Tekton Design Lore-S Speakers
Tekton Design Lore-S Speakers
|High Efficiency Floor-standers with Verve|
Recently I've become interested in high-efficiency speaker designs that allow the use of sweet-sounding lower power amplifiers. Many audiophiles believe that low-power tube and solid-state amplifiers tend to sound more musical than their high-power counterparts and I don't disagree.
I had heard many positive comments about Tekton Design's speakers on the Internet forums and so I decided to contact Tekton's chief designer, Eric Alexander, to pick his brain and see if I could get him to send review samples.
Eric Alexander is not new to the audio scene. He has previously worked designing products for such companies as Kimber Cable, SoundTube Entertainment, and Edge Audio, which later became Aperion Audio. Striking out on his own he's fast becoming the “New Kid on the Block” of speaker design with his own ideas on how home loudspeakers should look and perform.
After a brief correspondence with Eric he graciously agreed to send me a pair of his new Lore-S speakers for review. The Lore-S uses efficient premium-grade audiophile drivers of Scandinavian lineage by Seas and embodies Eric's blend of an efficient dynamic speaker with a more refined audiophile bent as the particular drivers in the Lore-S are believed to have a smoother frequency response profile than the higher-efficiency pro-type drivers.
The Lore-S employs a Seas 8-inch driver that spans bass range from the mid 30Hz's up into the lower treble where it crosses at roughly 5kHz via a 3rd order network to a Seas hybrid aluminum/magnesium dome tweeter that extends the highs well beyond human audibility to 40kHz. Nominal impedance measures 8-ohms and the efficiency is listed as 94dB/1-watt.
The Lore-S has only one set of gold-plated binding posts that accept either spade lugs or banana plugs. The posts are installed at wider than standard spacing so dual banana plugs cannot be used. The front panel contains two flared ports that extend the low bass while keeping room interactions to a minimum. All Tekton speakers including the Lore-S come in standard satin finishes of black, gray, white, or red, which are attractive and durable. Some wood veneers are available on Lore models at added cost. My particular pair was finished in custom Bubinga wood veneer and is just gorgeous—definitely eye candy! Most wood veneers add $200/pair, but the Bubinga is $300 extra per pair.
Eric does not like making grills and believes his speakers perform better without them but he will make them for an extra cost if you twist his arm really hard. Apparently I did not have sufficient leverage for that task as my pair arrived sans grills. The speakers also include 4 metal floor spikes per speaker and I'd caution purchasers to take their time and make sure the threads are free of any extraneous plastic debris before carefully screwing each spike in as straight as they can manage. The spikes can be used for leveling and provide a very stable interface on any type of carpeting.
The Lore-S measures 36” tall by 10.25” wide by 11.75” deep, so it has a rather modest footprint and is aesthetically engaging to the careful scrutiny of the audiophile's significant other. Tekton Design offers a 30-day money-back, in-home trial because they sell factory-direct to keep the price down and they are confident that when owners see and hear what the speakers can do they won't be taking back many returns.
This particular model is quite robust and works well in small to mid-size rooms. Tekton does make larger models for higher output in large rooms including their standard Lore and Pendragon models that boast wide-range, excellent dynamic capability, and high output. The Pendragon and standard Lore models are 98dB/watt efficient so even low powered amps will play them at very loud levels. More information on these and other Tekton models is available on Tekton's website.
I installed the Lore-S speakers along the short wall of my small-room reference system that measures approximately 11' x 14' with a vaulted ceiling. Acoustically it's a very good room with only a minor bass peak centered around 52Hz. More information on this system can be viewed on my Audiogon Virtual System page at: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vevol&1317612088
The speaker's front panels are 49” from the front wall and the distance from the side walls to the speaker centers is 34”. I toed the speakers in toward the listening position at a moderate angle and the listening seat is 7.5' to 8' back from the front plane of the speakers.
I used a few different amplifiers to assess the considerable capabilities of the Lore-S; two solid-state, and two tube models. For solid-state I used a custom-built Tripath design rated at 60 watts/channel into 8-ohms and an Audiosource Model Amp Three 150 watt/channel budget amp. For tube amplification I used the Quicksilver GLA with Svetlana SED Winged-C EL-34's rated at a healthy 40 watts/channel, and a couple of budget Phillo PA25 mono amps using 6L6 tubes and rated at 25 watts per amp.
The Tripath amp sounded quite good. The balance was fine and the highs shimmered nicely, while the Audiosource amp was dynamic and extremely clear (vocals were super-easy to decipher). As it turned out, as good as the solid-state amps sounded they were not as musically engaging as either tube amp.
