The Eminent Technology LFT-8b is an extraordinary speaker. With full frequency extension at the top (and then some), nearly full extension at the bottom, distortion as low as electrostatics—but lots of dynamic oomph—a discreet, elegant appearance that will fit well into almost any décor, and a remarkable ability to differentiate against room acoustics and produce something very like the sound of an acoustically treated room in an ordinary room, its list of virtues is compelling.
And it is only $249,900. No, sorry, that’s $24,990. Whoops, wrong again, it is actually $2499. Yeah, you got it, that’s the price. Not the price of a house, nor even a car, but the price of a good bicycle will get you a pair of speakers that in some respects are among the best there are. No, the ETs are not perfect. They are not quite so neutral as is possible, and they are sensitive to set up with regard to stereo integration, but the virtues of the ETs are very real. The low distortion in particular is striking; these speakers are capable of really beautiful sound. And that is what we all want, right? This is not even to mention the naturalness of having the sound floating in the air at ear level—where it belongs—and with no sense of vertical compression the way point sources do and...well, I could go on, and I shall, I shall. To call this speaker a good bargain would be like calling Beethoven a good composer—true, but wildly understated. Fantastic or some such word is more appropriate.
Bruce Thigpen, the moving spirit of Eminent Technology, has a long record of innovative thought in audio, going back to the ET air-bearing tonearm years ago. Meanwhile, he has produced the surprising infra-woofer. (While my review of the LFT-8b was in progress, Thigpen went off to Africa to help with a study on the hearing of infrasound by elephants—he would be the man to go to for infra-sound all right. See rotarywoofer.com for more.) He has been working with planar-magnetic drivers for some time, and the LFT-8b is the latest version of his thinking on the subject.
The Physical Nature of the Speaker
The ETs have a sealed-box woofer, mounted essentially on the floor, a midrange membrane driver magnetically driven, and a tweeter of that same sort. Of course, speakers with this general type of driver complement have been around for a while. But the ET’s membrane drivers are of an unusual, essentially unique kind: They have an ultra-light membrane on which the conductors are etched (no wires glued on; wires would add more mass than the etching). And they have a two-sided magnetic arrangement that produces a constant magnetic field through the space in which the driver moves and hence produces a truly linear response in the low-distortion sense.
Distortion in the ET sounds as thought it is down at electrostatic levels—or lower. This seemed to me one of the lowest-distortion speakers in the midrange that there is, perhaps the lowest, this side of impractical plasma drivers. This is in spite of the general possibility of membrane drivers vibrating in non-pistonic mode at some frequencies; even so, perceived distortion here remains extremely low to nonexistent, and measured midrange distortion is down at levels like 0.1% or less, almost entirely second harmonic (inaudible or at most completely innocuous at this level) depending on frequency, according to the manufacturer. True ribbon tweeters, which are reasonably abundant, also have low distortion for the treble, but, as far as I am aware, no one else is making planar-magnetic drivers that go down as far in frequency as the mid driver of the ETs does with such low distortion via that two-sided driver. And this seeming techno-spec counts in listening terms, as you will definitely read.
Physically, the speaker consists of a panel five feet high and just over a foot wide, attached to a woofer box. The speaker has easily detachable and re-attachable grills front and back. My wife’s visual reaction, sound as yet unheard, was that she hoped they sounded good because she really liked their looks.
The speakers come with the panels separate from the woofer boxes. But assembly is easy and of course one-time-only (it helps to have a second person to hold the panel up while you screw it onto the woofer box).