World's First In-Depth Review!
Call it what you like, but we have to start here. If you can't get past the way the Forty-10 looks, all the praise in any audio journal will be meaningless to you. Straight and simple, it is quintessential Mid-Century Modern design. In terms of where American mainstream home furnishings is today, it is spot on. In terms of the interior design of people that can afford this speaker, well, you may need to adjust. The original Eames lounge chair and ottoman is still available from Herman Miller for $7000 and the knock-off can be had for less than $1300. Many contemporary Scandinavian recliners will also work very nicely. Ekornes is not your only option. If you've got a dedicated listening room (and most people considering a $37,000 speaker will) this should not be a problem. As a two-way dipole, it needs to be 30" to 40" out from the front wall behind it. It will have a definite presence in your room.
Aesthetics / Design / Style
For the savvy decorator, willing to take the risk on their own, consider the possibility of accessorizing the speaker with artwork. This Jean Miro painting below, formerly at the Brooklyn Museum, is period correct, dating back to the mid-1900s. Variations on this theme, lightly applied so as not to mess with the music, would look splendid in a contemporary setting. If you have enough cash or crypto laying about to hire Banksy to do original work on the grills, your speakers could be worth million$$ in another ten years. Looking for a less expensive pro? Check out Grafittiheart in Cleveland. Or perhaps you have a local artist you would like to support. Just don't lay the paint on thick. The point here is that you can go from mild to wild depending on your personal taste and create something visually unique and spectacular to match the musical performance.
When the opportunity arose to review it, I emailed Mark Conti about my concern that it might not work in my room as my speakers are oriented on the long wall and my ear-to-tweeter distance was only about nine feet. He thought that would work and he was excited to have it reviewed in a large room. At three times the size of the hotel room, I was game especially since I could bi-amp it with either solid-state or SET tube amps... or a combination of the two.
Mark (pictured above) delivered the speakers, along with some cables and a Parasound A 23+ stereo amp, from Philadelphia to Rochester, NY in his van. The speakers came in two parts. The bass cubes had aluminum trusses already attached on top to which the nearly full-range array hooks. Gravity alone holds it in place and it feels quite secure. I never had any insecurity about bumping into it. A carpeted dolly allowed us to wheel the bass cubes to my front door and the two of us walked them into the house. We carried the top arrays in straight from the van and hooked them in place. Having two people allowed us to peer behind the top array to accurately position it. A very strong person could conceivably handle the top array by themselves, but hooking it on the truss blindly could easily lead to damaging the array. Best to have two people for this task. Two sets of binding posts are located on the back of the bass cube and two thin wires come up through the top of the cube and plug into the bottom of the top array. It all looks very tidy.
As I kicked back in my recliner the Forty-10 was clearly larger than my floorstanding Kharma speakers, but not nearly as overpowering as I was expecting. In fact, within a couple of weeks they seemed to be shrinking! Perhaps they seemed smaller because the soundscape was so large? The big plus for me was that after playing with the positioning, they did not block my view out the wall of windows between the speakers.
Listening in the dark is another priority for me. My Kharma speakers are piano gloss black and even with a spotlight reading lamp aimed at my lap they are not visible in my peripheral vision. The silver bass grills of the Forty-10 were ever-present. The dark wood and the tan grill cloth on the upper array blended into the darkness. Black metal grills on the bass cube would surely have solved this for me. If you're more concerned with how the speakers look in daylight or room light, you have plenty of excellent combinations to choose from whether you want them to blend in or stand out.
The RCA interconnects from my preamp were run to the crossover input. One pair of Mark's Audience AU24 SX RCA interconnects ran to my AGD Audion monoblocks, and another of his RCA interconnects ran to the Parasound A 23+ stereo amp. The crossover also needs AC power, so I had to scramble to connect that and the Parasound amp to my Synergistic Research power conditioner which was already full. You don't need to hear the details at this point just know that the wiring has to be thought out in advance. The next hurdle was connecting the speaker cables. The Forty-10 has parallel binding posts that screw down with one knob one for the upper array and one for the bass cube. And they only take spades. Again, in the interest of speed, we used Mark's Audience AU 24SX speaker cables.
