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October 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Flagstone PlanterSpeakers By Madison Fielding
A sound that grows on you.
Review By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Flagstone PlanterSpeakers By Madison Fielding  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 Flagstone Design
Flagstone PlanterSpeakers By Madison FieldingThe PlanterSpeakers division of Madison Fielding was founded in 1999 and they invested quite a bit of time deciding upon materials, with an eye toward durability and lasting quality with style that matches substance. With a soft launch a few years later to ensure their patented design could handle all types of weather and maintain build and sound quality, in 2001 they went full steam ahead and began selling their products throughout the United States. Design features of the planter include a special drain that allows water to flow from the inside of the top platform where your plants are placed to the ground below the speakers. The speaker drivers for midrange and highs are mounted to the side of the planter cabinet and securely protected by an all-weather metal screen (speaker grill cover). The large woofer fires downward towards the ground.

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
Tributaries SP8BW-BK02S CablesNow must audiophiles are picky about cables, and this music lover is no exception. Thus I searched for high quality outdoor wire that would not just meet, yet exceed the requirements to drive the PlanterSpeakers. Suitable for bi-wiring a two-channel setup, the Tributaries SP8BW-BK02S cables are four 14AWEG wires internally in a star quad design encased within a very durable outer sheath. Since I desired a single overall design that internally housed four wires, these cables would work perfectly. The Tributaries SP8BW-BK02S uses long-crystal copper wire conductors for best signal transfer, with each wire run having three separate wire gauges to ensure the skin effect for bass, midrange and highs were optimized. Insulated conductors eliminate strand interaction and unwanted distortion. The wire construction is then balance twisted, again for low distortion and noise cancellation. Insulation material is high quality PE and the entire cable assembly is wrapped within flexible PVC. Sure this was a bit overkill to some extent, yet after long examination once the cable arrived I can easily see how it would provide many years of durability and reliability. As anyone who has worked with custom home audio installation, especially those destined for outdoor use, you need ‘overkill' as once the cables are run and buried/encased, you never, ever, under any circumstance want to have to deal with cable problems. So get it right the first time and you're all set. Thus the Tributaries SP8BW-BK02S made perfect sense. A great cable and will use these within all my outdoor speakers. As for pricing, they are available in a roll as i used sans end connectors, or as an 8 foot pair bi-wire terminated with 8BP Banana Plugs as shown in the photo above for $880.

 

PlanterSpeakers Are Indeed High-End Speakers
...And here's why.
Usually reviews start off with all the happy notes and then end with some critiques. Other reviewer do the ‘sandwich' routine, with a positive, then shortcoming, then end on a positive note. I'm going to start right off with the more challenging part first, so by the time to finish reading the review you'll see these really are very impressive and a true high fidelity audio design. With that said, there are some key things you need to ensure you achieve the best from the Flagstone speakers. First, you need a proper amplifier that has good amperage to drive them. Think of it like a car engine, horsepower is great yet every proper road course sports car drivers knows that high torque wins races as it gets you out of the turns with more grunt and force. Second, they must be placed either on cement or something along the lines of marble or stone tiles to achieve the finest performance from them. Putting them on your grass-filled lawn or wood chip simply won't do.

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 set.

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
Flagstone PlanterSpeakers By Madison FieldingWow, outdoor speakers with real bass! Not just in quantity, with good quality and definition too. The critical midrange was very good, and had good transparency with the grills on. I did take the grills off during the review process and yes they get better, yet for a majority of this review I kept the grills on as that is the way the speaker was designed. What I truly fell in love with were the smooth sounding and impressive performing highs. The soft done tweeter really earns its keep here! It is hard for me to try and be overly picky, as these are not $10,000 indoor speakers. Instead, you have a reasonably-priced design that has to endure the brutal forces of Mother Nature and sound good too. At shows there were many audiophiles that came away impressed by the sound they heard, and more than a few of these guys were finicky high fidelity audio reviewer types! Me? I knew there was magic within these speakers so got a set ASAP.

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!
My overall impressions are these are the very best outdoor speaker I have ever heard in all my years of not just being a custom installer; it also includes staying at a variety of Four Seasons and others top-notch resorts. In fact I could easily see someone using four or more of these to power their backyard whilst also having it double as a dance floor of sorts. For clubs, get as many as you need, turn up the volume and let the party commence! Yes, they are that good! Am not sure how you feel about this, yet I'm tired of paying high dollar at elite outdoor clubs and having my ears assaulted by piercing upper midrange and searing highs. Instead, install many PlanterSpeaker' Flagstone, some quality amplification and you're good to go. Just remember to use as many as you truly need, as any speaker will implode if you ask too much from it. For outdoor use, I find it is always better to use more speakers properly dispersed so they need not be overdriven, plus you get a nice, even soundfield throughout the area. If you have a large outdoor club or resort, please plan and engineer wisely as these also double as beautiful planters too so they look as good as they sound. What more could a business owner ask for? As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,


Steven R. Rochlin

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: All-weather planters with three-way speaker
Frequency response: 40 Hz to 18 kHz
Recommended amplifier: 150-250 watts RMS (at 8 Ohms)
Power handling: 150 watts RMS/channel
Sensitivity: 89dB/W/m
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Dimensions: 22" x 22" x 22" (WxDxH)
Price: $3495 per pair

 

Company Information
Madison Fielding
200 William Street
Port Chester, NY 10573

Voice: (914) 939-850
E-mail: contact@planterspeakers.com
Website: www.PlanterSpeakers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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