Review: The Dundee 5
Our Designer’s first impressions;
There comes a moment in everyone’s hifi life, a defining moment, when they acquire an acoustic component that absolutely re-writes their expectations of their music collection, and they find themselves going through old favourite music, seeking out the newly revealed details, thinking “Wow, what was that?”.
I’ve just had one with a new loudspeaker we have under development. Where the Dundee6 pushed me to explore new music and sounds during it’s development and proving period, the new one has opened my eyes to the past, and the opportunity to release new and unheard-of levels of detail from very familiar music. I realised it while playing New Model Army’s Thunder and Consolation, from 1989. A well loved and much played album, it is now full of sounds that are surprising and unfamiliar to me, while at the same time the familiar elements are presented in surprising and unfamiliar detail.
The first track (I Love The World) starts slowly, with perfectly defined cymbals emerging from ‘the depths’ to swirl through the sound stage, along with the plucking of ‘edgy’ guitars. But as Jullian Sullivan starts his vocals, a slight quiver to his voice easilly rendered by these new speakers and clearly front and center of the mix, he is joined by a rhythm, but I can’t say played on what instrument. I’d always assumed it was an electric guitar, but now I’m not sure. Or rather, I’m sure it’s not! What I am sure of, however, is the crackling emotion in Jullian’s voice and the intimately close microphone setup.
Bass guitar and bass drum are so well separated and discerned by these speakers. The drummer, Robert Heaton, is belting that bass drum in a really complicated rhythm that is inhumanly fast. I can feel the pressure waves. It’s so realistic, I just want to play it over and over.
The acoustic guitars at the start of track two are incredibly crisp and well defined, and seem etched into the air. Again, Jullian’s voice is clear, crisp and ‘intimate’; every breath, every inflection and every bit of spittle is revealed in full glory. The bassist is very active, like Lemmy in Hawkwind, doing “something interesting in ‘D’ “. Every string is revealed with full power and authority. I want to turn the system up even more, see how far I can go (but I already know; as far as I want until the police arrive…:-)
Ah, track three, and I know now that the unidentified instrument in track1 was a guitar synth (or maybe just a synth?). The bass drum is amazing again, pummeling me in the chest. It’s like I’m sat in front of a real kick-drum.
All the elements of the mix are so well separated, yet so cohesively presented.
Even the usually bleak “Family” (track 4) grabbed my full attention, with the drum-kit almost naked against the vocals; the speakers perfectly positioning every drum skin and every cymbal, placing them dancing round the vocals. And where did that cheeky tambourine come from? I’ve never heard that before. Completely and clearly separate from the rest of the percussion, it holds it’s own place in the mix without standing out from the mix.
How could I miss that for 20+ years?
It’s the way these new speakers reveal details that really surprises me. And I mean ‘reveal’, as opposed to ‘dig’ or ‘project’ or ‘focus-on’; it’s an effortless presentation, as if the speakers are surprised that no other speaker has done that before because it comes so naturally to them.
And the layering of the over-dubs is equally charming and succinct.
I actually wrote “Oh, my” about track five in my notes. The introduction starts with a thunderstorm fading in, complete with rain and thunder. The rain sounds stunning, as you can clearly hear distant rain and near-field rain, as if standing at an open door. But if recorded at an open door, you’d need two mics to get that effect, one on a boom and one sat on the doorstep. But it’s in STEREO, so did they use FOUR microphones? Because the thunder is spatially present in the rain, definitely not a separate audio track!
I always loved this album, but I never knew it was THIS good.
Then the steel string acoustic guitar is caressed most expertly, and the way it sits so easily on the ear makes me shiver. Sawmill Studios, in Cornwall, is famous for this ‘sound’ in their recordings, being chosen for seminal albums by the likes of John Martyn and the Stone Roses, amongst others. It’s the closest I’ve ever heard to an actual Neve mixing desk. Tom Dowd (“Layla”, E. Clapton, et al) was MC in the studio for the duration as well, haha, almost a ‘perfect storm’; a combination that brought the best out of all present.
