15. November 2021 · Comments Off on Davis Acoustics Courbet No 8 Loudspeakers · Categories: Hifi News, Hifi Reviews, Loudspeakers. · Tags: , , , , , ,

DAVIS ACOUSTICS COURBET #8 REVIEW

Stuart Smith takes a listen to the Courbet No 8 loudspeakers from French manufacturer Davis Acoustics and which cost €5700.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers side

A pretty conventional-looking loudspeaker at first glance but with an interesting shape on closer inspection.

Davis Acoustics are a French brand based in Troyes and set up by Michel Visan way back in 1986, but, for whatever reason, the brand doesn’t seem to have taken off in the UK in any meaningful way, and the truth is I have absolutely no idea why this should be, as whenever I’ve heard their speakers they have always sounded fantastic. Indeed, I reviewed the Courbet 4 (€2200) back in 2020 and my only real criticism of the smaller siblings of the speakers we are discussing here was that they were a bit bass light in our larger room and I didn’t like that the base didn’t match the rest of the speakers.

Davis makes several levels of loudspeakers in eight different series, plus a series of in-wall loudspeakers for the installation market. They also make kits for DIY enthusiasts and sell drivers. The Courbet series is only topped by the Dream series and I’m itching to have a play with the single driver MV ONE MASTER speakers at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Davis also does a range of speakers specifically for the huge French electrical retailer Boulanger (the Hera series) with bookshelves starting at just €130 and floorstanders from around €450 a pair – I’ve not heard these but from having visited the shops they certainly look like a lot of speaker for not a lot of money.

Fast forward to our first HiFi show in 18 months in Paris (read all about it here) and we had the pleasure of hearing the Courbet No 8 on the end of some rather nice Jadis (also French) amplification. For me, this partnership was certainly one of the sonic highlights of the show and I hot-footed it to organise a pair for review to get a real feel for what the speakers were about in real-world situations. The speakers arrived shortly after our return and were plumbed in pretty much immediately, though they were already run in as these were the actual show pair.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers rear

Good finish and good backplate.

DAVIS ACOUSTICS COURBET #8 FEATURES AND BUILD

The speakers arrived well packed and in purpose-made boxes. Removing them was painless (not always the case) and we were met with a rather handsome looking speaker in Noyer (walnut), though other finishes are available (Satin White, Grey, and a rather attractive Bleu Sideral). The speakers stand 122.5ch high and have a distinctive backward sloping shape (sort of a parallelogram). They are quite a narrow speaker at 23.5 cm (31 cm deep) and come with a black plinth onto which they bolt and into which the included spikes attach. This is all easy to set up and sort with the hex wrench that’s in the box. I chose not to use spikes and instead had the speakers on their plinths and then on a further marble plinth with the audiophiles best friend Blutak separating the two – hardly high-tech, but better than spikes in this room.

The speakers look great in this finish, and whilst they are pretty big they aren’t domineering visually – I’d say they look very nice in a conventional sort of way. The fit and finish are lovely and there’s a set of good quality single speaker binding posts round the back that will take the usual bananas, spades and bare wires.

On that sloping front panel there’s the 28mm soft dome tweeter, a Kevlar 13cm mid-unit, and a 21cm carbon fibre woofer. Towards the bottom of the front baffle is the front-firing bass port. There is another smaller port around the back at the top of the rear panel. The body of the cabinet is made from reinforced MDF.

The speakers came with magnetic grilles but as per usual I didn’t bother with these.

Tech-wise the Courbet #8 are a three-way design with a claimed response of 35 – 25000Hz and are 92.5dB sensitive and with a nominal impedance of 5 Ohms. This should make them an easy enough speaker to drive, but, for the purposes of this review, they were used on the end of our Krell KST100. The previous speakers from Davis Acoustics (Courbet #4) we had here at HiFi Pig Towers did like a bit of power up them and so the Krell seemed the obvious choice here. The speakers were set up with laser pointers and laser loudspeaker set-up tools in our main room, at least a metre from the side and back walls and about 2.4M apart. I’ve found that the majority of front-ported loudspeakers are pretty easy to set up and the Courbet #8 were no exception, though some may want to play with positioning with regards to the back wall and that rear-firing smaller port, though I found them absolutely fine where I had them and as described above.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers side extreme

A closer look at the shape of the Courbet No8.

COURBET #8 SOUND QUALITY

The speakers were run in when they arrived but I wanted to give them some extra time before any critical listening to help the speakers reacclimatise to being indoors after their journey and so, as usual, I just blasted tuned through them for a few days before finally sitting down to listen properly – as should always be the case when reviewing speakers, but clearly isn’t the case with everyone!

