The Living Voice Auditorium R25A loudspeaker proves that sound “accuracy” is alive and well!
The official launch of the Living Voice R25A Anniversary loudspeaker was at the Munich High-End Show 2019. I had heard about this line of loudspeakers through the grapevine from a number of my peers here in America.
Just about all of them were more than a little taken aback by the performance levels achieved by this relatively unobtrusive but indeed, mind-boggling loudspeaker at its price point!
I am not sure if they were participating at the last EXPONA (2019) we visited but had I known, it would have been a thrilling experience for us to visit them and have heard a demonstration of their full line!
LIVING VOICE DESIGNER Kevin Scott
Loudspeaker designer, Kevin Scott has been working on the original Auditorium loudspeaker, (which interestingly, is their first-tier design in the product lineup) and has renamed their R3R with the newest changes to mark their 25th Anniversary. Yes, 25 years, and not too many words or articles about them here in the American high-end media? Right now, as it stands, the American Importer (dealer) is Border Patrol, (the DAC to be reviewed in these pages soon) whose products are used in conjunction with their loudspeakers at many of the major audiophile shows.
Though some here in the US may not be familiar with most or all of the Living Voice Line, I will go on, in any regard, to explain what the designer feels he has improved upon in this new speaker and then get on to the meat and potatoes of the Living Voice R25A.
As we acknowledge that this is the first level of the Living Voice Auditorium lineup, it was decided that this model would benefit and undergo the largest fundamental changes of any of their other models as to its design parameters, thereby making the R25A Living Voice’s most significant development at this time. The Auditorium R25A is the base model in the Auditorium Series followed by the Avatar 3, IBX-R3, IBX-RW3, and OBX-RW3.
As we examine this updated design, it is a 2-way, (which I prefer over almost all loudspeaker designs) bass-reflex system with an extra bass radiator and a small port 1/3 of the way up the back of the tower. The rigid narrow cabinet sits firmly on a 6-inch-high solid base, with spikes that screw into its platform.
ORIGINAL R3R UPGRADES TO THE NEW R25A
Kevin Scott had noticed a change in the appearance of the diaphragm material of the R3R HF unit – a slight alteration in color – and then decided to compare the performance of the newest HF units to the reference HF unit.
Quoting Kevin, “We had previously learned from the RW3 project that even if a diaphragm material is identical in specification, with the same weight, warp, weft, and chemical composition, but comes from a different producer, there can still be profound performance differences – even if these aren’t measurable”.
This was indeed, the case and therefore Kevin made some adjustments to the crossover to accommodate this change. As is customary with the finest loudspeaker designers, the team decided to revisit all aspects of the older design with “fresh eyes and ears” to see if there were any other performance gains to be made.
Things finally came to fruition on the anniversary of the older R3R release, and so the debut and redesigned loudspeaker were gifted its new name in a very timely fashion; its twenty-fifth Anniversary!
Here Kevin Scott explains: “The most significant thing to me about the performance of the R25A is how seamlessly integrated and coherent it is. This is an overly used description, but in this case, it is so striking, with a 3-dimensional quality that you can look into and see-through. There is a singular lack of confusion or ambiguity, even in the most complex musical passages; an innate rightness about the balance that makes music make sense”.
IMPORTANT DESIGN ASPECTS
Undoubtedly, the natural choice of drivers was of prime importance in the design decisions made on the R25A. The adage, “Do No Harm”, from a design perspective was the starting point.
The tweeter used in the R25A is, (ironically for me as to its standard reproductive range) a typical, unmodified model from the well-known Scanspeak portfolio. This tweeter is an 8-ohm 26mm dome. A substantial amount of HF drivers were tried and eventually discarded by the designer but it soon became apparent, and not unusual, that the Scanspeak was the way to go. From the high-frequency sound quality of this loudspeaker, I can say with confidence that this was definitely the right direction to take.
Two 6.5” (17cm) bass-mid drive units (again a proprietary design made by Scanspeak) are used in parallel to produce the equivalent surface area to a single 10” driver – but with half of the excursion and 50% lower intermodulation distortion. As such, the driver works cleanly above the crossover, facilitating seamless integration with the HF system without the need for steep electrical filter slopes or the use of notch filtering to counteract stop-band break-up modes.