Hmm, I’m absolutely falling in love with this album again, but for completely different reasons than the first time. And again, more subtle over-dubs (which I had previously assumed to be a Chorus effect) resolve themselves into individual figures behind the front-most vocals. I can even hear the echo around a snare-drum that is right in the middle of the mix. And again, the emotional power behind the enunciation of the lyrics is so strongly conveyed by these new speakers. It seems to by-pass the ears and go straight through to the heart. It’s almost overwhelming.
Reviews: The Dundee 6
Alacrity Audio Dundee 6 loudspeaker
by Alan Sircom, HiFi+, Issue 121
There’s a need for people to step beyond the norm, even if ‘normal’ works for most people. If no one were willing to step beyond the norm, we would still be hunter-gatherers living on the plains. Progress happens by people unwilling to settle for the norm, and although many of such people end up developing things that never make the grade, we need such people to challenge the status quo. So it is with Alacrity Audio.
Alacrity’s first loudspeaker was the Caterthun 6, a standmount typo-in-waiting. The 6 was quickly followed by a scaled-up Caterthun 8, designed for larger rooms. The Dundee 6 is the brand’s first floorstander, a tall and thin two-way loudspeaker featuring a ¼-wave transmission line, but more on this later. All of these designs work to Alacrity’s novel Acoustic Induction concept as applied to the bass driver.
Acoustic Induction is a novel cabinet loading technique. A loudspeaker cabinet has a natural resonant frequency, typically somewhere around the 80Hz-150Hz region. At this point, the walls of the cabinet sing along with the output of the bass driver. There’s not much you can do about this; the physical dimensions of the cabinet and the material from which the cabinet is made largely govern the resonant properties of the cabinet. It’s possible to move that resonance into less harmful parts of the frequency range (this is one of the reasons thin-walled ply BBC cabinets were coated with bitumen, and one of the reasons companies use more organic cabinet shapes and materials like Corian in place of MDF, for cabinet construction), but Alacrity claims to address the problem at source by loading the cabinet, thereby “converting the energy into a standing wave that does not permit the bass units to significantly move, while at the same time physically out-performing the bass units to which it is coupled.” Alacrity further claims this novel principle makes the cabinet behave more like a coil than a capacitor in an electrical circuit, hence the name ‘Acoustic Inductor’, resulting in the designer coining the term ‘acoustic back-EMF’ in the process.
Back to that transmission line; in most systems, the line itself is terminated with a large foam bung at the exit point. This is deliberate, because otherwise the transmission line labyrinth acts as (more accurately – is) a folded horn. However, even a cursory glance at the rear of the loudspeaker shows an exit point for that transmission line completely free from foam bungs. Once again this comes down to that Acoustic Induction loading, which is claimed to act as a 36dB/octave filter, and as a result means there’s no energy release from the rear exit point at the top of the cabinet. In fairness, there’s no air pulses seeming to emit from that letter-box exit point and if you cram it with bubble-wrap, sweaters, spare bits of acoustic foam, little animals, or any other temporary structure designed to stop a port from working, it has no effect on the tonal balance of the loudspeaker whatsoever. But, this runs counter to the received wisdom of loudspeaker design, and either Alacrity’s designer Jon Carroll is right and the received wisdom needs a reworking, or he’s built a labyrinth for no real reason into his new flagship loudspeaker.
The concept of ‘acoustic inductance’ is reasonably well documented, but broadly speaking applies to state-of-the-art room acoustics design, and is predicated on a lot of graduate-level mathematics. However, the Acoustic Induction concept underpinning Alacrity’s design ideas does not entirely fit into the current loudspeaker design models. So, you either take this concept as read and go with the Alacrity flow, or dismiss Alacrity’s Acoustic Induction (and the loudspeakers) as stuff and nonsense, almost without needing to listen.
