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Audience ClairAudient 1+1 mini-monitors Review & Interview

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This is a story about evolution: How I became a better listener, how the product I’ve been listening to improved, and how my experience improved as I got to know the product. The product central to this story is the Audience ClairAudient 1+1, an eight-inch tall, eight-pound dual full-range driver monitors from a southern California company called Audience.

About Audience

Audience has been around for over 25 years and is the brainchild of John McDonald (CEO), the late Richard Smith, and designer, Roger Sheker. According to Audience, “The number one compromise in most speakers is the ubiquitous crossover.” The laws of physics have frustrated many designers’ attempts to build a full-range loudspeaker using wideband drivers with no crossovers, but that did not stop Sheker.

His breakthrough came in 2009 with the Audience “A3” driver. Think of it like a high-powered subwoofer driver shrunk to less than three inches in diameter. Its linear excursion and power handling are on par with drivers more than twice its size. The current A3S2-16 model covers the range from 40 Hz to 22 kHz with impressive linearity.

The first loudspeaker system from Audience to use A3 drivers was the ClairAudient 16+16. As the name suggests, it was a massive line array consisting of two columns of sixteen A3 drivers per side. It covered the range from 80 Hz to 20 kHz. The 16 + 16 Mark II later added eight 6 x 9-inch passive radiators, extending its range down to 30 Hz. This behemoth was over six feet tall, fifteen inches wide, and a foot deep. It sold for $72,000.

About Me

My first exposure to full-range sound reproduction came from a pair of 200-watt Pioneer HPM-100 speakers. They belonged to a high school friend’s father, an engineer at Ampex and my mentor at that time for audio, computers, and woodworking. I’ve since spent my audiophile career chasing an experience to match that seminal aural encounter. So far, nothing has lived up to it, and, likely, nothing ever will. Such is the way of first-times.

The HPM-100 was a 4-way design with a twelve-inch woofer (closer to 13 inches as drivers are measured today). It was complex and beautiful and set me on a path and preference for multi-way loudspeakers with large drivers. Eight years after I graduated from college, I could finally afford my dream loudspeaker system, the Legacy Audio FOCUS. The original model had three (3) twelve-inch woofers, a pair of seven-inch Kevlar midbass drivers, a large dome tweeter, and a LEAF ribbon tweeter. I enjoyed my FOCUS for a decade before upgrading to the SE model. I’ve owned some version of these massive towers for over twenty-two years.

Given my decades-long preference for large, 4-way systems, you would conclude that I’m not the ideal candidate for a 1-way speaker system with only a pair of 3-inch drivers, but stay with me. A few years ago, Phil Jackson from Parasound suggested I try the Fritz Carrera 7 BE monitors. This is a seven-inch 2-way design with a series crossover and beryllium tweeter. Designer John (Fritz) Heiler personally delivered a pair for me to audition. It did not take long for me to hear the difference in coherency between the two systems.

The problem with coherency is that once you hear it, you can never “unhear” it. In my 15.5 x 10.1 ft listening room, the farthest I could sit from the speakers was eight feet from ear to tweeter. Although the FOCUS SE is an excellent loudspeaker, that’s too close for the six drivers to integrate. Compared to the Fritz, the big towers now sounded like stadium speakers in that room. So, I boxed up the Legacy Audio towers, moved them to storage, and I’ve not listened to them since.

In all my years as a listener, I never imagined that I would prefer a 2-way stand-mounted system to my large 4-way towers, but there I was. While I could not be happier with the Carrera 7 BE monitors, the “ah ha” experience left me wondering if there are a few more unexplored miles on this road to coherency nirvana. If my listening habits were forever changed by moving from 4-way designs to 2-way, what could I learn by spending some time with 1-way speakers?

6 Responses to Audience ClairAudient 1+1 mini-monitors Review & Interview

  1. Hello,
    As an enthusiastic AUDIENCE dealer, I found your review of the ClairAudient 1+1 V5 and interview with John MacDonald to be informative and inciteful.
    Thank You,
    Isadore Nudell/ Codell Audio

  2. David Sturdevant says:

    Great review. I’d like to hear your thoughts on best amplification for the 1+1 V5s. How much, what kind? I’ve long had The Ones in a desktop setup; with condo downsizing am considering V5s as main speakers.

    • Bill says:

      I would also like to hear some user experience in amplification for the 1+1s. McIntosh has a new series of hybrid amps and integrated amps. Atmosphere, know for OTL amps now makes class D amps which are receiving high praise. So many different amps out there now.

  3. David C. Snyder says:

    Hi Isadore,

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m confident that your customers will love the new V5’s. I’d encourage you to reach out to your existing customers to let them know about the upgrade opportunity. The previous versions were already great, but at the cost of a little efficiency, the V5 offers a completely different level of performance.

    — David

  4. JonK says:

    I’ve got a pair of 1+1 v3 for about 3 years. Very good sound for their size, which is their most impressive feature but didn’t think they were crazy amazing … so 3 years of “nice” listening. But it changed few months ago. I started fooling with their spacing from EACH other and from the BACK wall. Apparently these need to be several feet from the back wall and well separated. Once that happened, they transformed into “oh my god” speakers. Wow. Went from 5′ separation to about 7′ separation and 1.5′ to 2.5′ from back wall. Night and day difference. They’re about 8′ from the listening spot, and slightly canted inward to create a larger sweet spot. Yeah, the hype is really true but you need to get the spacing right, especially distance from the back wall. Also, they tended to open up sonically after several months. I’m planning on getting the v5 upgrade shortly.

  5. Hans Hoppeler says:

    Thanks David for an excellent review on the Audience 1+1. I am sold on coherence. The Audience 1+1 V4 are standing each 10in atop a SVS 3000 micro subamp. The speaker combo is 4ft from the back wall and 8ft apart. Listening area is at 20ft from speakers. I delt with the 2k emphasis with the insertion of a Schiit mini loko between my Shindo preamp and my Audio Mirror SET amp. This is audio heaven for me for all the reasons you mention in your review. I am totally confident that I hear what is there and I am sorry for those who spend big dollars for less. In the rare instances I need more than 84dB at my listening space I use my Klipschorns.

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