We started with the speakers aimed straight ahead like every speaker with dynamic drivers has required in my room. Mark quickly realized they needed to be toe-ed in. This was easily accomplished by grasping the truss, rocking the speaker onto one foot and rotating it slightly. At 175 pounds apiece, you don't just slide these guys around. On the bottom of the cube is a metal plate to which reversible feet are attached. Mark explained it clearly:
The base is designed to ALWAYS float the speaker. Our testing with this loudspeaker confirms that this sounds the best. The base assembly is designed so that it can be mounted with the absorbers up or down. This allows the device to work best on CARPET or Wood/Concrete floors. The attachment is by two screws that are in the center. These are not tightened fully so that the weight of the speaker sitting on the base DE-COUPLES the mounting bolts.
Reversing the feet is simply a matter of unbolting the two screws and flipping the entire plate to which they are mounted. The use of elastic footers to de-couple heavy speakers from the floor seems to be a growing trend following the development and success of IsoAcoustics' Gaia series.
The Spaced Array
Sitting in another recliner next to the prime seating position was almost as good with only a slight shift of the soundscape behind the speakers. Moving far to the right of the right speaker (like 10 feet) the soundstage gradually coalesced around each speaker but still maintained the stereo image. More importantly, the tonal balance remained intact. The treble did not fall off as typically happens with a dynamic tweeter. With all the music from 100Hz on up coming from the array without any crossover transitions to cause problems, the music was seamless and the tonal balance remained intact. Remember, my set-up had the speakers on a very long wall in a room roughly 20' by 40'.
If you've got them on a short wall, you will have to pay attention to the first reflection, though being a dipole speaker, they are somewhat dead directly to each side so you can place them fairly close to a side wall if that is your preference or necessity. As with any speaker, the room itself is a very important component and you should always pay attention to find the optimal speaker location.
The crossover unit is merely a passive design for the upper Spaced Array with its proprietary transducers running from 100Hz to 20,000Hz. The active section has two controls for the Folded Cube enclosure: Contour and Volume. Mark made some quick adjustments using a CD with which he was familiar and invited me to play with them with my music. After cuing up my familiar compilation CD the necessity of doing this became obvious, particularly on the Chinese Drum cut. But man, what a bass response there was. The Kharma was good down to about 33Hz, and the Forty-10 claimed to plunge down to 20Hz.
I later measured the frequency response across the audible spectrum and found them to be very strong down to the mid-30Hz level and falling off quickly below that. As large as my room seems, the length may not be sufficient to support deeper bass. The quality of the low bass I heard was quite good and it felt stronger than the Kharma with only a single 9" driver to cover the bass.
So may I introduce to you
The two principals of MC Audiotech are Paul Paddock (pictured above), whom I met at RMAF in 2019, the designer of the speaker, and Mark Conti, the manager, who makes everything happen and accompanies all deliveries in the continental USA to assure proper set-up.
Paul has been working on this speaker design for forty years with roots that go back as far as the time of Lee DeForest in the 1920s and 1930s. Paul picked up the baton with a patent in 1985 for his Wide Band Line Source (WBLS) transducer that became commercially available in the Lineaum speakers from the late 1980s through 1990s. It has evolved into what he describes as a "predictable flexible membrane". Forty years of development plus 10 WBLS transducers in the array give us the model designation, Forty-10. There is a more detailed description of the technology on their brief white paper found here, where you will find terms like "bending wave" and "twin magnetic gap" if you're so inclined.
Shining a flashlight into the grill reveals no electrostatic panel. Rather, I see numerous vertical white plastic columns. There are also several pieces of lumber both vertical and horizontal fortifying the flanged wood perimeter and creating the convex bow on the front. The circular openings on the backside are covered with black cloth and are considerably smaller than the front of the panel. It is kind of like a dipole horn which projects in a surprisingly wide area from which to enjoy the music. The Spaced Array is suspended on the aluminum truss, totally separate from the Folded Cube below.
The bass unit is also their proprietary design, representing the most spatially economical open-baffle design for the two side-firing 18" Peavey pro-audio woofers contained in each one. All the sound is emitted through the front and rear ports and the bass breathes with ease.
The depth of the bass unit, at 19.5" (excluding binding posts) is more than sufficient to align the upper array with the woofers. I didn't notice any time or phase discrepancy, though I must admit I am not terribly sensitive to these issues, perhaps because my long-term reference Kharma speakers are notably excellent in this regard.
Regarding any qualitative differences between the upper unit and the bass, what is most captivating is the ease and breathability of the two units. The array and bass cube have sensitivities of 96dB and 93dB /W/m, respectively, so they are quite efficient. My in-room SPL measurements from the listening position detected a 10dB drop from 80Hz to 100Hz followed by a 5dB rise to 125Hz, indicating a dip right at the crossover point. In all likelihood this could be room node, but I didn't notice it during listening. I should have done the measurements when Mark was present to help me play with speaker placement.
