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KIH #64 – Get real!

  • Real people fi. Oops. Cursed by dualistic language, once we write that, we’ve turned ourselves into despicable judgmental dunces. What does that term make the rest? Hifi for faux people? Let’s try again.

    I just want to document what ‘real’ people apart from diehard audiophiles might/should do with small speakers like these Amphion Argon3s. For evidence, your prosecutor of the cause presents exhibit A. That’s my wife’s room. It’s how she has always set up her bedside system around her MacBook with external DVD drive. The usual equally white Amphion Helium 510 in residence here simply made room for their bigger brethren. An Aura Note Premier 2 from Simon Lee’s old brand April Music is her designated driver all in one box. The laptop quickly disconnects from the USB cable should she do some writing work in bed.

    And yes, this puts speakers within inches from the front wall. But guess what? With the rear-aiming auxiliary bass radiators of the Finns, there’s no issue. It just increases their radiance resistance for even snappier loading and was clearly superior to the Heliums’ rear ports. Of course, that wasn’t the only thing to improve. With its larger mid/woofer and opposing radiator, Argon3s was fleshier and denser in the all-important midband. This gave voices proper chest cavity over lesser toothiness. That low-end reach would reach lower than the smaller speaker was perfectly predictable even if in this anti-bombastic context, its primary contribution was really to jack up the black levels of the tonal palette for enhanced colour saturation. Your takeaway should be that a speaker like the Argon3s is right at home in such setups. It’s not an eco-warrior tree but wall hugger. Front ports or passive radiators preferred.

    Moving right along, your busy prosecutor presents exhibit B from just one room over, now a diehard audiophile den of iniquity where sins of debauchery against decorator sense are common. But wait…

    … our audiophile had a road to Damascus moment. What the heck is that? A rare sighting of the only Republic of Ireland hifi brand I’m aware of. Say hello to Ardán Audio‘s unique desktop speaker stand.

    “Yeah okay” you allow. “But what the funk, it sits on the bleeding floor”. Now the defense protests in combined ire. And it sure does. It mimics Pierre Sprey’s of Mapleshade Records favourite setup for Anthony Gallo’s Strada 2 of yesteryear.

    Far from rug-rat audio and little green men and women—green is the national Irish colour after all and St. Patrick’s Day just happened last Sunday—it precisely aims up and toes in your tweeters to hit your ears like a contractor’s twin laser. What’s more, it deliberately exploits boundary reinforcement from the floor which is always present so might as well become useful for a change. This simultaneously minimizes the usual time-delayed but otherwise unavoidable floor bounce.

    The big difference of the Irish hardware to Pierre’s Quaker-sourced solid maple affair is that simple rotator knobs quickly adjust the rake angle and rotate the assembly above the decoupled plinth. The farther you sit away, the less lean-back you need. Which begs the question: would you want to sit closer – like a lot closer?

    Get ready to inspect exhibit C.

    That’s monitor-console type near-field listening. It broadens the base of the typical stereo triangle to however wide you fancy your soundstage to be without getting diffuse in the middle. Then it moves the apex of the triangle toward the base for a wide-but-close geometry. The benefits are:

    • maximum elimination of room effects
    • minimal loudness loss over distance
    • a quasi-surround very immersive sonic bubble effect like giant headphones.

    Now the defense is finally speechless. Hurray.

    Real if not so common sense. Such a near-field setup has a 4th benefit. It works close to a wall if the speakers comply. With their passive radiators, the Amphions do. Being time-aligned compact two-ways, there’s no widely-spaced vertical driver array to enforce greater distance before it integrates. Argon3s is a quasi-point source. All of this means that the usual transgressions against living-room integration, interior real-estate disputes and decor complaints can be easily mitigated with a Pierre Sprey layout. Now there’s fewer sore eyes to appease.

    Wall art isn’t partially or wholly obscured by tower speakers (or monitors on stands). Gone is the common psych issue of big loudspeakers standing in the way of lateral phantom performers which, as our brains know, can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Remove the speakers from the visual equation and suddenly your grey matter has a lot less denial to process. With properly aligned tweeter axes, the sound will focus at or above sitting height so there are no bottle-sized performers to crawl around your carpet. If you prefer the more conventional audiophile aesthetic, get a compact speaker on stilts like this Polish Fram Midi 150. That also sports passive radiators but goes even further than the Amphion by containing its own DSP, DAC and power amp. Just add a coaxial or analog input signal.

    Back to loss over distance. With bass-capable speakers listened to from 3 meters or more which are set up in audiophile-typical free space, the finest treble tends to get drowned out by big long bass waves which boom back out of the front corners’ compression zones to have your ears count them twice or thrice as late reflections.

    Sitting very close invokes the proximity effect to prevent that. Plainly put, it increases resolution and linearity from fewer losses and room issues. Which means that you can listen at very low SPL to hear everything there is to hear and can open up music ops which respect for co-dwellers and neighbors would otherwise shut down.

    The floor-based near-field solution really is a win/win/win all around. And because it relies on compact speakers, you needn’t pay for big cabinets and mega woofers. Small and easy does win for a change. You don’t even need that fancy Irish stand. Just tilt back your boxes with ordinary household items like doorstops or wedges. Case closed!

    Srajan Ebaen

    Written by Srajan Ebaen

    Srajan is the owner and publisher of 6moons. He used to play clarinet at the conservatory. Later he worked in audio retail, then marketing for three different hifi manufacturers. Writing about hifi and music came next, then launching his own mag. Today he lives with his wife Ivette and Nori and Chai the Bengal cats in a very small village on Ireland’s west coast, between the holy mountain Croagh Patrick and the Atlantic ocean of Clew Bay in County Mayo’s Westport area. Srajan derives his income from the ad revenues of 6moons but contributes to Darko.Audio pro bono.

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