap either — those darn tubes are either breaking in or breaking down. But that said, I think it’s far easier to find a cheap tube amp that sounds great than it is to find a cheap solid state amp that sounds nearly as good. And contrary to what a quick visit to CES might tell you, us consumers are not all rich as Croesus, so designing toward inexpensive is better than good — it’s just smart.

Well … Eric had something slightly different on his mind when put together the (original) Pendragons.

Because there’s something else you get with really high sensitivity — the ability to play really LOUD. And these Pendragons do that all day long. And that’s exactly the point. As for why, well, it helps to know that Eric’s a musician. Ask him about music, he’ll tell you that his passion is for the live venue, and his goal when making speakers is recreating the live spaces and the energy of live events — but doing so at real-world prices.

But getting back to tubes — I opted for the 8ohm drivers over the 4ohms ones for the flexibility for using tubes. Not that I would, necessarily, but just that I wanted to be able to. I mean, it’s not like you can’t use tubes with 4ohm speakers, but given the option, most tube amps prefer (and respond better to) higher impedances. Eric tells me that with his 4ohm Pendragons, he tried out his own, personally-owned 300b tube amp — and wasn’t especially blown away by what he was hearing. On the solid-state amps? They were crushingly awesome (I’m paraphrasing). But on the low-power tubes, well … not so much. It wasn’t until he got a chance to try out the 8ohm drivers that all of that inverted. Tubes now? Awesome. Solid state? Still awesome. I have a suspicion that Eric prefers the 4ohm drivers in the Pendragons — that’s how he designed the speaker, after all — and his stated goal and preference is to play big music really loud. That said, he is very enthusiastic about his “Option II”. I felt like he used my curiosity about tube compatibility as an excuse to tweak and play with his speaker design — works for me — and now he has two speakers for the price of one (as it were).

The Designer

Eric has been building speakers for 25 years. I guess you could say his professional career really started when he owned an “ultra high end” custom car audio store in 80s-90s. Toward the end of that gig, a friend of his, Zu Audio’s Sean Casey, introduced Eric to Ray Kimber and in 1996, the two of them put together Diaural Labs. This rather productive R&D period led to a designer role at Edge/Aperion Audio in 1999, and while there, he won a Subwoofer of the Year award from Perfect Vision for one of his projects. In the 2001-2205, he worked for Sound Tube Entertainment, designing in-wall “commercial audio” systems — professional sound systems for airports and companies like Chilis, Applebees, and others. While at Sound Tube, he invented “Broadbeam Technology”, an ultra-wide-dispersion tweeter that’s been implemented in about $30M worth of equipment, and competes with products from Bose, JBL, Klipsch, &c, in the distributed audio space. Eric started Tekton Inc in 2003 and made it a full time concern in 2005. Tekton puts out several hundred speakers per yea, with the Lore model being the most popular, but the range is pretty broad. His target market? Affordable hi-fi. And given today’s market realities, I find this to be smart thinking.

Everything Tekton makes is built and tested by Eric himself. His grandfather was a carpenter, so Eric’s been playing with wood and making cabinets since he was a kid. His parents introduced him to music, and the notion of playing music, and he subsequently became obsessed with drums as a pre-teen. I can only imagine how happy that choice made his parents. Anyway, he says he realized in Jr High that what he wanted to do was build and design hi-fi. He’s a musician with a passion for modern & acid jazz, loves rock, and plays that and country/western. Yikes.

It’s worth noting that Eric’s also into motorsports. I mean, really into their approach — taking common designs, adding uncommon tweaks, and creating something unique. Building and designing his own racing engines in his teens, he gained an appreciation for how Ferrari, and others, were able to “do something special” with those standard designs to get that last bit of “oompf” out of them. This is a passion he believes he is able to translate directly into his designs to help him “push the envelope of sound.”

Hi-Fi and the Widebander

Okay, so what do the Pendragons sound like? Would it be cheesy to say “music”? Because that was my first thought. Other than “wow”, that is.

