PlanterSpeakers by Madison Fielding is a unique niche for those who love high quality music while outside their home. Another use is for premium resorts that cater to the finest of guests. As the product name suggests, these are large industrial-grade plastic/resin planters, yet with a very interesting twist! Imagine a high quality, hefty container that can hold a small tree, shrub or flower assortment, yet it doubles as a speaker too. Not just any speaker mind you, but one with high fidelity audio aspirations. During the Newport Beach show, Madison Fielding was there within an exhibition room showing off their Flagstone PlanterSpeakers. My incredible wife, who loves music and gardening, fell in love almost instantly! So what's a nice guy to do but ask for a pair for review?
While I readily admit most high-end audio
magazines would never delve into reviewing such devices, yet it is like saying "Our
magazines loves music yet refuse to enjoy it outside the home"... unless it is a
$2500 Astell& Kern AK240 with equality high quality $800 headphones/IEMs. My
wife and I love music and we want to enjoy it wherever we want and in the highest of quality as
possible. So long story short, here's my review of the outstanding high
fidelity audio Flagstone PlanterSpeakers from Madison Fielding.
Madison Fielding claims to "make the finest
residential outdoor speakers ever built". Having seen many outdoor speakers
over the years, one can make some arguments one way or another. Outdoor speaker
with true full range frequency
response, including deep bass, and it seems they may have a lock on this part of
the overall outdoor sound industry for the most luxurious of homes. They cater
to architects, AV Dealers, custom builders, exterior designers, plus of course
direct sales if there is no dealer within 90 miles of your location. One can not
argue with their success, as the company's Terra Cotta PlanterSpeakers and the
Flagstone PlanterSpeakers as reviewed here are "the number one best sellers
in the United States for the past 12 years in this product category" with
patents backing their design.
Having worked lo/mid-fi and high-end audio for
well over a decade in my youth, have been to many homes and consulted for custom
home installation. Have seen, and heard, a wide variety of normal outdoor
speakers that (usually awkwardly) are medium-sized boxes that mount to a wall or
your deck. Not a solution someone with refined décor taste would call visually
pleasing. Then there are those rock-looking speakers that may integrate well
within your garden, yet don't expect true full range sound. In fact most of
the rock speakers i have heard sound not so... let us move on shall we as the
PlanterSpeakers are for someone who desires high-end sound quality within a
visually seamless design.
About The Company And Their
All models come with a five years of
warranty and are easy to service. i know about the later part as the shippers
must have dropped the review set quite hard. The magnet structure separated from
the basket due to shipping abuse! Not an easy task I assure you. So I called
Madison Fielding and they sent a replacement midrange driver, which only took
about five minutes to replace via a Phillips-head screwdriver. Speaking of
drivers, the French-made Audax 1" tweeter and 4" midrange driver are
mounted to the side of the planter cabinet. A down-firing made in the United
States Eminence DVC 10" woofer fills out the bass. The midrange to woofer
crossover frequency is 250 Hz, which is a very important part of this review as
you'll soon be reading below.
The Madison Fielding Flagstone is fully weatherized
and includes a removable tray for use with live or artificial plants. The
Flagstones are available in standard gray and weathered black. You can ask for
custom configurations for the drivers, just one side as reviewed here, two sides
or more with a single 10" woofer, or as planters only. Other
planter/cabinet colors are also available. The company did test their designs in
c-c-cold New Hampshire to ensure durability. During the review process we
had temperatures below 30F to over 90F. Occasional high winds and torrential
hard rain you ask? Absolutely!
Tributaries SP8BW-BK02S Cables
Indeed High-End Speakers
To solve the needed power, I used a Bryston 4BSST²
stereo amplifier that produces upwards of 300 wpc into 8 Ohms. Overkill? Sure,
yet like any racer you want all the power and control you can get... plus have
you ever been to, and heard, the epic (legendary?) house parties here? My
neighbors sure do LOL! As for positioning, they were tired on the grass and it
quickly became obvious this simply won't do, as the bass sounded a bit muddled
and muted. Moving to our sturdy wooden deck was better, quite a bit better, yet
as they say "close by no cigar". The bass was still a bit clumsy, with weird
peaks and valleys as the bass notes dipped to subwoofer frequencies. A call to
Madison Fielding and he said that decks can be a challenge. He suggested I get
some stone/marble tiles to place under the speakers, which is precisely what
they did within their exhibition room during T.H.E.
Show Newport Beach 2014. So a quick stop to Home Depot and we were all
With the Flagstone speakers on the deck and tiles
under them, they pointed outward towards our trampoline. This means the midrange
and tweeter were firing out to ‘free air' space and at ear level during
trampoline use. Well, perhaps that is a little white lie as once on the
trampoline your ear's height moves doesn't it? During another part of the
review process I turned them around so the upper range drivers were facing the
house. As a diligent reviewer, my wife and I tried a variety of positions with
the speakers to find what we enjoyed the most from the music reproduced by the
Flagstones. When they arrived, we were very impressed with the build quality and
sensible overdesign to ensure reliability and longevity during the ever-changing
weather conditions. My wife's smile beamed gloriously as she was already
planning the position and how they'd match our fine décor with colorful
flowers growing inside as music sang from them.
Sensational Outdoor Sound
Geek Mode On: As a side note, I have a feeling few audiophiles remember the Wharfedale speakers that used sand internally to avoid cabinet resonances. Once we had these speakers fully setup, my mind quickly harked back to how the PlanterSpeakers use soil, or whatever you have within them, to aid in controlling unwanted cabinet resonances. Geek mode off.
Brief Synopsis For Audiophiles: Excellent highs, lovely in fact! The midrange is very good and odds are you'll want to remove the grills. The bass frequencies, where the crossover region resides at 250 Hz, can be challenging. There are some dips in achieving a smooth overall frequency response so sins of omission rather than commissions, which is a good thing. A good EQ solves this, yet you want something with multi-frequency breakdown or Q setting to smooth things out nicely. Imaging is good and there is some nice soundscape depth too. PRAT, pace rhythm and timing, is generally good and time fairly well given the challenges of a downward firing woofer. These are outdoor speakers and do a great job IMHO when one considers all the challenges involved. Just be sure to use a strong amplifier such as a Bryston or the like.
Music Lovers Rejoice!