Image Concept 200 loudspeaker
Will the speaker's positive attributes elsewhere compensate for the expected loss of image focus? And what has been the designer's attitude to that most important but unseen component, the crossover network? Does it use audiophile-caliber parts? Has it been made as simple as it can be and still do the intended job, resulting in maximum transparency? Or is it unnecessarily complicated, perhaps maximizing flatness of on-axis response at the expense of the sound's liveliness?
And always at the back of your mind as you prepare to fire the speakers up for the first time is the most important questionwill this speaker prove to be a winner? Will it offer such a finely managed balance between inherent problems and positive attributes that it redefines what should be expected at its price point? Does it offer more than the expected amount of music for less than the expected number of dollars?
The speaker coming under the microscope this month emanates from north of the border. The Canadian loudspeaker industry has benefited enormously in the last few years from having the measurement, testing, and listening facilities of Canada's National Research Council in Ottawa made available to it on a commercial basis. Unlike the US or even the UK, where a new speaker designer has pretty much to rely on his own resources, having to invent his own test procedure as well as design the product, the Canadian equivalent can have his loudspeaker tested under standard conditions, quickly indicating whether he is on the right track or not. (He still, of course, has to rely on his own talent to get on the right track in the first place or to get back on it if it appears that something is amiss.)
So far, I have yet to hear a Canadian loudspeaker that redefines the state of the art from the top down, but, as Will Hammond of KPFK's "In-Fidelity" radio program has pointed out, the impact on the Canadian industry of having the benefit of the NRC's laboratories to hand results in better affordable loudspeakers. To generalize perhaps a little too sweepingly, for the same price the customer used to pay for a not very distinguished performer, he now gets a very much more competent design, with perhaps some areas of performance hinting at true high-end sound.
Does this contender fit this categorization? We shall see.
Image Concept 200: $1000/pair
Image is one of the loudspeaker brands manufactured by the Canadian Audio Products International group, the design aim being to produce high-quality sound at a relatively affordable price. The Concept 200 is the top Image model, and consists of a handsome, floor-standing tower with twin 6.5" woofers above and below the tweeter. This latter, a ¾", hyperbolic soft-dome unit, is the result of a long development program, and is said to couple good HF extension with wide dispersion. The woofers feature a filled-polypropylene cone, with the PVC surround both glued and stitched to it.
The drive-unit array is set offset from the cabinet center to spread out in frequency the deleterious effects of diffraction and reflection from the edges, and the speakers are supplied as handed pair. The crossover, with a nominal frequency of 2kHz, is hard-wired and said to be time-aligned. Signal connection is via recessed five-way binding posts on the cabinet rear, just above the large, 4" diameter, 5.25" deep, reflex port.