So, yes, the Pendragons play LOUD and the sound is as clear as a bell all the way up to eleven — even with only moderately powered amps. That is, they throw a giant sound stage at high SPLs that is coupled to an very easy yet dynamic sound. They’re just tremendous. Let me explain.

I got this CD for Christmas, a gift from my wife. It’s called Lorraine from Lori McKenna. The first track is “The Luxury of Knowing”. It’s a country tune, and while this sort of thing is not really my cuppa, there is this bass note that gets dropped into the tune that sounds like like a giant, brass bell of a kick drum. On the Pendragons, the note is HUGE, round, deep — and on the Pendragons, you hear the over tones, the under tones, the fullness of the thing in a way that a near-full range speaker (like my Magnepan 3.7s) simply will never capture. It’s like the Pendragon has “headroom” to spare on even a note that deep, so the entirety of the thing is fully captured and effortlessly presented. What I’m trying to say is that the bass on these speakers is just stunning. And yes, this was more and deeper bass than what I was hearing on my Magnepan 3.7s, which probably begins to roll off about 10Hz higher than the Pendragons. If you’ve never heard true full range speakers, that is, something that can do subwoofer-type depth, you’ve been missing stuff. A lot of stuff. To me, right now, it feels like an unacceptable amount of stuff. My eyes are still wide with the shock at how much I’ve been missing. Holy. Freakin’. Cow.

[Editor's note] A quick aside — and a comparison. I’ve gotten a couple of emails about this point, so let me clarify a bit. The Maggies play plenty deep — this is one of the hallmarks of the new dot-7 series of releases. The bass is BIG on these guys and hits HARD. But, to get there, you need to crank the volume up. No, not to eleven, but still, loud. Like 85dB or so. If you get there (and go beyond), the differences in bass between the Maggies and the Pendragons actually begin to close. Why is that? Well, it has to do with the way you actually hear bass — or don’t. Bass perception simply decreases as volume does, and the deeper the bass signal, the quicker the drop off. Interestingly, this also means that a flat bass response in a speaker, the bass appears to drop off a bit early! To get “more bass”, you can do one of two things. One, boost, prop up, or otherwise augment the bass. This is what subs do for you and one of the reason they’re so universally popular. Two, you turn up the volume so that what bass there is, is now simply louder. Of course, everything else is too, but at least now you’re getting bass! Back to the Tekton. In contrast to the Maggie, which does in fact hit deep and hard, at least at volume, the Tekton hits deep and hard at every volume. This is what I meant about “missing out” — I don’t usually crank it up. [/Editor's note].

If I had to locate the “Tekton Sound” in the universe of speakers-that-are-known-to-me, the obvious place to start is Zu Audio. Given that they share drivers (or very similar drivers), this isn’t at all surprising, so if you’ve liked “Zu Sound”, then you know what I mean — and you should have a good idea of what you’re in for.

You have no idea what I mean? Well, to me, Zu really does the rock-n-roll thing to a “T”. They’re big. They’re bad. They’re in your face. And it’s all about the music. People have called them “rock speakers”, which I find misleading, but the idea is that they sound great turned up loud. They’re not fussy, not pretentious, but they sound really good with just about everything you throw at them. Old music. New music. Compressed music. Audiophile standards. Zu doesn’t care. And my Tekton Pendragons seems cut wholly from this same cloth.

The downside — and frankly, the only downside that I seem able to find — is that this also means that these are not speakers for the detail-freak. I talked to Eric about this, and he gave the verbal equivalent to a shrug. It’s the big flat baffle, he says. Getting more precision (read: detail) out of the drivers would require a lot of tweaking to the speaker’s cabinet. And when I say “a lot” I mean a lot. Something to tune of a couple of grand worth of tweaking. And that really wasn’t where this speaker was supposed to go. Eric also admitted that these drivers might not be as “hi-fi” sounding as some, but I’m on the fence as to whether this is a good or a bad thing. Borrowing a turn of phrase from Srajan Ebaen at 6moons, there’s no pixelation. In fact, they’re almost kind of smooth. On the plus side, everything sounds pretty good. Even crappy recordings! Like metal? You just found your speaker.

