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.
As interesting as these differences were, however, the real revelation was listening to this intimately familiar speaker in a completely different setting. Out in the room on stands rather than on my desktop, the 1+1 V2+ shone. It had the same coherence, conferred by the crossoverless single-driver design, that made me fall in love with this speaker in the first place. But on the stands in the open room the soundstage became immense, with images fully fleshed out spatially. The stage was deep, expansive, and richly portrayed. I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance when I opened my eyes after each piece of music and saw the tiny speakers that threw such a billowing soundstage.
Resolution was remarkable; the Audience speakers revealed very fine nuances in the sound of instruments and in the musicians’ inflections, beautifully conveying musical meaning. The speakers did this in a completely natural and organic fashion, much the same way you hear detail in live music. There was a distinct impression of hearing nothing between me and the music—something you don’t expect from a $2345 speaker.
Although the bass response is understandably limited, the entire range from the lower mids through the uppermost treble was extremely clean, transparent, and pure. Vocals were particularly well served by the crossoverless design, seeming to hang in space with life and palpability. Many five-figure speakers aren’t this transparent and immediate through the mids. Surprisingly for a one-way speaker, the top treble had plenty of energy and sparkle. Incidentally, I know someone who sold his Quad 57s and now listens to the 1+1 V2+ as his main speaker.
The Audience 1+1 V2+ is an unusual and very special product. Although it’s the ultimate desktop speaker, it works equally well in a small to medium-sized room, provided that you have realistic expectations about the bass extension and playback level. But that aside, I don’t think that you’ll find greater musicality for the price—whether on a desktop or on stands.
Specs & Pricing
Impedance: 8 ohms
Maximum RMS continuous output per pair: 104dB
Maximum RMS continuous power per speaker: 45 watts
120 N. Pacific Street, #K-9
San Marcos, CA 92069
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor
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