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.
The past year has been a momentous experience for CEO/Designer Eric Alexander and his company, Tekton Design. For over 13 years, Eric has designed and built highly regarded, affordable speakers that offer great performance either for home theater systems or two-channel music setups. Last year he came out with a couple new speakers based on his new, proprietary, patented design that are still sending shockwaves through the industry--due to the astounding performance they offer at such reasonable prices. Since HomeTheaterReview.com was the first to publish professional reviews of the Double Impact and Ulfberht floorstanding speakers, Eric wanted us to finish out the "trilogy" with a review of the new stand-mount speaker, the Impact Monitor (prices start at $2,000/pair and vary based on finish/grille options). Given my experience with both of the larger floorstanding models, I could tell how successfully the new monitor integrated the award-winning design into a much smaller speaker.
The pair of Impact Monitors sent to me for review was finished in piano-black lacquer, but the speakers are also available in red, white, gray, and custom color options. Just like the other Tekton Design speakers that I've reviewed, the Impact Monitors arrived in pristine condition, due to the excellent packaging with sturdy boxes and inserts. Even though these are the stand-mount "babies" of the new line, each one weighs in at 40 pounds and measures 24.5 inches high by 10.125 wide by 13 deep.
The Impact Monitor is a three-way, nine-driver design that incorporates the proprietary poly-cell-oriented, one-inch dome radiator high-frequency array (a total of seven transducers), located in the middle of the front baffle, flanked vertically by dual 6.5-inch bass drivers. On the back you'll find one set of high-quality forged solid copper Cardas speaker wire terminals and one port to vent the speaker. The frequency range is 40 Hz to 30 kHz, with a sensitivity of 94 dB, which makes this four-ohm speaker easy to drive either with solid-state or tube amplifiers.
I placed the Impact Monitors in my smaller upstairs system, which measures 15 feet wide by 18 feet long. I mounted the speakers on Sistrum reference stands that are 24 inches tall and are located 3.5 feet off the front wall, placed six feet apart with at least two feet off the side walls.
This system's upstream gear consists of a McCormack Drive SST-1 CD transport, a Line Magnetic 502 CA tube-based DAC, a Schitt Audio Saga 6SN7-based preamplifier, and either the solid-state Usher Audio Reference 1.5 Class A amplifier or AricAudio tube-based Transcend Series KT 120 SET amplifier. All the cabling is MG reference Silver ICs and copper speaker wire, and the power cords are Audio Archon reference power cables.
My first music selection was the Manhattan Jazz Quintet's Take the A Train (VACM-1254). With this album, it was immediately apparent that the speed and overall "aliveness" of the larger floorstanding speakers were delivered intact by the much smaller stand-mount monitors. Like their big brothers, the Impact Monitors have the velocity and kick of a horn speaker, without any of the colorations of that type of design. These speakers can easily play over 100 dB with no stress or strain at all, yet they never become "in your face." They could always deliver when the music's macro-dynamics mandated more in a louder passage. To get this in a relatively small stand-mount speaker is quite a feat. Another surprise was how well this speaker handled the power region (from 80 Hz to 400 Hz): the lower register of the piano had tremendous impact, and the double-bass fiddle's struck strings had the type of pop you hear when music is played live.
My next selection was Marilyn Moore's Moody (Bethlehem), which would give me a good take on how these speakers handle the tonality/timbres of the human voice. Ms. Moore, wife of the great tenor saxophonist Al Cohn (who appears on the album), had one of the purist/clearest voices in the history of jazz. The Impact Monitors rendered her voice with gorgeous tonality and a density of color that was enchanting and very life-like. Like all reference-level stand-mount speakers, the Impact Monitors were able to produce a three-dimensional holographic soundstage with a deep center-fill. However, unlike a lot of stand-mounted monitors that miniaturize the size of the individuals within that soundstage, these speakers produced an amazing "meat on the bones," life-sized illusion of Ms. Moore standing in the middle of her band, singing to me in the audience.
