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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 3
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adire audio

HE10.1 Signature loudspeakers

as reviewed by Francsico Duran and Dave Clark

 

 

 

 

FRANCISCO DURAN'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2 with Osiris 24" stands.

ELECTRONICS
Monarchy SM-70 (ran as monoblocks), Antique Sound Labs MG-SPM25DT monoblocks, Canary CA-301Mk-II amplifier, and Reference Line Preeminence lA passive and Canary CA-601Mk-II preamplifiers.

SOURCE
NAD T531 and Antique Electronic Supply CD-1 (temporary) CD players, and a Taddeo Digital Antidote Two.

CABLES
Superconductor+ and FX interconnects, a double run of JPS Ultraconductor speaker cables, and Monarchy and various DIY AC cords.

ACCESSORIES
Balanced Power Technologies BPT 4SE, Brick Wall Series Mode Surge Suppressor, Audio Prisim Quiet Lines and Noise Sniffer, Vibrapods, Black Diamond Racing Boards and cones, Final Labs Daruma-3II Isolation Bearings, various ferrite rings, Target rack, Yamaha KX-380 cassette deck, custom made wooden cable lifters by Mr. Clark senior, and all the NOS tubes I can afford!

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)Glance through a few audio magazines and you are bound to run into ads from speaker kit suppliers. The choice of designs is extensive. There are kits with sealed or ported boxes and horn designs. I have even seen ads for electrostatic kit speakers. How would many of us feel if we had to give up our expensive, store-bought speakers for speakers built from a kit? I can hear the gasps and heart clutching from here! Nevertheless, I have always wondered how good those kits sound, and how they would compare to the ranks of "official," audiophile-grade transducers that most of us have in our homes.

How about a high efficiency, stand-mounted kit speaker from diycable.com, who sell the Adire range of kit speakers? Kevin Haskins of DIY sent us the HE10.1 speakers (Signature version). We didn't have to build them—Kevin put them together. If you look at a picture of the 10.1s, you may be fooled into thinking that these are small speakers because they are on stands. Lifting them onto the stands, you quickly realize that the 10.1s are substantial. They outweighed my ProAcs by a good margin. Kevin stained our review pair in cherry and topped them off with a nice clear coat. This is where your imagination could run wild. After all, this is a do-it-yourself project, right? DIY sells the box for this speaker in a flat, knockdown version, or you can buy the Signature Series box already put together. I think the fun would be in putting it together. The grille covers the entire front of the speaker except for a hole for the front-firing port. Remove the grille and the 10-inch Eminence Beta 10CX accordion-edged paper driver is exposed. According to Haskins, this driver has a 90-degree conical horn compression tweeter that threads into the pole piece. That's right, the tweeter is in the middle. Just looking at that big 10-inch driver you might well ask, "Where's the tweeter?" It is dead center, behind what looks like the woofer dust cap. It fooled quite a few of my audio friends. This arrangement is said to time-align the tweeter to the woofer. The difference between the two drivers in this configuration is less than 40 microseconds. Most conventional speakers have around 300 ms of time delay.

The crossover is Adire's sixth-order Linkwitz Riley that crosses over at 24 K. The crossover has a total parts count of just ten. Kevin also told me that the Eminence driver only has one inductor in series with it, and the tweeter has only a single resistor and inductor. It looks like Adire is keeping it simple and clean. The Signature versions of the 10.1 include Cardas binding posts and internal wiring, updated crossovers using Auricaps, and slightly larger, more heavily braced cabinets. Compared to comparably priced store-bought speakers, you are getting a heck of a lot for your money. But how do they reproduce music? I thought you would never ask! Hooking up these speakers to any of my amps turned out to be a lot of fun. The 10.1s were dynamic, full bodied, quick, and very responsive to the pace and dynamic shifts of music. Turning up the volume at a passage from a lead guitar, or a large orchestral crescendo, drove the point home quite well indeed. Music did not sound small, as it tends to sound with my ProAc Response Twos. This quickly got me involved. At first, in went disc after disc to see what these speakers could do, but I soon found myself just enjoying music for sheer pleasure.

