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September 1999
Enjoy the Music.com
Three of a Perfect Pair
Review By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Petite Minimonitors  Looking at the cover of a recent magazine, one could not help but see the headline "Size Does Matter". Although they were referring to the "white trash" more popular insinuation of "bigger is better", most smart audiophiles know this is not necessarily true with speakers. In fact most professional reviewers i know find the smaller the better! Smaller floorstanders or minimonitors seem to be better able to disappear within one's listening room "throwing" a grand and expansive soundscape. They are more easily capable of throwing that incredible Stereo-Rama 3D soundfield that gives little clue as to their smaller size. Those super large umteen driver eight foot tower speakers might grab us at first (phallic maybe?), yet with long-term exposure their crossovers with more parts in them than most single-ended amplifiers show how simpler can be better! So i guess "size does matter" and the smaller could very well be the better. Of course it takes a big man to admit to that :-{)  . So where does all those foreplay lead us to? It brings me to the Alón Petite minimonitors and the Alón Centris subwoofer.

Even upon first listen, it was obvious as to why Alón speakers are consistently praised in audio journals everywhere. It's not just in their fit and finish, it is in the way very high quality components from the drivers all the way to the speaker binding posts and all in-between are of high quality. Alón seemingly does not know how to cut corners when it came to the Petite minimonitors. Over the years i have listened to the fave under $1000 minimonitors of all types. i was left either dismayed that someone could find them musically satisfying, or heard large frequency response abbreviations which were unacceptable for my tastes. Could it be that my beloved KEF 104/2 speakers, with their very flat frequency response and impedance, makes me more aware of these anomalies than others may be? For these minimonitors, Alón uses their specially designed 5.25" cast frame woofer which have their tri-laminate cone. As for the tweets, the same 1" aluminum alloy dual chamber dome as used in the Alón IV is deployed. Of course bi-wiring is possible for the ultimate of performance. Alón has paid very close attention to the smallest of details and have included high quality material which reduces the cabinet reflections around the tweeter! By paying attention to small details, Alón just might have come up with a combination that is greater than the sum of the parts. You will need to read on to find that out.

As for the Centris subwoofer, we have an interesting package here too. You get preamplifier inputs, speaker level inputs and outputs, volume output, phase adjustment, continuously variable 50 - 200 Hz 18dB/octave crossover and 200 watt amplifier all set to drive the front-firing 10" long excursion "high speed" woofer. There is also a Music or Video switch. The Music position is flat frequency response while choosing Video gives a +6db @ 35 Hz boost. According to Alón, the 10" driver has "up to 10 times less mass than conventional subwoofers". With a speaker response claimed to go lower than 25 Hz with a maximum SPL at around 110 dB @ 1m, i really couldn't believe this was true for a unit priced at only $995. Could i have become this jaded after so many years of reviewing? Possibly, though it did seemed too good to be true. Adverting hype maybe? Well, we will see won't we.

 After a few hundred hours in my basement torture chambers we were ready to rock into the main listening room. The Petites seemed to sound their best about 40 inches from the rear wall and 30 from the side wall while the single Centris subwoofer took center stage directly between the minimonitors. The stands used are of the usual 24" sand filled arch-welded, spiked, built like brick shack house variety.

As for how the Petites with Centris subwoofer sound, can you say abracadabra disappear! Once finding the optimum room positioning i never heard the speakers. Instead there was a huge, deep, and expansive soundscape which had no limits. By saying no limits, i do mean full in-the-room in front, behind, and being totally enveloped by the music and the encoded acoustics within each recording. This is something i have never heard with any speaker under $1,000, and rarely with those in the $2,000 range! It was as though whatever acoustic space was recorded on the source material came through in this eerie 3D effect including extending in front of the speakers and past my head!

Tonally, the speaker never seemed to get in the way of the music. Maybe a teeny tiny tad forward in the midrange yet not overly so. In fact this very small forwardness seems to give the music even more clarity! Of course bright recordings were bright, yet with properly recorded music the speakers had amazing inner detail with levels and levels of acoustic depth and ultra wide lateral imaging. My only caveat was a small dip around 100Hz. i could have turned the Centris subwoofer crossover up to cover this region, yet then the music seemed to lose some detail in the lowermost mid/upper bass  region (touch of congestion). With the crossover set at about 60 to 65 Hz seemed best in my setup with the phase set for normal "+" setting. With great music like Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet [Analogue Productions Miles Davis vinyl box set], everything from the acoustic bas to Miles' trumpet sound was well defined and extremely clear. The ambience was very well defined too.

