Do you need to run them in?
No you don't. The materials and tolerances are such that nothing significantly changes from new. 'Running in' is a common misconception with many products, particularly electronics. It's more often than not the human perception that adjusts. Just make sure they have time to reach room temperature if stored in an extreme environment.
What stands do you recommend?
The important aspect of stands is that they should raise the driver to ear height and not introduce resonances. Just apply common sense. We use Atacama. They certainly look good in hammerite grey and can be weighted.
Can you bi-amp them?
No you can't - there is no crossover as the main driver is run full-range.
What is the best positioning for Stereo?
This is a little different from convention. Optimal placement is equidistant from listener as each other and toed in so the centre axes cross about 2 feet in front of the centre of the listener area - this gives the most impressive centre imaging and over the widest area. These speakers have been designed to allow near wall placement and this will give a slightly cleaner bass/mid image and greater impact, with a generally warmer and bassier sound (assuming the wall is fairly flat with few interfering objects). If set up conventionally they will still sound impressive but some advantages will not be fully realised.
General speaker positioning guidance: Room resonances must be taken into account as with any speaker - for all but massively deep rooms, ideally avoid listening less than 3 feet from a rear wall as the room resonance associated with the room width will be over prominent at this location. If there is still resonance or bass is too prominent then bringing the speakers forward a few inches will help reduce this standing wave problem due to partial wave cancellation, also reducing the overall bass volume. Avoid corner positioning if possible as this may excite left-right resonance. The ultimate gap between side wall and speaker is roughly equal to 1/3 of the front wall length (within constraints of room).
Why so much toe-in?
Our technology works on a different principle to mainstream loudspeakers. With the ability to resolve all the recorded stereo, ambient and harmonic detail of the original instruments in the recording room, very little is further required in terms of listening room ambience/reflection. Whereas room reflection forms virtual images of the loudspeaker and expands the sound, it does not resolve the original instrument placement details and will swamp finely reproduced detail. Indeed, individual instruments are expanded and merged using room reflection, it is very room/placement dependant and will add an ambient layer even to non-ambient studio recordings.
We use optimised dispersion (around 60 degrees over the majority of the frequency range) to limit reflection and hence maximise the reproduced detail. Toe-in will further limit wall reflection and room resonances, also enabling the controlled soundfields to converge to give the correct stereo impression and realistic placement between the speakers. It also allows for a more stable soundstage as the proximity effect (nearest speaker sounding loudest) is reduced, and hence larger sweet-spot results. These factors are less important where room reflection (wide dispersion) is used to compensate for less than perfect low-level detail, giving an expanded, more uniform, but inaccurate sound. True stereo imaging, which by definition is non-uniform, relies on subtle left-right recorded cues.
Does the toe-in positioning effect treble performance?
This has been accounted for in the design - the on-axis response gently rises towards 20KHz.
The ACOUSTIC Insight range has built-in treble adjustment, which also alters the dispersion so allowing extremely fine customisation.
What amplification is recommended?
Minimum is 20W RMS per main driver per channel, but the excellent transient response (particularly bass) is optimally fed by double this, with good peak delivery. They are in other respects very flexible and easy to drive, with a relatively flat impedance curve and no crossover to interact with the amp. Don't forget the effect of the room - this will often override the effect of the amp, particularly in the bass and to some extent treble.
How should I position for surround sound?
The toe-in of stereo pair can be reduced. Centre should be same height as stereo pair if possible, if not then angle it toward the listener.
How does the sound compare with what I am used to?
It is important that comparisons are made with high-end coherent sources - electrostatics or quality headphones. A common mistake is to use a conventional multi-way speaker as reference, as this is the sound we have become most accustomed to. Our reference point is live, unamplified acoustic music without any speaker in the chain - it is the speaker which is by far the weakest link in the audio reproduction chain and where 99% of audible anomalies occur.
The length of thin wire and reactance introduced by the average speaker coil and crossover circuit completely swamps any effect of changing the cables for something more expensive, for instance and typical speaker distortion is over 100 times even the most basic amplifier spec, and these are just two examples!
If set up correctly, the first thing you will notice about ACOUSTIC Insight is the remarkably realistic imaging with true separation of instruments, giving a full 3D soundstage. If not set up correctly then imaging will still be good but not so impressive. This can easily be tested.
The next difference will be the sound of cymbals and hi-hat. The top end will seem a bit laid back at first as what you are hearing is a truly coherent source. The highest frequencies are not detached and fired from a separate source with differing spatial and phase characteristics, so drawing the attention. Here, all the lower harmonics are still integral to the sound and what you hear is a fuller and cleaner harmonic structure. You can test this by going into a music shop and striking a cymbal or hi-hat. You will get a rich, musical sound, full of natural beauty. This is quite different from the sharpened sound we have become accustomed to from conventional reproduction.
Not with ACOUSTIC Insight – you get all the musical distinctiveness that draws you into prolonged listening. Instruments sound like the original and what’s more, have a distinct location. Test this by listening to a well recorded piece with a 'small' source such as triangle or flute. This will seem to 'appear' at a location behind the plane of the speakers, the distance behind the plane dictated by the recording ambience.
