Hansen Audio’s The Prince Loudspeaker

by admin on January 24, 2010 · 10 comments

in Loudspeakers, Stars

by Anthony Kershaw

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.

The Sound

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.

Conclusions

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 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.

[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Hansen Audio Prince Loudspeaker. Congratulations! - Ed]

Manufacturer’s Comments

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.

Thank you!

Lars Hansen
CEO

Hansen Audio Inc.

Specifications

GENERAL: Time Coherent; Dispersion Coherent; Frequency Response: 27 Hz—23,000 Hz ± 2Db; Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms; Sensitivity: 87DB; All Cabinetry, Subwoofers/Woofers, Midband drivers, and Crossovers are engineered, designed and manufactured by Hansen Audio.
CABINET: manufactured in “Hansen Composite Matrix” material with Class “A” finish; Acoustically inert; Sound wave refraction distortion elimination technology.
TWEETER: 25mm high performance dome mounted on a dispersion optimized 6mm aluminum plate.
CROSSOVER: Frequency and phase optimized; Hand assembled; High grade hand selected components; Point to point silver solder connections
MID BAND DRIVERS: 182 mm driver; Exotic multi-layer composite sandwich cone; Optimized geometry “Hansen” motor system; Hand assembled “Hansen Architecture” frames; Sound wave deformation prevention
TERMINAL CONNECTIONS: “WBT” connections; High current pole terminal; Decreased transition resistance
WOOFERS: 269 mm driver; Exotic multi-layer composite sandwich cone; Optimized geometry “Hansen” motor system; Hand assembled “Hansen Architecture” frames; Sound wave deformation prevention
WEIGHT/SIZE: 230 lbs. with crate -Height: 42 inches -Width: 14 inches -Depth: 20 inches.

Associated Components

Amplifier: VAC Phi 300 Stereo Amplifier and Audio Research VM 220 tube monoblocks
Preamp: VAC Phi 2.0 Master Control Preamplifier and Audio Research Reference 3
CD: dCS Verdi/Purcell
Interconnects: Transparent
Speaker Cable: Kimber Select 3035

The Prince Loudspeaker

Manufactured by Hansen Audio
Hansen Audio Inc. 100 Leek Cres. Unit 9 Richmond Hill, Ontario. L4B 3E6
Phone: 905.731.8434 Fax: 905.731.8420
email
Website

Price: CDN$33,000.00

Source of review sample: Canadian distributor

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Atane 01.24.10 at 2:42 pm

Good read. A friend in Toronto has The Knight speakers and he raves about them. I’ve never heard Hansen speakers, but I will when I visit him in the future. Looking forward to it.

admin 01.24.10 at 2:46 pm

You gotta hear them. The whole line has a consistency that is amazing. The Knights are fantastic, too. The Prince is the sweet spot. My dream would be a King V2. Stunning!

Cheers, a

terry 01.25.10 at 9:50 am

What do these sound like? Dynaudios? B&Ws? Wilsons? Focal? I’m sure they have a unique sound but in the ballpark, what are they closest to?

admin 01.25.10 at 10:04 am

They do not sound like any of the speakers you list. I would purchase any of the Hansen speakers. I’m not a fan of the house sound of some you mention.

In a paragraph, the Hansen’s ‘house’ sound is uncolored (in the way I hear other speakers, especially on orchestral instruments). They are so clean and powerful, give a great soundstage, image like the devil and to my ears sound completely natural and effortless (the ancillaries are always first class and well matched, though). It begins with the Knight and builds majestically through The King (the finest speaker I know).

Of course, YMMV. Try to have a listen. They are worth your time.

I’m reviewing the 239K Grand Masters next.

Thanks for your comment, Terry. And welcome.

Cheers, a

Matt 01.25.10 at 4:15 pm

I heard some of these at the Manchester Show a couple of years ago. They were very neutal sounding, though the demo system they were using gave them a slight “spike” in the treble.

I had to smile when I saw a copy of the original Audiophilia review displayed on the desk.

admin 01.25.10 at 4:46 pm

Like most top kit, it’s a little fussy what goes in. But it was remarkably neutral when fed by tubes and solid state. No treble spike this end.

Cheers, Matt.

tristan 02.07.10 at 9:49 am

I heard the Hansens twice - two different models- and what struck me is how different they sounded from each other! It is like there were from different companies. I did not enjoy them, but then again I did not listen for long….

Alberto De La Roche 02.15.10 at 2:09 pm

Listen to the new Monda Negra from Verga Saunia Italy, these are real jewells from the sound stand point, 3way, made of composite material called “Asimetric PDO” designed by CERT for the particle accelerator. The design fashion is also amazing, X-over Rewllnecker 2nd order with swiss and german components, drivers and motors hand made, all handmade and at a half of the price. This hansens sound good but more more like the Wilsons, nothing special for that high price.

admin 02.15.10 at 7:33 pm

What Hansens have you listened to and with what equipment?

Thanks.

Andy Fawcett 02.16.10 at 3:49 am

I’m confused, Alberto - in your comment on the JM Labs Utopias you describe Wilsons as “great speakers”, but here as “nothing special”?

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