Hansen Audio's The Knight Loudspeaker

The Knight is the smallest floor standing loudspeaker in the Hansen Audio range. Smallest, in this sense, is not small. In fact, the speaker is quite imposing. Yet, the Knight’s footprint, when compared to the larger Prince, Emperor and King, will allow owners of smaller accommodations to enjoy the delectations of the Hansen Audio sound.

When the Knight was conceived, Lars Hansen’s self-direction was to create the world’s finest speaker in this size and footprint. Much of the same technology that makes the King and Prince sound so amazing is employed herein (I have not heard the Emperor — I’m assuming Hansen’s brilliance has not given his speaker new clothes!). So, you’ll get Hansen’s amazing ‘Matrix Composite’ for much of the cabinet build, proprietary drivers, his splendid first-order crossover, and his amazing dedication to detail. Hansen is absolutely in love with his babies. All of them! This knight's price? USD$20,000.

Guests in the house

Hansen was a little concerned over equipment usage with the Knight. Not that it is particularly picky, but he wanted its first review to have what he considers good synergy (yes, he’s a bit of a worrier — most designers are). I have lots of experience with all sorts of topologies and setups, so I obliged and used Hansen’s first class ancillaries. They included the Audio Aero Prestige SACD/CD player (US$13,300). I chose to use the volume control/preamp of the Audio Aero for most of the review and eliminate Hansen’s Krell preamp. The wonderful Audio Aero Capitole CD player really gets this right, and the company’s expertise with on board preamps continues with the new Prestige. Superb. His Krell FPB 300CX is a workhorse and not my favourite solid state amplifier, but it drove the Knights’ effortlessly (the speaker is measured at 87dB so single ended tube amplifiers are not appropriate). However, the Stealth cables (Dream loudspeaker cable — US12,000, Indra CD player RCA to RCA — US$5750, Metacarbon XLR to XLR CD direct to amp — US$8000) I’d keep in house in a heartbeat. Terrific gear, and a great match for the Knights.

Setup

Setup was quick and easy. The speakers have very solid spikes, but the smallish footprint allowed them to be ‘walked’ fairly easily. Just watch your tootsies. I had them five feet from the back and side walls, firing to the outside of my shoulders . Hansen likes this setup and it worked very well. We measured 10 feet between the tweeters. All this conjured up great imaging and a superior soundstage. The very detailed specifications of the Knights may be found at the bottom of the review.

Sound

In fairly short order, I gathered the Knights commanded total control over the music. This allowed the full effect of the original performance to shine through. Many speakers from all sorts of price points produce lovely sounds, letting through as much of the music as the technology/design allows. Hansen’s twenty thousand dollar beauties enable the music to flow. One hears the essence of the performance, much as the composer/artist would imagine.

We all love the revelation of hearing great equipment. Sadly, many get the concomitant comparison to the home sound. I say, ‘don’t be scared’. Go ahead, make your day! Hansen equipment should be heard in a good room, well-setup just to hear what is now available in terms of resolution. And resolution in its best light. No etch, no bright lights in the eyeballs, no sparks, no slashes, nothing overwhelming. Just clear, clear (incredibly well-balanced) sound.

I started several of the serious listening sessions (the speakers and electronics all had many hours on them) with a simple song. I have used Ian Bostridge’s wonderful EMI recital of English songs on all the Hansen reviews. The speakers seem to ‘get’ classical vocals set in a live setting and pleasant acoustic. In this particular recording, the location is the Snape Maltings in Norfolk, England. A beautiful space in which to record what many consider the male lieder voice of the past twenty years. Bostridge’s amazing way with the text, his profound view of the melodies, and the musical bond with his regular accompanist, Julius Drake, are a joy to behold. Perfect, really. The vibrato, the word painting, the flawless tuning all captured with the same eager perfection by the Knights.

