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June 2006

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Reference 3A Veena Loudspeaker
A Window Full Of Colors
Review By Ron Nagle
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Reference 3A Veena Loudspeaker The January Consumer Electronics Show or CES 2006 in Las Vegas heralds the start of another high-end audio year. And if you are like me an audiophile and a writer then this is the place to be. At the main venue the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) you will find one hundred twenty thousand plus people pressed shoulder-to-shoulder making it hard to move and at times hard to breath. For the press who cover the show this place is aptly nicknamed The Zoo. So it is fortunate that high-end audio has it's own separate space. If you travel about two miles farther east you will find the Mecca for audiophiles at the Alexis Park Hotel. I always go there with a list of people and products I would like to see. First on my list are the things I traveled here to do, second are the people and places I would like see and last on my list is my need to satiate my boundless curiosity. It was my boundless curiosities that lead me to AP2601 the Divergent Technology room where I happened upon the Reference 3A speakers. I hadn't heard a word about this line of speakers for, well it's got to be at least fifteen years. Where have they been? They once were an important name in my audio past. I remember one very good little 2-way speaker they made but that was some many years ago.

 

Resurrection
Only by serendipity did I find this place as I walked in I knew I was privy to something out of the ordinary. It was graced with music clean and open without artifact it had continuity and ease that my ears told me shouldn't be coming out of a box. As a matter of fact it reminded me of my Quad ESL 63 electrostatic speakers. I guess I must have developed a pretty thick skin over the years because this near instant affinity thing hardly ever happens to me any more and so it was totally unexpected. This happenstance hearing only heightened my already over active curiosity for all things audio. And so I sat and listened to the Veena (This name is an Indian term for instruments that are similar to the Sitar) a small slim tower doing something seamlessly I don't remember what the music was, but I knew I wanted them. The presiding principle in attendance was a man named Tash Goka he is the distributor of the speaker and he proved to be a font of knowledge. He explained that the speaker of old I remembered was the MM (Midi Master) from 3A.

The original company name is derived from the words Applied Acoustic Arts. The original company was started an astounding 47 years ago and in the world of all things audio this is quite remarkable. Most of the original development work for these speakers was done by the now retired Daniel DeHay in France. At one point some years past the rights to the name were sold to a company who would use the name to produce a very inferior line of speakers. Mr. Goka related to me a tale of resurrection when Daniel DeHay bought back the name and reputation of the company. Now this was some 14 years ago and he did this even though it was driving him to the brink of bankruptcy. He also pointedly informed me that they always had a North American presence and some of their newer models have even won "Product Of The Year" awards. Right now it is Mr. Goka and Divergent Technology located in Kitchener Ontario who are the manufactures. Their products are sold to distributors in all corners of the globe.

 

L'objet d'article
As you begin to learn the ethic of this design it reaffirms the purist approach most certainly for it has the simplicity of a straight line. But let me not get to far ahead it merits a more detailed description instead. Standing 36.5-inch high in appearance it is a slim tower with the front baffle slanted backward to time align the two drivers. Internally the speaker enclosure has a top to bottom vertical brace along with additional horizontal bracing. The interior surfaces are damped with a 0.75-inch thick bi-component felted material attached with a latex adhesive. There is a 2.25-inch port on the back panel above two pairs of WBT style plastic covered speaker binding posts connected together with Cardas copper jumpers. I understand that EC (European Community) safety standards mandate insulated metal connectors for safety reasons. But still I'm old fashioned I prefer bare metal binding posts. Those original U.S. style connectors would allow me to get a wrench on them so I could really crank them down tight.

Reference 3A Veena LoudspeakerThe speakers sit on three little projecting aluminum outrigger supports called pods that have adjustable carpet piercing spikes. My samples are finished with an attractive satin dark cherry stain over Maple wood and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). You can purchase these speakers in natural maple or opt for High Gloss black piano black but at a premium price of $3295 a pair. The speakers are a matched pair my serial numbers are V1503 R and V1503 L the last letter indicating right or left side. Resisting a trend to fabricate speaker's way out west and by that I mean really far out west like in China. This company rather than opt for getting the most bang for their buck has chosen instead to maintain quality control over their speakers. This necessitates that they custom build their own unique midrange drivers. I can't count how many times I have heard this same claim from other speaker manufactures. Most of the time they make an inconsequential change to a driver and it often does not sound any better than the stock driver. Now heads up here, what is coming next in this narrative is the secret of this speaker's superior sound. The following description leads me to wonder why doesn't every one just stop screwing around and get back to basics.

