Hansen Audio Prince V2 loudspeaker Michael Fremer, March 2009
Sitting down to listen to music for 80 minutes at a stretch is not unusual in my home, and it probably isn't in yours. But at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, it's very unusual indeed. Because you can't possibly take in everything at a CES, even in those rare instances where the sound is great, you tend to catch only a taste before moving on to the next room. So when Hansen Audio's Prince V2 kept me transfixed in an unfamiliar hotel room for an entire CD-R's worth of familiar tunes, I figured it was a special loudspeaker that I needed to review.
What impressed me most about the Prince V2 was its sense of musical completeness. It didn't expose any obvious sonic seams, even under typically poor show conditions; but with music very familiar to me, it effortlessly revealed layers of harmonic, textural, and especially microdynamic detail and nuance. Wes Phillips got the assignment (read his review in the April 2008 Stereophile). I snagged this Follow-Up.1
The Prince V2 is small and, at $39,000/pair, expensive. Lars Hansen designed it as a compromise, figuring that 42" was as tall a speaker as a typical significant other might permit in a normal home. But sizeand, therefore, soundstage heightwas all that he was willing to compromise. Other than the Scan-Speak Revelator tweeter, inside and out the V2 is purpose-built by Hansen or to his specs, and weighs an impressive 200 lbs. The woofer and midrange drivers are anything but ordinary. (Read WP's review for details about the drive-units and cabinet construction.)
I've now heard the Prince V2 at more than one audio show, and in a dealer's well-treated, good-sounding room. In all of these locations the V2 produced prodigious, well-defined bass, along with everything else you should expect for $39,000. In fact, at the dealer's, as a Jackson Browne track played, I was moved to inspect a subwoofer lurking in the corner of the room, to ensure that it wasn't turned on. That was after having discovered that neither I nor a disappointed Lars Hansen could coax any deep bass from the Prince V2s in my room.
My room requires that speakers be placed close to the sidewallsif anything, the space tends to produce a mild boost in the lower midbass. Yet the Prince V2 was both rolled off below 40Hz and somewhat cool in the upper midbass and lower midrange, which made it sound more like a two-way monitor than the nearly full-range speaker I knew and had heard it to be. I'd had the same problem with the Sonus Faber Amati Homages I'd bought just before moving to my current home: no deep basseven though, like the Hansens, the Amatis are more than capable of producing it.
But while the Prince V2 lacked bass weight in my room, it produced everything else I'd come to expect from it, especially in terms of spectacular three-dimensional imaging, immense soundstage spatiality, and electrostat-like speed and resolution. Its harmonic integrity was high, its obvious colorations low. Additive colorations were absent. Minor, less obtrusive, subtractive colorations became apparent over time, magnified by the lack of room-dependent bottom-end support. Though I was now able to hear these colorations when I again heard the Prince V2s at the dealer's, it was also easy to ignore them.
While the Prince V2's top-end performance was smooth and pleasingly extended, a boost in the presence region produced a slightly forward but clean, bracing bit of upper-midrange emphasis, while a lack of lower-midbass energy created a generally cool but exceedingly clear rendering of bass rhythms. The result was musical performance like a good racing car's: fast, taut, detailed, as well as highly resolved, rhythmically, harmonically, and dynamically.
The Prince V2 can produce deep bass. I've heard it do so while filling a surprisingly large room with convincing orchestral weight. But in my opinion, no single 10" woofer, no matter the length of its throw or the size of its magnet, can move the amount of air a Wilson Audio Specialties MAXX 2 can shove around. I doubt the Hansen can deliver similar wallop, even in a room better suited to its design than mine. However, the Prince V2 produced a faster, tighter, more highly resolved picture, particularly in the midrange, along with an overall level of sonic integrity that was easily the MAXX 2's match.
When the source material was great, it was easy to hear why the diminutive Prince V2 costs $39,000/pair. When the recording was poor, its greatness vanished.
Which is my definition of a high-performance audio component. If you want a cosmetic cover-up for mediocre recordings, look elsewhere. Just remember that you'll be sacrificing the greatness of the best recordingsand that's something the Hansen Audio Prince V2 can deliver.Michael Fremer