Both tube amps acquitted themselves very well and each one provided an enticing musical presentation with the Lore-S. Ultimately, my feeling was that the Quicksilver GLA was the best match of this group being dynamic, full-bodied, musical and very extended/detailed in the highs. In contrast, the 6L6 Phillo amps proved to be quite natural sounding and a little more laid back. In view of its more extended and detailed highs the Quicksilver amp got the most hours of play during the evaluation period. And when I put my 12” powered sub into the Quickie/Tekton system it was OMG-time here at the Alles Hacienda!
I'll preface my sonic evaluation by saying that I've had many quality speakers in this listening room over the last 9 years. I began with the highly lauded Audio Physics Virgo II's, then came one of Newform Research's smaller hybrid ribbon systems, followed by Silverline Audio Preludes and Minuets, Magnepan 1.6QR's and SMGa's, then finally the Fritz Rev 5 speakers I reviewed last year. Let me also mention that I have the $7k VMPS RM40 speakers in my large-room reference system for a reality check. So how did the Tekton Lore-S fare against this formidable bang-for-the-buck group..? Actually, quite well as we shall see.
My first impressions of the Lore-S were very favorable. The midrange was on the money and the bass from the 8-inch driver was ample with better articulation than I was used to in this particular room. The highs were pristine and quite detailed.
I must say the Lore-S speakers look magnificent in my room in the rich Bubinga veneer. They each have the Tekton logo on the bottom front panel, although there is no model name or serial number anywhere to be found. I've found that small high-end designers tend to omit such things, especially when they are starting out. Perhaps Eric will include these niceties on future production at some point.
Also, there are no level controls on either driver, so apart from careful room positioning, the sound you hear is the sound you get. That said, with the aforementioned crossover change the overall balance is quite pleasing, and many will find it close to ideal, as did I. And purists will like this approach since there are fewer potentially degrading parts in the signal path.
Ready to rock
When I first received the Tektons and set them up, which was quite easy to do, it took a minimum of experimentation to find an excellent sounding location in my room. I basically put the front panels of the Tektons in the same position and toe-in angle that the Magnepans formerly occupied. Actually about an inch back from the Magnepan marks on the floor worked best. Then I installed the spikes and let 'er rip.
Before break-in the sound was almost too exacting and precise. After a month of playing the Tektons on and off I began to hear an enticing bloom to midrange instruments like woodwinds and brasses and I was impressed by the sweet, silky-smooth melodic notes that appeared within the soundstage. I was also impressed by the very fast attack and precision of various string and percussion instruments. When these qualities are put together in the form of an ensemble the resulting sound is quite delicious and very much like live musicians playing in the room. You can't help being drawn into the experience.
I had a friend over one day to see if the Lore-S is as excellent a performer as I believe it to be. I recall putting on Hugh Laurie's Let Them Talk [Warner Bros. R2527497] CD, which has recently become my new favorite album. The album features many great classic jazz tunes performed by a whole slew of very talented musicians. And surprisingly, Hugh Laurie's piano playing and slightly abrasive but interesting tenor voice seem to fit right in.
I began with the first track “St. James Infirmary,” and watched my friend's expression turn to one of astonishment. I played through a few tracks and both my friend and I were blown away by the very musical and lifelike performances. It was like attending the concert but without people chattering and kicking the back of my seat. Very nice!
The sound of Laurie's voice combined with the saxophone, double-bass, drum kit, organ and woodwinds blended in such a musical way that I couldn't quite wipe the Cheshire cat smile off my face. To put it succinctly, the bass was very articulate and genuine, the highs did gyre and gimble in the wabe; in addition, all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe. In other words, the sonic presentation was sheer poetry and as such I was unable to find fault with it. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
Okay, well, there was one thing... as great as the Tektons sounded stone stock, the recording became even more engaging and encompassing when I kicked in my 12-inch powered sub, which added just a bit more depth and slam. And the best thing about it was that the sub blended exquisitely with the bass from the Lore-S elevating the overused adjective “seamless” to a new high.
As a rhetorical “Sold!” rolled across my mind I saw my friend taking pictures of the CD's cover with his iPhone so he could immediately go out and purchase it! I regarded this as a sheer testament to the authenticity of the sonic presentation.
