Time and again, this word is found in my listening notes, thoughts and feelings concerning this, the largest offering from Israel Blume and Coincident Speaker Technology. Since 1993, Coincident has quietly built a reputation among the audio cognoscenti of truthfulness to the source, value, and yes, honesty. With the launch of the three-member Eclipse line, Coincident is no longer flying under the greater audiophile industry radar.
A Fairness and Straightforwardness of Conduct
Let's investigate for a moment what the Total Eclipse is not. The Total is not a hulking 300lb monster incorporating a cast concrete front fascia. Nor does it possess a sleekly machined aluminum housing. How about an extruded aluminum enclosure, or cast polymer heavily radiused baffles? Well no, not here. (It also does not cost $15-$45k either). What the Total does possess is this: the assemblage of world class components, and a straightforwardness of engineering that results in a wholeness of presentation that I have not seen the likes of in quite some time. The Total's cabinet is constructed entirely of MDF hardwood, veneered on both sides, using modern CNC cutting technology. The midrange and tweeter drivers are housed in their own sub-enclosure. Dimensions are 52"H × 22"D × 9"W. The front of the enclosure is further narrowed by a large forty-five degree chamfer along the sides and top. Total wet weight is 165lbs each. All Coincident enclosures are claimed to be tuned to 350hz. This frequency was chosen so as to focus resonant energy into what the designer feels is a sonically benign region. Along with this tuning is the elimination of acoustical stuffing, helping to raise system sensitivity. (Further reading can be found at their web site). While most of the side of the Total can be felt to vibrate in robust playback, moving your hand to the area of the M-T-M sub-enclosure shows the vibrations to drop appreciably.
The driver complement is top shelf, with tweeter and woofer drivers from the ScanSpeak family, and the midrange drivers are a composite material from SEAS. The tweeter used is the wonderful Revelator, which, along with the Dynaudio Esotar, is one of the finest dynamic tweeters presently manufactured. Flanking the Revelator is a pair of ScanSpeak 6.5" composite midrange drivers arrayed in an M-T-M configuration. This driver uses a somewhat unique inverted roll surround attached to a flat on the driver before tapering into the cone proper. Together these drivers are capable of moving a great deal of air and, in my opinion, are responsible for much of the magic in the Total's performance. Curiously, the Total seems to deviate from the standard even driver spacing of the M-T-M arrangement. The tweeter has a slight vertical offset towards the upper midrange driver. When asked about this, the designer explained this was done so as to ameliorate any lobing errors when listened to in the near field. Performing duty in the lower frequencies is a pair of side-mounted woofers, also sourced from ScanSpeak.
The review pair was finished in the standard cherry veneer, with perfect joins and satin finish. Also standard are a single set of binding posts, (bi-wire optional, not recommended), and patented dual tapered coupling spikes. Note: Now standard is an upgraded wiring harness, (using Coincident TRS speaker cable), and new, larger coupling spikes. I'll drive it home one more time before moving on: This, to me, is a perfect example of what sane, straightforward, honest engineering can do in bringing near state of the art performance in at an affordable level. That said, there are to my eye certain aesthetic concerns I would like to see addressed. Firstly, there are no provisions for grills, which lends a certain unrefined appearance to the speaker. Secondly, adding to this aesthetic lack of refinement is the use of chrome, (stainless steel?), allen bolts to affix the drivers to the cabinet. They really stand out from the black drivers and should be changed to a black anodized bolt in my opinion.
Set-up: Oh my aching back!
Unlike another reviewer who paid a neighborhood youngster to help unpack and position the 165lb Total, I was far to excited to wait for any assistance when the Totals were delivered! With the aid of my trusty hand truck, (and friendly on call chiropractor), I was able to bring them into my basement listening room without much undue strain.
