A.R.T. Loudspeakers

Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Let us begin with explaining that A.R.T. Loudspeakers is an acronym for Acoustic Reproduction Technology Loudspeakers and the similarity to Art Audio, the manufacturer of tube gear is not coincidental. We had already a chance to have a closer look at both of those companies, so we know something about them. Still ordering the Moderne 10 for testing, I overlooked one thing, that turned out to be a key one, namely that they weight 50kg a piece. The guys from UPS, who had to bring them to me, had murder in their eyes. And it was similar with me, when I tried to place them on spikes and position for listening. I had to call my son for help, and I recommend to set those up by two people. Especially, because those are beautifully finished with car varnish (in any color), and it would be a pity to ruin that.

I was curious how they look in reality. Their name suggested a breakup with classical design. As it turned out, this is not fully the case. Although metallic varnish is a touch of modernity, still their size, used loudspeakers, etc., suggest something different, the return to the “golden age” of audio. There are not many companies that use a big paper woofer on the front baffle, it is usually much narrower. And the shape of the enclosure itself reminds of the Decco series loudspeakers. Attention is drawn by transverse grooves on the top and side elements, 35mm apart. It turns out, that their appearance is second to their function. Because the A.R.T. enclosure is made just like we have seen earlier in the Greek loudspeakers Emme β and Mythos Ligeia, and is used for years in the Italian constructions from Eventus Audio (a similar idea, but from layers of crosswise glued plywood elements, can be seen in Penaudio Alba). I am thinking about gluing together layers of material, in which the internal chamber was cut first. But we will not stop here, and discuss the originality of this idea, it is just good and serves its purpose well. All the enclosures of the loudspeakers called upon are extremely rigid and less susceptible to vibration. But they have one drawback – those are much more expensive than the traditional ones.

Like I mentioned, the setup of the “10” is a classic one. Those are three way, floor standing loudspeakers, with a bass-reflex on the back panel. Interestingly their size is comparable with my Harpia Dobermann. Even more - the drivers are almost exactly at the same places. Also the price is almost the same. But there are differences. All the loudspeakers in the Moderne 10 are soft (silk and paper), and hard in the Dobermann (aluminum). The first one has 2nd and 3rd level filters between them, and the second ones uses 1st order filters all along. The Polish product has also mechanical phase compensation between drivers, while the Scottish boxes have a flat baffle. One more thing – the Harpia has the tweeter and midrange closer to the side of the box, while all drivers in the A.R.T are on the symmetry axis. The most important aspect during the design of the Moderne 10 was their high efficiency and impedance, what makes them predestined to work with low power amplifiers, ideally ones with 300B triode in the output stage.

During Audio Show 2008 I had the opportunity to talk to Derek, one of the Dunlop brothers, owners and constructors of A.R.T. The interview appeared in the December issue of “Audio”, in the form of a discussion of a few company representatives, but I think that this is a good place to summarize all questions asked to Derek.

Derek Dunlop, Art Loudspeakers
Owner, Technical Manager

Wojciech Pacuła: Art Loudspeakers is a common enterprise of you and your brother Ramsey – are you the better half?

Derek Dunlop: (laugh) Some people claim that, and I am too lazy to deny…

WP: I ask all the people I am talking to: is the current crisis a threat to the audio branch in any way?

DD: I think that in general it is not. It will touch a part of the market, but those will rather be the weak companies, or those less adapted. If we talk about the best companies, the best products, then those are, in my opinion, resistant to such market tide movements. Everybody will be working on that, to not allow anything bad to happen, some decisions will have to be made, but in general – I think, that a good product is a good product, and a company can be sure about that. If we think about luxury products, like expensive cars, shoes, watches, but also audio, and especially expensive audio, then in those areas no recession has any influence on sales.

WP: Do you think that Blu-ray will be a success, or is it a loosing format from the very beginning?

DD: ((loud “puff” made with his mouth) This depends only on the big companies, and how much those are determined. From the consumer’s point of view, there are so many formats, so many possibilities, that he feels lost. People want to be left alone. And clear rules. And those two strivings will collide. Who will be the winner? Nobody knows that.

