After hearing the prototype of the Børresen X3 loudspeakers at last year’s Capital Audiofest, I’ve been more than mildly curious to give this little rascal a real test drive. Given my repeated exposure to the X3, at several shows over the last nine months, and during my visit to the Audio Group Denmark factory in Aalborg last January, it has continued to impress me with its exceptional level of performance given its comparative affordability.
Words and Photos by Greg Weaver
Now, I’m not suggesting that with a retail of $11,000 that the X3 is readily affordable to the typical music lover. But this IS a very competitive price range, one that includes some well-regarded loudspeakers such as the Audio Solutions Figaro L, the Audiovector R3 Arreté, the Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo, the Focal Kanta No. 2 or Sopra No. 1, the GoldenEar Technology Triton Reference, the Legacy Audio Focus SE, the MartinLogan Impression ESL 11A, the MBL 126, the Sonus faber Olympica Nova III or Maxima Amator, and the Vandersteen Treo CT, to name just a few. Yet when compared to any of these other fine-performing loudspeakers, one is simply forced to acknowledge the X3’s outstanding accomplishments.
I was quite pleased to enjoy a visit from my friend and colleague, Peter Hansen, Audio Group Denmark’s North American Sales Manager, as he dropped by my home on April 19th, the Wednesday immediately following AXPONA 2023. We quickly unloaded his demo pair of Børresen X3 loudspeakers, schlepped them down my stairs, and into my dedicated reference music room, which you may see HERE.
Because of the mandatory settling time required after the installation of the new CenterStage2 footers my reference Von Schweikert Audio ULTRA 9s had just undergone the previous day, they could not be relocated as yet. And while this denied the Børresen X3 loudspeakers optimal placement, Peter was happy to demonstrate just how versatile they were, and how easily they could be integrated into any room. Even in this necessarily exaggerated, hyper-wide placement, Peter started fine-tuning their placement and had them dialed-in in practically no time!
Now, he had also brought along several boxes full of Ansuz power products as well, products such as a variety of cables, power distribution systems, networking devices, and noise control and isolation products, the first of which we implemented were the Ansuz Speakz A2 speaker cables ($4,600/2 meter pair). Don’t fret, I’ll be discussing more of these items, and their subsequent influences, in more detail as we move further on into this remarkable audition.
Inside the Børresen X3 Loudspeakers
Just what makes the Børresen X3 loudspeakers so unique? First, you must understand that the X series of loudspeakers from Børresen don’t just offer a new, more affordable point of entry into the Børresen loudspeaker lineup, they represent the applied trickle-down summation of the technology, experience, and knowledge Michael and AGD have accrued over the years in the process of creating the M, 0 and Z-series of loudspeakers. Standing a svelte fifty-and-three-quarter inches tall, thirteen-and-one-half-inches wide, and some twenty-three-and-three-quarter-inches deep (or 129 x 34.5 x 60.7 cm), weighing in at 121 pounds (or 55 kg), the faceplate of the speaker sweeps back gently from the floor to its pinnacle. As well as offering a mechanical solution to driver and time alignment, this is – to my eyes – an extremely appealing aesthetic.
This sexy-looking enclosure is fabricated from a heavily braced composite wood material, one chosen to help eliminate distortion by reducing mechanical influences, especially in combating hysteresis, which can be described as the mechanical lag between the input and output in a system caused by a change in direction. Hysteresis of magnetic materials is seen when a varying magnetizing signal is applied, and the resulting magnetism that is created follows the applied signal, but with a delay.
The bass section consists of six carefully calibrated and tuned bass reflex ports, the whole enclosure is reinforced with carbon fiber inserts, and the rear of the tweeter is vented to compensate for the fluctuation of air pressure that builds up behind the proprietary Børresen ribbon driver. They are available in either a black or white piano lacquer finish.
The tweeter membrane used for the X3 (and all of the X Series, for that matter) is identical in design to that used in every other Børresen loudspeaker, right on up to the $550,000 per pair M6! And while they all use an extremely low moving mass ribbon, one weighing just one one-hundredth of a gram (0.01 gram!), in the X Series, the motor is subjected to a slight reduction of both its magnet and iron mass. While operating from about 2.5 kHz upwards, while this smaller motor yields a slightly lower efficiency, 90 dB in this alignment rather than the 94 dB achieved with the standard motor assembly, it is still an exceedingly efficient and blisteringly fast driver.