One of my favorite live jazz albums is by trombonist Conrad Herwig--Sketches of Spain Y Mas: The Latin Side of Miles Davis, Live at the Blue Note (Half Note) contains some of the most powerful Latin drumming and percussion that has ever been recorded. The quality of this recording--in terms of its overall transparency, accurate wall-to-wall soundstaging, and macro-dynamics--will test any speaker's ability to reproduce a large, natural soundstage, along with accurate placement of individual players within that stage. The Impact Monitors spread this Latin-oriented big band from one corner of my room to the other as if I were sitting in the front row of the Blue Note venue. These speakers do not sound like most stand-mount speakers regarding how they handle "big" music. Whether it's a large acoustic jazz ensemble or a rock/pop band playing at full throttle, the Impact Monitors create a gigantic soundstage that sounds a lot like large electrostatic panels--but with a more accurate size and placement of individuals in that space, along with greater macro-dynamics and low-end extension.
Finally, I wanted to evaluate what the Impact Monitors would do with great music that suffers from an inferior recording, in terms of clarity and dynamics. This speaker offers world-class transparency and micro-details, with a silky-smooth presentation that extends to the treble region, where it still retains all the details without sounding etched or analytical. I chose Paul Simon's classic album Graceland (Warner Brothers) because the music is first-rate but the recording lacks dynamics and overall clarity. The Impact Monitors didn't turn a sonic "sow's ear into a silk purse," but they were able to reveal a few more micro-details than before, providing a higher level of enjoyment than I can remember with other speakers that I've used. Many of us own CDs in which we dig the music but dislike the recording quality, and speakers that offer precise details/transparency can often worsen this condition by presenting the background "garbage" more than the music. It might sound like a paradox, but the Impact Monitors, which are true conduits that pass all the information presented to them, still seem to be 'forgiving" with bad recordings. I noticed this same quality with both the Double Impact and Ulfberht speakers.
I only have two minor concerns regarding the Impact Monitors when it comes to placing them in your system. If you are going to purchase these speakers, I would insist that you do not place them on inexpensive stands. I ran the experiment and discovered that their world-class transparency/clarity, along with their powerful dynamics/bass extension, are compromised to a great degree. I would recommend that you look into Sistrum stands to maximize the performance of these monitors.
Second, you can drive the Impact Monitors with any reasonable electronics; however, if you really want to hear what these speakers have to offer, it would be preferable to fed them quality information. This is such a great speaker for a small acoustic space. You can build around them for years to come by upgrading your upstream gear as time goes on.
Comparison and Competition
Two speakers that compete with the Impact Monitors, at least in terms of price, are the highly acclaimed KEF LS50, which retails for $1,500/pair, and the relatively new Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2, which retails for $2,500/pair. Starting with the KEF LS50, when it comes to soundstaging, bass extension, the ability to reveal micro-details, and the density of tonality and timbres, the Impact Monitors significantly outclass these English monitors. The Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 do somewhat better in comparison in terms of lower-end extension; however, their bass is not as accurate in both tonality and tautness. What was extremely noticeable was the B&W speakers' lack of fine micro-details and decay trails that I could easily hear through the Tekton speakers.
Before I began my review of the Tekton Impact Monitors, I was curious to see if Eric could bring the world-reference performance of the larger Double Impact and Ulfberht floorstanding speakers to a stand-mount monitor designed for smaller listening environments. It did not take long for me to discover that, in the Impact Monitor, he has created another fantastic model that I have nicknamed the "Baby Double Impact." You get the speed and velocity normally only found in horn speakers, which gives you the sense of "aliveness" of real music, without the colorations of those designs. And you get the micro-details, decays, and transparency normally associated with electrostatic planar designs without the etch or sharp, analytical edge. This speaker not only completely disappears like all great stand-mount speakers, but it creates life-sized three-dimensional players much more like a large floorstander. It renders beautiful, natural timbres and tonal colors with all instruments. The bottom-end extension is accurate and taut; you don't really need a subwoofer for music or everyday TV listening. Finally, these speakers have a silky-smooth, grainless signature that draws you into the music. Is this a killer speaker for smaller rooms? You bet it is. The Impact Monitor has become my new reference speaker for my second system in a smaller acoustic space.
• Visit the Tekton Design website for more information.
• Check out the Bookshelf Speaker Reviews category page to read similar reviews.
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