I remember the first time I heard ProAc Tablette speakers. It was in 1979, just before I began writing for The Absolute Sound. They were playing in a small audiophile shop in Arlington, MA. After I heard them, I couldn’t go back to the mediocre imaging that was the norm for most speakers. In a small room, combined with a sympathetic subwoofer, the original ProAc Tablettes could create three-dimensional magic that few speakers at the time could rival.
Flash forward to 2013. ProAc still makes Tablettes, and they still sound great. But how great? That depends on how and where you use them. On the right-sized playing field the new $2200-per-pair ProAc Tablettes are still champions.
The ProAc Tablette has gone through nine iterations since it was introduced. The latest version still has that same small, ported, plywood enclosure as its forbears. But the current model sports a new 5-7/8" Kevlar-coned midrange/woofer and a 20mm dome tweeter. The tweeter includes a specially fabricated front plate, which according to ProAc is designed to “dissipate phase anomalies and cancellations.”
One technical specification that has separated the Tablette from many similarly sized small-footprint monitor speakers is its crossover point. Instead of putting the crossover somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5kHz, the Tablette’s crossover is higher, at 3kHz. This makes it much easier for the tweeter to play loudly without distress. The lower part of its range, where tweeters have power-handling problems, is removed from the equation. This makes the current-gen ProAc Tablette more robust and better able to handle high SPls without the need for a fuse to protect its drivers. Also, since the midrange woofer is doing most of the heavy-lifting, the sound doesn’t change or become stressed at higher SPls as easily as it did in the original design.
The Anniversary Tablette’s midrange driver is probably the most important changeover from previous versions. The midrange/woofer’s Kevlar cone is single-ply. Unlike most Kevlar cones, which are multi-layer sandwiches, ProAc prefers to use single-ply because it is lighter, yet still rigid. The cone itself is hand-made by a firm that specializes in high-performance automotive parts. This is the first time ProAc has used this more exotic cone material in such an inexpensive speaker.
The review samples came finished in a premium rosewood. This veneer has a very noticeable grain pattern that shows off how the same piece of veneer is wrapped around the sides and top of the speaker. Other available finishes include black ash, mahogany, cherry, maple, and premium ebony. Instead of a magnet system to hold on the speaker grille, the Tablette employs “old-school” pressure-fit attachments located near the four corners of the front baffle. On the back of the Tablette you’ll find two pairs of speaker terminals, so it can be bi-wired or used with a single speaker wire via the included jumper wires. As you would expect from a speaker in its price-range, the finish is impeccable.
Like previous versions of the Tablette, the Anniversary model’s tweeter is offset slightly. And while the owner’s manual suggests setting up the speakers so the tweeters are on the inside rather than the outside of the front baffle, I suggest trying both configurations to see if one provides better imaging and spatial cues. On my desktop the inner position was by far the best, but in some rooms the outer position could deliver a more spacious soundstage.