'Audience One desktop nearfield speakers'

($995 a pair)

MARK: 88/100

Once again John McDonald, the boss and gentleman leading the Audience company from sunny So-Cal has had me have a new treat which according to him “it is the culmination of a long-held ambition: To design a compact speaker that tells the musical truth.” I actually didn't expect these near-field speakers to be so small, but my fears disappeared when I connected them with their pedestals and dedicated cables to a Marantz receiver and tested them. Boy, was he right! These jewels (yes in both senses, as they are a bit expensive for the average person, let's admit it) deliver an enjoyable sonic image no matter what kind of music, thanks to the way they were planned and the resulting lack of distortion.
Being single 3" drivers with a -84 db efficiency the manufacturing company warns that they have to be played with amps from 5 to 50 watts and not at very loud levels, or damage will be the retribution for the user. A subwoofer is advised in the lines accompanying the details, but I consider it an optional, not a must. That's because the Ones were built to play on a desk in a small room (not the typical large listening room used for common tests on larger speakers which are always a choice as Audience has 2 bigger brothers of the Ones on sale), better slightly toed-in and close to rear walls.
The quality and the liveliness of the sound definitely blows away from the first instants, because it's like being caught (positively) in a mental cage where the groove is so pleasant that you never want to go out of home, or stay and turn the system off. I wasn't alone when I auditioned them the first time and I have to say that the complaints about a lack of midrange or artificial sounds raised by an audio engineer present there seem to have no ground whatsoever: I had my hearing tested a week before after years of doubting my hearing had been impaired by concerts, rehearsals, loud listening sessions, siren alarm of my security home system, yet luckily the exam gave me the confirmation that my hearing is still normal so I am proud to state that all the frequencies are rendered well, balanced, realistic and fast, while the volume can be pumped up a lot without clipping or worsenings. I tried them again alone and I believe they are an excellent tool for those who listen to music at work on their computers in their office, gamers, all those who spend several hours sitting in front of a PC and in general all those who aren't bass freaks and have to deal with small flats and have always been using headphones so far. It is also possible to buy 3 or 5 Ones and a sub to create a home theater system where space is a premium and it is recommended to decouple them from the desk to reduce vibrations, still I find them sexier without their pedestals, both the front and back side.
My pair is high-gloss black with 8 ohms of impedance but 4 or 16 ohms are optional upon request. Each speaker weighs 4 pounds and is 7" high, 5,5 wide and 7 deep.
The contained cone has a total moving mass of only 2.5 grams, and employs an oversized magnet/motor structure; according to Audience, these assure response times that easily rival electrostatic panels. They use high quality parts including low-mass binding posts and Audience Ohno monocrystal Auric internal wiring.
In addition to the front firing A3S driver, the Audience ONE also incorporates a purpose-designed passive radiator with 12mm of excursion. The design goal was for a single ultra-low distortion transducer that would eliminate the issues with phase distortion, transient response degradation, that multi-driver speakers have.
I guess north America has a different mentality and that's why these bookshelf speakers have had so much approval there, while Europe prefers a relatively larger-sized speaker at a low price, viewing such a particular speaker as the specialty of the speaker line offered by the Californian company and paying more attention to the other loudspeakers of the series. Still, I believe that there is a relatively ample of customers/lovers that would love to own them or give them as a present to their wives or daughters, and keeping in mind that I'm a poor audiophile (a white fly if you will), out there is a great deal of potential buyers who aren't going to be hindered by the price: US $995 a pair, plus the optional desktop stands ($75/pair) and a sample of their Ohno speaker cable ($199/3' pair, $249/5' pair); on the contrary, as far as I'm concerned, they're gonna be conquered by the musicality, the details obtained when playing the not-bass-shy Ones, due to the fact that the driver’s cone is made from a titanium alloy that provides strength and rigidity (two must-haves in serious audio listenings).
The Ones are the the most recent and smallest speaker in the ClairAudient line and due to their adaptability to deliver fine results in poor placement conditions, they are destined to kick several asses and get their slice in the desktop speakers market so far dominated by Magnepan Minis, Kef LS50, Omega Super 3XRS, Zu Cubes and so forth (not forgetting to consider the different philosophies behind these speakers, but they are the first most similar models that popped out of my mind). That's the reason why you shouldn't be surprised finding them in a friend's bedroom or studio when paying your next call on them.

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - April 10th, 2014

Audience, LLC
120 N. Pacific Street #K9
San Marcos, CA 92069
(800) 565-4390