Audience ClairAudient The One loudspeaker Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

For reasons of consistency, I measured the Audience ClairAudient The One in free space, mounted on a tall stand, as I do all bookshelf loudspeakers that pass through my lab. In use, however, the Ones will be in close proximity to one surface—the top of the user's desk—and perhaps another (the wall, if any, behind the desk). This difference between measurement conditions and those of actual use should be kept in mind throughout this sidebar. However, I note that Bob Reina did do some of his listening with the speakers mounted on 24"-high stands, and far enough away from the room's walls that the latter would give no boundary reinforcement of the lower frequencies. I used DRA Labs' MLSSA system and a calibrated DPA 4006 microphone to measure the Audience One's frequency response in the farfield; and, for the nearfield responses, an Earthworks QTC-40 mike.

My estimate of the Audience One's voltage sensitivity was 83dB(B)/2.83V/m, which is well below the norm. With a specified maximum power handling of 25W, you would have thought this low sensitivity would confine the One to nearfield listening, as on a desktop. However, again note that BJR successfully used the speakers for conventional farfield listening. The Audience's plot of impedance magnitude and electrical phase against frequency is shown in fig.1. The speaker offers basically a 6 ohm load to the partnering amplifier, and without a crossover, the phase angle is low throughout the midrange and treble. Although the phase angle does become increasingly positive in the top two octaves in this graph, due to the single drive-unit's voice-coil inductance, the One is basically still an easy load.

913AC1fig1.jpg

Fig.1 Audience The One, electrical impedance (solid) and phase (dashed) (2 ohms/vertical div.).

There is a slight bump between 200 and 300Hz in the impedance-magnitude trace in fig.1, but investigating the enclosure wall's vibrational behavior uncovered nothing of concern in this frequency region. However, there was a strong resonant mode at 746Hz, as well as some pumping of the panels at the tuning frequency of the rear-facing passive radiator (fig.2; note that the driving voltage used to create this graph was 5dB lower than usual, due to the One's limited power handling). A resonance at 746Hz is sufficiently high in frequency that it should have no audible consequences.

913AC1fig2.jpg

Fig.2 Audience The One, cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from output of accelerometer fastened to center of side panel (MLS driving voltage to speaker, 4.25V; measurement bandwidth, 2kHz).

The saddle just above 40Hz in the impedance-magnitude trace suggests that the tuning frequency of the passive radiator lies close to that frequency. The red trace in fig.3 shows the radiator's output measured in the nearfield; the output peaks a little lower in frequency than suggested by fig.1, at around 35Hz, and the corresponding notch in the drive-unit's output lies at 38Hz. This is a low tuning frequency for such a small speaker and correlates with BJR's finding the speaker's bass surprisingly extended. Still, the danger of such a design is that when the speaker is used in free space, its bass might sound a little disconnected from the lower midrange. It's fair to note that BJR didn't note hearing any such disconnect.

913AC1fig3.jpg

Fig.3 Audience The One, anechoic response on central axis at 50", averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response, with nearfield responses of woofer (blue) and port (red) and their complex sum (black), respectively plotted below 350Hz, 1kHz, 300Hz.

Higher in frequency, the One's response slopes up in the upper midrange, and the treble region is balanced 3–5dB too high in level compared with the midrange. Using the speakers close to boundaries, as on a desktop, will bring up the lower-midrange and bass regions, to give a more neutral balance. In free space, however, this sloped-up response will indeed give the impression of superb retrieval of recorded detail, as BJR heard. Fig.3 was taken with the grille removed; adding it raised the upper-midrange peak by about 1dB, but lowered the output between 5 and 12kHz by up to 1dB (not shown).

