Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD712z loudspeaker Page 2
Speakers that are highly revealing of faults in recordings are normally thought to be "unforgiving," making all but the most pristine recordings sound unlistenable. Paradoxically, the TD712z proved to be nothing of the sort. Although faults in the recording were certainly audible through these speakers, they also communicated more of the music on the recording. It's analogous to considering noise in relation to signal. The noise (audible artifacts) may be higher, but the signal (musical detail) is correspondingly higher still, so that the ratio of signal to noise remains higher than with a speaker that glosses over the subtleties of both music and recording artifacts. At no point in my auditioning of the TD712z did I feel that I had to restrict myself to listening only to the most technically perfect recordings. On the contrary: I got the greatest enjoyment from listening to recordings that I knew were far less than perfect. Through the TD712z, I had the sense that I was hearing more of what my recordings "really" sounded like.
The TD712zs' precision of imaging and soundstage definition were virtually in classes by themselves. With the right recording, instruments and voices were placed precisely in space, with no change in position when the music went high or low. This must be one of the effects of having a single driver reproduce all frequencies; there was no shifting of the image when the reproduction of a given instrument was transferred from being, say, tweeter-dominated to midrange-dominated. In a multiple-driver system, a physical offsetting of drivers and selective delay of a range of frequencies through a crossover are supposed to solve this problem, but with the single-driver TD712z there is no problem to solve. When I listened to the difficult "Depth of Image" tracks on Best of Chesky Jazz and More Audiophile Tests/Vol.2 (Chesky JD 68), the clickers recorded at distances of 60', 70', and 80'—which through most speakers sound the same as the one recorded at 50'—were clearly distinguishable from each other through the Eclipses.
What about those limitations in loudness and bass extension? Well, while perceived loudness depends on the actual sound-pressure level, it's also a psychological function, related in a complex manner to the dynamic rise and fall of the music, the presence or absence of distractions, the time of day, the person's liking for the music, and individual preferences for how loud reproduced music should be. (Some people routinely listen at levels that make your ears bleed, whereas others never turn the volume up past the background listening level.)
I think it's fair to say that if you like your music reproduced at the level of a live rock concert or a symphony orchestra going full tilt, the TD712z is not the speaker for you. Its 4.7" driver is an amazing device, but it has its limits. That said, I was able to play the speakers in my 14' by 16' room at levels that were quite satisfactory with still some level to spare—I could turn up the preamp's volume control another notch or two (though no more than that) without the speakers sounding strained. What helped to mitigate the effect of the TD712z's maximum loudness limit was the speaker's resolution and its ability to communicate the music's ebb and flow (ie, microdynamics). I could say that while some speakers must be played loud to be at their best in the realistic reproduction of music, the TD712z was able to achieve a subjectively similar effect at what was objectively a lower sound level.
The TD712z's claimed low-frequency response limit is 40Hz, but this is at –10dB (presumably an anechoic measurement), not the more common –6dB. That's still a lot to ask of a 4.7" driver, especially one that must reproduce the rest of the audioband as well. But, surprisingly, with the standard level set at 80dB using the RadioShack SPL meter (C weighting, fast; Stereophile Test CD 2), the bass in my room actually held out to the 40Hz range, helped by a room mode at 50Hz. So, at least at this level (I didn't want to push it higher than 80dB with test tones), the Eclipse's bass was more extended than one might expect, given the size of its driver and enclosure. In normal listening, the bass was very smooth and even, apparently rolling off in a gradual way that suggested greater bass extension than was in fact produced. String bass was particularly clean, with enough of the fundamental not to sound too threadbare and an absence of transient overhang. The bass drum in the opening of Ramirez's Misa Criolla (Philips 420 955-2) was convincing enough that if I hadn't heard it reproduced by a speaker with greater bass extension and power I might not have thought there was anything missing.
A factor that undoubtedly helped to make the TD712z's bass sound more impressive than it might have been in purely objective terms was the speaker's tonal balance. The treble was smooth, lacking in grain, sufficiently extended to communicate instrumental overtones and transients, but not overextended. A well-known trick of loudspeaker design (pay attention; this could be on the next test) is a careful balancing of the amount of bass and treble. A speaker with highly extended, powerful bass will sound best if it has correspondingly extended treble, but if the treble is relatively weak then the speaker will sound bass-heavy, and if the speaker has relatively weak bass but extended treble it will sound too bright. The TD712z's balance of high and low frequencies was such that they seemed to be in just the right proportion.
It was mostly when playing music with a lot of low bass at a high level that the TD712z's bass-response limitations became obvious: the low-bass synthesizer notes on Mickey Hart's Planet Drum (Rykodisc RCD-10206) were simply missing in action. But again, what was there was clean, and the imaging and clarity of the transients were almost enough to make up for what was missing at the low end.
The Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD712z is an extraordinary loudspeaker whose clarity, transparency, resolution, imaging, and timbral accuracy match or exceed those of just about every other speaker I've had in my system or heard at shows. Offhand, the only speaker I can think of that's in the same league as far as these characteristics are concerned is the latest Quad electrostatic, the ESL-2805. The TD712z's limitations—which it shares with the Quad—are an inability to play very loud (especially in large rooms), and bass response that, while satisfactory for most music, is more limited in extension than what you can get for the price from more "normal" speakers.
My own Avantgarde Unos represent, in a way, the opposite end of the spectrum: They can play extremely loud with very little power, and their twin powered subwoofers provide as much bass as any sane person would want. Another obvious difference is in the level of coloration: the Uno's is low for a horn hybrid, but still much higher than that of the TD712z.
What these two speakers with very different design approaches share is an ability to make music sound alive. I wish I could afford to have—and had the space for—both. As I write this conclusion, the Unos are still in storage in another room of the house, and I haven't listened to them for a couple of months. When I do so again, I'll have to give serious consideration to whether I want to keep the Fujitsu Ten Eclipse TD712z's instead. They're that good.