Enough of the theory, the loudspeaker itself is a tall, slimline design, resting on a metal floor plate. It’s a two-way design, with a 160mm mid-bass unit sitting above a 20mm soft-dome tweeter. Below this is a small patch of acoustic foam, with 32 small pyramids, often used as room treatment in semi-pro studios. At the rear is the aforementioned ‘exit’ at the top of the loudspeaker and a terminal block at the bottom. The loudspeakers come supplied in very solid, wheeled flight cases, and come in a choice of four oiled, real tree veneer finishes as standard, and high-gloss finish on application.
This is a loudspeaker that can work to a close-to-the-wall installation, with a slight toe-in. The comparatively easy 86dB efficiency, eight-ohm load, and 300W RMS power handling suggest a loudspeaker that is nonchalant to its input, where in fact it benefits from careful system matching (think a lot of power, and some character; CH Precision – yes, Devialet – no, Burmester – maybe). In some respects, it shares all these qualities with its little Caterthun brothers.
As suggested, this is not an anodyne, one-size-fits-all loudspeaker. Instead, what it does is build upon the Caterthun’s strengths of deep bass and tonal warmth, while adding a greater degree of soundstaging. Moreover, unlike the Caterthun, which needs to be so close to the wall it’s practically screwed in place, bringing the Dundee 6 out a little (it’s best 10-15cm from the rear wall) opens up the soundstaging still further.
This is a loudspeaker that puts the accent on entertainment. It’s extremely good at portraying and projecting vocals, and the clean, deep bass gives those vocals a sense of being physically in the room instead of floating like a spectre. This applies even to quite light vocal talents; Birdy’s delicate voice on her version of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ from her eponymous 2011 debut [14th Floor] should need no bass reinforcement, but the solidity of the bass helps the piano and voice seem that little bit more real and in the room with you. Her voice has good intonation anyway (in spite of that breathy thing every singer does these days in an attempt to sound ‘emotional’), but the Dundee 6 brings it to the fore. It gives a sense of structure to a sound that can so easily sound too airy and rootless. A similar robust construction to the architecture of the mix seems to apply to many folk, rock, and jazz recordings.
Conscious or not, there’s a distinct tonal link between this loudspeaker and the old Rega ELA loudspeaker of some 20+ years ago. I really liked the ELA, because of its ability to play small-group music with a kind of lithe sense of rightness that I also get from the Dundee 6. And, like the ELA, the Dundee 6 is not the first choice for those who listen predominantly to classical music. Although I don’t hold to the notion that a loudspeaker is ‘best for’ a specific musical genre, the Dundee 6’s strengths play to vocal music and electric instruments, and there are better loudspeakers for classical replay. A lot of that comes down to that tonal warmth; where it adds a sense or richness and body to wailing electric guitars and the kind of controlled depth that makes you realise why Fender called one of its basses the ‘Precision’, that kind of enhancement is not required (and definitely not called for) in classical music. Period instrument recordings can sound more like their modern counterparts on the Dundee 6, which kind of defeats the object of period instruments. Moreover, if you are trying to unravel the complexity of contrapuntal music, the Dundee 6’s ability to layer music in a tonal manner is somewhat limited. Temporally and dynamically, the Dundee 6 has no issue, and this lends itself to more contemporary genres of music, but what I feel should be called ‘tone-smearing’ that works well with contemporary themes, can overwhelm the delicate interplay of melody and harmony in early music. Put simply, it sort of makes Bach sound like Handel, and Handel sound like Philip Glass. This is not an unattractive effect by any standing, and actually works to the music’s benefit with less enmeshed themes, but if your buying trends view Mozart as some up-and-coming whippersnapper, the Dundee 6’s charms will be lost on you.
The loudspeaker world is a broad church, but often that’s forgotten, as there seem to be a lot of ‘me-too’ designs out there. The Alacrity Audio Dundee 6 could never be classed among the ‘me-too’s. It might not be the most analytical, most starkly accurate, or most universal loudspeaker in production, but it is one that is capable of repeatedly pushing your fun button. This is not an everyman loudspeaker by any stretch, but those who like what the Dundee 6 does will struggle to find anything to better it.