I’ve been listening to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd of late. These were my favourite band for a good while in my teens and I’ve not really listened to them much of late, though the tunes are imprinted on my aural memory. Pronounced is a debut record that is an absolute corker and productionally speaking is pretty complex in parts. The Courbet #8s allowed this to shine out without them feeling they were dissecting the music into acoustic slices of sound. What sounds like backward hi-hats that appear throughout the opening tune are clear to hear and can be heard apart from the rest of the tune. That reverse hat (or whatever it is they reversed) bounces between hard left and right and sort of keeps the tune together for me. I’m listening at pretty low levels here, but the whole of the tune is there in its entirety and thoroughly enjoyable. However, at these levels the bass doesn’t have the clout I’d like and there’s a feeling of the speakers being pretty polite. This is not an unusual feature of many loudspeakers and to be honest, almost all speakers need to be pushed a little to get that bass going and really get the speakers singing – that’s my thoughts anyway, though you may have a different opinion. You may think I’m having a bit of a dig at the Courbet #8 here, but I’ not – they perform as I’d expect at low volumes and better than a lot. There is detail and clarity through the mid-band and tops, as demonstrated on the piano and the strings on Tuesday’s Gone. That fine detail I was going on about is apparent on Tuesday’s Gone in the separation of the guitars that are playing and my ability to pick them out of the mix. All I’m saying is, as I said with the #4, is that the #8 hit their stride in the bass department when pushed a little. And so let’s do just that.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers Front

Looked at from the front and showing the front port which allows fro easy positioning.

A good loudspeaker, in my opinion, should hit a point with regards to volume when everything is just spot on – all speakers have this point – and whilst there should be extra kick and bass volume when pushed a bit, this shouldn’t be to the detriment of the rest of the music.  A bass-heavy loudspeaker is just that! What a speaker should be is balanced throughout the frequency range, and whilst I personally may be particularly attracted to bass that is well defined and “tight”, I wouldn’t want to have, or recommend, a speaker that was all boom and tizz – that, for me, is the antithesis of what a good loudspeaker should be doing. Anyway, LFO and their rave classic LFO (Leeds Warehouse Mix) gets virtually cued up and the volume goes up a few notches – nothing ear-splitting and actually pretty reasonable – my phone tells me the sound is peaking at 74dB in the hot seat. So, there’s a bass note on the drop of this tune that goes very low and the Courbet #8 do this pretty well without getting quite as low as it goes on, for example, the Duos, but they don’t seem at all flustered. More importantly, the rest of the track is easy to pick out and in proportion, and when the band’s next track “What Is House?” comes on I’m properly in the mood and back in a dark rave in the summer of 1991. These aren’t audiophile recordings or productions, but then who wants to listen to much of what is called “audiophile music” anyway, but the Davis speakers cope well and present a coherent sonic representation of what is happening.

Pan Sonic’s Askel from their record A is minimal genius and the Courbet #8 sound fab with it, though I’ve pushed the volume a touch further and we are peaking at 80dB (though I’m sure this is far from accurate given it’s on a phone app). The dry kick on Askel has real depth, power and, well, kick, whilst other bass tones come and go in the mix. Again there is balance across the frequency range and effects and whatnot are all presented articulately and not as some kind of mush. These are nice speakers for this kind of music as it happens and spatially they are very proficient in getting the mix across. I’d not say they are quite as three dimensional as the Care Orchestra speakers we’ve just had in, but they are pretty close. Sounds are pushed out into the room and the stereo stage has good forward and backward dimensionality. The sounds (at times) do extend beyond the edges of the speakers, but for the main part, you are looking at a large bubble of sound in front of you. Even when pushed pretty hard by the Krell, the Courbet #8 remain composed, though, again, I’m sure they weren’t made for this kind of (broken) music.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers in situ

The yellow mid driver is distinctive and some may not like it – I quite like it.

So, my written notes from a few days ago say “listen to Quah”. If you don’t know this record then you should! It’s by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna fame and its opening track Genesis is one of my most favourite records of all. Anyway, I clearly wanted myself to listen to this record in a more critical kind of way and so here goes. There is a real natural and unforced feeling to this record on the Davis speakers. Genesis is, at first listen, a pretty simple tune with just vocal and guitar but then soars with strings…it’s beautiful done right and the Davis speakers capture and present this. The feeling and subdued emotion in Jorma’s vocal comes across wonderfully and the guitar is properly presented. And those strings!!! As natural a presentation of this tune as I’ve heard, and listening to it reminded me of why I wanted to hear these speakers at home. When I say the guitar is natural sounding, I mean it is in the room natural sounding. What I particularly enjoyed was how these speakers really captured the artist’s connection with the tune. It is heartfelt, and it certainly sounds it on the Davis. Jorma’s fingering and picking on the guitar strings is easy to hear and whilst there is masses of detail there’s nothing that feels pushed or forced. Keeping on the Airplane theme I pulled up Crown of Creation and the title track, mainly because the bassline is stunning but can often get lost in the maelstrom of sounds. The #8 don’t hide it at all and it’s easy to follow throughout the tune. Pushing the volume on this track doesn’t phase these speakers in any way and I love the way that they manage to separate out sounds without losing any of that feeling of wholeness.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers rear port

The rear port helps in adding presence to the listening experience.

