In 2015 when I reviewed Tekton Design's wonderful Sigma OB loudspeakers, Eric Alexander, designer/CEO of Tekton Design, passionately and excitedly shared that he had come up with a revolutionary new design regarding how to replicate the sound of live music in the context of a box-enclosure speaker. He also shared that he would be applying for a U.S. patent to protect his proprietary design, and he promised that, when his patent was accepted and he built his first model, HomeTheaterReview.com would receive the first pair for review. Well, Alexander's U. S. patent #9247339 was issued on January 26, 2016, and he kept his word by sending us the first samples of the new Double Impact speaker, which retails for $3,000/pair (including shipping).
Because of my respect for Alexander's brilliance as a designer, I was quite intrigued and excited to see what his creative mind had come up with. I asked him if he would explain, in laymen terms, what the differences are in his new approach compared with other speaker designs. His response was, "I discerned that, when source masses (i.e., the musical instrument, orchestra, or human voice) and speaker masses do not align correctly, the overtones and harmonic content contained within the source must be skewed, diminished, damped, and lowered in the output in relation to the (algorithm) of the fundamental tone(s) contained in different musical instruments. Live music contains energy, electricity, and a dynamic component that loudspeakers have missed replicating because they are not based on the algorithms that support the fundamental harmonic content/structure of the instruments they are reproducing."
The Double Impact is a large floorstanding speaker that weighs 106 pounds and measures 54 inches high by 12 inches wide by 17.75 inches deep. It is a four-way design that uses a total of 11 drivers. Starting at the bottom of the front baffle, you'll find two 10-inch woofers. Located on the upper half of the front baffle is the proprietary polygon-oriented, 1.69-inch (43mm) triple-ring radiator high frequency array (a total of seven transducers). This array is flanked on the top and bottom by dual six-inch mid-bass drivers with four small ports on the sides. On the back of the Double Impact is one set of high-quality speaker wire terminals and two twin ports that vent the two 10-inch drivers. Its frequency range is 20 Hz to 30 kHz, with a sensitivity of 98.82 dB and an impedance of four ohms. Because of its four-ohm rating and very high sensitivity, you can drive this speaker to extremely loud levels (over 100 dB) with less than 10 watts. Yes, I said 10 watts!
As in all Tekton Design speakers, the overall build quality is at a high level of craftsmanship. The baffles and final assembly are done in-house by Alexander and his skilled Utah-based staff. My samples came in the standard soft-gloss-black finish with no front grille covers. For a reasonable up-charge, you can order different finishes and speaker grilles if you prefer. Wood finishes, car colors. Your choice for a fair but variable price.
In my 40 years of being an audiophile/music lover and my six years as a professional reviewer, I have only been shocked by a new piece of gear on two occasions. Last year, it was the Linear Tube Audio combo of the Micro-ZOTL preamplifier and ZOTL-40 single chassis amplifier, based on the patented design of David Berning. And now it's the groundbreaking Double Impact speaker. With his patented design, Alexander has brought to market one of the greatest musical speakers that you can purchase regardless of price--yet he's offering it for an unbelievably reasonable price. HomeTheaterReview.com publisher Jerry Del Colliano gave me an excellent term to describe the Double Impact Speaker: he refers to such a component as a "disruptive product" in that it so radically snaps the ratio of cost to performance that it skews the market to the point that it would be irrational to spend a lot of money for far less performance.
The Double Impact speakers were shipped strapped to a wooden platform in a thick cardboard crate that was well padded internally to protect the speakers. Unpacking the speakers was a relatively easy task, but I would suggest that two people do the final lifting to put on the spikes and settle the speakers into position.
They went into my reference system in the same position as my Lawrence Audio Cello Speakers (spaced 10 feet apart with a very slight toe-in). This placement in my listening room turned out to be optimum for the Double Impacts.
My system's upstream gear is composed of an MBL 1621 CD transport, Concert Fidelity-040 hybrid DAC, Audio Tube Linear Micro-ZOTL preamp and ZOTL-40 amplifier, Running Springs Dmitri power conditioner, MG Cable reference silver and copper wiring, and Harmonix Studio Master power cords. This gear sits on a Tomo rack by Krolo Design.
When I auditioned the beautifully recorded big band album by Bill Holman called Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk (JVC), I immediately became aware of two great virtues of the Double Impact's performance. First, it has the transient speed and velocity of a horn speaker. When Holman's band let it rip on Monk's famous jazz classic "Straight-No Chaser," these speakers totally captured the sense of "aliveness" you get when a live big band really is burning/churning at full tilt. Secondly, the Double Impact is so transparent that I could easily hear all the little details (micro-dynamics) against a non-existent black background. However, none of this came across in an analytical or what I refer to as a "Hi-Fi" sound. Along with this transient speed/pop/aliveness was the ability to pressurize my large listening space with taut/powerful bass that rocked my room. I did not need a subwoofer to get the lowest bass frequencies in my music selections.
