The Stage IV system includes an amplifier. It is not “active” in the sense of the crossover being done at line level and the system having separate amplifiers for mid/bass and tweeter drivers. But the amplifier module does include some equalization so that, while in principle one could power the system with a different amplifier, this is probably not a good idea. The amplifier is small physically, but it powers the system to more than convincing dynamic levels. The amplifier has USB inputs (which I did not use) but also a line-level input, which remains analog throughout. The amplifier unit has a volume control (and a remote control, too). Curiously, the amplifier needs power on the USB input to work at all. So, if you are not connecting a computer, you need to pick up a USB wall-wart power cube and plug it into the USB input even though no audio signal will be coming from it. Not a big deal, but you have to do it. The unit resets to minimum output when disconnected. The amplifier works fine. Don’t expect a lot of carrying on about exactly how good it is—it is doing the job it needs to do very well. The distinctive features of this system come from elsewhere.
To say that the Stage IV is unusual would be to understate the case. While speakers with controlled radiation pattern have been around for a very long time, few have carried the idea of a forward-radiating design of narrow pattern as far as the Stage IV. You have to be prepared for something different here. But different, in fact, means extraordinarily good in some important directions. In the workaday audio world, one pattern (I hesitate to call it an ideal) of speaker design has more or less solidified—the floorstanding box speaker with omni bass behavior, wide pattern persisting on up into the mids, with some dealing with the “baffle step” at around 500Hz or so, then gradually narrowing with increasing frequency. This is what one might call the Toole school, who pushed for this with a gradual increase in directivity of about 10dB from bottom to top. Speakers of this type have, perhaps, gone about as far as they can go. But there are surely other roads to travel, and the Stage IV is one of them. And it has a distinctive sonic character associated to its distinctive radiation pattern.
More and more exotic cabinet and driver materials arise. But, to borrow the words of Barry McGuire, “You may leave here for four days in space/But when you return it’s the same old place.” Not that much is really going on with most conventional floorstanders. And most of them still have, among other things, the “usual floor dip” between 100 and 300Hz, a serious problem which relatively few usual floorstanders address.
The Stage IV’s are definitely something different, and something exciting, too. Whether you are happy with the unusual balance as it is or you feel the need to eq it to be more like usual, you will be the beneficiary of a truly unusual insight into the recordings you hear and especially into the recorded acoustics. This is not the sound I am accustomed to. But I have to admit, I miss the things now that they are gone. I have not got an excuse in the world to acquire more speakers. But lurking around in my mind is some temptation to latch onto this sound for good.
Specs & Pricing
Driver complement: 1x 28mm tweeter and 3x 70mm mid/woofer per speaker (four speakers per side)
Frequency response: 45Hz–20kHz +/-2dB
Impedance: 7 ohms (minimum)
Dimensions: 6.25" x 15" x 7.25"
Weight: 9.4 lbs. per speaker
Price: $1300 per speaker
Amplifier: Class AB
Power output: 70Wpc
Dimensions: 6.25" x 8.5" x 8"
Weight: 8.5 lbs.
ELITE AV DISTRIBUTION (U.S. Distributor)
4718 San Fernando Rd, Ste H
Glendale, CA 91204.
(818) 245 6037