LOUDSPEAKERS

Loudspeakers are the most important part of the system. This is because they have the greatest influence on what the final sound is like and also because there are very few truly great loudspeakers in existence. Now that you can get a great sounding DAC or Amplifier for a fairly modest outlay, speakers should receive the largest share of the budget.

Loudspeakers are very difficult to design and create. Most of them make glaring mistakes. These range from the very sloppy amateur kind, like you can hear the tweeter sticking out, bass that is ‘subwoofer like’ with no detail or transparency, or even a cabinet boxiness God forbid, to the subtler type like they are not phase correct, not truly linear in response or they are a touch sterile or clinical sounding. Most loudspeakers ultimately still have residual noise in them – it takes nothing short of an engineering miracle to iron it all out – and to the human ear this just makes them sound wrong or unnatural.

I am very fussy when it comes to speakers. It has taken me 10 years to assemble the four brands I have. Really good loudspeakers are extremely difficult to design and manufacture and so they are unavoidably very expensive. Let’s go through my range and explain how they relate to one another.

AVALON

The Avalon sound has always been traditionally defined by a wide and deep 3d openness with exceptional imaging, beautiful rich tonal colours and an unforced performance that is highly expressive and extremely refined. The music rather than the detail, the coherence of sound as opposed to it’s separate parts. The new PM “performance monitor” range build on all those Avalon strengths but add speed, precision and a greater degree of focus to proceedings. The PM range then heralds a new era for the Colorado based company, bringing them into the modern era and right back to the top 1% of speaker manufacturers.

The entry ‘Idea’ is actually our lowest cost speaker. Over the years it has won many hearts and transitioned many customers into a proper High-end sound. A tiny inconspicuous floorstander, it possesses all the Avalon hallmarks and renders a beautifully open and natural sound into the room. After the Idea, the PM1 might have become one of the most common choices here at Lotus. It still comes in a surprisingly compact package that is so well suited to UK homes, and with added weight, greater neutrality and insight, it is a big step on from the Idea.

Moving up the range the PM2 and PM3 bring even greater levels of scale, weight, resolution and out and out coherency. The PM2 is finely articulate and incisive in the treble with a very captivating midrange and the 3 arguably a more traditional Avalon balance with deep deep bass and an extraordinarily unflustered and stable presentation even at very loud volumes. Finally the Saga, will do justice to the loftiest of systems and the biggest of rooms. When you look back over the last 3 decades the Avalon range is arguably now at its most staunch and most compelling; it is the very best time now to engage with this brand.

VIMBERG

Designed by Jorn Janczak and made in the Tidal factory, the temptation is to view Vimberg as a low cost Tidal. In a way that does apply – they cannot do what a Tidal can – and part of Jorn’s idea was to make the Tidal level of loudspeaker available to a much wider audience at far lower cost. But this viewpoint is to miss the observation that when you reduce a Tidal speaker by 5 or 10% of its performance level, so high is the starting point that you are still left with a transducer whose ability will leave other rival manufacturers scratching their heads in bewilderment.

A Vimberg is still operating at a level of resolve and transparency that is difficult or even impossible to find elsewhere in its price bracket. A Vimberg just sounds so naturally right and so utterly composed. Beautifully linear, extremely refined and open, and with a highly generous helping of weight and scale they sound fuller and a little rounder than an Avalon. They also are remarkably forgiving both of upstream equipment and room acoustics or size, and just seem to sound quite wonderful no matter what the system or space.

The Amea standmount has recently picked up some stellar reviews and has arguably set a new bar for this type of speaker. The Mino is the model for most people whilst the larger Tonda will move more air in larger spaces. Each speaker has a diamond tweeter option so there is something to suit everyone. ‘Is that the price for just one or both loudspeakers’ exclaimed one onlooker at the launch event at the Munich High-end show in 2018; despite a price rise since launch, this is a range of speakers that offer outstanding value for money.

ROCKPORT

Rockport Technologies are the newest loudspeaker manufacturer to join the Lotus fold. This alluring boutique outfit from Maine USA is a brand who have been on my wishlist for many years now though so it’s only really by accident that that are a tad late to the party. As a result of me approaching them in early 2020 they are now committed to a new and strong presence here in the UK and are available for the first time where they belong here at Lotus Hifi.

A Rockport is an end product that is the result of so much passion, hard work and ingenuity, the produce of a group of master craftsmen and engineers, a beautifully bespoke loudspeaker that has been quality controlled to the nth degree and realised using some exceptional machining resources and ingenious construction techniques. Moulded monocoque enclosures, aluminium sub baffles, epoxy core material to bond successive cabinet shells, carbon fibre driver skins, drivers designed from the ground up, epoxy encapsulated crossovers featuring custom designed capacitors and inductors – this is a company who clearly care very deeply about what they are doing and are only really interested in being the very best.

They have a neat four model lineup starting with the compact £31,000 Atria II and ending with their flagship Lyra. All models are highly coherent with the same family presentation and strengths. This is characterised by exceptional neutrality, superb imaging and soundstaging and a refined and rich treble. The Rockport standout hallmarks have to be their famed sense of naturalness  and amazing bass performance with an exemplary degree of transparency and articulation in the lower octaves.

Weighty, rich, deep propulsive bass and a simply gorgeous tonality, Rockports are an utterly addictive experience and designed and finished in the way they are, are always a very special purchase indeed.

TIDAL

Tidal loudspeakers are truly the stuff of legend. The most incredible deeply lacquered finish, the sumptuous woods, the best Accuton drivers, the very best crossover electronics, they are really something special to behold in the flesh.

The starting model is the £41,000 Piano Diacera and then there are 3 more current models, Contriva, Agoria 2, Akira, until you get the flagship one of a kind, 7.5 foot tall La Assoluta, a true state of the art half a million pound product which is unsurpassed as far as loudspeaker design goes.

Tidal Audio factory visit

We have many customers mixing Tidals in all sorts of systems but they do prefer to be in a very good setup, neutral with high transparency and noise reduced in all nooks and crannies. In an all Tidal system they can the fully exercise all their purity and resolve and a remarkable thing it is too.

Pride of ownership with a Tidal loudspeaker is something very special. Like buying a Rolls Royce or a Saville Row tailored suit, it is a purchase that brings immense joy, not just when it is a delivering beautiful music, but also purely by the act of it just being in your possession. For many, it is a purchase of a lifetime, something unique and treasured that will endure forever.

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