One thing that seems to be at the heart of these speakers’ musicality is the way they reproduce the soundstage—as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon. The Stones, The Pat Metheney Group, and Govt. Mule were spread across my den and jamming away. One of my CDs that qualifies as an old chestnut is Carmina Burana on Deutsche Grammophone. On this disc, the image of the whole chorus had weight, with an airy sound to the hall. Since I don't usually listen to speakers that employ concentrically mounted drivers, I can't say that this arrangement makes for better soundstaging and imaging than my more conventional monitors, but the performance of the 10.1s in this area is very good. Next I listened to a JVC XRCD sampler disc. On track six, flutist Nakagawa does his take on Round Midnight. The flute sounded clean and extended, with good resolution. I did find that compared to the Tetra Rebels that were here at the same time, the 10.1s’ top end sounded warmer and rounder. The Nakagawa track had a little less air and sounded a little less open in the high frequencies, but this might not be a bad thing for an instrument like the flute.

I wasn't sure what to expect when it came to bass reproduction with these speakers. I half expected a somewhat loose bass sound. Boy, was I wrong. The bass was both full bodied and quick. The woofers always had very good control. I was impressed. On most of the jazz, blues, and rock that I listened to, the HE10.1s produced an adequate amount of bass. Of course, with discs like Stravinsky's Firebird Suite from Reference Recordings or Shaggy's Hotshots, the HE10.1s could have used some help below 40 cycles. Kevin Haskins did send along a subwoofer. The sub was huge! The bottom of this monster was fitted with an 18-inch driver that reminded me of a kettledrum. The driver is Audire’s Maelstrom. The price is $1179 if you want to put the cabinet together. Needless to say, this sub filled in the lower end with authority. I admit that I'm not used to low bass, so it was fun to add the sub to the 10.1s. Kettledrums now had impact and authority on the Firebird Suite instead of a mere suggestion of their sound. The Shaggy disc also showed some serious low end. Another benefit in adding the Maelstrom was that the soundstage expanded and sounded more filled in. This made music that much more enjoyable. With the crossover options on the sub, I got a very good blend to the satellites, with both the HE10.1s and my ProAcs.

In audio, as in life, there always seems to be a fly in the ointment, especially with speakers. For me there was a pretty big fly. The aspect of the performance of these speakers that I could not listen around was a recess in the midrange. I noticed it more on male vocals than with female, and on any instrument that wandered into this area. No matter which amp I used or whatever I changed in the system, I could hear that recess and it bothered me. It didn't seem to be as noticeable on instrumental music as it did when singing kicked in. After I had listened for a few weeks, I invited some friends over to get a listen and see if they could detect what I was hearing. All who heard these speakers noticed the recess, but it bothered some more than others. At this point, I contacted Kevin Haskins again. He told me that they have a crossover tweak that raises or lowers the speakers’ output above 15 KHz, and mentioned that how impossible it is to design speakers that fit everyone’s taste, system, and preference. I agree with him and can understand his point. Although I felt the anomaly that I was hearing was lower in frequency than 15Khz, it would have been interesting to do the tweak and see if it removed the problem. The fact that you have the option of tweaking a speaker to your taste by consulting the manufacture/distributor and installing a few more parts speaks volumes for their customer service. It also tells me that I don't have to be stuck with somebody else's idea of how speakers should sound, and can tailor my speakers to my liking and equipment.

These speakers have a sensitivity of 95.5 dB @ 1W, 1M, and their impedance is said to be greater than 6.5 ohms over the entire frequency range. It is claimed that the 10.1s have less than 6 ohms of variance from 150Hz to 15Khz. This is a very benign load, and although I didn't have a 4-watt amp around, my Antique Sound Labs 25-watt single-ended monoblocks sounded a lot more muscular with these speakers than hooked up to my ProAcs. The resolution was such with the HE10.1s that the sound character of my three different amps showed up easily.