My next audition was Bob Marley's Legend (Island), which has both live concert recordings and studio sessions. This great music revealed another sonic trait of the Double Impact: its ability to create the illusion of real music through my reference system. The expression often used to describe the soundstaging abilities of a speaker is, "Are the players here, or are you there?" A great speaker has the ability to reproduce either experience based on how the performance was recorded. The Double Impact seemed to disappear like a great ribbon, AMT, electrostatic, or planar design in the way it re-created the height, width, and depth of the soundstage. However, unlike many of those types of speakers that reproduce distorted and unrealistic-sized images--along with not having a very accurate placement of the individual players within the soundstage--this speaker nailed all of these parameters with great precision and ease. The space between Marley and his band was rendered in a totally natural way. Each player was accurate in their size and had great palpability/three-dimensional "meat on the bones" presence. With the live concert recordings, I got the band along with the ambience of the venue, which gave the illusion that I was there in the stadium. On the other hand, if the song was recorded in the studio in a direct way with very little reflections of the room acoustics being recorded in the mix, the illusion was as if the players were in my room.
Next up was The Tenor Scene (Prestige) by my all-time-favorite tenor saxophonist, Johnny Griffin. One of the most important qualities to me when listening to a speaker is whether or not it can reproduce the tonality/timbres of different instruments in a clean/pure way that delivers the color and beauty of the artist's way of playing that instrument. The Double Impact is neither cold nor warm in its overall tonal perspective. It truly is a conduit. If you drive it with the right upstream gear, you will experience a liquidity with gorgeous tonal colors. To go along with the accurate reproduction of tonality/colors is extreme high-end extension, with decay trails that sparkle and have the delicacy and air found in real music. I heard Mr. Griffin in Chicago on many occasions, and this speaker did justice to the tone/color of his tenor saxophone when I heard him in his live performances.
My final selection was Keith Jarrett's highly acclaimed solo piano recording The Melody at Night, With You (ECM), which he recorded in his home studio. Both the way Jarrett played this series of beautiful ballads and how he intimately recorded his performance allow you to feel like you are sitting with him in the middle of the night as he plays his heart out. The Double Impact captured all the nuances (micro-details) of Jarrett's Steinway piano, regardless of how soft his playing was--along with all the slightest decays coming from the Steinway's sounding board. That's another great strength of this speaker: even when played at low volume levels, you do not lose the pace/feeling and micro-dynamics of the music, unlike other speakers that have to be played at a much higher sound level to get them to perform in their "sweet spot."
The only concerns I have about the Double Impact speaker involve its large size and the amount of lower bass frequency that it produces. If you have a rather small listening space, the Double Impact might be somewhat overwhelming in physical appearance. With its ability to produce thunderous, deep, and powerful bass frequencies, it could overload a small room sonically. Tekton Design has a smaller version of the Double Impact for those with tighter listening spaces.
You can drive the Double Bass with virtually any electronics; however, keep in mind that this is a reference-level transducer that offers complete transparency and clarity. So garbage in, garbage out. However, even if you start with entry-level electronics, the speaker will sound good--then you can build around it for years to get to its ultimate sonic potential.
Comparison and Competition
Because the Double Impact speaker has such an unfair advantage compared with any speaker that I know about in its price range, I decided to jump up to speakers that cost thousands of dollars more to compare their performance. The Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk2, which retails for $22,000/pair, has been one of my favorite high-end speakers over the last five years. It is great at rendering very natural timbres and tonality, along with excellent soundstaging. Its bass performance is extended but comes nowhere close to the Double Impact's more accurate and tighter bass response. Where the Double Impact really pulls ahead is its overall transient speed and sense of "aliveness" that I don't experience with the Acoustic Zen speaker.
The next speaker that I have enough experience with to compare with the Double Impact is the YG Acoustics Carmel 2, which retails for $24,300/pair. In virtually every important parameter--soundstaging, bass extension, overall dynamics, and clarity--the much more expensive YG Acoustics Carmel 2 was significantly eclipsed by the Double Impact's performance.
Other competitors priced right around the $3,000/pair range include the powered GoldenEar Triton Two+, the powered Definitive BP9080x, the MartinLogan Motion 60XT, the RBH Signature SV-6500, and the Paradigm Prestige 75F.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, I was and still am totally amazed at what Eric Alexander has achieved in his new revolutionary patented design that led to the creation of the Double Impact speaker. I want to be very clear that the Double Impact is not just a great speaker at its very reasonable price. Rather, it is a reference-level speaker that will compete and actually out-class the performance of some other speakers costing thousands of dollars more, from some of the most trusted names in speakers.
The Double Impact offers all of the attributes that you would be listening for in a beautiful-sounding speaker, such as clarity, bass extension, rendering of space and location of instruments in a realistic manner, beautiful tonality/timbres, and air/extension in the high frequencies. But this speaker adds something else that's difficult for me to put in words. There is a sense of "aliveness" that you hear in the music being played in real time that I have never experienced in other speaker designs. It allows you to connect to the music in an intimate/emotional way that is quite enchanting. That you can get all this for $3,000 is quite mind blowing.
For more than five years now, I have owned the Lawrence Audio Cello speakers, retail cost $18,000. They have been my reference speakers in my big system. I still love them, and they are great speakers; however, I go where my ears take me. Because of my experience with the Double Impact speakers, I have ordered a pair in a special finish and some internal upgrades that Alexander insists will take this speaker to an even higher level of performance. Yes, the basic Double Impact speakers outperformed my Cellos in ways I already explained in this review. Stay tuned for another review in which I share what a pair of upgraded Double Impacts has to offer over the basic ones I've covered here.