In my ever-changing avocation I continually try to keep on top of rapidly shifting audio developments here at home and at the same time keep abreast of events abroad. As I have observed these many years, the Pacific Rim, and China in particular have established an ever-growing presence in high-end audio. The Chinese can manufacture to a high standard of quality at a price that is very hard to match elsewhere. As a result the entry level for good speakers and electronics is coming down like confetti at a ticker tape parade It is a presence that I hope will allow my merely middle-income audio pals and myself to afford better hi-end music systems.
Learning from the Japanese the Chinese have employed American design consultants to fashion audio components for the U.S. market. The Chinese understand there exists a very strong cultural influence on what is perceived as good sound. The names of such talented people as Mr. Phil Jones and Mr. Mark Shifter should be familiar to all dyed in the wool audiophiles. As a matter of fact the entrepreneur Mark Shifter (Audio Alchemy, et al) told me that on one of his visits to china he watched a team of Italian Engineers installed a million Dollar computer controlled wood veneering machine in a Chinese speaker factory. Quoting Mr. Shifter "They ship raw logs in at one end of the factory and finished speakers come out at the other end."
Understand it is not my intention to associate these names with any specific company or products. But to illustrate the lengths the Chinese have gone to and the effort they have invested in this reconstruction. I can remember a time when the Chinese made small toy cars that were stamped out of salvaged and flattened tin cans labeled made in china. The basic economy of the whole country has moved from an agrarian base to manufacturing. And so it has come to pass audio pals that a speaker manufactured in the Chinese province of Shandong has evolved into something so good that it can compete in the world's high-end audio market place. OK so all this is not exactly a hot news flash but the hundreds of millions of Yuan they have sunk into upgrading their manufacturing facilities is now evident in a two products I would like to tell you about.
Leisure 2 SE
I found that along the vertical axis the listening position was not critical. The MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) enclosure tapers upward 14" from a 9" wide and 11" deep base to a 6 3/8" width at the top. The non-parallel sides of the 25 lb. enclosures are unusually dense and inert. My samples are finished with gorgeous Brazilian Rosewood veneer combined with a lustrous black piano lacquer. The rear panel is black lacquered and ported and has two heavy-duty gold plated binding posts mounted on a thick aluminum plate. The appearance, the fit and finish is luxurious and screams quality! It is of great interest to me that another Aurum Cantus speaker the Le 2SVS and a rather better known speaker the $3,500. Red Rose Music, Rose Bud 2 are both made in the same Chinese factory by Jin Lang Audio Co. Ltd. They share many things in common with the Le 2se. They both use the Aurum Cantus sourced aluminum ribbon tweeter and a very similar mid woofer. Both speakers are housed in a ported enclosure of the same volume; both of these drivers according to Red Rose are “proprietary and unavailable elsewhere." Not so incidentally the larger Red Rose Classic ribbon speaker that sold for $8000 is identical in appearance and driver configuration and is in fact a twin of the Aurum Cantus “Moon Goddess 2 which retails for $2,800. I realize that there may not be a Red Rose anything by the time this article sees daylight. I believe this comparison most certainly drives home the point I'm trying to make and in part explains my enthusiasm for these speakers.
The Aurum Cantus Leisure 3 Special Edition
The Le 3SES is a larger version of the excellent Le 2 Special Edition. The cabinet enclosures of both speakers have the same shape; it is one that tapers upward from a wider base, roughly forming a truncated pyramid. Looking at the front of the speaker the Le 3SES(converting from metric) measures 11.9" deep at the base by 9.7" wide tapering up to 7.25" wide at the top. The enclosure height at 15.9" it is approximately 2 inches taller than the Le 2 SE. Additionally the front panels of the Le 3 SES just like the smaller version is slanted backward to time align the two drivers. The Le 3 SES logically has a larger enclosure than the Le 2SE this to accommodate the larger drivers. This larger version uses a G3si 100mm aluminum ribbon tweeter, which is 30mm longer than the 70mm Le 2SE tweeter. This is paired with a carbon fiber Kevlar cone mid woofer that is 6.5" or 1.25 inches larger in diameter than the 2 SE.
It doesn't take a lot of thought to see that the object here was to extend the useful range of the tweeter and mid bass beyond the range of the smaller and very competent Le 2SE. The frequency response is specified as 38Hz up to 40kHz.Before I get further into techno babble let me reiterate that the enclosures of this speaker like it's smaller sibling is world class gorgeous. Finished with a piano black face and top and beautiful rosewood veneer wrapped around gently sculpted sides. Both speaker models are finished with 20 coats of hand rubbed (with rabbit fur) clear lacquer. The black back panels of the larger Le 3SES like the smaller version has two large gold plated binding posts mounted on a satin finished aluminum badge/plate. And just below that is a 2 1/4" diameter port. Again not so incidentally the Le 3SES also comes in matched pairs my samples are both serial numbered K00115 and the MSRP for this pair is $1,900.
