The A.R.T Stilleto 6 V3-S speakers cost £3500 which seems very reasonable for their size, fit and finish. Janine Elliot hooks them up to her system to put them through their paces. 

Art Loudspeakers are a Scottish company from Troon on the west coast about 8 miles north of Ayr, founded in 1998 and run by Derek and Ramsay Dunlop. The name Dunlop should be familiar to the more matured audiophile who remembers the first Systemdek turntable in the 1980’s. Originally produced by Peter Dunlop the iconic IIX is now being manufactured by Audionote, but the legacy of his original company has come back to life again with sons Derek and Ramsay now creating two new three-point-suspended turntables and producing a range of speakers. The Stiletto, up for review here, is the cheapest of the range, though still looking very top-notch and with a modest price tag of £3500. It is also significantly different in design to the more expensive DRAM speakers (short for Derek RAMsay). This is a new version of the Stiletto that came out in the early noughties, but with new drivers and crossover, and also newer shape. The name Stiletto was created by Derek’s wife due to its dimensions; where a stiletto shoe is tall and thin and something I would never wish to wear with my towering height at 5 foot 11, the new Stiletto 6 V3-S has a more generous girth of 215mm (260mm including the base), and height 985mm.

CONSTRUCTION

The Stiletto is driven by a treated paper SEAS 180mm mid/bass (Derek told me that he chose paper over aluminium or polymer as it “does the least harm”) and 29mm wave guide Sonomex fabric dome tweeter made by SEAS from their Prestige range. It has a wide ‘Sonomex’ surround for low resonance and excellent mechanical linearity, with the voice-coil windings immersed in magnetic fluid to increase short term power handling capacity and reduce the compression at high power levels. The speaker has a pair of silver-plated connectors and a rear port. The cabinet is 25mm heavily braced wood with an internal double braced MDF structure running down two-thirds of the box, making it a very heavy cabinet that took me by surprise when I attempted to get them out of the cardboard cartons they weigh in at around 26kg. Art constructed a thick cabinet that is heavily braced so that it doesn’t add to vibrations from the drivers, and indeed the cabinet was certainly well dampened. Their DRAM ‘Fifteen’ loudspeaker, for example, is even thicker with a 35mm multi-layered construction and weighing a monster 70kg.  There is also acoustic damping inside and a choice of oak or walnut real wood veneers on the outside. The sample for review had an excellent walnut veneer with matched “mirror image” front wood finish making it look very expensive and conveniently matching my room decor. As well as a leaflet telling you how to look after the speakers it also recommends using the speakers with the enclosed two sets of 4 spikes. I generally prefer 3-spike bases as opposed to 4 spikes because the latter can be harder to get absolutely level if your floor isn’t, but this time it worked a treat largely because the speaker is quite heavy and is very stable on its base plate. The removable front grille is magnetically affixed to the mid/bass driver screws, which is very resourceful, but could easily be pulled off and fall on the floor if you have young children or athletic animals in the house, and it even takes a bit of practice fitting it on without falling off. However, that does mean the front of the unit looks neater than many a speaker.

The internal MDF vertical structure adds reinforcement and both drivers are connected with good quality cabling. The speaker is ported at the top of the rear and below this is a board containing the crossover and binding posts bolted on to the rear cabinet. The crossover uses hand wound copper air core inductors and Clarity custom made SA series capacitors. The loudspeaker is also upgradable, so if you wish, for example, to use the SEAS diamond-dome tweeter as used in their DRAM series, then this can be retrofitted along with the appropriate crossover. A total of two alternatives are available.

SOUND QUALITY

My initial thoughts on a speaker are usually fairly accurate, and on this occasion, my findings were consistent throughout the few weeks I played music and speech. The first music I chose was an old favourite of mine, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Variations’, an album of 23 variations utilising Paganini’s 24th Caprice as its theme, a tune many other composers and performers have used as a starting point. It starred not only his brother Julian on cello, but also many of my childhood icons, Rod Argent, Don Airey, Barbara Thompson, and Gary Moore. Andrew only wrote this album as a result of brother Julian beating him in a bet on a Leyton Orient football match. They didn’t bet on it making number two in the charts in 1978. Playing on the Stiletto there was a great sense of composure and detail to space, with good coverage of bass and mid frequencies. There was only a slight loss on the highest frequencies and this being an album I know so well I did feel a tad disappointed at the music not sounding quite so exciting as I remember it. Transferring to my Burson Audio Bang 40W amp with Vivid class A stage, it did return some extra clarity on the top, and more speed, though the amplifier isn’t as musical as the Leak Stereo20 which was my main amp for this review. I felt these speakers would work best with classical music and vocals in pop music due to the excellent musicality in the mid-range frequencies. Top frequencies above 10Khz were for me just a tad less precise and vibrant when compared to the mids. Overall, the sound was very neutral making it ideal for long listening sessions and was able to be driven well by low powered amplifiers. Sensitivity was 89dB/1W at 1m.

The speakers come with a lovely shaped front grille using a black cloth, though I didn’t use it during the reviewing process. When the grille is in situ one loses a little of the top end detail and soundstage. The only grille I ever leave on is my Chartwell LS3/5a, as that was its intended use. The front grille on the Stiletto is also quite heavy for its size, is made of MDF with cut-outs for the drivers, and if accidentally knocked it could fall on the floor. Maybe stronger magnets would make me feel safe in leaving it on when not playing, or better still magnets also positioned for where the tweeter screws are to ‘double’ the magnetic intensity – a minor point I concede.

