'Lifestyle' products usually emanate from the marketing-led mass-market companies, so it's a pleasant surprise to learn that at least one hard-core audiophile firm has the guts to be cute. Roksan's Hotcakes are the last thing I expected to be made by a company still producing turntables...
The Hotcakes belong to a sub-genre of small loudspeakers which, while capable of acting as main speakers in not-too-critical installations, are best used for 'peripheral' tasks. These include serving as rear-channel speakers in surround-sound set-ups, working off mixing desks for near-field monitoring or (as the majority will use them) being run as remotes off a main system or as the main speakers in a second system. Kitchens, bedrooms, offices, student digs -- the applications are limitless.
While Bose, AR and Wharfedale offer passive and active versions of their -- respectively -- RoomMates, Partners and Diamonds, Roksan's Hotcakes are passive-only. Not designed to act as substitutes for, say, JBL Everests, the Hotcakes can deliver satisfying but not raucous playback levels, and will work well with small quality amplifiers like the NAD 3020 and its progeny.
As with the Bose 101/RoomMate, each Hotcake features one full-range driver. It's a SEAS 4in cone, which Roksan tweaks for its own purposes. This driver is fitted to a seven-sided MDF
enclosure, designed to allow the Hotcakes to be situated either inconspicuously for those who value aesthetics above all else or for optimum sonic performance. As the box only measures 195x195x145mm, you'd be hard-pressed to find any room where its presence would intrude.
Because the Roksan driver is fitted to an angled surface, created by cutting
off a corner, the Hotcakes can be arranged easily to fire horizontally
or vertically, up from the floor or down from the
ceiling, shelf mounted or stand mounted -- the shape allows your (or
your interior designer's) imagination to run riot. Brackets have been
made available for wall mounting, while one
particularly fetching stand option has the Hotcake firing straight up, looking like a 1930s uplighter floor lamp.
Although these speakers aren't intended to supplant full-range
systems, I couldn't think of any way to audition them other than as
'real' speakers. Using a variety of costly and powerful
amplifiers with CD and LP sources, I ran the Hotcakes on 24in tall
stands, with the speakers firing at the listener. I was staggered by the
No, the Hotcakes do not deliver rich, full bass which defies the laws
of physics. No, the dynamics are not limitless. What these wee beauties
do is offer near-perfect lateral imaging, fair depth and convincing
height. They're quick and sharp, with no smearing in the mid or treble
regions. They cover the all-important midband with far greater
competence than you'd expect of a speaker which occupies no more space
than a stack of around 20
CDs. The worst sin of which they can be accused is a slightly nasal character on male vocals.
The lack of weight is disconcerting with all but a cappella vocals,
some strings-only recordings or speech. To enrich the sound, you really
must site the speaker near a boundary surface.
Simply placing the Hotcakes on the floor with the driver firing up
toward the listener was enough to add 'body'; to my surprise, the
speakers still created a sound 'picture' at a respectable height in
front of the listening position. Conversely, mounting the speakers with
their drivers firing down into the room and their backs touching the
ceiling/rear wall proved to be an ideal alternative to ceiling-mounted
designs which fire down directly at the floor.
I spent a few days listening only to the Hotcakes and it didn't seem
like a hi-fi equivalent of Lent. The sound was vastly superior to that
of any portable, which means that their success
as spacesavers is assured (students in cramped digs, take note). For kitchens, small studies, reception areas or other secondary sites, the Hotcakes are ideal.
At #139 per pair in black or white gloss lacquer (or anthracite for
an extra #20), the Hotcakes cost as much as or more than a number of
sensible, fine-sounding budget systems of a
conventional mien. No, the Hotcakes will not 'outperform' Celestion 3s
or Monitor Audio 7s or AR Red Boxes or a host of other dandy two-way
systems. On the other hand, no conventional
speakers can provide the aesthetics or the siting options of the Hotcakes. Which gets us back to the introductory paragraph.
If you don't have to worry about space or aesthetic considerations or
a limited budget, then you don't really need the Hotcakes. But if
you're an audiophile who dreads the unavoidable sonic compromises of
selecting a speaker for its size or looks rather than performance, the
Hotcakes will ensure that you won't need that Grecian 2000.