And one from
Nick Whetstone at TNT Audio.
I didn’t do many reviews in 2014 due to health problems but I was starting to feel a little better when Alacrity Audio wrote to me asking if I would like to review their latest creation, the Dundee6. As I had particularly liked Alacrity’s other speakers with their innovative design that increases bass depth from smaller drivers, I accepted the offer. Instead of sending the Dundees via a courier, Alacrity delivered them, something that I was very grateful for as it was definitely a two man job to carry them up the stairs to my dedicated auditioning room. It’s not that they are huge speakers, but they they a very solidly built, and come in flight cases that are just as well constructed.
As floor standers go, The Dundee6s are not large although they are quite tall (W x H x D: 1200 x 180 x 300 mm). Because of their comparatively small cross section, they are equipped with heavy metal base-plates into which are screwed four spikes. This arrangement ensures that the Dundees sit very firmly on the floor with no danger of movement. The drivers are arranged with the tweeter below the woofer, and further down the front baffle is a recess containing some sculptured acoustic foam. I don’t doubt that the foam is there for good reason but I feel that it could have been covered with speaker cloth to improve what makes a beautifully constructed speaker look slightly unfinished. The review samples were finished in English oak, but Alacrity can supply other finishes, eg Bird’s Eye Maple, Rosewood, Macassar Ebony, or high-gloss colours. With the speakers placed close to the rear wall, they blend in to even a smaller room, and take up no more space than a small stand mounted speaker on a stand.
As regular TNT-Audio readers may know, I have previously reviewed other speakers from the Alacrity Audio stable, namely the original Caterthuns, the Caterthuns 8’s, and the Caterthun full-range version. The Caterthuns’ ‘claim to fame’ is that they employ a method of extracting far more bass from a small driver/cabinet than is usually possible. With the Dundee6, that method is combined with a 1/4 wave tuned transmission line cabinet that takes the design a stage further.
This is what Alacrity Audio say of the Dundee6:
Because our Acoustic Induction cabinet loading material acts as a 100Hz, 36dB / octave low-pass filter,
we do not have to find a way of absorbing all the mid-range, rear-ward radiation from our bass unit.
Therefore, the bass notes are fast, tight and immediate, with all the weight and extension you might expect
from such a design, plus a whole lot more.
‘Warmth’ is improved, as is the stereo imaging.
And here are technical specifications:
Power Handling: 600 W (300 W RMS)
Sensitivity: 86 dB
Minimum Impedance: 8 Ohms.
W x H x D: 1200 x 180 x 300 mm
Frequency Response: 20 – 60 Hz +6dB max, 100 – 20 KHz +/- 1dB max
Crossover Frequency: Invisible
Connections: 4mm Gold
Bass Port: Rear Transmission line tuned to 32 and 27 Hz
Drivers: LF 16cm Bass Mid / HF 20mm Soft Dome
Finish: Oiled, real wood veneers or high gloss lacquers
Optional Extras: none
Recommended Placement: 10 – 15 cm from rear wall
Recommended Stand; none
Shipping Weight: 45 Kg per loudspeaker, packed
I knew that due to other commitments, I could only have the Dundee6s for a comparatively short spell so I got to work immediately, removing them from the flight cases, screwing in the spikes to the very substantial metal base-plates, and positioning them, as Alacrity had suggested, close to both the side and rear walls.
It was recommended that I place the Dundee6s close to the wall behind them, and close to the side walls. After a bit of experimenting I found the ideal position in my room was with the backs of the cabinets 20 cm from the wall behind them (which put the drivers 52 cm from the wall), and 52 cm between the cabinets and side walls. It was also recommended to bi-wire these speakers, and that’s what I did.
