Audes Jazz loudspeaker
Today, with the great increase in international trade, it's sometimes hard to know a product's nation of origin. British-designed loudspeakers are made in China, Dutch brands carry labels that say "Made in Belgium" or even "Made in Malaysia," and American components can be sourced from anywhere—even the US. So what might one expect of an Estonian loudspeaker?
I first came across the Audes line some years back, at a Consumer Electronics Show. I thought the designs somewhat derivative, the execution meticulous, the sound from model to model inconsistent, and the prices very attractive. Since then, Audes has expanded their lines of speakers, which—more important—now sound much better (judging from brief auditions at shows) while remaining very reasonably priced.
I hinted to Audes' Naum Dorkhman that I might want to review one of his speakers, but he waited patiently for me to pull the trigger. When I bumped into him in the men's room at Carnegie Hall during the intermission of a Kremerata Baltica concert last fall, I was a bit at a loss for something to say. Finally, I said, "Let's do a review." Dorkhman suggested the Audes Blues, but I've had little luck with side-firing woofers in my listening room. We settled on the Jazz, which costs $1899/pair.
Description & Setup
The Audes Jazz is quite tall and deep for a two-way speaker with only a 1" dome tweeter and two 6.5" mid/woofers. The enclosure is a matte-black, square-edged box, the drivers near the top of the front panel. The box is flanked by wooden panels, beautifully sculpted and finished, that extend about two-thirds of the way up the sides and a bit beyond the front and rear edges. Combined with a similarly decorative and extremely stable, spiked baseplate, these cosmetic additions make the black box seem to disappear, and the entire ensemble look less imposing. The shaped grille, too, contributes to making the Jazz look like anything but the rectangular black box it actually is. I liked it. (My wife didn't.)
The drivers are mounted in a vertical mid-tweeter-mid array, the tweeter offset to one side. On the rear, the plate bearing the serial number and L/R indication also bears two sets of multiway binding posts with links to permit single- or biwiring. Above this plate are two large, smoothly radiused ports for the mid/woofer chamber. There are no controls. The accompanying documents consisted of a general statement about Audes speakers and a more specific paper that dealt with the Jazz and its related models. From this, I assumed that the recommended setup would be to position the speakers so that their tweeters were more toward their inside edges. This was confirmed, after setup, when I noticed that labels on the backs indicating which speaker of the pair was the left, which the right.
Even when I have no logical justification for doing so, I biwire speakers; for the most part, I used the Audes Jazzes with the terminal links removed. Ha! Those terminals on the back of the Jazz may have EU approval, but they're the speaker's worst feature. The knurled knobs are too small and too close together—I couldn't get them to firmly grip the spade ends. Perhaps the grip would be better with bare wire. I suspect that the posts have intentionally been made without a hex profile to discourage overtightening with a wrench. But every time I moved the speakers, I had to check the terminals and, usually, tighten them, lest I lose a connection and, at worst, short out the amp.
The Jazz on jazz
After a little wrestling with connections, I powered up the Bel Canto eVo2 monoblocks and the Jazzes swung into action with, appropriately enough, some great jazz: the DVD-Audio edition of Ray Brown's Soular Energy (Hi-Res HRM2011) on the Meridian Reference 800 DVD-Audio player.
Well, not so great. The bass was full and the treble fairly detailed, but there was a disturbing lack of presence or body to the sound. But I figured I'd only just begun performing the arcane rites of speaker positioning. I wiggled the Jazzes around, from closer together to farther apart, from straight ahead to toed-in, from farther back to very near—each permutation tried with grilles on and off. Finally, I thought I'd gotten them balanced, and they were. The HF was okay, and the bass extension justified the enclosure size. Moreover, the midrange fit in pretty well. Final positions: far apart, toed-in about 15 degrees, 5' from the front wall, grilles off.