The next thing that you will notice is that there is a very detailed and ‘open’ clarity across the whole frequency range. The low-level original recording ambience is not lost. Normally this is filtered out to some degree, giving the first impression of clarity. Bass and treble is then typically highlighted to compensate and ambience is re-introduced by wide dispertion, creating ‘room effect’ or a degree of resonance. Not here – you get a neutral and minimally altered sound that conveys the realistic nature of the music. The way to test this is to play the speakers at extremely low volume levels – all the original detail is still preserved, including timing and micro-dynamics.
An additional layer of 'room effect' can be introduced with the HF unit, if so desired but the core image is still present as a focussed layer, and this is not effected.
Finally, listen to percussive or plucked sounds with an extremely fast attack such as such as bass drum, snare, guitar - the leading edge is reproduced faithfully with weight and razor sharpness.
The difference between recordings, including emotive and soundstaging information is relayed fully and the speaker signature is remarkably neutral. There is also no need for acoustic damping around the room as room reflections are minimal. A solely wide-dispersion source can only give realistic imaging in an anechoic chamber.
How can a modestly sized driver capture the dynamics of a live performance?
A massive magnet assembly combined with an unusually light and long-throw diaphragm is the secret here. Clever cabinet design also helps, together with specially selected damping material in the cabinet.
ACOUSTIC Insight speakers can play bass at volume and speed, so volume headroom higher up the spectrum is unusually large, as a much smaller percentage of the maximum cone excursion capability is utilised. Combined with a proportional reduction in effective cone area with frequency (cone flexure effectively begins to replace excursion at high frequencies), speed is maintained throughout the whole frequency and volume range (and volume is not compressed when adding new frequencies). Other design considerations include good sensitivity and directivity, giving a relatively high proportion of direct to reflected sound.
It is the transient response (speed of attack on piano, strings, snares etc) that conventionally severely limits the ‘realness’ of reproduction. From studio to concert hall performances, the steep leading edge of notes reaching the ear straight from the instrument is a treasure that is rarely captured accurately outside electrostatic designs. Despite the vogue, transient response is not helped at all by just scaling everything up. Throwing more or larger drivers at the problem does not increase speed if the fundamental driver design philosophy remains unchanged. Nor does using 2 drivers instead of one necessarily increase the volume capability if the frequency bandwidth is split between the drivers. Using 2 full-rangers does, as effective power is doubled at all frequencies.
Are Your Bass Specifications Correct?
Yes, all we can say is listen to the testimonials and demo for yourself. Bass is well-controlled and fast, with very impressive extension for the cabinet size. The design is for correct and realistic in-room tonal balance.
The FocaStage bass quality exceeds that of combining with any sub we have tried as it is fully integrated and in-room capability is effectively subsonic (below 20Hz for a room with subsonic resonant capability). The volume available, even at sub 30Hz frequencies, is quite remarkable and never fails to impress in demos. There are several design aspects that allow this, not least is the transmission line cabinet loading; the driver is hardly moving at 30Hz while the port output is easily exceeding that of an average sized subwoofer. Also, whereas a single source subwoofer will react with the room to give an exaggerated array of simple room nodes (peaks/troughs), the use of two sources provides much more complex interactions, tending to even out the extremes. The effect of this at a room location is many small ripples in response curve with changing frequency as opposed to fewer but much larger waves with a sub. Speaker positioning is also much less critical for this reason. For room-shaking bass levels an additional subwoofer is always an option.
Will the FocaStage work well in a small room?
Yes it will, but it will work best with at least 1m listening distance. Frequency problems can arise when the room resonance is above the lower cut-off limit of a speaker. The lower cut-off can be raised substantially by plugging the port so the room resonance extends response rather than adds a peak. The bass will still be of excellent quality. A foam plug can be used for intermediate adjustment. The same adjustment can be used on the Vivide.
How wide is the listening area?
There is a definite 'optimum listening' area for treble as with most serious 'imaging' speakers. This is reasonably broad, spanning an area nearly equal to the distance between speakers in normal stereo use. There is unique capability for a wider than normal focused soundstage by using greater speaker separation (still maintaining accurate centre imaging) if toe-in and treble are increased accordingly. They will not fill a room with uniform sound as they have been designed for optimal imaging, which relies on left-right cues and minimal 'room effect'. They can be adjusted for a wider listening area by use of the customisable HF, but some purists may still prefer the HF switched off.
How do I achieve a 'headphone effect'?
Reduce the toe-in, giving maximum left-right focus, over-emphasised channel separation and reduced centre spacial focusing.
What about in-wall installations?
The speakers can be set into the wall, forward facing - particularly for surround sound implementations. In stereo mode the speakers can be closer together than usual to maintain centre imaging. Treble should be adjusted accordingly.
What about vertically stacking?
Vertical stacking gives the advantage of multiplying the power capability and depth of audience coverage. An example is to stack 2 Vivide units on their side, drivers aligned vertically so listening height is at roughly the centre between the two. Any number can be stacked but we recommend 4, or 9 for ease of impedance adjustment - they are run as a series of parallel arrays.
A stack of 4 Vivide's will maintain the excellent imaging to the back of a small concert hall, giving a stage performance of unbeatable realism (a subwoofer may also be required, depending on source).
For normal domestic environments where full bass is required then the FocaStage offers a better solution than Vivide/subwoofer combination, both in quality and uniformity of bass response. The FocaStage will out-perform 2 stacked Vivide's as the cabinet design has been optimally tuned for a 2-driver array.
Please email us for further details on firstname.lastname@example.org