Hi folks - I just had to pass on to you my frankly amazing experience at my friend Dave Hart's place the other day...
You can take this with a pinch of salt if you like, because I am friends with Dave, but all I can say is that the following is genuinely my honest opinion.
David Hart is the genius behind cult speaker brand Hart Audio. He's spent the last few years tweaking and perfecting the Hart Audio Gold - a small speaker system that re-writes the rules on the subject of small cabinet size versus bass extension.
It also re-writes the rules on Tannoy dual-concentric drivers: all and I mean all of the famous "Tannoy honk" is absent.
In the last few months various breakthroughs have been made which seem to have transformed this into a speaker with no significant downsides. The bass is very extended. I don't mean extended for a small speaker, I mean extended for any speaker (Dave tells me that in fact they extend to 20Hz!).
He has invented a patented new type of bass system: the speaker is in two halves - the bottom half has the bass being fed to a forward-firing tannoy driver, the open middle of which acts as a small bass port.
Around the back of this bottom cabinet, you'll find an array of many very small rearward-firing drivers that are also being fed the bass signal. An adjustable pot on the front of the speaker can tweak the amount of signal sent to these rear drivers, to facilitate some degree of tuning the unit to its surroundings.
I don't claim to understand why this arrangement produces this lovely deep, rich, extended bass, but it does.
The big manufacturers ought to be chasing David to buy this bass system off him for a lot of money - but of course they are not...
The top cabinet sports a Tannoy dual-concentric driver to handle upper bass, midrange and treble.
So you have the usual advantage of the dual-concentric arrangement - a point-source for all mid and treble sounds to achieve very precise and secure imagery, whilst Dave's fanatical modifications have removed the Tannoy honk, leaving a very open, even, sweet sound.
When I visited his house, he was very excited for me to hear them - and with some justification!
The system he has driving them is pretty basic by audiophile standards - a Mac laptop, an inexpensive but good quality DAC, a passive volume control and a couple of class D amps - but oh the sound...these small unassuming looking speakers blew my socks off!
I'll attempt to describe what I heard:
A big, generous sound - full of life, speed and goose-pimple reality - and brimming with lots of completely natural sounding fine detail.
With a fantastically even-handed tonality, all the way from a generous, extended but never too heavy bass, through a completely even and peak-free midrange, through to a natural unforced, sparkling extended treble that hunkers down into the midrange in a completely natural sounding way.
The speakers seem to put very little strain on the amps and they go loud quite happily (an area which Dave has been struggling to perfect - but has now "cracked it").
They were positioned very wide apart and were throwing a huge 3D soundstage. No hanging around the left and right speakers - no "hole in the middle", despite being positioned so far apart. That soundstage is very wide and very deep.
Resolution was as high as I've heard, reaching deep into the textures and playing rich synth sounds and acoustic instruments which great gusto and maximum texture.
Agnostic in the choice of music - they allow you to simply put on anything reasonably recorded and prepare for that big smile to come over your face real soon!
We played 2Pac - fantastic lush production and synth textures. We played Mercury from Holst's The Planets at the Albert Hall: a great delicacy of touch - with real sounding instruments & hall acoustic.
We played Diana Krall - even more textures than usual from that magnificent voice, tiny little touches on the drums newly revealed. I could go on, but you get the idea...
I'm very proud of the way my home system sounds - but this was something else!
I've also heard many very expensive and capable hi-fi systems at hi-fi shows over the years, but nothing has reached this overall level.
This is a sound with no chinks in the armour, but imbued with life and energy and sometimes spookily accurate reproduction of real instruments - giving those elusive moments when it just sounds real!
And yet it is kind to the music. There is a friendliness and generosity to its music-making which means it will always accentuate the positive (a quality I believe to be de-rigueur for hi-fi systems: first and foremost they are supposed to be a tool for enhancing your enjoyment of music, are they not?).
To say I was blown away is an understatement - I cannot get my head around the fact that one sound-obsessed man has been able achieve such a standard. This was the best thing I've heard - and I do not say that lightly.
If you're looking for speakers that will end your search and be "keepers", I urge you to contact Hart Audio and arrange to audition them: firstname.lastname@example.org