Kralk Audio are based in West Yorkshire in the UK and owned by Alan Clark. With the DTLPS-1 loudspeaker, costing £1750, Alan has taken the specially built crossover out of the loudspeaker and into separate boxes. Ian Ringstead finds out if all this effort has been worthwhile.  

I recently wrote a review on Kralk Audio’s excellent baby speakers the BC30’s and when I first visited Alan Clark’s room at the Whittlebury Show last September I spotted the Elite’s straight away and was fascinated by their concept. The Elite’s are a dual transmission line ported system (hence their abbreviated title) with an overly engineered external crossover in order to extract the very best from them. Kralk_audio_collection_1

Like everything else Alan does he lovingly hand builds these speakers and has developed them from his original design which he made for friends and musicians who wanted a high quality monitor stand mount speaker to use in their studios or at home. These speakers are larger than the Black Cat 30’s and being dual ported means they have substantially more bass and a sub woofer is not essential to obtain great bass and power handling. The bass driver is a 165mm unit and is housed in a rigid cabinet design for reduced colouration and to provide great bass extension for such a compact stand mount design. The cone is doped paper and has a vented coil pole in the magnet assembly to produce a lifelike sound. The treble is handled by a 25mm partially horn loaded soft dome silk tweeter for smooth well defined highs. The external 24dB octave Bessel crossovers use MKP Polypropylene capacitors and high quality air cored inductors that are housed in lead lined cases. The cabinets use 18mm high density fibreboard and are multi point braced and fully lined with Pro Acoustics Sonarflex foam to filter out any unwanted frequencies from the system. Kralk_audio_crossover_2

The external crossover is the part that intrigued me most when I first saw the Elites as it is a concept that, although far from new, is not used very often by manufacturers, probably for cost reasons and practicality. Being external, any chance of interaction with the drive units and cabinet (both physically and electrically) are totally eliminated. Alan has totally over engineered the crossover to see how far he could push this design on what was already a popular product and where he started his design inspirations a few years ago. The crossovers come in separate beautifully made boxes with nice metal feet. They house resin cast air-cored inductors in their lead lined cases and audiophile grade MKP capacitors. Wiring is Van Damme. The crossover has a quality silk screened printed acrylic cover so you can see and admire the components and build quality. Now for me this is the icing on the cake as I am an absolute sucker for this type of detail and whenever I go to shows or into shops I love to touch and inspect the quality of a product’s build and design, rather like I would a great watch or camera. Quality never comes cheaply, but for me it is worth it if the results are successful.

The Elites are bi-wired and use good quality gold plated 4mm multi way binding posts. Alan includes a complete set of Tenor Audio high quality 2.4 metre speaker leads (3 sets per speaker) which is a nice touch and although prospective buyers might prefer their own brand of choice, this makes set up costs minimal. I used the Tenor Audio cables throughout the review period and felt no need to change them. The Elites were placed on my resident wooden 70cm high stands and blutacked to the top plate for safety and coupling reasons. Kralk_audio_speakers_rear

THE SOUND

Alan had said the Elites were markedly better than the standard version which has sold so well for him in the past and boy was he right. The first thing to impress me was the bass output for such a relatively compact design was amazing and so controlled. For a living room like mine which is averaged sized (3m x 5m x 2.2m) they filled it magnificently with tight and very detailed sound. The top end was lovely and open and well highlighted without being shrill. Never once did I feel they were too bright or fatiguing and they made some other speakers I have heard or used in the past sound dull or boring. Listening to records or CDs of all types of music showed how versatile these speakers are at portraying the real emotion of the sound and felt unrestrained like dog let off the leash in a park to run wild.

