The shock wave caused by the release of Tekton Design's Double Impact speaker is still rocking the world of high-end speaker aficionados. As I stated in my review of the $3,000/pair Double Impact, this speaker is a disruptive product because it snaps the ratio of cost to performance to the point of absurdity--completely outperforming my reference speakers, the $18,000/pair Lawrence Audio Cellos. I personally know three other professional reviewers who have put their reference speakers (which average $30,000/pair) in the closet and replaced them with Tekton Design Double Impacts.
In my Double Impact review, I mentioned that Tekton was coming out with a version of the Double Impact called the Special Edition, which would feature significant upgrades in all the drive units and internal parts. However, Tekton owner Eric Alexander had already conceptualized a totally new reference-level model that would allow him to implement his breakthrough design without any cost considerations, and he offered HomeTheaterReview.com the opportunity to be the first to professionally review his new creation. The name of this speaker is the Ulfberht, and it retails for $12,000/pair. The unusual moniker is taken from the name for legendary Viking medieval swords, famous for their strength and their ability to keep their sharp edge during battles.
The patented Ulfberht is a physically imposing speaker that weighs 200 pounds and measures 73 inches high by 16 inches long by 17 inches wide. The pair sent to me for review was finished in a beautiful black piano lacquer with imbedded silver flakes that subtly shine in the right light. The Ulfberht is a four-way design that uses a total of 21 drivers. Starting at the bottom of the front baffle is the highest quality 12-inch woofer that is manufactured by Eminence. Above the woofer is a pair of seven-inch mid-bass patented "overtone & harmonic" bass transducers of Italian origin. Next is a proprietary, patent-pending 15-dome radiating hybrid MTM high-frequency array of Scan-Speak drivers from Denmark. They are larger domes with extremely low resonance frequencies, and they are highly efficient. Flanking this array are four small vents. Another pair of mid-bass drivers followed by a 12-inch woofer takes you to the highest point of the front baffle.
On the back of the Ulfberht are two twin ports to vent the woofers and two pairs of high-quality speaker wire terminals for bi-wiring. Finally, there's a pair of terminals that accept differently rated resistors, if you want to change the performance of the highest frequencies when using a rather "hot" sounding amplifier. Because the high-end frequencies always sounded sweet and natural, I never had to use any resistors with the many solid-state and tube amplifiers I used while auditioning the Ulfberht. Its frequency range is 20 Hz to 30 kHz, with a sensitivity of 99 dB and an average impedance of four ohms. This means that virtually any amplifier can drive the Ulfberht Speakers to tremendously high volume levels in any sized acoustic space. All crossover parts are hand sourced by Eric, and he is very proud of the "pure minimum phase" crossover design throughout the entire midrange.
The pair of Ulfberht Speakers arrived strapped to a large, heavy wooden platform in a very intelligently designed double crate with internal padding to keep the speakers pristine during shipping. Because of the sheer bulk of these massive speakers, I strongly advise that at least two people unpack them (which is a relatively straightforward and easy task) and place them in their optimum position.
I placed the Ulfberhts exactly in the same position where the Double Impacts usually reside in my listening room, which has dimensions of 30 feet wide by 50 feet long by 24 feet high. I positioned the Ulfberhts seven feet apart with a slight toe-in, seven feet off the front wall, and four feet off the sidewalls. The Ulfberht speakers were mounted on Sistrum Apprentice Platforms.
The rest of my system consisted of an MBL 1621 CD transport, a Concert Fidelity-040 hybrid DAC, an Audio Tube Linear Micro-Zotl preamp, numerous power amplifiers (Pass Labs XA-60.8 mono blocks, ZOTL-40, Triode Lab SET 2A3S-MK2, Canary Audio SET 300b M-80 mono blocks, and Sophia Electric SET 300b 91-01 mono blocks), a Running Springs Dmitri power conditioner, MG Cable reference silver and copper wiring, and Harmonix Studio Master and Audio Archon power cords, all placed on a Tomo rack with footers by Krolo Design.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...