|Yet another good speaker from the
land of the thousand lakes?
first encounter with Penaudio was at the Hifi
News Show at Heathrow a couple of years ago. I
think they displayed a stand-mounted monitor
and subwoofer. I cannot of course describe the
sound I heard back then, but I do recall that
I liked what I saw and heard.
I am no stranger to Finnish loudspeakers
actually. Some years ago I used and enjoyed
the Amphion Xenon loudspeakers which are quite
similar to the Penaudios, at least as some of
the design ideas are concerned. Both are
three-ways with side firing woofers. The
Amphions are still high on my list of speakers
in the sub Euro 5000 range.
But what about the Chronos?
The three-way Penaudio Chronos is the
top-of-the-line speaker in their new “Ambient
Series.” The tweeter is a 20 mm soft dome,
custom made by Seas of Norway. It goes up to
28000Hz where it rolls-off.
The midrange is a Vifa polypropylene coated
paper element with a large magnet system. It
works in its own reflex loaded cabinet and
covers a 120-4400Hz frequency range.
The bass driver is a custom made, side firing
aluminum driver from Seas. It is also used in
the flagship model, the Serenade. This driver
is a long throw 8-incher with a four-layer
39mm voice coil and a cross-over that is made
from air core inductors, polypropylene
capacitors and oversized resistors. Internal
wiring is the Analysis Plus Blue Oval. The
cross-over is hand soldered with silver
solder, acoustically 4.th order.
The Cabinet is made of 19mm MDF. There is one
internal brace in the bass section. Both
sections (bass and midrange) are reflex loaded
and are damped with two different materials:
rubber foam and cotton wool to reduce internal
air flow maximally. The cabinet looks very
nice and is frankly, quite elegant. The wooden
sides and top are made to the highest
standards. The binding posts are from WBT.
I heard some vibrations coming from the
speakers on several occasions. This may have
been the metal grilles moving or something
else. The speaker itself seems pretty well
constructed although I am not completely sure
about the bass chamber. The knuckle test
proved that the area around the woofer created
a hollow sound when I knocked on the cabinet.
When playing loud the cabinet was vibrating
rather heavily. It may have affected the
sound, maybe not.
I am also not sure what to think about the
“foot” on the bottom. Elegant? Maybe, but that
is a matter of taste. I know for a fact that
this arrangement is not the best way to fix
speakers to the floor. You will read more
about that later.
My dedicated listening room is about 5.5
meters long and 4.5 meters wide. The ceiling
is 2.3 high. I have a massive wooden floor
with a large oriental carpet in front of the
system. The walls are made of wood and the
only furniture I have is my listening chair, a
CD rack and some lower bookshelves.
The room is well treated with acoustic devices
from Acoustical Applicata ( DaaD). If you read
my review of them you will understand why I
couldn’t resist buying some of them. I have
never for one day regretted this investment.
I placed the Chronos approximately 1m out from
the back wall and approximately 80cm from the
side walls. The distance between the
loudspeakers was 2.5m with approximately 3m to
my listening chair. The side firing woofers
were on the inside because it sounded better
in my room. At the beginning I let them fire
straight ahead, but then I was not satisfied
with the soundstage and focus. So, after a
couple of days I toed them in so that the
inner sides were just visible from my
listening chair. And so they remained during
the review period.
Some further thoughts about the “foot” at the
bottom. I have already told you about my
scepticism from the outset of this review.
Well, it proved to be right. With no
additional tweaks the bass performance I got
was less than satisfactory. The bass lacked
definition and sounded rather slow. To solve
this I put four Finite Elemente Cerapucs under
the speakers, they fitted perfectly in the
already made holes! That helped a lot. The
sound tightened up and the bass got clearly
better. I consider that owners of the Chronos
must invest in Cerapucs, spikes or whatever.
Or even better, Penaudio should include eight
spikes in the package. Maybe they do for all I
know, but my pair came without them. The
speakers were burned in when I got them
according to the manufacturer.
sound in general terms – initial impressions
I am sure that you have read the review of the
Serenade on this site. So did I and was full
of expectations. In the beginning, I was less
than impressed with the Chronos but it
somewhat grew on me. This tells me that one
has to give new products time to settle into a
system. And, difficult as it may be, one has
to forget the sound one is accustomed to.
For me, what’s important is “value for the
money.” I have, of course, not heard every
speaker in this price range, but I know
personally what to expect. So let me first
give you some general impressions on their
Normally it is more difficult to get the bass
well integrated with the room when the woofer
is mounted on the side, at least in my room.
With the Chronos, before I used the Cerapucs,
the bass was somewhat muddy, slow and less
than well defined. When tweaked the speaker
performed considerably better. The midbass was
tonally convincing, but a bit on the lean
side. This may be the reason that I missed
some (but not a whole lot) of the important
energy in the music at times. You can read
more on that later.
I had no problem hearing what was going on in
the music, but voices and instruments lacked
some life and energy. Transparency was
adequate, not sensational.
The highs were extended if not extremely airy
and light. But this is a normal dome tweeter
so one cannot expect diamond tweeter quality
These observations are the ones that I wrote
in my notebook after the first week or so. The
good thing was that the sound was coherent
with no sharp edges or any trace of listening
fatigue at all. Even when playing loud over
longer periods of time.
