Von Schweikert Ultra 55 loudspeaker

Achieving room-filling, high-quality sound in a hotel room is difficult enough. Getting it in a cavernous ballroom is even more problematic. Yet, over the past few years at AXPONA, RMAF, and most recently at the February 2020 FLAX (Florida Audio Expo), Von Schweikert Audio, in association with The Audio Company of Marietta, Georgia, has managed that—and, other than the approximately 100 bodies occupying every seat in the house, they've done it without any room treatment, or without any that I could see.

At various shows, the company delivered equally impressive sonic goods with either the monolith-like $325,000/pair Ultra 11 or with the far smaller $100,000/pair Ultra 55 reviewed here ($95,000/pair for the passive version, without the powered woofers). The Ultra 9, priced between the two, fills out the Ultra line. While big rooms usually have "hot spots" of good sound and "dead spots" of poor sound, the Von Schweikerts seemed to shower everyone with good sound, wherever they sat or stood.

At one show, I played Side 2 of Abbey Road (PCS 7088) digitized at 24/96 from an original UK pressing; the crowd sat transfixed through a whole side of a very familiar record. People got up teary-eyed or even weeping outright. A few said they'd "never heard it like that." That was in part due to my analog front end's decoding of an original UK pressing, but it was also because the system in the big room delivered the kind of well-balanced sonic presentation you don't often hear in hotel rooms, big or small. It surprised me.

Familiar elements on that record, and on others I spun on vinyl there, usually get ruined or disappear entirely in hotel rooms: the bottom end goes soggy or bloated; transients lose their grip or are too sharp. But in that room near the Tampa airport, they sounded ideal, or at least recognizably similar to how they sound at home under much better conditions.

I've never heard my reference Wilson Audio Specialties Alexx speakers perform as well at shows as they do at home, and occasionally they've sounded downright awful, so hearing these Von Schweikerts sound so right at shows had me wondering how they might sound at home. When a pair of the relatively compact Ultra 55s was offered for review, of course I said "yes."

620von.bac

The Ultra 55s in Bleu Celeste
Albert Von Schweikert founded his namesake company in 1996 after having worked for years for other speaker manufacturers. His impressive bio is worth reading.

Albert stepped aside in 2015, turning the business over to his son Damon and appointing Leif Swanson chief designer; Swanson had spent a decade working with Albert. The current line was developed under Swanson's guidance, but it's based on Albert's concepts, particularly regarding crossover design. The Ultra 55s use drivers developed by Von Schweikert (the company) in collaboration with Accuton and Scan-Speak. Swanson, who is also the company's vice president of sales and marketing, says the Ultra 55s are voiced to sound identical to the larger Ultra 9 and Ultra 11, although, in a relatively compact (42" H × 13" W × 24" D) package, they offer a bit less of everything. The Ultra 55 weighs 190lb—hefty, but far less than the Ultra 9's 500lb.

The Ultra 55 is not a square box. The flawlessly finished cabinet—a complex, triple-wall, constrained-layer–damped, bonded laminate of 1" MDF, 1" HDF, and a ¾" proprietary artificial stone—is narrow at the tweeter-top and widens down to the woofer-bottom. Von Schweikert calls the multilaminate cabinet construction "Version 2.0 Active Cabinet Vibration Control." The composite design is said to be as much about vibration cancelling as it is about damping.

The rear and front panels slope gently, with the front panel chamfered at the top to minimize diffraction. That sloping front aligns the front-firing drivers' acoustic centers, ensuring, Von Schweikert says, that the wavefronts from the front-firing drivers are mechanically time-aligned without any crossover tweaks.

The cabinet's superb fit'n'finish and flaw-free polyester paint job (here in Bleu Celeste but available in "nearly endless colors," according to Mr. Swanson) helped produce an attractive, graceful-looking package.

You can order the Ultra 55 with or without a 525W class-D woofer amp. The review sample came with. It drives the two rear-ported, reflex-loaded 8" (220mm), custom-designed, Accuton-built ceramic/honeycomb-sandwich woofers featuring "overhung" motors, 38mm vented voice-coils, and soft-rubber surrounds.

