First Impressions are Sometimes Wrong
A few years ago I was at an audio show (RMAF, if memory serves), and I wandered into a room featuring a speaker with which I was not familiar. The speaker, as I learned, was from Lawrence Audio, and it was certainly pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, there was (to my ear) a problem with the high frequencies, a frequency range to which I am especially sensitive. I noted that the speaker used ribbon drivers, and while it was possible that they were distorting, my hunch was that there was a problem with the crossover such that the output of the ribbons was too loud in relation to the lower frequencies. Alternatively (or perhaps in addition), it might well have been the associated equipment and/or room acoustics. Irrespective of the cause the sound was not to my liking so I quickly left, and crossed Lawrence Audio off my mental list of speakers worth pursuing.
Fast forward to the 2014 Chicago Axpona. While comparing notes on good-sounding rooms, two acquaintances recommended the Lawrence Audio room. This took me by surprise — given my prior experience — but I try to keep an open mind, and decided it was worth a second listen. I went to the room and sure enough, they were right: The system, featuring the Lawrence Audio Cello speakers (one model down from the Double Bass, the subject of this review) sounded very good. I have no idea why I reacted so differently from the first time; had the speakers been modified? Was it due to room acoustics? Associated equipment? I have no idea but whatever the reason, I was so impressed that I inquired about doing a review. They responded enthusiastically, and we agreed that based on the size of my listening room, the Double Bass model would be the best choice. When I told them where I lived, they mentioned that they had a dealer in the area – -Xtreme Fidelity. Upon hearing this I had an “aha moment” as I know the two owners of Xtreme Fidelity – Mike Oltz and Tom Canavan, and I suddenly recalled that when I had seen them a few months prior, they mentioned having recently taken on the Lawrence Audio line of speakers. (Because at the time I thought I didn’t like the speakers, I apparently had forgotten it. Selective memory.) A few months later Mike and Tom came over with some hired muscle (Tom’s son, and a young man who is Mike’s neighbor), to deliver the speakers.
Who is Lawrence Audio?
The man behind Lawrence Audio is Lawrence Liao, the sole designer of the entire range of speakers. Based in his native Taiwan, for his “daytime job” Lawrence designs furniture and home interiors, which he has been doing for a few decades. He is also a musician who plays a plethora of instruments, including both strings and woodwinds. I’m told that he is also an accomplished artist. (Because Lawrence is not fluent in English, communications in the U.S. are handled by Angela Yang, the Global Marketing Manager.)
Lawrence Audio speakers fall into two categories (though they are not formally grouped that way on their website). The first group derives its names from birds, and comprises the Eagle, Firebird, and Drongo, each of which uses a ceramic driver for the midrange. The second group derives its names from musical instruments, and comprises (from smallest to largest) the Mandolin, Violin, Cello, and Double Bass. In this latter “musical instrument” category, the two smaller models use ribbon tweeters, the two larger a combination of air-motion transformers (“AMT’s”, sometimes referred to as Heil’s, after their inventor, Dr. Oskar Heil) and ribbon tweeters. As the names suggest, each is shaped like a musical instrument, a topic I will return to later.
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