The Auditorium has a very high sensitivity rating at about 94db and Living Voice says the R25A is ideally suited to exploiting the inherent advantages of class A valve (tube) amplification as the speaker was designed and voiced with the output impedance (and damping factor) of zero/low negative feedback, direct-heated Triode designs in mind. The simplest audio amplifiers are single-ended and Class A; which make use of just one output transistor which is always conducting, irrespective of the output signal waveform. Class A has good to excellent linearity (and thus high fidelity / low distortion) but very low efficiency.
In smaller rooms, the very low wattage offered by many single-ended designs can be fully realized. However, and although the designer recommends the use of tube amplifiers with 15 watts or more to exploit the full dynamic potential available on a broad range of music programs, I have had the most exceptional results with some of the finest higher powered solid-state and hybrid amplifiers in practice. Meanwhile, the dispersion characteristics of the Auditorium Series are such that they create a magnificently coherent soundstage with arguably, some of the best stereo image localization effects I have heard! (Particularly when using the Pass XA30.8 or darTZeel CT-8550 II.)
The R25A’s sound permeates an awesomely musical subjective quality with its tonal radiance, refinement, and fluidity, without losing that bold yet confident sound quality. In this design, it also distinguished itself with a magnificent, most subjectively accurate, and absolute tonal neutrality in its reproduction caliber of its mid-band and treble response; not to mention a well-tuned and tight bass characteristic, reaching down to around 40Hz. —before hitting very slow roll-off thereafter.
We must add to these some excellent objective qualities in terms of its frequency response, bandwidth, low resonance frequency, and wide dispersion characteristics. The driver seems to just act—quite self-effacingly without exuding any attention to itself whatsoever. In the case of the R25A, the tweeter has a frequency response characteristic that with its matching bass/mid units, is unrelentingly sympathetic to sound as a whole. When these units are paired as a team with the R25A, they have allowed the designer a broad range of latitude for adjustment with its crossover. In this case, the driver was in charge of the steering…. not the other way around.
This, Kevin, states, allowed him to be able to morph the loudspeaker from something ‘good’ into something ‘fabulous. As we discuss this speaker’s overall sound quality, later on, you will see that his work has paid off quite admirably.
Using relatively simple circuit topologies and techniques, the crossover points were adjusted up and down by a somewhat larger margin, thus being able to vary the broadness of that mid-band level without spoiling the phase blend in and across the crossover region. This, by the way, was admirably finalized at 2,850 Khz, after moving the crossover point up and down in slow increments. The combination of HF and the bass/mid-drive units turned out to be very benign and superb combination. In many ways, the final bass/mid-treble balance characteristics intensely remind me of the legendary and much-adorned Spendor BC1. (Without the slightly rising treble response).
The bass/mid drive units are a proprietary Living Voice design that is based on an evolution of an original Vifa design. Living Voice has re-positioned the voice coil in the magnetic gap and changed it to its diaphragm while the termination of this diaphragm meshed into a spongy foam surround. They have also prototyped a cast magnesium bracket for this drive unit but interestingly, the original pressed steel design remains; as it offered clear performance benefit to the full sound of the loudspeakers.
CABINET and CROSSOVER
The handsomely proportioned cabinets and small footprint of the Auditorium Series conceal a meticulous, obsessive strategy to the quite complicated problems of loudspeaker design. Looking at the speaker you can see the unobstructed intrinsic features which are purported to cut straight to the heart of its musical performance. There is a common DNA from the Avatar R3 (now the R4 further up in the line) with degrees of refinement and precision of component tolerance, with the overall component quality increasing significantly as you ascend through the range.