WP: And what is your beloved format?

DD: Vinyl, of course. Two channels. In those days, during the domination of the digital signal, a good system, based on the vinyl disc still sounds in a more natural way, just plain better than even the best digital player. This is why I still do buy vinyl discs.

WP: And is there no possibility, that high resolution files downloaded from Internet to a hard disk will bring those two worlds together?

DD:Of course they will! Good digital sources are getting better, and the Internet is a splendid channel to make it available. But I think, that well recorded music, from a well prepared analog disc, is still closer to what we hear around ourselves.

WP: Do you think, if in the last years a technology appeared, that can change some part of the audio business, or will we still use that, what our ancestors came up with?

DD: I think, that in this are not much changed, since many, many years, and that nothing will change either. Please look at our system – we use amplifiers with singular Western Electric power tubes, we use dynamic speakers, etc. There is nothing new on the horizon.

WP: Don’t you think, that this is a kind of anachronism?

DD: No, no – this is the best way of expressing, what was put in a recording by the artist, like I see it, and I deal with recordings. The only question in this situation is, if we want to be honest in that what we do, or if the sound is credible, if we can believe it to be a real event?

WP:The new Decco series has different enclosures than the classic ones, or is it just a design feature?

DD: In the beginning we wanted to proposed just a fresh design. But with the first prototype it appeared, that we changed the sound in such a way, that not the shape of the loudspeakers was improved, but their sound.

I will just add, that we tested earlier the model A.R.T Loudspeakers Stiletto 6 – HERE..


Discs used in the listening session:
∙ Beverly Kenney, Lonely And Blue, Cellar Door Records/Sinatra Society of Japan, XQAM-1-22, CD.
∙ King Crimson, In The Court Of The Crimson King, Universal Music Japan, UICE-9051, HDCD.
∙ Solveig Sletthajell, Silver, ACT Vision+Music, ACT 9715-2, CD.
∙ Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, EMI, 529071, CD.
∙ Lee Morgan, Introducing Lee Morgan, Savoy Jazz/Columbia Music Entertainment, COCB-53767, HQCD.
∙ Kraftwerk, Minimum-Maximum, EMI, 349962, 2 x SACD/CD.
∙ Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin, Atlantic/Warner Music, WPCR-11611, CD.
∙ Yes, Fragile, Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 766, gold-CD.
∙ Jonas Knutsson+Johan Norberg, Skaren: Norrland III, ACT Vision+Music, ACT 9474-2, CD.
∙ Woong San, Feel Like Making Love, Pony Kanyon Korea, PCCY-50014, HQCD; review HERE.

I was very curious to hear how the “10” will sound, so just after unpacking, the same evening, I listened to two discs – “Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd and “In The Court of The Crimson King” King Crimson. Old, but absolutely classic discs, and, this is also important, fitting in the evening mood. It could be heard immediately that those are completely different speakers than the Dobermann, or the tested in parallel Xavian Giulia. Completely different. After listening to those two discs, I knew, that although this is a proposition going in a different direction, it is a classy, hi-end one. If I would have to compare the sound, then it would be with the Avantgarde Acoustic Uno Nano (please have a look HERE). First a word why “hi-end”. What hi-end is, and what not, was discussed over and over, but still there is no clear definition of it. Every listener has his own idea, on which product is hi-end, and which not. With loudspeakers like the Moderne 10, there is no such dilemma, because this is not the beginning of this group, but its comfortable middle. Why? First of all, the sound of those loudspeakers is very credible. We do not call upon this category often, but it is the basis of making our body, head and all the rest, assume at least for a short while, that that what is happening in front of us, is the real thing. A thorough replication of a live event is not possible, and we should not count on it succeeding some day, but hi-end products, with all the flaws of mechanical reproduction and technological limits, can present something, what we perceive that way, something that makes us forget ourselves, and just listen to music. This is a very “uncertain” category, as it depends much on the perception and sensibility of the listener – some will “pass out” with the budget NAD, others with the top Jadis. So we have to assume, the listener is educated in this area, and knows what he listens to and what he hears. So – credibility. I think, that the Dunlop brothers succeeded in placing the spirit of music in those loudspeakers. Despite the fact – and I will repeat it, because this is important – those are completely different, that the ones I chose for my system.

