Raidho’s X-1 must be the smallest speaker I’ve ever reviewed. With a 4″ woofer/midrange mated to Raidho’s ribbon tweeter, the X-1 can nearly be held in an outstretched hand. Obviously, a 4″ driver in a tiny enclosure won’t go very low in the bass, nor will it play loudly. So what made me want to review the X-1 after hearing it at last year’s Newport show? And what could justify the X-1’s $6400 price given these performance limitations?
In a word, the Raidho ribbon. The X-1 brings you exactly the same hand-made ribbon tweeter found in Raidho’s $240,000 flagship D-1 (Jonathan Valin’s reference). This is one of the greatest high-frequency transducers yet devised, combining stunning speed, detail, and resolution on the one hand, with a silky smoothness and ease on the other. If you’ve listened exclusively to dome tweeters for any length of time, the Raidho ribbon arrives as some kind of revelation. Nearly all dome tweeters exhibit a metallic hardness in the top end that fosters the impression of the treble existing independently of the rest of the audio spectrum—as if the treble were riding on top of the music rather than being an extension of the same musical fabric. There’s none of that with the Raidho ribbon. The top end’s integration with the upper-midrange is seamless, allowing the speaker to reproduce timbres with a rich density of tone color by virtue of banishing the brittle patina that domes add to instrumental and vocal textures. And then there’s the ethereal quality the ribbon brings to instruments and voices, both spatially and texturally. Images seem to exist in space, unencumbered by the electromechanical contrivance creating them. This is particularly vivid on background vocals, which float behind and, in some cases, seemingly above the lead vocals. Your $6400 brings you this spectacular driver that covers such an important part of the audioband—but at a price.
That price, as noted and expected, is significantly limited bass extension, dynamic range, and impact. (The X-1 begins rolling off at a highish 80Hz, though Raidho says this is not its -3dB point.)On a desktop or in a bedroom, these shortcomings won’t be apparent, but if you’re looking for a main speaker in a good-sized living room, the X-1 won’t deliver bass fullness and dynamic contrasts. For that, Raidho makes a whole range of larger, yet still compact models, including the C-1.1 (reviewed in Issue 224) and D-1 (Jonathan Valin is currently working on a review of the D-1). Those speakers are considerably more expensive than the X-1, but there’s a compelling lower-cost alternative to the X-1 if you need more bass and SPL output while still craving the Raidho aesthetic: the new MB-line from Scansonic, Raidho’s sister company. In their lower-priced implementations, the Scansonic speakers use a slightly less elaborate version of Raidho’s ribbon tweeter. The Scansonic MB-3.5, for example, costs $700 less than the X-1, and offers dual 4.5″ carbon-coned midrange drivers and dual 6.5″ side-firing woofers in a floorstanding enclosure. But that’s the subject of a different review.
The X-1 is finished in beautiful black lacquer, which highlights the white 4″ ceramic mid/woofer cone. The input terminals are recessed banana jacks. My review samples arrived with the optional stands ($900), which I used for part of the review before switching to a pair of Sound Anchors. The Raidho stands, with their gently arcing profile, elegantly showcase the X-1. But the stands are lightweight, and the feet are flimsy. I heard much better performance with the X-1s mounted on the heavy-duty Sound Anchors.
Ever since the Magico Q7s went back to Magico (with a brief stop in Las Vegas for CES), the X-1 has been my primary loudspeaker. The more I’ve listened to music through the X-1, the more impressed I’ve become with its great achievement. Although the X-1 imposes certain restrictions in the bass, dynamic impact, and ability to play loudly without strain, it delivers a sound quality through the midrange and treble that rivals that of six-figure mega-speakers. Listening to Ella’s gorgeous voice on “Moonlight in Vermont” from Ella and Louis, I’d be hard pressed to say that I’ve heard a more realistic reproduction of a vocalist. The X-1 is so transparent and so resolving that every time I sat down to listen, the speakers seemed to simply disappear, replaced by the semblance of musicians in my room. In addition to disappearing by virtue of their transparency, the X-1s disappeared spatially. The soundstage these tiny monitors threw was startling in its size, depth, solidity of images, and three-dimensional layering; it also extended far above the speaker plane to create an impression of height.
In many cases, you can discern the size of the speaker by the height of the soundstage, but the X-1’s stage was more expansive, in all dimensions, than that of many large speakers. Within this massive spatial presentation, the X-1 perfectly resolved very small gradations of instrumental position. I could easily “see” where each performer was located, a quality that contributed to the X-1’s realistic spatiality. More than once, I opened my eyes at the end of a piece of music or an LP side and was shocked to realize that these tiny speakers had just transported me to another acoustic space.
The X-1’s treble is simply gorgeous—a description rarely applied to a loudspeaker’s top end. But there’s no other word for it. It’s also smooth, liquid, and completely free from etch and grain. Moreover, the treble is beautifully integrated with the upper-mids, sounding like an extension of the musical fabric rather than an appendage to it. Despite this ease through the upper octaves, the X-1 resolves extremely fine detail. It is like a microscope on the music, but not in an analytical way. The presentation of detail is much as you hear it in life—richly textured and nuanced yet relaxed and refined. Similarly, transient information is presented with startling alacrity but, again, without the artificial edge that often passes for “speed.” The ribbon tweeter rendered delicate cymbal work with a lifelike realism that few speakers, regardless of price, could manage.
As noted, the X-1’s bass rolls off rapidly below 80Hz. Despite the absence of low bass, the X-1 manages to sound fuller and warmer than that figure would suggest. You don’t hear the fundamentals of many notes, but the overtones are reproduced with such outstanding pitch definition and articulation that the brain fills in what’s missing. It’s when you push the X-1 to louder playback levels, or play music with heavy low-frequency content, that the speaker runs up against the laws of physics. The 4″ mid/woofer’s excursion is limited, causing the X-1 to sound congested in the bass when asked to go outside its performance envelope. Similarly, don’t expect a sense of physical impact on drums. A moderately sized room and a judicious hand on the volume knob will keep the X-1 within its comfort zone.
When used as intended, in a smallish room at moderate playback levels, the X-1 is nothing short of stunning. The treble resolution, transient performance, soundstaging, liquidity, smoothness, ease, and freedom from etch are world-class—which is saying a lot in a $6400 speaker. The X-1’s reproduction of the human voice, in particular, is uncannily realistic. If you have the appropriate application and expectations, I don’t think that you’ll find a finer sub-compact loudspeaker than the Raidho X-1.
SPECS & PRICING
Driver complement: 100mm (4″) ceramic mid/woofer, sealed ribbon tweeter
Frequency response: 80Hz–50kHz
Impedance: 6 ohms
Crossover: 3.5kHz, second-order
Finish: Piano black
Dimensions: 145 x 320 x 230mm (5.7″ x 12.6″ x 9″)
Weight: 8 kg (17.6 lbs.)
Price: $6400 (stands are an additional $900)
co/ Dantax Radio A/S
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