The Living Voice loudspeakers have evolved to where over 80 % of their crossover components are proprietary. When you listen to the R25A it is not hard to realize that the components used here exactly meet the needs of this design. Admiringly, the crossover components are all designed in-house and have been engineered to meet certain, specific objectives – these include film & foil capacitors, non-inductive wire-wound resistors, and precision air-core inductors
Kevin Scott: “In this way, we can temper the ‘voicing’ to meet our critical musical standards. Most recently, we have developed our own HF unit in conjunction with Scanspeak, a driver which preserves the elegance and filigree of the renowned Revelator loudspeaker but relieves it of a broad energy dip between 10kHz and 15 kHz’.
BI-WIRE OR SINGLE WIRING
I asked Kevin a few questions regarding single vs bi-wiring, and he stated clearly: “My finding is that if I have a cable that I like and I bi-wire, I find it brings more fun to the party, however, I have almost exclusively used valve amplification, so maybe the low damping factor of such amplifiers has something to do with this.”
Having lived with this speaker now for a few months, I hear what he is saying even though some of the time, I have enjoyed these speakers immensely with a single wire arrangement. As for bi-wiring, the Silversmith Audio “Fidelium” cables and bi-wire jumpers performed amazingly good with the R25A’s. Since then, I left the speakers in the above bi-wired setup. I have just recently updated my Inakustik LS-4004 reference speaker cable to bi-wire format and so it will be interesting to see how well they mate with the R25As. As for now, even with the “Fideliums” bi-wire jumper cable, the speakers sound quite brilliant.
The internal wiring harness on all of The Living Voice loudspeakers is copper, this being a proprietary copper non-twisted pair so it has very low inductance. It is currently used to make all the in-house inductors for their speakers.
Great products leave a journalist in a heap as to how to start out describing their attributes, particularly in the case of loudspeakers that an individual design has to offer. To start things off, I must say that the Living Voice R25A is a phenomenal transducer of music and by the way, speech.
This is what I like to describe as a music lover’s or better yet, an artisan’s loudspeaker, for it shows off the current state of reproducing music in the home as good as anything I have currently heard. It is a classic sounding loudspeaker. By that I mean it reproduces live music as it should be heard; never emphasizing any part of the frequency spectrum but displaying every nuance of neutrality one could ever ask for in a speaker system.
The midrange displays a smooth, lush, and quite an extraordinary amount of detail, tonal accuracy (acoustical instruments), and seamless mid/treble transition into the highly silky and exquisitely detailed, accurate top end. If you happen to value the sound of live classical music, the R25A will take you to new heights in displaying concert hall ambiance and realism that is many times, shockingly life like! No doubt, designer Kevin Scott has experienced and remembers the sound of live music in many of the finest concert halls to get a performance such as this from a loudspeaker design.
One thing is for sure. If you are an ardent fan of vocalists; whether it be soul, jazz, or in the case here opera, the R25A is going to make you think twice about how a voice should sound in a real “live” acoustic. I put on a wonderfully recorded EMI disc of Mozart’s sacred arias, by Barbara Hendricks (particularly “Et Incarnartus Est” from the Great Mass in C) and was overwhelmed when her voice was imbued into my listening room through the R25A. I heard a voice that was so naturally beautiful and neutral emanating from center stage, yet with a perfect touch of warmth and silkiness, as well as huge amounts of transparency. It must be stated that with this particular recording on the R25A, I have never as of yet heard a soprano sound as alive from a loudspeaker system— yes, it was simply beguiling. If that doesn’t say enough about the Living Voice then nothing can!
The upper midrange to treble balance relays a sort of “non-auditory” effect as the music glides throughout the soundstage. That sound stage, mind you, is quite wide and incredibly deep, reaching as far back into the three-dimensional holography that the speaker permeates throughout the plane of the whole front wall; surrounding and divulging from the loudspeaker boundaries.
As part of this speaker’s overall and exquisite natural tonal reproducing abilities, you cannot help to notice how supremely ”natural” this speaker reproduces the wind sections of many orchestral recordings. The bassoon, clarinet, and oboe are astonishingly neutral in their reproduction on some of the most discrete program sources. They usually emanate far back in the center of the sound stage, but the TONALITY is supreme in this sense!
