The Audes Blues Loudspeakers
|The Audes Blues Loudspeakers|
15 May 2002
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
Maximum Power: 200 W
Frequency Range +/- 2 dB: 45-20000 Hz
Crossover Frequencies: 200/3500 Hz
Sensitivity (2.83V/1m): 90 dB
Tweeter: 25 mm (1") soft dome
Midrange: 2 × 110 mm (4.5") cone type
Woofer: 200 mm (8") cone type
Dimensions: 1190 × 206 × 370 mm (47" × 8.25" × 14.5")
base: 250 × 400 mm (10" × 15.75")
Weight: 35 Kg (78 lbs)
Approximately eighteen months ago, I decided that I was going to upgrade my amplifier. What I didn't realize was that the process would snowball into a complete overhaul of my system. The amplifier led to changing my processor, which lead to converting from a stand-alone CD player to a transport/DAC, and then to an upgrade of interconnects and speaker cables. At this point I thought my new system was complete, but I was wrong. I was discussing my recent purchases with an audiophile friend of mine, Leon Rivkin, and he noted that my system would not be complete without upgrading my speakers. I believe what he told me was: "Speakers are the endpoint of your system; they are responsible for speaking to the listener and therefore are an absolutely critical component. A flat sounding or overly colored speaker can ruin a perfectly good audio system." Feeling that I was shorting myself, I took the bait and asked him for speaker recommendations to compliment my system. I explained that I was looking for speakers that I could use for critical music listening and also use for home theater. I also explained that my system was in the $13,000 - $15,000 range, so I wanted speakers to complimentmy current equipment, not cost as much.
Over the next couple of days we researched various speakers from various companies in the $5,000 price range, when he sent me a link to www.audesusa.com. When I visited the site, I learned somewhere across the Atlantic in Estonia, formally part of the Soviet Union, a former transformer and cable company was now producing an audiophile line of speakers. In 1984, Audes began manufacturing high fidelity loudspeakers and speaker units, providing listeners expensive sound and distinctive styling at reasonable prices. The Blues are the flagship loudspeaker of Audes, at $2,000 pair, and are the rival of other brands priced three times higher. Additionally, Audes makes a matching center channel speaker and small monitors that can be used as matching rear speakers. So we called Naum Dorkham and asked if he would send a pair of Blues for review. One week later I received the speakers from a local Audes reseller.
Luckily I borrowed my wife's SUV and enlisted Leon to help me carry the speakers, because I was very surprised when I received two large coffin shaped crates weighing over 90 pounds each. Opening the shipping crates, I realized that hand craftsmanship and attention to detail were key ingredients to these loudspeakers. As I unpacked the speakers from their coffin like shipping cartons, I was immediately impressed by the look. The pair I received for review had a black medium gloss finish, though Audes offers several other wood finishes, which looked very nice next to my Mitsubishi Diamond wide screen television. The Blues are tall and sleek with simple lines and European styling. Each speaker weighs almost 80 pounds and stands nearly 4 feet tall with the spikes installed. The sonically transparent grilles cover the front of the speaker from top to bottom, with a subtle taper near the base, providing a unique and finished look. Anyone who has seen these speakers in my listening room has commented on their distinctive styling. But the real fun is letting them listen to how they sound.
When I looked at the rear of these speakers, the massive binding posts on these speakers surprised me. There are four large, gold plated, 5-way, binding posts capable of supporting bi-wire and bi-amp configurations. As I connected my amplifier, in a bi-wired configuration, I noticed that the binding posts of the Blues are not the standard size. The shafts of these binding posts are wider than the binding post of most other speakers and therefore are not very accommodating to speaker cables. The workaround I found for this situation was to slide one side of the spade connector through the hole in the binding post shaft, leaving the other side of the spade connector touching the base of the binding post. This may sound kluge, but actually is working very well and provides a complete connection. Though I was very surprised by this choice of binding post, I was able to connect the speaker cables and begin listening!
The Blues are Audes original design, a 3-way, 3-chamber, dual step, vented full range loudspeaker. Inside the tall sleek wood cabinets are two 4.5" midrange drivers and a single 1" tweeter positioned in a Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange arrangement. For bass, each loudspeaker is equipped with a single side-firing 8" woofer with a rear-facing baffle. The Blues are sold in left-right symmetrical pairs and can be arranged with the woofers firing to the inside (facing each other) or to the outside (facing away from each other). The cabinets, drivers and crossovers are almost entirely hand crafted in Estonia. Audes uses their own in-house developed midrange and low frequency drivers, while the tweeter is provided by SEAS™ and the internal wiring is provided by DH Labs™. The choice of in-house and select components are very well matched, however these speakers are not video shielded and therefore can not be placed very close to a television.
