Technics Premium Class SB-C700 loudspeaker Page 2

I doubted the straitlaced, extremely neutral Technics speakers could handle such twisted madness, but they did . . . at least sort of. The SB-C700s turned this stinking Two Penny Opera into a slightly more fragrant package of honky-tonk cabaret—but still with an enjoyable dose of wink-wink tongue and cheeky.

Two Penny Opera is a "live in the studio" album recorded at London's Pathway Studios. Much to engineer Jim Custence's credit, the recording presents a convincing illusion of a fully energized smoky cabaret with only the dimmest colored lights for guidance. Custence has struck an enjoyable balance between closely miked presence and more distantly miked room sound. The SB-C700s displayed the room volume very realistically, but played the Tiger Lillies' artistic expression a little straighter, with a little less chaotic, shambolic revelry than I prefer. I think the SBs couldn't help it: More than any other audiophile speaker I know, these little white boxes possessed the nothing-but-the-facts gene of recording-studio monitors, which always forced them to deal with business first. The SB-C700 did drunken cabaret groping—ie, richness and romance—only when I forced them to by playing them extra loud. But to their credit, in the end, they did actually do it. In my small room, the SB-C700s played loudly extremely well. Additionally, they retained their sparkle and atmospheric texture when playing vespers and masses at late-night whisper levels. Very few speakers can do both volumes well.

Simaudio Moon Uhuru: When I switched from the 22W LM-518IA to Simaudio's Moon Neo 350P preamp and 125W Moon Neo 330A power amp, I played Black Uhuru's Red (LP, Mango MLPS 9625). Want bass? Powered by the Neo 330A, the Technics SB-C700s had it—down to, like, 50Hz, and with some room-pressurizing power. Want clarity and transparency? The Technics had that too, but unlike most high-end speakers, the SB-C700s did it with a completely unobtrusive and naturalistic presentation.

I played King Sunny Ade and His African Beats' Live Live Ju Ju, recorded live in 1988 on a Calrec Soundfield four-capsule microphone, on DDD CD (Rykodisc 014431004728) and DDA LP (Rykodisc RALP 0047). I am not kidding or exaggerating: I experienced a wider soundstage—through the door and out into the hall!—than I'd thought possible only moments before. I could hear drum sounds decaying and diminishing into a background that seemed extremely far away. The depth felt nearly infinite.

To my ears, the Technics speakers had a rather unusual way of projecting energy into the room. Again, spatial content had linear tangibility: Soundstages were more deliberately described than I usually experience. Images of individual musicians/instruments weren't the most solid I've heard, but were firmly positioned in an almost geometrically proportioned soundscape matrix. When the music included copious bass energy, as with Live Live Ju Ju, the SB-C700 had an almost visual way of opening up and showing me the bass notes' expanding wavefronts. Bass quantity and quality always seemed just right. The Technics projected energy in a way that made me constantly aware of energy volume, energy-source location, and movement.

With the Pass Labs XA-100.5s: Driven by the Pass Labs '100.5 mono amplifiers, the Technics SB-C700s sang with more vivid texture and transparency than even my references for these characteristics: the original Quad ESL 57s. Bass felt supranatural. Symphony orchestras sounded appropriately large, highly resolved, and powerful. Indie rock, country, and jazz felt more authentic. This was a very exciting combination of speakers and amp with which I could easily live happily ever after. As we listened, I asked an old friend, "Does it get any better than this?" He smiled and shook his head.

With Technics' own Premium Class SU-C700: The nice people at Technics/Panasonic were adamant that I review the SB-C700s as part of their complete Premium Class C700 Series. I told them that my editor would not allow that. They sent me the complete system anyway, in a single giant box on a shipping pallet. About halfway through my six weeks of listening, I installed Technics' sleek and sexy-looking SU-C700 ($1599), a 45Wpc (into 8 ohms) integrated amplifier. And I still haven't removed it. The SU-C700, a digital amplifier with a linear power supply, played music in a new-fashioned way that took me a week or more to appreciate. It presented music in a richly textured, fast-moving boogie dance that I found totally compelling, but it also sounded more mechanical and less organic than the other amps I used with the SB-C700s, with a kind of dry silveriness to its sound.