Assisting me in the auditioning of the Dundees was an M2Tech USB DAC (powered by the “Astin Trew Concord). Amplification started with a Yarland M34 valve amplifier and ended with a 55WPC home-built class AB amplifier. All this powered through a “James Audio power conditioner. I used both Audiophile Linux, and Foobar/jPlay on Windows 8 to feed the USB DAC.
The Dundee6s were already well burned in so I was able to get straight down to auditioning them. And as you may expect from a speaker with such a price tag, they were immediately impressive. The bass is the first quality that makes itself noticed (but not in an intrusive manner). It’s prominent, clear, fast, tuneful, and well integrated, and it goes all the way down without diminishing as it does so. It isn’t just bass guitar that becomes more tangible, voices develop a more life-like tone (with more body), and drum kits simply come alive. And the clarity of the bass means that it doesn’t muddle the midrange, so that is crystal clear too. It should also be noted that even at higher volume levels, the bass was so well controlled that I had no issues with room resonances (with the exception of the track ‘Dub Tractor’ from the Talvin Singh album ‘Back to Mine’ that always sounds as though it is going to destroy my room regardless of what it is played through).
I don’t recall hearing the heartbeat at the start of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ sounding not only so clear, but so real. Rock music from the likes of Rory Gallagher, Walter Trout, and John Bonamassa sounded so ‘solid’ and so loud without actually having to play too loud. Leftfield, Deep Forest, and Massive Attack not only sounded ‘deeper’ but also ‘larger’. And that weight of bass does not come at the cost of speed. The Dundee6s sounded fast, no matter what was playing through them.
Scale was another factor that could not be ignored with the Dundee6s. Whether it was tracks from Dadawa’s ‘Sister Drum’, the soundtrack from the film ‘Gladiator’, or some orchestral symphony, the Dundee6s made it sound massive. Individual performers also appeared more life-sized through these speakers. I had always thought that scale must in some way be related to the size of the drivers, but the Dundee6s use only 6 inch woofers that turned my theory of scale, and bass output, on its head.
At this stage I should also say that in my opinion, the Dundee6s, rated at only 86 db efficiency, benefit from a more powerful amplifier. I started off with the Yarland M34 that is rated at 35 WPC (watts per channel) but noticed that as I pushed the volume higher, the sound lost something, sounding more compressed. My 55 WPC transistor amp was better able to drive the Dundee6s louder, but even that ran out of steam at what I would call ‘party levels’. At levels up to what I would call ‘neighbours are away’ the Dundee6s sounded very good with both these amplifiers, but if I owned these speakers, I would be looking for something a bit beefier to get the best from them at higher volume levels.
The midrange was crystal clear, the top end sweet, and never tiring, and there was no shortage of detail. This all made for excellent imaging. In fact this was one of the best imaging speakers that I have ever heard, if not the best. Not only was every element in the recording portrayed (‘solidly’) in a particular part of the sound stage, the space between them was quite discernible too. Not only was the sound stage well-defined but it was large too. Unlike the Caterthuns that, when placed very close to the wall behind them, had less depth to the sound stage, the depth with the Dundees was very impressive. The depth of sound stage was further enhanced by how well items such as drum kits were so well defined. With the Dundee6s, the drum kit sounded as clear as the vocalist, or instruments at the front of the sound stage.
The Dundee6s have incredible dynamics. I love the track ‘Terminator’ from the Yello album ‘Pocket Universe, and through the Dundee6s it was just like being attacked by a pair of acoustic machine guns (I do hope that my neighbours were out at the time!).
Listening to individual instruments, they all sounded quite lifelike, with a rich and varied tone, and no doubt helped by the scale that made them appear life-sized in the sound stage. The sound stage was always wide and deep, and running my usual test with the ‘Q’ Sounds on Roger Walters’ ‘Amused to Death’ album revealed that there was nothing wrong with phase issues. With the music playing, the Dundee6s simply faded away, and being located close to the corners of the room, were never physically intrusive even in my comparatively small auditioning room (3 m x 3m).