The first decision you will have to make in setting up the Totals is woofers in or woofers out? The side-firing woofer design not only aids in the reduction of front baffle width and area, which significantly impacts imaging precision, but also lends a unique variable in mating a full range speaker to a given room. I would suggest firing the woofers in as the starting configuration. Then establish the speaker/listening geometry for best imaging/tonal color/room excitation. I also suggest a minimum listening distance of 8ft. Then try directly swapping L/R speakers to fire the woofers out, and then only if your room affords you a minimum placement of 2.5 to 3 feet from the sidewalls. In my room, I gained bass extension to an honest 20hz with woofers firing out, at the cost of a very mild loss of upper bass delineation. Make no mistake; this is a very large help in coupling such a full range transducer to your room. Final positioning in my 25'L × 14'7"W × 7'2"H room has the Totals back baffle 3' from the front wall, placing the front baffle some 57.5" out into my room, and the tweeter just 37" in from each side wall. Toe-in has the pair aimed at a point about 2' behind the listening position. My room has proven to be troublesome to any full range speaker; it is after all a basement with concrete floor/wall foundation. With such unresilient surfaces, low
frequencies literally have no place to hide. The Total Eclipse joins the recently reviewed Dunlavy SC IVa as the only full range speakers to actually couple well here. This speaks of good engineering in the accounting for room lift in the lowest octaves.
Adherence to the Facts: Sincerity
One of the first, and lasting, impressions you will establish in listening to the Totals is how unabashedly huge they can sound when fed appropriate full range material. With the toe-in used in my set-up, the total cabinet depth is not apparent to the seated listener. It is still, after many months of use, very disconcerting to have the room literally pounded with sound by these tall, narrow floorstanding speakers. And not a little fun too!
Lets quickly run through the standard audiophile checklist, as there is more to say concerning this product that transcends mere audiophilia. As delivered by the Revelator tweeter, the highs are blessedly free of any etch or grain. While fully extended in frequency, there is purity to cymbals, triangles and massed stings that quite simply, the price of using such a costly tweeter buys you. In comparison to the aforementioned Dunlavy SC IVa, there was simply no contest, the SC IVa tweeter sounded opaque and lacking in air in comparison. The Dunlavy does not use world-class drivers. Though they are very good drivers mind you, they are not world class, and simply run too hot, in my opinion. The Totals replaced a system consisting of EgglestonWorks Fontaine loudspeakers augmented with a pair of Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers. The Fontaine uses the wonderful Dynaudio Esotar tweeter, which bests, by a hair, the Revelator only in "throw", or a slightly wider/even radiation pattern. But the Revelator seems to possess a touch more grainless purity and speed. These qualities ably assist in the natural portrayal of recorded ambiance and inner detail. While the superlative midrange performance of the Total will invite you in, the top end will not show you the door, although fully capable of revealing any major deficiencies of upstream sources. A short while into the review process, I received the Perpetual Technology P-1A and P-3A decoding system. The Totals showed the vast improvement these units offer by replacing my ageing Theta Gen. III DAC, the Theta suffering an ugly death with its upper midrange/lower treble peak.
Onward then to the midrange. Mmmm the midrange. Here is the frequency range where most large, expensive speakers promising fully fleshed out response, leave me cold. I've grown ever so weary of auditioning large speakers only to be listening to what seems like overly large monitors. They may extend deep in frequency, only to present a disjointed blending with little or no midbass weight. This results in the dreaded "All Audiophile - All the Time" performance where the "detail-above-all-else" style of reviewing/designing has led to. Worse yet, and unconscionable in my book, is the 5-6 foot monolith that barely extends to 40hz, which then has the gall to be priced at $15 or $25 or even $40k! An alternative to this is the midrange performance of the Total Eclipse. Slightly forgiving, warm and remarkably free of congestion. Together, the pair of midrange drivers can also very seriously move a great deal of air!
As mentioned earlier, the full midbass weight, tremendous dynamic ability and lack of congestion is where the true magic of the Total Eclipse resides. You are going to be very surprised by percussion instruments with the Total. No wimpy initial transient followed by a bass roar with this speaker. It is midbass performance like this that transcends specific playback of musical genres. Percussive power pop? No problem, just let'em eat. Cellos firmly rooted to the floor of the stage. Piano is mesmerizing in its solidity.