620von.closetop

Above the woofers is a recently developed 6" (168mm) Accuton "4D" ("Direct Dome Driver Design") ceramic-dome midrange driver; 4D means the spider isn't connected to the former; instead, the former connects to the rubber surround, which allows the former to be shorter. This design minimizes interactions with the dome and moves the driver's acoustical center farther forward.

The tweeter is an in-house–modified version of Scan-Speak's Illuminator 99% beryllium-dome tweeter, which is claimed to produce flat response to beyond 40kHz, outstanding off-axis dispersion, high resolution, and "silky-smooth" sound; it features a large roll surround and an unusual magnet configuration: a circular array of six neodymium "slugs" in place of the usual single magnet. This open-magnet structure is said to eliminate reflections and resonances and produce "far lower distortion than any other tweeter design."

A custom, Von Schweikert–developed, 3" Fountek aluminum-ribbon supertweeter on the back panel fires frequencies above about 10kHz at the front wall and completes the driver complement.

For the fourth-order, point-to-point, hand-wired, 200Hz and 2kHz crossover networks, Von Schweikert uses copper-foil inductors, which the company considers the least colored, lowest-distortion inductors available, and Mundorf capacitors, chosen from two recently developed lines that Von Schweikert says are the most accurate. Internal wiring is from MasterBuilt—a brand designed and constructed by "leaders in the Aerospace industry." (Von Schweikert is MasterBuilt's global distributor.)

Von Schweikert crossovers employ two technologies—Acoustic Inverse Replication (A.I.R.) and Global Axis Integration Network (G.A.I.N.)—which work together to befuddle this reviewer. These technologies have a secondary goal of making the music sound better.

G.A.I.N. is a crossover topology that "constructs a consistent polar response both in the amplitude and time domains, both horizontally and vertically," according to a Von Schweikert white paper. "Not only does this radiation pattern enable the listener to perceive well-balanced frequency and harmonic integration from almost anywhere in the listening side of the room; it also enhances sound-stage imaging over a 180-degree axis horizontally and 70 degrees vertically. This is especially important psychoacoustically, since the ear/brain hearing mechanism responds favorably to this reconstructed sound wave pattern. Proprietary circuits form steep 24dB acoustic crossover slopes at specially selected frequencies without the penalties of induced ringing and excessive phase delay."

A.I.R. exploits G.A.I.N. to replicate "the inverse of a recording microphone signal," in the specific case of a spaced-omni microphone pair, allowing it, in combination with the rear-firing Ambience Retrieval System (A.R.S.), "to recreate the space and depth heard in the concert hall." There will be no rear-firing A.R.S. jokes here from me. I didn't know about any of this when I heard at those hi-fi shows, from both Von Schweikert Ultra loudspeakers, those unique and enveloping spatial qualities even under challenging acoustical conditions. Sometimes ignorance can be enlightening.

Easy setup
Mr. Swanson flew in for the setup shortly before COVID-19 put an end to most air travel and visitation. Thanks in great part to the level-adjustable powered woofers, it didn't take long to properly locate the speakers, which ended up farther into the room than my reference Wilson Audio Specialties Alexxes, somewhat farther from the side walls, and only slightly toed-in. The Ultra 55s were close to where the Vandersteen Model Sevens—the last pair of powered speakers I reviewed here—sat back in 2010.

Both the powered woofer and ambient channel levels were set by ear via rear-panel–mounted pots; this was quick and easy and I never felt it necessary to change the levels during the review period. I tried three cables, two of which I had on hand—AudioQuest Dragon and TARA Labs Omega Evolution SP—and one provided by Von Schweikert: MasterBuilt Ultra biwire cables ($35,000). The first two cables were auditioned with VSA-supplied jumpers, the latter with jumpers removed. I used the MasterBuilts for most of my auditioning; they fit nicely between the lean, clean AudioQuests on one side and the supple, somewhat soft TARAs on the other. The cable deniers are wrong, but costs like these—1/3 as much as these rather expensive speakers—give them something to complain about.

