World Premiere Review!
One of the things I love about audio is all the different ways your music can be delivered to you. The choices for all the different components in the chain are endless. Do you want to listen to vinyl? You can go direct drive turntable or belt drive. What kind of cartridge do you want? Moving coil or moving magnet? What kind of moving coil, low output or high output? What stylus shape do you prefer?
Creators make a myriad of choices when they design an audio component. The one that fascinates me the most is the venerable loudspeaker. Its job is simply to convert electrical impulses into sound waves. Yet all you have to do is peruse the pages of Enjoy the Music.com to see there are many ways to accomplish this goal. One of the holy grails of speaker design is the single-driver speaker. That means one transducer reproduces all of the audible frequencies.
The big advantage of this design is you don't need that pesky crossover to divvy up the signal into different frequency ranges for the different drivers. The big problem is that it's extremely difficult to design such a contraption. If you look around on the internet, you'll see that, compared to woofers and tweeters, there are few to choose from. Some, like the Lowthers, have their cult followings. Another is the Jordan JX92, a full-range driver designed by Ted Jordan.
The current EJ Jordan company began in 1982 and was Ted's company until his death in 2016. Many consider the magnum opus of his designs to be the legendary JX92. A lot of DIYers out there have designed speakers in different configurations utilizing this little gem. It even received high praise from Nelson Pass and Pete Millett, two fellows whose opinions I hold in high regard. The driver used in the Greenwich loudspeaker is the Eikona, which is an updated version of the JX92.
The Eikona driver is only 3.5 inches in diameter and the cone is made of their proprietary Controlflex metal alloy. This is different from many full-range drivers, which are made of paper. The Eikona also features a die-cast chassis, which helps greatly in controlling resonances. Amazingly, the free-air response of the Eikona goes down to 43 Hz. Each
Greenwich speaker contains two of these amazing Eikona drivers aligned vertically. By utilizing two drivers, the Greenwich can handle twice the power and has improved dynamic range over the Marlow, its single-driver sibling. The enclosure for the Greenwich is the classic, ported, heavily-damped BBC design with a volume of 16 liters. The cabinets are made of 9mm Baltic birch and come with two choices for veneers, walnut, and tamo ash. The samples I received were walnut and they were beautiful.
Since the Greenwich loudspeakers are monitors, EJ Jordan Designs also sent me a pair of stands made specifically for the Greenwich loudspeakers. A little assembly was required with the provided Allen wrench, but in no time I had beautiful metal stands that showed off the Greewiches.
Listening To Music
A typical way I listen to my system is to put something on while I'm working in the kitchen. They are adjacent rooms and the sound carries well. Then, when I have a good time to take a break, I'll sit down, listen to one song, and make some mental notes. I put on Coldplay's Parachutes the first evening I did that. When I took a break and sat down, I listened to the song "Yellow", their first hit. Immediately I was struck by how well the Greewiches disappeared. If I closed my eyes, I had no idea where the speakers were. The second was the sense of space behind and outside the speakers. But when I listened more closely, I realized Chris Martin was there, but only sort of. It was more like an apparition of Chris signing to me from the other dimension. I had to get back to my cooking, I didn't have time to explore further that evening, so I ruminated over what I had heard that night.
We audiophiles, like many others with an engrossing hobby, can be a little bit obsessive about the sound of our system. So that night, as I was lying there trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that this problem might be the absolute phase. I had only become completely aware of the concept of absolute phase this last summer when I built my current preamp, the B1 with Korg Triode (B1K). The B1K is a Nelson Pass design that incorporates the Korg Nutube triode, which is a solid-state device. I built this preamp from a nifty kit and it comes with a lot of great documentation about its assembly and operation.
Within a technical paper on the B1K, Nelson Pass discusses how the B1K inverts the absolute polarity of the signal and how you need to adjust your system accordingly. The absolute phase determines the phase of the second harmonic. The phase of the second harmonic determines how we perceive the music coming out of loudspeakers. Normally we prefer the negative phase second, which gives us a better location of instruments and voices in the soundstage. Realizing this, I was able to go to sleep that night. The next day, when I got home from work, I switched both speaker cables, turned on my system, and started listening to music. Presto! Chris was back with us in the mortal plane again. Now I was ready for some serious listening.
To start, I put on the Pat Metheny Unity Group album Kin. Once again I was immediately struck by how the Greenwich loudspeakers completely disappeared. This is a big spacious recording and the Greenwich loudspeakers showed that off. On the track "Sign of the Season", Antonio Sanchez's drums filled my living room and Ben William's upright bass was palpable. I was surprised at how deep it sounded considering the size of the boxes. For the next track, "Kin", Chris Potter's tenor sax had the right combination of bite and mellow overtones, and Pat's 335 had its characteristic warm tone. Overall, it was a gratifying experience.
Since David Crosby died, I've been listening to music from the era of the late sixties and early seventies. Some of this music hasn't aged well, but some albums seem as fresh as the day they were released. One of those is Joni Mitchell's Blue. Written and produced by Joni, it is a beautifully recorded album with brilliantly written songs. When I listened to it with the Greenwich loudspeakers, I was able to see Joni front and center singing her heart out. It doesn't matter how many times I've heard her sing, I'm still struck by how she soars through her vocals. The Greenwich loudspeakers did an amazing job of putting her in my living room.
Another disc I used to evaluate the Greenwich loudspeakers was Brad Mehldau's Finding Gabriel. A unique album in Mehdau's catalog, it incorporates the human voice. Written in response to a personal crisis over the current political landscape, Mehldau used the Bible as inspiration for his compositions. Composed of layers, each song takes several listens to fully entangle. On track after track, the Greenwich loudspeakers did a spectacular job of giving each instrument and voice its unique place in the soundscape.