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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 10
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eminent technology

LFT-11 planar magnetic multimedia loudspeakers

as reviewed by Gary Beard

 

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GARY L. BEARD'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Merlin TSM-M monitors on 24" Osiris stands with an REL Strata III subwoofer.

ELECTRONICS
First Sound Presence Deluxe Mark II preamplifier with Amperex 7308 PQ tubes, George Wright WPP100C phono-preamplifier with Amperex 6ER5, and RCA 12AU7 tubes. David Berning ZH270 amplifier with Brimar 12AT7 black plate, GE 5 Star 12AV7, and cryo'ed Sylvania 6JN6 power tubes. 

SOURCES
Cary 303/200, Marantz CC-65-SE, Sony DVP-7700, and a Technics SL1600 Direct Drive Turntable.

CABLES
Cardas Neutral Reference bi-wire speaker cables, Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference, Kimber Silver Streak, Kimber and Hero, MIT 3 interconnects. Acoustic Zen MC2 digital cable. Shunyata Sidewinder and homebrew Belden/Hubbell/Marinco powercords.

ACCESSORIES
Richard Gray Power Station 400 power conditioner, Final Labs Daruma 3II isolation, Vibrapods, DIY "Flexy" equipment rack, DIY points, ceramic cable supports, and various isolation tweaks.

 

Eminent Technology's computer speaker system, the LFT-11 Planar Magnetic Multimedia Reference Loudspeaker System, has positioned itself as a high end alternative to the mass-market brands of the ultra-competitive computer speaker business. The system was designed by Eminent Technology's F. Bruce Thigpen, and consists of two planar-magnetic speakers (10.5-in. H x 6.25-in. W x 3.5-in. D) and a passive subwoofer (15-in. H x 8.25-in. W x 10.25-in. D) with two 6 1/2-inch drivers. The speaker cables are hardwired to the panel desktop speakers, and plug into the back of the sub. The sub is then connected to the speaker terminals of an amplifier, using a supplied cable via a small XLR-type connector on the back of the subwoofer enclosure. The system may be purchased with an NAD amp, but the review system did not include this option. The speakers are solidly built and much heavier than they look. They tilt up and down on their wooden stands to allow the listener to adjust for the best sound. The subwoofer has a Lexan-type material covering two sides, which gives it a polished, classy look. The dual-woofer configuration takes over low-end duty from the 200Hz crossover point down to a claimed 35Hz. There are no feet on the subwoofer, and therefore no "normal" orientation. I have it sitting on its end, directly on the floor under my computer station (read: plywood table in a double closet). I have little experience with planar speakers, though a short in-home audition with a pair of Magnaplanar MMGs and my own little Monsoon MH-505 computer speaker system revealed the virtues of this clean and transparent driver technology.

As with any product designed for a specific use, there are always tradeoffs, and these little multimedia gems have theirs. The satellite speakers produce little in the way of low bass, and the sound they produce is severely directional, making placement on the desktop critical. I found that when placed away from the back wall a foot or so, and on either side of my 19-inch LCD monitor in a close approximation of an equilateral triangle with the listening position, the sound was very good. It is, however, critical to toe them in and tilt them to face directly at the listener's head for the sound to really lock into place. Whenever this placement is changed in any manner, there is a definite loss of imaging, soundstage, and treble extension, almost as if something were in front of the speaker blocking the sound. When Eminent says these speakers are directional, they are not kidding. Placement of the sub needs to be played with too, as it can be one-note-boomy at worst and a little wooly at best if in the wrong location. I found use of the bass tone controls on the computer soundcard and on my Marantz 1070 integrated amp to be invaluable in setting the appropriate level on the sub. It does its job of filling out the lean planar sound, and on the whole, does a very good job of enhancing without dominating the overall sound.

My computer features the terrific DMX 6Fire Soundcard from Terratec. I have found this card to do a better-than-adequate job with CD playback, and while no Cary 303/200, it provides a clean, detailed, and relaxed signal. With the computer's CD-ROM spinning the discs and my Marantz connected to the 6Fire's front-mounted breakout box RCA line out, the little Eminent Techs sounded excellent. They are quite detailed and have an extended and airy top end. The crisp, clean, and sparkling treble is a bit forward, yet never tizzy, grainy, or hot as long as the volume control is kept in check. The midrange is very good, if a bit on the lean side, but never clinical—just clean and transparent, with very good tonal qualities and, to these ears, a flat, accurate frequency response. These speakers are fast, and the blazing transient performance really gives them dynamic punch. They exhibit a lot of fine qualities, but none are more impressive than their ability to image. When correctly placed, there is an almost uncanny physical presence to the musicians. The staging is also good. It's mostly between the speakers, but the depth is impressive, as is the blackness of the background, which adds greatly to the palpability of the images. Playback of intimately recorded music is a particular strength of the LFT-11s. Female vocals sound warm and immediate, as do acoustic stringed instruments like violins, guitars, and pianos. Small combo jazz and classical music sounds nothing short of terrific.

