Tekton Designs Double Impact Loudspeakers
What a relief! I’m glad to know I’m not the first or only person to lavish praise on the creations of Eric Alexander, Tekton Design’s president and chief designer. His Double Impact loudspeakers, selling at a modest $3,000.00/pair is changing the whole notion, financially and technically, of reference caliber loudspeakers.
Frank Alles wrote about the merits of the Tekton Lore-S ($1,399.00/pair) in the spring of 2012. In his closing comments he said, “For my taste, in small through medium-size rooms the Tekton Lore-S is King. My Magnepans are now serving as room treatments and I’m happily buying the Tektons as my new small-room reference loudspeakers. They put a spell on me… and now they’re mine!”
A few years later, David Abramson wrote a wonderful review of the Lore Reference loudspeakers ($799.00/pair). In his closing comments he said, “In fact, unless Eric decides to “improve” things even further in the relative short-term, I’ve decided I will likely be buying the review pair. Now what do I do with the spare eleven thousand bucks?!”
But to tell you the truth, I suspected both David and Frank had, just a tad, let their enthusiasm over-embellish their reviews. Like many of us, I have been conditioned to think that a loudspeaker this affordable simply could not be as good as these reviewers were claiming.
It took a few years for me to come ’round, but having now had the Tekton Double Impacts (hereafter DIs) under review for the past four months, I totally agree with them. The DIs are, in my opinion, among the best loudspeakers that I have had the pleasure of hearing under real world conditions. And I am gratified to note that Eric Alexander, unlike some manufacturers, recognizes ordinary audiophiles and music lovers, folks who don’t have a cool hundred grand to spend on a pair of behemoth loudspeakers. While there’s no shortage of speakers in the $3,000 range, nothing I’ve auditioned comes remotely close to the DIs. In my opinion, the DI is a singular, revolutionary and state-of-the-art design.
Eric Alexander started Tekton Design in Orem, Utah in 2006. Alexander has a storied background, having designed over sixty different loudspeakers and crossovers in a 30 year career. Perhaps his most revolutionary design (U.S. Patent 9247339, 2016) inspired Alexander to make an audacious-sounding claim: the speaker’s ability to “…align the moving mass of speaker cones to the harmonic spectra of the musical instrument being played.” This, in addition to his simple but sophisticated crossovers is, in essence, the impetus behind the Tekton brand.
Standing about 54″ tall, 12″ wide and about 17″ deep, the Tekton Double Impact is a physically imposing 11-driver, 4-way design. Not a lightweight at nearly 110 lbs, this speaker is a potential back breaker to remove from its shipping boxes. Its unique multi-driver arrangement is based on a D’Appolito layout. There are seven tweeters in a circular array sandwiched between a pair of 6″ mid-bass drivers. Alexander keeps the secret behind this patented circular array close to his vest. But his website offers some hints: “… proprietary controlled directivity— acoustically superior proprietary polygon-oriented, triple-ring radiator high frequency array. This array disperses a precisely focused acoustical power pattern like that of a horn or waveguide, without the audible ringing influence of horn flare walls constraining the soundwave, for acoustically superior mid-range high frequency performance.”
In effect, a concentric midrange driver made up of seven high-frequency drivers! This creates a significantly lighter-mass driver that is more efficient than a standard midrange driver. The benefits include greater clarity, improved directivity, speed, articulation, focus, harmonic integrity and tonality.
The success of this polygon-oriented driver technology has been so well-received that five new Tekton models are now in production (including the 1812, Ulfberht, Impact, Brilliance, and Rocket.) The DIs efficiency is 98dB, making it remarkably easy to drive under a variety of conditions and amplifiers ranging from 5 to 500 watts! Dual 10″ woofers in a rear-ported cabinet provide excellent low-end performance. My review sample came in standard black matte finish with a single pair of 5-way binding posts on the rear. Optional paint finishes increase the price by $1,000 while an additional $300 will provide Cardas posts. It uses mil-spec internal wiring and high-quality capacitors (ClarityCap or Solen for the tweeter).
