Living Voice has lengthy been a big presence within the British speaker business. The “25” within the mannequin quantity right here is in reference to the speaker being a 25th anniversary mannequin. In reality, the historical past of the design goes again even a bit additional, in that the unique Living Voice Auditorium was apparently strongly influenced by an earlier design from DALI, the Model 104. Meanwhile, the unique Living Voice mannequin has been steadily and thoroughly revised in a course of that resembles the Old Masters of violin-making refining their designs yr after yr, even era after era. Living Voice shouldn’t be distinctive on this respect. It appears a British custom, with the unique LS3/5a and the unique Spendor BC1 having led to many years of refinements and variants, over a 50-year interval for the BC1 and near that for the LS3/5a. Still, 25 years is in itself spectacular in a world the place technical merchandise are likely to have a brief life.
The design targets of Living Voice within the R25A and its associated fashions (there are different related designs at greater costs within the Living Voice line) have pursued an extra purpose in comparison with BBC designs, which have been searching for full neutrality. Living Voice sought not simply accuracy however excessive sensitivity. The Auditorium R25A has a listed sensitivity of 94dB. Compare this to say the LS3/5a, with its 83dB sensitivity. Clearly, we’re in a distinct world right here, supposed to be appropriate for lower-powered tube (or Class A solid-state) amplifiers and, certainly, Living Voice’s designer Kevin Scott voiced the audio system with tube amplification. Living Voice additionally makes horn audio system with the low-power tube consumer in thoughts: The Vox Olympian has a sensitivity ranking of 105dB!
But none of that is to counsel that the Auditorium R25A shouldn’t be of curiosity to people who find themselves proud of higher-power solid-state amplifiers. It is, actually, a speaker of basic curiosity, regardless that it might be significantly enticing to the low-power tube individuals.
Still, the sensitivity situation is a crucial side of the design, and it is sensible to have a look at that basic context first earlier than attending to the extra particular sonic description.
Size, Sensitivity, and Bass
In the early days of the trendy high-fidelity period, the late Nineteen Forties and early Fifties, amplifiers of excessive energy by as we speak’s requirements weren’t out there. An amplifier with 30 watts (per channel) was thought of a powerhouse. But individuals wished bass with each quantity and extension. The reply was to make audio system large. The logic of that is based mostly on physics: Bass wavelengths are lengthy. A 40Hz tone is over 28 ft in wavelength. This implies that a small driver is not going to couple to the air at that frequency in any respect properly and must transfer violently to provide any substantial sound in any respect. Large drivers fare higher. So, individuals ended up making actually giant woofers: the ElectroVoice Patrican 800 had a 30-inch driver! That was then, however acoustic ideas don’t change, and if one needs bass with excessive sensitivity, dimension stays the way in which to go. The Cerwin-Vega CLS215s—my go-to audio system for reproducing the complete bass energy of the orchestra—are 96dB delicate, they usually get this mixture of bass energy and extension and excessive sensitivity by being nearly the dimensions of a small floorstanding fridge and utilizing two 15-inch woofers. At the opposite excessive, the diminutive Spendor S3/5, beautiful although it’s at reasonable volumes in midrange replica, is a fish out of water confronted with orchestral energy at full throttle. Its bass restrict is 70Hz, the sensitivity is 84dB, and the utmost energy enter is 70 watts: stunning sound inside its limits, however orchestral bass energy and extension are usually not on this system and most positively not so with a low-powered amplifier. A small speaker can pump out bass with sufficient energy driving it and the construction to deal with the ability: Subwoofers may be small and nonetheless produce low bass in a giant method. But they want plenty of amplifier energy. Many have amplifiers as highly effective as 1500-watt constructed into them. And the massive energy is required, and the bass driver is pushed very exhausting.
The Living Voice R25As are a well-chosen compromise within the inevitable trade-offs amongst dimension, sensitivity, and bass energy and extension They are delicate sufficient to be pushed by fairly small quantities of energy, sufficiently small to suit gracefully into unusual home environments, they usually have sufficient bass extension and quantity functionality to be fairly satisfying for many sorts of music.
