Almarro M2A Loudspeakers
|Almarro M2A Loudspeakers|
Musical Little Gems From Japan
Where are the speakers from Japan?
Seriously. Ask yourself when was the last time you heard a speaker you were impressed with that was made in Japan? Not to say that Japan doesn’t make good speakers because I’m sure that they do. It’s just that not very many of them come to mind. I have heard several speakers built in Japan but nothing I was impressed with and nothing of any consequence from recent years comes to mind. I heard some Stax electrostatic speakers years ago that I thought were very nice, but that’s probably about it. If you look at the major Japanese electronics manufacturers, I don’t think any of them are making speakers that are setting the market on fire here in the states. Don’t even think about mentioning brands you find at your local electronics super-store. That would be an insult and I would make sure you’re barred from anything having to do with the word “audiophile”. At this past winter’s CES, I decided to pay my respects and go into the Almarro room over at T.H.E. Show. As I entered their room I was taken by surprise by how good the music was sounding. They were putting on a simple demo using their A50125A integrated amplifier being driven directly from the digital source and a pair of speakers that I had not seen before. The speakers they demonstrated with were a new design called the M2As. I had done a review of the highly musical A50125A and was familiar with it but the speakers were something new. As I spoke with Hiro Muramatsu, the importer for Almarro and son of the president of Almarro, Yoshihiro Muramatsu, one by one, listeners started to come in and comment on how musical the system sounded and asking which speakers were we hearing music through. My curiosity became aroused and I was soon making arrangements to get a pair in for review. I figured if these speakers can approach the type of musicality and performance I got from the A50125A integrated I reviewed, then this should prove to be very interesting.
Taking a look at the M2As
A few months later, the M2As arrived. Everything about the speakers appeared to be simple. The speakers are a bass reflex design with a 6.5 inch woofer with a 2.75 port on the rear. The speakers footprint is not very big or imposing measuring (using my trusty metric converter) measuring 9.5” W x 36” H x 15” D and weighing in at a little more than 60lbs. The speakers sit on custom made outriggers, which are used for coupling the speakers to the floor with carpet spikes. For those of you with wooden floors, there is a rounded cone to keep you from marking up the floor. The outriggers add about another inch to the height of the speakers. The speaker also uses custom made 5-way binding posts that are comprised of the large, clear plastic connector that you can really get your fingers around and tighten down. There were a couple of little niceties going on with the speakers that lay beneath the surface. The speakers are heavily braced on the inside for strong structural rigidity. The speakers themselves owe a lot of their sound to the thick, solid, Japanese Oak that they’re made from. They find that this wood has a musical quality to it and really enhances the bass performance quite nicely. According to Yoshihiro Muramatsu, the audio characteristics of the Focal TC120 TDX tweeter is another vital component to the performance of the speaker. It is extremely fast and extended and also has the added benefit of possessing good power handling capability without sounding strident or fatiguing. Yoshihiro says that this speaker is the work of their chief speaker designer, Takashi, and is his most impressive work to date.
A big surprise in a small package
After getting the speakers setup, I began the task of breaking them in. Yoshihiro said it should take about 200 hours to break the speakers. For my own tastes, I went an extra 100 hours of burn-in because I felt the high frequencies were just a touch “strong”. Everything else sounded fine. Just needed a little more seasoning. After that last 100 hours of break-in, I was ready to get down to it. When I first received the speakers, there was nothing that I can see in them that would lead me to believe that they would sound as good as they do. I heard them at CES, and they sounded good then, but now, in my listening room, we had something special going on. I had to sit down for a minute and think about what I was hearing, or maybe what I was hearing that I had been missing before. I can’t put a finger on it because I have equipment run through my system all of the time but I can say that with these speakers in my system, I was really enjoying my music more than I had been. That first night of listening, I dragged out disc after disc and albums I hadn’t heard in a long time. I even called up fellow Stereo Time writer, Courtenay Osbourne to borrow some of his discs.