Both the four-and-a-half-inch midrange and the two four-and-a-half-inch bass drivers use what is known as the X series membrane, a result of three skinned layers laminated into a single diaphragm: two layers of spread carbon fiber, with a 4mm sandwich core of Nomex honeycombed material laminated between them. “Spread tow” refers to the spreading of the individual fibers into a thinner, flatter dimension. For example, a 5-mm wide, high-strength carbon fiber tow is spread into a 25-mm wide tape.
Børresen asserts that the use of this spread-tow sandwich creates an incredibly stiff and light cone which is not only uniform in mass, but due to the “tow” orientation, the radial stiffness is spread evenly over the entire surface area such that a single order membrane resonance is all but eliminated. This unique Børresen membrane yields an incredibly flat response with astonishingly reduced resonance. This construction further paved the way for them to build a smaller, lighter magnetic motor system, yet still offers both exceptional transparency and optimized costs.
This composite layer diaphragm design, while not entirely dissimilar to that used by several other loudspeaker manufacturers, IS unique to Børresen in that they do not outsource any of their construction processes. The stringent technological requirements necessitated they design, develop, and assemble all driver components in-house, in their Aalborg factory.
The midrange and bass driver magnet motor systems employ double copper caps on the pole rings to elevate its magnetic flux and lower its electrical inductance, an adaptation originally developed for the Børresen Z-series. According to Børresen, this approach produces a novel response to flux changes, offering a better counter-effect from these copper rings, yielding a flatter inductance curve, and lowering the overall electromagnetic resonance. They suggest that this lower inductance also generates fewer spikes in the impedance curve, further resulting in a lower resistive load on the amplifier.
Finally, its parallel crossover scheme, employing many of the same high-quality components used for the Z Series dividing network, helps to minimize its self-resonance while providing a very mechanically stable crossover.
Set-Up & Sound
So, what does all of this advanced technology and effort, when focused on such an affordable, attractive, and compact package, accomplish? Keep in mind, these remarkable little Børresen X3 loudspeakers and Ansuz speaker cables were being asked to take on the role of fronting my reference system, in essence, replacing over a quarter of a million bucks worth of speakers and cables! Though these products sell for seventeen times less than the gear they replaced, this still left some half a million dollar’s worth of sources, electronics, and cables in front of them for this audition! If you are interested, you may see my reference system at my website HERE, but Peter and I jokingly thought about referring to this as the five-hundred and eleven thousand dollar speaker review.
At first blush, before ANY settle time, and while these Børresen X3 loudspeakers had seen plenty of play time at shows and dealers, they had JUST landed in my system, these most affordable speakers from the Børresen loudspeaker line up, had absolutely NO BUSINESS sounding this bloody excellent! Bass was solid, and with room reinforcement given their penchant to install very close to the side walls, subjectively reaching down into the low 30 Hz range – with authority. They presented remarkably substantial weight and heft with tracks like “No Sanctuary Here,” by Chris Jones from his 2003 Roadhouses & Automobiles release.
Further, I was not expecting the composure with which they could convey gross dynamic scaling, not that they were flawless in this regard. But given this modest driver compliment, unless really taxed, they were able to pull off a convincingly honest sense of macrodynamic involvement. Finally, their ability to render low-frequency impact and speed was utterly impressive. The visceral assault on your senses throughout “L’Daddy” from James Newton Howard’s James Newton Howard & Friends was breathtaking. Their ability to so distinctly and powerfully articulate the music’s “power” range, which J. Gordon Holt first labeled the bandwidth from 200 to 800Hz, was simply frightening for their asking price.
Their midrange performance often bordered on magical, in terms of their tonal characteristics, their textural complexity, and their ability to convey relevant musical detail. Voices, from David Bowie’s rich, deep, baritone crooning, through Rickie Lee Jones’s wily, expressive soprano voice, so rife with its force and charm, to the hypnotic sound of the blended, yet clearly distinguishable voices of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, are all reproduced with equally chilling body, intelligibility, and power. Challenging instruments like piano and violin are rendered with an amazingly realistic degree of dynamics, texture, and timbre.
