There’s no escaping the fact that this is a big speaker. It is also considerably more expensive than the nearest Apogee equivalent, even allowing for 30-years of intervening inflation, but then it is way better finished, way better engineered and way more ambitious. That base plate is a clear indication of just how seriously Clarisys take the precision and solidity of their construction: it would be easier (and arguably far more sensible, at least from a cost perspective) to ship the panel and base separately, assembling on site. Instead, Clarisys mount and align the base in their factory, which allows for a far more substantial fixing and greater accuracy of the relative angle between base and panel – but also demands a massive increase in the volume of the shipping container. It’s a world away from the bent metal brackets that supported the apogee panels. Still, the huge air-gap between the Clarisys panel and the walls of its flight case does increase protection and reduce the risk of handling damage.
So much for the raw numbers, the really interesting stuff is below the surface, like the fact that the midrange driver operates from 500Hz to 9kHz! The passive crossovers have come a ways too. Now housed in smart, separate, external cabinets, they are bi-wirable and littered with fancy, custom-built components. Short ribbon cables are provided to run from crossover to speakers, the same copper ribbon cable that is used to wire the speakers internally (and mirroring the broad copper tracks on the crossover PCBs). The provision of external crossovers doesn’t just make sound design sense, even if fixing a crossover to a panel doesn’t subject it to quite the same mechanical issues as sticking it in a sealed or reflex cabinet. The Auditoriums (Auditoria?) move a lot of air and deliver considerable bandwidth so, even with the massive mixed material panel construction with its inherently self-damped nature, keeping the crossover components away from direct mechanical contact is no bad thing. The crossovers are housed in substantial aluminium cases with RHW end-panels, painted to match the speakers. But the icing on this particular cake is that it also allows the easy substitution of an active crossover (just in case bi-wiring or bi-amping didn’t already make a big enough dent in your finances). I’ll be looking at that option later, but for now, I’m concentrating on (and seriously enjoying) the passive version.
Given the size and weight of these speakers (as well as their inherently demanding and revealing nature – although we’ll get to that in a moment) Initial set-up is remarkably straightforward. Even so, the price of the Auditoriums includes manufacturer installation, anywhere in the world (and I was VERY glad of the help), just as the original owner guarantee includes on-site repair – so no necessity to pack and ship a damaged speaker. Having said that, the basic design is inherently robust (at least in the electrical sense) and you’d do well to actually fry a driver. The diaphragms themselves – and particularly the bass driver – are seriously well protected from all but direct physical insult with a pointy object, so once set up, the Clarisys speakers should deliver a long and trouble-free working life.
Playing the angles…
As with all dipoles, distance to the rear wall is critical if you want to avoid or minimise comb-filtering effects at low frequencies. The Auditoriums generate enough low-frequency energy without room reinforcement that the rule of thumb quickly becomes the more space you can give the speakers the better. Set up in the music room we started with simple ‘rule of thirds’ positioning, the inner edges of the baffles, rather than the tweeters aligned on the diagonal axes. We then started to nudge and nurdle the speakers around to achieve the ideal bass balance and integration, while also ensuring that the distance from the listening position to the tweeter centres was identical and that both speakers were at right angles to the central listening axis, so that a laser laid along their baffles lined up precisely. It’s a process that basically involves shifting or realigning an equilateral triangle with its point positioned directly between the listener’s ears. With that done, it was time to adjust the speakers for vertical azimuth and rake angle, although in this case, having the speaker bases perfectly horizontal laterally with a tiny forward tilt proved optimum. Having rechecked the listening distance (adjusting the angle of a speaker this tall can have a readily measured impact on listening distance at the half height point on the baffle) and adjusted everything accordingly, it was time to leave the speakers to bed in and come up to room temperature. Running with a pair of CH M1.1s in bi-amp mode that took the best part of a week, after which the speakers required further tweaking to optimise their positioning. Both speakers stepped forward two millimetres, and toed in very slightly, but the really critical shift was moving the left hand speaker inwards by less than a millimetre – and yes, you’d better believe that you’ll hear that difference on these speakers.