Presenting a pair of low-cost bookshelf designs from France, Paul Rigby reviews the Cabasse Surf speakers
Bookshelf speakers are useful because you can lift them off the floor and place them on stands to minimise the overall footprint and impact in any room. They’re ideal for small rooms but also family areas. In sonic terms, they often provide a better sense of tonal balance because they’re slightly easier to ‘get right’ in any given room. I find that floor standers can be, in certain circumstances, unbalanced in terms of their sonic presentation. Is this because too many brands see floor standers as merely large bookshelf designs? A speaker designer needs flair to implement such designs well in addition to a larger build budget. Hence, standmounts are sometimes a better and safer buy at the lower end of the price spectrum, when the build budget can be pushed more into driver technology with enough left to use on cabinet essentials.
Bookshelf in size, yes, but even in this category the Surf speakers (and I am determined to avoid all oceanic similes in this review) remain relatively dinky, small in stature and fairly low in footprint. Available in glossy white or black and weighing in at 4.7kg, each speaker spans 29 x 17.5 x 22cm. The design also offers a typical 85db sensitivity figure.
On the front is a DOM37 tweeter developed by Cabasse, you can see the horn profile in the accompanying images. The diaphragm is used in the flagship La Sphère and L’Océan models. The 13cm 13TN15 mid-bass driver unit was also designed by Cabasse.
On the rear is an offset bass port with a pair of terminals below and centre.
I began with vinyl, Public Image Ltd’s This is What you Want…This is What You Get LP (1984) and the track, Bad Life.
What impressed me about the output from this dynamic track was the mature presentation from the Surf speakers. That was down to the basic organisation of the soundstage from these diminutive designs. Organisation? The stereo image was pushed way back into the distance offering a distinct 3D effect. Here resided the vocal, a funky bass and saxophone. To the left and right, delineated and separate, was the percussion. The effect was to impose a sense of order on the music, giving it a sense of direction and purpose.
The stereo image also provided a sense of space which enhanced the reverb tails on the saxophone while focus in this area successfully controlled the bass guitar. A much needed task because the bass can, on this track if left to its own devices, be rather bloomy and smudgy. The precision from the bass enhanced the pace of the music, pushing the music forwards.
Also, the sax can be a little strident during crescendos but not here. The Surf noted the energy from the sax but provided enough discipline to control the upper sonic areas.
A neat side effect was the reduction in noise which meant that the next track, This is Not a Love Song (the very poor album version of the hit single, I might add) sounded much clearer than normal, instruments offered slivers of space in between each other, giving the music a sense of transparency too.
I then turned to a Bing Crosby CD, Let A Smile be Your Umbrella on the album Bing With a Beat (Bluebird).
Again, I was impressed by the focus here, corralling the wayward and unruly upper mids and preventing uncontrolled barking from the same. Similarly, any slight pinching from the treble was handled in a civilised manner. The relatively low noise performance also infused the soundstage with space to give the music a broad, wide aspect across the soundstage. This effect helped to enable Crosby to emote and deliver an impressive performance. Similarly, subtle areas of the arrangement, such as the relatively shy piano, could be tracked by the ear.
Set at a price point that can best be described as super budget, the Surf speakers offer air and space across the back of the soundstage that blends well with a low noise aspect providing a wonderful sense of clarity, for the price. The order and discipline emanating from the Surfs never threatened to dampen or harm the detail from the music. On the contrary, the Surf speakers were packed with the stuff. A tremendous design, offering excellent value for money.
CABASSE SURF SPEAKERS Price: £479 Website: www.connecteddistribution.co.uk Tel: 01242 511133
GOOD: low noise, clarity, detail, spacious mids, controlled bass, low footprint
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