Clearwave Loudspeaker Design
Today we have Clearwave Audio, not a name that comes to mind when you think of speakers. This company is one of the many new speakers companies that are doing factory direct which hopefully means better quality at lower prices as distributors and dealers are cut out of the loop.
I had never heard of Clearwave Audio except for an add here and there that I ran across on various audio forums. Fast forward to the Lone Star Audio Fest (LSAF) held in Dallas every year. I was contacting manufacturers to try and drum up some more venders for the event and so I contacted Jed Kunz at clearwavespeakers.com about him coming to Texas to show his wares.
Well as it worked out he could not make it but he did send me a pair of his speakers to review and I decided to take them to the show to get others opinions.
If you want get your feet wet at an audio show that will not cost you an arm and a leg and get to talk audio , listen to music, meet new friends, and have just a great time , Google Lone Star Audio Fest (LSAF) and come on down.
The speakers arrived about a week before the LSAF with 12 hours playing time on them. Jed said 200 hrs. were needed, so I didn't have the time to do this before the show but straight out the box you can tell these were something special.
Talk about packaging, these things were doubled boxed in two boxes with the second box being a huge home depot moving box and enough foam to build a medium model home. Luckily my SUV had enough room to hold both boxes.The samples that I received were in a black ash finish. The cabinets were almost your basic box, nothing fancy save for the curved front edges. They did have quite a bit of heft to them as they weigh 26 pounds apiece. The Duets are also available in a beautiful rosewood finish pictured below. No extra charge.
Size: 8.25"W X 13.5"H X 12.25" D, Weight: 26 lbs. ea.
Frequency Response: 42hz-25khz (43hz box tuning frequency)
Impedance: 8ohm (flat impedance response)
Minimum Power Requirements: 25watt (tube) 50watt (solid state). 85db 2.83v/1meter
The feature list is long and what you would expect from a high end speaker.
Accuton 6" woofer
Accuton 1" tweeter
Low parts count crossover using the following parts:
ERSE air core inductors
Clarity Cap MR in tweeter signal path
Clarity Cap ESA everywhere else
Mundorf Supreme resistor in signal path(tweeter)
Mundorf 10 watt resistors everywhere else
Cardas soldering all point to point from binding posts to drivers
High-end Supra wiring
Cardas copper binding posts with gold plating
Custom engraved binding post plate and port ring to lower resonance.
Double thick 2" baffles
1" material everywhere else with vertical bracing
Flared port for low noise
Proprietary damping material to turn vibration into heat
I asked designer/owner Jed Kunz of Clearwave Audio to tell me something about himself, below is a small excerpt.
“Before I chose to become a speaker designer, I could have simply lived with what's out there as an audiophile, but my quest to get it just right led me to where I am today. This perseverance allowed me to learn so much about the process of designing and engineering a loudspeaker. I've found that speaker building truly is a science and an art form. That's not an easy duality to merge together, but when it does happen after countless hours of research and listening, there's a lot of satisfaction from not only myself, but others who enjoy the clean sound that Clearwave speakers portray.”
Let's get to fun part of the review and see if Jed has done himself justice.
Lee Morgan “Candy”
Kathy Mattea “Coal”
Vienna Teng “Waking Hours”
Stevie Ray Vaughan “Couldn't Stand The Weather”
Before I get into the sound of the Duet 6 speakers I must mention that I made a major change to the sound of my system. While my Usher speakers had the Be (beryllium) tweeters I was always in love with the Dmd (diamond) tweeters because of their greater resolution power and being a tad bit more forward sounding.
DUET 6 REAR
With this said, my first overall impression of the sound was a black background, speakers totally disappeared (eyes open or closed), seamless transition from mid-bass driver to tweeter, balanced, detailed sound without any edginess. The bass was much larger than what you would expect from a speaker this size.
Overall, I have to say my favorite genre his female vocal, so I plop in Kathy Mattea's “Coal” CD. I didn't want to get into instruments yet so I played the last track, “Black Lung/Coal which is mostly sans instruments. Kathy's voice came from a black background with pin point imaging, very natural sounding with none of that “ssssss” sound you get from a lot of speakers now days. There was a natural decay that led you into the next note with clear cutoffs. On “Red-Winged Blackbird” you can hear the energy projected by Kathy, it glues you to your seat and brings forth emotions that might have been held back for some time. This energy can also be heard in “Lawrence Jones”.
“Dark As a Dungeon" is on a sad note but it does have a nice flowing tempo to it, with a good blend of vocal and instrumental work that is just so relaxing.
Although this CD is about a sad subject, you can really get into the music as the production is clear and very balanced.
Now on to a happier note with Vienna Teng and her “Waking Hour” release. I went to “Gravity” first and what jumped out was how silent the background was. This is something you don't realize until the first time you hear it then game's on because from then on this is the first thing you listen for. Reminds me when the Sony Trinitron computer monitor was hot. You would read how great the picture was then it was mentioned that there was a line going across the screen because of a shadow from a mounting wire and from that moment on whenever I looked at a Trinitron the first thing I saw was that stinkin' line.
