A couple of months ago I reviewed Audience’s smallest speaker, “The One” in TAS. I thought it was one of the best desktop/nearfield speakers I’d ever heard, regardless of price or technology. So, when I was offered a chance to review “The One’s” bigger brother, the 1+1, I was more than willing. If I had to sum up the 1+1 speaker in a single sentence I’d write, “It’s ‘The One’ on steroids.”
For readers who’ve never heard of Audience or its ClairAudient line of speakers, the company’s beginnings go back to 1979 when Audience’s president, John McDonald, met the late audio designer Richard Smith. Together they founded Sidereal Akustic. McDonald left Sidereal in 1986, and then teamed up with Smith in 1997 to form Audience. From the beginning Audience’s primary goal was to build a full-range-driver speaker without tweeters, woofers, or crossovers. Nine years of research went into developing a driver design that could accomplish Audience’s sonic goals. Finally in 2009 Audience unveiled its first product, the ClairAudient 16 loudspeaker. Other models soon followed, including the 16+16, 8+8, 2+2, 1+1, and most recently “The One.”
What does using a single, solitary, driver sans woofers, tweeters, and crossovers get you sonically speaking? The answer in one word is coherence. The entire Audience speaker line is designed to achieve this goal. By eliminating a crossover circuit, the sonic issues, such as phase anomalies at the hinge points, vanish. Also the timing and group-delay problems introduced by a crossover’s filtering components are no longer an issue.
But there is no “free lunch” in physics. Eliminating the crossover puts greater demands on the full-range driver. It’s very hard to produce a full-range driver that has even power-handling throughout its frequency range. It is also difficult for a single full-range driver to create an even dispersion pattern without beaming at higher frequencies.
Although Audience is understandably reticent to release too many specifics on the inner workings of its proprietary “dual- gap motor” A3S driver, according to its Web site, “The A3S has an exceptionally flat response from 40Hz to 22kHz +/-3dB in certain enclosures. No other single driver available today can deliver this kind of performance.”
The A3S driver cone is made of titanium alloy combined with a concave dust cap constructed with constrained-layer damping to control high-frequency break-up modes. The total mass of the driver cone is only 2.5 grams. This low-mass cone is coupled to a patented oversize motor structure using neodymium magnets and a large voice coil. According to Audience the A3S has “12mm of usable excursion with less than 1dB compression at levels up to 95dB SPL.” To achieve this usable excursion requires an especially oversized spider made of “special materials.”
The A3S driver has vents in its pole pieces to allow a more unobstructed airflow to and from the voice coil. This not only aids in cooling but also prevents turbulence created by the driver’s large excursions. Other key components in Audience’s A3S driver include the proprietary basket design and patent- pending S-shaped speaker-surround. This surround minimizes diffraction and allows for large excursions while maintaining uniform resistance on both sides of travel. The result is lower measured harmonic distortion levels.