Publisher Profile

Clarisys Audio Interview

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Doug Schroeder interviews Florian Wiegand of Clarisys Audio. This is a companion piece to the upcoming Clarisys Audio Minuet planar ribbon speaker system Review.

1. What is the story behind Clarisys Audio? How did the company begin? It appears it is an attempt to resurrect and improve upon Apogee Audio. Please clarify.

The company was founded around 2012 in order to supply Apogee Acoustics replacement parts for DIY as this was not fully offered (treble, midrange, bass). Due to a technical design failure with Apogee, every original speaker needed to have their bass panels replaced. After successfully supplying these parts and restoring many Apogee speakers, the company went on to design clones and subsequently created completely new speakers as an evolutionary product now known as Clarisys Audio. At the heart, the founding fathers of Clarisys Audio are hardcore Apogee Acoustics (1981 – 1999) fans.

2. Who are the principles at Clarisys, and what is their background the industry?

The principles are Bac, Florian, Bao, Paolo and Kurt. Our background is in information systems technology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and finance. All share a common history, the passion for full range ribbon speakers and their restoration as well as rebirth.

3. What is the significance of the name “Clarisys”? Why was the name “Minuet” chosen for this speaker?

Clari (derivated from Clarity) Sys (derived from Systems) was chosen as a major attribute (Clarity in sound). The name Minuet is because we thought it’s a “small” instrument. The speaker is the smallest in our line-up and it also encourages one to dance to the music. Just the listener and the music playing in the room.

4. Please describe the type of audiophile who would enjoy a Clarisys speaker.

Any lover of music who does not limit his or herself to one specific genre.

5. It is laudable that Clarisys supports a local charity in Vietnam, as the speakers are built there. What led you to the decision to manufacture Clarisys speakers in Vietnam? What is the local charity supported?

Clarisys was founded in Vietnam, we do not “outsource” production. The mechanical engineering and assembly are done in Vietnam. The requirements engineering, the prototyping is done in Switzerland. The Distribution is done via a collaboration between Switzerland and the United States.

6. Please discuss two or three of the advantages of a true ribbon speaker versus other types of dipole speakers.

Advantage 1: The aluminum drivers are corrugated and act like springs. In contrast to electrostatics for example the driver always goes back to its resting position when no signal is applied and under normal use the driver does not overstretch and loose high frequency over time.

Advantage 2: The entire frequency range is reproduced by the same material, same carrier material and using the same motor structure. This allows for a coherency only matched by a single panel/unit driver. But in contrast to other designs, our speakers can produce staggering dynamics and full range sound.

Advantage 3: Our bass drivers are not rectangular but sloped on the side. The drivers are only mounted on the vertical; and not on all four sides. This allows us to minimize resonance frequencies and avoid standing waves which exist on regular panel speakers.

7. Typically, the smaller that a dipole speaker’s bass driver is, the more inhibited it is in the lower frequencies. The Minuet has a rather small bass driver, yet it has lower extension than many larger dipole speakers? What design factors contribute to that?

We have no rectangular bass panels coupled with the fact that we use a neodymium motor structure. We also must consider the distance to the magnet grid, the tensioning of the panel, the hardwood clamps and the aluminum substructure. In short, its actually build extremely well.

8. What material is being used for the diaphragm? How has the diaphragm changed over the years from the original Apogee speakers?

It has changed very little; we use Aluminum foil with a Kapton carrier. Our specialty is that our bass panels are double sided. It’s a sandwich of “Aluminum, Kapton and Aluminum.” This is our key for the tremendous bass response you hear even with our smallest model and unlike some others in the same space, we don’t use Mylar in the bass and call it a full ribbon speaker.

9. There seem to be copper leads embedded in the bass driver’s diaphragm, and aluminum traces running at a 90-degree angle to them. I believe the bass driver is discussed as being two-sided. Please explain these features and how they are advantageous.

The copper foil is only used to carry the signal to -and from the panel as well as the internal/external crossover. The copper foil is clamped by force to the driver, to avoid solder joints. The main advantage of the doublesided panels is that you get twice the current in the same magnetic field, allowing for much better driver control. The other main advantage is that you get twice the electrical resistance making the speaker much easier to drive. The manufacturing is however much more expensive in parts and labor.

