Acarian Aln Petite loudspeaker & PW-1 woofer system Page 2

As you will have read in my Followup review in September (Vol.19 No.9, p.169), I'm even more excited about the Alón V Mk.II, whose design has trickled down from the $22,000 Phalanx; the V features the same drivers (albeit with less expensive magnets) as the Phalanx in a more conventional three-way enclosure. In fact, I'm more attracted to the V Mk.II than to the Phalanx, as the V features most of the magic of the Phalanx drivers in a more user-friendly speaker—ie, it can easily be driven by one amplifier. The Alón V Mk.IIs also have one major advantage over the Phalanxes for me: I can afford them.

Necessity or extravagance?
When I heard the rave reports from the 1995 Summer CES (I missed it) about the Alón PW-1, I thought, "So what? The Petites don't need a subwoofer." I was already getting a solid 55Hz in-room and slightly reduced output at 50Hz from my Petites, and that suited me just fine.

However, the birth of our son has necessitated the conversion of the dedicated listening room in my main house to the baby's room. The main system was moved to the den of my vacation house (the best listening room I've ever had), and my affordable system was moved from the vacation house living room to the main home living room, a cramped space that demands nearfield listening to speakers that really should be closer to the side walls and farther out from the wall behind them. I realize that the Petites were designed for space-constrained environments; my living room, however, opens up into a large L-shaped dining/kitchen area, so not much below 60Hz emerges from my Petites in the new room. I needed a solution.

"Hey, Wes! Need anybody to review that Alón PW-1 woofer?"

The PW-1 is intended to accompany the Alón Petite satellite speakers. The woofer's built-in passive crossover rolls-off frequencies above 55Hz at 12dB/octave. Thus, the Petites are run full-range with the PW-1 in parallel, all three enclosures being driven by a single stereo amplifier. The PW-1's cabinet encloses a stereo pair of downward-firing, long-throw 6?" drive-units. Designer Carl Marchisotto claims that combining channels in the acoustical rather than the electrical domain can result in more accurate reproduction of ambient and directional information reproduced by the main channels. As the PW-1 is a ported enclosure, Marchisotto claims that 50Wpc is sufficient to drive the entire Trio system.

Equipment used in the course of this review included a Thorens TD 160/SME 3009 III/Grado Signature 8MZ analog front-end, CAL Icon Mk.II HDCD and non-HDCD players, Creek 4240 SE integrated amp, and Alón Petites on Celestion Si stands. Wires included MIT 330SG interconnects, and Acarian Systems Black Orpheus tri-wired speaker cable for the Trio system. I also briefly bi-amplified the PW-1 using an additional Creek A42 amplifier.

Subwoofer placement: a royal pain in the bottom
The only thing I hate more than subwoofers is subwoofer placement. Acarian Systems' marketing campaign for the PW-1 has sounded like this: "It's so small you can stick it anywhere! But remember, you'll get deepest bass extension with corner loading." Yeah, right. There are no less than five optimizing criteria that must be considered in determining the best possible location for a single stereo subwoofer. Such a site must have: 1) the smoothest bass response; 2) the best tonal blend with the main speakers; 3) the best deepest bass response; 4) the least distortion of soundstaging; and 5) your significant other's approval.

The point is, if you try to optimize each of these in isolation and you end up with five different answers, you're screwed.

I started by dismissing Criterion #3, as the only corner-loading location for deep bass in my room was to the left, behind the listener, at double the distance from the listener as the Petites. I wasn't about to create a wildly schizophrenic soundstage simply for low-end extension, even if it meant I could probably install the PW-1 in the room without my wife noticing it (thus satisfying Criterion #5). I decided the PW-1 was going to end up somewhere between the Petites.

I first placed the woofer with its longest dimension along the wall behind the Petites: much too boomy in the midbass. Next I tried the PW-1 with its shortest dimension along the wall behind the Petites, but still up against the wall. Although reduced, the boom persisted. I then tried moving the subwoofer forward about 9" and got very satisfactory results, save for a slight resonant emphasis around 60Hz. It was time to invite Carl and Marilyn Marchisotto over for some fine-tuning.

Carl was basically satisfied with my positioning, with one exception. He felt that the woofer should not be placed too close to either Petite, as this would result in emphasis around the 55Hz crossover point. (The PW-1's manual doesn't mentioned this.) I had placed the PW-1 about 6" from the left Petite, which was most of the cause of my 60Hz warmth. I finally settled with the PW-1 about 18" from the left Petite, which significantly flattened the Trio system's midbass response.