Then I remembered: On the SU-C700's remote control is a button mysteriously labeled LAPC. This stands for Load Adaptive Phase Calibration. According to Technics, LAPC is "a speaker impedance optimization algorithm, using digital signal processing to flatten both the amplitude and phase-frequency response to make the most of your speakers." As best I can tell, LAPC generates a test signal from an internal app that measures the signal amplitude vs load impedance and phase angle at the interface of amp and speakers. After measuring, the app makes corrections to linearize the frequency response.

Hoping for improvement, I pressed LAPC. A yellow light appeared at the center of the front panel, and the amp ran the test signal. I listened again and was completely surprised. Missing colors reappeared. The music got more chunky and funky. The sound had gone from great boogie but lean tonality to extraordinary forward momentum with more-than-satisfying musical presence. Corrected by LAPC, the SU-C700 became one of the more enjoyable integrateds I've auditioned.

Vs. the KEF LS50: The KEF LS50 is a stand/desk-mounted minimonitor that has earned itself "reference" status in the listening rooms of countless reviewers, myself included, and is listed in Class A (Restricted Extreme LF) of Stereophile's "Recommended Components." Compared to the Technics SB-C700, the KEF LS50 sounds noticeably slower and a tiny bit less transparent. The SB-C700 was more dynamic, with more slam and startle factor, and was lighter on its feet. The Technics went lower and presented a wider spectrum of bass detail than the KEF, as well as more clean air between singers and their mikes.

Vs. the Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a: The Falcon is my current reference for transparency, realistic tone character, and full-tilt pace and rhythm. The Technics SB-C700s were about 10% less transparent than the Falcons. The Falcons are more dynamic and colorful, but the SB-C700s went considerably lower in the bass, and had none of the treble exaggerations of the BBC's venerable LS3/5a design. The Technics developed more weight and body than the Falcons or KEFs. When I returned to the Falcons after weeks with the Technics, all I could hear was all the bass that wasn't there.

Conclusions
Fujichrome, Ektachrome, Cibachrome = beauty, saturated color, image clarity. I always objected to the photographic metaphors of the late Harry Pearson, founder and editor of The Abso!ute Sound, but everything I have ever mocked I have become. So here goes:

I like reproduced sound to have sparkling, crisp image clarity, beautifully rendered light and shadow, and effulgent hypersaturated musical hues. I like rich colors so much that I rarely mind if my audio images are a little extrasaturated—like my old Ektachromes.

The Technics Premium Class SB-C700s generate crisply clear images, well-described spatial perspectives, and naturally detailed bass down to about 50Hz. But be forewarned: the SB-C700 are definitely not like my old Ektachromes. On the scale of saturated to unsaturated, they are precisely at the center—just as they are exactly in the middle of the feminine painterly (colorito) to masculine linear (designo) scale. Instead of sounding luminous and slightly romantic, like my DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s, the SB-C700s lean toward the analytical. More precisely, they have a new, 21st-century sound that is evenly balanced but retains just enough color and tonal richness to play all types of music in an emotionally engaging way. As I type, I wonder: Could this new 21st-century neutrality I'm noticing be the result of new driver technologies and substantially reduced cabinet colorations? I think maybe.

Whenever audiophiles claim they can't live with colorations, and that they require accurate or neutral reproduction, I laugh, choke up, and expectorate. I don't believe anybody when they say this. All that any audiophile or reviewer—myself included—really wants is his or her favorite colorations. We want recordings to sound like we want them to sound. If you think I'm full of it, I dare you to audition these beautiful, well-engineered speakers. Technics' new Premium Class SB-C700 is not only accurate, transparent, and neutral, it's an excellent value. Highly recommended.