10. One of the images on the Clarisys website shows construction of the copper ribbons, and it appears that they are individual versus all embedded together in one sheet. Consequently, would it be correct to assign a quasi-line array designation to the bass driver’s construction? Please discuss how you describe the technology employed in the bass driver.

The copper ribbon you see are the actual signal returns; they do not move air or generate sound. The midrange/tweeter driver and the bass driver are basically the same. The reason for multi trace ribbons are the higher impedances (the larger the ribbon the easier to drive).

11. There is a perforated metal grid behind the bass driver and solid squares that seem to be fixed to the grid. I presume those squares hold neodymium magnets in place. Was the number/amount of magnets used in the Minuet increased, as compared to the Apogee Caliper?

The magnets are glued to the grid and additionally are held in place by an aluminum sub-grid. This serves the purpose of perfectly aligning the magnets, something you would unfortunately never find on an original Apogee. As an example, the Auditorium uses 478 Neodymium magnets. In direct comparison the magnetic field is about 13 times stronger. When I met Andy L (former technical director of Apogee Acoustics); he commented on how he wished he could have used Neodymium back in the day, and I agree. By the way, it was an honor to meet the man behind my personal dream speakers for twenty years. I still own two of seven pairs of the Apogee Acoustisc GRAND worldwide. We still keep in touch.

12. The grid and the squares that presumably hold the magnets cover most of the rear of the driver. I estimate that perhaps 80% or more of the driver is obstructed from firing back toward the head wall. Please discuss this design parameter and how it effects the perception of the speaker’s sound versus dipoles which have a less obstructed rear wave launch.

It is a necessity of the design. The advantage lies in the front, where we don’t hinder the front wave or direct sound. This is unique to our design now compared to other manufacturers in the same space. The total coverage is less than 80% but we keep actual figures internally.

13. Please discuss the design of the integral stand and its importance sonically.

The feet are mounted to an internal aluminum subframe. This makes the speaker very rigid and allows resonance to be dispatched to the feet and ground. The feet include a silicon pad which further reduced vibration and noise. The metal feet don’t screw onto a wooden frame; but instead are precisely jointed with the aluminum subframe, like one single piece.

14. I presume there is a crossover on the bass driver. At what frequency is the crossover set and what order? Please discuss the integration of these two drivers.

On the minuet, the passive crossover is inside the speaker and it’s a two way. On all the other models, the crossover is external. We use the same 1 st order 6db crossover on every model we sell and its centered around 500Hz. The midrange starts at -6db @ 250Hz. It is a phase coherent design and very simple. The bass driver plays up to 750Hz so you get a nice overlap. Due to the fact that the drivers are the same, the integration is seamless.

15. The tweeter seems to have squiggly copper traces on an aluminum ribbon. What is the purpose for the wiggly copper traces?

These are the signal returns for a multi trace ribbon.

16. The Minuet uses neodymium magnets. Please share the advantages of using such magnets. The specifications also state the efficiency “with the neodymium option”. Is there a different version available with common ferromagnetic magnets?

In Europe, we keep offering the “Ferrite” version of the Minuet as the more affordable entry point into our brand. The difference lies in the magnets used, width of ribbon drivers, the lack of the platform between the speakers and a thinner aluminum frame. We gathered feedback from the market in a very quick manner, and adapted our production. The neodymium magnets are about 13 times stronger which is a huge advantage in driver control and power requirements.

17. The second image under the website’s “Insights” page shows a square board with a machine tooling it. It does not appear to be a crossover board. Is it perhaps one of the magnet holders that would end up behind the bass driver? Please explain.

That’s the actual crossover board. We CNC cut all traces for the circuits which are then filled with copper foil. We use the same copper foil for the crossover circuits, the speaker cables and the signal ribbon returns.

18. Dipole speakers have a reputation as being difficult to drive. The Minuet’s specifications indicate 4.25 Ohms and 88dB sensitivity. What are your recommendations in terms of type and power of amplifier?

At least 50 Watt per Channel and stable down to 4ohm. We used a 50 Watt per Channel Jadis integrated with great success at a recent show in Belgium. We do offer a list of recommended components on our website; those are manufacturers we tried and liked, but of course, there are many great available combinations.

19. The outboard crossover network for the Auditorium appears to use ribbon leads to the speaker. Does that suggest Clarisys prefers flat conductor speaker cables? Should customers be concerned about which speaker cables they use when pairing particular amps with the Minuet Speakers?