Turning to the most uninspiringly titled album “On My Way to the 30th Analog Forum Anniversary” recorded on a Philips N4522 by STS Digital, this is a brilliantly recorded album with music from Gershwin, Rodgers, Charlie Chaplin, and others and with vocals from Greetje Kauffeld. Her silky-smooth vocals and the excellent playing of alto sax, guitars and pianos were given a superb performance through the Art speakers. These speakers not only looked gorgeous in my house but now the musicians had joined me in the living room. Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” is such a beautifully sad piece of music from someone whose life’s work was to make people happy. This performance allows for both acoustic guitar and saxophone to give their own space in the wide soundstage, with a forward sound allowing you to closely engage with the musicians. OK, this might not be the brightest sounding speaker out there, but nothing was missed in terms of musicality and space. Mids were detailed and the bass was warm and inviting. I hate crossovers as they usually come in between 3 and 3.5kHz, just where the all-important detail of vocals and strings sit. One reason the Stiletto works so well at these mid frequencies is due to the slightly low crossover point at 2.8kHz. The 2nd order crossover design does include some padding on the tweeter and perhaps there is slightly too much – just a thought. I feel that if that top-end had just a little more substance this speaker would be seriously good, whatever the price. However, this small point didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the speaker.

I was recently re-introduced to an album from my youth that is ideal for use in review since it hits every frequency and every type of waveform that a loudspeaker ever needs to be able to tackle. ‘Tonto’s Expanding Head Band’ was a British-American electronic music duo from Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff. TONTO stands for “The Original New Timbral Orchestra” and was (and still is) the largest multitimbral polyphonic analogue synthesiser in the world. It was constructed over several years by Malcolm Cecil. It started as a Moog modular Series III synth and then expanded further to consist of another Moog, four Oberheim SEMs, two Arp 2600s, modules from Serge, and products from EMS, Roland, and Yamaha. All of this was housed in a futuristic semi-circle of huge curving wooden cabinets, twenty feet in diameter and six feet tall, and wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘Back to the Future’ film. The album has some amazing deep bass, thin and thick textures, and sine, square and triangle waves that are any reviewer’s or manufacturer’s dream and would work well on Dr Who or at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Track 3 is very Vangelis/Oldfield and the speaker had a little difficulty in handling the extreme bass end efficiently, showing bass disappearing in the lowest octave of the music. For that reason, I turned to Mike Valentines ‘Chasing the Dragon II’ album and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue BWV565. I felt the performance wasn’t as motivated as I know it can be on the best, and whilst it admirably got down very low, extreme lows below 45Hz were not quite so controlled. Now, should this be a worry, or does that mean I didn’t enjoy these speakers? No on both accounts! The bass does get down to 36Hz in my test and choosing the right positioning and toe-in helps to get the best sound; at least 2 feet away from the rear wall made for best performance, and that performance was highly musical with excellent upper-bass and mid. I did feel it was dependant on which amplifier I used, and the best sound was obtained with fairly-high listening levels. I heartily recommend listening to this loudspeaker if you are in the process of buying, but also suggest you try it first with your amplifier of choice.

CONCLUSION

This was a lovely looking and keenly priced speaker using good quality components including crossover design. The bass and mid frequencies were highly musical and detailed allowing the music to take precedence over the equipment. Only that top-end isn’t as prominent as I personally like, but these speakers will allow hours of listening without any fatigue. Now that is important.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Excellent build with good detail to wood and veneer.

Sound Quality:  Strain-free sound edging on the neutral.

Value For Money: £3500 is a good price for such a well-built speaker

Pros:Very good mid frequency. Good musicality. Can be listened to for long periods without fatigue. Good build quality including components

Cons: Some might find top frequencies not prominent enough and hence not exciting enough

Price: £3500

Janine Elliot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Equipment: Pre Audio GL-1102N tangential turntable and Audio Technica AT30sa/Manley steelhead/MFA preamp. Krell KPS20i CD, Slee majestic DAC/pre. Amplification a modified LeakStereo20 and Burson Audio Bang.

Technical Specifications

Speaker Type2-Way Bass Reflex Floorstanding Loudspeaker
Tweeter29mm wave guide Sonomex dome tweeter
Bass/Mid Driver1 x 180mm Bass-mind (treated paper) 25mm voice coil
CrossoverHand wound copper air core inductors and Clarity cap custom made SA series capacitors
Internal WiringPremium quality OFC copper internal wiring
Binding PostsSilver plated binding posts 4mm banana or spade
Internal WiringPremium quality OFC copper
Binding PostsSilver plated binding posts 4mm banana or spade
Frequency Response34kHz – 25kHz ±3dB
Sensitivity89 dB/for 1 watt @ 1 metre
Impedance8 ohm  nominal
Recommended powerMin 8 watts
Cabinet25mm Heavily braced MDF cabinet with internal acoustic damping Real wood veneers Walnut or Oak
Overall dimensionsCabinet 985mmH x 250mmD x 215mmW Base 260W x 275 D
Weight packed28 kilos packed each

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