Xhifi xDucer 2.1 Desktop Loudspeaker System

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You'd think that Xhifi's xDucer 2.1 Multimedia Loudspeaker System would be everything I hate. First of all, there's the dreaded term 'multimedia', which is a euphemism for 'total compromise'. Then, it bears a suspiciously low price tag. And it's just begging to flank some sub-20in LCD screen with its satellites. Clearly, this system is conceived for numerous roles, but amongst the most obvious are serving as the sound reproduction hardware for small, two-channel home cinemas or for playing back sounds from computers. Naturally, its constituent parts are magnetically shielded.

Computer addenda have never rocked my world, so I'm the last person who'd watch a DVD through his PC or listen to music via CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives. (I keep a Musical Fidelity X-RAY CD player, a ca. 1972 Marantz 1060 integrated amplifier and a pair of LS3/5As on my desk for music-while-I-work.) Secondly, I don't understand why the industry is touting 14in-21in LCDs for use as anything other than computer monitors. All those ads with brainless life-style settings and sleek-but-stupid clothes horses watching movies on 20in LCDs? Utter nonsense. But maybe there is a need for something in-between full-scale TVs (say, 29in and above) and portable DVD players with screens smaller than most notebook PCs. As well as gaming consoles, personal hi-fis, ad nauseum. In which case, there's much justification for compact sub/satellite systems.

And this one is nothing less than fascinating.

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Start with the 15in tall, genuine cherry hardwood XDSW1 subwoofer, with technology courtesy of JVC: it looks like a Sonus Faber Guarneri turned front to back, so the pointy area is what you see. A blue LED in the logo lights up to tell you it's activated. Firing from below is 6.6in long-throw, paper-coned woofer with an eight-layer edge-wound voice coil. The cabinet, which features 'elaborate bracing and damping design to minimise resonance', rests on four conical feet to raise it above its 10x13in base plate by a couple of inches. The 'tiptoes' are also said to improved both coupling AND isolation - bit of an oxymoron if you ask me, but what the hey.

Xhifi specifies the XDSW1 as covering 30-230Hz, the crossover fixed for the XD1 satellites. Its built-in amplification includes a pair of 50W Model 50 'Class D' Digital Amplifiers (said to operate at 90 percent efficiency) for the 6 ohm satellites and a Class B 50-watter for the subwoofer itself.

At the back of the subwoofer is a panel containing the on/off switch and a captive mains lead, a master volume control for the sub satellites as well as a separate volume control just for the subwoofer. Also fitted are a polarity inversion button, a pair of line level (RCA phono) inputs for the feed from a pre-amp or any line level source, and press-fit, bare-wire speaker terminals for the satellites. There's also a second set of speaker terminals marked 'Reserved For Future Use', possibly some surround sound role. The system comes with four 3m lengths of speaker wire and a couple of pairs of 2m phono-to-phono interconnects.

Then you come to the novelty element of the system, the cherry wood 'sticks' that serve as the satellites. These may cause a twinge of recognition if you're familiar with the current JVC catalogue, as similar speakers feature in a couple of the company's mini-systems, only in high-tech metals rather than gorgeous woods. What Xhifi appears to have done is re-housed all the units in these handsome wooden cylinders, including the subwoofer; JVC's equivalent subs are cubist designs aimed at the Pepsi Max crowd. Make no mistake: the XD1s are eye-catching, which is why this review came about. I walked into the Xhifi room at the Stereophile show, took one look at the xDucer system and knew I had to have a go at it. Especially when I was told they were 'ribbons'.

Inside the 13in tall cylinder - its cross-section is roughly that of a medium-sized egg, and the plinth is but a 5in circle - is JVC's 'Aosis' Direct Drive Stick driver technology. It consists of a 'cutting-edge 360 degree track-type dome driver' with 'advanced' rare-earth neodymium magnet structure to provide continuous 'Direct Drive' current along the entire area of the diaphragm. The latter is only 10mm wide and 95mm long, an ultra-low mass, high-molecular polyamide diaphragm with voice coils impregnated along both sides. Dispersion is said to be 360 degrees, and the ultra-high frequency limit is stated as 'over 50kHz'.

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