The designer of Living Voice, Kevin Scott, is firmly of the opinion that amplification of any actual energy (by modern requirements) entails critical sonic errors. I have to say I don’t discover this to be so. But, after all, there isn’t any hurt in precept to having a speaker that’s so excessive in sensitivity that prime energy ranges are usually not even near being wanted. The energy that’s out there however not used shouldn’t be bothering something. And for some individuals, the comparatively excessive 94dB sensitivity will probably be fascinating. To try the lower-power scenario, I used the Schiit Aegir (solid-state, however comparatively low energy at 10 watts in pure Class A, 20 watts in what Schiit calls Continuity mode). It did a high quality job with the R25As. I didn’t have a low-power tube amplifier to strive, however normally it’s positively the case that 20 watts is a lot, and I might guess that 10 could be sufficient for many functions. Certainly, the Aegir was working fantastically properly on the ranges concerned, with Class A sound in the most effective sense—stunning amplification certainly, at a really rational worth ($799 if you don’t want extra energy than is on provide). The energy was enough within the case of the R25As so long as no substantial equalization was used—extra on that time later. I additionally used the 100-watt Benchmark AHB2, which, after all, was simply loafing alongside in its impartial, distortion-free method on the energy ranges doubtless with a 94dB-sensitivity speaker with or with out EQ.
What is within the R25A?
The R25A has two 170mm mid/bass drivers in an MTM (midrange/tweeter/midrange) driver configuration with a 26mm soft-dome tweeter. The drivers are made by Scanspeak. The mid/bass driver has a coated-paper membrane and is constructed particularly for Living Voice, the unique type of the motive force having been in any other case discontinued, it appears. The cupboard is a slim floorstander, uncommon in that it’s provided with a podium to raise it to a greater listening peak. (Bravo for this—all too many smaller floorstanders require the listener to sit down nearly on the ground to be on an excellent axis.) This is a good suggestion and in addition a crucial one, as a result of, actually, the response of the R25A varies an excellent cope with the vertical place of the listening place relative to the speaker, except the listener is admittedly distant. The speaker has fairly a large dispersion sample total, however it’s not significantly steady in frequency response with variations of the vertical listening place (listening peak). On the plus aspect, the MTM association makes the speaker work together with the ground, it appears, moderately lower than regular. The R25A is ported, with the port within the rear. Positioning the audio system pretty far into the room appeared to work greatest in my setup. (Close to the wall behind introduced up the underside however in a considerably coloured method.) The audio system sound like themselves normally phrases in a wide range of positions, however the very best efficiency is dependent upon cautious adjustment, apparently particularly so due to the speaker’s complicated radiation sample. Patience is rewarded. This shouldn’t be a speaker design of the equipment strategy, common with what was referred to as “mid-fi” corporations, the place you load up the dishes any outdated method and push a button and the dishes get washed. (One of the actually peculiar concepts concerned right here is that one ought to check audio system by switching between them however placing all of the totally different pairs in the identical place successively, by no means minding that the most effective place is likely to be totally different for various audio system.)
Starting to Listen and the Imaging Behavior of the R25As
When I first arrange the audio system, I ran Stereophile’s Test CD1 (as is my regular follow) to confirm that the channels have been wired appropriately and that the 2 channels have been “in part.” This is straightforward to detect on music materials, however it’s faster nonetheless to make use of alerts designed for the aim. The channels have been right (monitor 2) and so was the polarity (monitor 3). But the latter was startling to listen to. The distinction is obvious on any pair of audio system which might be intently matched in frequency response. But for the R25As, the distinction was excessive. Focus was excellent in polarity, and in reverse polarity, the barking canine was simply nowhere in any respect—whole lack of spatial focus. This was extra so than with nearly some other audio system I’ve tried, nearly on the degree of the Gradient Helsinki 1.5s, that are absolutely the champs at this in my expertise. No doubt there are those that assume that efficiency on such check alerts shouldn’t be related to music, however this explicit type of check, and the equally spectacular results of the pink noise correlated versus uncorrelated, is instantly associated to stereo imaging in concept, and so it proved in follow, with music materials. The lateral stereo efficiency of the R25As was tremendous. In addition, the depth of picture was additionally fairly startling good.