I have a single listening seat in my auditioning room and I tend to lean from side to side to see how wide the sweet spot is. I found that moving side to side made little or no difference but as I got up from a seat on a few occasions, I noticed that the sound changed slightly. That may have been due to the arrangement of the drivers, with the woofer on top of the tweeter, or perhaps the height of the drivers which are sensibly positioned almost half the height of a typical room in a domestic residence. This didn’t really matter, and after adding cushions to my listening seat to listen at different heights, I decided that I liked my original listening height as much as any other.
The Dundee6s are very likeable speakers, offering a great deal of clarity and realism, PRaT to make any foot tap until it is tired, and bass to put a smile on the face of even the most hardened sub-woofer fan. The overall signature is slightly on the warm side, just enough to make them an enjoyable listen. And all that in a comparatively small package. The Dundee6s take up no more floor space than a small stand mount speaker on a decent stand, and can be placed well out of the way at the back of the room. They do come with a hefty price tag though, so I am having to be at my most critical, and do a bit of nit-picking. I’ve already mentioned that I felt that the Dundee6s should be partnered with a powerful amplifier, and that’s not really a criticism, it’s a fact of life with speakers with a slightly low sensitivity. And I’ve also mentioned that panel of acoustic foam on the front of the speakers that I felt would be better covered in speaker cloth. The Dundee6s are pretty speakers and although that foam is functional, I do think that it could have been better presented. My only criticism is that although they have wonderful control over any type of music, I felt that they slightly favoured more complex music, ie rock, and classical symphonies, rather than simple acoustic stuff. As such I would say that although the Dundee6s sounded very good with everything that I played though them, they may be best suited to those that like rock or techno as opposed to folk, or who prefer full scale orchestral to chamber music. But that is being very particular about a pair of speakers that generally sounded better than much of what I’ve listened to in my life. If you want the closest that you can come to a live rock concert in your listening room, the Dundee6s are probably your best bet. They do everything else very well too, and I guess anybody going out to spend nearly four and a half thousand pounds on a pair of speakers will want to audition them first, so I’ll give the Dundees a big thumbs up, despite the price. Once again, Alacrity Audio’s speakers have left a huge smile on my face.
Reviews: The Caterthun 8
Nick Whetstone reviews his third Caterthun loudspeaker, the Caterthun 8, and this time, he’s not just impressed, he’s flabberghasted. He states that “the 8’s became acoustically invisible while a large sound stage enveloped them.”
Think about that. “acoustically invisible”. How are they going to sound in your system? Don’t you want to find out? Come and hear them at Whittlebury Hall National Audio Show, 21+22 September 2013. Contact me through the Contact page, as we have a limited number of free tickets.
Read the review here; http://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/caterthuns_8_e.html
Small room speaker with BIG sound
Reviewer: Nick Whetstone – TNT UK
Reviewed: September, 2013
Having being highly impressed by the original Caterthun loudspeakers from Alacrity Audio, I readily accepted the challenge to audition the new model ‘8’ that is basically a larger version with 8 inch main driver instead of the 6 inch in the smaller model. As previously, the speakers arrived safely, again in protected flight cases except that this time there were two cases (one for each speaker) instead of both being in one case. I could see why this change had been made as soon as the delivery driver handed me the first case from the back of his van – they are heavy. As I carried each case up the stairs to my auditioning room, I was very grateful that the weight had been spilt into two. The flight cases as before were very well made and will do an excellent job of keeping the speakers safe during transit.
Unpacking the 8’s as I’ll call them, they looked more or less identical to the smaller Caterthuns except for the dimensions. Beautifully finished in a light oak veneer (you can specify other finishes), the drivers are recessed, and the conservative finish will help them disappear in most rooms. They are like their smaller counterparts designed to operate hard up against the rear wall, the idea once again being that they will provide audiophile sound quality, including full bass output, in situations where the owner cannot have larger speakers further out in the room, ie audiophiles with smaller listening rooms or with larger listening rooms but unsympathetic co-habitors. I used the same stands for these speakers as I do for nearly all stand-mount models, ie around 4 feet (120 cm) tall, and on the strict instructions of the designer, I bi-wired them to the amps. I was told that they were fairly well used so I was all ready to listen to them but Alacrity state that it takes at least 50 hours to burn in new speakers.
