I seem to be fated to review unusual speakers. Every speaker that has come my way recently seems to have been a bit weird in one way or another. I've now had several based on a single full-range drive unit, and an active drive D'Appolito package. Then there are the cast iron Jerns, etc. etc. But none are quite as peculiar as this hybrid design from Hart Audio. It actually carries the name 'The Hart Loudspeaker', but to my knowledge it's by no means the first loudspeaker that this maker has developed.
In some ways it's very curious indeed. Its prime purpose is to deliver a full bandwidth sound, including very low (sub-40Hz) bass, from a compact speaker that's much smaller than one has any right to expect. The reason behind this is to try and find a speaker that is small enough to appeal to the whole family, but which also has the sort of bass delivery that will satisfy the true audiophile – a laudable ambition, for sure.
At £3890/pair such a combination doesn't come cheap, so one must apply rigorous standards to establish whether it really can deliver properly large scale from a compact box. At heart this is a modified Tannoy, starting out by packaging a 200mm (8 inch) Dual Concentric driver in a box that/s certainly compact, measuring just 24 x 39 x 19cms (WxHxD).
However, the modifications are considerable, as the back panel has no fewer than 11 tiny drive units, and these are driven by an internal amplifier fed power via a couple of wires that connect to an external power supply (a small 8cm x 4cm x 16cm box) that sits nearby on the floor, fed from an IEC socket.
Two small knobs on the front panel control the frequency and the level of the active drive. I chose to set these at maximum output and minimum frequency for best results under my conditions. I was also a little surprised when David Hart, during his last visit, drilled a couple of small holes in the front panels, effectively port-loading previously sealed-box enclosures.
Elsewhere the response could certainly be smoother, lacking some output 80 to 160 Hz, and subsequently showing some general unevenness. The in-room far-field response also dipped noticeably at a 2.3kHz crossover point, only partly recovering thereafter, so the treble overall is too restrained.
The sound as a whole was satisfactory much of the time, though it was mid-forward and somewhat restrained in the treble. However, when I dug out my Leftfield album, selecting Inspection (Check One) on side three in order to check out the bass performance, things did fall apart quite spectacularly. Any discrimination between the complex individual parts of the rhythms seemed to be lost, even though the overall sound balance seemed about right.