When I reviewed the Eclipse TD510Mk2 and partnering TD520SW sub last year I got a hugely entertaining and engaging result right from the off, the single driver speaker worked a treat and had me glued to the listening seat for hours. That inspired me to try its bigger brother, Eclipse’s ranger topping TD172zMk2, a speaker that looks like an upscaled version of TD510Mk2 and thus should be much the same but better. What I found instead is a far more revealing loudspeaker that requires more care in partnering but ultimately delivers greater musical satisfaction.
The TD172zMk2 is a relatively substantial speaker given that it has a single 120mm drive unit, the mass can be accounted for by the cast aluminium egg shaped cabinet that Eclipse created to provide maximum rigidity. The shape was designed to minimise diffraction on the outside and to kill off standing waves on the inside, the former meaning that the fewer discontinuities a signal meets as it travels across or around a cabinet the more even will the dispersion be. The only drawback with this approach is that it reduces sensitivity; when the signal reaches the edge of a box it sprays out in all directions which adds to the overall output. With a shape like Eclipse uses (and for the matter Bowers & Wilkins in their 800 and 802 models) the signal radiates from the driver alone and not the box.
Inside the egg things are more complicated than you might imagine, the drive unit is fixed to what Eclipse call a Mass Anchor, which is a lump of metal that is designed to absorb vibration and fixes the drive unit in place. The anchor itself is held in a spider like fixing that sits on a vibration killing pad and in turn holds the aluminium cabinet on five diffusion pads. It’s easier to appreciate what’s happening from the picture but essentially the idea is to minimise vibration transmission from the cone into the cabinet.
Eclipse use single drivers because they avoid certain compromises inherent in multi-driver systems. A single driver doesn’t need a crossover which means the amplifier has a direct connection to the cone and thus a greater influence over its behaviour, then there’s the coherence of dispersion that one driver produces. With a tweeter and woofer(s) the difference in size means that matching dispersion at the crossover point is difficult. A woofer will start to beam at higher frequencies, that is the shape of the soundwave it produces will get narrower which helps but there is always a discontinuity between two drivers. The obvious drawback of a single driver design is that it can’t go as high or as low as a multi-driver type, the 120mm ‘full range’ driver in this Eclipse claims a bandwidth of 35 Hz to 26 kHz but this is within 10dB, which is a lot more than the 3dB or 6dB quoted for other speakers, in practice it won’t have the treble extension of a 25mm tweeter or the bass reach of a 150mm cone. Sensitivity is naturally quite low at 84dB, the size of the cabinet presumably being the main reason, so you will need a fairly beefy power amp for best results.
Unllike the TD510Mk2 this model cannot be supported on a regular stand and has to be used with the very attractive cast alloy integral stand with which it is supplied. The two are connected by a single large fixing (above) that hooks into a slot under the cabinet and screws into the stand, an arrangement that allows the cabinet to be set at a range of angles. There are two height options for the stand, a short one for desk top monitoring and the one I used which puts the overall height at just under a metre. The stand has four easily adjustable feet that incorporate a spike and insulator but have a flat base, a clever arrangement.
As mentioned above things were not as immediately appealing as I had hoped with this speaker but it does have deeper bass extension than its smaller sibling, this was immediately clear and explains why Eclipse recommends a 75cm gap between speaker and rear wall. Any closer and the bass can become overpowering. Even at the right distance a well recorded kick drum makes a visceral impact and the depth of atmosphere it can pull out of all sorts of material is remarkable, it makes the live nature of ‘Black Napkins’ on Frank Zappa’s Zoot Allures immediately obvious. The various instruments in the mix are placed very precisely within a deep soundstage which means better separation and an easier appreciation of Patrick O’Hearn’s slow and steady fretless bass behind Terry Bozzio’s intense drumming.
Good as this result was there was still something not quite gelling with the system so I switched over to a Naim Uniti Novanetwork streamer and amplifier that had been performing so well with my regular speakers. This produced genuinely magical imaging with Michael Wollny Trio’s Wartburgalbum (a particularly fine live recording), it was as if there were no speakers in the room anymore. But there is nice weight to the kick drum and very little overhang, everything stops and starts as it should, and when the sax comes in it seems so real that it could be breathing the same air. The piano could have more body perhaps but the overall effect is immensely engaging if a little prone to forwardness. In the long term it turned out that the Naim doesn’t have quite enough power to bring out the best in this big Eclipse, but the timing side of the equation is particularly rewarding and inspires me to press on with the search for the ultimate amplifier.
Next up is the Trilogy 903/993 pre/power combo of hybrid amplifiers. These superbly built and technologically advanced amps proved to have just the right balance of power and finesse for the TD712zMk2, the combination provides generous but taut bass alongside killer timing. The result being highly revealing of everything about the various pieces played, from recording character to playing techniques and instrumental timbres. With Herbie Hancock’s ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ his phrasing on the piano is beautiful and the combination of high detail and superb musical flow makes for a highly entertaining experience. It’s not quite as dynamically wide as more conventional speakers, ultimately driver and box size limit things in this department, but when it comes to coherence this proved to be a fabulous partnership.
I also gave the more affordable Leema Tucana amp a spin to see if this high power integrated would work, when Hendrix’s ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ dropped I knew it was a winner. Small scale but very intense this had real power and made me realise once more just how sensitive this speaker is to everything that comes before it; recording, source, amplification, cables et al. It all matters with a highly revealing loudspeaker that provides huge contrasts between recordings and makes it apparent why some of the more savvy musicians and engineers use them as monitors (including Brian Eno, John Williams and Christian McBride). That market would undoubtedly go for an active version and given the TD712zMk2’s sensitivity to amps that could be a serious contender in the home as well, just a thought
After the visceral thrill of Hendrix I put on a beautiful ambient work by Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Summvsrevealed just how low the Eclipse can go in terms of detail resolution. This speaker’s construction means it adds very little at all to the signal and with a quiet recording that is abundantly clear, you can hear right down into the mix and pick out the small details that combine to make the big picture so solid and real. I also went to the opposite extreme with Deadmau5 whose ‘Seey’a has a remarkable amount of space on it alongside a very clean and powerful kick drum sound, which while not as muscular as it can possibly be is nonetheless very persuasive.
The Eclipse TD712zMk2 is a chameleon of a speaker that responds to the signal you send it with such sensitivity that it takes a while to get to grips with the speaker itself. This means you need a decent source and a well matched amplifier to get best results, I tried more than are mentioned above but the Leema and Trilogy proved to have exactly what it takes to bring out the best in them. It was ever thus with revealing loudspeakers and is a genuine sign of transparency, all speaker amp combinations need matching and the best ones take a little work, this is one of them.