When I was writing the articles about the Quad 57, John McDonald of Audience commented that if I liked the Quad 57 I should hear their ClairAudient 1+1. I had reviewed and been very impressed with their “The ONE” speaker, so I asked him if I could review the 1+1. That’s how this review came about, and I’m very glad I got a chance to hear this special speaker.
When the 1+1 arrived, I was surprised by two things before I even plugged them in. First, they weren’t that much bigger than “The ONE” speakers. The 1+1 is a truncated, beveled trapezoidal shape, weighing well under eight pounds apiece, and are just 8 inches high, 9.75 inches deep, and a scant 6 inches wide. Like I said they aren’t much bigger than “The ONE” and very small even as mini-monitors go. The second surprise was how beautiful they were; the overall build-quality was very luxurious. The side panels had a rich, high gloss wood grain finish that looked as good as any speaker finish I have ever seen. The front and rear panel, as well as the top of the little gem-like looking speaker, was a very deep-black gloss finish. The 1+1’s enclosure isn’t a rectangular box; it has non-parallel front and rear baffles as well as angled sides for diffraction. The 1+1 rear panel has a single pair of five-way gold-plated binding posts. The front and back panels have magnetic mounting grills to cover the driver, but there are no grills for the side firing passive speakers. Since you can’t tell they need a grill when they aren’t on, I prefer the look of the speakers without the grills.
Like “The ONE,” the 1+1 is built around Audience’s own 3-inch A3S full range drivers. These special little drivers have a total moving mass of only 2.5 grams. Their cone material is made from a titanium alloy to provide strength and rigidity. They also use a very large magnet/motor structure for a 3-inch speaker. This combined with the light weight of the cone assure response times that Audience says will rival electrostatic panels. Of course, there is also the advantage that all single-driver speakers have no crossovers.
As you would expect from its name, the Audience ClairAudient 1+1 uses two A3S drivers. One faces forward while the other one is mounted on the back of the enclosure and fires to the rear. The two A3S drivers are in phase with each other, resulting in a bi-pole arrangement. This should result in several advantages over the single-driver “The One.” The two drivers increases the 1+1’s power-handling capabilities as well as its sensitivity. The two-driver configuration also should provide more bass. To further augment the bass, the 1+1 also have a pair of passive drivers mounted on each side of the enclosure. All the drivers are still operating full range so even though it’s not a single driver speaker, but in fact a four-driver speaker; it still has no crossover.
I started with them in my digital/video system that consists of an Electrocompaniet PI 2D integrated amplifier with a built-in DAC and a built-in USB DAC. This powers a pair of
Teresonic Magus A55 with Lowther Alnico drivers. The sources are a Direct TV HiDef DVR and a Mac Mini with a Drobo with over 7 Terabytes of hard drive space that is plugged into the PI 2D. There is also a Marantz Blu-ray Player and a Sony 4K Video Player.
Since John said to compare his Audience ClairAudient 1+1 to the Quad 57 I also used them in my reference system that consist of a pair of Teresonic Ingenium XR Silver, a Pass Labs XA30.8 amp, the SoundSmith SG-220 Strain-Gauge preamp and cartridge mounted in an AMG Viella V12 turntable system.
I need to start by saying that like the Quad 57, the Audience “The ONE” and ClairAudient 1+1 are both best used for near-field listening in larger rooms. In my 2013 Review of the Audience “The ONE” speaker, I said, “The ONE” speakers were far and away the best speakers I had set on my desk . . .” and “Their midrange is truly beautiful. They are one of the least colored speakers I have heard, but not analytical at all. In fact, just the opposite: They let you hear the timbre, tone, and colors of music in a way that is easy to listen to. They have plenty of detail, especially at low levels.”
So how much improvement does the 1+1 give us? The answer is simple; a lot. In general it plays louder, sounds fuller, has a bigger soundstage and is more emotionally involving. This review isn’t a comparison of the two speakers from Audience though; the 1+1 is good enough to be compared to any speaker with a lack of low-frequency extension.
The ClairAudient 1+1 are worthy of whatever associated gear or cables you can afford to pair with them. Which leaves Audience with the problem in regard to their relatively modest pricing. I’ve seen this problem before with speakers that inexpensive, and perspective owners severely underestimate how they could sound with appropriate equipment. There are speakers out there only a little bigger and that don’t play any deeper that cost as much as $7,000, for example, the Raidho Acoustics X-1. It is an excellent speaker but because of its price and even more the cost of other Raidho speakers, people usually use them with very expensive gear. I promise you that the Audience 1+1 deserve equally good equipment. Here is the good news though, the 1+1s are just slightly more forgiving. This is not enough difference to ever say they aren’t as fast, quick or detailed, but it does allow you to start with less expensive gear and move up when you can afford it.
How the ClairAudient 1+1 sounded in my Reference System
The ability of the 1+1 to produce a reach-out-and-touch-someone soundstage was the best I’ve heard in my house for speakers under $17,000 and maybe just as good as any. Their inner detail and imaging were also in the same class as speakers at any price. Well, let’s talk about some specific examples of how these speakers sound.
The top-end of the Audience ClairAudient 1+1 surprised me at how good it sounded for a 3-inch full range driver. It was nicely extended, fast, smooth, delicate and most of all effortless. The 1+1 passed my top-end test with flying colors. It never drew attention to itself, and I expected it to be not extended; what a pleasant surprise. I found string instruments, cymbals, and the treble end of the piano to all sound very open, airy, and most of all like themselves. The sound of the 1+1 was articulate, with very natural timbre, and beautifully transparent. Best of all they never sounded analytical or etched. I could go on and on about how good the midrange of this speaker is, but let me simply say there are very few speakers with this kind of midrange.
The more time I spent with the Audience ClairAudient 1+1, the more I begin to believe that the only thing that kept these little speakers from being world class at any price is their inherent low-frequency roll-off. In my reference system with them sitting on stands out from the wall, they started rolling off at about 90Hz. In my digital video system with them sitting closer to the walls they seem to go down into the 60Hz range.
When using them in my digital/video system, I made an interesting discovery. The ClairAudient 1+1 mated extremely well with my TBI Audio Systems Magellan VIP subwoofers. So I added them to my reference system and voila! I had a speaker that was truly world class for less than $5,000. We now had a speaker that truly competed with a pair of Wayne Picquet’s Restored Quad ESL 57. Truth is this system plays deeper and does not suffer from the beaming of the Quad 57. Still, even with the subs the ClaireAudiet1+1s are limited in ultimate macro-dynamics and how loud they will play.
Listening to the Audience ClairAudient 1+1 speakers is truly a beautiful experience. These speakers in many ways totally shocked me. As much as I liked Audience “The ONE” speakers I did not expect the ClairAudient to raise the bar so high. It is very hard to believe that a pair of mini-monitors selling for under $1,800 a pair, weighing less than eight pounds, would be able to compete with and best in many areas with speakers that cost over five figures. If you are looking for a world-class speaker for small to medium-sized rooms or even much larger rooms for near-field listening, I can’t think of speakers that I would recommend over these with a pair of TBI subwoofers. Even without the subs these are great speakers in small to medium-sized rooms. The highest recommendation!
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