Setting up in my dining room, exclusive of all tweaks and room treatments, allows me to hear and evaluate products without taking other variables into account. Three amplifiers were used for this review: the Analogue Domain Isis M75D integrated, 250 watt-per-channel ($20,000.00. Review in the works); the Arte Forme integrated ($1,350.00. Reviewed here) and the Italian-made, 75 watt-per-channel Grandinote monoblocks ($45,000.00 Reviewed here). I spent a majority of the time with the Grandinotes because they have been in my possession the longest and I’ve become quite acquainted with their sound and subtleties.
The DIs overwhelmed me right out of the box. How distinct, smooth, rich and open voices sounded! Then I noticed that the soundstage was amazingly stable, natural, and grain-free, something I’ve heard before only in far more expensive designs. There was an ease and transparency, without the colorations typical of box designs. They reminded me of di-pole, open-baffle designs like Magnaplanars. Images were rock solid and came from a deep, three-dimensional, black background that had me doing double-takes.
I reminded myself that the DIs, for all their impressiveness, had yet to be broken in! So I put my disc player in repeat mode in order to do this. It’s been a very, very long time, since I was this excited about a loudspeaker.
With a little more than 50-hours of burn-in accomplished, I invited a few friends over for a session upstairs on the big rig. And, for the first time ever, we never made it upstairs.
Everyone should have a friend like Dennis Parham. He’s much more a friend and music lover than an audiophile. We usually meet for lunch and a listening session at each other’s home every couple of weeks or so. This was his turn to visit and I thought I’d surprise him with the DIs. Entering my dining room, Dennis noticed the new speakers and nodded with initial approval. He looked more carefully at the front and back, and again nodded. He sat down in the sweet spot and I put on a sampler CD that started with an orchestral piece (I don’t recall the name). As soon as the music started, he said without hesitation “Wow, CP, what loudspeaker is this!” A few minutes later and deeper into the sampler disc, he said, “There is some incredible soundstaging happening in that song, my brother!” I wanted to tell him that they’re only going through their paces and hadn’t reached full burn-in yet.
After hearing Dennis reiterate, “Are you kidding me,” I said something that seemed to astonish him: “…they only cost $3,000.00 too!” Dennis exclaimed “$30,000?” “No $3,000!”.
Dennis is proud owner of a pair of Sunny horns and he hasn’t changed loudspeakers in nearly ten years. I could see him pondering the idea that this $3,000 speaker might be better than his $28,000 speaker? Absurd on the fact of it!
Both Dennis and I sat there and listened for an hour and a half. Lunch came and went and we listened some more. The original plan of going upstairs to the big rig never entered his or my mind. All he wanted to know was the real price of the DIs. Meanwhile, I was able to discover how three-dimensional the DI sounds, even when sitting directly in front of a single channel. It behaved as if it had additional rear-firing drivers.
High-frequencies were pitch-perfect: never overdone, too glossy, shiny or excessive, regardless of the recording or genre. To my amazement, I had heard one auditioner say that the tweeter seemed a little too reserved for his tastes. I wholly disagreed and suspected (but didn’t suggest to him) that he’s grown too accustomed to excessive highs. (Skewing a crossover toward high frequencies creates an artificial sense of resolution, at the cost of accurate frequency response.)
It is obvious that there’s something special in the tweeter/midrange section of the DI that lends great credence to Alexander’s concentric driver design. It’s actually quite easy to hear how lightning fast the composite midrange driver is. From Sarah to Sade, Kurt Elling to Duke Ellington, the most delicate of tones and harmonics emanated from each of these remarkable artists. Ricky Lee Jones’ softest vocal inflections, on her stirring rendition of Coming Back to Me, (from her Pop Pop CD), were relayed with such delicacy and x-ray like transparency that it literally surprised everyone that heard it.
The articulation of the DIs bass was also stellar. It played with nary a hint of stress, strain or constriction. With the speakers positioned three feet from the front and side walls, the dual 10’s had the ability to move quickly and go deep while never sounding over-ripe. The way these drivers kept up with the midrange is a trait usually associated with only the most exotic and expensive designs.
I cannot recall hearing any loudspeaker this clean, clear and distortion-free in, or substantially above, this price point. Dennis has heard nearly every loudspeaker I’ve had over the years and this is the first time he’s reacted in such an overwhelmingly positive way.
Mass Delusion in New Jersey?