As the years go by and my speakers get older and older, I frequently think of replacing them. The problem is that the speakers I hear they are either too big, too expensive, or don't sound a whole heck of a lot better than my ProAcs. After listening to the HE10.1s, the idea a speaker kit appeals to me, especially one that is built like a tank, is inexpensive, easy to drive, and gives me the option to adjust the sound and looks to my liking. Recommended for the tweaker, or for the audiophile/music lover who likes to have it their way. Francisco Duran

 

 

 

DAVE CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons (with the Hi-Vi Isodynamic Planar tweeters and series crossovers).

ELECTRONICS
Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3000 preamplifier w/Tunsgram tubes and BCG3.1 power supply.

SOURCES
EAD T-1000 transport and EVS Millenium II DAC. Audient Audit and Tactic. Taddeo Digital Antidote Two (latest active version). Transrotor 25/25/60 Leonardo turntable with a Clearaudio Virtuoso wood MM cartridge. Sony RCD-W1 and Magnum Dynalab MD-90 tuner. Sennheiser HD540 headphones and Audio Alchemy headphone amplifier.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+ and Silver Sonic Revelation interconnects, and NC speaker cables. JPS digital cable. Sahuaro Slipstream and Slipstream XP (digital and Taddeo), Blue Circle BC63 (preamplifier and phonostage), and JPS Kaptovator AC cables (amps and Stealths).

ACCESSORIES
Two Audio Magic Stealth Power Purifiers (one for analog, except BC3000 preamp, and a Digital unit for the digital sources), Blue Circle BC86 Noise Hound (amplifier circuit) and Audio Prism QuietLines (throughout the house). Dedicated 20 (amps) and 15 amplifier (everything else) AC circuits. Tons of Shakti Stones and On-Lines and Original Cable Jackets (frig's AC and on DSL phone line). Various Marigo VTS Dots used extensively throughout the system and room (window behind listening seat). Echo Buster acoustical treatments and Shakti Hallographs. BDR cones and board, Blue Circle Cones, DH Jumbo cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, and Townshend Audio 2D (speakers) and 3D Seismic Sinks (CD player and preamp). Walker Audio Ultimate High Definition Links. Various hard woods placed here and there along with numerous >Peter Belt treatments.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The world of DIY offers the audiophile a true alternative to products that may be out of their financial reach, but what makes DIY even more attractive is that, in many instances, the performance is equal to (if not better than) that of manufactured products. This is the basic DIY mindset—I can build it better for less, and as a bonus, sit back and say to myself, "I built that!" Many DIY companies are founded by people who started out designing and building their own gear, then developed a following. When people start calling, asking for plans, kits, or whatever, a company is born. This brings me to the speakers being offered by DIY Cables/Audire Audio, the HE10.1s.

I first heard these single-driver speakers at the 2001 Vacuum-tube State of the Art Conference (VSAC), and was blown away. Many of the designers felt they had designed and built the "right" speakers, but these turned out to be the real deal. I visited the room several times to make sure I was not hearing things, and came out scratching my head in disbelief. How could a $459 kit sound so good? (The kit includes everything you need to have a finished pair of HE10.1s: cabinets, drivers, wire, binding posts, screws, and crossover parts. The kit is also available sans cabinet for considerably less.) These played any music I threw at them (okay, my choices were limited to the few discs I had brought, and none were of the usual audiophile fare) with a clean and open sound lacking in any gross colorations. After visiting too many rooms in which single-driver speakers (Lowthers and their ilk) produced limited-bandwidth sound combined with horn coloration, I needed relief, and the HE10.1s were just what I needed. Perfect? Hardly, as a 10-inch driver in a smallish cabinet was not going to set off any car alarms with its bottom end, but their sound was true and musical to 50 Hz or so. A real show standout—musical, lively, and not the least bit fatiguing. I really enjoyed what I heard, and wanted them for review!

What came were the "refined," Signature versions, now costing over a grand and featuring finished cherry cabinets with grills, as opposed to the really cool, stained black ash speakers I heard at VSAC. The ugly ducklings have been turned into swans, though I actually preferred the DIY look of the earlier version. The Signatures offer a few distinct improvements. The drivers are the same, but the crossovers feature matched parts of a higher caliber—Solen inductors, Solen and Auricap capacitors, Link resistors, and Cardas wire and binding posts. The cabinets also have extra bracing. The Signatures are more thought out and more finished products, but they are a step or two away from the DIY mantra. The reviewed pair look more like mass-produced loudspeakers, but that's okay, since the basics have not changed, and the kit is still an option.