COMPARED TO THE QUAD’S
Interestingly, after re-inserting the Living Voice into my system after a 2-week sabbatical with my Quad 63’s I did seem to notice a trifle touch of reticence in its mid to lower treble range, particularly on well-recorded live piano recordings and concertos.This indicated a slight recession to the overall balance from the front of the speakers on backwards. The small difference in balance, which is most certainly a design characteristic, can be a positive situation for many listeners, but once in a while, it did take a tiny hint of “tonal” transient impact or vibrancy away from the piano keyboard hits. Even so, in retrospect, this was a minuscule observation by any means and admittedly, did change subjectively when using a different pair of speaker cables or amplification (now what does that tell you?). Of course, one cannot deny that this is a vociferous comparison as the Quad’s mid-band, to this day, is quite hard to ignore. Even so, the R25A, in many undeniable ways contains much of that midrange snap and transparency of the Quad—with much better bass and power handling capabilities. Swirl that around in your head for a while!
The Living Voice instruction manual gives explicit guidance on setup and positioning of the speakers and I think owners of this loudspeaker should take notice of this. The advice given will offer the listener the finest stereophonic imaging and soundstage placement of any type of music you may choose to enjoy. It is needless to say that we should be well aware that these placement instructions are offered as ideas—but they are well worth their weight in gold.
All things considered, all your three wall boundaries surrounding the speakers should be symmetrical and evenly measured to the centimeter while the speakers should have a toe in of about 20-30%; in my case, it was about a 22% toe in–this regardless of your room size and assuming—- your listening position is pertinently centralized. In this manner, the stereophonic reproduction on the R25A will be as sharp as a razor; presumably when the source material and its microphone placement were recorded with at least a “hint” of accuracy. I cannot deny that stereo imaging is second to none when it comes to my enjoyment of any substantially authentic audiophile setup — loudspeakers or any other components one may be using upstream in the system.
BASS RESPONSE via SPEAKER PLACEMENT
If we look at the R25A’s bass response subjectively from about 100hz and down, we find a fine mid-lower bass slam that while not as deep as some enthusiasts may have come to expect, produced more than enough “thwack” on orchestral bass drums while acoustic pop recordings have a fine impact as well displaying most if not all of the natural depth and intensity of the electric bass guitar.
Not having heard the previous model, it may appear that the updated mixed material cabinet has played a large part in keeping the R25A bass under control in most situations, eliminating any mid-bass “drumminess” or that one note” boom” many speakers in this price category may exhibit. However, once in a while with certain program sources, the speaker will exhibit a mild ‘thumping” in the 75-150hz region.
Most ironically, this was noticed with more highly dynamic classical program material rather than rock, or pop sources as the latter may have had some electronic manipulation inserted into the mix. As such, pop enthusiasts will truly enjoy a solid and controlled audible foundation with this new model displaying a firm, dynamically tuned bass kickback.
It must be noted that if you have any problems getting the R25A’s bass under full control, please think carefully about setup. I always initially start with the most conventional loudspeakers in my room, (26 x 14) at about 4 feet from the front wall to the front baffle and around 3.5 feet from both sidewalls. I can then manipulate the distance back and forth during initial listening evaluations. As I am a perfectionist in this respect, let me say that this is always a trying and sometimes, aggravating situation, particularly in terms of exact toe in as well as all other measurements. I can spend over an hour, or even days, back and forth measuring and towing in or out a loudspeaker incrementally as to get a perfectly centered image and as fine a bass response as my room will tolerate. In the case of the R25A, this will pay off immensely–! However, this is me— others may not be as fussy!
As the final result came to fruition here, the Living Voice was truly able to show a decent amount of strongly taut and solid overall bass/mid-bass quality as well as a good bit more than you may expect to go around.
Furthermore, as my experience has shown, and contrary to the designer’s preferred needs, I could only assume …… that full tube amplifiers, or a 300b pentode or triode, may induce a somewhat less forceful bass response, although I cannot say for certain, in any respect, not having had either on hand to try out on the R25A. Admittedly, this was not the case with some hybrid amplifiers that were tried out with this speaker in the interim.
