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Tekton Design Mini-Lore Monitors Review

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From all outward appearances, given what the public knows from images of Tekton Design’s speaker range, one would be hard pressed to immediately identify the Mini-Lore Monitors as part of the family. But, they would be wrong. Absent the inverted tweeter-woofer drivers positioning, these speakers are about as standard in design as one would get from the mind of Eric Alexander, Tekton Design’s Founder and CEO.

I was on a mission after seeing/hearing/experiencing a revival in tube/valve gear and there being a concerted effort to make such equipment somewhat more relatively affordable. Besides the Rogers High Fidelity 65V-1 of which I have written and the Audio Note iZero of which I shall in the near future, there are a host of truly affordable and low power / single-ended triode (SET) amplifiers hitting the market. Regardless of price, all have one thing in common and that’s the need for highly sensitive and efficient speakers. It got me to wondering if an equally affordable pair of speakers meeting those criteria was possible. No doubt about it, the Mini Lore Monitors answered the call.

The speakers are more than the sum of their parts and, as I alluded to earlier, apart from driver placement, nothing much here should knock one over apart from the 5th item on the list. This is taken exactly from the company website. I found it odd that what I consider the most inviting feature, the Mini Lore Monitor’s sensitivity/efficiency is tucked in the middle. From where I sit I would have thought it would have rated being the 1st feature up there. Sensitivity was what first attracted to me Tekton Design as a speaker manufacturer. Known for their unconventional designs and use of drivers (plural), not to be overlooked are Tekton Design’s range of bright colors.

There’s something to be said for efficient speakers, especially if you live in a high-rise apartment building with a lot of neighbors on every side of you. Listening to music at its full measure without the volume doing likewise and aggravating the neighbors is no mean feat. So, besides matching efficient speakers with tube/valve gear there are also other applications. I proceeded to connect the Mini-Lore Monitors to my solid-state gear: Parasound Halo 2.1 160 watts-per-channel integrated amplifier, Bel Canto Design s300 150 watts-per-channel integrated amplifier, McIntosh MAC1700 40 watts-per-channel receiver, PS Audio Sprout 100 40wpc integrated amplifier, and my trusty Tandberg TR200 receiver liberally rated at 20 watts per channel. The speakers held their own and I was truly impressed when paired with the Sprout 100, MAC1700 and Tandberg TR200.

Now let’s get something straight here. There are trade-offs when it comes to highly sensitive efficient speakers, in this case ones rated at 95dB 1W@1m. The stated frequency response of 55Hz – 20kHz isn’t going to win any limbo contests this century or any other for that matter. Readers familiar with my primary listening system know that an SVS SB Ultra16 subwoofer figures prominently in the mix. This, too, will be written up shortly, as I have experienced and learned so much from having it here, which can be summed up in one adjective: Mammoth.

Compromise is not my strong suit, so right here, right now with the Mini Lore Monitors placed on my dependable Pangea DS 400 24” stands, there was no getting around it, these speakers on their own without a capable subwoofer were not going to cut it. There are fuller range, lower frequency speakers in Tekton’s stable, and I knew this full well. Still, higher efficiency stand mount speakers were/are what I’m after and will be writing about.

Pairing these Tekton Design Mini-Lore Monitors with the SVS SB Ultra 16 brought them to life. My chosen subwoofer is of the sealed box variety and it is their top of the line. Having heard SVS’ more relatively economical SB4000 model, I believe that too would/could have done nicely, but I simply went all out. On the subject of price, the speakers cost $625 per pair without grilles, $700 with and if one considers what one’s getting, either way it’s a bargain. There are but a handful of truly sensitive stand-mount speakers priced below $1,000 per pair.

The relative uniqueness of these speakers with respect to the Tekton Design range prompted a number of questions from me to Eric Alexander, the company’s CEO and Founder:

Q: Chicken and Egg. Given that Tekton Design is known for its seemingly unorthodox speaker designs, how did the ostensibly conventional Mini-Lore Monitor come into existence? Do the others speakers take the piss out of them in the shop?

A: I first created the original Lore in 2008. Next, I scaled the Lore theme down in size to meet the needs of clients that were requesting a smaller version, this scaled down model became the Mini-Lore. The next step was an intuitive one as well…. I am also a speaker provider/musician that does a lot of work within the music industry and the local music scene. The Mini-Lore was sounding great and being highly reviewed (about 2011) so it was a natural step to simply produce the Mini-Lore in a studio monitor cabinet size.