The ugly duckling may have been the better of the two birds. Swapping the Reimer Tetons for the HE10.1s was an interesting exercise. The Reimers are multiple-driver speakers that are pretty efficient (94 dB @ 8 ohms), are extremely extended at both frequency extremes, and feature series crossovers to create the impression of point sources. The HE10.1s do not go nearly as low, nor do they have anywhere near the drive and impact, nor the air and extension. While the HE10.1s sounded great at VSAC, they offered less then I expected here. They are clean and coherent, but I never got into the music as much as I did at VSAC. (Yes, I drank a fair amount of beer at the show, as the event had a party-type atmosphere, but hey, that's far from what's it like here at home!) The HE10.1s never really opened up, sounding as if they were holding the music back. At VSAC, the music jumped from the speakers, filling the room with excitement and life, but here that sense of lively clarity was missing. They played loud, and did so with a clean and reasonably articulate presentation, but the music was less involving than either the Tetons or the earlier VSAC version presented. There were no real sins of commission, just ones of omission; "Gee, this is good, but they need more of that," sort of thing. They did sound a bit better the more I played around with them. It is necessary to point the speakers straight at the listener and sit right at the drivers’ centers to get the best out of these speakers, since in this position they offer more life and sparkle.

The 10-inch driver is fast and clean, and offers fairly respectable resolution and pace. You can hear what is going on, yet there is no sense of listener fatigue. I found that I could listen for extended periods at near-"party" levels with no strain. However, they are not the last word in detail, ambience, or resolution. I hear a lot more with the Reimers than with the HE10.1s ($7000 versus $1100, so go figure!). The HEs do impart a sense of "paper" to the sonic tapestry, but since the drivers are made of paper, what would you expect? It is only through careful crossover design that manufactures can mitigate this to any degree, which speaks well of the design heard here. The "paper" sound is not overwhelming, nor is there any sense of a "cupped-hands" coloration. You hear a single source that is somewhat limited in both frequency and directionality. The selection of this driver is no doubt an issue of price versus performance, and the crossovers are no doubt doing wonders to mitigate what shortcomings the drivers possess, hence the ever-so-subtle coloration and roll-off at the frequency extremes. The problem is that the 10-inch driver is asked to do an awful lot, and something has to give. While the bass is fairly articulate, it is not very deep or forceful. This is not, in any sense, a speaker for bass freaks. For that you will need a sub, but what bass there is, is pretty good. It is clean and articulate, and offers the music a reasonable foundation. I felt much the same about the mids and treble. They were nice, but I had a hard time finding much to get excited about. Like I said, they were not getting me enough of what I wanted too hear, nor heard before.

So what happened? I enjoyed the HE10.1s far more at VSAC then I did here, so there has to be an explanation. I suspect the answer is twofold. One, the speakers I heard at VSAC did not have the additional cabinet bracing and where of ash plywood as opposed to the finished veneer, and therefore this may have resulted in them sounding more lively. Is this an issue of over-engineering? Perhaps, so maybe in this case, simpler is better. The speakers now sound over-damped. Second is the all-important issue of system matching. My system does not have the types of components with which these speakers will typically be mated (see sidebar). I am sure that a SET amp and simple tube preamp will allow these speakers to perform better than they did here. At VSAC they were using the Paramour amplifiers (3.5 watts SET) and a Foreplay preamplifier (as simple as it gets). With these speakers, this is probably the way to go. I am still going to recommend these to anyone who wants to build a great speaker to use with a simple SET system. I may just order a pair for my son, so we can have the father/son adventure of building his own system. Recommended. Dave Clark

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DIY Cable room at VSAC

 

 

 

HE10.1 loudspeakers
Retail $495 as a kit or $1295 as the finished Signature version


the HE10.1 as a kit

DIY Cable
TEL: 219. 462. 4547
web address: www.diycable.com
e-mail: info@diycable.com

 

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