It is pure to ask whence this arises. What makes the R25As so good at stereo? The presently common perception is that superior stereo arises from uniformity of radiation sample. This is virtually a mantra amongst semi-technical writers on audio, that vast and uniform radiation offers rise to steady and proper stereo. Stable, possibly, however my expertise is that the very best focus and depth is definitely connected to sure sorts of deviations from theoretical point-source uniformity. It is hardly stunning that this is likely to be so. The ear/mind senses location of photos acoustically not from the alerts on the two ears with a hard and fast head place, however from how the alerts range with small, just about subliminal head actions round that place. It is thus greater than doubtless that sure small variations of the soundfield with such variations of head place would give enhanced outcomes, and others not. In any case, my expertise has been that audio system that run a single driver (or within the R25As a pair of drivers) as much as a comparatively excessive crossover level earlier than the tweeter is available in are likely to have extraordinary picture focus. And the R25As have the crossover to the tweeter at 2.85kHz. The off-centered tweeter placement, which tends to attenuate total diffraction results, may also play some position. Finally, the MTM driver association, which makes the ground interplay totally different from a two-way with two drivers performs a job I believe within the era of depth and in liberating the entrance of the soundstage from the airplane of the audio system.
In any case, leaving such tentative theorizing apart, the imaging conduct of the R25As is prime drawer. And this can be a fixed enhancement of the musical expertise. Even in the event you assume you don’t care, that solely the sound itself not the spatial side counts for you, I believe you will discover the way in which by which the R25As inhabit the room with out seeming to work together with it spatially enhances the sense of listening to music as if within the authentic venue. I, not less than, discovered this a seamless supply of musical satisfaction and to an uncommon extent.
The Tonal Character
The R25A’s fundamental tonal character is considerably distinctive, and the perceived frequency response is a bit up and down, though total it’s easily altering on the entire. From the underside up: Deep bass is lacking, although extension shouldn’t be unhealthy contemplating the dimensions and the excessive sensitivity. There is a type of lumpiness round 100Hz, and under that the bass is a bit light-weight, although it goes nominally right down to under 40Hz. Above that, there’s a dip (common, from ground impact, not so extreme as in some audio system). The midrange within the 500Hz-to-1kHz area is considerably over-prominent. Then, there’s a perceived broad dip across the crossover level (within the 3kHz area), arising from the truth that anyplace however precisely on the suitable axis vertically there really is a dip. The prime appears clean and prolonged, even barely rising precisely on the tweeter axis however considerably rolled not far off that axis. The most observable side of those options is the general lightness and midrange emphasis. And this actually is noticed, not a lot as a coloration in any slim resonance sense however as a shift in stability. The male talking voice is lightened up, the other of chestiness. And the feminine talking voice is equally affected. The cello sounds extra within the viola route than it ought to, extra alto than tenor. On musical devices this isn’t usually disagreeable, however it’s not actually proper, and the talking voice is commonly fairly peculiar, particularly in comparison with the BBC faculty audio system that are optimized for the talking voice specifically. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “Collar that midrange” is the factor to do with some EQ. Otherwise, issues are simply too unusual, to my ears anyway. It nearly sounds as if the baffle-step compensation had been omitted or not less than was incomplete.
What is peculiar to my thoughts right here is that this midrange emphasis, which is sort of conspicuous to my ears, is hardly commented upon in different opinions. The RM25A has been fairly extensively reviewed, however nearly nobody appears to have even seen the distinctive tonal character of the speaker. This is a part of a pattern: In the obvious zeal to speak about different issues than frequency response, modern audio opinions typically merely ignore frequency response results altogether. And then there’s the truth that the mix of the “ground dip” and the roll-off off-axis in most audio system leads very often to the midrange being considerably projected, as you may see in in-room measurements when they’re printed. In any case, the impact within the R25As doesn’t look spectacular in measurement phrases, however it’s there, and it has a musical impact, whether or not one likes this impact or not. To my ears, the R25As sounded quite a bit higher if one pulled down the 800–1200Hz area considerably, easily however positively down. With that achieved, one thing like impartial stability appeared exterior of the (not unpleasant) sense of dip round 3kHz arising from the near-but-not-on-axis dip if one strikes vertically. The corrected response was really extraordinarily enticing to my thoughts and made a stunning variety of recordings sound “good” within the sense of sounding moderately like live performance music. Euphonic in the most effective sense!