Yes, my favorite brand does not exist anymore, it was Magnan by David Magnan. Great cables! We also can recommend Shunyata Research (our speakers have a grounding system developed in partnership with Shunyata Research) and Signal Projects from England/Greece.)

20. Michael Bovaird of Suncoast Audio instructed me to begin setup with the speakers at a minimum of 4’ from the head wall and the speakers parallel to the head wall, with no toe in. Please explain why these recommendations are given for initial setup. Does Clarisys suggest that the Minuet has superior performance when not toed in?

Funny fact, Americans tend to prefer no toe-in and European prefer toe-in.

As a starting point, I recommend a distance of 5 feet from the head wall, stereo triangle to your ears, and 0.2 inch of toe in.

I once got a good explanation that it has to do with the way we listen to music. From a measurement perspective very little changes with toe-in except the high frequency output. The speaker is voiced to be placed in parallel to the backwall. Depending on its surroundings, the toe-in can help improve focus. We always recommend to keep them the way it sounds best to you.

21. Is there an acoustic functionality to the aluminum fins on the speaker’s bass driver, or are they largely cosmetic and to protect the driver?

Its cosmetics and protection.

22. Did Clarisys experiment with different lengths and widths of tweeter ribbons, or was the goal to approximately follow the parameters of the similar Apogee speakers, i.e., design of the Minuet mirroring the Apogee Caliper.

We experimented a lot over many years and the ribbons are actually wider than the original Apogees. The Minuet, Studio Plus and Auditorium is actually based on the Apogee Acoustics GRAND speaker system. There are 7 pairs in the world, and Florian (one of our principles) owns 2 pairs.

23. What would you say to someone who suggests that ribbon speakers like Apogee have historically shown aging and reliability problems, and thus the genre of ribbon speakers is less reliable than other genres?

I would say that their technical understanding is limited. The original Apogee had one downside, and that was the damping foam between the bass panel clamps. There are companies who “restore” old Apogees and we found out that they tend to use the same rotting foam again. That just blew our mind! Clarisys Audio uses wider damping stripes, and we use piano felt, which does not age, rot or disintegrate under various thermal conditions. Should a ribbon ever come loose, we provide a manual tensioning system for the end-user. The original speaker was build from MDF which also disintegrates and ages. Our aluminum subframe will not have this problem.

24. At the time of the review an Owner’s Manual was not available. Will one be available online in the future?

Its on the to-do list ☺

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2 Responses to Clarisys Audio Interview

  1. Ken Basar says:

    So, against the advice of the dealer, I decided to experiment with toe-In. I now have the speakers positioned from the sidewall:
    27″ to the base front and 26″ to the base back.
    Seems to lock in the soundstage better!

  2. Ken,
    God’s Peace,

    Now the dealer will know you violate advice! Oh, well, they will just have to accept you as a radical customer. 😉

    Your positioning will result in a tighter and slightly more dense imaging to the center, but also a bit smaller, tucked in a bit from the edges. It’s lovely as an alternative to the more spread and somewhat thinner center image of the standard position of the speakers. This is true for almost all dipoles. It’s the opposite of an omnidirectional speaker which resists being focused in the sound stage.

    You may wish to consider at some point passively bi-amping, as it is a benefit, very audible improvement.

    A tip for the community of dipole users. For those with large, i.e., 6′ (2M) or so tall panel speakers, and even line arrays or quasi-line arrays like the Legacy Audio Whisper, consider tipping them slightly forward. I use coasters that are about .25″ thick placed at the back of the speaker’s footers to tilt the front baffle slightly toward me. Along with toe in the effect of tightening and solidifying the sound stage as well as focusing the bass response if upper and lower bass drivers are used is sensational! It’s another “not recommended” way to actually get superior sound. Where did I learn this? I try things to see what happens! Several times the result has been better, imho, than the received wisdom. It has a similar effect for very large speakers of the backward slope of shorter speakers. It is a similar tactic to achieve a different result in the vertical plane versus horizontal plane. I ensured that I would have that potential available to me for the Landscape Orientation speaker setup that I have written about in such reviews as the PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 Speakers.

    If anyone wishes to argue about time alignment, etc. I have zero interest in such discussion.

    It’s all a great deal of fun! Enjoy!

    Douglas Schroeder

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