One of my favorite CDs, Shawn Colvin's excellent 1989 release Steady On, is filled with percussive elements like bells, triangles, brushes on cymbals, and electronic samples. These are all recreated in beautiful detail through the ET system. The acoustic guitars and solid bass lines of "Shotgun Down the Avalanche" and "Another Long One" are tonally on target, giving the music added realism. Throughout the CD, Shawn's wonderful vocals are rich with emotion and expressiveness, and the LFT-11s give a special glow to the quiet plaintiveness of "Stranded" and "Something to Believe In."No caveats here—this is a great performance by a special artist, treated wonderfully by the LFT-11s.

Being a system built to use with computer multimedia, the LFTs' performance with digital music formats and DVD will be critical to any potential buyer. The differences in sound quality of the various types of digital sound files are easy to discern. Well recorded CDs and DVDs sound superb, most high-bit-rate ripped and encoded files sound very good, and 128k MP3s sound like… what's the old saying about polishing a…oh, never mind, you know what they sound like.

The lively and detailed ETs, partnered with the slightly warm and rolled off sound of the old Marantz 1070, struck a good balance for in-your-face, computer-station listening. I could easily drive the amp into clipping if I got carried away with the volume knob, but I never listen that loud in a close-quarter situation. I never quite found a perfect place for the sub, and my somewhat enclosed desk space reinforced the bit of boominess I heard on some bass-heavy music. Occasionally, the sub seemed to have a little difficulty keeping up with the blazing speed and accuracy of the satellites, and coherency of the total system suffered a bit. It is my belief that the location of the sub may have been at fault, so I hesitate to name this as a shortcoming of the system. However, I should mention that the connector cables, being relatively short at approximately six feet, did not allow for much experimentation in the location of the sub. The same short cable connection between the amp and the sub could be equally problematic if you need to locate the amp far from the subwoofer. Adding extension cables would allow for more location options, and should be simple and inexpensive to build.

After a few days of using my computer with the LFTs, for comparison's sake I disconnected them in favor of my under-$200 Moonsoon 5.1 speaker system (Monsoon, interestingly enough, uses a licensed version of the Eminent Technology's planer driver design.) I had previously thought that the Monsoons sounded very impressive, so the result rather surprised me. It was no contest—as good as the Monsoon system sounds as a computer speaker system, it couldn't hold a candle to the Eminent Techs' transparent and refined ability to reproduce music. The quality gulf between the sound of the bass drivers of the LFT system's sub and the Monsoon's little powered woofer was painfully apparent. There was simply no fair comparison to make. I still think the Monsoons sound good, but the Eminent Technology system sounds that much better. I should note that while the LFT-11 system is available with four satellite speakers for surround-sound use, I am not aware of any option to add a center channel for 5.1 surround-sound use.

After living with these little beauties for a while, I have come to the conclusion that Eminent Technology is right: These speakers do not lend themselves to uses other than as a computer music system, except perhaps for a very small room where you are tied to a chair and not allowed to move. (The movie True Lies comes to mind.) Even with all my relatively minor gripes, they are excellent for the task for which they were developed. With the placement of the speakers dialed in and the subwoofer properly set up, they serve up a refined and delicious sound, with imaging that is almost holographic. The soundstage is physically small, of course, but the sound is amazingly alive, and the system projects a 3D musical picture toward the listener.

The Eminent Technology LFT-11 Planar Magnetic Multimedia Reference Loudspeaker System is a terrific little setup. Like most other wonderful things in this world, it is not without a few flaws, but having music playback that sounds this marvelous at my computer has been quite addictive, and has allowed me to overlook the system's minor imperfections. If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, and listening to two-channel music is of paramount importance to you, then you owe it to yourself to give the LFT-11 an audition. I think you'll be quite smitten, maybe even amazed. I'm listening to Warren Zevon right now, and he and I kind of hate to give these babies back. Whadya say Warren, shall we make ‘em come and get ‘em? Gary L. Beard

LFT-11 General Specifications:

  • Frequency response: 35Hz - 20Khz + 4dB

  • Maximum input power: 50 watts RMS per channel

  • Maximum sound pressure level: 103 dB at 1 meter

  • Crossover frequency: 200Hz

  • Woofers: 2 X 6.5 inch Eminence

  • Impedance: 8 ohms nominal

Two- channel price: $599 per pair with amplifier, $499 without amplifier.

Four-channel price: $950 per set with amplifiers, $750 without amplifiers.

All prices include shipping and available finish options.

Eminient Technology
TEL: 850. 575. 5655
web address: http://www.eminent-tech.com
email address: info@eminent-tech.com

 

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