Gradient, Amarra, and more

On the fourth floor of THE Show, Tim Ryan of Simpli-Fi was demming the Gradient Helsinki 5.1 loudspeaker ($6500/pair, down from $8000 a year ago). This weird-looking loudspeaker produces anything but weird sound. Designed to avoid reflections from the sidewalls and floor, it has 85dB sensitivity, a nominal 6 ohm impedance, and a frequency range of 200Hz–20kHz.

Also making music was a Mac mini set-up that used Sonic Studio's unquestionably superior sounding Amarra music server—see Jon Iverson's report—which was a major improvement over straight iTunes playback, and a Resolution Audio power system ($6000) that includes a CD player and integrated amp.

Although the room was not very hospitable to the Gradient Helsinki 5.1, the system reproduced an amazing sense of space that was unlike most everything else I heard during my four days in Las Vegas. With a recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, the violin literally seemed to hang in space, even in the nearfield. Especially notable is that this speaker's image continues to cohere whether you sit or stand. Definitely a baby to explore further.

My regrets for not having the time to explore the goodies from Harbeth and other companies that were also on display in this room.

Toussaint's picture the bass start at 200 hz or 20 hz or somewhere else? 200 hz would not seem to be particularly good bass performance for $6500.Toussaint

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

200 Hz is the correct figure. These babies cry for a subwoofer.

suits_me's picture

That's puzzling because I can't think of a high quality subwoofer that anyone would use up to a frequency of 200 hz. Could you elaborate on some ideas regarding an appropriate subwoofer for this speaker?

michaelavorgna's picture

I think the speaker's design makes the bass specs a little misleading and in-room bass response more reliant on positioning and room reinforcement than a more traditional design. Here's what Gradient publishes regarding FR for the Helsinki: Freefield 200-20000Hz +/-1dB, -6dB cut off at 35Hz depending on context and placement

John Atkinson's picture

The woofer relies on being close to the wall to get the necessary 2pi boundary reinforcement to extends the lows to a useful degree. The "200Hz" is an anechoic measurement.

TIM RYAN's picture

Hi Toussaint ... Tim Ryan of Simplifi Audio and Manufacturers Rep. for Gradient North America thanking you for pointing out the need for the frequency response clarification... Regarding the frequency response of the Helsinki 1.5 it helps to think of the speaker as divided in two sections... The tweeter and midrange both have uniform Cardiod ( heart shaped ) radiation patterns and measure an amazing +/- 1.0 db on axis from 200 hz to 20 Khz....From 200 hz downward the 12 inch Dipole bass takes over and is specified at - 6db at 35 Hz.However, unlike typical box speakers, the actual in-room bass is adjustable by simply rotating the speaker... perpendicular to the front wall primarily excites the room width mode.... rotating 45 degress increases the in-room bass as both the room width and length modes are excited. However, in all case the most sonically damaging room height mode which typically gives bass anomolies between 50 - 200 hz are dialled out.Tim G. RyanBsc. Electronic Systems

Jeff Stake's picture

I have measured the Helsinkis in my listening room. You can see the graph at: will see that they are down about 5dB at 36 Hz, 10dB at 32 Hz and not down at all at 40Hz. The information given in the show report is simply wrong, and applies to the upper two drivers, not the woofer.

gregory's picture

Man, those are some ugly speakers