COMPANY INFO
Technics, Panasonic Corporation of North America
Two Riverfront Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-5490
(800) 211-7262
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
AllanMarcus's picture

"effulgent hypersaturated musical hues"
why does that sound like something an Oenophile would say?

JoeinNC's picture

Pretension is apparently their hallmark.

K.Reid's picture

If the KEF LS50 is Class A sound, then it is only appropriate to classify the Technics as such. I had an extended listening session and they are every bit the bargain the KEFs are. Properly set up as Herb describes and, frankly, they leave the KEFs in the dust dynamically. Simply fantastic for the price. I really hope they can get the "street cred" they so deserve.

Steve C's picture

I had some Technics speakers back in the late 70's that were time aligned. Got them while I was stationed in the Azores, hooked up to a Kenwood integrated with a Thorens TT. Very nice overall sound. Wish I could remember the model #. Glad to see a comeback.

avanti1960's picture

At the end of the day it is difficult to eliminate distortion and maintain clarity / dispersion when a 6-1/2" woofer mates to a tweeter. Even the best 6-1/2" woofers typically begin breaking up at (and most certainly after) the lowest comfortable crossover point of a tweeter. Monitors with 5-1/2" woofers have the capability to be more transparent and with less distortion in the crossover region because of the smaller woofer.
I wish Stereophile would measure and publish harmonic distortion results with their speaker reviews.

Xyriut's picture

Totally agreed.

TJ's picture

... you could try Neumann KH-120 recording studio monitors with 100 watts of bi-amped class AB power, balanced inputs, plus an onboard DSP for ruler flat frequency response and rear panel EQ options. After ~200 hrs of break-in (electrolytic caps), the sound and imaging are exceptional. Any chance for a Stereophile review?

Russell Dawkins's picture

to see the extent to which the conclusions of this review differ from those in the What hi*fi review, brief though it is.
http://www.whathifi.com/technics/sb-c700/review

I guess, as usual, a personal audition is the answer.

crenca's picture

I auditioned these speakers at a well known dealer about a month ago. I can't recall the amp (though I remember it being a SS unit costing about $8k). I could only stand them for about 5 minutes. The treble had an overly forward/bright texture that sounded very "metallic" and "brassy" to me. It truly skewed the music. Within the first few seconds I was quizzing the dealer assuming he was applying an eccentric EQ (he was not). Now, I admit that I prefer an accurate treble presentation that is not overly bright (I had just been listening to GoldenEar's products through a Rougue Audio Spinx and that sounded like "real" music to me) but this was off the charts.

Is it sample differences? Are they really sensitive to what they are matched with concerning amplification? Can Mr. Herb Reichert hear anything above 5k? Like you say, always audition them for yourself...

K.Reid's picture

You speak nothing about the room you auditioned them in, positioning (feet from front wall and side wall) associated equipment, cabling, etc. Did you ask the salesman how long they were in house and break in time. Give some details. Just because you auditioned with an 8K amp is no guarantee of a good match. The salesman should have demo the speakers with Technics new integrated amp which sounds fabulous.

I had a very lengthy listening session with a well broken in pair. Room was about 12ft wide by 20ft length. Ceiling was 8ft. All Technics set up with their music server and integrated amp. Cabling was Shunyata. Speakers were about 4ft out from front wall pointing straight with no toe in. Holly Cole Temption, Christy Baron and classical pieces sounded great. I think definitely Class A (restricted low frequency). The treble was fine and detailed and most certainly not bright or strident. I too like an accurate treble presentation and this was spot on. They really do exceed the KEF LS50 in performance. If Herb could not hear anything above 5K he would not be a professional reviewer for Stereophile. Clearly, there was something wrong in your dealer's presentation.

crenca's picture

For example, could perfecting room placement (a few feet here or there) really have changed the fundamental character of the treble I heard? Sure, it could have changed it some, but what I heard was beyond (way beyond) room placement tweaks, cables, break in, etc. Besides the dealer I heard them at (name withheld on purpose) is well known, respected, and uses cables that are priced/respected well beyond what I pay for. The room/positioning was a high end (treated, etc) listening room - it might not have been set up specifically for these speakers but it is no concrete floored wharehouse either.