With panel speakers, it is often very difficult to match the panel with a dynamic driver in the bass range. While there was a slight difference in sound quality between the two (when using the solid-state amps), the natural effortlessness of the Folded Cube bass unit was so engaging that I was able to ignore the discontinuity. My later experiments suggested that this slight difference was likely due to using the very fast AGD Class D amp on top, and the Class AB amp on the bass. I had hoped to borrow a PS Audio Class D stereo amp to use on the bass with the AGD on the array, but time ran out. It is probably best to use the same type of amplifier on top and bottom, as I did when using the tube power amps.
Lest I forget, let me mention that Mark Conti has roots going back to the very high-quality Veloce Audio line that I heard and admired, particularly for its tube preamp and Class D power amp with a tube input stage, both of which operated off-grid on rechargeable lead-acid batteries. Mark is shown here with the 18" Peavey Low Rider.
Tweaking With Cables
Eventually, curiosity got the best of me and I ordered four cheap banana-to-spade adapters so I could run my Foundation cables to the arrays giving me a bit more resolution and transparency. If you need a high-quality banana-to-spade adapter for permanent use, check out The Cable Company.
The Amplifier Game
Physically hefting one around and working with it, I was much more impressed with the styling and build quality than just looking at one in a rack at a show. At 4 Ohms the new A 23+ puts out 240 Watts per channel and 45A peak current, per channel. I never wanted more power, even with sustained deep notes on organ music.
Those who have been following EnjoyTheMusic.com from the early days know that I've been a tube guy until the AGD Audion lured me away last year. With its tube-like purity and higher power, the AGD brought more life to the music with my less efficient Kharma speakers. With the high efficiency of the Forty-10 there was a lot of incentive to reconnect my tube amps.
The large Magic Tube Research M23SE by Eddie Wong is a boutique brand is an overstatement. There are very few pairs in existence. But this should not detract from the expertise Eddie has for refining his amplifiers. I've been using variations of this 18-Watt, parallel 300B SET design since 2009 as my reference amplifier. It sings. I hooked them up to the arrays with the Synergistic Research Foundation cables in the 4 Ohm binding posts.
For the bass cubes I wheeled out my Coincident Speaker Technology Turbo 845SE integrated amplifier, a 28 Wpc producer for which I wisely built a custom amplifier stand with casters. It has since been discontinued and was replaced by the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Turbo 845SE monoblocks that quickly sold out. With massive power reserves, these 28-Watt RMS, Class A, 98-pound (each) monoblocks are said to sound like 100 Watts. Israel Blume told me another production run (that will not be numbered or limited) should be available in the fourth quarter of this year.
Nevertheless, my relatively humble 100-pound integrated amp proved to be more than up to the task with the Forty-10 and I was glad that I had not sold it to pay for the AGD monoblocks. I'll also mention that the preamp used with all these amps has been the Coincident Statement Line Stage, winner of a 25th Anniversary Legendary Performance Award, which has been my reference since 2010. I continued using the Audio Sensibility Testament speaker cables to connect to the bass cubes.
Low Frequency Control Center (External Crossover)
More tweaks provided equally impressive gains. I not only put a set of Boston Audio TuneBlock footers under the lightweight chassis, but further mass loaded it with a trio of Soundeck Record clamps. The latter kept the heavy power cord from swiveling the unit as well as providing additional damping. I also experimented with a sheet of ERS paper placed beneath the top of the unit which created a greater sense of depth to the soundstage and lowered the noise floor, but also rolled off the top end and over-damped the dynamics. Insertion of a Bybee Technologies iQSE also lowered the noise somewhat but also overdamped the dynamics.
This baffled me because I have had such great success with their Quantum Clarifier on my Kharma speakers. Ultimately, I left these later two tweaks out of the equation, preferring transparency and dynamics to a slightly quieter noise floor and greater soundstage depth. I would have loved to try the Quantum Clarifiers on the four 18" Peavy drivers in the bass cubes, but I wasn't about to pull them out of my Kharma speakers.
For the range below 100Hz the Low Frequency Control Center is equipped with a volume control that was sensitive to even slight adjustments with very little movement of the dial. An adjacent knob controlled the contour of the bass response, raising the volume in the 20Hz-30Hz range to compensate for bi-polar cancellation in the low bass that sometimes occurs due to speaker placement. But as I said, I had very little measured response below about 35Hz. John Marks' Pipes Rhode Island revealed organ notes that low at a very solid and enjoyable level. Essentially, the Low Frequency Control Center is a tone control for the bass. Inside, the unit was simply laid out with most of the footprint taken up by a printed circuit board loaded with M Caps and tiny components.