Listening - getting to know the Chronos
You know what? The more I listened, the more I
liked the Chronos. Or maybe I got accustomed
to them is a better way of putting it. From
the start of Patricia Barber’s Companion,
I was sort of transported to the Green Mill in
Chicago, complete with its ambience and
audience. But it was a little bit like
standing in the bar enjoying that third Gin &
Tonic and not getting totally into the music.
I believe that the lack of energy in the
midbass and a midrange of average (i.e. not
bad) quality contributed to this. But I was
entertained while listening, even without the
Gin & Tonic. We must not forget the fun factor
and not get overly critical. When listening at
home I do not listen to the treble, midrange
or the bass as individual drivers. I listen to
the music as a whole. And the Chronos managed
just that, the integration of the drivers was
seamless on every CD I played.
The bass response was full and extended and I
had no problems whatsoever following the bass
lines and plucking of M. Arnopol. The Chronos
(tweaked with the Cerapucs!) reproduced
everything with good definition, right down to
their limit. Other speakers may have more
impact, but the Chronos was revealing of
I love deep, powerful and accurate bass, I
prefer midrange clarity and resolution over
all. After Barber, I tried another great
female singer, Holly Cole and her
Temptation [Metro Blue]. This is a superb
audiophile recording from the rendering of
Cole's voice to the extremely natural sound. I
can play it often without ever tiring of it.
It's a great reference CD both for vocals and
instruments, one of the best.
With the Chronos the sound lacked some colors
and excitement, but was all in all pleasant
and listenable. Her voice sounded a little
laid back where it should be more upfront and
some of the percussion wasn’t as detailed and
spicy as normal. With the term spicy I mean
just that, added flavor like in normal
cooking. Percussions often have this effect in
music, it all gets more interesting and
involving. The Chronos did absorb the spices
alright but to that extent that they didn’t
come out to serve the music. Instead of
hearing the instruments with a certain amount
of air between them as it should be, they were
more shut in and not clearly separated.
The soundstage was somewhat narrower in depth
and height, again compared to my own reference
speakers. No, I do not expect the Chronos to
match my own Avalon Indra, but it was easy to
detect what parts of the listening experience
that were missing on a CD that I know very
Tord Gustavsen Trio Changing Places [ECM],
the sound was satisfying. And so it should be,
this is one of the best recordings I have
heard. This CD is also great to determine the
qualities of the midrange/tweeter integration.
The piano is very well recorded too. This CD
makes you feel his playing physically if your
system is up to it.
Then you have (maybe) the most inventive
drummer on the Norwegian jazz scene, Jarle
Vespestad. This guy uses all of his drum kit;
top, the inside and the outside. The only
thing he doesn’t use is the backside of the
drum-skin. His playing is perfect for a
listening test and the evaluation of the upper
midrange and tweeter performance. The top end
didn't call attention to itself with a
too-showy display of shimmer, but neither was
it of ultimate transparency. The cymbals and
other percussion sounded like brass, metal and
wood by all means, but on my reference
speakers the sound of these instruments is
transported much longer and deeper into the
soundstage. At four times the price of course,
but many of these small details contribute
greatly to the sound in a high end system.
focus was quite good. Over the last months I
have spent many happy nights with Keith
Jarrett, Live at the Blue Note (ECM).
Seldom have I heard a better recording of a
piano trio, this ECM recording is recorded by
the Norwegian master Jan Erik Kongshaug.
Without boring you with more details about how
the Chronos proved themselves with this band I
can tell you that it was quite convincing. On
a good recording like this one you can, if the
system can handle it clearly “see” where the
musicians are on the stage. With the
Penaudio`s all 3 of them were “visible” right
were I am used to. The soundstage though was
narrower than what normally is the case; let
us call it “more intimate.”
depth in the recording was apparent when the
recording allowed, but I didn’t get the
feeling that the sound was traveling very far
behind the system. The MA Recording La
Segunda may be the best recording in my
collection. The CD was made in an old church
in Argentina using a purist recording
technique, like all MA Recording productions.
On a great system you can clearly hear and
“see” the church walls when you close your
eyes. With the Chronos the presentation was
convincing, but instead of hearing the
musicians where they actually stand in the
church it was more difficult to locate them. I
guess that this has to do with the level of
resolution and transparency the Chronos can
In this price range one can and should expect
high class sound. The Chronos didn’t have the
last amount of finesse that can take sound
reproduction at home to a very high level. The
midrange lacked some transparency and the
treble was as one can expect, not more. Their
bass performance was (to my surprise) their
The speaker is basically neutral in that it
doesn’t highlight certain parts of the
frequency range and is, within its limit quite
true to the music.
I heard some vibrations in the cabinet which
causes some concern. This could be a fault
with the pair I had on test. No need to
speculate further on that, but it is my
obligation to mention it. The vibration
occurred sometimes during loud passages and
certainly not on every CD I played.
The Chronos is by no means a bad speaker and I
think that they will find many happy owners.
But they are in my opinion somewhat too
expensive for what they can offer. I must
recommend for potential buyers that they also
seek out other alternatives in this price
range. Penaudio’s own Serenades don’t cost a
lot (in relative terms) more and may represent
a better deal. That said, maybe the Chronos
will suit your tastes and system. Then they
may represent money well spent, for you.
Frequency range: +-3dB 34-28000Hz
Nominal impedance: 6 ohms (min. 4, 8)
Cross-over: 120Hz, 4400Hz
Dimensions (WxHxD): 169 x 1030 x 295 cm
Price: EUR 6.000,-