Aether Audio Spirit-1SE Speakers Reviewed
By: Terry London,
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On a very cold February day in 2008, I traveled to the factory of Aether Audio located in LaPorte, Indiana, to meet the CEO/Designer Bob Smith, to audition his Reference Revelation MR-1 MK-III speaker valued at $18,900 a pair. It turned out that the night before, the furnace had broken down and it was around 30 degrees in his listening space. The pair of Revelations had just been recently constructed and were nowhere close to being broken in. Finally, the upstream electronics were far from what would be considered reference level. Yet, I was amazed that under these very adverse conditions, these reference level floor standers still produced beautiful music. It was because of that initial demo that I requested Aether Audio's Spirit-1SE for a proper review.
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The Spirit-1SE reviewed here is the second generation of the company's first two-way stand-mount speakers. The price of Spirit-1SE is $3,490.00 a pair. The question was: could Mr. Smith bring the sublime performance of his very large and expensive reference speaker to a small stand-mount that would fit into most people's budgets and home theater or music listening space?
The Spirit-1SE speaker is a large two-driver stand-mount speaker with a curved-sided shape to minimize any side panel resonances while avoiding excessive weight. The dimensions are height: 17 inches, width of 10 inches front and four and a half inches back, depth of 14.6 inches. The weight of each speaker is 25 pounds.
The Spirit-1SE packs a lot of very sophisticated technology in its design. The tweeter used is a state-of-the-art drive unit that employs a soft, fabric-type dome construction, which extends bandwidth to beyond 30kHz. Combined with the "low compression ratio" design of the waveguide at frequencies above 5kHz, it constitutes a "hybrid" form of technology that takes advantage of the best attributes of horn design while avoiding its drawbacks. The crossover is at 700Hz, which is an industry "first" in a speaker this size. In fact, it is over two octaves lower than the typical 3kHz crossover frequency commonly used in a two-way design of similar size and cost. Combined with the advantages provided by the waveguide, this allows the Spirit-1SE to perform as though it were a three-way design (woofer, midrange, tweeter), yet with far better vertical dispersion characteristics, better overall coherence and less complexity than a three-way design. Furthermore, the woofer is an aluminum cone type that offers piston-like behavior over the entire operating range to above the 700Hz crossover frequency. As such, not only does it offer deep, powerful bass performance that is uncanny for an enclosure of the Spirit-1SE's size, it also avoids the typical cone break-up and resulting midrange distortion that is common to all other paper, plastic, and other exotic material types.
The physical appearance of the Spirit-1SE is extremely attractive because of the use of real wood veneer, which is cherry maple or piano acrylic urethane material to protect the wood grain. As far as I can tell, these speakers are built to a very high standard of quality both internally and externally.
Read about the high points and the low points of the Spirit-1SE on Page 2.