I had just completed my review of Lars Hansen’s The King loudspeaker when he suggested I do a quick follow up on his Prince loudspeaker, The King’s ‘entry-level’ sibling. The King was such a fantastic benchmark speaker that I jumped at the chance to listen at length to a smaller version, and allowed the Prince royal ascent over the next review in line.
The Prince uses the same technology of The King, including the advanced “Hansen Composite Matrix” that comprises the body, and the same hand built drivers and crossover. The Prince, because of size, utilizes a point source configuration, unlike that of The King, which utilizes the D’Appollito arrangement.
I first heard the Princes at the 2006 CES show. Even in a small room, stuffed with gear and warm bodies, the essence of the Hansen sound came through to the masses clearly. Much like The King, The Prince plays the music first, with all the technological advances in the design and manufacture at its service. The sound is super detailed if you want it to be (a Jacinta CD I used was amazing in the detail retrieved) or, smooth and powerful (any good LP will help).
Like most great high-end speakers, The Prince likes to be fed by quality electronics. I listened to the them at length with both tube and solid-state amps and preamps. I got to splurge on supreme digital gear for a short time and caressed the speakers with dCS transports and DACs. Wow! Great stuff. Even better was the analogue — a Redpoint Model A turntable with Tri-Planar arm and Phase Tech cartridge. Along with VAC electronics, this was the combination that I awarded Best of Show at the CES. The sound was superb.
The new VAC Phi 300 Stereo Amplifier and Phi 2.0 Master Control Preamplifier took on the primary role during the review. These spectacular looking pieces sound wonderful – kaleidoscopic colour, with rich sound and plenty of detail. Even better, for me, was the Audio Research VS 110 power amplifier and Reference 3 preamplifier. This combination was a little more laid back, a little more lifelike.
Any CD I threw on was easily assimilated by the speakers. All the amps I used handled the 87dB sensitivity handily, but the Prince’s numbers may present a problem for more lightweight single-ended’s. My Burmester test CD has more than enough torture on it camouflaged as beautiful music. Goren Sollscher’s guitar in concert with Gil Shaham’s violin sounded sweet and vibrant, the Kodo drummers incredibly powerful, and the Bastille Orchestra’s bash at “Scheherazade” very exciting. The gamut of emotions I heard from this speaker was definitely A to Z.
Janos Starker’s traversal of all the Bach “Solo Cello Suites” was a perfect vehicle to hear the Hansens at their best. The cello on this incredible Mercury is center stage, with Starker’s unique, sometimes wiry sound easily discerned. The calloused fingers on the fingerboard were a nice percussive touch that many amp/speaker combinations miss. This recording was an honour to hear – Starker has always been incorrectly labelled the poor cousin to Slava and Tortelier, but this LP set is a must own for Bach lovers and audiophiles. The Princes sounded great, here. I’d like to hear this LP through The Kings.
Listening to the Princes at length showed the Hansen Audio ‘sound’ has trickled down from the great Kings. Images were lifelike in tone and size, a shortcoming of many a fine, expensive speaker of these dimensions. The aforementioned Starker was imaged perfectly in a pleasant space – I was 10 feet from the stage, with the cello slightly raised. Off axis listening was good, but there is definitely a sweet spot. However, if your listening room includes a three-seater couch, all will enjoy the sound.
The spectrum of the speaker’s range was incredibly well balanced, seamless in fact. The repeated oboe, clarinet and bass clarinet lines that descend into Madame Butterfly’s developing misery sounded like liquid gold as played by the Orchestre de Paris. The speakers disappeared and allowed all the emotion of Butterfly’s torment full-throated power. The Prince also handled Renata Tebaldi’s creamy and high-energy soprano voice easily, no matter how loud. “Morte, morte’ was heart breaking!
A deadline loomed and the review period came to an end far too abruptly. I miss the speakers and often fantasize how they will magically appear in my listening room. The clarity combined with beauty is hard to beat. The incredible power is etched in my memory, but the delicacy even more so — Debussy piano “Preludes” as played by Michelangeli and the epilogue of Strauss’ “Also Sprach” jump to mind. The harmonics of the Dresden Staatskapelle’s concertmaster were so pure and clean and the crystal-like tone of Michelangeli cold and somewhat heartless in the Debussy. Just amazing! But just as this listener got chills over the soft stuff, in comes the 12 anvils of the Nibelungens on a Karajan “Ring” LP. Pow! Any genre, any dynamic, and any taste will be satisfied if the speakers make their way into your home.
Well, ‘why’, you may ask, should I spend a small fortune on the Kings when the Princes are so damn good? Lars Hansen, CEO and Chief Designer has some thoughts: ‘The Prince, being a “Point Source” system with one built in woofer/sub, allows the listener to listen much more in the “Near Field” if desired. Having only one woofer/sub, The Prince also will not over load smaller rooms, i.e. 12×16 ft rooms. However, The Prince has no problems what so ever, in filling larger rooms with sufficient SPL and powerful low end frequencies, ie.20×30 ft rooms. The Kings will however fill rooms of 40×60 ft with full power response. It is this ability that necessitates the use of 2 woofer/subs and 2 woofer/midband drivers. The King is called The King for this reason. Using 2 woofer/midband drivers with one tweeter, makes the choice of having a true point source like The Prince, out of the question. The best configuration with this compliment of drivers is the D’Appolito alignment. In summary, for smaller rooms one would choose The Prince. In medium rooms (most listening rooms) either speaker would work well. The King is slightly better at retrieving information from large orchestral works. For the large rooms, The King has the advantage. All this is of course not taking price into consideration.’ There you have it.
I did get a chance, albeit a short while, to hear the Princes with solid-state. The Jeff Rowland Model 302 Stereo Amplifier was detailed and had the richness for which Mr. Rowland’s gear is famous, but if pushed, I did prefer the sound of the speakers through both tube setups. With tubes and vinyl, the sound was a world-beater.
As for setup, quite a bit of fiddling was needed. It was time and energy well spent. The soundstage and imaging were superb from many sources, but toeing in the speakers 10 degrees gave the best balance of wide/deep soundstage and pinpoint imaging. Firing straight into the room is usually my favourite look, but here I deferred to the splendid sound the slight angle gave.
If you are in the market for a full range, USD$33,000 speaker that looks great (fit, finish and cabinetry are spot on), will work in all but very large rooms and fill it with some of the finest sounds you are likely to hear, you must audition The Princes. But, do so at your peril. They are intoxicating.
Thank you for taking the time to do such extensive and insightful review. It is always a pleasure to have someone who knows music so well, to sit down and enjoy our products.
Unlike so many people in evaluating audio equipment that use “Audiophile Recordings”, you always choose to use “Great Music” that is also well recorded. As useful a tool as Audiophile recordings are, they generally miss a vital ingredient which is “The Emotion and Magic of Great Music”. It is the ability to capture this “Emotion” and of course the “Pure Magic” of the music in a recording, that separates Loudspeakers that are ‘The Best” from the “Very Very Good”. It is this ability to capture these virtues that Hansen Audio thrives for. This can best be seen, when a listener sitting in front of a pair of Hansen Audio Speakers, listening to a great piece of music, wipes a tear of pure joy from their eyes, at the conclusion of the experience.
The incredible insight into great music that you bring to the listening experience always humbles me. So when you proclaim The Hansen Audio THE PRINCE, to have “Some of the finest sounds that you are likely to hear” and say “They are intoxicating”, and finally, awarding THE PRINCE with your highest level of praise – the “AUDIOPHILIA STAR COMPONENT AWARD”, I am very very pleased.
Hansen Audio Inc.
Further information: Hansen Audio