On the Bench: Clearwave Symphonia 7R

Jed Kunz of Clearwave Loudspeaker Design sent me a pair of his Symphonia 7R monitor loudspeakers back in October. They’re ebony, and the shine on these guys is enough to qualify them as signaling tools. Of course, they’d be a bit cumbersome to haul around the back country, but what beautiful sound you’d have out in the field! Ahem.

Clearwave is, very obviously, an audiophile brand. Jed pulls together drivers from two of the top names in loudspeaker design — RAAL and Accuton. Mated together, you’d expect speed, brilliant transient clarity, and a wealth of detail. What you might not expect is warm, rich tone. Ha! See? Expectations can be the death of you.

Speaking of expectations, one of mine — when approaching any loudspeaker with ceramic drivers — is of a certain leanness through the mid-band ending in an anemic bass response. Call me old-fashioned, but my recollection of “some designs” leaned more toward detail and away from … non-fatiguing [cough].

It’s always good to keep in mind that stereotypes can be completely useless as actual predictors of specific examples.

Case in point — the Symphonia 7R. It’s a big box with a giant rear-facing port. The RAAL is an amorphous-core ribbon; the matching mid/bass driver is a 7″ anti-resonant Accuton. A raked-back fascia with a beveled front baffle round out the aesthetic. And the sound? Anything but “thin” or “anemic”. Oh, myyy. And look at that baby! I should note that the sample I was sent includes the upgraded veneer, which adds $525 to the base $4,695 price. If you’re on the fence about the extra charge, I can’t tell you how much better it is over the base, but I can tell you that the upgrade is spectacular. Check ’em out in the pics below — they’re startlingly pretty loudspeakers, and preliminary listening gives the lie to another stereotype, this one on the whole “beauty is only skin deep” thing. Sorry, had to do it. We’re just bashing preconceptions left and right over here.

So, while I’m about it — I’ve run these with a couple of amps, including the all-too-short time I had with the magnificent Vitus Audio SIA-025 which, from what I could hear, was a stunning match for these loudspeakers. The presentation is detailed, with a layered dimensionality and a tonal rightness that I am quite enjoying. What did you say? A $27k amp with a $5k loudspeaker? Yep. That’s exactly where I went with it — first.

Definitely more listening to come. Rough job, I know. You gotta feel for me.


    • The sloped baffle aligns the acoustic centers of the drivers to help integrate the phase of the individual driver responses without the need for additional crossover complexity to achieve phase alignment. This also helps achieve a uniform frequency response at the intended listening position and off-axis. The slanted back enclosure is very time consuming to build because of the complex miters, but well worth the effort given the advantages stated above.

  1. I have the Symphonia 72R and have found that not only do they take some time to break in to sound great, but they seem to me to be getting even better as time goes on, even over a year later, as I have had them for over a year; I have become quite pleased with these speakers.

  2. Great looking speaker and that RAAL ribbon tweeter is supposedly the cat’s meow… 🙂

  3. I had early experiences with Jed’s speakers when he built a pair for our showroom and have to admit, my expectations of ceramic drivers was blown out of the water. These were the first ceramic based speakers that really impressed me. This was before the RAAL tweeter and fine art cabinetry. I would love to see and hear what these speakers have evolved into.

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