Way back in the day when Tom Evans was modifying Pioneer CD players with clock upgrades, let’s call it the nineties, he got enthusiastic about Jordan full range drive units. It happens to a lot of people but most stick them in wooden cabinets and make another me too product, Tom had a different idea. He realised that what you really want in a loudspeaker is low weight and high stiffness, so he had a polystyrene cabinet made and put a single Jordan driver in it and created an incredibly thrilling speaker. There is nothing faster than a single driver, they lack bandwidth of course and as that particular design made clear don’t always have a very even response, but the immediacy makes such things a minor concern.
Eclipse have been making single driver designs for some time, most of them have cast alloy cabinets and fibre glass drive units, and even though I was at the Abbey Road launch event 15 years ago it has taken till now to get a pair of the serious models in for a listen (must try harder!). I got good results with the super cute TD-M1 desktop but that is not in the same league as Eclipse’s penultimate model the TD510Mk2. This has a 100mm driver in a ten inch wide enclosure that’s reminiscent of a jet engine housing, an apt state of affairs given the speed it’s capable of. The cabinet is that shape in order to minimise diffraction, which is high frequency sound bouncing off as it travels away from the driver. This probably reduces sensitivity further than the already low level that a small driver in a small ‘box’ achieves but an overall figure of 84dB is not a disaster in the context of a six Ohm load.
The TD510Mk2 is supplied with a cast alloy base that allows fine adjustment of the vertical angle or tilt of the speaker, which gives you the option to tweak for best imaging. There is also a TD510ZMk2 that has an integrated stand and that makes for a rather more elegant loudspeaker than putting the standard model on a stand, but it nearly doubles the price.
Eclipse also supplied their TD520SW subwoofer for this review, this is the smaller of two models that they created specifically to match their speakers, which given the speed they are capable of is quite a tall order. The TD520SW is 16 inch high near cube that houses a pair of 200mm bass drivers on opposite sides of a sealed cabinet with a shaft between their motor systems that acts as a brace, not unlike the approach used by Vivid in their Giya models. It allows the drivers to ‘float’ in the cabinet rather than being fixed to it, which should result in less vibrating wood and thus less distortion. This sub is all about eliminating distortion, an area where the majority of its kind fall down, but because people like heavy, thick bass they put up with them for a while at least. The TD520SW uses an ICEpower digital amplifier rated at 250 Watts, which should be sufficient.
There are two types of input on the sub, high and low level, the latter via an RCA connection is primarily for AV systems while the high level input takes the signal from the speaker cables coming from your amplifier. The speakers are then connected to the subwoofer’s terminals, which should help time coherence, even if it means an extra set of speaker cables. You then set the low pass filter at a recommended 45 – 50Hz for this speaker and adjust volume to integrate the sub with the speakers and the room. Conveniently there is a remote control for this purpose, less convenient is the fact that the TD520SW’s default switch on setting is input 1 whereas the high level input is input 2. And as you get a fair amount of bass out of the 510s it can sometimes take a track or two to notice!
Recommended positioning for the sub is in front of and between the speakers with a corner of the cabinet facing the listener, this presumably to avoid having the bass drivers facing the walls straight on which might over excite room modes. Getting the level right was fairly easy with well-known music, essentially I turned it down until there was no sense of veiling, which in one room meant it was down to its last indicator and in a smaller room resulted in no output lights at all albeit with bass being provided. I did have problems with excess bass on some tracks in the smaller room, tracks with heavy bass lines by the likes of Underworld and Outkast but these were largely alleviated when I twisted the sub around so that the drivers faced the room corners.
But wherever I put these speakers I was blown away by the sheer musical engagement that they provided. Rarely do I find myself listening to whole tracks when reviewing kit, I pick and choose from a playlist of familiar tunes and listen to a minute or two to establish what a component is doing. With the Eclipse system whole playlists went by with no desire to pause or stop at all. It was quite an uncanny experience and a total distraction.
I did manage to concentrate on the sound for long enough to notice that treble output is curtailed by the standards of the PMC and Bowers & Wilkins references I use. It’s inevitable that a single ‘full range’ driver will have its limits at the frequency extremes; the laws of physics are well established on that front. But the strange thing is that this is considerably less important than the thing that this system does so well and that’s to minimise time smear by being so quick. The sub integrates extremely well indeed, nearly as well as a good full range speaker. Here the trade-off is between the extra bass extension and power offered by the active sub and the coherence you get from having all your drivers in one cabinet with one crossover. However, this sort of bass power and control is very difficult to achieve unless you get an active speaker with comparable sized bass drivers, which means a considerably more expensive system than the sub £5,000 being asked here. And it’s something that might well be achieved if two TD520SWs were used, as I believe Eclipse will be doing at future dems.
The sub adds both extension to the bass and body to the midrange, voices sound richer compared to the speakers alone. It also adds power to the presentation, even if dynamic range is limited by the size of drivers and cabinets, but this again does nothing to undermine listening pleasure. There is a slight peak in the midrange that brings out certain voices to a greater extent than usual, but this means you enjoy those voices more. Van Morrison’s ‘Slim Slow Slider’ (Astral Weeks) is an absolute killer and his voice is just perfection, but equally enjoyable are the flute and bass, the overall effect is transcendental.
Depending on how the main speakers are angled you can have more separation or a more cohesive image, in a nearfield listening situation I got a better result with the axis crossing in front of me. That is with the speakers pointing diagonally across to a point either side of the listener, at a longer four plus metre listening distance having them on axis, pointing straight at me, worked best. It was in this latter set up that Patricia Barber’s ‘Constantinople’ (Modern Cool) proved so mesmerising, there was literally no thought of curtailing it, such is the degree of absorption that the Eclipse system provides. With this and almost all the other music I played it proved nigh on impossible to sit still, if the music has a rhythm it will grab you immediately and not let go. In a good way.
This Eclipse trio is one of the most enjoyable speaker systems I have had the pleasure of using in nigh on 30 years of reviewing, it’s not the most revealing nor the most powerful and what it lacks in neutrality it makes up for with a power to communicate that eludes 90% of the competition. Oh and Nigel Finn, Chord Co’s in-house music guru uses them, need I say more?