The Audience's lateral dispersion, normalized to its on-axis response (which therefore appears as a straight line) so that the differences are revealed, is shown in fig.4. What appears to be an off-axis flare at the cursor position (3.6kHz) in this graph is actually due to the on-axis suckout centered on that frequency filling in to the speaker's sides. The One's lateral dispersion is actually wide and even from the lower midrange through to the mid-treble. However, as expected from the drive-unit's 2.5" radiating diameter, its output becomes quite directional in the top two audio octaves, which will counteract the high-treble peakiness in the speaker's on-axis output. The picture in the vertical plane (fig.5) is very similar, which is to be expected given the design's symmetry.

913AC1fig4.jpg

Fig.4 Audience The One, lateral response family at 50", normalized to response on central axis, from back to front: differences in response 90–5° off axis, reference response, differences in response 5–90° off axis.

913AC1fig5.jpg

Fig.5 Audience The One, vertical response family at 50", normalized to response on central axis, from back to front: differences in response 45–5° above axis, reference response, differences in response 5–45° below axis.

In the time domain, the use of a single drive-unit without a crossover inherently endows the One with a time-coincident step response (fig.6). However, what should be a smooth decay of the right-triangle–shaped response is broken by what appears to be a reflection about 300µs after the initial arrival of the pulse. The cumulative spectral-decay plot (fig.7) is clean in the midrange through to the mid-treble, but the twin peaks in the top octave are associated with ridges of delayed resonant energy. The upper peak is too high in frequency to be audible, but the lower-frequency peak, centered on 16.25kHz, might bother younger listeners. (Ignore the black ridge that visually breaks up this mode; this is due to the inevitable interference from the computer's video circuitry.)

913AC1fig6.jpg

Fig.6 Audience The One, step response on central axis at 50" (5ms time window, 30kHz bandwidth).

913AC1fig7.jpg

Fig.7 Audience The One, cumulative spectral-decay plot on central axis at 50" (0.15ms risetime).

The measured performance of Audience's ClairAudient The One suggests that it will offer the most neutral balance when used in close proximity to a boundary, as on a desktop. Bob Reina was also impressed by its sound when he listened to it in a conventional freefield situation, though its sloped-up response will make the choices of matching components rather critical.

Before writing these comments, I took a listen the Audience speakers on my desk in the office, playing files with iTunes and driving the speakers with a Yamaha desktop receiver. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Yes, there was a touch of "cardboardy" coloration on vocals, a somewhat peaky top octave, and the low frequencies did occasionally sound a little "gruff," but the overall balance was musically pleasing. And as BJR noted, the One's upper-frequency clarity was impressive.—John Atkinson

Company Info
Audience
120 N. Pacific St., K-9
San Marcos, CA 92069
(760) 471-0202
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Comments
dalethorn's picture
I've been watching Audience

I've been watching Audience closely ever since the 2+2 article appeared in Stereophile in July 2011. I've quoted and referenced that article so many times I can't count. I've been primarily on headphones since choosing to live in a small flat for years, and the Audience speakers intrigue me as having the potential to produce the crossoverless clarity of a good quality headphone. I hope this is something I see a lot more of in the future.

corrective_unconscious's picture
**** in the Box

What a little, silly, over priced conceit, imo.

JoeinNC's picture
Why not?

Regarding comparing the One to the AudioEngine A2 you say:

"But comparing the $995/pair One to a $200/pair powered speaker didn't really make sense." 

Why not? They are not dissimilar in size or intended purpose. Just because the One costs five times as much as the A2 doesn't mean it's worth it. I think would have been more informative to compare the speaker to a model currently available and of similar size, even at a far different price, than to compare it to a discontinued model of a different type. 

seikosha's picture
I'm a fan of single driver speakers

I've recently converted to a single driver system and couldn't be happier.  Right now I'm listening to Omega Super 3XRS speakers and since I've put them in the system, my Kef LS50's and Harbeth P3ESR's have been stored away.  I don't miss them one bit.  There's something very pure and magical about one driver with no crossover delivering the music.

That said, there are of course limitations, but if you have a smaller room and aren't a bass freak, the single driver approach is definitely worth investigating.

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