ALR Entry 2M Loudspeakers Reviewed

ALR Entry 2M Loudspeakers Reviewed

The 2M is ALR's least expensive system. It will "satisfy a craving for clean, extended treble with a trace of sweetness and an absence of nasties." Its sound is "more considered and natural." The midband is "also affected, the richer, more extended bottom somehow warming up vocals and acoustic instruments..."

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Irony, said to be something which Americans fail completely to comprehend, was written all over this assignment because of one teensy detail. Before I was allowed to review ALR's Entry 2M budget two-way loudspeaker, I was commanded from on high to audition the magnificent little Tannoy R1. This two-way mini-monitor has become, with exceptional rapidity, something of a 'poor man's reference' in the UK budget sector, a KEF Coda or an AR4ax for the next millennium. How good is the R1? Well, let's just say that they're now my sub-£200 .

What my on-high commander did not know at the time of assigning this review was that the Tannoy R1 and the ALR Entry 2M share OEM drive unit source, topology details (e.g. foam-filled rear-ports) and more than a bit of their aesthetics. Where they differ are in such matters as the Tannoys being bi-wirable while the ALRs are not, and the ALRs are slightly larger. But the main source of my glee is discovering that the consultant for both Tannoy and ALR is Karl-Heinz Fink. K-H is that most rare of personalities: a German with both a good ear and a sense of humour. Colleague of Ken Ishiwata, world-class Leica apologist and all-round connoisseur, he's become a loudspeaker trouble-shooter of no mean repute. His earprints are all over the Entry 2M.

And, tee-hee, the R1.

At £229 per pair, the '2M is ALR's least expensive system. Costing only £30 more than the Tannoys, they will - unavoidably - battle head-to-head in shops selling both brands. It's not a reviewer's role to focus specifically on either the similarities or the differences when judging a speaker against a primary rival if it means obscuring the basic by-product of a review: conveying a sense of the speaker as a whole. However much I tried to audition the ALR both on its own terms and in a larger context, the spirit of Karl-Heinz hovered overhead as I listened to it alongside the Tannoy. I felt like some poor schmuck forced to choose between cashews and pecans. Or a couple of Corrs...

A two-way bass-reflex design, the '2M uses a 206x330x302mm (WHD) enclosure with a rigid-framed, detachable grille. The baffle sports a flared edge, making it a couple of millimetres wider than the enclosure - the opposite of the R1, which has baffle edges that taper toward the grille. Additionally, the '2M's grille almost touches the baffle, while the R1's floats off it by two or three millimetres. Both sport cabinets which would fail the tyre-kicking contest in some observers' minds, the R1 responding to knuckle rapping with a higher-frequency thunk than does the '2M.

ALR's mini uses a 170mm mid/bass driver and a 1in soft dome tweeter which looks suspiciously like the Tannoy's save for the surround plate. But the real determinant vis a vis the pair's sonic differences are the woofer and box sizes: the Tannoy's measures 130mm. Add to that a cabinet downsized to 170x300x200mm (WHD) and a weight of 3.5kg versus the Teutonic challenger's 5.9g and you can see that your £30 gets you a lot more size and mass. But this battle (in my editor's mind, I hasten to add) will not be decided on dimensions, nor the fact that the R1 is adorable while the '2M is plain.

As the gun next to my head is loaded if not cocked, let's deal with other contrasts which will help you place the pair in their respective corners. The ALR needs 1W to deliver 89dB of sound at 1m, the Tannoy provides 87dB for the same power. The ALR has a 4 ohm impedance, the Tannoy is an 8 ohm design. '2M's frequency response is stated as 50-23kHz, while R1's is down as 55-20kHz. Our German's woofer uses a 'Jordan Alu Cone membrane' while the Scot opts for paper. Essen wraps its speaker in sub-MFI black, while Coatbridge prefers a gorgeous cherry veneer. See what I mean? There's more than just a thirty quid difference, but the Fink Link is too strong.

In practice, though, the sibling rivalry turned into a Cain v. Abel scenario. Listening sessions involved Partington stands, A.R.T. speaker cable, the Gryphon TABU AT, NVA Personal and Roksan Caspian integrated amps and the Musical Fidelity X-Ray and Roksan Caspian CD players. And all I could think of were siblings where their likenesses were to great to ignore, but where individuality ensured that even a total stranger could tell Noel from Liam or Kylie from Danii. (Or, for that matter, Sigfried from Roy...)

From the upper midband onto heaven, the speakers sound enough alike to suggest that you could mix'n'match 'em in a surround-sound scenario, or fit both pairs with the same badge and none would be the wiser. Either speaker will satisfy a craving for clean, extended treble with a trace of sweetness and an absence of nasties. Both ooze a sense of accuracy, of exactness, but the smaller-baffled R1 has a slight edge in the precision of its image location. What the 2M provides that eludes the R1 is a much more convincing sense of scale.

None of this would matter to any R1 fan until they heard the ALR in the same set-up, because the R1 is damned good. But then the 2M kicks in with its extra measure of bass, and the situation changes...if you accept that bass (and, for that matter, extra level) do more than merely make a system sound bigger. In the case of the 2M v R1, the midband is also affected, the richer, more extended bottom somehow warming up vocals and acoustic instruments.

Repeatedly, the R1 sounded livelier, the 2M more considered and natural. If you were to add ten or fifteen grand to their prices, you would have a face-off as per Wilson (the Tannoys) versus Sonus Faber (the ALRs). Neither betters nor negates the other. These personality traits merely define the purpose, the sonic requirements of the partnering equipment and - inevitably - whether or not they suit you. The 30 difference? Too little to matter unless you're homeless, unemployed or merely a cheapskate.

But, and this is a big 'but', never discount the BWFH*. Although there's only a few millimetres between them, the R1s look tiny and cute in a micro-system sort of way, the 2Ms substantial in a 'my owner is an audiophile' sort of way. And that scowling third party might be just enough to make the choice for you. Me? I'm keeping both.

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