My review work commenced with the Ultra 55s driven by the VAC Statement 452 iQ Musicbloc amps, which I reviewed in Stereophile's May 2020 issue and which have worked so well with the Ultra 55s (and other Von Schweikert speakers) at shows. I later switched to my reference, the darTZeel NHB-468 monoblocks, which I reviewed in the November 2019 issue.

Agreeable but hardly bland
Big loudspeakers are the hardest things to review. If you're reviewing a piece of electronics, especially a small piece, you can move back and forth between it and your reference by moving over cables. But with a big loudspeaker, you have to live with them for the whole the review period, since moving them is a two- (sometimes three-) person job.

COMPANY INFO
Von Schweikert Audio
1040-A Northgate St.
Riverside, CA 92507
(951) 682-0706
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Sibelius's picture

Actually, only the 7th Symphony has been recorded at the Centro Cultural Kirchner (07/2019). I was lucky enough to be present there the very same night this concert was recorded. The hall has got a fantastic sound, the orchestra never sounds dull, muffled or thick. On the contrary, all instruments are clearly presented and the bass is strong but never overwhelming. The Triple concerto was recorded in a whole different venue, in a whole different continent, Europe, three months later, on occasion of the 20th birthday of the East-Western Divan Orchestra (10/2019). The hall is the Berlin Philharmonie. To my ears, in spite of the outstanding sonic qualities of the Ballena Azul at CCK, the recording made at Berlin sounds much better than the one made in Buenos Aires.

Michael Fremer's picture

“Actually, only the 7th Symphony has been recorded at the Centro Cultural Kirchner (07/2019)”. What does this mean?

Sibelius's picture

Dear Mr. Fremer. My comment was aided at specifying the recording venue information that had been added as Footnote 1. I do not understand your urge to attack me. Was I being disrespectful for stating the correct recording information? I have read with pleasure your articles for many years. I just didn't know the author of those papers could be so aggressive, just because. Greetings from Buenos Aires.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

As New York Jews of the same generation, Michael and I share many things in common, including the tendency to speak strongly and directly without apology. Having said that, I don't see Michael's comment as an attack. He was simply asking for clarification. Happily, that clarification has now come from both you and Jim Austin.

Thanks for wishing to set the record straight. It's important to do so.

Michael Fremer's picture

Honestly, my intent was not to attack you. I just didn't understand to what recording venue you were referring.....I tend to get directly to the point in these comments. I'm truly sorry if you felt I was attacking you.

Jim Austin's picture

I added the information about the recording venue, during editing. So if there was an error, it was my error. However, I researched it and eventually found a specific reference to the recording venue. I wish I'd saved notes, but I didn't. I believe the information to be correct, at least according to existing (but hard to find) documentation.

If I have time, I'll go find it again.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Sibelius's picture

Dear Mr. Austin,

I copied the information from the booklet that accompanies the high-res file. As it has been provided by the label, Deutsche Grammophon, we should assume it is correct. Most classical music labels are very precise when releasing recording data information on their booklets. They include producer, engineer, sometimes even the gear that was used for the recording and mastering process.

Greetings from Buenos Aires

Jim Austin's picture
May apologies. I see the error now. I'm glad that it's clear that it is my error and not Michael Fremer's. Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
tonykaz's picture

These guys are building passive Loudspeakers that adapt to the Room.

The typical audiophile remedy is to tune the room.

Pro-audio guys do both and then some.

For $100,000, I too would expect the Factory guy to do a presence visit to help sort out the variables and bring the entire system into balance. Audiophiles with lesser financials can achieve similar results using the DIY trial & error methodologies.

I wonder how much a Dealer has to discount these things in order to close the sale?, considering there is probably $50,000 in profit built into the MSRP and used Infinities are selling for a pittance by comparison. Hmm

Tony in Venice

ps. this Company intends their Loudspeakers to last a lifetime. Made in USA. I could own a pair of these in a colour to match Bamboo and might if the Economy doesn't crash again, like it's already starting to do!. ouch

avanti1960's picture

any sound qualities that are ascribable to ceramic drivers in particular? Distinctive qualities that the end user might need to adjust to (for example)?

