I was always told that nice things came in small packages but never really believed this about loudspeakers until I first heard some Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors, and was always captivated by the superb little Proac Tablette Reference 8 Signatures. There was always a “however” however. No-matter how good these little stand-mounters sound, after a while I always miss some real bass perspective underpinning the proceedings, and still, it can be argued, a good big box will always beat a good little box in this respect. Not everyone has the room for large floorstanders though, so how did these little CA Electronics AP10 ‘speakers fare? Would my preconceptions of disappointingly bass light little boxes be borne out or shattered?
When the boxes arrived, first impressions upon unpacking were rather good. The AP10’s measure 220mm by 245 deep by 355 high and weigh in at around 6.2 Kilos each. Build quality seems good with each ‘speaker receiving up to 6 coats of piano black gloss lacquer. Although a lovely finish, as with all similar finishes, it promises to show up every finger print after a short while, so it you’re a compulsive ‘speaker mover, cotton gloves may be order of the day. I would have rather seen a quality veneer finish though as these mid priced stand-mounters (£2K per pair) blend in all too easily with the ubiquitous gloss black flatcreen TV’s and other mainstream consumer AV goods these days. Perhaps a real wood veneer might have set them apart a little.
Up front, they sport a single driver with a claimed frequency response of 43Hz to 23KHz all from a small long throw four inch driver! This has a number of advantages not least of which involves no cross-over being required plus sensitivity for a small ‘speaker is good at 88dB for 1 watt and a 6 Ohm nominal impedance. The driver is a copper coloured cone affair which appears to be some sort of polymer rather than metal. Inside, I’m informed that CA have gone to great lengths with the design and included a specially developed internal diffuser to help tune the sound.
That’s the boring bits, so how do these sound? In a word, great. They have a striking mid range presence and pin point imaging which one might expect from any good stand mounter and especially from a true point source design single driver unit. From the off, these sounded silky smooth without appearing to be coloured in any way. The detail is there. it’s just that it isn’t “in your face” like some. Close your eyes and these could be a reasonable set of compact floor standers such is the weight they manage to conjure up from no-where! Don’t get me wrong, they are no heavyweights, but for such compact boxes, the bass is surprisingly good. Although lower frequencies do seem to soften up a little and lack ultimate articulation compared with the best in this price range.
Whatever the niggles about the bass resolution, it’s splitting hairs really as their strengths lie in that lovely mid range and smooth treble. A little polite? Maybe, but not totally. They still have drive and energy when needed and can conjure up quite a surprisingly large and deep sound stage with the instrumental layers clearly defined. Mozart’s Piano Concerto Nr 21 sounded particularly good. This is a piece that can move the emotions or simply be rendered as background music depending on how it’s conveyed and in this case, I found myself being drawn into the music. The AP10’s managed to bring the piano to life in quite a realistic manner with the decay of each note lingering for a while and when the orchestra came in, rather than becoming a muddle in the background, everything remained rock solid and intelligible.
That’s the remarkable thing really. The AP10’s allow you to listen to the music and don’t draw attention to themselves, and that is one quality I value in any hifi component. Otherwise, any niggles have a tendency to overshadow the music to the point that box-swapping can become compulsory.
Moving on to more full scale orchestral music, the little AP10’s didn’t disgrace themselves at all but it’s with this type of music that their limitations start to show. Feed them something like the Mars suite from Holst’s Planets or the shattering crescendo of Boito’s Mefistofele and they start to get into a little trouble with that (up to now) rock solid sound stage starting to muddle the notes into slight confusion. The outright sense of scale also becomes less believable but it’s at this point that you realise these are not really niggles at all, they underline what a great job these little boxes actually do. To compare them with larger loudspeakers capable of a true full range performance is unfair. The nearest I could compare them with would be something like the little Proac Ref8 Signatures. Same beguiling mid presence and pin point imaging and similar bass characteristics. Where the AP10’s score over the Ref8 Signatures though is that instead of the bass becoming a little distorted before dropping off suddenly when pushed hard, the AP’s simply start to soften up and roll off more gently. They lack the Proac’s more incisive detail but overall are probably ever so slightly better balanced in the scheme of things.
With light rock, they are fabulous, ditto with acoustic music and particularly lovely with voices which project well and remain smooth even when the going gets loud.
Summing up, I could say rather surprisingly that these are small loudspeakers that I could live with. More to the point, anyone looking for a set of stand mounts for small to medium sized spaces which have a good WAF factor could do well to put these on their short list. My only concern really is the price. At £2K, the competition is very stiff these days. They still however deserve recommendation even at that price if only because they promise to be less system fussy than some, offer excellent sound staging and imaging, yet retain a lovely controlled smoothness when driven hard.
Size: 22cm wide x 24,5 cm depth x 35,5 cm tall.
Weight: 6,2 Kilo
Maximum power handling: 70 watt
Frequency response: 43-23.000 Hrz @ +/- 3 dB
Sensitivity: 88 Db @ 1 watt/1m
Impedance: 6 ohm