Scot Markwell
Coincident Speaker Technology Total Eclipse Loudspeaker
Issue 133, Dec. 2001/Jan. 2002
Golden Ear Awards-2001

I am going to give a single Golden Ear Award this year to an outstanding product that I believe deserves a spotlight: Israel Blume's Coincident Speaker Technology Total Eclipse Loudspeaker. Largest offering in the 3-model Eclipse line, the Total Successfully combines reasonably high sensitivity (94db/1 watt @ 1 meter) and high power-handling (500 watts) with a remarkably neutral sonic balance throughout its frequency range. It's nominal 14-ohm impedance designed to be agreeable to single-ended triode and other low powered tube amplifier designs, the Total was conceived as an all-out assault on the difficulties of
manufacturing a real full-range loudspeaker that could be used with such small amplifiers without the poor uneven bass and soft highs that SETs are known for mated with most speakers. The speaker features a tall, narrow, deep bass-reflex enclosure tuned to extraordinarily tight and deep bass from tubed amplifiers as small as 7 watts per channel, with no bloating or humps. I had no problem generating solid, visceral organ tones in the 20-30 Hz region using an Airtight 8 wpc 300b SET amp. Not to mention bass drum whacks and a punchy kick-drum that could rattle windows and objects in the room.
This powerful, tight, driving bass capability, both in steady state tones and transient blasts, is the first thing I noticed with these speakers. The ability of the totals to move a lot of air at low frequencies grabs your sensibilities and makes you pay attention to the music. What keeps your attention is the Total's performance throughout the rest of the musical spectrum. The 6.5-inch Scan-Speak midrange drivers and tweeter (a special version of the soft-dome Revelator, one of the finest tweeters in the business, in my opinion), arranged in a D'Appolito configuration, added to the dual 10-inch side firing Scanspeak woofers, combine to produce a vibrant, rich palette of music with virtually none of the anomalies or colorations inherent in most other high-efficiency designs. The Totals are not fussy when it comes to amplification; almost anything bigger than a 2-3 wpc 2A3 amp can drive them to satisfactory levels in a medium-sized room. But they are extremely revealing of source and will lay bare any deficiencies or colorations in components preceding them in the chain. I have also used them with Plinius solid-state amplifiers (SA 50 and SA 250), with which they really put out a roar; the tuning of the bass was over-damped, taking a good bit of warmth from the sound and making the speaker sound a little squeezed in the bass, but otherwise, all was well. Blume has taken that problem into consideration, however, and you can go inside the enclosure and slightly adjust the porting to retune the bass for a bit less damping if you use solid state.

I got the best results when I used the Wyetech Topaz stereo SET amplifier, a 23 wpc Class-A design from Roger Hebert of Canada, and one of the finest amplifiers I have heard (with appropriate speaker). In my small 10 x 12-foot room, I could play full orchestral works like Elgar's Coronation Odes [British LP EMI ASD 3345] or the Gladiator Soundtrack [Decca/Universal CD 289 467 094-2] at 95-100 db and achieve the impact and full-throated roar of a live performance, with floor-shaking bass, smooth and detailed midband performance, and extended, grainless highs with plenty of air. More intimate recordings like Billy Holiday's re-mastered Lady in Satin [Classic Records LP CS 8048] were presented with excellent microdynamic nuance and with all the ambient cues of the studio intact. More explosive pop/rock works, such as the cut "Hardheaded Woman" from the Mobile Fidelity UHQR LP copy of Cat Steven's Tea for the Tillerman [MFQR 1-035], demonstrate the Total's ability explode dynamically, with a fast rise and settle time that allows the music to retain a great feeling of dynamic contrasts. This is one of the speakers greatest strengths: not only to play and resolve musical complexity well with little power, but to leap dynamically (what Gordon Holt used to call "jump") when called for, creating a convincing portrayal of all types of music.

The tonal balance of the Eclipse is slightly to the warm side of true neutrality, with what seems to be a mild dip in the 2 kHz region; this makes female vocals and strings seem a bit more subdued than do, for instance, my all time favorite high efficiency speakers, the Horning Alkibiades Signature Golds, which are almost overbearing in this region if the recording is less than perfect. But this slightly forgiving nature of the midband allows one to listen to a far greater number of recordings without pain, so top prize is a toss-up in this area. However, listened to in the near-field, the Totals have so much energy in the mids I never felt that the balance was too laid-back.
If one wished to pump up the volume with these speakers and cut loose with higher power, the Eclipses are up to the task. I had no trouble feeding them as much power and volume as I could stand in the room with the Plinius SA 250 (250 wpc Class-A solid-state stereo amp). The speakers sound slightly leaner and faster with such an amplifier, though by no means thin or harmonically threadbare. But it is with higher power like this that the woofers (almost subwoofers; they operate only between 24 and 125 Hz) really come into their own, and are so capable that I had no need for my modified Janis sub (I rarely used it with other amps, either). Bass drum whacks from the Telarc and Reference Recording CD's were frightening in their impact and tautness, with excellent pitch definition, Organ pedals on the Crystal Clear Direct-to-Disc LPs were airy, powerful, and shook the room. This bass performance is so unusual in a high-efficiency speaker that it bears emphasizing that the Total Eclipse is, in this area, a singularity in my experience with high-efficiency designs.

In sum, the Coincident Speaker Technology Total Eclipse loudspeakers, at $7,995/pair, are a solid value and the best high-sensitivity loudspeakers in a reasonably sized package I have heard. Most horns ands other less-than-full-range high-sensitivity speakers are both much more colored and far less capable. If you want musically honest, harmonically accurate, sensitive loudspeaker to use with a SET amp or other low powered tubes (or low or high-power solid-state), and you want truly extended, powerful, articulate bass, I know of no other choices on the market (with the exception of the biggest Hornings, perhaps, and the are huge and over twice as expensive) that will fill the bill as well as the Total Eclipse.

Review gratefully used by permission.
The Absolute Sound

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