The M2As throw a wide, deep stage from which the performers have a lot of space to perform in. The height and depth of the stage were very above average. Not quite up to the standard Von Schweikert VR4jrs, but real close. The highs are very extended and airy. The Focal tweeter that Yoshihiro glows over is magical. Now please, don’t get me wrong here. If the source, the music, or anything in the music chain is bright, this tweeter is merciless. However, when everything is equal, the high frequency performance of this speaker is what you would find on speakers costing 2-3 times as much. Another stunner was the bassperformance. I didn’t think that a speaker this small would have thequality of bass that the M2As do. Even visitors would ask me if I had the subwoofer on. The bass does not shake and rattle the room, but it has presence and allows you hear a lot of bass detail. The speakers are very coherent and have that magical quality that causes you stop whatever you’re doing and want to sit down and listen to music. Listen to what the music has to say. With classical music, the speakers seemed to disappear and the hall sounds take their place, the stage filling out the back of my listening room.
On Ottorino Respighi’s disc Pines of Rome, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Louis Lane [Telarc CD80085], on the opening track, “Pines of the Villa”, has a lot of upper frequency percussion. These sounds are delivered with speed, clarity and extended without being bright or strident. On Prokofiev’s, Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski [Mercury 432004-2], you get a good sense of the front to back layering of the musicians and their placement on the stage. The subtle details, such as the plucking of strings and the sound of the bow gliding along the strings, come through with uncanny realism. Jazz performance is another favorite of mine that this speakers plays with aplomb. On their self titled album, Miles Davis and John Coltrane; Live in Stockholm 1960 [Dragon DRLP 90/91], these legends play with a synergy that few have ever combined to replicate. On tracks such as, “So What” and “All Blues”, you can really appreciate the improvisations and interplay between these two giants of the jazz world. This album was made more special by the fact that shortly thereafter, John Coltrane left to venture out and start his own band.
So what did I really think?
For me, these speakers seem to do it all. They have a sense of openness and detail with airy extension and wonderfully musical midrange. The bass performance was very good. Not quite up to the Von Schweikert VR4jr performance in this area but I liked the M2A’s high frequency performance, coherence and midrange a tad better. These speakers with the Grommes 360 monoblock amplifiers really did it for me. That could easily be a reference system I could live with for a long time. These speakers performed exceptionally well with the Stello M200s and the Soaring Audio SLC-A300 as well. Another amp of note that I spent hours listening to was with Almarro’s own A50125A integrated. This unit has been improved over the one I reviewed last fall with a more robust power supply and better power delivery. The Almarro integrated and M2As work well together and can see why listeners would want to couple them together. That’s a lot of performance for the dollar that you’ll be getting. As for me? These speakers did it for me with their musical performance. All I wanted to do was listen to music when these were in the listening position. I had to keep reminding myself to take notes and to listen for certain things so that I could share them with you. It was hard to go from music lover to the audio reviewer when I was listening to the M2As. I liked the speakers well enough to buy them. I can’t think of any higher recommendation to give them than that. Good listening.
Power handling: 85W
Frequency response: 30Hz-21KHz -3dB 88dB/1w/1m
Woofer: NEO-6 High-mid:Titanium Focal high resolution driver
Dimension:40"H 9.5"W 16"D
Weight 25kg -30kg(Unit)
Finish/Price per pair: MDF/$2300 Pine/$2700 Oak/$2900 Piano Black/$3000
Dimensions: 9.5” W x 36” H x 15” D (outriggers add an inch)
Weight: 61lbs /each (without outriggers)
Drivers: Tweeter: 1” Focal TC 120 Tdx
Woofer:6.5" Honeycomb cone
Crossover: 1st order 2way with crossover at 3000Hz
1800 Fumia Place
San Jose, CA 95131
3489-24 Kitagata Iida-shi Nagano 395-0151 Japan
Phone: +81 265 25 1082
Fax:+81 265 25 8250
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