Now, before you get all uppity, all I’m saying is that some of those old metal/hard rock recordings I have sound … well … suboptimal. On the other side of the coin, hyper-detail seems to be a (rather unsettling) trend in audiophilia, so if you’re only into that, just be aware that this probably isn’t your speaker. Now, I’m not saying that detail is lost, per se, all I’m saying is that the Pendragons don’t emphasize this, contrary to many of the speakers you might find in Stereophile.

AKG K-701To get an idea of what I’m talking about, I own a pair of rather sweet (but ill-fitting) hi-fi headphones from AKG. If there’s detail in the recording, the AKG K-701 will hit it with laser beams (click the link in the pic for more info). I also own a pair of Magnepan 3.7s, which treads the line between detail and smoothness rather (more) even handedly, being neither pixelated nor smooth, but they tend to lean toward revealing. If the recording is detailed, the sound is detailed. If the recording is smooth, the sound is smooth. If the recording blows, well. I’ve referred in the past to the “Cricket Test” — on “Roadhouses and Automobiles”, a great Chris Jones tune (also country flavored, but that shouldn’t be held against me), the engineer added in a bunch of crickets (or maybe they were there in the studio … nah) to the opening sequence that are as clear and as obvious as daylight on my AKG K-701 headphones, a bit subtle on my Maggies, and plain hard to hear on my old Merlin VSM-MXR speakers. The Pendragons fall a bit farther afield than the Merlins and much farther than the Maggies, that is, until I turn up the volume significantly. The detail is there, yes, it’s just that it’s not standing out and in-your-face, like it is on the AKG K-701s, and also like it is on some other transducers I have/had on hand. In the end, I guess the answer to whether or not this is a good or a bad thing depends entirely on your listening habits, your needs, the rest of your playback chain, blah blah blah. Personally, I didn’t notice it until I went looking.

Now, this is not to say they’re veiled in any way. The Pendragons are most definitely not. Overall, the immediacy is arresting and the tweeter array on the Pendragon presents the treble clear and sweet. This is a D’Appolito configuration, after all, so the mid range here is as open as you’re going to find on any speaker. The music is just what you hear — not the room, not the conversation three tables to one side of the drummer, and not the freakin’ crickets. I’m also not getting any hotness, no glare and zero grain out of these things like I have on some of my other speakers — so Metallica, Ozzy, and Judas Priest, played loud, sound just as obnoxious (and the recordings sound as poorly recorded) as they ever do. In other words, they sound awesome on these speakers. In fact, the sound is very similar to my Maggies. The Pendragons show great top to bottom coherence! “Planar-like” would not be out of place as a comment on how these speakers sound.

The question that you may be asking is (because you’re an impertinent wretch): how do the Pendragons compare, then, with the Magnepan 3.7s?

This question is actually hard as the speakers are very different, even though they are swimming in the same end of the affordability-pool. But taking a stab at it kind of feels like a tennis math — the comparison is giving me whiplash.

Anyway, the $5500 Maggies sound “bigger” — it’s that line-source thing and how physically big the Maggies are. Unlike many speakers, especially those sporting a D’Appolito array, the Pendragons actually have very good vertical dispersion — maybe the best I’ve heard — and the Maggies don’t. Of course, the Maggies are almost 6′ tall — there’s simply no need for vertical dispersion.

I get the best sound out of both of them with the speakers firing directly at me (total toe in here), so there’s not much about off-axis performance that I have to report on either.

Nothing has ever filled my room better or more robustly than these Maggies, and that includes the Pendragons (though these did a far better job than my old Merlins).

The ‘dragons, on the other hand, very obviously go deeper.

