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June / July 2010
Superior Audio Equipment Review

World Premiere
Von Schweikert Audio UniField 2 Speakers
Marching to a different drummer.
Review By Ron Nagle
Click here to e-mail reviewer.

 

Von Schweikert Audio Unifield 2 Speaker  My wife sits on the couch reading something that fell out of the Sunday Newspaper. At the far end of the room, I turn on the Richard Gray Sub Station as my audio system is plugged into that eighty pound, twenty ampere Isolation Transformer. We are both in for a real treat; queue up a recording of Peggy Lee singing her favorite song "Fever”. The opening seven notes are a deep resonant plucked bass line via the UniField 2 speakers. The response is, "Hey I was reading something!” A system mute precedes my wounded reply, "I thought you might really enjoy this new recording of Peggy Lee singing "Fever”.  My significant other says, "That's not new I must have heard that song a thousand times before”. Me: "No you haven't, you may have heard this song but you have never heard this recording before”. This is a statement any audiophile understands instantly, but the opposing gender may most likely not. What I have here is a Clarity Cable CD demo compilation from the 2009 CES. This Peggy Lee cut is far closer to the sound of the actual recording session than anything that I have experienced before. Stepping up on my soapbox: I proclaim: "At this level of performance an audio system becomes far more than a sound system it is more like a Time Machine”.

 

Recap. 2009
Let us back up as I'm getting too far ahead. It all started back in October of 2009 at The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Specifically, we are in the Moscode Audio room and I am photographing George Kaye standing next to his 2009 Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. In a casual conversation, I mention that the RMAF is my primary source for outside of the box high-end audio. Mainly these are innovative products that might be overlooked by the big conglomerate magazines. Standing behind me is none other than the man and the name attached to Von Schweikert Audio products. Of course, I know of Albert Von Schweikert he occupies an esteemed place within the Hi-End community. To make a long story much shorter he offers me the very first crack at the new UniField 2 speakers he has under development.

 

Fast Forward to 2010
Note: In their literature Von Schweikert Audio refer to themselves as the VSA Company.

Months pass and then than one day out of curiosity, I phone VSA to get an update on the UniField 2. Mr. Von Schweikert (from here on its just Al) mentions something enigmatic about sending the speaker to me with medium packing.  Later on, I'm told there has been a lot of internal back and forth debate about packing and how to tune the bass response of the speaker.

 

Delivery Day
Is the Delivery Day that brings to me a pair of 55-pound cardboard boxes. Inside each box cradled in dense sculpted foam packing is a high gloss piano black speaker enclosure with curving sides that taper to a narrower back panel. The UniField 2 is a new smaller stand mounted speaker following the UniField 3 in this series. It was sent with a raft of documentation on construction, design theory and set up. Great emphasis is given to instructions pertaining to room size, placement and amplifier power. The literature tells us that the speaker is designed for Universal Room Application. From that statement, you can deduce where the name UniField comes from. It is actually a contraction of two words, Unified Sound-Field. My reaction after reading that statement was,” but that's impossible”. How can anyone know beforehand the way a speaker will interact in any given environment? Consider dear reader that the room and even the objects in the room all these are acoustic elements beyond estimation.

 

De Object de Article
Though stand mounted, the UniField Model 2 is not very small it weighs 46 pounds and measures 17” high by 14” deep it has a 10” wide front baffle tapering back to a 4.5” wide ported rear panel. This is in my opinion is really not a typical stand mounted speaker. The literature calls it a two-way speaker however; the tweeter is mounted coaxially inside the midrange-bass driver's throat. Additionally there is a separate subwoofer driver the same size as the mid-bass driver. At first sight, the speaker looks like it is a 3-way driver configuration.  Part of my "really not typical” statement refers to the UniField 2 driver selection and the mix of traditional and innovative construction techniques. This is best illustrated by lifting the following two sentences from the instruction manual.

"Design: A Simulated Point Source Dynamic speaker with a built in passive subwoofer. It is a Bass Reflex design that can be converted to a sealed system”.

Wow, me thinks that is quite an ambitious mouthful! So that you might better understand some references in the story, the following is an abbreviated description of driver elements and construction.