Because there is nothing like one way to the goal, as well, as nobody has monopoly for truth. We can convince ourselves of that listening to the A.R.T. Because in absolute categories those are not tonally balanced constructions. One can clearly hear that the treble was recessed, and the upper midrange was damped. And yet, I do not know how this is done, but I cannot pretend not hearing it, everything seems to have its place and sense. This is the same impression I had listening to loudspeakers from RCM Audio (description of the system in this issue of HF), where the treble above 5kHz was withdrawn, and we could not speak, in terms we use to describe audio equipment normally, about open and vivid cymbals, even frequency response, etc. And still, when it came to play music, in front of us reality was opening, complete, coherent, finished from beginning to the end. And in the Moderne 10, the withdrawn treble manifests itself in softer percussion cymbals than in my loudspeakers, or the Xavian (but please remember, that this is a relative comparison, a loudspeaker against a loudspeaker). Interestingly this was heard better in new productions, like Minimum-Maximum Kraftwerk and Feel Like Making Love Woong San, than on the King Crimson disc. This is understandable, because the first ones carry much more information in the upper regions of the sound spectrum, and the Crimson is not good in this aspect. But the latter, and earlier the Pink Floyd disc, sounded splendidly in terms of telling a story. It was not a coincidence that I chose “concept albums” for the first listening session – those require full listener engagement from the beginning to the end. This happens, sound wise, only under the condition, that the listener becomes interested, intrigued. And the Moderne 10 pull us into their world immediately.

A part of the process is brilliant reproduction of the volume of the instruments and the ability, to shade this relative to the volume the music is playing at. Those are good at quiet listening in the evening, and at loud morning exercises, but this is just a characteristic of good hi-fi. More important is the fact, that the virtual sources do not get blurred when we quiet down, but keeping selectivity just get smaller. Here we hear, that each disc has its sound volume level, it should be played at. Everything fits in its place then, and we get a big, expansive sound stage and incredibly realistic instruments. But it is not the case, that those are singled out on the stage. In difference to my system, different to what I am accustomed to (so I do not judge, I just describe it), the instruments are merged with the background to a large extent; I mean, that one cannot really hear how the room acoustics was, or rather, how the sources are visible in it. On other hand the instruments themselves are fantastic, superbly placed, regardless if this is the space between loudspeakers or behind any of them. The last part is most difficult, because the sound comes almost in 100% from the speaker, where the instrument is supposed to be hidden behind. But those little things that amend the whole make the Scottish loudspeakers show the instruments behind themselves, as if there would be nothing between us and the sound source. Even more – every movement of the instrument (by the sound engineer), even by a few centimeters to any side, results in the movement of the “picture” of the instrument, without tying it to the tweeter (this is the most common problem), although the sound keeps coming from behind the broad plane of the loudspeaker baffle. It is said, that the stage is drawn best by small monitors, where a narrow baffle allows for proper propagation of sound waves. This might be true, but in some alternative reality. I can confirm, that the best mini monitors, like Sonus Faber, Chario (eg. Academy Sonnet) and some others can create a very broad and deep sound stage. But I think, that this is not synonymous with the fact, that big loudspeakers cannot do that. It’s just easier to achieve that in small constructions. Large loudspeakers, like my Harpia, or the A.R.T. can do that equally well, and at the same time do something more – they add weight to the stage, and the virtual sources are shown in natural sizes, with proper volume. Monitors cannot do that, even when they try hard. Because they lack bass.