Against that, the Maggies have more of the hi-fi sound that I want, but still aren’t bright or edgy — that is,  not after I tweaked the living hell out of them. Stock, the Maggies will offer a different answer; here, I could see the ‘dragons winning. They’re insanely easy to listen to! And that bass … lordy-lou!

So, that leaves fit and finish — and price. My Maggies are finished in aluminum, which matches everything else I have, so the effect is neat. The optional wood panels are even nicer looking. The Pendragons, as I ordered them, fall down a bit in comparison, though a good veneer would go a long way to evening this up again (available at additional cost). Both speakers are big, but my wife prefers the more traditional speaker-like look of the Pendragons to the Maggies, which she says are just too damn big to put up in the main room, you know, where guests might see them. Hmmpf.

Anyway, there you go. An argument in process. Which one is “better” will depend on your priorities — and your budget. Either will do you right. But only one of them will work well with tubes generally and SETs in particular. Might not sound their best this way (see below), but I have options with the Pendragons that I just don’t have with a Magnepan.

In the end, I’m probably keeping both. Unless Eric has something else coming down the pike. Then, well, all bets are off. Isn’t this a great hobby?

A note about measurements and the upper mids. The Eminence drivers used in the Tektons tend to go into breakup in this region (see the Stereophile measurements on the Zu speaker, relevant here because this is the same driver, minus the whizzer cones and phase plug). Eric crosses over to the tweeter array before the measured breakup region, which I suppose limits the drivers to their comfort zone. I’ve noticed no notching or suckouts (not that I necessarily would), but after talking about this specific thing with Eric, it was something he was very aware of and something he designed around.

Look and feel

Budgets are pernicious things. With no care for your consumers’ pocketbook, a designer can do all kinds of silly things. Take a look at a Magico if you’re wondering what I mean. As a designer, when you are concerned about your customer’s ability to actually afford your cri de coeur, you’re rather limited. The entire Tekton line is designed with cost in mind, so it shouldn’t be a surprise anyone that there’s no leather-wrapped surfaces. No exposed strips of worked aluminum. Wood veneers are certainly available, but as I mentioned, they’re extra-cost options, as is automotive-grade paint. That stuff costs money, so if you’re all about the aesthetic as opposed to the performance of your kit, factor those elements in to the cost.

Back to the speaker at hand. The binding posts are robust 5-ways, but are pretty generic and stick out the back of the cabinet. The cabinet itself, which is CNC’d and heavily braced internally, looks very precisely made, is very solid, but there’s a bit of a (rather dull) thud when you rap on it’s side. To get a cabinet that big totally inert — like a Wilson cabinet, for example — would easily drive the cost up by thousands (and thousands) of dollars. Again, not unexpected — but this is a far cry from the drum that my old Totem Forest used to be.

So, yes, at $2500 you’re not buying the be-all, end-all when it comes to audio jewelry. It’s a fact. If you’re willing and able to move past the somewhat plain-vanilla looks, what you do get is a high quality, well made, great sounding, loud speaker. That plays LOUD.

Beating the drum, er, amp(s)

I was pretty lucky with the timing of these speakers. I was able to try out a variety of amps with them, all with various results.

The first amp I tried was a Miniwatt N3. This absurd little amp only puts out a rather underwhelming 3.5wpc. That’s nothing. But it’s also remarkably transparent! Note too, that as this was the amp with which I demoed the Pendragons first, so it’s also the amp where I got familiar with the cavernous bass of the speakers. Yep, bass. This amp kicks some serious ass. Three tubes! Point to point wiring! Talk about minimal signal path. Anyway, this amp might not be the last word on bass control, mid range liquidity or treble finesse, but it does all of those things reasonably well — far better than the $400 price tag might suggest. Hell, this amp usually drives my desktop speakers, currently some 4-ohm Totem Model-1 Signatures. Those speakers are pigs to drive — compared to the Pendragons. This is a crazy good, crazy cheap amp. And matched up to the Pendragons, I was shocked at how loud I could get the speakers before I felt like I was hearing some distortion. Honestly, I think I gave up before the amp+speakers did. Needless to say, the fingers-in-the-ears approach is not effective nor safe hearing protection, even if it’s pretty hilarious to watch (my 5 year old daughter had my ear protectors on and stood 30′ back, laughing like a hyena at daddy trying to turn the amp down with his toes).

