Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Gaia reclocker, Avatar CD transport, Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport; Preamp: icOn 4Pro w. 80Hz filter; Power amplifiers: Enleum AMP-23R, Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant with sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio 'medium' footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dyaudio 18S subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R, Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1, Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: TBA
"I have great news. We have new speakers coming this month. They will be based on our new Neo v2 as well as entry-level F10 Select drivers. This has 90dB efficiency, a rubber surround and is very easy to drive and match to an amplifier." As befits the best teases, brevity marked the geez spot.
Needing no more stimulation, I asked for samples.
I'd already put to bed a brief feature on the original and v2 versions of Cube Audio's premium 10-inch wideband driver by mounting either to the company's big quarter-wave Nenuphar cabinet. With its revised whizzer geometry, new cone treatment and tweaked voice-coil details, v2 sounds earthier or more sonorous.
For today's announcement I suspected it presaging a smaller enclosure meant to sit close to a wall to generate its intended bass response.
Free and breezy is how younger dressers wear shirts, top 3-4 buttons undone to flash pecs or cleavage. As they grow older, buttons get done up again. Similar with speakers. Free and breezy may work a treat in a dedicated listening room.
Once the free-wheeling bachelor gets hitched to make babies, priorities adjust. Suddenly speakers become wall huggers instead of space wasters.
Now it helps if they were intended to do their best work up against the wall. If my assumptions were correct, Cube's latest would fit that bill; and probably also shorten Nenuphar's.
If so, it'd automatically appeal to a greater audience on two points: less cash and audiophile flash for more compact and conservative setups. Not everyone is prepared to let a hifi take over the family sitting lounge. More out of sight now is the preferred solution.
We'll find out shortly whether my instincts called this one; and what the usual specs are. Either way, something's coming down this pike momentarily. Keep your whizzers aligned!
In the meantime, a quick recap of widebander basics.
The widebander term refers to drivers of unusual bandwidth. Those are often but not always run without auxiliary tweeter or woofer. Physics say that to make low bass and high treble plus everything between off the same membrane is mutually exclusive. Textbook tweeters are small and light, textbook woofers heavy and big to not break up whilst moving lots of air. Headphones get away with tweeter-like single drivers due to proximity. Speakers instead play a room to see cubits of air. Now tweeter-sized drivers make no bass we can hear. In the niche of single-driver speakers, the prevailing question is of size. How big of a diameter makes for the most useful overall bandwidth? If a designer answers with 5"—that prioritizes native HF over LF reach—it typically mandates a sizable rear horn or hybrid line to bolt on acoustic bass gain with a big box. Camerton play exception to this rule by using their small driver in a very compact ported box to achieve 35-28'000Hz. With Cube Audio's favored quarter-wave loading, box size gets quite substantial. To reduce that now mandates strategic boundary reinforcement so closer wall proximity. Speakers tuned for it will invariably sound leaner and lacking in bass when placed free and breezy. And yes, soundstage depth typically shortens with close front-wall placement. That's the price to pay for less visual intrusiveness.
This side view shows Cube's trademark phenolic ring spring in lieu of the usual corrugated cloth spider.
Shrinking box size also balances LF reach against sensitivity. As one chases more bass from a more compact box, efficiency goes down. It's easy to appreciate how the more compact single-driver speaker concept with good bass and sensitivity is an endless exercise of tit for tat, of quid pro quo. Something for nothing is not in this picture. But is it ever? All design decisions chart a course which, by leading through reality not wishful thinking, meets challenges. The question is how well any design meets them; and what it buys us in trade. The widebander promise combines unusual speed, directness, zero filter-induced phase shift and point-source dispersion. Possible liability is linearity. There's no corrective filter network to trim the response. Like their few competitors in this realm, Cube Audio only have their raw driver and its cabinet to lock in the frequency response before our room adds its own ideas.
Nenuphar in wood veneer at New Zealand's Parmenter Sound driven by AirTight's ATM-2211 monos.
Meanwhile the current buffer of our amp sees these voice coils directly. There are no interceding parts which may shift phase or absorb/release parts of the signal delayed in time. It's perhaps fair to say that listeners particularly sensitive to the time domain could feel naturally drawn to the widebander concept. It sidesteps potential temporal blur and avoids recombinant effects across disparate drivers. And it's equally fair to point out that single-driver options are in the extreme minority on the global speaker scene so real outsiders and underground exotica. For the right shopper, already that has its own appeal. Today then we're clearly well off the mainstream beat down a little retro alley few ever take.
… to be continued…
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