Michael Fremer's picture

A point I made in the review is that many companies use Accuton ceramic drivers but they all sound different.

noamgeller's picture

So, you take 3000-4000 Euro worth of Accuton drivers, add a titanium voice coil so you can call it off shelf product, implenting a cross over parts made by Mundorf (of course), add a digital amp and put everything in an MDF-HDF well braced cabinet.
Et Voila you declare it to be a 100,000 Dollar Masterpiece!
How simple is that! Nobody will argue with you saying it´s utterly ridiculous cause everybody knows these days you´ll be out of buisness if you wont stick a skyhigh price tag on it... who is to blame? We all know it´s bullshit... yet alas, it seems just to get worse

MatthewT's picture

Looking forward to the review of the "noamgeller" competitor to this speaker.

Anton's picture

If he criticized a Chevy Volt that was priced at 100,000 dollars, would you holler at him to go build a car of his own?

If you don't allow value discussions, then how do you approach the hobby?

JHL's picture

...it's never a value discussion.

noamgeller's picture

https://youtu.be/U7M-Vv18d_8

I would love if you'll take a good look at what I have built. Cost of materials =1500 euros

ChrisS's picture

...build these speakers for a living, how much would you charge?

I have no shop, no tools, no woodworking/cabinetry/electronic skills, etc.

How long do you think it will take me to build a pair of these (or any) speakers and get them up and running?

ChrisS's picture

...the one you refer to above, is a video on "How To Build A Magico Loudspeaker".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5OMquMru3Y

Do you think 1500 euros would cover the cost of even one of their smaller units?

noamgeller's picture

At least I know that Magico are building with materials that are not attainable for me... Working with exotic materials is a very smart move, you stay out of competition reach and have an answer when people complain about the cost issue. I have a lot of respect for this company...

Michael Fremer's picture

To what exotic materials are you referring?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

noamgeller may be referring to Graphene cones :-) .......

Anton's picture

I would pay you twice that to make me a pair of those.

Amazing.

I am totally serious.

Glotz's picture

And the dude is simply masterful! Hearing is believing, but really fantastic job.

His language, regarding the speaker under review, is offensive and arrogant. He should know that VS speakers hold much the same pedigree Magico does.

noamgeller's picture

With your comment, I was too harsh and arrogant with my comment. I do think thou it's time to put words which are not necessarily kind into the open... Since when a speaker of this complexity costs a 100,000$ and we call it normal? How come the beautiful vimberg tonda using more or less the same arrey costing 28,000eu? Have they somehow miscalculated their profit?

hb72's picture

they look really nice! but are they better than say kef R3s? their selling price is 2k$ but they reduce component cost by mass production (not sure what this means in factor, but I suppose less than 50%), and their components are taylored to i.e. developed for the product..

noamgeller's picture

For the kind words. I do not know if they are better then say a 2000$ or a 10,000$ speaker... I just know I love those Seas excel drivers and always loved the magico mini looks. They do however make me shook my head and wonder about the pricing issues this days... Especially since there are some amazing companies who are making awesome products and do not charge just for the statement of it. After all, like a friend used to say, every body bakes with flour and water

hb72's picture

but the real (commercial) companies have some fancy testing equipement. I am raising this point as I was also very tempted to build my own speakers (and I do not have much relevant measuring equipement). But in the end, I took a decision buying original manufactured ones, wisely for me, as I am prone to spend endless time tinkering around, and if I think of x-overs and their many components where I could add a small cap or resistor (perhaps limited with 6db slopes, but think of higher order cross overs..) I'd go mad with all possible variants to trial.. but I hope not everyone is like me :)

---

Having said that, a small series resistor on treble might help also on my oem speakers to align the somewhat dominant tweater, wouldn't it???

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As an additional note ...... KEF R3 was reviewed by Hi-Fi News and Audio Science Review with measurements :-) ........

hb72's picture

yes and they measure very nicely. frequency response, angular dispersion, time domain, all very nice.