Let me digress for just a moment: I have a friend whom I could easily call a Sinatra expert. It was he who put me on to using this recording and this track as a male vocal reference. Listening to this same recording through the smaller Le 2SE he commented on a slight lack of “chest resonance". You should understand that when translated from Phile Speak he was referring to an organic quality that warms the sound of a human voice. At the time I agreed, but in my estimation it was slight and not getting in the way of what I loved. I was enthralled by the detailed lucid open images painted by the ribbon tweeter. Now maybe you can understand my anticipation of these same qualities albeit very much enhanced, coming from the newer Le 3SES extended range version. Side by side the description of the ability to recreate a musical performance is very similar for both of these very competent transducers. As you might suspect in a direct comparison of the two speakers the top one half of their frequency range sounds almost identical in all respects. It is the promise of the extended lower midrange and bass that compelled my interest.
Once again I listened to that same Sinatra cut What's New this time with the AC 3 SES and the promise was fulfilled, Frankie Sin now stands there replete with a chest and the middle range of the human voice is more organic and life like. The improvement was subtle but very evident especially in a direct comparison. I was concerned that the midrange would be less defined by the larger mid range driver. But that was not the case the very competent ribbon driver is extended farther down to cover the mid frequencies and the mid driver uses a 3rd order sloped crossover that is 100Hz lower (to 2600Hz). I ran a crude comparison frequency sweep recorded on a Rives Audio test CD using a Radio Shack SPL meter with both versions of the Leisure speakers. During my evaluation I positioned both versions of the speakers about 8 feet from my seated position with both sides towed in about 12 degrees and 5'7" apart. My room measures 11'8" behind the speakers 22' deep and 8'3" high. My test of the AC 3SES shows that above a frequency of 80 or 90 Hz the response in the lower mid range on up to about 6.5 Kilocycles is within 2.5dB of ruler flat. When it reaches 8 kHz in my room it takes a 6dB dip and then starts to slope back up again. An audiophile friend took another series of measurements in a much larger room using a stand mounted calibrated microphone feeding into an IVIE Spectrum Analyzer. He measured a much smoother response that was essentially flat from 2.5kHz up to 20kHz at a distance a little over one meter. The bass response had a slight rise around 90Hz and at 80Hz began a gradual down slope. The scale he was using on the IVIE Analyzer only ran up to 20kHz.
Understand you should not try to apply my measurements to infer anything about sound quality in your room. I believe the majority of the inconsistent nonlinear frequency measurements we recorded in both rooms are a direct result of interaction with room boundaries and objects in the room. And I am certain that I could alter some of my test results by repositioning the speakers in my room. However I do believe my very crude little test does correlate what I hear through out the lower midrange on up. There exists two valid criticisms you should be aware of, the first is both versions of these speakers would benefit if driven by no less than 50 watts, additionally that amplifier should have very good bass control (high damping factor). The second caveat is that if you increase the volume to far the sound will progressively become congested and muddled. Both of these things I would not normally do and so I do not consider these to be a big deal. I'm convinced that's simply not what these speakers where designed to do.
I would like to mention one last recording even though it's not strictly a reference I use but rather a recording I enjoy very much. It is a gathering of famous artists brought together to celebrate the Queen of England on her Golden Jubilee. Recorded live out doors in front of Buckingham Palace this concert is ever so clean and full of spacious ambience that it serves to very clearly highlight the abilities of the Aurum Cantus designs. Listening to this performance I can believe that I am outside with the audience sitting on the grass and facing the stage. You can find it on Virgin [7243 8 12833 25] and it is called Party At The Palace. Did you ever hope to hear Brian Wilson performing Good Vibrations backed by The Royal Academy Of Music Symphony Orchestra? Of course there is much more to commend it, like Rod Stewart, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton to name only some of the talent on this disc, it is a wonderful event that is wonder filled!
The larger Le 3 SES version for an additional 300 dollars is a logical upgrade from its predecessor. You get better bass response along with a more natural organic true to life lower midrange. If I had to decide which of these two speakers to listen too full range as I might with large scaled classical music there would be no contest. The choice would be the AC Le 3 SES. Still it has surprisingly good bass extension so much so that I am really not aware that there is anything lacking. If you're like me and you focus primarily on the human voice or you prefer chamber music or a small jazz ensemble and do not require subterranean bass then look no farther. Like the British BBC LS/3 5a speakers of old these certainly qualify as excellent Mini Monitors capable of painting a wide and deep reality you can listen into. These speakers have been a refreshing breath of fresh air both of them are 2-way speakers that are better than most 3-way speakers on the market. With the right equipment played at a reasonable volume they offer hours of deep emersion into the music I care about. With the exception of the bass extension they have no major faults. If you understand that these speakers fit within a niche and if your requirements are much like mine then you need not look any further. I think they are easily worth their asking price. Possessing an exceptional imaging ability both versions of this speaker are very easy to set up on 24" stands. You can easily pick them up and move them along with their stands to where they sound best. In this world of crazy costly (Italian) Hi-End two-way speakers these Aurum Cantus products are an unabashed bargain. Indeed I must confess I harbor a feeling of satisfaction that I was the one who found them in this country. Easily two of the best Mini Monitor speakers made anywhere I can and do recommend both of them.
Semper Hi Fi
What follows is the standardized Enjoy The Music.com rating system but in this case bear in mind that the sub bass rating of 2 notes is for the Le 3SES. The smaller 2SE only rates 1 blue note for sub-bass everything else is almost identical.
Leisure 2 SE
Leisure 3 SES