Going green is becoming a popular choice for consumers looking to lessen their ecological footprint on planet earth. Small changes made by many, over time, can make big differences. This is a wagon that needs no band: reduce, reuse, recycle and repeat. While the Green Revolution is still in its relative infancy, many consumers and companies are already changing their directives to reflect a commitment to greener living.
While researching new and recent audio gear, I came across Role's Web site (www.roleaudio.com ) and was drawn in by the company's alternative “green” speaker offerings. “Use the latest technology and the least amount of drivers, crossover parts, and materials to deliver big speaker performance in the smallest possible cabinet designs.” That's part of Role Audio's credo; it's other is a commitment to manufacturing eco-friendly audio gear. Role is using certified green paints and sealers to coat the unfinished inside panels of its vented (TL) loudspeakers to help to prevent off-gassing – another name for that “new smell” that products such as speakers and furniture emit. Customers also have the option to purchase loudspeakers made with formaldehyde-free boards and painted with the certified green paints.
I was sent the “all green” version of Role's Kayak, which comes covered in a lovely birch plywood finish and is available direct from Role for $995/pair. The Kayak is a mini-monitor and the smallest in the Kayak series of two-way loudspeakers. It sports an acoustic suspension design, where the speaker cabinet is sealed with no port. Sealed cabinets utilize a cushion or mass of air within the cabinet, instead of a mechanical spring, for the suspension. This design caused a huge stir back in the 1950s, when Henry Kloss and Acoustic Research associates introduced the legendary AR-1 to an unsuspecting audio community. Acoustic suspension speakers are small but capable of producing low, clean bass and have become the de-facto speaker for studio use where accuracy, clarity and precision are vital.
Features, Specs & Setup
Standing 8 inches tall, 5.5 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep, this craft is tiny but navigates through oceans of sound with ease. The speakers are magnetically shielded and time aligned and come equipped with five-way binding posts facilitating connection with bare speaker wire or wires terminated with banana plugs, pins or spades. Bi-wire and bi-amp terminals with jumpers are available as options.
Although the Kayaks have a recommended power range of 35 to 150 watts, at 85 dB sensitivity, the speakers do better paired with high-powered amps. If you want to hear what these sprites are capable of, feed them enough juice – they reach a point where the sound (as if straining to be released) becomes free, opening up into a soundstage that belies the size of the source. Though tiny, the Kayaks don't need pampering - these babies deserve to be let loose and sing. The singing comes from a 1-inch, soft-dome ferro-cooled soft-dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch long-throw carbon fiber woofer. Soft-dome tweeters work very well with sealed-cabinet designs, as they offer very flat (neutral) response and resist the digital squawk that can make any speaker – but certainly a mini – unpleasant, if not fatiguing, when listening to CDs over a long period.
I put the Kayaks on a pair of 30-inch stands (Plateau STS-30s) and tucked a couple of Valhalla Technology's (www.valhalla-technology.dk) VT Feet 25 underneath each speaker. The 25s are triangular, vibration-dampening speaker feet made from poron, a microcellular urethane foam that is very dense, flexible, strong and stable. Although Valhalla advocates using the 25s for center speakers and subwoofers, I found that two of them worked very well to stabilize and isolate the Kayaks.
I was surprised and delighted by the Kayaks' performance, which other reviewers have aptly described as the speaker “vanishing,” leaving only music to enjoy. The Kayaks never reveal – or even hint at - their diminutive size during playback. Not only do they disappear but it's as if the music just appears. One curiosity – and this could just be my 42-year-old ears – is that it usually took me about 15 seconds or so to “hear” the Kayaks when I first played music through them. By this I mean, there seemed to be a delay for me to connect with the sound. I think that was largely due to the speaker's soon-to-come disappearing act. It was as if I needed to first locate the sound before I heard it. That sounds weird, I know, but it happened every time. Once I did lock in, the music was freed and coalesced into an unflappable stereo image.