In the next couple of weeks, word got out. Another audio friend/neighbor, the legendary jazz bassist John Hébert, got a pair of Tekton Enzo’s. They out-finessed his four-times-as-expensive loudspeakers. He asked me how this could possibly be?
I still haven’t found an adequate answer. Few of us are closer to music than John Hébert. I said, “I’m just glad you’re about the music rather than the equipment.” I know plenty of people who would have chosen the more expensive speaker simply because it is more expensive and has a better known name.
The famed jazz drummer Billy Drummond, who lives nearby and is always up for a listening session – especially the modestly-priced products – went ballistic. “The Tekton DIs,” he said, “are easily the best sounding, affordably priced loudspeakers I’ve ever heard!”
As long as I’ve been involved in audio, NEVER have I witnessed anything close this phenomenon—everyone trying out and buying same make loudspeaker. Many of my friends are taking educated risks for the first time!
Location of room boundaries can be problematic for any speaker and the Tekton DI is no exception. In my dining room, about three feet from the back and side walls, the bass is clean and detailed without a hint of bloat. Placing them closer, say two feet, makes the low-end extension a tad too rich. Soundstage and depth weren’t diminished in any of our setups. In addition, the DIs seem to love power and the 250-watt Analogue Domain Isis really brought them to life. Still, the 75-watt Arte Forme raised quite a few eyebrows too.
Make no mistake, the Tekton Design DIs are among the best loudspeakers I have heard in my home, regardless of price. To say that I have become enamored of them would be only half the truth. I am also enamored of Eric’s conscious decision to make products centered on music lovers who happen to not be millionaires. In my opinion he could have easily priced the DIs ten times higher.
And just in case you were wondering, Dennis actually did purchase the DIs and sold his Sunny horns. John Jonczyk purchased a pair and sold his KEF Blade 2’s. And Billy Drummond just received a pair of DIs and has been beside himself with excitement ever since. Too soon to tell, but I have a hunch his beloved Maggies will be taking a trip away from home. And just in case you find this remarkable transducer not to your liking, Eric Alexander also offers a 60-day money back guarantee! Easily my Publisher’s Choice, Most Wanted Component for 2017!
I still don’t know how I got caught up in this Tekton Design Double Impact (DI) phenomenon. A friend of mine, Terry London (TJ), who writes for Home Theater Review, shared with me that I simply had to hear these $3,000.00 speakers. I told him that I would eventually get around to his place and listen to them and didn’t think any more about it. Being a Wilson Sasha owner I was quite happy with my speakers and never gave listening to another speaker any serious thought. But for some unknown reason, another friend of TJ and mine, Allen Richards, would not just let it go. Allen owned a pair of the DIs and he wanted me to give them a listen as well. He sensed that I wasn’t taking the DIs seriously, and perhaps I wasn’t, so he kept bugging me about giving the DIs a critical listen. It got back to Eric Alexander, Tekton Design’s President/CEO (and “casual” audio designer, to hear him tell it) that TJ and Allen had a friend that writes for Stereo Times and Eric invited me to review DIs. Since the DIs came to Clement Perry’s attention as well, I was slated to write this follow-up.
How it sounds
Initial listening was a little odd in that I could hear a nice sounding mid-range but needed to put in the time to set them up in my room properly so that the bass and highs could show what they were capable of. This did not happen overnight, especially having the specter in the room of the Sashas for the DIs to live up to. It took a little effort but when I got around to setting them up to where I could hear what the DIs could really do, I was blown away. The DIs are extremely revealing, almost to a fault. Yes, they are a wonderful reviewing tool because they let you hear, distinctly, both good and bad, everything about every recording, every recorded nuance, every equipment change, every cable change, every platform change, every speaker position change, etc. All of these changes were driving me bonkers because every change or adjustment I made revealed more to me about the DIs performance. I would even bug friends to come over to see if I could get validation on what I thought I was hearing. In the end, I was confident that I had put in the time and gained the measure of the DIs and was ready to share what I thought about what I was hearing.