Forget for the moment what others have said concerning the bass performance of the Total, the soul of this speaker, like music itself, is in the midrange/midbass. All this, and a superb blending with the tweeter and woofer, especially the woofer section. I detected a very slight discontinuity in the handoff from midrange to tweeter, the Revelator seeming just a hint exposed before entirely disappearing. I believe this to be frequency related, as the very tricky combination of radiation patterns is simply one of the best I have heard. In moving around the sweet spot, I detect no lobing errors in the presentation. It is important to note here that with such wide and even dispersion, the taming of sidewall reflections becomes paramount.
One of my first concerns after setting the Totals up was the realization that the M-T-M array is mounted fairly high, with the tweeter being several inches above seated ear height. Owing to the uncanny vertical radiation pattern of the Totals, there is only a slight feeling of looking up at the performers. Quite realistic actually when listening to orchestra, and very realistic with the human voice. One really gets a sense of a real person standing before you, and from a listening position of 8.5 to 9 feet back. This is a wonderful attribute. I don't have a single complaint with
the integration of the woofers to the midrange however. Playing descending acoustic bass runs shows nary a hint of frequency bumps, change in image size, delineation or depth. The combination of the very articulate midrange drivers' ability to move air and the delineation in the upper reaches of the woofers engenders a performance that is very hard to come by, at any price.
Ah yes, the woofer section. A pair of 10" treated paper, port tuned woofers per speaker at first seems rather pedestrian. Well, this "pedestrian" woofer section seriously outperformed the subwoofers in the system they replaced in every parameter save utmost extension. I could nearly obtain 18hz from the subs vs. the 20hz I could achieve with the Totals. Almost the equal of the midrange drivers in dynamics and delineation, with no bloat, smear or overhang. The Total woofer section seals the performance envelope with its amazingly dynamic agility. For this admitted bass junkie, the purchase of the Totals was a very long roll of the sonic dice. Since I had to sell my subs in order to move into the Totals, I was more than a little worried. Taught, delineated, slamming performance is to be had here, from what is still a relatively compact enclosure.
Once again, a comparison with the Dunlavy SC IVa is in the offering. I am still quite enamored with the bass performance of the SC IVa in my room. The Dunlavy is still the speaker to beat when it comes to delivering the sense of wave launch you hear in a concert hall. That said, the Total is the clear winner in extension, dynamics and inner detail. Other quarters have mentioned the over-damped nature of the bass response of the Total. I do not hear it as such. What I hear is an intelligent design accounting for room lift that happens in a real room rather than in an anechoic chamber. The Total is not alone in this respect; this is also what the Dunlavy SC IVa exhibited in my room. Think of the sound as more tight than lean and you will get a good idea of what I am talking about. Of course, this will loosen up a bit when partnered with a low powered tube amplifier that does not offer the damping factor of solid-state. But make no mistake, when partnered with solid-state amplification, the full sound pressure level is there, and how! The response is exceedingly tight and tuneful.
Enough Dissecting: What about the whole?
Ah yes, the wholeness of the thing. We have here a speaker that has many different faces. Is it a Classical speaker? Yes. Is it a Rock speaker? Yes. Is it a party speaker? Oh hell yes! The Total is one of an oh-so-rare breed of high performance loudspeaker that truly does transcend musical genres. Play anything in your collection, they dare you, and you will be rewarded with the riches you seek in musical enjoyment. One of the sad by-products of any "high performance" endeavor is the limitation suffered in the achievement of this performance. In taking a broadly focused component and ramping up its performance (sport cars and motorcycles make a perfect analogy), a by-product of that enhancement will be a limited scope of performance. For instance, tuning a suspension, engine and gearing of an automobile or motorcycle to make it race prepared certainly elevates its performance in those areas. Yet by definition you have narrowed its overall scope. Real world street ability has now been lost. I have ear-witnessed countless mega-dollar loudspeakers that sound glorious with the "perfect" software, yet playing more real-world software sends me running for cover. Sorry, I did not get into high performance audio to have my choice of music so narrowed.