Back to the Sensitivity Question
This brings up the problem of precisely what sensitivity measurements imply. Traditionally, sensitivity is measured at 1kHz. The thought is that individuals are likely to set the amount in accordance with the extent heard at 1kHz, and that is doubtless kind of true, though a part of that is simply the comfort of the spherical quantity 1000. But in acoustic music, orchestras specifically, the massive energy calls for are literally additional down in frequency, as you may confirm for your self through the use of a peak-power-level meter and taking part in some music. The large energy calls for occur when the orchestra goes “whomp” within the bass. The impact of that is that if a speaker is elevated at 1kHz and down a bit decrease down, the sensitivity ranking at 1kHz will give a deceptive impression of what number of watts of amplifier energy you want total. (This was mentioned by RH in his editorial in Issue 335.) One watt could also be loud sufficient within the mids, however when the bass whomps come alongside, chances are you’ll be in hassle with the extent that was all proper for 1kHz.
This is a really actual situation. An amplifier that places out 1 watt will play 1kHz at 94dB earlier than clipping. That is sort of loud. But when the massive bass comes alongside, clipping will occur on the drop of a hat. How excessive is that this in follow? I attempted some time again a McIntosh amplifier that had peak-level meters on my Harbeth M40s, sensitivity 84dB. Playing orchestral music at reasonable ranges—mid-80dB forte degree total on an SPL meter (C-weighted), the massive bass whomps drew 170 watts ceaselessly. People who assume their micro-powered amplifiers are usually not going to clip are doubtless mistaken, except they pay attention solely to clavichords and soprano recorders. Of course, one of many nominal promoting factors of SETs is that they have an inclination to clip gracefully—they usually certainly must.
Looked on the different method round, with 1kHz being the determiner of the setting for the amount, a speaker that initiatives the mids will want much less bass energy as a result of the amount setting will probably be decrease. But in the event you EQ the bass as much as match the mids, then energy calls for go up. In impact, the speaker operates as having decrease sensitivity.
The impact of all that is that, whether or not consciously or subconsciously, the high-sensitivity/low-power world tends to pursue midrange forwardness most of the time. As one may anticipate, SETs are often rolled on the frequency extremes. People discuss their midrange superiority. But the midrange of SETs shouldn’t be essentially superior—it’s simply extra ample in comparison with the frequency extremes. These results are giant in listening phrases. And related bias is concerned generally in audio system.
I’m not making an attempt to counsel that anybody units out to make a speaker with pushed-up mids with the intention to make its listed sensitivity greater. Rather, there are components that make for greater sensitivity that additionally promote midrange forwardness. Among these are light-weight drivers, which usually tend to be energetic on the prime of their working vary, and the absence or close to absence of inside damping. This contributes to greater perceived sensitivity, since damping out sound in impact converts sonic vitality to warmth, so there’s much less sound vitality emitted to the skin world. Furthermore, the undamped sound appears livelier even when it’s not all that a lot louder: Resonances make issues sound louder. This is, after all, no place for a protracted technical dialogue, however the R25As do have moderately little inside damping, in accordance with Living Voice.
Let me give an analogy. If you sit down at a grand piano and depress the right-hand pedal (the damper pedal or sustaining pedal), which lifts the dampers off all of the strings. The instrument appears nearly alive—the very act of making use of the pedal and lifting the dampers makes a small sound reminding one of many resonances ready to be unleashed by pushing down the retains and having the hammers hit the strings. Now these resonances are what make the music, creates the sound of the piano taking part in. But they’re all ready there to be launched.