In terms of sonic descriptions, the first real serious reveal of the DIs is the midrange. It’s special. I had hoped that would be all I would have to say to describe the midrange but nothing in life would be that easy. The DI midrange sounds like you’re listening to a planar. It does not sound like your typical dynamic driver midrange. It’s as if someone reached in between that seven driver array, spread them about five feet apart and revealed a planar driver in its place. I don’t know of a better way to describe it. But that’s not all. The music emanates from this “array” with the ease of a horn loaded speaker. And you get all of this from a $3,000.00/pair dynamic speaker? No way! I couldn’t accept it at first. Friends would call and ask what I thought and I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to have my sanity questioned. The midrange has, for lack of a better word, presence, but to a very high degree. It’s eerie to hear at first. I know I’m listening to dynamic speakers, but to the degree I was hearing musical information and detail, it was different. The listener can hear everything on every recording with a high degree of musicality.
Keep in mind that I was using the excellent VAC Signature 200 iQ Amplifiers on these speakers as well as the Bully Sound Company BSC100M mono-amps, so the DIs had every advantage to show what they were capable of. Still, at no time did the DIs sound outclassed or as though they had no place among such austere supporting electronics.
Since midrange is not everything this loudspeaker does well, let me get into the other aspects of the DIs presentation. The DIs highs were airy, extended and very detailed. There was no hint of music being bright or sharp, but always sounding vivid and luminous. Cymbals, triangles and other high-frequency percussive instruments sound extremely lifelike. Once I got the DIs set up properly the bass showed up. At first, I was unimpressed that a speaker with two 10” woofers could do no better than what I considered to be “average” sounding bass. Soon, the DIs bass was pressurizing the room, and depending on what I was playing, would make things rattle in the listening room and sometimes upstairs. This was not “one note” bass, but bass that had good pitch differentiation and detail.
The DIs are very coherent sounding. I mentioned before that I was really not a fan of speakers that use driver arrays. Speakers, such as those from Scaena and Pipedreams, can sound splendid at times, and at other times I came away thinking something was not quite right. Whether it was the setup, or something in my mind, sonic effects would seem slightly off. That has never been the case with the DIs. They have always sounded consistently coherent and balanced. In my listening room, the DIs threw a stage with average width, not extending very much beyond the speakers. They did, however, throw a deep, layered stage in my room. With the VAC electronics in the system, the performers on the stage seemingly inhabited the space. This sensation was heightened by the “true to life” quality of the midrange.
I listened intently to Corey Wilkes’ CD Drop It [Delmark] because its first track, “Trumpet Player,” features a very well recorded vocal of Miyanda Wilson reciting poetry. While Ms. Wilson rhymes, there are bass, drum and trumpet riffs being played intermittently. What the DIs made obvious, that I had never caught before, is that whenever Mr. Wilkes does a trumpet riff, someone is whistling along with him. It was there all the time. The whistling was very subtle at first, but very distinct hearing it through the DIs. Another CD I enjoyed listening to was Frederick Fennell, The Cleveland Symphonic Winds [Telarc Digital Stereo No. 5038], where they are performing works by Holst, Handel and Bach. On the selection, “Holst’s Suite No. 1 in E-flat,” the DIs showed their capabilities handling full orchestral dynamics and low end authority. Of course, things were soft and quiet leading up to those thunderous tympani strokes that startled me initially, especially since I had the volume turned up a little more than usual. I was impressed with the DIs ability to handle most of this piece of music as there was no loss of composure playing the wide ranging dynamic contrasts. The music was airy and extended on one end of the spectrum while being impactful and stirring on the other. As a side note concerning this album, one of my buddies came by with the vinyl version and it sounded even more beautiful through the DIs.
I have really been enjoying the entire six CD set of Keith Jarrett at the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings [ECM]. The virtuosity of this group, both when playing together and when they do their solos is phenomenal. And of course, there’s Mr. Jarrett’s vocalizing when he’s really feeling the vibe or the moment. There were several attributes to enjoy from these discs while hearing them through the DIs. The verve and the energy Jarrett (piano), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and Gary Peacock (double bass) play with, is intoxicating. Sonically, the DIs ability to reproduce the piano attack, decay and foot pedal work, and the cymbal crashes, really stand out. Also, the hearing and feeling the body of the double-bass was quite noteworthy.