What was missing here was a remote control for the bass volume control. This became apparent when I switched out the Parasound amp for the Coincident which does have a remote control. Time and again I found myself making minor adjustments in bass level to individual recordings with the Coincident remote which was immense fun. Artists' intent be damned the room's size, shape, and furnishings mess with it anyhow. A remote-controlled volume in the crossover unit would make a terrific optional upgrade.
Tell me what'd I say.
I initially started the review with the solid-state AGD monoblocks on top and the Parasound A 23+ stereo amp on the bass. Even before I had the set-up all tweaked out it was apparent that Forty-10 was superior to my Kharma Ceramique 2.3 in some ways and the difference grew larger as I fine-tuned it. The depth and resolution of the bass carried upward into the midrange and treble such that more detail emerged from top to bottom than I've been accustomed to. There was more transparency and more tonal color throughout. Pace, rhythm & timing were not particularly superior. The improved transparency and focus made it a lot easier to hear the individual notes, sort out different instruments in a group or orchestra, and follow the interplay of those instruments as the piece evolved. Attack of the notes was right now and the decay was smooth and natural, imparting a pleasant bloom to the music. Cognition of song lyrics became a lot easier, even in the more obscure situations. A key signifier on my compilation CD is the "Fifty-seven channels and there's nothin' on" refrain in Bruce Springsteen's song, "57 Channels." It is way upstage and to the listener's left barely audible. The Forty-10 pulled it off as well as any speaker I've heard it on.
Moreover, there was just a little disparity between the bass cube and the spaced array in tonality, but not in dispersion. Keep in mind, I was using a very high-quality AGD amp on top that cost more than five times the Parasound amp on the bass. Frequency response seemed seamless and dispersion was extremely wide without a significant shift in tonal balance or color as I moved far to the side of the room. My SPL measurements at the end of the review period indicated a 10dB peak at 400Hz that would have boosted the vocal region but again, this was likely a room-induced node. The sound completely escapes from the enclosures and there is just a small penalty for getting the end seat on the sofa when listening with friends. Sitting directly in front of one or the other speaker is like sitting a bit off-center at the Eastman Theater. The orchestra is still all there, but you're a little off to the side.
Finger Tips, Part II
As good as the AGD/Parasound solid-state combination sounded, swapping in the Tube Magic Research/Coincident combo revived my tube lust. The more vivid sense of space, transparency, and tonal color took the Forty-10 to an even higher level. The high efficiency of this two-way design allowed the magic of these SET amps to turn loose the unique design of these speakers imparting even more bloom and making them even more emotionally engaging. Hearts of Space on NPR was dreamy and I learned many pieces of this ambient form of music contain deep synth notes that I didn't know were there. Any music with a beat set my toe-tapping incessantly and only one loud and very complex classical music passage asked more than the 18 Watts could provide. The bass, driven by the stronger Coincident amp, never faltered, but what was even more impressive was the completeness of the deep notes, ripe with tonal color, defined by attack and decay deepest bass notes that my Kharma could not quite reach.
What Price Glory?
It's wonderful to be here
While at first encounter the Forty-10 looks like a modern iteration of a Quad 57 atop a large, re-imagined Rel subwoofer, it is far better than that. The proprietary technology in both the Folded Cube bass unit and the nearly full-range Spaced Array provide a high-efficiency combination capable of being driven by high-quality SET tube amplifiers. They are highly revealing of whatever components, cabling, and source of music you have upstream. Feed them reasonably well and they are free of fatigue or irritation. Feed them the best and you will revel in beautiful music. Custom order them to blend into your d้cor or stand out as a bold accent in your room. Either way, I found myself so enamored with the near full-range music that their appearance came in a distant second. Digital magazines don't have a cover page to catch your eye at the newsstand, but if they did, I'd be lobbying my editor to put it there. The Forty-10 was shown at T.H.E. Show, June 11th through 13th in Long Beach in a big room, and will be at RMAF and Capital Audiofest 2021 this fall. I strongly encourage anyone considering buying this speaker to go hear it. The Forty-10 is for the discerning music lover who is not afraid to think outside the box and seek out the unique as well as the very enjoyable.
High Frequency Driver: Spaced Array with Proprietary transducers
Crossover: Dedicated hybrid external design
Dimensions: 54" x 36" x 24" (HxWxD)