Internally this two-driver speaker has no crossover! The midrange driver is directly connected to the output of the power amplifier! Between the midrange and tweeter there is a custom flat plate parallel oil and paper low inductance capacitor but that's it. And as a result the Veena has vanishing Inductance and no transient time domain issues. Still the entire speaker remains a very manageable near constant 8-Ohm load. Understand that In order to pull off this very neat little trick you have to use precision drivers that are essentially self-limiting and self-dampening and function only within very specific parameters. In this design the speaker driver itself is essentially part of the crossover. The Reference 3A company employs one man in Kitchener, Ontario whose only job is to hand build this midrange driver. The tweeters look fairly conventional they use matched 1-inch soft dome silver coil SEAS drivers. But it is the 7-inch midrange that grabs my attention. It has a woven carbon fiber "Hyper exponential" cone supported by what they call an "Edge Hole" rubber rolled surround. In the center instead of a conventional phase plug I see an unconventional looking phase device. This is in fact a black colored inert solid plastic cylinder. This phase cylinder thing projects a little more than one inch out from the center but it is not visibly connected to the speaker cone. And last but certainly not least I must not fail to inform you that the Veena is brand new as of its 2006 CES debut.

 

Set Up
I usually start a set up the same way; I placed the Veena speakers on the short 11.66-foot wall of my rectangular room. The Speakers are placed at two points of an equilateral triangle with my listening position at the third point. After you dial in the center soundstage by adjusting the spacing between the speakers you integrate the bass response by moving the speakers position relative to the rear wall. I think that they sounded best in my room with the speakers 42 inches out from the rear wall with spacing of 50 inches separating them. At this position I employed the Rives Audio test CD this disc has built in error correction specifically intended for use with a Radio Shack SPL meter. I progressed through the test bands and at band 35, which is equivalent to 40Hz. I was able to measure what I consider usable bass output. I had almost finalized the speaker position when much to my surprise I found that I had them set them up backwards.

How so? Well the soft dome tweeters are not on center they are offset to one side of the front baffle. You should start out with the grill cloth removed which obviously I did not do. The instructions in the owner's manual tell you to position the speakers with the tweeters at the left side and right outside edges. I would think that since the tweeters are the primary source of ambient information and image placement they would have to be placed nearer the center stage. But In fact the Veena's image even better with the tweeters farther apart and facing straight ahead. This is all very significant and unusual audiopals because it cannot be done unless you exercise mastery over phase and dispersion. Another more simplistic way to say the same thing is that you need to integrate and control timing and radiation patterns.

 

Aural Aspects
You would think that a very good speaker would be easy to write about, but that is not always the case and that is exactly what is happening now. What you will hear from the Veena is a frequency spanning coherence that sounds consonant with the source. Another way to capture this concept is to say the speakers within their range are transparent to the source. I would like to reiterate at this point that my evaluation reference is and has been the sound of the human voice. I have several reference discs that I invariably fall back on. One of these is the album Time and Tide sung by Basia Trzetrzelewska [Epic EK 40767]. It is a complicated wide range studio mix that contains a wealth of aural clues. The first track on the disc is "Promises." It starts out with Basia singing from deep in the center stage. As she intones the title word Promises her voice moves closer to fill the center of the sound stage. The effect is similar to a camera lens as it zooms in to enlarge an image. I listen intently for the double sibilant sounds in the word promises repeated throughout the song. It is subtle but you should be able to clearly hear a breathy sibilant sound that distinguishes it from the sound of escaping steam.

Another disc that I think can illustrate the strengths of the Veena speakers is a wonderful version of "You Were Always On My Mind" by Willy Nelson. This is the very first track on this CD. The name of the album is Yours Always it is on a Sony label catalog listing is CD A21562. I hesitate to mention this recording because I was given a copy of a copy of a compilation circulating among local Audiophiles, Like the Basia disc this is a wonderfully engineered and detailed studio mix with transient speed and studio ambience that highlights the resolving ability of these speakers. At two minutes and forty seconds into this cut there is a brief faint sound of a person in the distant background whistling along with the melody. Meanwhile Willy's vocal resides front and center in all his nasal glory amidst the glisten of steel guitar strings. Backup vocals are etched and clearly delineated and recede in layers from the immediate left center stage. In a strange and unexpected way the metallic reverberation of the guitar strings complements the country twang of Willy's voice.