Now – the bass. A thing, that is sacrificed by bookshelf speaker owners in the name of the stage, precision, etc. I wrote about that many times, but I’ll repeat: a realistic event cannot be created (I do not write about a ‘real’ one, because this is not achievable in any system, and this will probably never change) without recreating the full frequency range. I can understand the choice of the owners of “bookshelves”, I do not attack anyone, this is just one of many choices, compromises, which have to be faced by every audiophile regardless of the thickness of their wallet, their listening experience, but I refrain from pretending, that there is no problem. The Moderne 10 show, that the extension of the lower frequency range is not a whim of the Americans, obsessed by large spaces, not the request of the Germans, trying to reproduce truly the marching rhythm of their beloved performers. Those are untrue and stupid stereotypes, that have as much in common with reality, as the statement, that all Poles are thieves and heavy drinkers. A broad band loudspeaker can show an event in full dimension. If the instrument is big, then it is projected in large amount of space. If it is small, then it is small. It does not correlate with how loud we hear them, because a small piccolo flute can shoot through a forte of a symphonic orchestra, but to hear a contrabass in the latter, to hear anything at all, many instruments must play at the same time. The A.R.T. have that subtle, but so important, ability. I think, that this is a result of the strong and even bass in those loudspeakers. It is not as quick as with the Xavian or Harpia, resembles more that, what can be heard from the Avantgarde Uno Nano or Gemme Audio in the model Katana. It goes very low, but to use that, we have to place the loudspeakers far away from the back wall. Otherwise the bass gets loose at the bottom end. One can hear the bass-reflex, but differently than usual, as droning, but a kind of ease in reproducing impulses, fullness. The base drum, snare drum (yes, even the instruments higher on the scale benefit from this) hit like on a concert, with something “behind them”, with a dynamic headroom, with no compression. For testing I closed the bass-reflex port (like I did long ago with the Harpia), but it was not better but different. Quick bass passages, from the contrabass on Introducing Lee Morgan or the bass guitar from Led Zeppelin are not slowed down or prolonged, but slightly softened. There is no such clarity and such good resolution like from the Harpia, or the tested some time ago Isophon Vescova. A big paper driver cannot overcome some things. But the timbre is very nice, differentiated and there is no talking about unified bass.

Yes, I praise, and praise, but I would like you to be clear: this is not really “my” sound. I prefer when there is more treble, the stage clearer and not so homogenous. But this is my choice. For a long time I thought, that the Scottish loudspeakers are little resolving. How was I wrong! My perception of the sound was marked with being used to the perfect detail of the Harpia and Xavian. And because the treble is withdrawn in the Moderne 10, and the upper midrange a bit damped, the details are not put in your face. But their differentiation and inclusion in the matter of the musical piece is splendid, what I could notice with the disc Silver Solveig Slettahjell. This disc starts with a quiet piece, where in the first part the piano player softly plays the strings of the instrument below the lid. The Scottish loudspeakers showed that brilliantly! For a moment I thought something is crackling in the equipment placed on the Base rack (Nautilus Hi-End) between the speakers, but then I realized, that I know what it is, I heard that before, but differently. Now this was an organic whole with the rest of the music, this was no detail just for details, to make people happy, but a part of the arrangement, a soft base for the voice, a counterpoint, connecting the phrases sung by Solveig. It was similar with the King Crimson disc, but there the withdrawal of the voice did not allow to diagnose the phenomenon.