Subwoofer: Seven-inch frame, 5.5-inch long throw aluminum cone. Patented Low Distortion motor system built to our specifications in Norway .

Bass- Mid Driver: 7” cast frame with a 5.5” TPX cone licensed by the BBC and made in Norway. The driver is in a separate damped enclosure with non- parallel 75mm triple thick-layered walls.

Tweeter: 1-inch fabric dome, mounted in the throat of the bass-mid driver for true point source sound.

 

Great effort has been made to build an inert enclosure. The cabinet walls consist of triple wall lamination and are 2.5” inches thick. The outside wall is resin based MDF the middle layer is synthetic stone between these is a rubber adhesive layer and the inside surface is covered by a hard felt inner liner. The interior subwoofer partition is packed with differing densities of Dacron Polyester Fiberfill.  At the back, the speakers have four high quality binding posts linked together with jumpers.

 

Stuff A Sock In It
My initial set up is the usual tried and true equilateral triangle trick with me sitting at the apex. The speakers are perched 25 inches above the floor on my stands.  My very first earful sounds something like listening to four stereo speakers. Two speakers are doing the midrange and tweets things and two others are doing the bass bits. To mine ears the bass is just kicking the ass out of the rest of the sound spectrum. So in self-defense I run to my sock drawer. Forthwith the sock stuffing of the rear porthole does offer a modicum of sock succor. However, the effect is odd indeed. Everything coming from the Aluminum Subwoofer is damped equally from the upper bass down to foghorn frequencies. That's not what is needed it's better bass not missing bass. The U2 speaker specifications say the bottom end reaches down to 40 Hz, and that's what is causing me concern. My 11.7' wide by 20' long listening room starts vibrating like an old man on a roller coaster much below 55 Hz. Therefore, it is only the very low frequencies that need taming.

However even as we contend with the bass problems the coaxial combination of the fabric dome tweeter and midrange woofer is from the very first a wide-open space expanding sweet sounding joy to listen to. Could this indeed be a universal speaker? That's what this inquiry will endeavor to discover. Moving the speakers farther from the 11.7' rear wall and farther from the sidewalls helps a lot. And an additional 50 hours on the speakers makes some improvement. At this point, I have the speakers surrounded with my homemade acoustic panels and a trio of Argent RoomLens pipes. Still the bass interacts with my room. I cannot move the speakers any closer together without collapsing the center sound stage.  At this point, I am fresh out of ideas.

Therefore, my last resort is to ring up Al the audiophiles pal. I relate to him a step-by-step systematic setup story leading up to this last impasse. Al tells me he will send me some instructions and Dacron Polyester fiberfill.  (My Mom used to make pillows and use this same Polyester fluff to fill them.)  But isn't this pretty much like sealing off the rear cabinet port with a sock? Al assures me that this is not the same thing because the bass/sub–bass driver is in a separate oversized enclosure and is only partially filled. Additionally the Instructions state that the speakers must be bi-wired for best sonic results. In the sprit of I am willing to try anything Al agrees to send me a pair of VSA Master Built speaker cables along with the fluffy stuffing.

 

The Proof Is In The Putting
After a four-day delay the proof arrives today, it is two bags of Fiberfill and an eight-foot pair of doubled-up hose size cables (note: Dacron Polyester Fiberfil can be purchased from most Craft Stores). Before I go any further let me say at this point I remain highly skeptical. The easiest thing to do at this point is to swap my cables for the VSA Master Built bi-wire cables. To be fair let's first play three hours of radio through the system then listen to one of my reference CD's. There is an obvious improvement in the midrange and a much larger change in the treble frequencies. However, the cables do not alter anything at the bass frequencies.