This next recording I would dearly like to tell you about it is my latest fave disc discovery. It is by artist Eva Cassidy, now therein lays a tale and as usual I've come upon this recording and this artist a bit late. Eva Cassidy passed away Nov. 1, 1996 at age 33 from cancer but her wonderful albums live on after her. Her voice and her phrasing have a haunting purity that lingers on in my memory. I only recently found her album Songbird [Blix Street  G210045]. This recording is a compilation derived from 3 previous albums and was released 2 years after her passing. I must have heard this recording a half dozen times at audiophile gatherings and audio demos before I ever laid hands on the actual disc. I found this album misplaced in the folk section of my music store. But it actually is an eclectic mix of pop and gospel cuts. The very first track is the one that got to me it is called Fields of Gold. You will hear only two guitars the first is Eva accompanying herself on acoustic guitar with Keith Grimes backing on electric guitar. It is a wonderfully balanced composition that perfectly illustrates the sincere emotional purity of her voice. This song lets you near her and you hear her with every audible breath and wet sibilant sound. If Eva's voice doesn't touch something inside of you than I suggest that you have someone standing nearby with a defibulator. The Veena speakers seem to be a perfect accompaniment for Eva Cassidy both are conduits of a kind of musical purity free of affectation.

The studio-induced ambience of all three of these recordings suffuses the performances with a pleasant transparent space expanding quality; this is most certainly a testament to the integration and extension of the Veena SEAS tweeter. There remains only one thing more to do and that is too give the Veena mid-woofs a work out.

If you wanted to test the speakers lower mid and low frequency tonal integration than there is no better test than to play Adagio d' Albinoni as performed by Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis. This originally came out on the Japanese Firebird label but it is now available via the Cisco Music catalog [GCD8003] from Acoustic Sounds. Recorded in a cavernous Japanese cathedral, Karr's centuries-old Amati bass fiddle is accompanied by a large and sonorous pipe organ. The lowest register of the organ in combination with the Amati string bass energizes this stone walled enclosure and supports long period rolling waves of reverberation. If ever there was a test of lower frequency musical sustain than this is it. You can clearly hear the warmth and organic wooden resonance of the Amati bass calling with a mournful sigh. The organ sounds simultaneously with a deep organ pedal note and you hear a repeating bass sound like a beating heart echoing within the stonewalls. Cut to the chase, I have never heard this heart rending lament portrayed more naturally than this. Again if you cannot feel the emotional intensity of this music than I suggest you call 911. Understand that the Veena speakers are not full range in the strictest meaning of the phrase. But then my small room cannot cleanly support very deep bass. The natural bottom end extension of the Veena speakers is all I would ever need.

 

Coda
Does your mind fill in musical notes in the silence between passages? Can you see a rainbow in a musical composition? Than you most probably have Synesthesia and there is know known cure. But if you can see colors in sound than maybe you are not so very bad off. Rather like perfect pitch it is a rare ability only a very few are privy too. The Veena speakers provide a window full of colors for these fortunate few. There are times I am given something to review and it turns out it is something I would rather not do. But this time I found something very desirable and so went after it because I wanted to share it with you. And so if for a moment I can suspend my disbelief and will transcend time and space... and become one with the music. Grant me this than I will ask for nothing more that is the audiophile, Sine Qua non.

I must thank Enjoy the Music.com because they give me the freedom to follow my muse.

 

Associated Equipment
Michael Yee Audio PA 3 power amplifier, Hafler 500 power amplifier, Audio Research SP-9 Mark 3 preamplifier, Source, Marantz DV8400 Universal CD player, Magnum Dynalab FT101a tuner, DH Labs Reference 1, Audioquest 8TC and Esoteric Ultrapath speaker cables. Interconnects: DH Labs Silver Revelation 1.5 meter, Wire World Eclipse 2, 3meters. Line conditioners: Richard Gray RGPC Sub Station, Alpha Core balanced isolation transformer, Audio Power, Enhancer 1. Michael Green Room Tunes. Argent Acoustic Lenses, and home made sound absorbent foam wall Panels.

 

Semper Hi-Fi
What follows is the standardized rating system. Understand that soundstage parameters are scaled down to fit the size of the speakers.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High-frequencies (3,000Hz on up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape width front

Soundscape width rear  
Soundscape depth behind speakers

Soundscape extension into the room

Imaging

Fit and Finish

Self Noise

N/A

Value for the Money

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way full range floorstanding loudspeaker

Drivers: 1-inch silk soft dome silver coil SEAS tweeter and 7-inch carbon-fiber midrange/woofer

Frequency Response: 42Hz to 20kHz (+/-3dB)

Efficiency: 89dB/W/m

Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal

Maximum Power: 120 Watts, RMS

Dimensions: 8.5 x 13.5 x 36.5 (WxDxH in inches)

Weight: 35 Lbs.

Price: $2,999

 

 

Company Information
Divergent Technologies / Reference 3a
480 Bridge Street West
Waterloo, Ontario N2K 1L4
Canada

Voice: (519) 749-1565
Fax: (519) 749 2863
E-mail: diane@divertech.com
Website: www.divertech.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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