Triode Corp TRV-A300: This was an older 300B-based integrated amp (the new ones are designated by an “SE” on the badge — cost of the current model is $2800 US) from Japanese manufacturer Tri that I had in for only a couple of weeks. The amp puts out a very healthy, very luscious 8wpc. On the Pendragons, the mid range got the expected boost, but the bass, which was a little bloomy, was still fantastic. I’ve read nothing but smack-talk about how the 300B has shitty bass. Wrong! Great amp, great match! Yes, the bass was a bit bloomy, but whatever. I thought it sounded great and unless I went looking for deviations from my expectations, I didn’t find any. I understand why Eric was so enthused about his 300B amp on this new design.

Triode Corp TRV-88SER ($3500): This is a KT-88-based integrated from Tri. Aside from the slightly different layout, the change in sound quality wasn’t face-smackingly obvious. At this point, I was shaking my head at audiophile hyperbole. A KT88-based amp sounding a lot like a 300B amp? Um, yeah. Sure, the bass was a bit tighter. The treble might have been a bit airier. The mids might have had a smidgeon less glow. But all of that was incremental, subtle, and lost in the music. Whatever. 45wpc was plenty of power and caused my dog to flee the room in terror. But then, so was 8wpc. Go figure. Anyway, this one adds both a head-amp and phono stage (MM) over the base non-R integrateds. Great value here!

Luxman L-505u ($4100): this is an amazing amp, and the cheapest integrated in the Luxman lineup. Like the SER amps from Tri, this baby-Lux has a nice phono stage and a great head-amp — in fact, it may have the best head-amp I’ve yet heard, not that that matters here. The Pendragons on the Luxman sounded really ballsy like the were just loving the extra watts. Or maybe it was the extra damping? Not sure, but something was very different with the Luxman over the tube amps that preceded it. Something really exciting. I think that it was this amp where the Pendragons really caught my attention. There was a level of authority and control to the still effortless presentation. Which reminds me — Eric strongly recommends breaking the Pendragons in with a big ass amp. Which brings me to ….

Plinius SA-Reference ($17k): this is the best solid-state amp on the market. Okay, let me add: “that I know of and have spent any time with.” Fine. But know this — this amp is unreal. And the Pendragons on this amp sounded like they’d suddenly become mid-1980′s Schwarzenegger clones. Big. Bad. Taking no shit. “And full of goofy tag lines. The mismatch here is obvious, intended as such, and not real world. But, the amp does make a difference. And on the Plinius, the sound quality was the closest I got to my beloved Magnepan 3.7s, still my current budget reference for floor-standing loudspeakers.

