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Audience ClairAudient 1+1 mini-monitors Review & Interview

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Do You Need a Subwoofer?

Do you need a subwoofer with the ClairAudient 1+1? With Version 4, and, likely, earlier versions, I would say yes. I chose a pair of SVS 3000 Micro subs (truly excellent for audiophile applications) to support my evaluation of the V4 model. One of the great things about the 3000 Micro sub is how easy it is to get things dialed in using the SVS mobile app. After about fifteen minutes of adjusting various parameters from my listening position, I arrived at a low-pass filter starting at 137 Hz with a 6 dB/octave slope. I ran the 1+1s full-range. I’ve never operated a subwoofer so high, but the little SVS subs could pull it off and still disappear, creating the illusion that all of the bass energy was coming from the tiny speakers just a few feet away.

However, the voicing circuit in the new V5 transforms the speaker. So much so that, with thoughtful placement and realistic expectations about playback levels, subwoofer integration is optional. Regardless of room size, set the speakers five feet away and four feet apart. Better if you can also set your listening position less than thirty inches from the back wall. Unless you routinely listen above 90 dB, you’ll only be missing the first octave and some room pressurization without a subwoofer. Such placement may not align with your decor, but recall that the ClairAudient 1+1 only weighs eight pounds. They are easy to put away after your listening sessions. The V5 will reward this extra effort with soundstage, imaging, clarity, and tone unlike anything you’ve heard. At least that’s been my experience, especially with good recordings.

The back half of my new loft listening room opens to the floor below. As such, the best sound is in the front half of the room. I placed the V5 on 30-inch stands about six feet in front of the back wall, four feet apart, and a little over five feet from speaker to ear. Even with the back wall thirteen feet behind me in this 24 x 15-foot room, I experienced satisfying bass and dynamics with most music. I found it challenging to integrate subwoofers in a way that did not sacrifice the excellent pitch definition and speed that the V5 delivers on its own. As before, I got close with the SVS 3000 Micro subs, but a friend dropped off a miniDSP SHD for me to try. The SHD is a streaming preamp with integrated active crossover and room correction DSP. Even without activating Dirac Live digital room correction features, I achieved excellent integration. The key was adding a few milliseconds of time delay to the signal driving the main speakers. Accurate time alignment preserved the delightful top-to-bottom coherency for which the ClairAudient 1+1 is known while filling out that first octave and pressurizing the room.

While I almost never heard unpleasant sounds when pushing the V5, using the SHD to add a 30 dB/octave high-pass filter at 45 Hz enabled me to push them harder. I connected the second pair of SHD output channels to the LFE inputs on my subwoofers and added a symmetrical 30 dB/octave low-pass filter. Upon doing this, I realized that I’d actually “made” a 2-way speaker system. However, unlike typical 2-way systems, the crossover was well below the critical vocal range. Because I could add time delay to the main speakers, I could place the subs where they worked best while preserving time coherency.

The SHD has several preset banks, so I stored the setup described above, with the subs and crossovers, in one preset and created a second for the V5 to run full range with subs disabled. I was astonished that the two settings were virtually indistinguishable for most albums in my collection at playback levels around 80 dB and below (C-weighted, slow integration). So much so that I got up and placed my ear on the sub several times to confirm that I had not mixed up or misconfigured the presets!

Unlike the V4, I predict that most owners of the V5 will be content without a subwoofer. As I’ve described, integrating subwoofers and crossovers is similar to moving up to the tower version of many popular “bookshelf” speakers, enabling you to play louder and lower. The difference here is that you maintain the exquisite coherency of a 1-way system, so there’s no compromise to soundstage and imaging.

Listening Impressions

Unless otherwise mentioned, my comments on these tracks are with 1+1 V5 running full-range and subwoofers disabled.

“Interlude IV” from Fresh Aire III by Mannheim Steamroller

This Chip Davis recording from 1979 places the listener outside in a wood. As presented by the 1+1, the soundstage runs floor to ceiling and extends well beyond the front wall, already six feet behind the speakers. I tend to listen with my eyes closed, but sounds from distant birds and insects are so realistic that I find myself opening my eyes unconsciously to look for them. Davis had the piano miked to sound larger than life, but I hear more than just the piano, insects, and birds; I have a genuine sonic impression that I’m sharing the same air with them.

“You Turn Me on I’m a Radio” from Miles of Aisles by Joni Mitchell

On this HDCD, the L.A. Express backed Mitchell for a set of live performances at Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 1974. The announcer’s voice enters from the right, but its reverberations expand across the soundstage, defining the space and acoustics of the venue. The album begins in earnest with an acoustic guitar and what sounds like a Hammond B3 organ, each clearly delineated back and to the right of center. Mitchell’s voice arrives a bit later, dead-center and with an arresting and soulful presence. The bass guitar and kick-drum taps are tactile and warm yet mud-free. They occupy the same lateral space but are a bit behind her. A slide guitar and keys occupy the left and right edges of the stage, respectively. The lyrics are lonely and longing, but Mitchell sounds like she’s singing with a smile on her face. You can almost feel the warmth of those mid-August days in southern California. Playback could be more convincing if the audience had been recorded so that applause appeared to come from around and behind the listening position.

“It’s Love” on Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green

On this 1959 recording, we have Kenny Burrell on guitar and Ray Brown on bass, so it’s a given that any non-disabled person within earshot will be tapping their feet. I believe this is a studio recording, but the atmosphere presented by the 1+1 is almost club-like. Listening with my eyes closed, I can imagine myself at a fine dinner theater with a great table near the stage. Dearie’s voice and piano are set further back, and while joyful and rhythmic, the runaway stars of the chart are Burrell and Brown.

“Stille Nacht” from Christmas by Till Brönner

Yes. As I type this in August, Christmas is many months away, but this is such an emotionally engaging track that I had to include it. The burnished tone of Brönner’s horn as rendered by the 1+1 is never the slightest bit harsh. This is a simple arrangement of Gruber’s Silent Night with Frank Chastenier on piano and Christian von Kaphengst on bass. I’m not very familiar with these German artists, but their chemistry is undeniable and readily apparent on this album. Without subwoofers, the 1+1 renders all but the bottom bass note with convincing weight and authority at my typical 83 dB playback level. While enjoyable without them, the subs add weight and impact to this poignant performance that is obvious in a direct comparison.

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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