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Audience ClairAudient 2 + 2 Loudspeakers Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 October 2010
Article Index
Audience ClairAudient 2 + 2 Loudspeakers Review
Setup and Listening
John McDonald Interview

An Interview with John McDonald of Audience LLC:

AVRev: Can you tell us about how Audience got started, and did you have a certain philosophy in mind when you entered the marketplace?
JM: Audience was formed in late 1997 with the primary purpose of designing an ideal loudspeaker. Our efforts towards that vision continued over the past 13 years. The idea…instead of working around conventional design limitations like disparate drivers and crossovers…was to not have those “work around” problems in the first place.  The vision was to have a highly resolving, highly coherent, highly dynamic low distortion one way loudspeaker. Over the years we tried a great many approaches.

John McDonald ShotApproximately three years ago we gave up thinking that it was not possible to achieve our goal. At the time we were using already available full range drivers. However, those drivers could not do the entire job that we envisioned. As such we then set out to design a better loudspeaker driver, the result of which proved to exceed our expectations. The Audience proprietary 3 inch full range A3S driver itself is truly a breakthrough in loudspeaker design given its frequency range, long and linear excursion, power handling/output and low distortion. Its 12mm excursion is something you would ONLY expect to see only on a larger woofer.

The long excursion coupled with very light moving mass of 2.5 grams and exceedingly powerful motor control of the patented dual gap XBL2 magnet…provides a combination of traits heretofore never achieved in a small full range loudspeaker driver…wide bandwidth, seamless and high resolution, high dynamics, high power handling/low distortion and linear response.  The Audience A3S driver is at the heart of the ClairAudient 2+2 design and has enabled the Audience vision to come true. Throughout the years of developing an ideal loudspeaker Audience developed other award winning high end cables and power conditioning products for which it is now well known.

AVRev: Can you gives us more detailed information about the technology, construction, and benefits, of the 2 +2, and the  A3 driver?

JM: The ClairAudient 2+2 is not just another monitor speaker that we threw together to start making speakers. It is the result of many years of development and perseverance to a long held dream.  It is entirely unique.  There is no other loudspeaker on this planet that embodies all of the significant traits of the 2+2…at any price. Yes, that is an enormous statement. However, here is the list:

  • No crossover/highly coherent/single line source
  • No disparate drivers…see benefits at 
  • Wide bandwidth
  • Ultra high resolution
  • Highly dynamic
  • Exceptionally linear and seamless response
  • High power handing/low distortion
  • High efficiency

Now let’s look at the construction of the speaker. First, note that each speaker is equivalent to two speakers. The 2+2 would work, and will work, as a mono pole 2 driver speaker…this product will also be made. The cabinets are all handmade by J&F Wood Products in Riverside California, 40 year veteran loudspeaker cabinet makers. The cabinet edges are radiuses for low cabinet diffraction.  The wood is 13 layer Baltic Birch and is dado adjoined for superior rigidity.  The front and rear plinths, made by Neil Feay in Santa Barbara California are CNC machined from aircraft quality aluminum. The aluminum plinth baffles provide a number of benefits, primarily for exceptional construction and mounting rigidity AND eliminating cabinet obstruction around the inside of the drivers. Whereas mounting drivers into wood inherently means that the sides of the cut out mounting holes are close to the emitting waves resulting in a cavernous type sound reflection.

All of the internal wiring is made with the highest quality OFCC (mono crystal) wire. The OFCC wire strands are the same as used in the renowned Audience Au24e cables. The wire, Cardas binding posts and harness solder joints are cryogenically treated. Inside the cabinet there are no parallel walls and no fibrous damping materials that absorb low level information. The proprietary cabinet interior is much like an anechoic chamber with all that implies. The extraordinary seamless imaging that you get with the 2+2 is representative of sound staging that is only possible when a great many factors are correctly in place.
The ClairAudient 2+2 sound is much bigger than one would expect from a small loudspeaker. Just turn off the lights or close your eyes and hear for yourself. You do not get the feeling that you are listening to a small speaker. In fact, the speakers virtually disappear. The large soundstage is not what one would normally expect to hear from a small speaker. The ClairAudient 2+2 therefore offers an opportunity for superior sound reproduction in smaller rooms where larger speakers are not an option.

AVRev: It is always a challenge to introduce audiophiles to new concepts and technologies. Are you looking forward to the task?

JM: Yes, very much so! Playing music for people through the ClairAudient loudspeakers is the fun part of this endeavor.

Listening Playlist

  • The Clientele: Minotaur (2010) Merge Records
  • Salif Keita: La Difference (2010) Decca Records
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Preservation (2010) 
  • Ray Lamontagne: God Willin and the Creek Don't Rise (2010) RCA Records
  • Ray Lamontagne: Till the Sun Goes Black (2006) RCA Records
  • Yes: Going: For the One (1977/1994) Atlantic Records
  • Bert Jansch: Black Swan (2006) Drag City Records
  • Richard Thompson: Sweet Warrior (2007) Shout Factory Records
  • Grateful Dead: From the Mars Hotel (1974/2006) Greatful Dead/Rhino Records
  • John Coltrane: Soultrane (1959/2006) Prestige

Testing System 1

  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, McIntosh MA6600, Manley Neo Classic 300B Monos
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, 
  • Cables: DH Labs, RS Cables, Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)/Element Cable, Shunyata, Pangea, Audience
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands, Timbernation platform, CablePro Noisetrapper

Testing System 2

  • CD Player: Marantz 5003
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77, HHB CD Recorder, Edirol 96/24 WAV recorder
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
  • Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5
  • Speaker: Spendor S3/5R
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables.

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