Compared to the standard version of the DTPLS-1, Alan states they are like chalk and cheese and I don’t doubt him. Like Mel Gibson in Brave heart, at the end he cries out “freedom” just before he dies and the Elites say this to me. Separating the crossover and using the best possible components is definitely one of the main reasons theses speaker really sing. Yes, other manufacturers have done this, but at what price? The crossovers are not cheap and Alan said they constitute a good 50% of the Elites cost , but it’s like hot-rodding a car with a new body kit , suspension, tyres and souped up engine to transform its performance. Kralk_audio_lifestyle_1

Alan started experimenting with crossovers when he was a youngster and his many years of experience have certainly paid off in this new design. He experimented with many different values like any good designer would and could tailor the sound according to what values he used. Circuit designers do this all the time when making new products or improving a standard unit (Ken Ishiwata springs to mind with his KI and SE components). A nice additional touch is that the Elites grilles can easily be removed as they are magnetic and placed on the side of the speaker for convenience. When you first see this you think they have an additional drive unit on its side and everyone who saw them thought this initially. Kralk_audio_crossover_1

Finishes as standard are sapelle, walnut, black ash, cherry and light oak, but other finishes can be accommodated to special order. Frequency response is 35Hz to 22 kHz and power handling 20-150Watts with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. Sensitivity is 89dB at 1m. So all in all a good wide sound range suitable for most rooms, easy to drive and they will go loud.

I liked the BC30’s a lot and with the PAW stands they really worked well, but with the Elites Alan has really triumphed I feel. They for me offer a complete package that I could happily live with without the need for a subwoofer. They are very well made and can be tailored to your own tastes of finish. Coupled with a good amp and source components you won’t be disappointed and domestically they are easy to live with. The external crossover really is the stroke of genius and presented as it is in its own case I would want this on show, not hidden behind the speakers as they look so good in their own right and are the real stars of the show. The fact good speaker cables are included in the package as well is brilliant. £1750 is the asking price, so although not cheap, I can’t think of another speaker I have heard at this price level that has impressed me so much. It’s the complete sound and package that wins it for me.

Again as always audition these speakers at Alan’s home if you wish to hear them as he sells direct or I am sure you can trial them at home in your own system.

Alan told me he wishes to possibly try a similar idea with the BC30’s and make external crossovers for them to see how far the envelope can be pushed. This excites me, but how they will compare to the Elites remains to be seen. 

Build quality: 8.8RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Sound quality: 8.9

Value for money: 8.8

Overall: 8.83

Price: £1750 

 

Pros 

Fabulous open sound with a good frequency range and bass extension

Great build and excellent quality of components used

Very good speaker cables included in the package 

Cons 

None really, I love them 

 

Ian Ringstead

Designer’s Notes

The Elite is a high-end addition to our very popular DTLPS-1 speaker system.

DTLPS is a dual port transmission line pressure system which I developed over 5 years ago with the system ensuring excellent control over the bass and midrange frequencies giving a much larger than life sound from a diminutively small cabinet.

I took this one stage further with the addition of the Elite; I decided to massively over build the crossovers with high grade components, the main feature of these are the Lead shielded resin cast air core inductors which are totally isolated from any outside interference.  These are then coupled to Audiophile quality MKP 400v dc capacitors. I kept the quality flowing by hard wiring everything onto a wooden board to avoid printed circuits.

The problem with a massively over built crossover is that its so big that it wouldn’t fit inside the cabinet of the DTLPS-1, so it has its own isolated enclosure fitted with high quality input and output connectors.  The advantage of this is that the crossover is away from vibration and stray magnetic fields from inside the main speaker cabinet which could affect the sound quality and imaging. The crossover weighs in at 4.2Kg.

The speaker cabinet of the Elite now just contains the drive units and connecting terminals and the pressure port system.

The 24dB per octave Bessel designed crossover copes effortlessly with anything thrown at it from pop to classical, in fact complex music and classical is where the crossover excels, I believe. Due to its low distortion design it manages to pick out the subtle details from music tracks and feed them to the 2 drive units seamlessly and in perfect phase. The external crossover design gives better definition and space around individual instruments as would be the case when listening to a live band.  I have demonstrated the Elites many times to customers and the room always goes quiet as though the speakers command you to listen to them whilst the music is playing so that you don’t miss any of the detail they are sharing with the listener.

I have taken the DTLPS-1 Elite to a new level with this design and made an attractive value for money product which customers are very pleased with.

The DTLPS-1 Elite package comes with the 2 speakers, 2 Crossovers and 6 high quality 2.4 meter cables, the matching stands come as an optional extra at £200 per pair.

The package is built to order and delivery can take up to 3 weeks depending on finish required.

Alan Clark, Kralk Audio

 

 

 

 

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