Now, the amplification might have been a complete mismatch, and I admit that - but even if this were true I tend to believe it probably does not account for everything I heard...probably not...

So, giving the dealer and myself the benefit of the doubt (that neither of us are not complete morons) what can account for the differences between our experiences (that it was more or less in line with what the "whathifi" review described as "harshness") and your's and Herb's?

Possibly it's amplification. If that is the case, these speakers are sensitive to that to strong degree I think. Sample differences? I tend to think this is probably the main culprit.

However, I have noticed that there are many in the "audiophile" world who like a forward/emphasized/"detailed" treble presentation that I simply don't like as I find it very unnatural to what acoustic instruments sound like live. Perhaps this in combination with sample differences (with a little amplification mismatch) leads to this very diverse evaluation???

I am open to other ideas...

K.Reid's picture

Don't be afraid to give the name of the dealer. I am curious to see who it was. There are many great dealers such as Overture AV, Innovative Audio Video, Lyric, Hanson and others. I will ask again, what brand name and model amplifier did you demo with? In terms of the speakers I still think it may have been a bad sample, amp mismatch or a pair that was not broken in. This speaker must be given plenty of break in time...and that matters a good degree with these monitors. Furthermore, it will easily point out bad recordings or less than great upstream equipment. It is not a forgiving speaker. I suggest you go to another dealer for a listen with Technics integrated amplifier and make certain they have had substantial use.

Also, JA can give them to another reviewer...say Art Dudley to get his second opinion. Properly set up and demonstrated, the speakers are fabulous.

K.Reid's picture

Steve Guttenburg has a contrary opinion on CNET.com. He loved the Technics. Perhaps What HiFi had bad sample. I had read that "so called" review and thought to myself what that they must have been a bad sample. Go listen yourself to the complete Technics system with well broken in pair placed out from the front wall. I think you will be impressed.

Ayre conditioned's picture

JA didn't listen to these speakers, as he sometimes does. Maybe he could have offered some more insight.

K.Reid's picture

JA may do a follow-up, who knows. I think it is a good idea. I have no doubt that if I were choosing between the KEF LS50 and the Technics SB-C700, my money would go to the latter - based on my time with them.

John Atkinson's picture
Ayre conditioned wrote:
I wonder why JA didn't listen to these speakers, as he sometimes does.

I didn't have time to listen to the Technics speakers in my room, I am afraid. However, Herb still has the review samples, so the opportunity might present itself.

Ayre conditioned wrote:
Maybe he could have offered some more insight.

One thing I didn't emphasize sufficiently is that the SB-C700's low-frequency alignment is maximally flat instead of featuring the upper-bass bump so often found in small speakers. They will therefore work better in small rooms. The larger the room, the leaner they might sound.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

K.Reid's picture

John, you may not recall that we spoke about this monitor at an event held at Innovative Audio in NYC recently where Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio was demonstrating the Alexandria XLF. Guttenburg and Chesky were there as well all discussing MQA and recording methods. I let you know that I had been impressed with the Technics and you informed me that one of your staff had reviewed the them and to look for it in the January issue.

Notwithstanding the above, I think that it would be a good idea for you to give these monitors an extended listen. I think Herb's review was spot on. Though the LS50 is no slouch, these just outperform them in many areas in a small to medium sized room provided they are properly set up with good associated equipment.

K.Reid's picture

If you want to read what other listeners have said about the speaker Google the speaker name/model and Audio Asylum forum and you will see mostly positive comments.

JGP's picture

Sure, we all have our opinions; however, I typically find those posted by users that have never owned that which they are quick to comment about (in respect to sound quality, value, and such) - is a bit jaded and unfounded. In other words, "hog-wash"...