One of my favorite reference piano pieces is Serge Rachmaninoff’s, “Piano Concerto No. 3,” as performed by my friend and superbly accomplished pianist, George Vatchnadze. Here, the Børresen X3 loudspeakers not only treated me to an unexpectedly refined degree of expression, but given their unassuming lineage and the obvious limitations that should entail, the extent to which they were able to lucidly expose and convey the remarkable hues, shades, and power that George’s performance can alternately elicit from his piano was nothing short of remarkable!
Moving into the upper-frequency regions with the X3, this remarkable tweeter can render a delicately detailed, clearly resolute, and remarkably open performance, delivering that magical sense of sparkle and shimmer. In absolute terms, while this tweeter may not achieve the full measure of effortlessness and extension possible from those of today’s finest loudspeaker offerings, it is indisputably encroaching on such achievements. It’s a stirring overachiever that never gets harsh or shows any glare or edge, unless those properties either exist in the recording, or it is overdriven. While the X3 is no slouch in its ability to create a convincingly solid, three-dimensional soundstage, or to regenerate a well-accomplished impression of instrumental placement and size, in my installation, because of the necessary wider-than-optimal placement, it was somewhat shallow, front to back, and limited in its vertical corporality. This is hardly a serious consideration, especially given its compromised placement here, its size and price, and the ridiculously extensive list of its other exceptional attributes.
Børresen X3 and Ansuz
When we started to dabble with the Ansuz add-ons, things got better – and better – and then better still. Installing a set of eight Darkz S2T adjustable resonance control footers, one under each the speakers four plinth footers, ($920 each, for a total of $7,360), yielded an utterly unreal advance in performance. The immediate improvements in microdynamic nuance, tonal color authenticity, and overall resolve were among the greatest single advances we experienced as we applied the entire, diverse Ansuz toolbox.
Next up, Peter inserted one of the Sparkz TC3 noise control devices, ($1,200), into my dedicated 20 Amp front AC entrance – for my amplification, and we could clearly recognize a further reduction of noise that allowed for an even better degree of articulation. The Mainz8 A3 Power Distributor ($3,700) using a Mainz A2 power cable ($2,300/1 meter), and Power Switch D2 Ethernet Switch ($6,600), and three of their Digital Ethernet A2 network cables ($1,200/1 meter, for another $,3,600), came next, along with a second Sparkz TC3 noise control device installed in the A3 Power Distributor, ($1,200), and this brought yet another advance in the level of dark quietness that was inescapable.
When he installed a pair of Sortz Ethernet noise control devices ($840 each, for $1,680), in the unused ethernet ports of both my Ideon Absolute Stream server ($20,000) and Absolute Epsilon DAC ($47,000), and three of the Sortz RCA noise control devices (also $840 each, for a $2,520 total) to the unused single-ended inputs on each of my Audionet MAX monoblocks, and to an open single-ended source input on my Audionet Pre G2 linestage, though I had expected them to afford an obvious improvement, I was pleasantly surprised by just how bloody effective they were. While all these Ansuz products added nearly $38,000 to the overall system total, suffice it to say that we enjoyed yet another step closer to a sense of total blackness, or a darkening of the silence behind which all the music was able to emanate, a clear lowering of the noise floor, allowing for elevated clarity, articulation, and resolution, with every added Ansuz option. While I will suggest that some are much more apparent and effective than others, they ALL made a clear difference.
Børresen X3 Loudspeakers Conclusion
If you haven’t gathered by this point what a staggeringly good loudspeaker the Børresen X3 is, let me put aside any further subtleties. This speaker not only offers excellent performance, soaring well above its loss-leader asking price, but it also offers exceptional value! If AGD had placed a twenty-two, or even a twenty-five-thousand-dollar MSRP on the Børresen X3 loudspeakers, I wouldn’t bat an eye at those asking prices. This speaker is THAT good.
It may be the last speaker most burgeoning music lover/audiophiles will ever need. On the other hand, if you’re anywhere near as fanatical as me, they just may be your gateway to a further journey into the hyper-audio realm. Bravo, AGD. I wonder if my wife would be upset if I got a pair for our living room?