A surprising latecomer to the party was an amp on the very opposite end of the pricing spectrum from my reference New Zealander. This entry, from Red Wine Audio, was the new Signature 15 integrated. At $1500, this RWA amp was also the next cheapest of the lot, next to the Miniwatt, and with its battery-driven system, it was also the quietest. There’s a switch, to let the amp run directly from battery or directly from the wall (once you’ve run your 6-hour battery down, this lets you keep playing). I was able to turn the volume all the way over when nothing was playing, a neat trick for hearing tube hiss or amp noise, and when I did this on the Signature 15, I heard not a damn thing coming from the tweeters on the Pendragon. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. In case you were wondering, the Plinius was the loudest of the bunch. Anyway, I’ve only had the Signature 15 for about a week or two now, so it’s hardly fair to throw it in front of you wolves, but here’s the thing — it sounds fantastic with the Pendragon. Maybe that “inky black background” (to borrow an audiophile cliche) is to thank? Dunno, don’t care! And yes, before you ask, this is with the base/stock tubes (Vinnie is supposed to send me some others for tube rolling at some point). The amp has a nice rich sound to it, velvet rather than silk but the bass was more like the Luxman than like the Tri amps — grippy fo’ sho’. I can’t get over how neat this amp is! Sure, the bass on the Plinius is stunningly good. The Luxman isn’t far behind though (which should be a surprise to many, given that’s a full 1/4 the price) and while the little Sig 15 is bringing up the rear — it outclassed all four tube amps by pulling back the “bloom” to something more real-world (that is, real) and still authoritative. The mids on the 300B amp might have been a bit more round than the KT88 (maybe), but it was, again, the RWA amp that brought up the rear in this grouping too, and it beat out the little Miniwatt and both solid state amps. Take a moment here and notice that this places an extraordinarily affordable amp solidly in the middle of all five amps. If that doesn’t leave you scratching your head and grinning a bit foolishly, well, you’re not me. Because that’s exactly what I was doing. I like this Red Wine + Tekton combo. Given how sensitive the speakers are, I think the battery-powered approach to be a particularly valid one. Possibly the best thing about this amp, as different from every other in the lineup, is how gradually the volume ramps up. On the Plinius separates, I can get the volume up to about a 9-o’clock position before I’m backing out of the room, my fight-or-flight instinct beginning to kick in. On the Red Wine, that same output looks more like a 12-o’clock position — there’s just lots more granularity there on the Red Wine than there is on the Luxman (again, 9-o’clock) or any of the tube amps.

Just beat it

I think these speakers are hilariously awesome. Full range for $2500? Are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind?

Every time a heavy beat drops line into the mix, I’m worried that my appearance has become a bit unhinged — the looks I’m getting from my wife are just troubling. Hmm. Anyway, do you like hip hop? These speakers are gonna make you turn off your subs, pack them up and sell ‘em on AudiogoN. Like techno? Ambient? Anything with an artificially deep bass track? You’re about to find out if your room treatments and bass traps are effective. My guess? They’re not.


Here’s the long and the short of it: the ‘dragons had me in stitches. This price/performance ratio is outrageous. Sure, you can find a ton of speakers for less than $2500. But they’ll either be fat monitors or skinny towers. Or they’ll suck. At Tekton, that money will buy you a huge-sounding (and actually, physically, huge) speaker that will make you the envy of your cheap ass friends. Your smug overpaid audiophile pals will be scurrying off to desperately research a way to justify their (suddenly overpriced) speakers. And yes, you can now — finally — turn it up to eleven. Which, in case you were wondering, will be loud enough to stun and kill small animals. Be warned. ;-)

Note: no animals or children were harmed in the writing or research of this article.

For more info, please contact Eric Alexander at Tekton Design.

I’m not sure anyone actually reads this blog, so whether you happen to be that 5th and final person that hits this page (not you, Ma!), or curiosity just seizes you in its jaws and shakes you like the timid little rag doll you dress up like every other Thursday night (you know who you are), be sure to tell him the Part-Timer sent ya. It won’t actually do anything for me, but, well, it kinda sounded cool in my head before I typed it out. Roll with it, you ingrate!

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33 Responses to Part II: Digging in to the Tekton Pendragon

  1. stephan says:



    I have the model lore and will buy miniwatt tomorrow ;)

  2. Mikein says:

    I’m trying to read between the lines here but I get the sense that these speakers are great for rock, and great if you like it LOUD but maybe what if one is a kind of concert hall or jazz venue kind of guy? I like rock — most of my music is in that genre but my tastes are chaning, or maybe broadening as I get older, and I am looking for something more than just a Rock speaker.

    I haven’t heard Zu so I don’t know the sound. And I haven’t heard the Maggie 3.7s and since you mention they have a kind of hifi sound, I was wondering if you would elaborate on that a bit more.

