Near Field Nirvana
Goes to the UK…
Ric Mancuso Speed Dates 3 of the Best Mini British Loudspeakers
ProAc Tablette 10
ProAc Tablette 10 Signature
ProAc Tablette 10 Speakers $1900.00 pair, Standard Finish:
First up perched on the heavy iron 24’stands the TAB 10’s. Looking at the size of this two-way non-ported speaker was reminiscent of the legendary LS3/5A British designs of yesteryear, and of course, now in production again by Falcon Acoustics using original materials.
I must say, I still miss my LS3/5A’s and have been looking for a suitable replacement for a few years. The TAB 10 suggested that she might be the one to captivate my heart? Ok, off to the races and started the dance with various music selections to be played on the Naim CD rig with the Rogue Audio Pharaoh integrated, with a tube front end utilizing the Swiss made Hypex amplifier module. I find this combo splits the difference between great tube and solid-state sound. Massive power and an ease about it, allowing the music to flow rather than being pushed at the listener, ME!
My first CD was a Reference Recordings RR-49, Testament, by the Turtle Creek Chorale. The recording is demanding on audio systems to be able to hear individual voices in the choir. Many speakers are not able to singularize the voice amongst the mass of the choir. The TAB 10’s were able to resolve this issue quite well. What was amazing was the soundstage width that I was experiencing, as wide as the room. You might think of widescreen TV, listening in a panoramic perspective. I then put on the Chesky Records, Kenny Rankin CD JD 63, Because of You. Kenny’s voice sounded pure and natural; guitar was vividly portrayed in the sonic landscape. Now, I’m thinking, there is something special happening here? The mist of perfume is getting to me!
I put on some dynamic live performance orchestral music. The Tab 10’s played it with power and authority. I’m not talking about like a huge floor standing loudspeaker, but close in using the Nirvana-Near Field recipe of close in listening. Inverse square power formula. Might be a good time now to go back to the previous article, if you have not read it regarding Near Field Nirvana the Science of Close in Listening?
I next played some pipe organ music recorded well in a large acoustic space. Got the fundamental underpinning of the bass and could tell the foot pedals were being played. The TAB 10 has a smallish woofer in a sealed enclosure that seems to defy physics with its ability to render robust recordings with scale, you don’t feel or get any sense that you are missing anything. Musicality plays into this formula as well. Transparency is just a little shy. She does not give you that “see through “sheer look into the sound-field. Some would call it a slight opaque-ness. The personality this speaker is that it is engaging and lively. It’s fun to listen to and is totally involving. I’ll get back to the TAB 10 in summation after the other two speakers are reviewed here. I will list all the music selections and minimal specifications at the close of these reviews.
ProAc Tablette 10 Signature Speakers $2,400.00 pair Standard Finish:
The Tab 10 Signature is NOT the Anniversary model. That speaker is ported, the Signature is in a sealed enclosure. The hallmark sound of really great British loudspeakers is the glorious midrange, naturalness and voluptuousness of the human voice. Designer Stewart Tyler, of ProAc, does not disappoint with his well thought out designs. Using the human ear is the necessary ingredient to evaluate and fine tune a sound reproducer instrument. Material selections are important, as they be used as the body of the whole, not just adding technology in, because its available. Having worked with speaker designers, I get the gestalt of their emotive inspirations and utilization of the tools and materials; that define the craft of designing a statement of personality and the love of music. Stewart said that he had done extensive research on the LS3/5A cabinet lossy construction. The objective was to design a mini monitor using similar material to get that desired sound right. During the design several speakers were used as comparison, those being the LS3/5a, ProAc D2, Spender BC1 and Quad Esl 57.
Any of the above would be a great Holiday gift. I know an audio manufacturer of electronic gear that has several pair of ESL 57’s and 63’s. I keep on begging for him to sell me a pair! I can only give you a HINT.
I used the same musical selections on the Signatures as the standard TAB 10’s. I hate to say just standard, Geesch! First attribute that comes out of the box, is that great midrange. The midrange/woofer employs a new design that uses a phase plug in the middle of the driver along with a new magnetic copper magnet structure. The sound of the speaker is similar to the TAB 10, no surprise there. Best to explain it by saying the standard TAB is like someone knocking at the front door with their knuckles, the Signature is like someone ringing a chime door bell. The knock gets you moving quickly to the door, the bell allows you to saunter up to the door. Both are effective measures to get your attention. If your date is coming to the door, you would prefer the bell?
The Signature plays bigger and is a little more polite. The bass is a little fuller and there is a little more depth with a bit better transparency compared to the TAB 10. The orchestral music piece had more wham to the dynamics. A different scent of perfume, but still intoxicating non the less. Sound stage was very good, but not as wide as the standard TAB 10. The Signature almost begs for a little more space in the room to exhibit its more robust sonic character. I would say the speaker reminds me of the ProAc D2. It does not play louder than the TAB 10, just bigger, taller. A little conundrum. For those who prefer a softer and more romantic experience, this would be an accommodating speaker for those tastes.