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
- Minimum Impedance: 8 Ohms.
- W x H x D: 450 x 250 x 300 mm
- Weight: 20kg per cabinet
- Frequency Response: Sub-sonic to 20,000 Hz +/-3dB
- Crossover Frequency: 2.25 khz
- Bi-wireable: Yes
- Connections: 4mm Gold
- Bass Port: Front Reflex
- Drivers: LF 20cm Bass Mid / HF 20mm Soft Dome
- Finish: Range of oiled, real wood veneers
- Optional Extras: Cat8 Loudspeaker Stand in Black, or contact us for other options
- Recommended Placement: 10 – 15 cm from rear wall
- Recommended Stand Height: 40 – 50 cm
- Prices: 3499 UKP in English Oak, 3599 UKP Maple and Rosewood, 3699 UKP in Ebony
The test set up consisted of a computer running either JPlay or Audiophile Linux, a USB DAC (hiFace DAC / Miniwatt n4/iFi iDAC) and a selection of amplifiers ranging from my Gainclone monoblocks, class-T, and class A-B. Alacrity say that the 8’s are better suited to the higher damping factor of transistor amplification so I didn’t use a valve amp for this review.
It took me an hour or so to get used to the 8’s after listening to the very familiar sound of my modified MS Pageants for so long. But after that I was able to fully enjoy the 8’s, and perceive their superiority over the Pageants. The main difference was that bottom end. It’s not that it is so well filled out, it is the iron-like grip that it has on the bass notes. The only time that I could get the 8’s to excite the room modes and cause something that I didn’t like hearing was with the track ‘Dub Tractor’ from the Talvin Singh album ‘Back to Mine’. And in fairness in a room only around 3 metres by 3 metres, that track is never going to play loud without problems. Everything else was played with a control that enabled me to listen to some bass lines in the same way that I listen for detail in the higher frequencies.
And in those higher frequencies there was the same sense of vice-like control. Alacrity claim that their patented Acoustic Induction cabinet system not only produces more bass but that it also better controls the drivers by limiting excursion. I can still see the drivers moving but the sound quality tells me that what they claim has foundation. Clearly a lot of work has been put in to tuning the speakers to behave well. Not once did I listen to something in the higher frequencies and think that it was a bit near the edge. Neither did I ever think that something could possibly have sounded a bit more sparkly. And the midrange didn’t let the side down either. It gave a great presence to the music, and particularly solo vocalists where I would say that it just favoured female vocals, that on a good recording really did give the impression of the performer sitting or standing between the speakers.
PRaT was great and passed my Paul Simon Graceland test with ease. When playing, the 8’s became acoustically invisible while a large sound stage enveloped them. The sound stage was wide, and the imaging crisp and precise. Clarity was immense and as an example, some of the more obscure sound effects on Roger Walters Amused to Death were clearer than I have ever heard them previously. The 8’s are transparent but not ruthless, and I could have listened to them all day without fatigue. The only issue that I could find any sort of fault with them was that being right against the rear wall, the sound stage depth was not as good as for instance with the Pageants that I place well forward of the wall. But don’t think that the sound stage is only two dimensional, there is still clearly depth in it as I found playing the test track from the Chesky Audiophile test disk but it is a bit limited with the 8’s as it will be with any speaker placed hard against a wall. And to be fair, I only consciously listen for how deep the sound stage is when I’m in reviewing mode. When the music is good, as it certainly is with the 8’s my mind is distracted from such considerations. I should also say as regards the depth of sound stage, my main system uses open baffle speakers placed nearly a metre forward of the wall so perhaps I am supercritical of this aspect of sound quality!
