By Robert Archer
November 15, 2007
For decades, audiophiles have revered the many qualities offered by electrostatic loudspeakers.
Basically, an electrostatic speaker employs a thin filament or diaphragm placed between two grids. The grids or stators are sent an amplifier's audio signals and an electric charge then pushes and pulls the filament back and forth to move air and create sound waves.
The benefits of electrostatic speakers include the ability to respond quickly to an audio signal and produce a large dipole radiation pattern.
Detractors of the technology, however, point to the panel's inability to produce low frequencies, its instability and its high current demands.
Netherlands-based Final Sound entered the market in 1991 and, with the development of its Inverter Technology, the company says it has eliminated the issues that have slowed the acceptance of electrostats by providing listeners with a more stable product that is easier to drive.
One of the company's newer products is the small, floorstanding 300i loudspeaker. This past spring, Final sent me a pair of its 300i speakers and a companion S110-powered subwoofer.
Inverter Technology Drives Performance
As noted earlier, Final Sound is a manufacturer of electrostatic loudspeakers and it differentiates itself in the marketplace through the implementation of its Inverter Technology.
On its Web site, the company describes its technology by pointing out how it differs from traditional technologies.
"Existing electrostat designs move the audio signal across positive and negatively charged stator plates on each side of a Mylar diaphragm to 'pull' the film and create the sound. Final's technology 'inverts' that process by embedding the audio signal inside a sealed diaphragm."
Final says the technology enables the speaker's impedance to remain above 4 ohms across the entire frequency spectrum for smaller speakers and above 3 ohms for the bigger ones. This, in turn, allows for the use of smaller amplifiers, according to the company.
In the case of the 300i, the speaker employs a 12-volt power supply that plugs into the wall to charge the panel and, once the speakers are plugged in and connected, the company says the speaker achieves a frequency response of 95 Hz to 22 kHz, a sensitivity rating of 86 dB and an impedance rating of 4 ohms.
The S110-powered subwoofer is a traditional down-firing sub with a ported enclosure. Internally it employs an 8-inch woofer powered by a 100-watt amplifier.
Unboxing and Setup Totals About 1 Hour
With the company's U.S. office a short drive from my home, it was easy for Final's Marc Mombouquette to drop the system off at my house.
The system came in two boxes. The larger of the two boxes contained the pair of 300i panels and the other box held the subwoofer.
After unboxing and assembling the speakers' bases with the supplied Allen-head wrench, I plugged in the power supplies and connected my speaker cables. After that, I went into the menu of the T+A SR-1535R A/V receiver I was using to reset the crossover to 100 Hz.
Total setup time, which included my tweaking the sub's output, location and the speakers' toe-in, was about one hour.
Delivers Wide Soundstage, Lacking Bass
As part of my normal procedure, I listened to the speakers fresh from the box and then allowed them to break-in before I went back for any critical listening.
In my first listening sessions, I listened to Living Colour, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Lisa Loeb. Cueing up "Time's Up" from Living Colour, I wanted to hear how the speakers handled the double time meter the band opens in and how the combination of electrostats and the sub would deal with it.
From the box, the system didn't have any problems at all and I found the combination of the T+A gear with the speakers to be just about perfect. Listening to the Living Colour song, I heard a wide soundstage and tight image.
Midrange around 400 to 600 Hz seemed slightly forward, but there was a sense of warmth and tons of resolution that really shined on Vernon Reid's guitar. I could hear harmonic overtones and natural decay as the notes faded out.
After break-in, I listened to content like Monte Montgomery covering "Little Wing," in which I could hear subtleties, like the 60 Hz line hum that Monte's rig was producing after he had backed off the volume and the reverb on guest singer Lisa Tingle's voice while she ripped through the song's second verse.
With movie content, the system also produced enormous amounts of detail and space, but it also revealed a shortcoming in the system -- its lack of deep bass authority and volume, which I discovered on movies like "Cars" and the "Star Wars" sagas.
Price Point Sets Stage For Add-on Sales
I found the small sizes of the 300i and S110 to blend well within my room, and their sonic qualities shine on a variety of content.
The system's lack of deep bass is a problem and a blessing for installers. As a stand-alone system, installers will have to thoroughly explain and demonstrate the attributes of the system.
Because of the system's small size and affordable price points, however, there's an opportunity to upsell a client into multiple subwoofers, which should not only solve some of those bass issues, but is also a natural solution for some small-room acoustics problems.
MRSP for the 300i per pair is $1,999
MSRP for the S110 subwoofer is $499
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