Problem solved! Larsen 6.2 Speakers…

AA_Larsen pair 2Most music lovers face the problem of “where to put the speakers,” but those in small spaces even more so. Larsen HiFi of Sweden conquers this by building speakers with a small footprint (only 9 x 10 inches at the base and about 30 inches tall) that are designed to sound their best right up against the rear wall. Like most other hifi speakers, they still benefit from being away from the side walls, if possible. Now you can actually put a pair of speakers next to the couch and they will sound fantastic. You won’t have to argue with whoever you share your living quarters with about this anymore.

All of the five available finishes are gorgeous (mahogany, cherry, maple, black and white gloss lacquer) and will integrate with your décor easily. Don’t let the small size fool you; the minute you play your favorite record and close your eyes, you’ll be wondering where the speakers are! Seriously, because these speakers are voiced for being placed next to the wall, setup couldn’t be easier. Plug your favorite speaker cables in, set them about 6-9 feet apart, and give them a couple of inches from the wall. That’s it. These are the easiest speakers I’ve ever set up in nearly 15 years of reviewing hifi gear. At 28 pounds each, you won’t be reaching for the bottle of Tylenol when you are done, either!

At $3,995, the Larsen 6.2s won’t break the bank, and thanks to a very gentle crossover network and 88db sensitivity are easy to integrate into any system. While we drove them with a wide range of amplifiers, The Rega Brio-R, at just around $1,000 and the new Simaudio NEO Ace integrated at $3,500 both proved excellent solid-state choices. For those loving the gentle touch of vacuum tubes, any of the PrimaLuna models is a fantastic choice and we were incredibly fond of pairing the 6.2s with the new HP Integrated that we just finished reviewing. Our limited selection of amplifiers provided a slightly punchier rendition with solid-state amplification, and a slightly more organic sound with the PrimaLuna, but not enough of a difference between the two that either is unobjectionable. The bottom line; whatever you have on hand will work well with the Larsens.

AA_larsen 4 copyRadiohead’s recent release, A Moon Shaped Pool, proves very ethereal, with an expansive soundstage – a perfect way to show off the imaging capabilities of these speakers. The three dimensional picture painted mixes Thom Yorke’s spacy, listless vocals with layer upon layer of synthesizers and strings to create a highly immersive experience that goes well beyond the speaker (and couch) boundaries. The reverse tracked vocals on “Daydreaming” are particularly engaging. It’s like a wall of sound instead of just sound emanating from the two tiny boxes flanking my couch. Had my review samples arrived in matte black, they would have literally disappeared next to my black leather couch.

Brought to North America by the same people that bring us GamuT speakers and electronics, I had to rock some Talk Talk, so that importer Michael Vamos would at least be here in spirit. Again, the massive soundstage rendered makes these speakers a ton of fun. Yet a handful of great minimonitors can do this. Moving along to a pre release copy of Jeff Beck’s latest, Loud Hailer, (which should be out by the time you read this) it’s clear that the Larsen’s can really rock too. Combining Jeff Beck’s screaming guitar work with a driving bass line that really gets under your skin, these speakers can rumble with the best of them. Unless you need to feel the Earth move underneath your feet, you will not need a subwoofer with the Larsen’s. The factory website claims “deep and precise bass down to 26hz.” Thanks to a bit of room gain picked up placed so close to the wall, the 6.2s have very strong output playing 30hz test tones.

Bass notwithstanding, the new Jeff Beck record is fairly dense throughout the spectrum, revealing the Larsen’s ability to untangle complex recordings with ease, keeping the bass line taut, the guitar overdubs in place and the vocals rock solid – even at high volume levels.

The final aspect of the Larsen speakers that is highly commendable is their natural tonality. The seven-inch woofer provides quick, tight, punchy bass, with a smooth midrange and transition to the soft dome tweeter. Listening to some early Bill Evans, the Larsen’s nail the complex overtones of the piano with ease, not a feat all speakers can accomplish. A similar outcome is achieved with any recording full of acoustic instruments. Vocals, both male and female are equally rewarding to listen to through these speakers, and no matter what your pleasure, they will satisfy.