A quick word about amplifiers, i used various amplifiers from the 47 Laboratories Gaincard, to my Wavelength Audio Cardinal, to the Bryston 7B ST. The best sounds seem to come from the Gaincard as far as ultimate transparency and accuracy whereas the music was a bit more musically enjoyable with the Wavelength Cardinal (WE300B output tube for lushness, JJ300B for more extended bass and highs). What makes this setup so special is that the Petite speakers were so clean and clear that even very small system changes became very apparent! As for the Alón Centris subwoofer, i had my doubts. My reference is the no longer available M+K MX2000 self-powered 250 watt beast which uses two 12" drivers in push/pull configuration. This offers an amazing amount of not just quantity, but also quality of lower frequency support. In fact quite a few manufacturers that have visited my listening room have given many positive comments on the proper lower frequency support.

The Alón Centris subwoofer might not have been able to keep up with the sheer quantity of my then $2,700 M+K, but it did keep up with the quality. Unlike what i have heard from, say, the Carver, this is true bass with real extension with seemingly little distortion. For those who are able to hear clean deep bass, the Carver amazing cube is unamazing to my ears in my system. The Centris was capable of bass in my room down to about 30Hz or so very cleanly and evenly. From acoustic bass as recorded on the previously mentioned Miles Davis recordings to the techno beats of the Prodigy, the Alón Centris subwoofer produced very tight and clean bass... to a point. Once i got too carried away with the SPL levels the woofer "bottomed out" with the usual cracking sounds. Of course we are talking about very high abnormal SPL levels for most audiophiles. A proper setup for insane bassheads would be easily accommodated by using two Centris subs.

Of course those who love bass usually also enjoy pipe organ. One of my fave recordings is the direct to disc vinyl pressing of Virgil Fox The Fox Touch [Crystal Clear CCS-7001]. All i have to say are three words, Deep clean bass. If you need more clean bass than the Alón Centris subwoofer, buy another one. 'Nuff said.

As a side note, i tried various cables and found that the best sounds came from using the Acarian Systems Black Orpheus cables. Seems that the Alón speakers (made by Acarian Systems) sound best using their own cables. Makes sense to me. i was supplied with a bi-wire set which went from the amplifier(s) to the Petites. i have heard this same outcome when using Audio Note gear which seems to at times give the best results with their own cables. Too bad more manufacturers do not supply their customers with the information of the system their products are designed with. This information could enable the consumer to make better future purchasing decisions.

In the end the Alón Petite minimonitors with their Centris subwoofer gave a huge, deep, and well defined soundscape with a clarity that belies the system's just under $2000 price. The skeptic in me had to give way to the quality of lower frequency support offered by the Centris subwoofer. Even compared to the many floorstanders i have heard within this price range, my advice would be to give this three-piece setup a very serious listen before you part with your hard earned cash. Sometimes bigger is not better. Less = more. Oh, and to give you my answer to a previously asked question, Alón indeed has come up with a combination that is greater than the sum of the parts.

 

Tonality 78
Sub-bass (10 Hz - 60 Hz) 70
Mid-bass (60 Hz - 200 Hz) 65
Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz) 75
High-frequencies (3,000 Hz on up) 80
Attack 80
Decay 80
Inner Resolution 85
Soundscape width front 90
Soundscape width rear 90
Soundscape depth behind speakers 90
Soundscape extension into the room 95
Imaging 93
Fit and Finish 80
Self Noise 100
Value for the Money 75

 

Specifications
System: Alón Petite minimonitors, two way rear vented 
Impedance: 8 Ohm nom./ 6 min.
Frequency Response: 55 Hz to 20 kHz 
Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m
Crossover Point: 3500 Hz 
Dimensions: 15" x 6" x 8" (HxWxD)
Weight: 15 lbs 
Finish: Black Ash Wood, American Walnut, optional Rosewood
MSRP: $995 ($1195 for Rosewood)

 

Centris Subwoofer 
System: Powered, Front Firing Ported Driver: 10" diam., long excursion, high speed, low mass (up to 10 times less mass than conventional subwoofers) 
Response: To below 25 Hz Maximum SPL: 110 dB @ 1m 
Port: Front mounted, 4" diameter, double-flared, low velocity, high output Amplifier: 200W, high current, rear mounted 
Crossover: Continuously variable 50 - 200 Hz., 18dB / octave Inputs: Line Level L&R, Speaker Level L&R 
Output: Satellite L&R, 150 Hz @ 8 ohm, Line level L&R Phase: 0 or 180 degrees 
Mode: Music or Video (+6db @35 Hz boost) Power: Auto on/off or manual defeat, plus on/off switch 
Cabinet: 1" thick MDF all around
Finish: Black Ash Laminate 
Grille: Sculpted 3 Dimensional with Black Cloth
Size: 16" x 16" x 18 (HxWxD)
MSRP: $995 (black)

 

Manufacturer
Acarian Systems, Ltd.
Hunters Run, Suite 104
181 Smithtown Blvd.
Nesconset, New York 11767

Phone: (516) 265-9577
Fax: (516) 265-9560
Website: www.AlonByAcarian.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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