Should the Acoustic Zen Crescendo MkII be your last speaker?
The world of high-end loudspeakers can be a maddening and sometimes rocky place to traverse. Many audiophiles continuously search for a speaker that will satisfy their needs only to continuously discover that over time, a speaker may become fatiguing, uninteresting, or simply intolerable to listen to. Unfortunately, this can also come with a heavy price tag, even up to the six figure range. So, what if you could find a loudspeaker that actually fulfilled the high-end promise of smooth, full range frequency response, time and phase alignment that creates superb images in space, with vanishingly low distortion and gorgeous finishes all at a price that is within the reach of most music lovers? That loudspeaker is here today!
The Acoustic Zen Crescendo has been received at shows around the country, on dealer floors, and in our customers' homes by audiophiles, reviewers and pundits with incredible acclaim. In its new MkII version, those accolades are even greater. But, how do we get such exceptional sound quality in the first place? The answer is in a design that utilizes solid technologies and techniques that serve the musical waveform first and foremost. Let's face it, there are lots of high quality loudspeaker designs in the high-end, so what exactly makes the Crescendo different from the rest of that packed landscape?
First and foremost, the Crescendo was designed for music and with real, live music as the reference. The reality is that most audiophiles and music lovers spend time with their systems listening to music, not thunderstorms or train whistles. Musical signals are highly complex and reproducing them effectively is not necessarily as easy as it may seem. But, with properly utilized technology, design principals and exhaustive testing it is possible to create a transducer that is faithful to the musical signal. The Crescendo accomplishes full range response along with low distortion, dynamic impact, coherence, efficiency, and realistic imaging.
The drivers utilized in a quality speaker design are its heart and most important component. To ensure a solid foundation we have consistently utilized "under-hung" driver technology in our designs. The principal of the under-hung driver is that the voice-coil is narrower than most conventional drivers' voice-coil and essentially never leaves the magnetic gap of the motor assembly. Basically, the voice-coil is shorter than the magnet's gap or "under-hung". The vast majority of speakers utilize the opposite or "over-hung" drivers where the voice coil easily travels beyond the magnetic gap of the magnet assembly because it is longer than the magnet's actual gap. Think about when you were back in junior-high science; remember playing with magnets? Specifically, the demonstration where you took a bar magnet and placed it under a sheet of white paper and sprinkled some iron filings on top of the paper. When the filings were in close proximity to the magnet, they were more orderly and you could make out the magnetic lines of flux and the further away from the magnet the iron filings were the more disorderly they became. The principal of an under-hung driver is much the same. Since the driver's coil is always inside of the magnetic gap of the speaker's motor assembly, it's under the influence of the magnet across its entire range and it's response has less distortion, kind of like the bar magnet experiment. With over-hung drivers, the coil travels beyond the magnetic gap and causes distortion in its movements, much like the iron filings that are too far away from the influence of a magnet. The advantage to the under-hung driver is vastly lower distortion since the coil is always under the influence of the magnetic gap and how it is influenced by the incoming signal voltage. That being the case, why don't more manufacturers utilize under-hung driver technology to achieve lower distortion designs? Well, there are a couple of reasons; one is expense and the other is that over-hung drivers are easier to work with. Essentially, with a conventional, over-hung driver the tolerances and materials do not have to be as rigid and any anomalies in the response and distortion properties can usually be ameliorated with crossover tweaks and cabinet construction techniques. With under-hung drivers, the expense is greater and the need for very careful matching of components and materials is critical, but the outcome more than compensates for the diligence required in their use. That's why the Crescendo's mid-bass and bass drivers are all under-hung designs to gain the lowest possible levels of distortion and pass the benefits to the listener. And, in the new MkII, our drivers now feature larger magnet assemblies and we've improved the coil to gap ratios due to improved manufacturing capabilities enabling even lower distortion and consequently, greater fidelity!
As you look at the front of the Crescendo, you will see that the upper drivers are in a "D'Appolito MTM" configuration. This allows the best possible recreation of the original waveform and eliminates the "lobing" effect common with other configurations. The advantage to this is that the audio signal will reach the listener in proper phase and time relationships with no smearing due to the signal interactions inherent in conventional designs.
Two five inch mid/bass drivers that employ a unique magnesium alloy impregnated paper cone material flank a horn loaded ribbon tweeter specifically designed and manufactured for the Crescendo. This MTM array asures smooth frequency response with proper phase and time relationships intact and the ribbon tweeter is implemented to provide extended, open, and non-fatiguing response. An aluminum ribbon covers 95% of the vibrating area of the tweeter membrane. This unique feature provides a purely resistive impedance which means a friendly load for the amplifier and simplifies crossover design. The vibrating element is almost completely weightless compared to traditional dome type tweeters. This affords immediate and precise high-end response to transients in the musical signal and reveals the dynamics of instruments with high frequency specrtral content like no other. It has an essentially linear phase response which provides time coherent reproduction resulting in accurate frequency response, rhythmic drive and outstanding imaging capability. Our tweeter is quick, without distortion and without ringing. Many modern "audiophile" speakers seem to have tilted up or bright treble response which lends a bit of excitement to the sound, but long term causes listener fatigue and dissatisfaction with the overall tonal balance of the speaker. The Crescendo's mid to high end response is natural, non-fatiguing and remains faithful to the source.
