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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
ImageAudience LLC was formed in 1997 and is located in San Marcos, CA. In their relatively short life span, they have become one of the elite designers and manufacturers of state of the art signal and power cables. They also produce highly regarded power conditioners, high resolution capacitors, and the Auric Illuminator, an optical disc enhancement kit.  My only experience with Audience products is the Auric Illuminator, which I found to work wonders on compact discs and DVD's to improve resolution and help with problematic discs.

Audience has also recently entered the loudspeaker market. Far from being satisfied with a conventional product, they have decided to take a different path. This approach was formed over a long period of time, with much trial and error, proprietary technology, and determination. Add to that a unique vision. Audience has gotten a lot of buzz and several high profile endorsements for the ClairAudient Line Source Array loudspeaker. The original Audience speaker was the vision of the late Richard Smith whose idea was to overcome the common limitations and compromises inherent in most loudspeaker systems.

The ClairAudient Line Source Array has no crossover which, according to Audience, eliminates many issues including phase anomalies. They claim this reduces distortion, produces a more accurate waveform, and proper transient response. The ClairAudient uses multiple, full range drivers that produce a flat frequency response from 50Hz to 22Khz, with the lowest frequencies reproduced by a separate subwoofer. It also features what Audience calls SweetSpace(tm) Imaging Technology that provides an expanded optimal listening area over conventional loudspeakers.

Driver FrontAccording to Audience, “the A3S driver is a breakthrough full range loudspeaker driver design comprising the patented XBL motor, patent-pending suspension and patent pending basket. The A3S is built like a high power subwoofer driver using a large neodymium motor structure, big voice coil and suspension venting. The A3 is ultra responsive at 2.5 grams total moving mass providing state of the art resolution and dynamic range. The A3S sports 12mm of usable excursion with less than 1 dB compression at levels up to 95 dB SPL. “

What makes this first loudspeaker offering from Audience so interesting is that it's available in driver configurations of 4, 8, 16 or 32 drivers! As mentioned before, some very high profile high performance audio journalists have indicated that the ClairAudient is a breakthrough product; which brings us to the subject of this review, the ClairAudient 2 + 2 stand mounted monitor. The ClairAudient 2 + 2, as its name might indicate, is a bi-pole mini monitor that uses four of the Audience A3S full range drivers that radiate from the front and from the back, plus a passive radiator to enhance bass frequencies.

The 2 + 2, again, features no crossover and no separate tweeter or midrange driver. The ultimate goal, according to Audience, was to provide a seamless presentation and integration of all frequencies. Some of the final notes on the 2 + 2's construction is use of custom internal wiring, and exotic, locally sourced cabinet finishes. My review sample was supplied in a beautiful African Sapeli finish. The speakers can be provided 4 ohm (standard), 8 ohm or 16 ohm impedance ratings as well, pretty unique, for best results with the partnering amplifier. The review sample was 4 ohm rated, and specified at 90 db efficiency. The 2 + 2 is priced at $5000 per pair.

Driver SideJohn McDonald, Audience's CEO and President, invited me to his home for an initial listening session to see if I was interested in doing a review in the first place. I found Mr. McDonald to be very passionate about Audience, highly intelligent, and an all around gracious man. I arrived at his home with a CD-R of very familiar recordings to give the 2 + 2's a first listen. His excellent system consisted of Audience designed Class D amplification, Audience cabling, and an Audience modified digital source. (See an interview with John McDonald at the conclusion of the review.)

The speakers were toed in pretty severely (45 degrees), and they were on 28 inch stands, which McDonald recommends. My initial impression was that I was clearly listening to something different than a run of the mill mini monitor, with a standard driver array and crossover. The sound stage was much larger than I had anticipated given their size, and the room was filled with large scale, lifelike music; even more surprising considering McDonald's living room was not small by any means. I would categorize it on the larger side of medium.  After getting a handle on the presentation, words that came to mind were "warm", "spacious", and "coherent". When I mentioned to McDonald that I don't often get to hear tweeter-less, crossover-less speakers, save for panel designs, he said something that stuck with me, "“the 2+2 are direct coupled to your amplifier”. I also came away pretty impressed with the bass performance. I will state clearly here that it was the highest quality bass I have heard from a monitor that size, bar none.


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