Now, to my point - The SB-C700 are exceptional speakers in their price point. They do an exceptional job at bringing the best out of a good "front end" and amplifier. Very transparent, extremely convincing bottom end, and "boy do they image". With a late night session, particularly well recorded "new-age" music, you'll find yourself looking off to the left and the right trying to tell yourself "it's really coming from in front of me...from that little pair of speakers". These bookshelves play very nice indeed.

I've owned quite a few speakers in my day, like probably most of you...Anything from a good-ol' pair of Dynaco A25's to "art-like" Gallo Reference 3.1's. Some of my favorites, interestingly enough, were not the most expensive - in fact, some of these were the near opposite. These "bargain musical champions" would include the Rega RS3, PSB Imagine B, Acoustic Zen Adago (perhaps a bit more expensive), and these little Technics monitors. I'll call them monitors because they verge on the edge of just that due to their uncolored nature, easy drive, and holographic sounds.

The point is, some speakers just do a very good job at making you smile. Not just because your finding yourself rediscovering your favorite music, but - because you still have money in your pocket to continue doing just that.

These are the real deal.

K.Reid's picture

Just keep in mind that many are able to formulate an opinion on sound quality right away depending on their experience level listening to high end speakers and associated audio equipment. An initial impression can be formulated relatively quickly.

And I have owned the Technics SBC700 for a while now for a couple years now.

Brodie_McChoad's picture

I know that's not the standard bearer for "scientific" reviews, but it's pretty hard to get a ONE-STAR review and that's exactly what this Technics speaker did. So it's very polarizing at the least - even judging by comments here. I will make it a point to listen to them if I get a chance, but I find myself doubting that they truly outperform the LS50s that they appear to be at least in part trying to copy.

Brodie_McChoad's picture

Or "class" it seems like you might be compensating for something else.

jlwu's picture

Got a chance to audition the Technics R1 in Panasonic's Technics showroom in Osaka. Was mighty impressed but very reluctant to shell out that kind of money for a pair of speakers that likely wont hold their value like Wilsons or Focals.

The opportunity to own it's smaller sibling presented itself and I went for it. Initially I tried them with a Tenor OTL amp and positioned them way into the room thinking that they would image well based in the text-book rule of 1/3s. What I got was "overly forward/bright texture that sounded very "metallic" and "brassy"". Took them upstairs and placed them very close to the front wall and they started to sing at the expense of exaggerated bass.

Finally put them back in the main listening room again and push them back to about 24" from the front wall. Also switched amplifiers to a 45W class A solid state amp. That's when magic happened. Everything became smooth, coherent, musical and yes! That ghostly imaging.

I should have read the manual instead of using my jaded audiophile instincts. it reads " the distance between
the speakers and the front wall, which should be between 30 cm to 60 cm ....the distance between the
speakers and the side walls should be greater than 60 cm. "

RTFM...

OK1's picture

I enjoyed reading this review, and it was definitely a different kind of review from the UK's What-HiFi Magazine review. Clearly the What HiFi reviewers have bit of a different user base and market, who prefer a more colored presentation rather than this straight as a ruler translation of the Technics, which is what I prefer - give me without the frills, I can handle the truth.

It was interesting how you referred to this as very much like a studio monitor, and this works better for me. More and more of us use the same set of speakers for both playback of music, as well as playing music or creating music, and for this I would prefer a ruler flat frequency response, from the speaker, and especially since more of us play music back through computers and personal digital playback devices, there are options like Sonarworks, and other forms of eq, which we can use to artificially color the sound, to our taste. So we have the salt shaker, and no longer have to completely depend on the cooks(speaker manufacturers) to take an intelligent guess of our personal tastes in frequency preferences.

Or if we have an integrated amp, that's what the tone controls are for - to color to our taste and our room, as the last icing on the cake.

Thanks also for introducing me to a diverse set of reference tracks that I would typically never have come across. With the exception of the Bob Marley Exodus, the other tracks were all new to me.

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