Raidho c4.1 Reference Loudspeakers
The First Choice
Every so often an audiophile like myself contemplates a major move - changing out their loudspeakers. Of course this is one of the most important decisions you can make because a loudspeaker is arguably the most critical component in an audio system. Generally, I think I think I've found the logical reasoning behind these moves; either he or she is no longer satisfied with their sound; technological advancements in loudspeaker design has improved significantly enough to warrant a change; or, that person simply has desire for something new and exciting. I believe my decisions were based on the second and third reasons above.
I have owned and greatly enjoyed my listening experiences over the past dozen years compliments of the Dynaudio Evidence Temptation loudspeakers. They have provided - for me - a very natural and musically satisfying approach to high-end audio playback since the first day of ownership. If I were to nit pick today, I would like to have wanted a little more presence in the low-end although there was always enough accurate solid bass. I think there's a big difference between what I wanted versus what I needed. I never really needed a fuller or deeper low-end. The drivers smoothly blended all frequencies from top to bottom. I simply wanted a fuller and deeper bottom-end.
I describe myself as a conservative audiophile with an open mind for new advances that work. The pattern for me has been to enjoy my equipment for a lengthy period and primarily focus on the music. When the time comes to make a significant change to my rig I need to feel the “wow” listening factor in order to find value in the reputed next “big” thing. This is a good starting point that leads me to be much more convinced that I’d enjoy the new component in the confines of my own listening room. Choosing a new loudspeaker is a very personal decision one must make that is often based on many factors. Of course, sound quality should be the most important but is not the only criterion when choosing new loudspeakers. When one’s sound room is the family living room, as mine is, additional practical issues become important such as aesthetics, correct speaker-room sizing… and let’s not forget the very important WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).
I’m a very fortunate audiophile with a very accepting wife who has reasonable limits but appreciates great sound and even more enjoys that I have fun pursuing my audiophile interests. Having a dedicated “man cave” listening room would certainly be a wonderful luxury for an audiophile reviewing audio equipment. In my case, there is no dedicated listening room. Happily for me, I have a great sounding open living room/dining room configuration to set up my audio rig. It measures approximately 16ft wide X 25ft long X 12ft high.
I had been casually keeping my eyes and ears open for the past two years perusing the latest designs available in the here and now. Attending high-end audio shows and visiting some of the finest audio salons also helped me in my quest. If I were going to make a change I wanted it to be significant. I wanted a change that would clearly raise the bar significantly. Since the bar was already set high with my Dynaudio Evidence Temptations, I knew it would be difficult finding that special loudspeaker that could take me to an even higher level of listening pleasure. After all, loudspeaker technology has certainly moved far forward since I purchased the Dynaudio's twelve years ago. As I auditioned many highly regarded brands of loudspeakers, it quickly became apparent that the technology has made vast advancements in design, materials and sound. I narrowed my choices down to three rather large and auspicious loudspeakers that met most, if not all of my criteria. The new Wilson Alexia loudspeakers with its big sound in a not too big of a package; the elegant new Dynaudio Evidence Platinum Black Swans that look like the perfect replacement for my Dynaudio Evidence Temptations. And finally the superb, beautiful, new Danish Raidho c4.1 loudspeakers.
AND THE WINNER IS…………..
After carefully examining all of my options it clearly became apparent that the Raidho c4.1 speaker was a cut above the rest. The new Wilson and Dynaudios were highly satisfactory in their own way but did not paint the big picture and provide subtle details for me as the Raidho did after an exhaustive series of evaluations . At $145K the Raidho c4.1s are substantially larger and far more expensive than the $48K Wilson Alexia's and the $85K Dynaudio Evidence Temptation Platinum. I expected the Raidhos to come out on top, however, people in the game know a higher priced loudspeaker doesn’t always guarantee it will sound better but in my experience with the Raidho c4.1s, they proved to handily outperform the competition.
A Little About Raidho and The Technology for the c4.1
Raidho (pronounced ride-o) Acoustics is a rather new high-end esoteric loudspeaker manufacturer located in Pandrup, Denmark. It is here where the company designs and manufactures all parts of their C, D, S, and X Series loudspeaker lines. Lars Kristensen and Michael Borresen head the Raidho company. Over the past few years Raidho has garnered awards and accolades from highly regarded publications and critics worldwide. Chief designer, Michael Borresen’s goal is to manufacture loudspeakers by paying close attention to how people actually hear and get away from the mainstream synthetic HiFi sound. By doing so he feels his speaker designs will sound much closer to reproducing the musical live event even if the measurements aren’t perfect (is there such a thing as perfect anyway? I think not).