There are other features of the DIs that I want to point out. With their 98 dB efficiency, they should be an easy enough load to be driven with just about any amp or of your choosing. I have heard of owners using all manner of SET or low powered, sweet sounding amplifiers to great effect. My personal preference is for something with a little bit of power so I can enjoy the weight and extension on classical as well as some music with heavily synthesized bass, which some popular music calls for. The DIs provide the listener with a platform to accept whatever the listener chooses to drive them with. The DIs are also flexible enough that you can be in a large or small room. I have them in a 25’ x 16’ room, 3’ to 4’ feet from the sidewalls and the front of the speaker 8’ feet off the front wall. My seated position is 12’ feet from the speakers. I have very enjoyable stage reproduction in my room.
I also had three Sasha vs. DI speaker shootouts because that is what friends wanted to come by the house and hear. Initially, the Sashas sounded better because they were setup optimally to perform in my room. The Sashas were more musically involving and articulate. As I mentioned above, when I began to put in the time and effort to get the best I could out of the DIs, my labor yielded some impressive results. The next two shootouts came after I leveled the playing field to make sure both the Sashas and DIs were setup optimally. I had no other choice but to admit that the DIs were the better “sounding” speaker. Not the better built, or the finished, but sonically, it did sound better. The DIs were the more musically involving speaker; more captivating and did a better job immersing me in music.
Personally, I was in disbelief. It hurt and angered me to admit it but I had to be honest about what I was hearing, especially when others were present and were hearing the same thing I was.
All of my friends would ask me if I would get rid of my Wilson Sashas for a pair of DIs and I would tell them “no.” Why should I, or anyone else who has a pair of speakers you like or are proud to own and enjoy listening to. At the same time, if the question was if I were shopping for speakers, which would I choose between the Sashas and DIs, I can wholeheartedly recommend getting the DIs and buying a car, or whatever your pleasure, with the money you’d save. You could always drive by the house of someone with expensive speakers, raise up a glass, or a can of Pepsi, and toast them as you cruise down the road. Other than looks, build quality and maybe pride of ownership, I can’t think of one parameter of performance, other than maybe a little bit more low-end weight and authority, where the Sashas outperformed the DIs. The DIs midrange performance more than made up for that modicum of performance advantage that the Sashas may give you at the bottom end.
To wind things up, I shared with a friend that I would love to have been in the Tekton Design boardroom when Eric Alexander gathered up the troops and explained what his plans were just prior to building the DIs. I imagined him telling them of his ideas for the tweeter/midrange array and how the DIs would be easy enough for anybody’s amplifier to drive, the multiple woofers, the extended upper frequency and lower frequency performance. I can imagine all of the employees being excited by the new concepts, sitting on the edge of their seats thinking about the new design. Then at the end of Eric sharing his vision with a fired up boardroom, he mentions that he’s only going to sell the speaker for $3,000.00… and the room goes silent. The look of perplexity that must have come over everyone’s face that says, “Is this guy out of his mind?” I can’t imagine another speaker manufacturer giving the customer so much speaker, that can compete with speakers costing, in some instances ten, fifteen, twenty times more their cost and still stay in business. All I can say is get a pair now before Eric realizes what he has done. There is no better bargain that I can think of in the realm of loudspeakers.
Details & Specifications:
Price: $3,000.00 USA
Made under U.S. Patent 9247339
Proprietary 4-way loudspeaker design
Proprietary controlled directivity – acoustically superior proprietary polygon-oriented, triple-ring radiator high frequency array. This array disperses a precisely focused acoustical power pattern of that of a horn or waveguide without the audible ringing influence of horn flare walls constraining the soundwave for acoustically superior mid-range high frequency performance
2 Pendragon 10″ transducers
Dual 6″ mid-bass transducers
98.82dB 2.83V@1m sensitivity
4 Ohm design for optimum performance – 8 Ohm Double Impact click here
20Hz-30kHz frequency response
Ultra-linear frequency response with ±1dB deviation from 70Hz-20kHz
400 Watt power handling
Height 54″(137.16cm) x Width 12″(30.48cm) x Depth 17.75″(45.085cm)
Weight 106 lbs.
Manufactured in the USA
Additional upgrade package: add $300 for Cardas inputs, Mil-Spec internal wiring, ClarityCap or Solen (depending upon real-time availability) within the tweeter section. Includes an oversized Jantzen or Erse Sledgehammer inductor (depending upon real-time availability) within the woofer section. – view here
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