As enthusiastic as I’ve been about Audience’s tiny ClairAudient 1+1 V2+ speaker, I’m afraid that I’ve done the product a disservice. All my references to it have described it as a “desktop” speaker, and that’s where it’s been categorized in the Editors’ Choice Awards and our annual Buyer’s Guide. I think of the 1+1 V2+ that way because a pair of them is right in front of me every day, one on either side of my computer monitor. In fact, I spend more time listening to the 1+1 V2+ than I do to my main system (ah, the downside of being the editor).
But the 1+1 V2+ is much more than a desktop speaker, as I recently discovered on a visit to the home of Audience co-founder John McDonald (he’s a ten-minute drive from me). I also got a chance to hear a new revision to the speaker, made as a running update without a change in the product name. We first listened briefly to my pair of 1+1 V2s that I had brought with me, but now mounted on stands in a medium-sized living room. We then listened to the updated version at length. This new version removes an internal baffle that had isolated each of the two active drivers. The updated model also incorporates a circuit that corrects for the baffle-step function, a phenomenon that caused a steep drop in output level at 450Hz in the first-generation speaker.
The improvement to the revised speaker was immediately apparent as more weight and body in the mid and upper bass. On Brad Mehldau’s piano on the superb Blues and Ballads, the new speaker had greater solidity to left-hand lines, and the piano lost its thin “tinkly” quality. The bass was fuller and richer, better conveying rhythmic drive. The improved bass performance created a more solid tonal foundation for the music. This impression was even more apparent when I got the 1+1 V2+ back to my desktop where the desk’s surface helped reinforce the bottom end. The bass is full enough that I wouldn’t consider adding a subwoofer.
A Most Unusual Design
There’s no other speaker that I know of that’s designed like the 1+1 V2+—or that sounds like it. The small, handsome, wedge-shaped enclosure houses two identical active drivers, one front-facing and one rear-facing. That driver is a full-range 3" transducer developed by Audience and refined over the past 15 years. The stiff and lightweight cone is made from titanium alloy, and driven by an unusual motor structure. The neodymium magnets, oversized voice coil, open basket, vented pole pieces, spider, and even the shape of the surround are all proprietary. The goal was to create a driver with a wide frequency response that was rugged enough to handle high excursions and produce high sound-pressure levels without compression. Audience first deployed this driver in a giant line array of 16 drivers, then adapted it to The One speaker, and later to the 1+1 and its variants. The newest version has a single 16-ohm voice coil in place of dual eight-ohm voice coils. Bass response is extended in the 1+1 by a pair of side-firing passive radiators. The V2 and V2+ designations indicate various levels of tweaky upgrades. The full-blown V2+ version reviewed here features Audience’s top Au24SX internal wiring and solder-free tellurium binding posts. The wire and posts are cryogenically treated in Audience’s own cryo tank, which I saw during my visit to the company’s nearby shop.