The c4.1 is Raidho’s statement to loudspeaker design. Standing nearly sevent-feet tall on its solid metal plinth, the c4.1 is 3-way, seven driver design employing a 2nd order crossover network. It embodies Borresen’s latest ideas regarding design, materials and manufacturing. Kristensen and Borresen are now offering a D (which stands for diamond series) loudspeaker series coated in diamond dust and resulting in a stiffer cone with resonance break-up occurring way beyond the range of human hearing. Due to manufacturing cost issues, the large c4.1 model offering a D insignia is not available as of this writing. The rumor mill indicates this will happen some time in the not too distant future. Borrensen also designed an incredibly strong and unique magnet structure system and combined it with an intricate basket design employed in the c4.1 See detailed information about their unique Ceramix Drivers and the benefit of this new technology on their website here
In addition, Kristensen refined his ribbon tweeter with an improved membrane that is purported to increase its efficiency. The innovative drivers and all internal parts are hand assembled in an attractive, tall, curvaceous cabinet finished in high-gloss black lacquer. The cabinet is primarily made of a high-grade aluminum for the baffle and a special MDF material elsewhere. It rests on a substantial, sturdy metal plinth. Once these heavy 365 lb. bad boys are in your room you will find they are quite easy to maneuver by sliding them to your desired location.
A Simple Suggestion
My only caveat and suggestion for Raidho is that they revisit the ease, protection, and safety-design their expensive speakers deserve when crating, uncrating and shipping. I was fortunate to have a very good moving company, yet that too had a difficult time safely removing the loudspeakers from their crates. The crates were unusable at the end of the day and had to be discarded. Raidho would do well for themselves and their customers to examine the way other high-end companies, such as Wilson and Dynaudio, crate and protect their speakers for delicate shipments such as this.
In the Beginning
After a great deal of effort and care uncrating these beauties I experimented for many hours trying to find their best location. They sounded best in my room when they were separated approximately 9.5ft, and with their baffles 5ft from the rear wall, and with the listening “sweet spot” at precisely 10ft. from the front baffles. Toe-in was best with tweeters pointing just outside of my shoulder width. I quickly learned the c4.1's sound best when critical listening occurs in the near field.
Unexpectedly, I was initially confused with the sound right out of the box. The c4.1's were new and had no break in time whatsoever. The sound was not integrated very well through the multiple drivers (7 per side). There was way too much bass on the low side and a definite bias toward the high frequencies at the very top-end. The ribbon tweeter was definitely making itself known - and to a detriment. I had Clement Perry, whose listening skills I hold in high regard, along with Key Kim and another friend over for a listening session. They all heard the same disconnected sound I was hearing and had no qualms pointing it out to me. Ouch! The sound quality on familiar recordings with trumpets or violins were etched and on the bright side of the music scale while everyone noticed an overabundance of bass.
Had a non-audiophile walked in and listened to my new c4.1s, they would have been very impressed with the overall presence these speakers provide right out of the box. However, the sound was not what I clearly expected or was satisfied in the first few weeks of ownership. I could only hope that these tall slender monoliths would settle down after a reasonable break-in period and maybe a room correction could ameliorate some of the inconsistencies I was hearing in the low-bass.
All’s Well that Ends Well (When the Sound Sounds Right)
I am happy to say I learned that an excruciatingly long break-in time was necessary for my new Raidho c4.1s to hit their full stride. Over six hundred hours and many months of music-making has allowed these transducers to sound like the world-class loudspeakers I had hoped they would be. The brightness in the high-end frequencies and the slight over abundance of bass slowly morphed into a smoothly integrated picture of what the music called for. That disconnected, bright and unforgiving sound that haunted me for a few weeks was no longer - unless, of course, it was recorded that way. There became a magical, listening authenticity with the c4.1s that kept me far more emotionally involved with the performers than I had ever been previously. It was uncanny to be able to clearly follow the various lines in dense orchestral recordings such as those of Mahler’s symphonies.
