It's always fun and exciting in high-end audio to come across a new company and products that seem to offer something utterly unique, both in performance and in appearance. It was a pleasure for me to review the Lawrence Audio Cello floor-standing speakers, retailing for $18,000. Lawrence Audio Company, located in Taiwan, was founded in 1996 by Mr. Lawrence Liao. He comes from a true renaissance background. He is an award-winning artist, interior designer and musician with a passion for combining function with beauty in his speaker designs. The Cellos I reviewed were finished in a gorgeous matte Rosewood, which has a beautiful deep red orange color with striking grain patterns. The Cello is the smallest floor-standing speaker in the Lawrence Audio stable of speakers. Each speaker weighs 88 pounds and is 49 inches tall, 11 inches wide and 18.5 inches deep. The frequency range is 32Hz to 40 kHz. The Cello's stated sensitivity is (2.83V/1m) 90dB with an impedance of four ohms (minimum 3.2 ohms). The Cello's appearance is modeled off of a musical instrument and aesthetically looks like a piece of sculpture art.
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Because the Cello is designed with polygonal, non-equilateral shapes and sides, the parallel surfaces are eliminated, thereby reducing standing waves and diffraction. The narrow "neck" of the enclosure also decreases diffraction for the midrange and high-frequency drivers. The front baffle is a matte black color with five "strings" running down the lower half of the speaker. The Cello is a five-driver, three-and-a-half-way vented design. Since the port is on the bottom of the speaker, it can be placed closer to the front wall, as opposed to many other full-range speakers without bass bloat because of a rear port. This speaker packs reference-level parts, quality and design. The two woofers are eight inches wide, with aluminum frames. They are composed of a sandwich of non-woven carbon fiber, with a two-inch copper-clad aluminum voice coil with flat wire and a special Ferrite magnet system with a Faraday ring and demodulation coil. The midrange and high-frequency drivers are five-inch-long air motion transformers. Located behind the Cello is a two-inch ribbon tweeter for ambience, which also increases the depth of the soundstage. Crossover parts use high-quality MKP capacitors, high purified OFC inductors and military-grade metal oxide film resistors. Finally, the Cello comes with double WBT connectors for bi-wiring.
The optimum placement of the Cellos in my room found them being positioned ten feet apart, with the toe-in of each speaker aimed slightly past the outside alignment of my ears from where I would be sitting before spiking them. The Cellos performed at a high level when they were single-wired. I discovered that bi-wiring them took their performance to an even higher qualitative level. It also allowed the Cellos to deliver their full musical potential.
The musical beauty of the Cellos was apparent when I listened to Barney Kessel (guitar), Shelly Manne (drums) and Ray Brown (bass) on the album Exploring the Scene (Contemporary). The Cellos provided a harmonically rich tonality. Each player is a three-dimensional figure, with space and air in between them. This was not done at the expense of less accurate timbres or micro-details, as the Cellos are extremely transparent. Because of the air motion transformer drivers, they offer all the little details in the music. In contrast, similar speakers give a razor-sharp leading edge with less body in the harmonics, whereas the Cellos give you the clarity without sacrificing the fullness of the notes.
The next musical selection, "Molly on the Shore" (Ensemble Highlights Collection) by Percy Grainer, played by the NAF Staff Band with Eivind Aadland conducting, showed how the Cellos could produce a large, precise and layered holographic soundstage on this classical selection. The orchestra was presented in seamlessly lifelike fashion, along with the ambience of the large acoustic space of the Main Hall of Oslo University where the recording took place. The full weight of this selection was rendered with accurate dynamics that pressurized the entire room.
Finally, I wanted to hear how the Cellos would do while I listened to vocals. I went to one of my all time favorites, Rickie Lee Jones' Pop Pop (Geffen), and played "My One and Only Love". In my opinion, The Cellos did equal justice sonically to all types of instruments and music. However, if you strongly prefer vocals, the Cellos' natural rendition of a singer's tone and vocal mannerisms will give the illusion that the vocalist is singing right in your room.
Read about the high points and low points of the Cello speakers on Page 2.