Did I mention that the Lore-S sounds superb on vocals? If I did I'm sure I didn't stress the point nearly enough. Male and female vocalists alike sound spot-on through the Tektons whether it's Andrea Bocelli, Hugh Laurie, Diana Krall, or Ella Fitzgerald. That said, I did notice a little extra grit and spittle coming from Louis Armstrong's lips on one of his duets with Ella.
That little bit of extra spittle is likely in the same frequency range as the slight amount of extra bite I noticed on the Rodrigo y Gabriela CD 11:11 [ATO Records ATO0080]. The phenomenon is definitely present on both recordings, it's just a question of how the recording was made and how it's actually supposed to sound. I'm thinking it's quite possible these particular recordings added the slight high-frequency emphasis because later on when I played Rodrigo y Gabriela's Live in Japan CD [ATO0062 88088-21638-2] although I could still hear a slight trace of bite on Rodrigo's blazing guitar work it sounded more natural and proportionately correct. Whatever the answer, I am confident that the Lore-S is not far from the mark as most other recordings I played sounded spot-on.
Another point I'd like to make regards the Lore-S's bass performance. It's really very good. When I spun Soul II Soul's “Back to Life” 12-incher, I recall being almost blown off my listening seat when the bass-line hit (without the subwoofer!). I was caught completely off guard by their potency and their superb level of bass control. And again using Rodrigo y Gabriela's Live in Japan (another marvelous recording from r & g, btw), the foot stomping and bass on some of the songs was so taut and potent that it was hard to believe I was actually listening to speakers and not LIVE!
Another surprise was the imaging ability of the Lore-S. The speakers paint a very-stable, full-color sonic portrait for the ears. All instruments are presented clearly and in their own space and produce a fine amount of natural ambiance when called for. On Live in Japan the clapping and cheering (audience ambiance) filled the room in a wonderfully natural way. Yes, the soundstage went way beyond the physical location of the speakers and well behind them too.
I would've thought that a speaker that uses an 8-inch driver from the bass through the lower highs would not have sounded nearly as precise in instrumental placement, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Lore-S in this regard. They appear to image as well as any narrow-baffle speakers I've evaluated in this room... speakers like the Audio Physic Virgo II's and the Silverline Preludes, which are well known for their excellent imaging performance. And the Tektons sound more natural than any of the others—though in fairness I admit to having made changes to my associated gear over time as we all tend to do.
In addition, the scale and size of the instruments the Lore-S reproduces is commensurate with larger speakers, meaning they do not sound like some highly lauded monitors that produce a wonderful soundstage but all the instruments in it sound, well, miniature. In contrast the Lore-S produces more lifelike instrumental images that have substance and give the feeling that you could get up and walk around amongst them.
Of all the over-achieving speakers I've had in my small-room system during the last nine years my feeling is that the Tekton Design Lore-S outshines them all in terms of delivering a cohesive lifelike musical performance with only a couple of very small flaws: the lack of the lowest bass and maybe a slight narrow-band rise somewhere in the lower treble. I say “maybe” because if you read my comments above you'll see that this trait may be more related to how a couple of my recordings were engineered than to any fault of the Lore-S. Make no mistake the Lore-S is an extremely convincing and engaging music reproducer and one that smacks of authenticity. Although its effective bass cut-off is in the mid to high 30Hz's, the bass it produces is extremely articulate and natural sounding.
My view is that the Lore-S is the most musically convincing speaker in its price range and will easily equal or better the performance of all the best speakers up to $2,000 per pair and with some that cost multiples of its paltry price. A pair of these will allow the listener to believe he is attending a live musical event. I found this to be especially true if the lowest bass (below 40Hz) is augmented by a decent subwoofer. Even so, not many speakers can make this claim and I'm certain that many audiophiles will be content enough to enjoy the Lore-S just as it is without any desire for extra low-bass reinforcement.
For my taste, in small through medium-size rooms the Tekton Lore-S is King. My Magnepans are now serving as room treatments and I'm happily buying the Tektons as my new small-room reference loudspeakers. They put a spell on me... and now they're mine!
Tekton Design, LLC
272 S. Ridgecrest Drive
Orem, UT 84058
•Woofer/Midrange: Seas 8-inch transducer
•Tweeter: Seas hybrid aluminum/magnesium
•Maximum Power: 250 Watts
•Sensitivity: 94dB 1W@1m
•Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
•Frequency Response: 37Hz-40kHz
•Dimensions: 36" tall x 10.25" wide x 11.75" deep
•Weight: 48 pounds
•Price: $1399/pair in Satin Finishes; wood veneers and grills optional at extra cost
•Manufactured in the USA using premium high-end Scandinavian drivers