    What I did find reassuring in your Blog was that the pendragons are not for the detail-freak. I am sure I don’t want a speaker that on a clear day I hear forever. I don’t need that kind of transparency or detail. Rather, I am looking for something that has an emotional atmosphere about them, naturally warm, and full of physical musical presence. I don’t know if these fillthe bill, and won’t know until I hear them for myself.

    Thanks for the great write-up. You put some effort into it and it shows.

    • Socrates7 says:

      I love classic rock, but I really don’t listen to it as much anymore. I’m mostly listening to Internet music services or jazz. I think the Pendragons were great with either — again, given that a focus on detail (“the hi-fi sound”) with my AKG-K701s, and my Maggies to a less extent, have been problematic with crappy recordings generally, it wasn’t surprising to me that the low-bit-rate services sounded better on the Pendragons.

      What the Pendragons do, perhaps better than the Maggies, is give a better sense of impact. Bass impact, to be precise. It’s just a cone vs panel thing. Now, most jazz recordings just don’t “go there”. Most older rock doesn’t either. But newer music, say, techno, hip hop, and even pop, can and do go there in the bass. And that impact was better with the Pendragons — and here’s the kicker — they did so even at lower volumes. The Maggies, especially the new dot-7 versions, can REALLY do bass — do not misunderstand me. But to get that bass impact, you need to crank it past 80dB — and the louder you crank it, the more the Maggies fill in that slam. Interesting, at least to me. That said, the Pendragons had “big bass” at all volumes.

  3. rah says:

    Very interesting review since I have Magnepan’s and have demoed the 3.7′s. But I also have Klipsch Chorus II’s (which of course are also high efficiency) and the main reason I swap in the Chorus’s from time to time is for the low end impact which is lacking in the Maggies. Otherwise I tend to prefer the Maggies.
    I can’t find a picture of the back of the Pendragon’s – are they rear ported? Wonder how the Pendragons would do in a smaller room?
    Well, I’m reading your posts and have told others. I check you everyday. Keep it up.

    • Socrates7 says:

      The Pendragon is rear ported — check it out:

      Pendragon's ass

      I honestly think that speakers tend to fit rooms just fine — if you have the right amount of acoustical damping. Got your corner’s trapped? If not, might want to go there. If so, be aware that the larger the room, but more likely you are to hear deep bass. My room is 14′ across the front wall and 40′ to the rear — with a big section off to the side, to boot (it’s a full basement). So, my room tends not to pressurize as easily as some, but then, I actually have room to get really deep bass. A 10′ x 14′ room might not be wide enough — I didn’t mention it, but Eric recommends 8′ tweeter-to-tweeter, and I’d add 2′ to each side and the speakers at least 4′ out from the rear wall. 12′ x 16′ or larger is probably going to be a better bet.

      And thanks so much for checking in. So, I guess that makes you 3 out of 5 (settle down, Ma, I know you’re “reading” along too).

      • Andrew says:

        what do you mean by “Eric recommends 8′ tweeter-to-tweeter, and I’d add 2′ to each side and the speakers at least 4′ out from the rear wall. 12′ x 16′ or larger is probably going to be a better bet”

        Also you mentioned the tweeter upgrade for the pendrgons, does it make a bigger improvement? what ther upgrades did he have fo rthe pendragons other than vaneers

      • Part-Time Audiophile says:

        Eric offers a crossover upgrade, which came after I bought my review pair. I hear it makes a good speaker better, but I have no experience with it — and that’s the only upgrade I know of. As for spacing, Eric says they should have some room to breathe and sing.

      • Andrew says:

        was the drivers used from the american standard series? it looks that way

      • Part-Time Audiophile says:

        Not sure …? Ask Eric!

  4. thelisteningchair says:

    I read this blog!

