Rememeber the Audiophile Desktop from CEntrance? Let me refresh your memory. $2,000 gets you a CEntrance DACmini PX, a pair of Masterclass 2504 speakers, and a hefty Pelican case to lug them around in.
The PX is a head-amp, a full-function integrated 25wpc amplifier with an analog input, and a DAC that supports 192kHz/24-bit (over SPDIF)/ 96kHz/24-bit (over USB). All that’s missing is a turntable. Har har.
But let’s talk about those speakers.
The speakers are unusual in just the way you’d want for near-field listening. The drivers are coaxial — the tweeter is inset into the center of the mid-range driver. Why is this good? Integration! The top goes smoothly into the mids, which makes near-field placement a snap. The big front-firing port gives you more flexibility to place the speakers all over the desktop, even on those desktops that push right up on a wall.
I’ll confess that the piano black finish is not my favorite — I mean, I have to photograph it and “shiny black” rates right up there with “mirror finish” in terms of capture difficulty. More my problem than yours, but it does make it hard to show how pretty these little guys are. And they are little. 9″ high and 6″ wide, the 2504s are almost exactly the same size as my Audioengine P4 speakers. Compact!
When I plopped the speakers down on the desk, I got a lot of reinforcement from the surface of the desk itself. I’m guessing here, but I suspect that’s the point — with the desktop, you get a lot more, and you kinda get it for free. There’s that big bass port right there on the bottom of the cabinet’s face, you see.
I tried picking them up and dumping them on my Ultimate Support M-80 stands (in the pics, above), which have a really nice leveling system so I can point them at my oddly beautiful ears, but the platform is designed for much heavier speakers, and the little 2504s were just rocking around like a rubber ducky in a bathtub. Set up this way, I lost quite a bit of the “full” sound and didn’t really seem to get much back in return. I then put them up on some rigid wooden stands from Wood Technology, which was worse until I balanced the speakers on a trio of Tenderfeet from Herbie’s Audio Lab and slipped another trio, this time of Stillpoints, under the entire mess. Not perfect, but it was the best that I had on hand and it untangled the mid bass more than a little. With the speakers now on level with my ears, detail retrieval went up more than a few notches, even as the overall sound thinned out. I eventually ditched all the stands and settled on the speakers directly on the desk, with the Herbies underneath the speakers and the Stillpoints under the DACmini to keep the speakers from shaking the guts of the DAC.
Okay, so that sorted out, the sound is quite good. Matt Costa’s “Cold December”, on Songs We Sing, has some neat stereo effects. On the 2504s, the rhythm guitars are pinned to the left. Vocals and drums are dead center. Lead guitar is off to the right. Bingbingbing! Let’s just say the imaging on these little suckers is dynamic and, well, pretty much awesome. They pass the Cricket Test, though the head-amp is quite a bit better than the speakers in this regard. Tone is good and male vocals like Gary Jules’ stripped-down rendition of “Mad World” comes through very convincingly, though Chris Jones’s deep burr on Roadhouses & Automobiles needs more extension to achieve its full texture. Not surprisingly, bass is pretty much on holiday (duh), but sitting right on the desk, it’s better than you’d think. Of course, should that prove insufficient, that is why subwoofers are made — if you have to have bass at the desk, you know what to do.
Desktop listening is all about compromises. You give up a little here, get a little there. What you give up with the CEntrance Audiophile Desktop is bass, that’s clear and totally unavoidable. Moving the speakers onto the desk gets some of that back, but at the expense of clarity and detail. Properly isolated, we’re now back in audiophile land, with oodles of detail, treble extension and coherence. Nice desktop system, there CEntrance!