Tenor Amps and Hansen Speakers

It was a case of Johnny Hartmann the third time over. In the room shared by Hansen and Tenor Audio, my third encounter with Hartmann's vocalism at CES 2010 came via a CD transfer of a 1964 recording. Happily, the CD retained much of the vocal richness of the two Hartmann LPs I had heard earlier in the show.

The speakers were something else: the brand-new, 650 lb, 10-driver, three-way Hansen The Grand Master ($239,000/pair). Bearing an uncanny resemblance to an extraterrestrial, the speaker's cabinet is a specially molded Hansen composite matrix. Composed of three different layers, each of which contains up to 23 ingredients that are hand-applied, the purportedly inert cabinet's shape is intended to completely eliminate diffractions. The Grand Master boasts a specified 90dB sensitivity, and its response is claimed to extend from an amazingly flat 15Hz up to at least 23kHz.

Hansen CEO Lars Hansen tells me that The Grand Master can easily fill an 80 x 120 room. In the much smaller room Hansen was sharing with Tenor Audio—the largest room CES could provide at the time he applied for one—the speaker was "just coasting" with minimal effort.

Helping the Hansen along for the ride, as it were, were none-too-shabby hybrid electronics from Tenor Audio. We're talking the Line 1 Power 1 Ultimate Reference preamp ($75,000 Canadian), Phono 1 Ultimate Reference phono stage ($50,000 Canadian), and 350 M monoblocks ($100,000/pair Canadian). Throw in top-of-the-line Kubala-Sosna cabling, a four-piece dCS Scarlatti stack ($80,000), Harmonic Resolution Stands, da Vinci Audio labs turntable and tone arm ($40,000), and an Airtight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($6000), and you have a system whose total cost is beyond my mathematical capabilities.

This system threw a huge soundstage, truly astounding in its depth, and situated quite a distance behind the speakers. (Think major disappearing act, which is not so easy for such an imposing speaker to do). I found the sound of the midrange somewhat covered, as was the sound of the midrange of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, soprano Maria Callas. Though the midrange was somewhat hooded, it also spunded extremely musical and inviting. And when it came to reproducing the sound of bossa nova miracle Rosa Passos' voice, the sound was knock-down gorgeous.

Matt's picture

OMG, that might be the, uh shall I say, "least attractive" speaker I've seen. Glad it sounded better than it looked. And look at that price tag. That's more than my house!

Erick Lichte's picture

They sort of remind me of Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons. I wish I could have heard them.

Terry's picture

Kang and Kodos is hilarious, to me they look like giant octopus tentacles.

Mark H.'s picture

I think this would be perfect for my office.

Pepper's picture

Arrrgh! We're under attack! Run for your lives!!

RankStranger's picture

could they at least be mirror imaged?

beep's picture

I couldn't agree more about the hideous appearance and, more importantly, the lack of mirror imaging.I find it unbelievable that the speakers needed to be listened to in the sweet spot to get the best performance. Moving from a chair off to one side to the front center chair was proof enough to me. For $239,000 I'd expect them to work miracles, but they didn't.I'll wager The Grand Master will be The Grand Failure.

JJK's picture

Funny design in that I am a "super-hardcore" loudspeaker designer, and designed a speaker almost IDENTICAL to this. Besides the sneers from friends at its hideous looks, I wanted to design a "function over form" state of the art type speaker. The Grand Master was what I came up with, for the most part. Typically I had been used to designing very simplistic (though SOTA) and small 3-ways, ala a Wilson Watt configuration with a truncated pyramid sat over the bass bin. As a result of making my design "BIGGER", and going after a more elaborate Grand Master type configuration I got the EXACT SAME sound that others have mentioned here---first off a hooded and veiled midrange, and second off a "head in the vice" need to be perfectly on axis. This would seem opposite of what one might expect with such a LARGE speaker. Yes, it could play FAR LOUDER, but it just didn't sound as good! I was reminded of what I was trained to know long ago, "big speakers have big problems".I assume Hansen will learn this too


MR. Hansen 'goes mad.

DawgByte's picture

I just ordered a pair of the those speakers for my bathroom!

Do I Have Any Taste At All's picture

If I have any taste at all, all I can is that while these may be marvels of modern loudspeaker engineering, they are repulsively ugly.NO wife would ever be willing to have these in her home unless they were in a room all to themselves that would be deliberately not included in the "give me the grand tour" for guests. Get a clue folks, please.

mwhouston's picture

10% of the cost may have sounded 100% better.