A friend of mine has this to say about our little enterprise;
“It’s not very often that you find a little gem in your home town. It’s even less often that those little gems are at the bleeding-edge of innovation in their respective markets. But that is exactly the case with Brighton company, Alacrity Audio. Born of an agreement between friends in 2011, Alacrity Audio is quickly gaining recognition for their outstanding loudspeakers.
I must admit that I’ve been following this company for some time now; from their first appearance in the local press in 2010, through their stellar performance at Brighton’s Audio World 14, all the way up to the launch of their Dundee6 floorstander (I got my competition entry in, please let it be me!!!).
I actually met their designer, Jon Carroll, for the first time at Brighton Music Conference. They had a small stand instead of a room, and it was difficult to talk, so I got in touch through their website a few weeks later. Jon answered the next day and I mentioned I was interested in a listen of his loudspeakers. We made an appointment, and a few days later, I found myself at their rather plain address. The welcome though was very friendly, and the coffee was excellent. Sitting down in a room that would’ve resembled Tesla’s conservatory, I asked Jon about the history of the company. Apparently, he’d been building these speakers for years. When he arrived in Brighton in 2009, however, interest amongst his friends in the sound-quality of the speakers he had at the time was such that he was persuaded to go ‘mainstream’ and put them into full production.
“They’re based on a new technology” he says. “Instead of getting rid of Standing Waves, my speakers make them all the time, at every frequency.”
I asked; doesn’t that require a constantly changing volume, like in a slide trombone?
He smiled at this, and broke into an explanation that was way above my pay-grade. Apparently dynamically changing to suit the input signal without actually physically adapting to the signal? Sounds bizarre, but he’s got a UK Granted patent certificate to prove it. So, on with the listening.
There was a pair of small speakers on stands when I arrived. I recognised the style as being their Caterthun6 loudspeaker, but I’d never heard these in action. They retail at around the two and a half thousand UKP mark, depending on finish. My first thought on seeing them so close to the back wall was that they were in storage, and I’d arrived a little too early, but Jon fired them up without re-positioning them. Nothing much to report at first; vocals clear, guitar sounds good and ‘electric-guitary’, and stereo imaging is very precise. And smooth. So, they’re growing on me, with good dynamic drums and better, more consistent bass than I can remember hearing in any loudspeakers. In fact, the consistency of SPL as the bassists explore different ends of the fret-board is amazing. No ‘lumpyness’ or favouring of one set or band of tones or notes over another.
And that is when ‘tidied-away’, against the wall, which would stop my girlfriend from moaning about her number one complaint; the four feet of clear space I demand round my speakers at home. I’m starting to get it. And WOW, the Bass. Sometimes, out of nowhere, it just thumps you, or GROWLS. It made my heart skip, and I felt slightly giddy.
Then out came the Caterthun8s I’d heard at the hifi show and BMC. But, in the more ideal environment of a true domestic setting, and as usual, tucked against the wall, there is definitely clear improvements to be had; the bass went slightly deeper, the mids were slightly clearer and the stereo image was wider, but these ‘slight’ comments reveal nothing of the whole experience. I’ve hear ’10 grand’ speakers that don’t come anywhere near the Caterthun6s. The Caterthun8s are at least twice as good as the Caterthun6s, but do cost a grand more than the Caterthun6s at approx 3500UKP, depending on finish.
As he was packing up the Caterthun8s with their “I-want-to-be-invisible” English Oak and satin black trim, I asked him why there was no ‘bling’ to excite the eye like they do the ear.
“They’re the audio part of the AV system” he says. ” ‘Don’t look at me, look at the screen!!! ‘ “, he laughs. I see what he means. You can hear where the extra money goes. The Caterthun6s are really very, very good, with the best combination of sweetness, clarity and outright SLAM I’ve ever heard at the price, but the Caterthun8s take that up to another level; they turn it up to 12!
Seeing evidence of electrical work all around us, but no sign of paint or woodwork, I asked Jon about his set-up as he was packing away the Caterthun8s.
“We’re all Brighton based” he replied. “The cabinets are produced near the Marina, paint or lacquer can be sprayed in Portslade. Our metal-work is produced in Hove and it all comes here for final assembly. Think “LOCAL”!!!” he exclaims from behind his infectious grin.
Then we’re on to the Dundee floor standers. This was the bit I’d been looking forward to. Smaller than I was expecting, they weren’t pulled out into the room like a comparably sized B+W CM8. No no no no no, these were once again tucked close to the back wall.
I don’t know what to say. I stopped taking notes. There was only the music. Do you know that moment of free-fall, when your whole past-life opens up before you in an attempt to find something in your past experience that is similar to this new event that has never been experienced by yourself before? It was exactly like that! The soother, warmer midrange and tops was fundamentally founded on a rock-solid bass (!) of Reality. How how how? How do you make speakers sound like that without a Graphic Equaliser and a huge sub-woofer unit? The bass didn’t fill the room, it WAS the room, and the voices and percussions floated on a sea of velvety smooth but infinitely deep bass.
Breath-taking, but retailing at circa four and a half thousand pounds, I’m going to have to trade in my current system, my car, and maybe my girlfriend…
But these are the Dundee6s, and if I’ve learned anything about Alacrity Audio, they always seem to have a trick up their sleeves. I mentioned this as I downed the last of my coffee, with a smidgen of pride in my home-town, and was surprised to see Jon become very coy. I asked what, and he asked: “Have you got another five minutes?”. Curiosity piqued, I watch him pack the Dundee6s away and return with some smaller floorstanders.
All I can say was that the bass was like the Dundee6s, but the mids were more like the Caterthun8s. And this was with a drive unit that was smaller than either them. I reckon you’re going to ‘hear’ a lot about this speaker in the next year. They’re just what I need in my tiny flat, that’s for sure. But you have to wait until September 2015 to find out more.
Alacrity Audio’s speakers are available for demonstration be appointment, plus you may be able to get a home-demo out of them. Just ask. Oh, and if you do go ‘direct’, don’t forget to check for ex-demo bargains.