Chesky Audio C-1 Loudspeaker
|Chesky Audio C-1 Loudspeaker
From the Heart of a Musician
21 June 2003
Bandwidth: 40Hz – 25 kHz (+/- 2 dB)
Power Handling: Continuous: 300 Watts RMS, Peak: 500 Watts RMS
Nominal: 6 ohms
Low: 4 ohms @ 200 Hz
High: 8 ohms @ 1 kHz
non-reactive load, fully compatible with tube amplifiers
Tweeter (x1): 1″ treated cloth dome
Woofers (x2): 6.5″
Enclosure: Isobaric time-corrected vented enclosure
Efficiency: 89 dB (with 2.83 volt broadband signal measured @ 1 meter)
Dimensions: 45″ × 8.5″ × 11″ (HWD)
Weight: Net (each): 80 pounds, Shipping: 100 pounds
Finish: High-gloss acrylic and textured black
Makes Perfect Sense to Me
The name Chesky, among audiophiles and music lovers, is a very familiar one indeed. Brothers David and Norman Chesky have been producing, recording, engineering, and playing music under their own label since 1978. Now, nearly 25 years after starting Chesky Records, they’ve decided that they just might know a little something about how a loudspeaker should realistically reproduce music. Suuure. That’s just like saying because Wolfgang Puck can cook, that he should have his own restaurant … Hey, wait a minute.
When I first heard about the Chesky C-1 loudspeaker, I was intrigued by the thought of what type of speaker a well-known recording engineer, musician, and producer would create. I know that there have been other musicians and recording engineers who have designed highly successful speaker systems in the past, Dave Wilson probably being the most well known, but never has a speaker designer entered the market after establishing such a vast library of music. So, could the folks over at Chesky produce a speaker that could do justice to theirs and other highly regarded recordings? Could a Grammy Award-winning recording engineer possibly know what kind of loudspeaker sounds good? Makes sense to me.
From Boredom Comes Brilliance
When I first saw David Chesky at one of the old Summer CES’ in Chicago, his long, curly, jet-black hair and deep dark eyes immediately gave me the impression of a man who was, if nothing else, an artist; a man of intense musical talent and even deeper thoughts. So when I asked him about his first foray into speaker design, I was prepared to get a close look into the thought process of a man who has made his name synonymous with high quality music reproduction. The answer: “I got bored and decided, hey, let’s make a loudspeaker!” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite the same process that led to Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb, but the results to my ears have been just as illuminating.
What David Chesky has come up with in the C-1 is a speaker that is made for intelligent music-lovers, the kind of people who truly appreciate highly resolved music, and particularly for people who make music. In other words, people like David Chesky. “I made it for me,” Chesky explained. The C-1 is a speaker that will be enjoyed by people who want very resolved music.” Very resolved music means music that gets the midrange right. This is where the C-1 separates itself from most of its competition.
The problem with a lot of speaker designs is that the designers attempt to create a speaker that will be all things to all people. Unfortunately, this often results in a speaker that sounds bright, while trying to grind out every nook and cranny of the upper frequencies. Other designs try to get as much bass oomph as possible, and end up sacrificing some clarity and detail in the lower midrange. But leave it to a musician to voice a speaker that illuminates the virtues of the midrange, where the soul of most music lives.
“I’m a musician,” Chesky says. “I didn’t sit down and draw up schematics for crossovers for the C-1, but I did voice the speakers to make sure that they sounded like real music.” The technical design and manufacturing of the C-1’s was actually performed by the talented engineers over at Talon Audio. But the elegant aesthetic design is all Chesky’s and is something that he takes great pride in. “I voiced and designed the cosmetics of the speaker,” Chesky said. I didn’t want to create just another box speaker. That’s why I wanted to use some interesting styling and use only the highest quality parts in this design. It took nearly a year to get the C-1 to where I liked it.”
The styling of the C-1 is gorgeous and quite unique. The 45″ high tower is sloped to one side near the top of the cabinet and finished in a gorgeous high-gloss black and pebble-grain texture. The cabinet is made of 1″ thick MDF and internally braced for maximum rigidity. Attached to the bottom of the speaker is a ¼” thick base with pre-drilled holes at each corner for heavy-duty spikes that make adjusting the speaker’s height and/or angle extremely easy. In back of the cabinet is a 1 ½” x 6″ slotted port, the compartment that houses the crossover, and a Cardas speaker cable clamping terminal, where a single pair of bare wire or spade-terminated cables can be torqued down for an extremely tight connection. The C-1 is not designed for bi-amping or bi-wiring. Their small footprint, manageable size and sleek looks make them an aesthetic improvement to most rooms and highly agreeable to spouses and people with limited space.