At first sight, one may assume that for a speaker to be lifelike, it must be related; it too must be a bunch of resonances ready to be unleashed. But this isn’t actually the suitable thought. If a grand piano with the dampers raised is a racehorse ready for the beginning gate to be opened, aquiver with pleasure of the ability to be unleashed, a speaker must be extra like a brick mendacity on a mud flat. It shouldn’t be about to maneuver except shoved and when the shoving stops, it stops transferring. Speakers want to breed the recorded results of the resonances of musical devices, however they don’t seem to be imagined to have any resonances of their very own.
Now, individuals fear quite a bit about the best way to deal with the motion of the cupboard partitions within the decrease frequencies, both by making the cupboards super-rigid or by making them barely versatile however damping them. What I’m describing is additional up in frequency than the bass. A midrange driver taking part in at say 2kHz is producing a backwave of a wavelength of about seven inches. It shouldn’t be pressurizing the field as a unit the way in which bass does, however it’s nonetheless bouncing round inside in varied methods. What is one to do with that sound? Ideally, one needs merely to do away with it as a result of it’s saved vitality that one doesn’t wish to hear. So, often, audio system are filled with one thing or have sound-absorbing damping materials on the partitions of the field. This materials eliminates sonic vitality—it’s imagined to, and it does.
You can skip doing this. If you skip it, the emitted sound will change. The ensuing sound is livelier and fewer “useless.” But useless is admittedly what you wish to hear—or, not less than, I believe so. In basic phrases, controversies alongside these strains have been happening in audio endlessly. How useless ought to issues be? How damped down ought to a listening room be? What concerning the backwave of dipole audio system, absorbed or mirrored? It is dependent upon whom you ask, particularly about listening rooms.
To return to the R25As, they belong considerably within the “undead” class. And to my ears, they’re (within the phrases of Rex Stout’s thriller traditional) “not fairly useless sufficient.” Even in the event you EQ down the midrange prominence to get the measured response flat, there’s a type of glow to the sound at a subliminal degree that I used to be not keen on. I stored wishing I may “put a sock in it,” actually—stuff one thing into the field, not the port however into the field itself.
Don’t misunderstand: This shouldn’t be an enormous factor. Musical devices, in any case, do “glow” on this sense—they’re resonators. But to my ears they have an inclination to amass a bit extra glow than is admittedly there. This is true particularly of the piano. I freely admit that a lot of individuals appear to love this. Reviews of the R25As have both ignored the query or have preferred the “energetic” sound. And some individuals have praised them for percussive sound particularly.
In any case, this can be a smaller matter than the frequency-response results, as such. But in case you are sensitive about this, pay attention rigorously to some piano sound to get the concept. This makes a lot much less distinction on sustained materials, nonetheless.
It is necessary to comprehend that the R25As do numerous necessary issues rather well, no matter points I might need had with absolute neutrality or lack thereof. As already famous, the R25As do a high quality, certainly a spectacular job of stereo imaging. And they do that in a method that’s of actual musical significance. Orchestral music, for example, is correctly separated spatially, which provides to the listener’s skill to listen to particular person strains. (Ernst Ansermet’s remark within the early days of stereo about how the primary musical job of stereo was separation of elements got here to thoughts.) Comes to that, the R25As do a high quality job of preserving complicated textures straight and unconfused. It is tough to say what’s concerned right here technically, however the lack of auditory confusion is hanging and musically rewarding.