I connected the Blues to my Sunfire Signature Stereo amplifier using Acoustic Zen Hologram bi-wire speaker cables with both the tweeter/midrange and low frequency drivers all connected the voltage source output of the Sunfire. I placed the speakers on either side of my television, approximately 7' apart from each other and 10' from the primary listening position. Each speaker is approximately 16" inches from the rear wall, 48" from the outer walls, and 8" away from the television. I originally placed the Blues closer to the television, but the picture became distorted because the speakers are not shielded.
As I first started playing Miles Davis Kind of Blue [Columbia 64935] through the Blues, I immediately noticed the dynamic range and detail that these speakers posses. I was very pleased with the amount of low frequency response these speakers have, especially given their tall and thin cabinet design. The Blues brought this jazz must-have to life with amazing clarity and resolution. Provided with a good dose of power from the Sunfire amplifier, I felt like the Blues put me in the room while this album was being recorded. I was so impressed by the outstanding soundstage, dynamic range, and amazing detail of these speakers that I invited a fellow jazz fan and audiophile over to listen. Immediately I noticed he could feel the energy of these speakers as he sat silently, tapping his foot and bobbing his head, listening. As we listened to John Coltrane'sSoultrane [Prestige 7142], we were able to pinpoint the location of each musician and hear Coletrane's breathe as he exhaled while playing the saxophone.
With most of the recordings I listened to, the brass wind instruments, cymbals, and voice all sounded natural, not harsh or bright. The bass was amazingly detailed, not over or under stated, and never booming or uncontrolled. Also, the Blues bring typically less noticeable rhythm sections, like percussion instruments, accurately into the soundstage. Nevertheless, on albums that are not produced with great care, the Blues may, at times, sound bright or harsh. I only noticed this on some pop recordings that were not paid the care and attention given to true audiophile recordings.
Some Fine Tuning
Now that I had a small sense of what these speakers could do, I decided to modify my configuration. I continued using the Sunfire Signature Stereo amplifier and Acoustic Zen Hologram speaker cable, but this time I connected the midrange and high frequency drivers to current source outputs and kept the low frequency driver connected to the voltage source. The voltage source provided accurate punch, power, and control to the woofer, while current taps fed a warmer, tube-like sounding signal to the two midranges and single tweeter. The Blues responded much better to this new configuration. The bass remand tight and articulate and the midrange and tweeter became smoother and more natural sounding. This configuration really highlighted the Blues ability to realistically reproduce vocals.
The Blues have the ability to resolve fine levels of detail in the music, which make the Blues especially exciting for jazz and classical listeners. As I listened to Dave Brubeck play on Time Out [Columbia 65122], I could hear the hammers hitting the piano strings, detail that reminded me that the piano is a percussion instrument. I noticed high-resolution recordings, including 20-bit remasters, HDCD, and DVD-Audio made my system sound incredible. I truly enjoyed listening to all my Jazz favorites on the Blues. These speakers bring the music to life with an amazing ability to recreate the soundstage and resolve detail.
The harmonica in "I don't get it" from The Trinity Sessions on the Cowboy Junkies [RCA 8568-2-R], sounded incredibly real, and the details of the drums being played with brushes was cleanly articulated. This album was recorded in a cathedral and the Blues have no problem reproducing the sense of space and openness of this large empty area. The Blues exhibited total control over recreating dynamics, reproducing the general softness and mellow tone of this album and exercising the ability to accurately recreate the frequent peaks in dynamic range of instruments like the guitar and harmonica and the singers voice.
I was first turned on to Rickie Lee Jones' Pop Pop [Geffen] at the Sunfire website on their Best Demo page, so I was surprised when I learned my wife already had this CD in our collection. After one listen, I quickly added this album to my personal reference collection. On the lower end of the frequency spectrum, "detail" is the first and lasting impression the Blues will make on a listener. These speakers will not rattle your neighbor's windows for, unfortunately, they will not go down to 20 Hz, but you will not miss a note of the stand-up bass on this album. Midrange vocal presence is another strong characteristic of the Blues. The realism and presence of Rickie Lee's voice throughout the album is wonderful. On "Dat Dere," the Blues create a three-dimensional soundstage for the child in the beginning of the song, filling the room with the child's voice as it moves about the soundstage.
The Blues are a very accurate and transparent speaker; they make you feel as if you are there with the musicians on stage or in the recording studio. The unique cabinet, with its 3-way, dual-step design, provides much more bass response than I had expected from such a tall, thin design. The dynamic range, mid-range accuracy, and punchy bass give the Blues an amazing ability to convey the music's energy. Not only do you hear all the music with the Blues, but they make you feel the music too. Although the Blues are not video shielded and I find the binding posts to larger, I would recommend the Audes Blues to anyone looking for speakers at this price point -- and higher. They offer the sound and styling of speakers costing much more.
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