HARBETH P3-ESR Speakers $2,450.00 pair Standard Finish:
Much press has been bestowed on the Harbeth P3-ESR’s the past few years. A favorite of many audio reviews worldwide. We have seen UK products and their prices inch up steadily as uncertainty looms regarding Brexit, the Euro and the Dollar. The P3ESR’s are a bit pricey, but still have a legion of followers, whom seem not to mind $$$$.
Alan Shaw designed this speaker to be the 21’st century replacement of the LS3/5A’s. Objective was to design a speaker that could play louder, not have the LS3/5A bass bump and would still retain the magic of the legendary mini. Similar to how the Mini Copper automobile became modernized to be relevant again. The Harbeth’s like the ProAc’s are designed by people who understand what music sounds like in the real world. Again, the midrange is unmistakably British and spot on. In fact, I believe you could take a Harbeth, assign it to the left channel and put the Signature on the right side, and you would be hard pressed to tell if anything was off?
All these speakers are cut from the same cloth regarding their natural and pure midrange presentations. The difference in this design is the employment of a metal aluminum dome tweeter, rather than using the more traditional soft dome driver. Integration is outstanding between the Radial material midrange/woofer and the tweeter. This speaker plays large and has more than ample bass. It thrived in the Near-Field Nirvana space, but seeks a larger room to really show off its wares. I had this speaker in my upstairs system with the Rogue Audio Sphinx a few months ago and they were spectacular. I had them nine feet apart in a wider equilateral triangle set up.
Like the Signature’s, the P3ESR’s delivered a rather large sound stage for a small speaker. The speaker had some sparkle and transparency and was a little better than both ProAc’s in that frequency region. Drum kits sounded right, with some shimmer with cymbals. Brushes sounded wonderful on the skins. I found my mind drifting a bit while listening to the Harbeth’s. Odd, perhaps I was being taken on a journey into meditation and the spiritual realm of consciousness?
Closing Thoughts and Remarks, Second Date:
Speed dating is fun, and it can be a little risky. The risk is that you fall in love too quickly or become infatuated. Can you live with a rapid decision? Is there love at first sight? Are emotions and the heart detached from analytical reality? Are first impressions, usually right?
Well, I must say that I’m a little on the romantic side of life and go with the heart, not specifications. Who gets the Rose? I actually could live with any of these wonderful speakers. If I had to go on a second date, I think I would pick the standard Tablette 10. I just keep thinking of that cavernous sound stage lit up with light and energy.
Rogue Audio Pharaoh Integrated Amplifier, Phono
Parasound HINT-6 Integrated Amplifier, DAC & Phono
NAIM DAC V1
Cambridge CXC Transport
Rega Planar 3 Turntable with Ortofon, MC Quintet Cartridge
Sim Áudio 110 LP V1, Phono Preamplifier
Chord Company Speaker Cables
Monster Cable Sigma Interconnects
Nordost Digital Co-Ax
Black Ravioli E-Floss Energy Drains
Herbie Hancock, River, The Joni Letters, Verve
Testament, Turtle Creek Chorale, Reference Recordings
Kenny Rankin, Because of You, Chesky Records
Pink Martini, Sympathique, Heinz Records
Straight Into Your Heart, Nancy King, Mons Records
Exotic Dances from the Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, Reference Recordings
John Hiatt, Bring the Family, A&M Records
Paint it Blue, Songs of the Rolling Stones, House of Blues
I’m looking forward to the next review, which will feature the new Magnepan, LRS panel loudspeaker, along with the new Parasound HINT-6 integrated amplifier. The speakers should be arriving sometime in early August. The Parasound is already here at the Near-Field Nirvana sound space.
I used the HINT-6 along with the Rogue Audio Pharaoh for this speed dating review. Only used the Parasound line inputs and amp section. The full feature review will cover the other components, DAC & Phono, embedded within the amp. The HINT-6 only had only a couple of days of burn in and was living up to its potential.
Speaking of burn in and break in, an article will be forth coming from Audiophile Audition on the psycho acoustic effects of component and speaker warm up. There are some differing opinions regarding this issue for sure! “Do you believe a new pair of Jeans need to be broken in first?” We will be examining the EAR/BRAIN connection and how it affects listening.
Rogue Audio https://rogueaudio.com
Cambridge Audio https://www.cambridgeaudio.com/usa/en
Stereotypes Audio https://stereotypesaudio.com
Speakers for this review provided by Stereotypes Audio in Portland, Oregon