Rockport Technologies Antares loudspeaker Page 2
Drivers, Crossovers, etc.
The Rockport Antares' custom-designed woofer and midbass units are made by the Danish firm Audiotechnology, which was founded by Ejvind Skaaning and his son, Per. Dad founded both Scan-Speak and Dynaudio—speaking of which, the Antares' tweeter is Dynaudio's famed Esotar (also used by EgglestonWorks, Merlin, and others). The front baffle is fitted with Steinway treble-damper felt dyed black, while the inner cabinet walls are lined with wedges of Sonex foam. Wool fill from a local mill damps the tweeter and midrange chambers. A polyester damping material is used in the bass enclosure.
According to Rockport, the midbass driver's Symmetric Drive is said to reduce risetime by a factor of 10, resulting in linear risetime regardless of the cone's position and the coil's position in the gap. The claimed result is a reduction in intermodulation distortion. Symmetric Drive is also said to lower voice-coil inductance, which helps create a more consistent impedance. This helps to simplify crossover topology and makes the speaker easier to drive.
Crossover components include custom-made film/foil capacitors, Alpha Core foil inductors, and Caddock power resistors, all matched to within 1% tolerance. After an extended burn-in followed by final listening and voicing sessions, the crossover is potted with a special epoxy to reduce microphony. The crossover and binding-post assembly are built on a ½" aluminum plate and soldered to Transparent Audio hookup wire that exits the driver chambers and is then screwed onto a molded cutout on the rear of the cabinet. All connections are soldered—no push connectors are used. Finally, there are two ports on the rear: one for the bass enclosure, and a smaller, foam-damped one for the midrange.
That's about it—except for 40 hours' worth of sanding, clear-coating, and polishing. I'm sure a hundred details of design and construction could be added to flesh out the description of what is clearly an intricately designed, meticulously engineered speaker. I could even devote a page to the design and construction of the enormous crates the Antares are shipped in. I won't.
Whether or not you like the Antares' high-tech black gloss is a matter of taste. I like it, but can't say I love it—not compared to, say, the Sonus Faber Amati Homages, which got me all tingly every time I looked at them. While the Antares looks somewhat ungainly from the side, from the front, its black skin and smooth curves make it almost disappear, despite its overall bulk. The longer I looked, the more I appreciated the subtle design cues that contribute to its overall visual character.
"Disappear" applies to the sound as well. The fundamental sonic difference between the Antares and every other speaker I've auditioned can probably be attributed to the Rockport's incredibly inert cabinet. Forget for a moment such all-important sonic issues as tonal balance, harmonic structure, and dynamics—once properly positioned, these speakers' image stability and physical presentation were absolutely rock-solid and three-dimensionally physical. I'd thought the Audio Physic Avanti IIIs were imaging champs, and they are outstanding—but not like this. Nothing I've heard at home came close to matching the Antares' ability to carve out physical space, though in my room the Avantis may portray slightly greater depth.
Of course, properly positioning a pair of 400-lb speakers for optimal imaging is like setting up a pair of soda vending machines or full-sized refrigerators. Rings, watches, and zippers off! Brother-in-law Mike wrestled the Antares into the approximately correct locations in my room, but later, in order to get the bass just right, I had to move them myself, which I did in my boxer shorts to avoid scratching the finish with my pants zipper. Payor suggested getting some of those Teflon furniture-moving discs you see infomercialized on TV, like Ronco's Showtime Grill. (Highly recommended—everything Ron Popeil says about it is true!) I bought some discs, but the ones rated at +400 lbs sank into my carpet under the Antares' weight. [You needed the large, rectangular pads, Mikey.—Ed.]
Once properly positioned, with their front baffles approximately 42" from the wall, and toed-in so the inside cabinet surfaces were just visible from my listening seat, the Antares coupled to the room perfectly and haven't been heard from since. What remained was a sublime musical experience—not razzle-dazzle flashy as in "Look what I can do!," but a presentation that was sophisticated and self-deprecating. A self-deprecating loudspeaker? Yes, but hardly boring or laid-back. Despite its 13" woofer and the volume of its enclosure, the Antares lacked what many audiophiles regard as "bass." I didn't hear "bass" from the speaker, yet the full weight of instruments with "bass" was effectively portrayed.
An audio novice used to hearing speakers that "make" bass might have asked where the bottom end had gone. Instead, I recognized kick drums with solid punch and double bass with proper weight and size, made up of strings being plucked over a resonating wooden body. What I didn't hear was a speaker box resonating to create "bass"—no matter where I set the volume.
I had never heard the pianissimo organ parts in trhe Boston Symphony/Munch Saint-Saëns' Symphony 3 delivered with such subtle clarity and focus, even at very low volume, as I heard from the Antares (LPs, RCA LSC-2231, original "shaded dog" and Classic Records reissue; JVC JMCXR-0002 XRCD2 CD). When the pedal was lifted, the quickness with which the speaker reacted and let go of the low note was impressive, almost surprising. At the other end of the dynamic scale, the Antares did not deliver "room-shaking" bass in my smallish room (22' by 15' by 8'), but who needs that? Shake the room and the recording's illusion disappears.
A different room might get more bass output from the Antares (I've found that side-mounted woofers couple better to my room), but I never felt that more was needed, and it certainly couldn't have been delivered with greater authority or, most important, believability. The Rockport "made" less bass than any speaker I've auditioned at home, and when it delivered the deepest musical notes, there was no sonic price to pay anywhere else in the audio spectrum. And it did equally well on rock, jazz, and classical.