    I use Zu Omens and recently got a RWA signature 15 in for demo (sent it back a few days ago) Its a bloody good amp. Perhaps one of the best budget amps out there. But you seem to have left out the budget amp category which mates perfectly with high efficiency speakers- gainclones. I normally use a JLTi EL-34 tube amp, but have been trying SS alternatives lately. I’ve used a $500 gainclone amp, which is outstanding and was about 90% of the RWA but only a third of the cost. When you really dig into it, high efficiency budget systems are the only way to go if you really want to maximise value. I’d recommend trying out a gainclone though, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.Surely must be tempted to try out a 47 Labs gaincard or shigaraki (or something a little cheaper)


  5. Jerry says:

    Very nice review. I have the Lore and they sound great.
    Just don’t count on selling any of your equipments on Audiogon anymore.

  6. Gpowered says:

    Thanks for your great write up! But one thing you may be off on, and not a big deal, but I don’t think the grey/blue Eminance driver thing is related to 8ohm vs. 4ohm version. the first pair of pens I had were 4ohm, and the drivers were grey to match the grey cabinet. The second pair i have now, also a 4ohm version, have blue drivers in a white cabinet. Just an FYI. Thanks again and God bless!

  7. Jon Catuccio says:

    Great write-up! I wonder if any amp like the Zen Torii MKIII would mate well with the 4ohm driver on the Pen; I’d love to hear that combo.

  8. Mike in SC says:

    There’s a chap who owns both. Look up Morganc over on the Decware forum. He’s written the combination of the Zen Torii MKIII, his Tekton Pendragons and Dodd Battery Pre-amp MKII is “simply stunning”. He’s also written he is selling his Coincident Frankenstein 300b amp in favor of the Torii. You can find his comments in the” Which input tube for a splash of seduction”? thread in the ZEN TORII MK III Push Pull amplifier forum.

  9. Mike in SC says:

    Looks like Eric has linked to this review. I’m sure you’ll get more than 5 readers now.

  10. michael says:

    Great review. I have the Katz by Eric. He rocks.

  11. mike says:

    just your thoughts ,what do you think of apair in a home theater system would sound? could i do without a sub or cennter channel since they are near full range?i have a 18×20 room just wondering on the sound stage and detail in a more dialoge and bass felling from a movie than for music. thanks again for your acknowledgement

    • Socrates7 says:

      I think they’d sound great in a home theater set up, but, I think a sub (or a pair of subs) would sound more convincing. Home theater really goes deep and powered subs work so much better for explosions and dinosaurs.

  12. Pingback: Follow up on Fritz Frequencies’ Grove | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

  13. Geno says:

    Anyone hear of the TBI Millenia. I think they would work well with the P-dragons.

  14. Tuan says:

    It’s great review. How about Luxman 505u drives the maggies 3.7? Did you try. If, then, the result.

    • Part-Time Audiophile says:


      I can’t remember if I’ve put the Lux on the Maggies, actually. Maybe not … something to try out, though. ;-)

  15. Pete says:

    If you want refinement,then get the Pen Dragon Jrs with theSeas drivers and is some 5 inches smaller around 50 inches tall,with the Mundorf Silver oil upgrade it will give something that everybody will enjoy.

  16. Dale. says:

    I have to say that I am indeed intrigued by the Seas Pendragon with the Mundorf upgrade. I am going to be sticking to small speaker companies that are very value driven in the future, like the Philharmonic Audio 3s that are being built right now. But, I would love to hear the Pendragons:)

  17. zev says:

    Thanks for the awesome review. I ordered my front left, right and center pendragons just a couple weeks ago–can’t wait for them to arrive (Eric is selling the full surround sound setup for $6500).

  18. Haraldo says:

    Thanks for the great article
    I just gotta get those speakers :-)

  19. Pingback: First Listen: Tekton Designs Pendragon SEAS | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

  20. Pingback: Magnepan and Tekton meet Pass Labs, Odyssey, Job, Merrill, Red Wine Audio, First Watt and Vitus Audio | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

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