To convey deep bass with resolution and authority, dual eight inch, ceramic coated, underhung drivers are transmission line loaded to extend response to a true 20 Hz. A properly tuned and damped transmission line has the ability to extend bass response without making it "lumpy" or creating a "one-note" characteristic. The Crescendo's exceptional bass response is due to its unique ability to utilize this loading technique to not only give tuneful, taut and deep bass response, but bass response that is in phase at the listening position to complement the proper time and phase relationships inherit in the rest of the design. The musical outcome is startling and can be immediately discerned with fast, coherent and powerful bass that lays a musical foundation for the music. Have a look at the frequency response sweep to the left and you'll see that the Cescendo's effective response is extremely linear and coherent across the audio passband with less than 3db of deviation from frequency to frequency, even at the acoutical crossover point between the transmission line port and the other drivers. Transmission line loading is not the easiest to implement, but it eliminates the "chuffing" and potential phase anomolies of ported designs and the power inneficiencies of acoustic suspension style cabinets. While our bass loading design is more complicated and more costly than most, it affords the truest response to the music, and that makes the extra work to implement it worthwhile.
Proper phase relationships are vitally important to speaker performance and its ability to reproduce a uniform, and musically correct output. Think of this example; If you held a few marbles in your hand that were uniform in weight and size, and dropped them to the floor with the intent of them all hitting at once to produce a single "crack", they would actually all hit at different times and effectively "smear" the sounds your ear perceives since the sounds from the marbles would be striking the floor at different times and all react in different ways in the environment. They would hit the floor "out of phase" with each other. Now, let's take those same marbles and drop them so that they all hit the floor uniformly and in perfect unison. If that is achieved, you will hear one coherent sound. They are now, "in phase". This is a very simplistic example, but the end results are what's important to understand; multiple incoherent sounds that smear what you want to acheive, or one uniform sound. Now, all speakers have some level of deviation in phase as amplitude and frequency change. This also affects the speakers load presented to the amplifier, but the ideal is to get the waveform to launch "in phase" with the signal at the input terminals and to keep from "smearing" that signal. We invite you to do some investigation of competitive products phase response and amplitude curves to see the surprising differences in some designs (some of which are in the upper echelon of high-end speakers in terms of their acceptance and their price!) In the Crescendo, that musical waveform is always produced in phase with the electrical input to the speaker with very little deviation and with a very stable impedance. The result is an output that is true to the input signal and simply outperforms others in terms of sheer musicality, listenability, coherence and accuracy.
The Crescendo employs a crossover network that is so highly refined in controlling the balance of the drivers that it yields a nominal efficiency of 90dB SPL @ 1 meter. The overall design keeps the impedance of the speaker a nominal 6 ohms with no drastic shifts in phase and an easy load for almost any quality amplifier across the audio spectrum. So, while it will certainly respond to and fully complement powerful solid state amplifiers, it will also respond just as well with lower powered vacuum tube designs or high quality integrated amps. This is accomplished while maintaining unparalleled phase and time alignment, smooth frequency response and the lowest possible levels of distortion from the ultra-linear, under-hung driver design. The importance of both proper phase response and smooth impedance cannot be stressed enough; either one, improperly handled, can be the downfall of many competing loudspeaker designs. The Crescendo, however endeavors to ensure that both are high priorities. Proper phase relationships throughout the design ensure that music reaches you intact, as a whole, as it was intended. An impedance that stays smooth and with no wild swings across the frequency spectrum means your amplifier doesn't have to struggle to reproduce the full spectrum of sound that you expect. Couple these with the ultra low distortion and linearity of the Crescendo's drivers and you have a transducer that transcends all of the science, all of the engineering and all of the technology that we've put into it. The Crescendo will respond to what it's driven with and consistently provide a musical experience like none other. Smooth response across the entire musical spectrum. Bass fundamentals that are deep, truthful, taut, and underpin the music as they should. Dynamics, truth of timbre, and imaging that are real and uncolored with an overall sound that is true to the source and non-fatiguing.
In its new MkII version, we have also made improvements to the cabinet and its bracing to lower resonances and overall distortion. As with all Acoustic Zen products, you'll continue to see an unparalleled level of fit and finish and some of the most beautiful cabinet works in the industry. People marvel at the quality of finishes on the Crescendo with its real wood veneers and deep, multi-coat clear finish. The Crescendo will look as good in your home as it sounds and comes in a number of finish choices to complement your décor. We ensure that the Crescendo is as beautiful to behold as it is to listen to!
All of this comes at a price that you may not believe. Most would expect a loudspeker with this level of refinement and technology to cost well into the five figure range, well above twenty, thirty, even forty thousand dollars. Instead, the new Crescendo MkII gives all of this performance for only $18,000. Many music lovers and audiophiles have already discovered the tremedous value of the Crescendo and replaced competing designs with price tags well beyond its own price. Most comment that they have searched for years for a loudspeaker with the musical performance of the Crescendo only to be disappointed time after time. The Crescendo has become a "final purchase" for many listeners. You may ask how we're able to sell this level of quality and execution at this kind of a price, especially in light of the competition in the audio world. Let's just say that we believe in selling a great product that can improve people's enjoyment of music and movies at a price that is honest and in line with that product's intrinsic value, not in line with hype, cachet or marketing spin.
Does all of this technology and engineering deliver the goods? Considering our own testing and the comments of numerous reviewers and discerning audiophiles, the answer to that is a resounding, "Yes, and then some!!!". The Crescendo's design goal of faithfully reproducing the musical event has been completely realized. Musical integrity is kept intact with less distortion and greater fidelity across the audio passband than with most competing designs. The Crescendo creates a magnificent image with weight, authority, dynamics, warmth and coherence. And, unlike most of the current full range, high-end loudspeaker designs on the market which command enormous prices, the Crescendo is rationally priced. Crescendo owners are commenting that the Crescendo is the loudspeaker that has ended their quest for the best in musical reprooduction, even after spending thousands more over the years on competing designs. The Crescendo is the obvious choice for the music lover looking for the ultimate in performance and value and could very well be your last loudspeaker. Don't believe us? We invite you to listen for yourself and experience the difference!