Moving right along, or in new speak, going forward. The detailed instructions tell me to stuff small balls of Dacron Fiberfill into the speaker enclosure through the speaker's port with a rolled up magazine. The instructions also suggest that I could remove some of the material if need be with a wire coat hanger or pair of Salad Tongs (listed on Audiogon?). Picture me now making snowballs out of Dacron and then tamping them into the speaker's rear opening, first the left than right side. In order to get it right you need to periodically stop and listen. And so as you proceed you should monitor your progress with a known recording. My long time reference CD is Basia, Time and Tide [EPIC Records EK40767]. Bit by bit, one-step at a time the deep bass tightens and blends with the midrange and treble. My skepticism dissipates in increments, the sound I hear when finished is not just better but it is transformed! While listening to several different recordings every one exhibits the same sonic transformation. Much to my surprise the bass integration allows the mid and treble frequencies freedom to open up and expansively paint the whole sound field. The deep bass becomes more detailed and articulate the upper bass frequencies seem to gain speed. Moreover, with all that there doesn't seem to be a loss of deep bass it's still all there to provide a foundation for the music. (Wow man! I did a whole bag and a half)

 

Conclusions
On the occasion of this transformation our British cousins might remark, "I'm Gob Smacked!”  And so would I, if I knew the approximate location of my Gob so I might determine if it had been smacked.  Hurrah! , when all is said and done I did succeed in my quest to find audio out of the ordinary. True there is nothing that I can see that is radically beyond existing acoustic principles of speaker design. The difference is in the mix and application of these principles. It must take guts to turn out a system that needs this kind of attention, but the end result is worth it. I reported my happy findings Back to AL, Mr. Von Schweikert and asked him if he thought that the average purchaser would have the smarts to properly set up a pair of U2's. He pointed out that anyone who shells out $7995 for the UniField 2 has probably been around the block a few times and knows his craft. (I will have to agree with that).

Mr. Von Schweikert stated from the very first that he and his staff were very people centered and that they are committed to provide advice and guidance to their customers. The instruction manual has a paragraph titled Factory Help. "If you do not achieve "goose bumps when listening then you have not found their full potential please call us for help. Customer Service phone number, 951-696-3662”.

 

Epilogue
As Peggy Lee sings the very last lyrical line I see a smile of approval. Then one more request, it is that I play another favorite selection from the same CD, Aaron Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man. The opening is the deep and powerful percussive sound of a Kettle Drum and the transient impact is startling. Following this, we hear the brassy blat of massed trumpets echoing from within a vast hall, it sends a chill down the spine. On these musical passages, we are transported to the concert hall and to the event. This is good as it gets here in my home and reference system. I can't possibly predict the kind of results you might achieve within any room larger than mine should be far easier to set up. So now I have provided proof of my audio analogy and banished unbelievers. Undoubtedly Albert Von Schweikert marches to the sound of a different drummer.

As Always, Semper Hi-Fi

 

Review Equipment
Roger Sanders ESL power amplifier
Audio Research SP-9 Mark 3 preamplifier
Sources: Marantz DV8400 Universal CD player, Magnum Dynalab FT101a tuner.
Wiring: DH Labs Reference 1, Audioquest 12TC and Esoteric Ultrapath speaker cables. Interconnects: DH Labs Silver Revelation 1.5 meter, Wire World Eclipse 2, 3meters.
Line conditioners: Richard Gray RGPC Sub Station, Alpha Core balanced isolation transformer, Audio Power, Enhancer 1.
Michael Green Room Tunes.
Argent Acoustic Lenses and home made sound absorbent panels.

 

Specifications
Type: Three-way monitor loudspeaker
Tweeter: 1" (25mm) fabric dome tweeter mounted inside the throat of the bass-mid 
driver for true point source sound wave replication.

Midrange/Woofer: 7" (180mm) cast frame driver using 5.5" TPX cone.

Subwoofer: 7" (180mm) frame with cast frame, long throw design and patented Low Distortion Motor system.

Crossover Points: 80Hz and 2.2 kHz, fourth order.
Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m
Frequency Response: 32 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-6dB), 40 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 2dB).
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal, with a slight dip to 5 ohms at 40 Hz.
Weight: 46 lbs each
Dimensions: 17" x 10" x 12" (HxWxD)
Serial Number Of Review Sample: 014210
Price: $7995

 

Company Information

Von Schweikert Audio
1040 - A Northgate St.
Riverside, CA 92507

Voice: (951) 682-0706
Fax: (951) 682-6701
E-mail: info@vonschweikertaudio.com
Website: www.VonSchweikertAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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