Michael Fremer's picture

Running a fantasy loudspeaker company from your basement can lead to your conclusions here but in the real world there’s a FACTORY to pay for, R&D development, INVENTORY, ACCOUNTING, WORKERS to pay, TAXES to pay, and many other costs associated with running a real business. There are costs involved in advertising and promoting the business at shows around the world. And of course there’s a need to make a profit. And then the product gets sold to DEALERS who run businesses that have similar costs and they too don’t work for free at your pleasure. Your “business model” is a fantasy. Parts cost is a useless metric for understanding the calculations that lead to a final MSRP.

noamgeller's picture

I do not own a company, nor would I ever venture in the audio business...and I really don't buy your fancy words about factory costs. They are selling a luxury item far more expensive than its actual value since they're competitors do it as well, and they have to charge for staying in the game... More expensive is better?? Not in my books. And some people still fall for it and buying this nonsense, an such keeping the prices in never ending circle upwards. By the way most companies started their way in the basement or garage (including your Wilson audio).

ChrisS's picture

...a nice hobby.

Not a business.

noamgeller's picture

And if I would have had a successful business I would probably be forced to charge as high as those guys do, just to stay in the game. It's the chicken and the egg kind of problem

ChrisS's picture

....Some hobbies evolve into businesses.

But you don't have a business for very long when you only cover your costs.

If you were to build Anton a pair of speakers for the cost of parts, how would you eat and pay the rent?

You can't compare what you do with a business.

noamgeller's picture

I am completely agreeing with you. I do not compare my hobbies expenses to a business expenses. Not at all. There are so many headaches on this way, I wouldn't sacrifice my quiet life for this roller-coaster... Still the question of the chicken and the egg remains. Who pushes those prices up the roof and into stratosphere where it ain't funny any more. The consumer or the provider? Those prices to my humble carpenter eyes are so laughable high it seems almost comic. Yet the joke is on us.

ChrisS's picture

...economics.

Another page in the evolution of human activity.

Do you think all the items in a $0.99 store are actually worth $0.99?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

We can get a slicer which can make French fries for 51 cents at Amazon :-) ........

ChrisS's picture

...then it goes into the landfill.

Glotz's picture

You probably haven't heard them.

So, how are you so critical of these speakers? We're not critical of your speakers, and we haven't heard them.

I am critical of your business knowledge... you have very little and come off quite disrespectful to most here, while appearing hypocritical about Magico speakers, which are among the most expensive on the planet.

Lastly, while it would appear that you are superlative carpenter, my guess is you suck as a speaker designer.

BUT, because you come off showing some expertise in cabinets, everyone must assume you have skills elsewhere. That's a wrong assumption in audio.

I find your ability to question speaker costs (or business costs) a bit dubious.

I think many that have heard the speakers attest that every aspect of its design and implementation are on par with Magico and the caliber of its designers as well.

Please argue for or against that point, but to poo-poos these and exalt Magico, it throws your severely your bias (and knowledge) into question. MF said read the bio... you should.

ChrisS's picture

...house for me and I'll pay for the materials.

Michael Fremer's picture

Do not know the costs involved in running these businesses. "Fancy words about factory costs"? Seriously? There's nothing "fancy" about running a factory, or having an accounting department, or keeping inventory of parts for every product you've ever manufactured, or of hiring outside contractors do perform certain functions etc. I've visited many factories around the world including those of companies I wouldn't consider "luxury manufacturers", but rather those who produce very high quality items at reasonable costs like Rega. They have the same "fancy" issues to deal with. They sell lower priced items at higher volumes. I always say if you can find higher performance or equal performance at lower prices, go for it. But you have a resentful tone and you seem to be okay with some companies in this "luxury" arena but not with others. As for Wilson starting in a garage, well that's all well and good. I have nothing against that or against you building your own speakers with Accuton drivers bought at Madisound. Good luck to you!

noamgeller's picture

Very right. I regret my resentful tone and apologise for it. I have been a bit hasty with my comment. I am not long enough in this world of hifi nor do I own a business and aware of the costs of production. I do know to recognise a trend when I see one... In the last 10 years or so companies are raising the prices just to stay a live and in the game... Not their fault, maybe ours?

tonykaz's picture

Manufacturers will 'typically' have 'real' Manufacturing Costs in the 20% range related to MSRP. The Low exception is P&G ( Proctor & Gamble ) who work in the 9% range.

