Each designer has their own outlook and philosophy. My personal goal is to create designs that are forward thinking and stand the test of time. This can be seen in my prior work at Unity Audio which in its day produced over 5000 sets of loudspeakers (virtually all of which are still in service) and rarely come up on the used market. Often after selling them the prior owner contacts me and asks if I know how to get another set, as they miss the sound. I take great pride in the enduring qualities of each product I design.
It is in this frame of reference that I attempt to discuss our coming products based on exoskeleton structures utilizing carbon fiber rods and reactive ballistic technologies. I am about to say something I have never said before.
The products we are about to debut are so far in a way superior to anything ever done at my hand (or perhaps at anyone's hand) that I am grappling to come to terms with both their performance and their visual appeal.
I am falling in love again.
Those audiophiles who have experienced my personal HiFi in my private listening room (or experience our systems at CES Shows) often wonder out loud how it could get any better. The answer is: It could get 'real.' Spooky, scary, real.
The First Kiss
When I first hooked up the React1's to break them in I turned on the television audio feed to slowly bring them to life. The Golf Channel happened to be on broadcasting a tournament. When the first two announcers spoke it was 'different' somehow. You could hear the sides and back of tarps that enclosed the announcers. You could hear they were in a tower made of plastics tarps. What happened next blew me away.
Suddenly the soundstage changed to a vast outdoors scene looking out into a huge forest with each bird absolutely pinpointed within the trees. When the camera panned back to show the golfer about to hit his shot you could see the on course announcer now talking in the background standing off the fairway with his back to the trees exactly as his sonic fingerprint would indicate. Scary . . .
What if Dorothy Never Wanted to Go Home?
Some journeys are more eventful than others. So how did we get here? It all began with the design of a table. Yes, a table. Oh, did I mention that this table just happened to win The IDEA Award for Green Product of the Year from Wood Digest magazine? Design is not only a job of mine but apparently a hobby as well.
The design was based on optimizing efficiencies by making the structure (or skeleton) of the table into the actual table. Why make a skeleton and then put another structure over it? Seems really wasteful in retrospect. Besides, there is no way to construct a table that weighs only 15 pounds with both a skeleton and a covering structure.
Know the Truth and it Shall Set You Free
The real purpose for a loudspeaker enclosure is to absorb and dissipate the rear wave of the driver so it never reaches the outside world and ultimately, your ears. No one seems to have ever explained how, exactly, you can do this by building an enclosure out of rigid dead materials that, inherently by their definition, cannot do the task that defines what the enclosure's main purpose is to be. True, if you used Styrofoam for a heat sink it would not radiate heat back out into the room, but it also would not work as a heat sink. Odd how that logic works.
Energy is best modeled as plasma. Good enough for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab, good enough for me. So the job of a loudspeaker enclosure is to direct the rear wave of the driver (energy) away from the back of the driver and dissipate it throughout the enclosure. Seems easy enough. Why are those three Monkeys laughing at me right now (hear no evil, see no evil and . . .)?
Clearly, if you are to construct an enclosure that absorbs energy it must act as an energy absorber (the sad thing is this statement is going to be so controversial).
Enter the Cerious Technologies' expertise in reactive structures and materials. If we constructed each enclosure out of 66 filament wrapped carbon fiber rods - each filled with its own mix of reactive materials - then the enclosure would be incredibly rigid and would contain 66 independent shock absorbers (actually, in the interest of engineering accuracy, they are best defined as mass dampers . . .) that would inherently dissipate energy. If we wanted to get really slick, we could even define each section of the cabinet and fine tune the properties of the filler materials used to best optimize performance. I have always been a sucker for slick . . .
We are, also, no longer limited to that dreary old square box. I know I am the designer and I am into Danish modernism, but can you believe how incredibly beautiful these things are? You even have your choice of Zebrawood, Bubinga, or Cocobolo dowels. Previous designs worked hard to get away from parallel surfaces. These designs have none!
How on Earth Do You Build These Things?
Each cabinet contains a spine of three separate plates, each cut by CNC with exact cut outs for each rod. The center of the cabinet is occupied by a large diameter ribbed stainless steel tube which makes the cabinet extremely rigid and provides a place to fill the speakers with either 30 pounds of lead shot or with an optional bass frequency mass damper. Cerious Technologies? expertise also lies in adhesives where proprietary ceramics are used to couple the carbon fiber rods to the spines providing a near ideal impedance path for vibration transmission. The inside of each cabinet is then covered with materials to seal any gaps between the rods and to act as a secondary acoustic absorption layer.
The baffles on which the drivers are mounted are not supposed to absorb energy and are built accordingly. Each baffle is constructed of a sandwich of acrylics, anodized aluminum, and a constrained layer of carbon fiber which yields a rigid platform that is inherently self dampening. The design is finished off with internal free standing layers of Kevlar and acoustic foam. (Photo R1-7)
Speaking of finish the carbon fiber rods as well as the carbon fiber baffles, tops and bottoms all come with the tough epoxy finish inherent to the carbon fiber fabrication process. This results in a high gloss finish that will last for years to come.
Each set of React1's come with integral stands designed to couple the React1's rigidly to the floor. Constructed of a 3? in diameter tube of carbon fiber and acrylics, the central tube can be filled with 45 pounds of shot to further hold the speakers rigidly in place. This can be done after receiving the speakers in your home country making them cheaper and easier to ship across the world (Hint, Hint).
The Nitty Gritty
Each React1 utilizes a 6.5" midrange/bass driver with long excursion capabilities. This driver has an in house composite ceramic cone with rear damping pads which eliminates the ringing found in other pure ceramic or high rigidity cone designs. The 'bass loading' is non-standard, as it is part of the energy dissipation platform inherent to the enclosure. This driver covers the range of 45 Hz to 3,800 Hz where it crosses over to a modified Illuminator tweeter at a rate of 6 db/octave. This tweeter is very linear out to 24,000 Hz. Oh, and it sounds good, too. (Photo R1-3)
The impedance is a smooth 6 Ohms and the efficiency is 88 db 1W/1M. Each crossover is as complicated as you have come to expect from my designs. One component and two solder joints for the mid/bass driver and two components, three solder joints for the tweeter.
Retail: $9,750 pair, including matching carbon fiber stands.
Next week: The React2 Full Range Floor Standing speakers utilizing Cerious Technologies' exoskeleton reactive enclosure design. Can you say "WOW?"