Dik Banovich then pops up on Qobuz and it’d be rude not to listen. If you don’t know him then you should look him up. We had him play in our barn when we used to put on Sunday afternoon gigs and Linette chose to have him play at her 40th birthday bash. Dik plays acoustic blues and the record Run To You is simply recorded with just Dik and his guitar, and the Davis speakers get this across nicely. Again there is loads of detail, but with that detail that natural and unforced feeling I banged on about. There is that in-the-room feeling again too. Movement on the fretboard is clear and there’s just no harshness or nastiness to the sound. These are a really easy to get on with loudspeaker that just draw you in and demand you sit down and enjoy the music. For that very reason, they are also pretty difficult to review because I found myself just wanting to sit and listen to the music – but surely this is a good sign in a loudspeaker! I actually think Dik’s music sort of sums up the character of the Courbet #8 pretty well – If you want bells and whistles then you need to look elsewhere, however, if you want an honest and straightforward portrayal of what is going on, without the loss of the finer nuances in a performance then the Courbet #8 may well be just what you are looking for.

Davis acoustics courbet 8 loudspeakers close

The fit and finish on this speaker are very good.

Looking back at what I’ve picked out of all the tunes I’ve listened to it dawns on me that I’ve listened to mainly pretty simple tunes (bar the Airplane) on the #8 and I suppose it’s time to dig out something a bit more hectic and I go for Led Zeppelin II and the track Moby Dick, more because I know it’s got a great drum solo on it than anything. I also wanted to listen to this at volume and hear just how these speakers deal with dynamic changes. I’m happy to report that all is well and even when pushed very hard the Davis speakers remain composed and in control of the music that is being played. In fact, it feels like they could be pushed harder. Bring It On Home comes next and this is a real workout track. Again there’s nothing but control and composure. The vocal track is forward, the main guitar line is panned properly and the drums, as in the last track, are hard-hitting and dynamic. Likewise, when Roon throws up ACDC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, the speakers just get on with it. There’s (again) no harshness in the performance and the rhythm section just feel very right and underpin the whole track. That same dynamic bass, and in particularly drums, is experienced on Blind Faith’s Do What You Like.

CONCLUSION

There’s not a lot not to like on these speakers and a whole lot to really commend. Yep, they look pretty conventional other than that parallelogram shape, but plumb them onto a good amp and crank the volume up a bit and they really come alive. Even at lower volumes there’s detail and a sense of dynamism that gives you a taste of what’s to come.

They aren’t as three dimensional as the Care Orchestra speakers we had here recently, but that soundstage is very natural and somewhat monitor-like. They don’t have the same airiness in the upper-mids and tops as the Audiovector R6 with their AMT tweeter, but there is a good deal of detail in the presence band.

Tonally the speakers are pretty neutral, perhaps erring on the side a slight warmth in sound.

Fit and finish is excellent and they do look good, though some will not like that pale yellow Kevlar mid. Personally, I quite like it and it distinguishes the #8 from a gazillion other medium-sized standmounters.

Front porting makes them easy to position and that small rear port add something to the presence and upper-mids.

Some will want them to go deeper, but I really didn’t think they missed a trick and to me they felt nothing but balanced across the frequency spectrum. That bass is actually very tight and full of detail (If in doubt check out these speakers playing Blind Faith’s Do What You Like or Deep Purple’s Pictures Of Home) and will satisfy the vast majority of people. They are certainly fast and articulate!

I’d have these as a main speaker in a heartbeat and they are a gnat’s hair breadth from our top award.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality:

Pretty conventional-looking other than their parallelogram shape

Beautifully finished

Sound Quality:

Natural and unforced

Dynamic and articulate

Wide but natural soundstage

Have a point when they really do come alive, but also good at lower volumes

Best with an amp with a bit of power

The rear port at the top adds air and openness to the sound that gives an enhanced sense of space in the recording and the recording space itself

Value For Money:

These are a good chunk of money for what looks like a conventional speaker, but their price is pretty good value once you take a listen and when compared to what else is available

We Loved:

These speakers just make listening to whatever music you choose an absolute pleasure and I did get lost in the music on several occasions when I was supposed to be listening more critically.

Unfussy about positioning

So natural sounding

Fast and articulate bass

Clear midband and smooth treble

Unflappable, even on complex music

We Didn’t Love So Much

I can see some would want a speaker to go lower but I was very happy

A bit boxy looking from the front

Price: €5700

Elevator Pitch Review: From France, the Davis Courbet #8 are an expressive and detailed loudspeaker across the frequency range, with a naturalness to their presentation that should find many admirers. Whilst they look conventional, they are as uncoloured as you could want, particularly through the mids. Bass is controlled and tight and should be low enough for all but the most diehard bass nutter. Their unfussiness with regards to positioning makes them a good choice for those with domestic considerations.

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

SUPPLIED BY DAVIS ACOUSTICS

SPECIFICATIONS

Bass reflex:  circular vent

Nominal power: 150 W

Maximum power:  200 W

Number of channels:  3

Number of loudspeakers:  3

Efficiency: 92.5 dB

Bandwidth (+/- 3 dB): 35 – 25,000 Hz

Tweeter:  28mm soft dome

Materials:  Kevlar 13 cm

Woofer: 21 cm carbon fiber

dimensions (cm): 112.5 (h) x 23,5 (l) x 31 (depth)

Weight (kg): 33

Impedance:  4… 8 ohms

Cutoff frequency: 250-2500Hz

 

 

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