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RMAF 2013: Newcomers (LRE, Soundfield)

CT6A1778 Both of these companies each deserve their own post. It might be completely self serving of me to lump them together. On the other hand, here we have two new speaker companies making affordable products. That's big enough news. The fact that each company is, in its own way, trying to advance the state of the art is even more impressive. So, when a theme like that presents itself, you'll have to forgive me for taking advantage of it.

LRE

I met Jim Surhe when he debuted his Fourier speakers at this year’s California Audio Show. I was impressed by his engineering chops, but I was more impressed that a system with such big-box components and such a compromised setup could offer such a heaping amount of sound.

Here at RMAF, the gear was the same but the setup was significantly less compromised. Jim still used an Oppo disc spinner and a Yamaha home theater receiver, but he turned off the Yammie’s internal room correction and increased the physical distance between his speakers. This meant that you could actually hear more of what the speaker could do.

What the speaker can do, it turns out, is quite a lot for its $1500 price point.

Its first trick is an almost complete absence of any cabinet coloration. The Fourier speaker basically hits open-baffle territory there. That trick gets more impressive when you learn that these are designed to be shoved right up against a wall.

Sound staging capability seemed price appropriate, but the bass out of these things still seemed to be a magic trick. The $1500 price buys you dual, active 12″ drivers handling everything below 100hz. Frankly, I would expect a bit of fart-box noise at this price. Instead, you have a tuneful, realistic, well integrated bass that shows the same magic lack of any box coloration.

What you don’t get for $1500 is top shelf fit and finish. That’s a trade a lot of people (like me) are willing to make.

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Soundfield Audio

AJ from Soundfield made the trek from Florida with two pairs of his speakers. Where LRE’s Jim Suhre seems to be on a mission to erase cabinet coloration, AJ seems hell bent on proving that your current system has wimpy, wimpy dynamics.

The big noise in the room was made by the floor standing Variable Soundfield Tower 1 ($3500), which is fairly well festooned with drivers. I’m not quite sure how AJ shoehorned horn loaded ribbon tweeters, horn loaded planar midranges, a couple of front firing 8″ midwoofers, a rear-firing supertweeter, and a couple of active 12″ bass drivers into each 10″ wide box, but he did it. And, yes, these things energized the room.

I was more impressed, though, with the $2400 Monitor 2 Active speaker. That’s just a two way standmount from the outside. It turns out that the bass driver also gets its own power, so this is a two way standmount with a practical efficiency of 101db and a flat 8 ohm impedance.

Say it with me now: “TUBES.”

The market has been filled with affordable tube amps for years, but finding a price-appropriate speaker that would let them work well has been a bit of a challenge. There was always Fostex, but full range drivers aren’t everyone’s favorite. Between the limited bandwidth and the tight sweet spot (due to treble beaming), the full range option was often more for the cultist than the everyman.

The M2A speaker? Everyman.

The sweet spot was simply enormous. The tone didn’t seem overly colored. And the dynamics were… well… let’s just say that I had a hard time believing that I was listening to a small standmount.

Soundfield seems to have filled a hole in the market in a very appealing way.

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