Manufacturing costs can easily go out of control for an infinite number of reasons.

My long standing career in the Transportation Industry has been improving the efficiency of Manufacturing Plants.

The many Audio industry manufacturers I've visited are not efficient, they don't have the volume to develop best practices, they probably have to buy far more than they need, they typically lack the critical infrastructure and don't have a stable product line.

I manufactured Consumer Audio accessories ( in the 1980s ) and was happy to return to the stability of GM Corp.

Now-a-days, PS Audio, Schiit and Magnapan seem to have cost control 'well-in-hand' ( for Audio Outfits ) but the virus will probably knock out struggling Audio outfits ( most are struggling ).

Tony in Venice

James Romeyn's picture

IIRC your room is not exactly brimming with open real estate. During your reviews of other speakers such as this VS, what happens to your Wilson Audio speakers? Where do you put them? How many hours does it take to move them out and then properly set them up later?

Michael Fremer's picture

It takes 15 minutes to jack up the Wilsons, replace spikes with casters and roll them into a space directly behind the racks of records perhaps you’ve seen in videos directly behind my listening seat. I do this myself. Rolling the Alexx back into position and spiking takes a bit longer but blue tape on the floor makes easy returning them to the precise location.

a.wayne's picture

Nice well thought out design ....

dcolak's picture

-6dB 20Khz?! +3dB 3Khz?!

Jesus, and 100K USD for this?!

What's wrong with Stereophile. Since when that's a good frequency response?! It's not, by any stretch of imagination.

Jim Austin's picture

... what constitutes a good frequency response.

Please note however that the quasi-anechoic measurement is not made on-axis but is measured across a 30-degree horizontal listening window, as indicated in the figure caption. Response averaged across a 30-degree listening window is expected to be somewhat suppressed at the extreme high end of the audible range, relative to on-axis response. (Fig. 4 shows how the response falls off off the horizontal axis.)

As for the rest, you are free to draw your own conclusions.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Magico M2 also has similar type of high frequency, tweeter frequency response :-) .......

Jim Austin's picture

horizontally across the listening window, which exaggerates the HF roll-off.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Yes I know ..... I mentioned M2 because the tweeters of M2 and VSA 55, FR appear to be similar ....... They both are Beryllium dome tweeters (may be sourced from the same manufacturer) ....... Also, from the listening position, both speakers appear to have similar HF roll-off :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Here is a loudspeaker for JA2 to consider reviewing ........ Martin-Logan Classic ESL-9, $5,200/pair :-) .......

Or ...... ESL 11-A with powered woofers, $8,000/pair :-) .......

dcolak's picture

How about NOT having +10dB/-10dB swings?!

Get any of GENELEC speakers, or ATC speakers or JBL pro speakers.

Now THAT is a GOOD speaker!

Compare it to:

100K USD for that atrocity of the frequency response?!

If I wanted such a bad speaker I'd do a randomize in a DSP. I'd turn on the tone controls and lower everything over 10Khz and bump up everything under 100Hz.

Jesus Stereophile! What's going on?

tonykaz's picture

Wasn't Mr.JA doing these quoted measurements on someone's driveway ?

Besides, this transducer system is a Tuneable Design suggesting they have the real world capability of delivering a range of output efficiencies, they can reproduce any curve you need them to reproduce.

Geez, I wish the Manufacturer's Design Engineer would step foreward and bring some useful clarity to this interesting discussion, not doing tries to convince me of their lack of interest in Consumers.

I wish that Manufacturers would realise that having their stuff reviewed is a commitment level involving participation with interested persons.

Tony in Venice

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Many famous people in audio walked on that 'driveway' ........ That driveway is 'anointed' :-) .......

Michael Fremer's picture

Who I'm sure you know of. He certainly was into measurements. But he cautioned (and I'm paraphrasing accurately): The eyes are for looking. The ears are for listening. Do not use your eyes to hear what you see in measurements." That is what you are doing. As another great speaker designer, Joachim Gerhardt told me: Designing a speaker to produce flat on axis response today is very easy. There's no guarantee it will sound any good."