Playing music through Behold’s reference pre-amp and amplifier via Klee Acoustics reference series speaker cables and the superb Laufer Teknik Memory Player 64 provided all I could wish for in reproducing my mostly eclectic brand of music. Designer Ralf Ballmann of Behold Electronics, who is located in somewhere in Germany and Sam Laufer of Laufer Teknik, in Connecticut, put a cherry on the sound by doing a detailed remote room correction from Germany! This long-distance styled room correction took care of some minor room issues as the c4.1's started to fully settle in. As good as my room sounded without room correction it now sounds substantially better with just a slight correction or trimming in the lower frequencies - namely in and around the 70 to 90 Hz area - allows the c4.1's to remain remarkably well-balanced regardless of volume setting.
Post room correction: I’m hearing a musical ebb and flow coupled with improved articulation unlike any I've experienced in my system. I’m enjoying new pleasures from my music library that covers music with gigantic sounds to those with quiet, subtle and intimate ones. The c4.1s play as large and as small as necessary. They produce an immense soundstage and image with the very best while providing a good facsimile of these qualities to more than the one person sitting in the “sweet spot.” The c4.1s are quite adept at revealing a recording’s spatial cues when the recording calls for it. Voices are reproduced with a vivid and natural accuracy that hang in their own holographic space between and around these loudspeakers. There is grip in the bass alongside the natural harmonics on certain recordings that have an almost electrostatic-like immediacy. The c4.1's are a reviewers delight because they let the listener know exactly what is going on in a recording and what is happening up stream with the electronics. They may not produce the enormous bombastic decibel levels that I understand occur with certain horn designs or the Wilson XLFs or Magico Q7s but to my ears, when it comes to producing subtle, musical refinement, the c4.1s trump the competition.
Behold states that: “Their electronics is based on the idea that the most important task to get right is the transportation of information produced on the sound recording medium to be as ‘loss free’ as possible to the loudspeaker. The concept’s main goal is to make sure that nothing is to be lost or added on the way through the whole audio system. Digital transmission systems make this happen much better than analogue systems do by transferring data "loss free." For me, there simply is no other way.”
I have been a Memory Player user through much of its evolutionary refinements and use the latest Memory Player 64 version on a daily basis. I’m continuously amazed by the startling results I hear. If interested in learning more about this very important product please visit: www.thememoryplayer.net
My Behold electronics and Memory Player 64 primary input source give me the very best opportunity to hear the full extent of what my Raidho c4.1's provide on a musical scale. The c4.1s deserve the very best supporting cast one can provide in order to enjoy the full extent of their design. My good friend Clement Perry, has been enjoying these same two products to energize his reference Sunny Majestic horn loudspeaker and world class rig much longer than I have. His room has served as a reference for me for a very long time hence my choice of components minus the loudspeakers (there's no way I was going to even chance hearing those 900 lbs butt ugly Sunnys in my living room. Sorry CP, love your system..but hate the look of those things).
Sonic Impressions from others
During the past several weeks audiophile friends with substantial rigs of their own came by for lengthy listening sessions offering comments, such as: “At one point I closed my eyes and Ella seemed right before us;” “This is the first time I understand what the term ‘holographic’ means;” “These speakers seem irrelevant. There is a suspended 3D wall of sound coming from each performer’s own space…quick, natural and alive;” “I forgot how much fun it is to listen to great sound with great friends.” Our sessions were fun and alive. While each began with the requisite discussion of new speakers, electronics, and other assorted audiophile gobbledygook we soon found ourselves fully immersed in only the music. Isn’t that how it should be?
Choosing a new high-end loudspeaker that fulfills all of the characteristics one wishes in a great loudspeaker is not an easy task. There were numerous issues I faced when I made my choice. Now that I am living with the incredible Danish Raidho c4.1 loudspeaker I have the great pleasure of listening to favorite recordings with my friends and family as if we were at the performances. I’m so glad I made these Raidho Danish works of art my first choice. My highest recommendation!
Type: Three-way floor standing loudspeaker
Finish: Piano black
Enclosure: Vented design, port in front panel
Drive Units: One sealed-ribbon tweeter, two 3.94-inch ceramic midrange drivers,
four 6.3-inch ceramic bass drivers
Size: 9.84 inches x 26.4 inches x 79.1 inches
Weight: 364 lbs.
Freq. Response: 25Hz-50kHz
Impedance: >5.8 ohm
Crossover: 150 HZ and 3 kHz - 2nd Order
Minimum Amplification: 50W
Web site: www.raidho.dk