Listening Out of the Box
When the C-1’s first arrived, I invited my friend Craig “Craigy-G” Fitzpatrick to come by and help me get them setup and running. Craig is one of my few audiophile friends who admits to a fondness for the music of Kenny G, thus his apt nickname. That sin aside, he is also a brutally honest listener and is always at the ready with his opinions. When we finally got the C-1’s settled into my listening room, I threw on the first disc that I could get my hands on and wouldn’t you know it would be the “Best of Chesky Jazz and More Audiophile Tests-Volume 2” [Chesky JD 68]. Among the many splendid recordings on this disc is Paquito D’Rivera’s lively Havana Café. It didn’t take Craig long to give his initial thoughts. “These things image like crazy,” Craig said rather matter-of-factly. I was so stunned by his quick reaction and by the fact that he took the words right out of my mouth. Right out of the box, the C-1’s established their magical ability to recreate a lively and realistic soundstage. They are easily one of the most musical speakers I’ve heard in this price range.
The Chesky folks understand that the true art and emotion of music comes from the midrange and unlike so many other designs, they don’t sacrifice any of it for the sake of carving out those bright sounding, uppermost highs or deep, barely audible bass. Instead the C-1’s produce a sound that nicely articulates the three-dimensionality of vocals and the air and life of acoustic music and live recordings while still presenting bass that is deep and tuneful. One of my favorite live recordings is the wonderful and sadly missed Eva Cassidy’s “Live At Blues Alley” [Blix Street Records G2-10046]. This disc captures a peerless performer in her finest form, and the Chesky speaker makes sure that you share that experience with her in every word she sings and every chord she plays. Her rendition of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water, is one of the most soulful I’ve heard. Oddly enough, it was Craig who turned me on to this disc so I’ve learned to be accepting of his Kenny G fondness.
Same Stable, Different Horses
Because the C-1s were voiced by Chesky but built by the folks over at Talon Audio, and since my current reference speaker is the Talon Peregrine X, I thought it would be interesting to see how these two designs would compare. I began listening to my trusty Magnum Dynalab FT-101a tuner. Some of my favorite FM programming is on Sunday afternoons on National Public Radio (NPR), WBEZ 91.5 FM in Chicago. Marian McPartland, one of the Grand Dames of the jazz world hosts a wonderful program called “Piano Jazz.” Each week she invites such fabulous jazz artists as Ramsey Lewis, Benny Carter, and just recently, Cyrus Chestnut to play and discuss the past, present, and future of jazz. I began my comparison of the C-1’s and the Talons while listening to the show with Chestnut as McPartland’s guest. I really only intended to let this program be background music while I gathered my preferred stack of listening material. But I soon found myself glued to my customary listening position. The first song I listened to was Chestnut’s own tune, Elegant Flower. Chestnut’s piano playing was light and enjoyably musical through the C-1’s. Even the discussions between songs had a lifelike presence in my room. I quickly changed over to the Talons and listened intently as the duo combined to perform Oscar Pettiford’s Blues In the Closet. As expected, the Talon’s ability to render a believably live presence made listening to these two performers, having a ball during their little impromptu jam session, a pleasure as well. The much bigger and more than twice as expensive Talons sounded … bigger and more expensive. The Talons throw a somewhat larger and deeper soundstage than the C-1’s but the difference was really only noticeable on larger scale recordings like Morgana Palace from Andreas Vollenweider’s “Kryptos” [Sony 60237]. But don’t get me wrong the C-1’s do quite a nice job of re-creating real orchestral space, even when compared to the Talons.
Techs – Mechs
According to the specs posted on Chesky’s website, the C-1’s use the popular (and not inexpensive) SEAS “Millennium” tweeter to reproduce the magical upper midrange and high frequencies with life-like accuracy. This unit combines a low-mass 1″ treated fabric dome driven by powerful Neodymium magnets, and a voice coil damped by low-viscosity magnetic fluid.
The lower midrange and below is managed by two mid-woofers that sit back-to-back with one driver facing inside the enclosure. The result is drivers that move more air and reproduce music with more speed, detail, and dynamics. These are characteristics of all Talon-built speakers.
The C-1’s crossover is made of the finest high-voltage polypropylene capacitors, precision film and foil bypass caps, air-core inductors, and tight tolerance resistors. The crossover design has steep slope filters so that each driver can effortlessly cover its frequency range.
Early in this review I asked whether or not someone who has made a name for himself as a recording engineer and musician could know what makes for a good sounding speaker. The answer is an unbridled, Hell Yes! The C-1 sounds like a speaker that was made by and for people who enjoy the purity of live acoustic music. It is elegantly styled and very easy to place in just about any system and room. This first venture into speaker development is something that the folks over at Chesky should be very proud of and build upon. In fact, both David and Chesky’s lovely Artist Development Manager, Lisa Hershfield have indicated that another speaker may be in the future. That is good news indeed.
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