Enough, back to the music. Listening to “Say Uncle”, the piano at the start is clear and dynamic, then as Vienna chimes in there is a seamless transition between instrument and voice. There is a certain sweetness to her honest intonations and phrasings that brings tears to your eyes. The speakers are able to convey emotion, a quality that surprisingly is often missing, but one that speaks to the soul of this gift we call music. Without it, you might as well be listening to female robots.
Very impressive was the piano on “Decade and One”, with the notes being so easy to hear due to them having plenty of air around them. Another thing I noticed was the percussive action of the hammers striking the strings as you could hear each string as it starts to vibrate. Incidental note: the piano is classified as a percussion instrument, not because the pianist "strikes" the keys with his fingers as many people think, rather because the hammers strike the strings. Stick with Stereomojo, you'll learn a lot! Ha!
I can not say enough about the incredible sound stage as instrument cues and Vienna’s lovely voice would just appear to come from my front wall. When she sang, the little Duets sang as well.
A lot of you will probably know Stevie Ray Vaughan's “Tin Pan Alley” as it is one of many audiophile standards used to show off systems at shows and a lot of you may be tired of it because of this reason. This didn't stop me as I love it! It's a real eye opener when you hear that pounding bass line behind Stevie’s great guitar work and then there's the dynamic snap of the drums when coming through the Duets, or should I say my front wall, was very moving. Another incidental note: Stevie Ray was just posthumously elected to the rock 'n roll Hall of Fame.
The drum work on Lee Morgan's “Candy” had an eerie element to it as it was deep into the sound stage and oh so real sounding. Then there was the trumpet that had that brass bite to it and the tonality was spot on. You could hear the air coming through the trumpet on 'Since I Fell For You” The Duets are very detailed without being grating on your ears with hard edges and jagged outlines, in fact their detail ability makes the music sound live.
When I listen to speakers or for that matter any piece of equipment there are certain things I listen for, such as: tonality, high end extension, clean tight bass, transition between bass, midrange, treble, and balance from extreme to extreme. Secondly I listen for sound stage depth, height, width..
Needless to say the Clearwave Audio Duet 6 speakers met all of my criteria with flying colors. The only thing that bugged me some was I had read about ceramic drivers being fragile with tales of owners of speakers with ceramic drivers making them “explode” thus being as expensive as the drivers are I was hesitant to drive them hard as I did not know their limits.
I put this question to Jed and got this reply: “Things will start distorting and voice coils will burn up from abuse before these latest ceramic cones (as used in the Duet 6) will fail, according to Accuton. I've not had a single failure from playing them within normal to highly spirited levels with an amplifier that supplies enough power for the intended levels. A clipping amplifier will inflict harm on any driver-- whether it be ceramic, paper, or aluminum. Publisher's Note: Jed is correct. That's why we constantly advocate thoughtful and careful amp/speaker matching.An amp that's working too hard will fail sooner. If it does not have adequate power or gain to properly control the speaker, distortion will be created in one form or another. But distortion is sneaky and not always obvious. Your ears won't tell you, "Ouch! Too much distortion!". What they will tell you is after distortion has exhausted them is, "You know, there's probably other things we could be doing right now...why don't we go rearrange your sock drawer." You will find yourself distracted instead of immearsed and you will just wander away from the listening session. Same thing with impedance matching.
The Duet 6 is rated at 85db 2.83v/1meter sensitivity. Jed states that Minimum Power Requirements are 25watt (tube) 50watt (solid state). Sounds about right, depending on your room size, of course.
Jed continues; "I've never had a customer complain about limited headroom or report a failure, either. That includes playing them up to the driver's physical xmax, which is a healthy +/- 5mm. They are not PA speakers, however. I do not recommend taking them to rock concert levels in an auditorium sized room, just like you wouldn't for any other small to midsized 2-way monitor. So, if it's uncomfortably loud, turn it down and save your ears. The Duet 6 is about refinement, dynamics, and being truthful to the recording at levels appropriate for a home setting.”
The good news is there is a 5 year non-transferable warranty and returns for certain stocked and new items that are not made to order, 15 days less shipping costs. “Please contact us prior to purchase to see if the item you are interested in carries a 15 day audition period. Otherwise, “All Sales Are Final” said Jed.
All in all this was a great pair of speakers to which to listen and were a joy to have in my listening room. Very musical, accurate, detailed, balanced, and while not full range they did provide enough bass to surprise and meet my needs in the size room I have. They also look and feel more expensive than they are, especially in the rosewood finish. Give them a try you might be surprised also.
Speakers: Usher Dancer Mini 2 Dmd with MG Audio Design Planus 2 cables
Amp: Consonance Cyber 800 tube mono blocks with MG Audio Design Planus Cu2
Preamp: Belles 21a with auricaps and Radiotechnique 12AU7WA/6189
Transport: Virtue Audio Piano M1 CDP
Dac: Grant Fidelity Tubedac 11 with Gold Lion reissue 6922 and MG Audio Design
Power cables: Cullen, Swiss cables, and custom cable from Silk Audio.
Stands: Atlantis Pro 28” heavily weighted.
Room: 12'x15'x8' with diy room treatments.
Placement: 50” from front wall and 33” from side walls.