Linn Akurate 242 loudspeaker
The Art Dudley of 2005 would have taken the man's money and demanded lunch, but the Art Dudley of 1985 still had patience and sympathy to spare: After the third or fourth call, and realizing there was no other way for the pestering to end, I caved in and went.
Although the midtown address was nice enough, the man's apartment was no more than a dingy little bed-sit room—maybe 150 square feet in all—and most of that was given over to the system in question; record storage was not an issue, as he appeared to have only a couple dozen LPs and CDs. The stereo consisted of a CD player, a massive turntable, a solid-state preamp and amp, and a pair of large, dynamic speakers that shall remain nameless, except to say they were at least somewhat inefficient, used a notoriously complex crossover network, were manufactured in England. And were popular for a time.
I can't comment on the system's musical abilities, because it had none: It merely produced sound. And the sound was appalling—lifeless, grainy, lacking in even the remotest sense of note-to-note flow. It was thick, mechanical, horrid, and dead, and yet, even through the thickness, a nasty, nasty edge in the trebles made its presence known.
Rightly or wrongly, I blamed the speakers.
I don't remember what I said to my host, but whatever it was, I remained polite if uninterested in staying one second longer than necessary. (He was one of those audiophiles who not only plays his system way too loud but tries to force you to have a conversation while you're listening.) No one mentioned money, which was just as well given that the value of my work there was incalculable. I've never seen or heard from the guy since then.
I did not, however, walk away empty-handed: I left with the sure knowledge that large, inefficient English speakers with dynamic drivers and substantial crossovers are among the vilest things on Earth, a truth that has only recently been challenged. Or, to put it another way: For 20 years I've had a bug up my ass about a certain type of speaker that has only recently been extracted.
Just thought you should know.
The trade name Akurate refers to a new line of Linn A/V loudspeakers, most of which share certain specific design elements. The range-topping model I reviewed is called the Linn Akurate 242 ($9495/pair). Maybe I'm being dense, but I don't think the number refers to anything specific.
The Akurate 242 is a five-way speaker that uses a 0.5" fabric-dome supertweeter, a 1" dome tweeter of soft plastic, a 3" plastic-dome midrange driver, and a pair of 6.5" plastic-cone woofers. Although the last two are identical, one covers only the 40–225Hz range, while the other one extends from 40Hz up to 450Hz.
The supertweeter, tweeter, and midrange driver are mounted together in a specially designed subenclosure derived from the one Linn developed for their flagship loudspeaker, the Komri (see Stereophile, April 2002). This structure, half of which is a machine-finished alloy casting and half of which is molded from a dense, metal-like polymer, serves a number of purposes. Like the "clamshell" casework designed for the company's top-of-the-line electronics, it holds the frames of the drivers still, preventing even the minutest signal-sullying movement. It also establishes and maintains a precise physical relationship between the drivers in terms of their distance from the woofers, their distance from each other, and the angle at which their axes intersect. (Look closely and you'll see that the two tweeters are not aimed straight ahead. Within the frequency range where such a thing might matter, the Linn Akurate 242 behaves like a single point source—not unlike the Quad electrostatic loudspeakers of the past two decades.)
There's more: Having a separate structure for the high-frequency drivers gave the Akurate's designers a chance to sculpt away some of the cabinet from behind and around the supertweeter and tweeter, providing even more freedom from diffraction effects than a baffle that's merely beveled or topped with felt: The oval recess behind the high-frequency drivers, fitted with a shallow, molded basin, also makes for a striking visual element. One might even think the Akurate 242's midrange/high-frequency subenclosure helps isolate the drivers from the low-frequency energy thrumming through the rest of the enclosure—and that, I suppose, could result in a lessening of IM distortion.