AA_larsen 3aIf you’re worried that being space challenged means you can’t enjoy music the way you’d like to, look no further than a pair of Larsen 6.2s. Even if you don’t have to put the speakers back against the wall, knowing that you can, now opens up your decorating options. Who knows? Now you can roll your motorcycle into the living room, with speakers that live up against the wall. Options! (factory) (US distributor)

Ooh, La, La! Focal’s Sopra no.1


Sopra no.1 AAFor a city of barely more than a half million people, Lyon, France is a pretty cool place. In addition to it’s fantastic cuisine, it’s ranked 19th globally for innovation, a virtual hotspot of technical activity. And it’s home to Focal, an equally innovative speaker manufacturer. A few years ago when I visited the factory, there was something lurking in the corner of the R&D department that would later become the floorstanding Sopra no.2. Inquiring about the prototype, I was quickly escorted out and politely asked not to mention anything about what I saw. It all became clear at last year’s Munich hifi show and here we are today with three Sopra models.

The no.1 is the smallest model, stand mounted, with an MSRP of just under $9,000/pair, including the massive yet stylish stands, leaving nothing to chance. Visually similar to Focal’s Diablo Utopias, costing nearly twice as much, the Sopra no.1 takes advantage of all new technology, developed by Focal to get higher performance from a smaller form factor.

A two way system, the new woofer and tweeter, not only achieve lower distortion figures than past models, they are combined in a very efficient way with an 89db sensitivity, assuring compatibility with modest powered amplifiers. We had excellent luck pairing the Sopras with both solid state and vacuum tube amplifiers.

For those wanting a more in-depth explanation, click here:

Walking around the Focal plant, the level of technical expertise combined with an equally high level of old world, hands on craftsmanship is stunning. The Sopra line of speakers are built from their innovative drivers up to the finished product completely by hand via the same craftspeople building the $194,999/pair (not a typo) Grande Utopia EM speakers. It shows the minute you slide them out of the box. These speakers are drop dead gorgeous, and our test pair is coated in a flawless white finish. Beautiful as the walnut veneer is, the Sopra’s sophisticated shape bets for a shiny, solid color. Black, red and orange is also available – all are equally spectacular; your décor will determine which you choose.

Commandeer a bit of help to unpack the Sopras as they weigh just over 40 pounds each with the stands equally massive. Thanks to built-in, easily adjustable spikes, which are easily retractable until you find the best balance between bass punch and midrange clarity, initial setup is a snap. We suggest starting with the Sopras about six feet apart and about three feet from the wall if possible. Proceed to move them apart until the stereo image falls apart, then move slightly back together. Then move them as a pair (might want to grab a tape measure for this) closer and further away from the wall until you get the best bass response without booming. Grab your favorite bass heavy hip hop or EDM tracks to sort this out quickly.

Sopra no.1 AA-2Once you’ve completed this task, sit back and have an adult beverage, but not too many if you want to fine tune the speakers further. Patience still intact, experiment with toe in and then if you really want a gold star, experiment with tilting the speakers back on their axis slightly. This is where those large adjustment knobs at the base of the stands are worth their weight in gold. When you get this angle just right, the stereo image rendered between your speakers really gets deep. Now you can really get the party started.

Yoko Ono’s vocals on “Yes I’m a Witch” is absolutely creepy. She sounds like she’s everywhere in the room, haunting you wherever you go, thanks to the Sopra’s great dispersion characteristics. Sit on the couch, sit on the floor, walk to the kitchen – she’s still right there. But that’s what you pay the big money for; big sound. Excersizing the bass is equally entertaining spinning Mr. Scruff’s Trouser Jazz. The bass energy here keeps you nailed to your seat and tracking through the album, all of my party guests are flabbergasted by just how much air these small speakers can move.

Fun as these audio acrobatics are, all that PR copy about Focal’s new driver technology is absolutely true. These speakers are fatigue and distortion free. The only downside is that if you have a lot of amplifier power on tap and live in an apartment building, you may just have a few neighbors knocking at your door, so be prepared for crisis management or party time.

Sopra no.1 AA-4The Focal Sopra no.1 speakers are a premium offering from one of the world’s finest speaker manufacturers and paired with top shelf components will provide you with a world class listening system. They get our highest recommendation.

$8,995/pair, with stands