I am no longer surprised at the number of small, American-based companies that design and build superlative speakers that can compete with the historical "big boys" in both build quality and performance yet can beat them on the very important ratio of cost versus performance. Jed Kunz's company Clearwave Loudspeaker Design is located in Rochester, New York. After reviewing the Clearwave Resolution BE, which retails for $3,699/pair, I've added Jed to my growing list of creative and talented designers who manufacture top-notch speakers for reasonable prices.
When I was preparing to review the Resolution BE, I shared with Jed that I was somewhat leery of his use of a Beryllium tweeter in his design. My past experience with highly regarded speakers that use Beryllium tweeters has been a mixed bag. I enjoyed the tremendous resolution and detail that this type of transducer has to offer, but I found that the tonality/timbres were not as natural as I am used to hearing. I discovered that, after a short time, I would start to experience listener fatigue. He understood the shortcomings I was expressing, and he assured me that he had eliminated these qualities while keeping the sonic virtues of micro-details, speed, resolution, and top-end extension.
The Resolution BE is a two-way, stand-mount design clad in a beautiful glossy Santos Rosewood veneer and weighing in at 28 pounds. The dimensions are 13.5 inches high by 8.25 inches wide by 12.25 inches deep. The Resolution BE's frequency range is 42 Hz to 25 kHz, and its sensitivity is 85 dB. The speaker's impedance is four ohms. The internal parts list is filled with the highest quality components, such as all Mundorf capacitors and resisters, ERSE air core inductors, Supra wiring, and Cardas copper binging posts with gold plating and custom binding post plate and port ring to lower resonance.
The drivers themselves are top-of-the-line Scan Speak transducers. The midrange/bass driver is the 5.5-inch Illuminator, and the tweeter is a one-inch Air Circ Beryllium dome. The front baffle, which is curved on its sides, is two inches thick. The rest of the cabinet is one inch thick with extensive internal vertical bracing. Needless to say, the Resolution BE's build quality, regarding all the internal parts and the massive damping of its enclosure, ranks with the very best on the market today. It is also one of the most attractive looking stand-mount speakers I have had in-house for review.
To audition the speakers, my first music selection was the very well-recorded album by tenor saxophone player Scott Hamilton called Back in New York (Concord Jazz) to hear how the Resolution BEs would handle the creamy, deep, and darkish tonality/timbres that he produces on his saxophone. The Resolution BE rendered the colors/tonalities of his playing in an extremely accurate way. This was not done at the expensive of the "feeling" aspect of his playing. The timbres and all the little nuances of his playing were on display, but not in the overly analytical fashion that speakers with great resolution sometimes struggle with. Another aspect that I easily picked up on was that the Resolution BEs completely disappeared in a large, realistic soundstage, with the location of each player placed right where it should have been on that stage.
My next selection was Loren Maazel and The Cleveland Orchestra's recording of Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain (Telarc) to see how well the Resolution BEs would handle large macro-dynamics and an orchestra at full tilt playing this stormy and dynamic classical piece. One of my audiophile friends came over to hear these speakers; and, when this selection was over, he asked me to turn off my pair of subwoofers to see how well they would handle the bottom end and giant crescendos of this piece on their own. I explained that I had already turned them off, so the Resolution BEs had delivered the power range and gut-rattling punch on their own, fooling him into thinking the subwoofers were on.
My final selection was the late, great Bob Marley's album Legend (Island), which contains all of his and the Wailers' most important music from 1972 to 1981. This music demonstrated two more aspects of the Resolution BE's sonic qualities. The first one was how quick and accurate this speaker is at following the ebb and flow of the dynamics of music. Secondly, the overall tonality is silky and smooth, including the high-end frequencies; therefore, the Resolution BE never gets "in your face" no matter what the volume level is. Additionally, it will effortlessly play very loudly without sounding mechanical or analytical.
• The Resolution BE speaker is a powerful, fast-sounding speaker that never sounds analytical in its presentation.
• The Resolution BE uses some of the finest components/parts on the market, and its build quality equals speakers that cost magnitudes more.
• This speaker presents a tremendous amount of micro-detail but never sounds "thin" because it still gives you the body of the harmonics in the music and easy-to-hear decay trails.
• For a relatively small stand-mount speaker, the Resolution BE reproduces the power zone (lower midrange/upper bass) of music in such an accurate way that you get the feeling that a much larger speaker is loading your listening space.
• To get the best performance out of the Resolution BE speakers, you need to mount them on a high-quality stand. Therefore, the cost of the stands has to be added on to the price of the speakers.
• The Resolution BE is not a hard speaker to drive, based on its impedance. However, because it is only 85-dB efficient, you want to have a high-quality amplifier of at least 100 watts to get these speakers to really open up and deliver their great macro-dynamics.
Comparison and Competition
Based on price, two stand-mount speakers that would be the natural competitors to the Clearwave Resolution BE Speaker would be the Harbeth C7ES-3, which retails for $3,795/pair, and the ATC SCM 19, which retails for $4,295/pair. I found the Harbeth C7ES-3 to be at the same level as the Resolution BE regarding overall tonality and musicality, and overall it's a slightly warmer-sounding speaker. However, compared with the Resolution BE, it falls way short in the areas of clarity/micro-details and overall dynamics, and it sounded strained at volume levels that the BE handled effortlessly. The ATC SCM 19 had much better dynamics than the Harbeth C7ES-3 and came closer to the Resolution BE's performance regarding dynamics and effortless high volume levels. Its sonic downfall was its lack of natural timbres/tonality. Additionally, its high-end extension sounded rolled off in comparison.
The Resolution BE loudspeaker is a terrific-performing two-way, stand-mount speaker. If you did not know that you were listening to a relatively small speaker, a giveaway would be its remarkable imaging, which is one of the strengths of great stand-mount speakers. It leads you to believe that a large floorstander is pressurizing your room with great bass and overall punch and dynamics. The Resolution BE is a fast and very detailed transducer; however, it never goes over the edge to become analytical and somewhat "in your face" the way other very detailed speakers sometimes do. Its overall tonality is silky and very neutral. Therefore, if you drive it with the right solid-state or tube amplification, it will give you all the details but not lose the emotions or feelings in the music. The build quality and appearance of the Resolution BE are first-rate and compare with several much more expensive two-way monitors. It does equally well with acoustic jazz and classical music, but it can kick and pop with electrical/rock/hip-hop/house music, if that is more your taste.
As I stated earlier in the review, Jed Kunz has joined my list of talented designers who are manufacturing great speakers at lower prices compared with many of the historical "house brands," and often these speakers actually perform at a higher level than many of the more expensive models from these larger companies.
• Check out our Bookshelf Speaker category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the Clearwave Loudspeaker Design website for more product information.