However, outboard DACs are of great importance when fine-tuning this speaker or any system for that matter in that they may be a touch softer, deeper in the bass response, or a “spec” leaner in the mid/treble response depending on the product in use. The Border Patrol (using a discreet tube rectified power supply on its input stage) and my Audio Note CD/DAC seemed to work wonders with the R25A in almost every respect. Keep your ears keen on loudspeaker/DAC subjective compatibility on any system you are currently using.
As Living Voice designer Kevin Scott reminds us, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.”
As every audiophile and music lover knows, this is quite an understatement when it comes to loudspeaker design and implementation. In the case of the new Living Voice R25A Anniversary loudspeaker, nothing could be closer to the truth.
These speakers pack a huge, magnificent wallop for the “true” music lover, and dare I say, they may not be appreciated by the “hardcore” audiophile in essence. The Living Voice speakers offer the listener a “classic” balance; meaning that they shine on accurately recorded acoustical sources, either pop, jazz, or classical and operatic music. They should be considered as studio “monitor” quality in referencing the most stringent live or recorded performances.
I believe that when you listen to these speakers in a highly demanding setup, and a decently treated listening room you will be quite overwhelmed by the overall quality of music and sound that these loudspeakers can produce from all musical genres.
They will exhibit a dynamic yet subtle, elegant, extremely detailed, and most of all, a supreme and exquisitely natural tonality. The R25A speakers make you realize just how beautifully prodigious a good recording can sound in your home environment. A long audition is certainly mandatory for the Living Voice Auditorium R25A so do yourself a huge favor and try to get a demonstration of them. Quite possibly, a dealer loan for these well-priced loudspeakers may be in order. Do so immediately; you may be missing one of the finest loudspeakers available today—at any price!
Living Voice Auditorium R25A loudspeaker PRICING ~ 5,000 BP; ~ $6,600.00 USD
Review system for this product: Loudspeakers: Spendor BC1, Quad ESL 63, Audio Note AN/ED ~ Digital: Border Patrol DAC SE-I ~ Prism Sound “Callia” DAC ~ Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server/streamer ~ Wyred4Sound 10th Anniversary DAC ~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1x/2 Analog: Audio Technica LP-7/ Denon 103R cartridge. Amplification: ~ Pass Lab XP- 12 preamp ~ Pass Labs XA30.8 power amp ~ Cambridge Duo MC/MM ~ PS. Audio M1200 monoblocks / Cables/ Conditioners: Inakustik AC-3500p power station & LS-4004 speaker cables, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord ~ Silversmith Audio ‘Fidelium’ loudspeaker cables ~ Audience Studio 1 interconnects, Wireworld Electra 7 digital SPDIF/ Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord.
- High sensitivity, wide dispersion MTM driver topology 750-density hardwood composite enclosure.
- Proprietary hand-wound air-core inductors, mechanically isolated crossover.
- Optimized crossover layout.
- Proprietary non-inductive wire-wound resistors.
- Proprietary Living Voice metalized polypropylene capacitors.
- Treble: Scanspeak 26mm dome tweeter 8ohm. Double ferrite magnet. Fabric dome diaphragm.
- Bass / Mid: Scanspeak 17cm doped paper-coned bass/mid drivers made specifically for Living Voice.
- Woods and finish: Premium furniture grade book-matched natural veneers in Cherry. Walnut. Maple. Rosenut. Black Ash, Flat White.
|Technical Specifications & Measurements.|
Basic performance specifications for the Auditorium models are listed below.
|NOMINAL IMPEDANCE:||6 Ohms|
|LOADING:||Reflex port to the rear of the cabinet.|
|POWER HANDLING:||100 Watts|
|CABINET DIMENSIONS:||W 215mm × D 270mm × H 1030mm|
|PLINTH:||W 215mm × D 270mm × H 140mm Black textured finish.|
|GROSS WEIGHT:||19Kgs per cabinet.|
American Importer and dealer: BORDER PATROL AUDIO https://www.borderpatrol.net/loudspeakers
Lynn and Kevin Scott
Definitive Audio Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)115 9733222
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
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