JaimeB's picture
a.wayne's picture

No one measurement tells the full story and Gerhardt is correct , yes you can measure flat and sound bad , other measurements can tell you why , if you know where to look ..

Fruff1976's picture

The JBL L100 Classic, $4,000/pair :-)....would flat out embarrass most speakers even remotely close to that price.

-Frank
JBL L100 Classic Fan Club President

Ortofan's picture

Compare these two speakers at the same price:

https://audio-pro.by/files/L100-Hi-Fi-News.pdf

https://www.excelia-hifi.cz/kef/test/kef-r11-hifi_news_05_19.pdf

Fruff1976's picture

I would take the JBL's over the KEF's if the KEF's were free and the JBL's were full price.

Anyhow, that's one review. Check out my fan site with (18) stellar reviews.

https://jbl-l100classic.com/

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The JBL L100 Classic comes with adjustable MF and HF tone controls ...... The FR measurements shown by Hi-Fi News are with the tone controls set at '0' :-) ........

a.wayne's picture

Had the original , heard the current version , it was Ok in the 70’s and still just “ok “ today ...

dc_bruce's picture

Has done business under a number of names over the years. One of his companies (might have been "Von Schweikert Audio") went bankrupt some years ago. Which is not intended to be a reflection on anything other than the difficulties of being in the specialty audio business. The only relevant pricing comparison is not with the cost of materials and labor, but with other products offered at a similar (or higher) price level. Based on the review, it would appear that these are fairly priced.

It's nice to see Stereophile reviewing a Von Schweikert speaker. My recollection is that that doesn't happen very often.

Speaking personally, it would be nice to hear a $100K speaker -- if only to hear what I've been missing -- but it's leagues above my budget.

dcolak's picture

You can have FAR better sound from MANY FAR cheaper speakers.

Start with Revel Studio 2, JBL, Genelec and ATC studio monitors, many many more options.

Glotz's picture

You haven't heard the '55, so your comments are pure conjecture.

dcolak's picture

They are ridiculously bad +/- 10dB !!!!

a.wayne's picture

@JA ,

John you were right there , why not do a full Groundplane measurement no splicing or dicing .. :)

Regards

John Atkinson's picture
a.wayne wrote:
John you were right there , why not do a full Groundplane measurement no splicing or dicing .. :)

With hindsight, yes, that was a wasted opportunity. However, I don't think a ground-plane measurement would have added much to what I already found out about the speaker's performance with the in-room and windowed farfield measurements.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

dial's picture

The magic of loudspeakers, they sound nice, look good (or reverse), for me these are really beautiful (Well I'm not into WAF) especially in this color.
After those first impressions comes the price lottery and then it could be 500 to 10 000 and here it's 100 000.

Glotz's picture

"Bad" is a relative term... and the scaling on your graph appears 'tighter', but it's not.

The variance from 'flat' appears very similar, less that bass region you seem to be freaking out over.

Anton's picture

I went back through the review, it is great. Some things clicked the second time through.

The back firing tweeter. I remember these going back to the mid-80s with Merlin Speakers.

The Snell E II and II did this, as well.

And, don't forget the father of rear firing drivers, Amar Bose! Bose took this idea to the extreme in the 901 with 8 rearward facing drivers and only a single forward firing driver.

The review mentioned "room filling sound," so maybe there is more to this rear firing tweeter stuff than we suspect.

I saw the pic of JA1 measuring the frequency response of this speaker outdoors, how would one go about factoring in this rear firing tweeter in the measurement or adequately commenting on the high frequency performance that was measured?

Also, is that rear firing tweeter in phase or out of phase, would it be a dipole or a bipole? Is there a switch the consumer can flip?

I wonder if the manufacturer offers adjustment based on what's behind the speaker...tapestries, sculptures, books, LPs, original Kinkades, stone, marble, plaster, alibaster, gold leaf? It seems that could really toss a wild card into the perceived performance.

They call it 'ambient retrieval system' but it seems somewhat broadly implemented. Sort of one rear firing tweeter fits all, so to speak.