And now we reach the element, that in my opinion is not as good, as with other loudspeakers for the given money. The Scottish A.R.T. withdraw the voices slightly, and do not show their body, their three-dimensionality. This was especially well audible on the King Crimson disc, but also with the Floyd. When a voice is dominating in a given piece, like with Solveig, Woong San, or on the beautiful disc Lonely And Blue Beverly Kenney (this disc was issued by the Sinatra Society of Japan – I buy them all, I recommend them, those are true pearls. You can get them on CDJapan – the banner is below the test), then it is not bad, because this is just classy playing with swing, feeling and good articulation. But even then the voice does not get loose from the background, it does not get over the phase of a “relief”. It can be heard much stronger with discs, where the vocal was not treated with special attention. Although I said in the beginning, that the events on the discs In The Court Of The Crimson King and Wish You Were here were incredibly natural and credible, but sometimes one would want the articulation and definition of the vocals to be better. This can be partially alleviated when pairing those loudspeakers with a 300B amplifier – the vocals are more present then, but the coherence and tightness of bass looses on that marriage, and most of all its span. So we have to choose ourselves. Maybe the “golden middle” can be an amplifier with a single 6C33C tube, like the Ayon Spark II, or Single Six Ancient Audio. I heard that combination and I liked it. This is just a suggestion, but you should keep it in mind, that we do not have to limit ourselves to only one solution. Interestingly this way of presentation did not prevent the guitars to be reproduced in a spectacular way – electric (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson), or acoustic (Yes, Pink Floyd, Jonas Knutsson) – as if this instrument was beyond any limitations.
One thing you have to keep in mind, regardless of the electronics used, which music we listen to, and what are our believes: the Moderne 10 sound much better, when the noise level in the listening room is low. This is why the evening listening sessions were so satisfactory. Yes, I know, that in the evening the mains is “cleaner”, that everything sounds better. With the A.R.T., similar to some other speakers, it is different. They need not only cleaner mains, but also low noise level, and this can be provided by late hours or well adapted listening room. In those conditions sound gains on articulation and clarity, what makes the subjectively perceived resolution higher. This is a thing we should consider before making any purchasing decisions – the room we will listen in, must be prepared to receive them.

Those are no speakers for everybody, but doing that, what they were designed for splendidly. They are not tonally balanced, but this does not prevent them from playing music in a way, many listeners dream of – organic, natural and credible. The thing that remains to be resolved is somebody to bring them to us and position them…


Moderne 10 are big, floor standing loudspeakers from the Scottish company A.R.T. Loudspeakers (Acoustic Reproduction Technology Loudspeakers). The company was founded quite recently, in 1998, by the brothers Derek and Ramsay Dunlop, and from the beginning it was oriented to propose the companions to tube amplifiers, especially the SET ones. So high efficiency of this model should not be surprising, nor the impedance set at 8Ω. Moderne 10 was introduced on February 4th 2008 as the crown piece of a new line, with a bit different shape, than the Decco line. In reality the shape of the cabinet is similar, because it is a result of the specific construction of the cabinet, named DECOLAM. It is not mounted like a typical “box”, but 35mm thick MDF plates are bolted together, with the internal chamber is cut earlier. This guarantees splendid rigidity and resonance damping. On top auto varnish is being put, in any color ordered. The varnish is also put on the broad bass-reflex opening on the back plate, what looks very nice. I received the speakers for testing in a beautiful burgundy color. Their shape resembles an ellipse, but with the sides having a really big radius. All edges were rounded. The front baffle is flat, similar to the back, where we can see the bolts keeping the enclosure together. The whole is placed on a big pedestal, where steel spikes can be installed, countered with vinyl nuts.

Like I mentioned the Moderne 10 are floor standing loudspeakers. They are very BIG, because there was a 260mm bass driver used, with a coated paper diaphragm, and a solid, cast spider. The same material is used for the 150mm midrange driver. The tweeter, a SEAS dome, has a soft, silk membrane and a plastic front. The cross-over frequencies are at 350 and 2800Hz, and the cross-over, with air coils and polypropylene capacitors, ICW Clarity, have 12 and 18dB/octave filters (2nd and 3rd order). The inside is stiffened with grommets and damped. The signal is provided via single, but very good, WBT 0780 terminals. Inside the signal is led with copper OFC wires.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Type 3-way, bass-reflex
Drivers bass – 260mm, coated paper; midrange – 150mm, coated paper; tweeter – 27mm, silk
Cross-over 2./3. order
Cross-over frequencies 350Hz & 2800Hz
Frequency response 28Hz – 20kHz +/- 2dB
Effectiveness 90 dB/1W/1m
Impedance 8 Ω
Recommended amplifier power min. 8 W
Dimensions (HxDxW) 1030 x 360 x 315mm
Weight 50 kg

A.R.T. Loudspeakers

Price (pair): 27 000 zł (5000 GBP)

Distribution: Hi-End Studio


Piotr Bednarski
tel.: 695 503 227

e-mail: kontakt@hi-endstudio.com

WWW: A.R.T. Loudspeakers




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