Terry London has always had a great passion for music, especially jazz, and has amassed a collection of over 7,000 CDs covering the history of this uniquely American art form. Even in his teenage years, Terry developed a passion for auditioning different systems and components to see if they could come anywhere close to the sound of live music, and has for the last forty years had great fun and pleasure chasing this illusion in his two-channel home system.
Terry is a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by day, and runs the Chicago Institute for REBT. He has also authored nine books on this of type psychotherapy and education.
Five years ago, I had the great pleasure of reviewing a pair of PSM Super Monitor speakers from NSMT, which is an affiliate company of Role Audio. I was sad to part with the speakers because they were beautifully made and produced music in a dynamic and natural way that was quite captivating. I discovered that Role Audio/NSMT, located in North Carolina, builds its own cabinets and uses the finest OEM drivers, modifying them to get the performance desired for each speaker model.
It also turns out that Erol Ricketts, president/designer of Role Audio/NSMT, is a master at transmission line loading strategies that you rarely find used in today's speakers. The reason for this is because of the cost to build them correctly and the delicate combination of scientific principles and artistic ability required to fine-tune the final sound by ear. Instead of trying to dampen or kill off the back wave of a driver, a transmission line (think of a pipe organ) lets the back wave travel the length of a tuned (both by size and damping) internal enclosure and exit to an open port. If this is done correctly, the speaker can produce an immense soundstage with a deep, powerful, and tuneful bass in a small speaker design. I was very pleased when Erol asked if I would be interested in reviewing his revised floorstanding model, the Enterprise, which retails for $3,495 per pair in the upgraded finish of satin black and red birch hard wood ($3,295/pair the all-satin-black finish).
Another interesting aspect of Role Audio is that it is a totally green company. All of its loudspeakers are produced with non-toxic lumber, adhesives, paints, and materials. The lumber is sealed in-house to prevent out-gassing of any residual formaldehyde or other toxic vapors that may be present.
The Enterprise is a petite floorstanding speaker that weighs 41 pounds and measures 43 inches high by 5.5 inches wide by 10.5 inches deep. The Enterprise is a two-way design that uses a soft dome tweeter and two woven carbon midrange/bass drivers mounted on plate on the upper section of the front baffle. The two carbon drivers are loaded into a DTL proprietary dual transmission line technology, and the ports are at the bottom of the speaker. On the back are two high-quality speaker wire connections. Internally, the Enterprise uses DH Labs Silversonic and oxygen-free copper wire, high-quality film foil capacitors, oxygen-free air core inductors, and a minimalist first-order crossover that uses a single inductor and a capacitor. The Enterprise's frequency range is 35vHz to 20 kHz with a sensitivity of 90 dB. The impedance is rated at eight ohms (minimum 4.5 ohms). Each speaker mounts on metal outriggers with provided metal spikes/rubber feet. The build quality of the Enterprise speaker is at a high level of craftsmanship, and I found the combination of the matte black front, top, and back with the red birch sides to be very attractive in an understated, classy way.
To test how the smaller Enterprise speaker would do at reproducing bass, based on its DTL dual transmission line strategy, I selected Ray Brown's "Super Bass" (Telarc Jazz), which features three world-class acoustic bass players (Brown, Clayton, McBride) recorded at an audiophile reference level. I started to laugh when the three basses--each situated left, right, and precisely in the middle--started to play. Not only was the extension deep and powerful with the natural "woodiness" expected from an acoustic bass, but the height and size of these double basses were totally accurate, as well. The macro-dynamics would compete with a speaker twice the size of this petite floorstander.
Next, I played Jacintha's Autumn Leafs--the Songs of Johnny Mercer (Groove Note) to hear if the Enterprise could handle the timbres/color of her voice and the instruments of her world-class jazz band as well as it had handled the lower frequencies. The Enterprise's two-way design produced two terrific aspects in the music. First, the timbres/tonality/color of Jacintha's voice and band were rendered in a completely natural/realistic way. The overall tonality of the Enterprise is slightly warm of dead neutral, and it is silky smooth top to bottom. Secondly, I think that, because of its very narrow baffle (like smaller two-way stand-mount speakers), the Enterprise completely vanishes in its self-created soundstage that conveys front/back depth and width/height at a reference level.
My final selection was Cyrus Chestnut's album Soul Food (Division One/Atlantic), which is a very dynamically recorded "funky" jazz treat with the emphasis on the drum section to drive the pulse of the music. The Enterprise handled all the pop/kick of this music with excellent composure and total clarity. Erol's talent for developing his DTL technology really shone through with this music. The Enterprise is a very small speaker, yet the overall macro-dynamics, how loud they will play without any break-up, and the taut, deep bass extension are remarkable for its size.
• The Role Audio Enterprise uses a proprietary dual line transmission strategy that creates taut bass with grip, definition, and impact.
• The Enterprise produces a soundstage that is terrific in its realistic dimensions and will compete with any small, two-way monitor, yet it also provides bass extension that even the most expensive two-way designs lack.
• The build quality and physical appearance of the Enterprise are first rate, and they are hand built "totally green" here in the U.S.
• The Enterprise is a small/petite floorstander that could easily fit and perform in a small acoustic space.
• The Enterprise, because of its ohm rating and its sensitivity, can be driven virtually by any amplifier or AV receiver; however, it will highlight any shortcomings in your upstream gear because of its transparency/clarity.
• The Enterprise is an amazing performer for its size. But if you have a very large listening space, it might be over-taxed (based on high volume levels). In that case, you might look at some of Role Audio's larger floorstanding speakers.
Comparison and Competition
In the price range of the Enterprise, I have experience with two speakers that would be its competition: the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grand SE, which retails for $4,000/pair and the PSB Imagine T2, which retails for $3,498/pair. The Mozart Grand SE is similar to the Enterprise when it comes to the overall beauty of its tonality and color. Its bass is not as extended, taut, or accurate, and it doesn't quite throw the kind of large and layered soundstage that the Enterprise renders both in height and width. The PSB Imagine T2 has very good macro-dynamics, but its overall presentation is not as silky smooth/musical as the Enterprise.
The promise of Role Audio's proprietary DTL technology to create effortless dynamics and the bass extension of a very large floorstanding speaker in a petite floorstanding model, along with the soundstaging/imaging of a great two-way small monitor, has been realized in the Enterprise. Many of my guest listeners found it hard to believe that the Enterprise was creating such powerful and tuneful bass on its own. They also commented on how the speakers pulled off an unbelievable "disappearing act" in a gigantic but realistic soundstage that surrounded the speakers themselves. I would add that the Enterprise has great build quality, is easy to place even in small listening spaces, and has an overall musicality that draws you into the music. The Enterprise will compete with speakers at least double their price and outperform much more expensive stand-mounted monitors both in soundstaging and bass extension.
So, five years later, I have reviewed another speaker from Role Audio/NSMT that I will be sad to part with. It's been a pleasure to listen to this pair in my home.
• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the Role Audio website for more product information.
• Role Audio Sampan FTL Bookshelf Speaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.