For years I’ve stated the larger, more complex loudspeaker models are: “Simply more of a really good thing.” My favorite Mini-Lore Monitor combo is to run them in the 2.1 configuration. In my opinion, two properly placed Mini-Lore Monitors correctly mated to a powerful subwoofer (I use the Tekton Design Cinema Subwoofer here) has the potential to produce ‘world-class’ sound at a loudspeaker total cost coming in under $1,700. It sounds so good it’s hard to wrap your brain around the thing considering the total cost.

Q: As I noted earlier the Mini Lore Monitors are more than the sum of their parts. What have you done in your design to make them so efficient? And why the unique driver placement? They remind me of my Mission 727’s with them having their woofers looking down upon the tweeter.

A: The tweeter located below the woofer is a type of time-alignment. The path length to the listener is corrected when the tweeter is placed below the woofer. The efficiency is obtained by choosing to use 8″ pro audio transducers over audiophile type transducers.

Q: What was/is the motivation for the Mini-Lore Monitor? I know that Tekton makes professional studio monitors and fuller range towers, so what market did/does it have in mind for them? Who do you see as being the audience?

A: We have clients that need a high performance/high efficiency loudspeaker in a reasonably compact package and priced competitively – this is why we produce the Mini-Lore Monitor. The larger professional studio monitors and our larger towers are geared for both the audiophile with a larger space and the music professional.

Q: When voicing these speakers in the shop, which gear do you couple them with? Solid-State? Tube/Valve? Is it one or the other? A combination of both?

A: Measurements and simulations are done exclusively with solid-state amplification that I’ve evaluated for linearity. Design work requires an amplifier that possesses a razor flat frequency response from 10Hz-100kHz and cannot have an output transformer in the signal path. From there, I’ll do the final with a wide variety of amplification. For example: a highly regarded class A solid-state, a 300B tube-based amplifier, a higher powered EL34 based amplifier, and I’ll also want to hear them through a modern class D type amplifier.

To say that I have a few sets of sensitive speakers would be an understatement. Besides listening to the subject of this review on their own, I listened to them in comparison to Klipsch Quartets, Audio Note AX-2s, and Blumenstein Audio Orcas & Marlins. The Mini-Lore Monitors, while being the least expensive of the bunch, could hold their own. The Klipsch Quartets could literally and figuratively stand on their own, the others all benefited greatly from being paired with a subwoofer. Note: the Blumenstein Audio speakers are of the single driver variety.

Readers familiar with me as a writer, an audiophile and as a music lover know full well of my beliefs: both HiFi and music can be wholly subjective and as such I will point to my New Album Releases Facebook group and the most recent list of curated music to which I have been listening and more importantly making use of to evaluate these speakers.

New Album Releases (https://www.facebook.com/groups/newalbumreleases)
Prince – Piano & A Microphone
Medeski, Martin & Wood – Omnisphere
Jonas Kaufmann – An Italian Night
Seasaw – Big Dogs
The Guess Who – The Future Is What It Used to Be
Marc Albrecht – Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben & Burleske
Queer as Folk – Grace Petrie
Raul Midon / Metropole Orkest – If You Really Want
13 Rivers – Richard Thompson
The Chills – Snow Bound
Suede – The Blue Hour
Sunny Sweeney – Big Machine Classics
House of Stairs – House of Stairs
Various Artists – Chicago Plays The Stones
12 Ensemble – Resurrection
Harold Lopez-Nussa – Un Dia Cualquiera
Berti/Ciaccio/Fujiya – Arthur Gottschalk: Art for Two
Macy Gray – Ruby
Slash – Living the Dream
The Pretty Things – Singapore Silk Torpedo
Orrin Evans – Presence

There’s one album in particular that I heartily recommend for its mastery of the bass, and for its sonic beauty. That would be Peter Dominguez’ Groove Dreams. Never before have I been so entranced by an entire album of solo bass pieces. In particular track no. 3 on the album: ‘Bossa Nova Nemo (The Jive Samba)’. This is music to be heard, to be listened to, and to be felt, emotionally and physically. Attention was indeed paid to microphone placement in this recording. And if it is possible for there to be too much of a good thing, I can also recommend Billy Drewes’ Under One Sun as a worthy percussion album.

I can think of a number of reasons to acquire the Mini-Lore Monitor. Being in the market for an affordable, highly sensitive/efficient stand mount comes to mind, as does not having to raise the volume past 11 o’clock. For those with low-power gear and for those embarking on the wonderful journey that is tube/valve, the Mini-Lore Monitors make for an inviting proposition, both sonically and economically.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

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