As regards the sweet spot, I found that it was about ‘three chairs’ wide in my smaller listening room, ie about 2.5 metres from the speakers. It should be wider in a larger room where the listeners would be seated further away from the speakers. The 8’s presentation is upfront but rather than describing it as ‘in-your-face’ I would say that it is pleasantly involving. These are not speakers that sound like they are playing background music, and in my opinion that’s how it should be. If I wanted music in the background, I don’t think that I would be much bothered by the quality of the speakers anyway.
The Caterthun 8’s are certainly no budget speaker and at the price I feel that I should write a lot more about them. However, there is honestly little to add to the statement that they make lovely music. So, if a small room or other restriction compels you to look for a smaller speaker, and you don’t want to compromise sound quality and a big presentation, the 8’s must surely be at, or near the top, of your shopping list. They are certainly not bookshelf speakers though and will need sturdy stands. They sounded gorgeous with the little Gainclones and class-T amps and really showed their capabilities with a couple of other midrange commercial amplifiers. So these are classless speakers when it comes to partnering them with an amplifier, neither disappointing the owners of budget amps, nor falling short with more esoteric amps. At an efficiency of 89db, I hardly ever found them wanting for volume level, and when I did, it was simply a case of adding in a gain stage between DAC and power amp.
I’ve heard that the Caterthuns are gaining a healthy respect from those in the UK hi-fi industry who have heard them, and now it is a question of seeing if that reputation can be translated in to sales. The only argument that I can see against them becoming widely popular is that the type of audiophile who can afford the 8’s probably lives in a home with larger rooms, and doesn’t particularly need a smaller speaker. Then again, if she who must be obeyed has the final say, the 8’s may have found a valuable ally! The 8’s will also work in a larger listening room where being placed against the wall, they will be less intrusive. Nothing will prise my open baffles away from me but if I was limited to a smaller listening room, I know which speaker I would be saving up for! Highly enjoyable, and highly recommended.
While not exactly a review of ours, Nick states in a later review of a pre-amp…
“…I should just add that while using th[is equipment] and the Caterthun 8 speakers, I heard what I considered to be the best sounding hi-fi that I have heard to date”.
The Audio Beat popped in again in 2013 to see our Caterthun 8 loudspeakers, calling them “impressive” and “controlled”. Look out for their full review, comming soon!
Reviews: The Caterthun Classic
Jason Kennedy’s review of our Caterthun Classics is available now, in the August 2013 edition of HiFi+. He says they show “inherent musicality…delivering a vibrant result with a high fun factor”. We agree. Extract available here;
Refering to our room as having “one of the best sounds at the NAS 2012”. The Audio Beat highly recomend our Caterthun Classics. Watch out for the review, comming soon!
HiFi Critic, the only truly independent hifi magazine, has awarded the Caterthun Classic loudspeaker system it’s highly esteemed Recommended Product rating, saying; “… the bottom line is that it deserves recommendation for delivering an unusually good sound quality for a convenient close-to-wall design.”
Reviewer: Paul Messenger – HiFi Critic. Reviewed: April, 2012
Thanks to Nick Whetstone at TNT for his ground-breaking first review of our Caterthun Classics, titled; More bass from smaller cabinet?, saying; “It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about the Caterthuns. That they are a bit forward in their presentation is an observation rather than a criticism. Some (like me) will like that, others may prefer something a little more laid back. But over the weeks that I listened to them, I found them most enjoyable to listen to, fun even.”
Reviewer: Nick Whetstone – TNT UK. Reviewed: February, 2012
WHAT HIFI offer a startlingly different take, and an insight into how subjective this industry can be. They say that; “the music’s dynamic shifts are delivered with conviction, and vocals are pleasingly articulate. But it’s in the bass that these speakers really shine”. However, they then go on to say; “their treble may be open but it also sounds brash and overly enthusiastic to us.” We invite the listener to make up their own mind.