I received a very pleasant email from a distributor doing his due diligence and shopping around his new speaker acquisition for review. 'Happy to', I said. A little research led me to Are Audio's website. The speaker, the company vibe and ID were intriguing, so I moved a few reviews around to accommodate the Light Roast 2.0 Loudspeakers. Coolness and striking while the iron is hot has its benefits.
The speakers arrived a few days later, shipped simply but safely in a box easily carried by one person. They were up on my 26" stands shortly thereafter, and so began the break in process. I played the white noise track on the Stereophile Test 3 CD for 72 hours. The butyl rubber surrounds of the woofer needed a good workout to loosen. Don't judge the speakers out of the box. The tweeter is happy as a clam, the mid/woofer not so much.
Setup was a breeze. The offset tweeters are meant to be placed in the inside position. I had the speakers firing directly into the room with great benefit to the soundstage. But they preferred a slight toe in, which helped the imaging. It gave me the best of both worlds. This placement also enables the voice coils into closer alignment and minimizes reflections. The offset tweeter is also optimally positioned to reduce baffle step.
The speakers are intriguing from a pure physics point of view. They are tuned by ear. Designer Ross Connolly describes the process as:
The Light Roast 2.0 is a speaker devised over many, many pots of coffee with some math, digital modeling, and a little background music. We developed a simple enclosure based around a natural sounding woofer and partnered it with a high-quality silk dome tweeter, and a seamless 2nd order crossover.
This simplistic design has won numerous music industry professionals over with its smooth midrange and great high-end extension, and at an extremely reasonable price point.
We’re pleased to offer you this performer and invite you among its well-earned followers. From two-channel stereo, to project studios, to home theater – all it takes is one listen!
Connolly sourced the drivers from Peerless in Denmark. All the cabinets are constructed by hand in his St. John's shop. Cabinets are made from MDF and the sprayed material on the rear is a 2-part epoxy. The cabinets are primed, a base coat is applied, which then receives a topcoat of satin clear. The baffle is solid hardwood.
I emailed Connolly recently and asked him about the unique name of the company and its origin:
When I first started building speakers it was part of a collaborative DIY project with a friend, Richard White. When we decided that we would pursue building speakers as a business we were thinking of names such as "R Acoustics", "R audio"... essentially just using the first initial from our names. When were were bouncing some ideas around a suggestion we received was to use "Are" rather than "R". Are Audio had a certain appeal to us so we went with it.
Out of the box, the speakers have a chilly St. John's winter outlook. The break-in process was quite long but yielded many benefits, a warm, detailed nature chief among them. Be patient. A lack of bass and a steely hardness in the midrange will disappear over time. The measurement gang members may well scoff and imagine the Are Audio speaker is an inchoate design. They'd be wrong.
I began as I do with all speaker reviews, with Thomas Newman's endlessly interesting theme to the film American Beauty. Packed full of complex latin percussion and synthesized bass, this track tests a loudspeaker like few others.
The Are Audio speakers limned the thorny complexity well. It wasn't the zenith of definition, but the power and sophistication of the recording was easily discernible. Compared with the very best monitors, those costing much more, only the last ounce of bass response and mid range liquidity was missing.
Next up, the Speakers Corner LP reissue of a Carlos Kleiber DG recording, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Beethoven's 7th Symphony. This is a problematic recording. Basically, the not so pretty sister to the companion, flawless 5th Symphony DG recording. Many people consider Kleiber's 5th Symphony as the greatest recording of all time -- an almost nutty claim, but once heard, I dare you to refute.
The 7th Symphony is a fantastic performance, too, but is let down by the highly spotlit recording executed by slider-happy engineers. The 2.0s highlighted the flaws in the recording. Not only do the speakers throw a wide soundstage, they image well, too. If you're a soundstage enthusiast like me, they do an excellent job.
I tested the speakers' imaging using an LP of Jean Martinon conducting the LSO in Shostakovich's 1st Symphony on a Classic Records RCA reissue. It's a monster, with demands like a jealous girlfriend with a gun. You have London Transport's tube rumbling underneath Kingsway Hall and a quirky symphony (composed at 17 as his grad piece from the Leningrad Conservatory) playing atop the rolling stock. The opening of the symphony introduces solo instruments like clarinet (Gervase de Peyer) and trumpet (David Snell). Both players are perfectly placed in the soundstage, their quirky phrasing emanating from specific principal chairs. As far as two of the most important audiophile principles are concerned, these Newfoundland speakers tick both boxes.
Well recorded voices sounded as secure as instruments. Even when opera singers used chest tones -- very challenging to record and replicate electronically -- the 2.0s handled the challenge with aplomb. Lesser speakers can hoot spurious frequencies in protest. Also, I've heard more expensive speakers come a cropper when playing this type of vocal technique. When there were fewer vocal demands, such as Shelby Lynne on Just a Little Lovin' or Madeleine Peyroux's Secular Hymns [reviewed here], the speaker delivered lively, lifelike images.
I really enjoyed Maurizio Pollini's Chopin: Late Works, a new CD from Deutsche Grammophon [reviewed here]. His patrician style with consummate musicianship was heard easily on Are Audio's flagship home speaker. Pollini's wide dynamic range sounded very good, too. Whether plumbing the depths or playing with the most delicate touch, the great man's performance was the essence of beautiful expression.
Bass on the Pollini CD was rich in timbre and went quite low. Mid bass is the tessitura where the 2.0s play. Much like my small reference Raidho X-1s, if you want deep bass, you'll have to add a sub. That's if I'd ever recommend a sub. I wouldn't. But you'll still get a good feel for the bass. What is there, has character and sounds accurate.
Owner/designer Ross Connelly began his company when he was in university. Over seven years, he has fine tuned his speaker, albeit by ear and with friends, into a 2.0 model. Together, they have produced an excellent, musical speaker with very good audiophile characteristics.
If you get a chance to audition these speakers and the CAD $1399.00 is close to your budget, then these Newfoundland transducers could be your sure thing. Recommended.
TWO-WAY SEALED ENCLOSURETWEETER: 26MM SILK DOME
WOOFER: 14CM PAPER CONE WITH BUTYL RUBBER SURROUND
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE: 8OHM
CROSSOVER: 2.1KHZ 2ND ORDER LR
POWER: 60 WATTS
DIMENSIONS: 33CM HIGH, WITH A 16.5CM X
NET WEIGHT (EACH SPEAKER): 5.5KG
MRSP: CAD $1399.00
WARRANTY: 5 YEARS
Further information: Are Audio