In the Telarc Cleveland Quartet recording of Beethoven’s Opus 59, No. 2 and No. 3, the 4 devices are all the time separated in house and identification, however the entire has a unity on the similar time. It actually sounds very like a string quartet does sound in a gratifying method. (This is an effective recording for these on the lookout for the repertoire.) And when one strikes as much as extra complicated multi-lined materials, the gestalt stays wonderful. The Swan of Tuonela on Reference Recording’s Reveries CD (Minnesota Orchestra, E. Oue cond.) sounds each stunning and convincing, not solely when the solo English horn is taking part in with sparse accompaniment but additionally when the entire orchestra speaks in response. And the massive second is simply large, not in any method muddied up. This feeling of effortlessness stays when even greater orchestral moments come up in different repertoire. Again, the readability with none harshness and with none sense of pressure (so long as quantity is stored rational—that is in any case a small speaker) is musically gratifying. Even the heaviest scores of R. Strauss and Mahler stick collectively whereas remaining unconfused (the recording allowing). The sense that so typically turns up of issues falling aside, the middle not holding when the going will get intense, is blessedly lacking to an extent that’s outstanding, particularly in a speaker of this dimension. (It was a little bit of a shock to me to seek out this in a speaker with so little inside damping. I might have anticipated that the after-sound that one hears on the piano recordings would obscure barely complicated orchestra textures. however for no matter cause, the readability is there.)
At very shut vary, one hears the considerably difficult acoustic relationship among the many two drivers and the tweeter geometrically between. But at an inexpensive listening distance, the speaker turns into very coherent and of a bit. And the sound could be very “un-speaker-like.” These descriptions could seem to be customary audio-review boilerplate, however on this occasion, they’re really true. The lengthy work in adjusting crossovers and selecting crossover elements which has been concerned with the design appears to have paid off—one thing has paid off, in any case. (It is all the time exhausting to reverse-engineer, to know what a part of the design course of precipitated what, however the audible results are there it doesn’t matter what the rationale.)
One begins to grasp how different reviewers have determined to disregard problems with full neutrality and focus on what the speaker does properly—as a result of the issues it does properly it actually does do properly, and they’re musically vital. It is probably foolish to name Beethoven and Sibelius “enjoyable,” however in some sense the R25As actually are “enjoyable” to take heed to or, to make use of a greater phrase, a pleasure.
As I used to be penning this, I recalled the passage on web page 102 of Issue 335 the place our editor RH discusses how even audio system on the grandest worth and dimension vary (on this case the Göbel Divin Noblesse) have a sure distinctive character of their very own, prone to be totally different from different giant and costly audio system. This is probably not stunning. Indeed, it even appears inevitable within the context that simply taking a look at on-axis response alone, by no means thoughts the consequences of off-axis and room sound and all the remainder, the brink for audible distinction is about ±0.1dB for broadband shifts in response. All speaker designers are within the place of getting to decide on amongst a large number of prospects, even when one supposes that they’ve full management, which, after all, they don’t.
But the odd factor is that individuals, even confronted with the truth that there are going to be inevitable variations, turn out to be devoted to 1 or one other risk. We all wish to imagine that the speaker we like is someway “proper” in a method that others are usually not. Even amongst individuals who agree largely, impassioned disagreements come up. Have a have a look at any discussion board the place totally different variations of basically the identical speaker design are mentioned.
In this spirit, I’m actually fairly satisfied that the R25As are too “midrangy.” But I’m ready to confess that others may really feel in another way. Perhaps this can be a second when one ought to recall the strains from the Youngbloods’ “Get Together”: “Come on individuals now, smile in your brother.”
The R25As are a cautious work, refined over a protracted time frame and geared toward a particular aesthetic in sound, as is any critical speaker design. In this case, the aesthetic appears to incorporate the maximization of midrange life in a speaker that’s, even so, almost full vary, reasonable in dimension, and excessive sufficient in sensitivity to be pushed by lower-power amplifiers.
If the latter level, specifically, is of compelling curiosity to you, then you definately positively must audition the R25As. If you aren’t decided to stay with lower-powered amplifiers and don’t thoughts a bit EQ to collar the midrange, the R25As are nonetheless of curiosity for his or her imaging, coherence, and bass extension in a comparatively small speaker.
Specs & Pricing
Driver complement: 1x Scanspeak 26mm (1″) mushy dome tweeter, 2x Scanspeak 170mm (6.5″) coated-paper mid/bass drivers
Frequency response: 35Hz–22kHz, ±3dB
Nominal impedance: 6 ohms, nonreactive
Dimensions: 215mm x 1170mm (together with podium) x 270mm
Weight: 42 lbs. (every)
44 (0) 115 9733222
BORDER PATROL (U.S. Distributor)
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