Add yet another sad enlightenment. Today as I was perusing the August 2001 issue of Stereophile, I read reviews of the Krell LAT-1, ($37,500pr), and the Audio Physic Avanti III, ($10,995pr), loudspeakers. Both reviews mention the need for, that's right, a subwoofer! For $11k a pair a speaker had damn well better reach deep into the lower 30hz region. And for $37k, it had better?well, you know what it should do. My point, in case you may have missed it, is this: The Total Eclipse has near mini-monitor precision in imaging capabilities, a seamless cohesion of the musical spectrum that is rare, and the dynamic ability to raise the roof at will. AND you get 20hz! All this delivered for $7,995.00 retail? Well, this pair is mine, go get your own. And I most assuredly deem The Total Eclipse a "Most Wanted" component.
Postscript: This review should be considered only 2/3 complete as of this writing. Why? Well, not considering the Totals much vaunted tube friendly nature, this review was driven by only solid-state amplification. In particular the two amps on hand were my Bryston 4B-ST and a borrowed Krell KSA-100S. Manufacturer loans willing and a bit more time, along with my editors permission, and I'll get back to you soon on how the Totals fair with tube amplification.
Editors Note: The Stereo Times would like to make clear that Jon Gale has contracted with Coincident Speaker Technology to provide them with graphics for their web site. We only mention this in the interest of full disclosure, so that our readers may be aware of the nature of that relationship, and can be confident that his position as a graphic artist contractor should pose no conflict of interest whatsoever.
Firstly I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Stereo Times and particularly Jon Gale for his very thorough, perceptive and articulate review of our Total Eclipses. Jon managed what very few can accomplish, that is , reveal the true essence of a component in such a lucid manner, that the reader is offered a clear picture as to what the product under review is capable. What is becoming a rare event in audio reviewing, namely comparing components to one another in order to determine their relative value and performance, is once again undertaken by Jon in a fearless fashion. Jon was actually the first reviewer to notice the asymmetrical mounting of our midranges relative to the tweeter in our D'Appolito alignment. The sonic benefits of this unique configuration is explained on our website. Also , Jon very aptly described the sonic differences between the Revelator and Esotar tweeters and his descriptions help explain why we opted for the Revelator.
A few specific points to address:
1.Bolts We used to use black anodized steel. Last year we switched to stainless steel for 3 reasons:
2.Stainless steel is ultra precise so we completely eliminate cross threading into the T Nuts;
3.There is a sonic benefit due to the non-ferrous nature of the bolt. The magnetic interaction with the drivers is eliminated;
4.Even in very humid climates, stainless steel will not rust.
We will gladly provide the black anodized bolts to anyone desiring them.
Grills- we stopped offering them a few years ago since very few customers requested them. More importantly, they can only have a deleterious sonic affect. For those consumers who insist on grills, we offer instructions on how to make your own.
It is especially gratifying as a designer and manufacturer of high performance loudspeakers, to have ones reference speaker so highly acclaimed by reviewers, dealers and most importantly, consumers. The Total Eclipses have been glowingly reviewed by four audio publications, The Inner Ear Report, Soundstage , The Absolute Sound and now Stereo Times.
The Inner Ear awarded the Totals its coveted state of the art four musical note rating, The Absolute Sound bestowed the Golden Ear Award for 2001 on the Totals, the Soundstage reviewer was so taken by the speakers ,he purchased them and now Stereo Times acclaims the Totals as a Most Wanted Component with Jon Gale purchasing his review pair.
While the Total Eclipses were designed to mate optimally with low powered tube amps, they, like ALL Coincident models will sound superb with virtually ALL amplifiers. The high sensitivity and easy load of the speakers will make amplifier choice a personal one. Our customers report excellent matches with a diverse range of amplifiers. This has been confirmed by the reviewers as well. In fact, Jon obtained superior results using solid state amplification exclusively.
Our compliments to Stereo Times and Jon Gale for displaying a unique combination of integrity and expertise. Let's hope it becomes contagious.