Reviewers are prone to wax poetic about speakers they like, often saying they “present a clear window to the music.” Not many transducers literally are a clear pane of glass, though. The new Clara from Las Vegas-based LRE Audio is one intriguing exception.
LRE owner Jim Suhre was demonstrating his first pair of Claras at the 2014 California Audio Show. The floorstanders certainly looked like no other, integrating a wooden base that held the woofers with a tower constructed of glass on all four sides. The midrange and tweeter were front-firing, mounted directly on the glass, and the tower was vented with both a hole cut out of the back and an open top covered with a grill.
“Glass is nine times as dense as wood,” said Suhre, who saw the quizzical look on my face and started explaining even before I’d had the chance to ask the question.
Suhre, who has a background in acoustical engineering, experimented with various materials while developing the speakers over a two-year period. “When I switched to glass, it made a big difference,” he said.
Other designers might have stopped there, believing they had their marketing hook, but Suhre was after something more than an elegant-looking speaker. He was determined to find a way to produce a sound that enveloped the listener like a multichannel rig, yet had the lower distortion and transient response of a stereo system.
By sealing off two 12-inch woofers in their own cabinet, Suhre got the bass response he wanted. Then, he got the idea of putting both a port in the back of the glass tower and leaving the top – which is 56 inches from the floor – open.
“The back wave is directed toward the ceiling and then the walls, cancelling the front wave as it approaches,” he said. “This prevents reflections and excitation of room resonances. All that’s left is what’s contained in the source material.”
The speaker’s strong points seemed to be a wide and deep soundstage, as well as good off-axis response. Moving around from the room’s center “sweet spot” chair to other locations, I heard less change in the sound than I am accustomed to with many speakers. You definitely could disconnect the vise from the back of your listening chair with the Clara.
Bass response was nimble and without bloat. It didn’t seem to plumb the same depths as the best subwoofers, but was tuneful.
The tradeoff for the wrap-around sound effect seemed to be some slight smearing and loss of microdynamics. I suspect the Claras would really only sound their best with careful placement and attention to room acoustics. As it was at the Westin they were battling a small room, low ceiling, close sidewalls and a large glass window not far behind them. All of that may have created more reflections than even the carefully designed Claras could handle. It would be fun to hear them in a more controlled setting.
The striking looks of the LRE Clara and reasonable pricing did seem to be turning heads. By the time I arrived mid-show, Suhre already had sold a pair. There’s certainly not much like them anywhere else. That much is clear.