Next up (in a list of many CDs), was a trouble maker. The Atlanta SO’s Telarc recording of Hindemith orchestral works. Thick and thorny of texture, Nobilissima Visione is an example of Hindemith’s self-effacing style. It includes amazing invention but can be an acquired taste. The opening of the Marsch und Pastorale has piccolo and clarinets having some enjoyable to and fro. With many other setups, the clarinets always seem murky. Things get more complicated with the snare drum in back left of the stage (snare off). All of Hansen’s speakers have made mincemeat of this CD. Many other speakers have not. No matter whether through tubes or solid state, without preamp or via ARC’s Reference 3, once again, the Hansen design excelled and left not much to the imagination. I could hear the reeds ‘speak’ on the A clarinets — that freaked me out a little! The synergy that Hansen had wanted was there. And when the bass drum and cymbals energized the hall, no problem. The power was handled as an afterthought. A mere bagatelle. Micro to macro dynamics can be awe inspiring on this speaker.

The drivers, all designed and made in house at Hansen, are top quality. And the superb crossover holds a tight rein over the varying octaves it controls. No bleed of the mids to treble or bass humping along while the others run fleet of foot. No, everything in its musical place, swinging, rocking, caressing and generally having a hell of a good time. Listening is fun, sad, demanding, relaxing, what ever you choose it to be. Track six of Swingphonic has Sammy Nestico arranging the love theme from Scheherazade for classical/jazz orchestra. There are some amazing shifts in dynamics and some crescendos that will test your system. The Knights’ replication was thrilling. No sweat or toil, just what conductor Harry Currie wanted. And he wanted a lot!

The sound’s essence? Homogeneous, yes, but not blended. Detailed, yes, but not etched. Tessituras, separated, yes, but equal in value. Once again, the perfect definition of a particular piece of equipment eludes my prosaic prose. But, you get the drift. The Knights were lifelike for hours. No fatigue, no blandness, and the speakers never, ever gave up. The information retrieval was superior. As such, the sound signature is the same as other Hansen products, but with the Prince, Emperor and King, you simply get more of what the Knight gives. A dealer, with knowledge of your specific situation, will be able to direct you the applicable speaker.

Conclusion

Are they worth the 20G price tag? Yes. In a heartbeat. You’ll get much of what Lars Hansen has spent years creating in his flagship King. No, the Knights won’t go as low and with as much authority, or handle as much power, but then fifty thousand dollars is a very large difference in price. Personally, I think the King (now in V2 iteration) is the world’s finest speaker. If money was no object, the Kings would be in my home ’till I was old(er) and grey(er)! If money is an object and your room is not too large (welcome to the real world), the Knights will be a superb addition to your system. The center piece, in fact. They work with all sorts of good equipment and will pass the WAF. And most importantly, they will give the listener many hours of musical pleasure.

After a while, when the pride of ownership has diminished and the lull in the hobby subsides for a month or two, you’ll be able to head to the listening room and hear music in its purest form. No glitz or glamour, no ‘mine is bigger than yours’, no ‘check this bass out’, just the greatest art form in sound that, in the here and now and at the the Knights’ size, technology and price point, will be difficult to better. Very highly recommended.

Manufacturer’s Comment

Thank you for your very positive review of THE KNIGHT loudspeaker. I know that you have spent many hours listening to THE KNIGHTS and like in every review that you write, you take this process very seriously. With your background as a conductor, your insight into the music and all its subtle details is very much appreciated. I know you also have intimate knowledge of the various halls that these recordings were done. So, when you pronounce that THE KNIGHT to be “incredibly well balanced”, and that the “micro to macro dynamics can be awe inspiring” and that they are “very highly recommended” and finally also giving THE KNIGHT the highest honor of your “Audiophilia Star Component Award”, I am once again very honored. All the sweat, inspiration and love of music, that has gone into bringing THE KNIGHT to completion is now even more justified.

Thank You.

Lars Hansen
CEO
Hansen Audio Inc.

Further information: Hansen Audio