Did Mr. Fremer note anything specific about placement, wall type, etc as he experienced this feature?

Also: "...(the) sloping front aligns the front-firing drivers' acoustic centers, ensuring, Von Schweikert says, that the wavefronts from the front-firing drivers are mechanically time-aligned without any crossover tweaks.

If this is the case, how did they time align the tweeter in back? Maybe this doesn't matter...but in "high end," "everything matter." This is a tough one to figure out. The back panel does off a treble adjustment for the rear firing tweeter, there is some degree of control.

____

Looking back at the MBL Extreme 101, it also has a extra "ambience tweeter" stuck on it, yet is is a true 360 degree radiating device.

Described in TAS:

https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/mbl-101-x-treme-omnidirectional-loudspeaker/?page=3

"...with a high-quality dynamic “ambience tweeter” nestled out of sight on its roof."

Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon...dynamic.

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So, the trickle down part: it seems it might behoove the audio hoi polloi to consider sticking some extra tweeters on the tops and packs of their speakers. If MBL and Von Schweikert need to add those babies on top and behind their speakers to make them work/sound better, we should be thinking the same with our gear, which is likely lacking in terms of the advanced speaker technology most of us can incorporate into our more mundane audio lives.

Aperion and Fostex have lines of add on tweeters, or "ambience enhancements" that seem like their time may be coming!

Lots of fun stuff to think about and try incorporating at home!

Thanks again for explaining this product, there are hidden gems that we can take and use to enhance our own home set ups!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wilson Audio is also one of the manufacturers, who incorporate rear firing tweeters in some of their models ......

There are in-room FR measurements obtained for these VSA model, from the listening position ..... So, the contribution from the rear firing tweeters is incorporated in those FR measurements :-) ........

Anton's picture

We may be on to something!

Yes, I saw the in-room data.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The Wilson Alexx speakers don't have any rear firing tweeters ...... They don't roll-off as much as the VSA in the high frequency :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Also, take a look at Sonus Faber Aida FR measurements, including in-room FR measurements ...... Aidas have rear firing tweeters :-) ........

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
There are in-room FR measurements . . . So, the contribution from the rear firing tweeters is incorporated in those FR measurements . . .

Yes, the Ultra 55's rear-firing tweeters were on for the in-room measurement.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
I saw the pic of JA1 measuring the frequency response of this speaker outdoors, how would one go about factoring in this rear firing tweeter in the measurement or adequately commenting on the high frequency performance that was measured?

The windowed farfield response (fig.3) doesn't include any contribution from the rear-firing tweeter. I had originally wondered if the rear-firing tweeter would compensate for the gently sloped-down top-octave in the forward response, but the in-room response measurement (fig.5) suggests that it doesn't. As I wrote, the Ultra 55s' tonal balance was on the sweet side in Mikey's room.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Q: What did the sweet potato sing? .....
A: I yam what I yam :-) ......

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
Q: What did the sweet potato sing? .....
A: I yam what I yam :-)

Ha ha (not). You want to be on the stage, Bogolu? There's one leaving in 5 minutes!

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Are you at a comedy club? :-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Like Jackie Gleason used to say ..... "How sweet it is" :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Life's not worth a damn till you can say .... I am what I am' :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Like Hercule Poirot said ... "Ah, dear sir .... The why must never be obvious .... That is the whole point" :-) ......

Ortofan's picture

... with a rear-firing tweeter is the Revel Ultima Gem, which was designed by Kevin Voecks - who was formerly with Snell Acoustics.
The Ultima Gem, along with the matching Ultima Sub-15 subwoofer and amplifier, was at one time the reference speaker for a certain JA1.
The system price of $18,500 in 1998 equates to about $30K today.
https://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/89/index.html

Anton's picture

Thanks for that!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Speakers like Magnepan, Quad and Martin-Logan electrostats are also 'rear-firing' :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Open back headphones are also 'rear-firing' :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Open baffle loudspeakers are also 'rear firing' .... may be not their tweeters :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some subwoofers have both front firing and rear firing drivers :-) .......

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