… we get to our very simple loft video system of Oppo BDP-105 Darby Edition and Crayon Audio CFA-1.2. Rather than a vertical wall, here the backs of the speakers first encounter a wood-paneled sloping ceiling with a cross beam which splits the roof’s angle. The first vertical wall is about 4 metres removed and then sharply angled in an inverted ‘V’. It’s not exactly a free-space scenario but closer to it than a standard front-wall positioning would be. Having displaced the Albedo Audio Aptica compact towers with an equivalently sized mid/woofer albeit loaded into a narrowing transmission line with two built-in Helmholtz resonators to cancel out primary organ-pipe resonances, the Taiwanese behaved quite different. Without the effective front-wall assist of my wife’s system, the Mansion Compact didn’t project as well. Like many speakers do, the sound remained behind them. The Albedo projected stronger toward us. Incidentally, this isn’t about being sonically forward—the images don’t move—but feeling energetically forward. That’s not a fabricated quality concocted for this occasion but still something not too often talked about.
I liken projection power to a very good orator. Their delivery involves the audience even in the far rows. Those aren’t put asleep or excluded. It’s important to acknowledge how that’s not a function of loudness. With an orator, it’s a mixture of personality, charisma, cadence and gesticulation. Essentially, it’s energetic outreach. It expands the lecturer’s sphere of influence and extends their electrifying charge. Likewise, some speakers orate better than others. With some the sound just sits there in the distance like a message tucked inside an envelope. With others it communicates forward like a message sprawled across a dancing cheerleader’s very short T-shirt. Former contributor Chip Stern used to call such “louder” speakers lap dancers. Here the Mansion Compact played it more prudish and reserved. Our prior showing made clear that this wasn’t intrinsic to their design but to my setup. It takes a reasonably near front wall for that quality to emerge. As such, our big downstairs system where the seats are at 3.5 to 4 metres rather than the two in the loft—plus the V-shaped front walls at another few metres—was eliminated from our venue options.
The second factor of distinction vis-à-vis the wildly costlier Albedo were less explosive dynamics. This too factored into the Compact’s more polite delivery. Intertwined with that demeanour was their bass tuning. It’s not dialled for maximum punch and striation in the power zone. It’s less driven and more chilled. Off-axis response once again was very good. In a typical video seating, nobody ever sits in the stereo sweet spot unless they’re going it solo. Hence dedicated centre channels. Yet here dialogue remained perfectly fixated on the screen action even well outside the centre seat to be perfectly suited to the video application. Excellent focus meant that sweeping orchestral interludes fanned out broadly without loosing strong image specificity. The more dynamic nature of the AMT emphasized the upper harmonic content of percussive sounds to be very precise and articulate. Anything clacking, cracking, snapping or ticking had a lot of real-world ‘suchness’ which is perhaps best called minor startle factor like chili flakes. Speech intelligibility was high again too, assisted also by the not overdone ‘softer’ port tuning which avoided thickening overlay on the midband. Bass extension was amply sufficient for character-driven fare but Fury Road excesses would want a subwoofer. Here the floorstanding Aptica enjoyed an unfair advantage as well.
Settling the bill. Adding up the evidence, one starts with the most obvious: stellar cosmetics. If one thought that speaker styling had covered all conceivable wrinkles already, this newcomer wrinkles us all a new one. Except for two small items currently under revision, fit’n’finish are flawless as well. Sonically Coin Audio’s Mansion Compact attempts no new records on bass slam or reach but exceeds its published specs to be good into the 45-55Hz range depending on boundary gain. Admirable off-axis response generates big-spread soundstaging whilst that dynamically liberated folded tweeter counteracts the softer bass tuning with articulate freshness. This hybrid approach holds for tone textures too. They end up as a quasi mix of ‘metal’ on top and ‘paper’ in the mids and bottom. The only item to be watched are peak levels. Here the interracial marriage of dissimilar transducer tech stands usual behaviour on its head. Normal small dome tweeters begin to dynamically compress—i.e. no longer scale amplitude in a linear fashion with the input signal—well before their driver mates do. Here the claimed 5:1 air-motion advantage of Oscar Heil’s pleated invention means that the tweeter’s dynamic reserves exceed that of its cone mate. Play very loud and dynamics get top-heavy. It’s not something effective at standard levels. Only SPL pushers will encounter it to notice a brightening from the presence region on up. That’s the small price to pay for exploiting such an accelerated tweeter. Lastly, the chamber defined by the plinth tunnel creates some bass turbulence effects which are audible only in the extreme nearfield as on the desktop. Coin Audio are aware of it now to investigate a revised solution. For anyone not intent on using these monitors in that fashion, that proviso is lifted already. And if my wife is any indication, the smarter sex anywhere should really applaud the looks to let hubbies splurge a bit on nicer speakers. Clearly Coin Audio have their motto of family-friendly hifi properly sorted!