A couple of years ago I was in the ProAc room at CEs, talking with its U.S. distributor, Richard Gerberg. I asked him about reviewing ProAc’s studio 100 speaker, which is quite similar to the Tablettes, but made for the “Pro” market, and he smiled. “I don’t have any to loan you for review. They’re all spoken for. Pros love the Studio 100 for nearfield and location work.” Among the Studio 100’s users are Rick Rubin, John Scofield, and Mike Campbell. Most of Johnny Cash’s last sessions were mixed and monitored via ProAc studio 100s.
In 2005 I did a story for Acoustic Guitar Magazine about the string Cheese Incident recording session with Malcolm Burn. ProAc studio 100s were among the monitors Burn brought into the house he converted into a studio for the sessions. The studio 100s wound up in the “overflow room,” used as monitors so the band could hear their rough mixes.
The newest Anniversary Tablettes have certainly changed since the first incarnation I heard many years ago. Without a subwoofer the earliest generation couldn’t, except in a very small room, handle large-scale orchestral or loud rock at realistic playback levels. But the Anniversary Tablette, while still not able to defy the laws of physics, can play louder, with far fewer signs of sonic distress than the earlier version.
Back before audiophiles discovered high-end desktop systems, the only people who listened nearfield were recording engineers. And while most mini-monitor or “bookshelf” speakers for consumers were designed primarily for room-based sound reproduction, from early on recording engineers adapted certain small speakers, such as the Yamaha Ns-10 and Rogers ls3/5a to be near- and mid-field monitors. I found the Anniversary Tablette especially adept in a nearfield desktop monitoring environment.
The Tablettes are not terribly sensitive at 86.5dB at 1 watt/ one meter. But on my desktop, driven by an Accuphase P-300, the Tablettes used virtually no power to achieve what I consider perilous SPl levels. According to the Accuphase P-300’s romantically lit power meters, 94dB SPl peaks at listening position translated to a -27dB output level from the amplifier!
With professional, especially nearfield professional monitors, listeners are often forced to weigh detail and decipherability against listener fatigue. Some of the classic “high-resolution” studio monitors can be hard to enjoy after a few hours at moderate SPl levels. But the Tablettes straddle that thin line between musicality and high resolution. They supply all the necessary musical information without subjecting listeners to aural abuse. I spent many 8-plus-hour days listening to music through the Tablettes. I never needed to turn them off, or even down, because of listener fatigue.
Take it from someone who’s heard a lot of small, near-pinpoint-imaging speakers, imaging through the ProAc Anniversary Tablette is exemplary. These little guys just disappear, even when they’re positioned only 32" from tweeter to earlobe. Using my patented “spin and point” test, where I close my eyes, spin around in my desk chair five times and try to point to where I think the speakers are, I located the speakers correctly zero out of five times. Yep, they disappear.