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Product Review
 

Radiient Technologies Europa Bookshelf Speakers

May, 2006

Gabriel Lowe

 

Specifications:
 

Two-way Front Ported Design

Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 5.5" Woofer with
    Concentric 0.75" High Frequency Driver
MFR: 50 Hz 35 kHz
Power Handling: 100W RMS

Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 86dB/w/m
Gold-plated Five-way Binding Posts

Dimensions: 14" H x 8.75" W x 11.75" D

Weight: 17 Pounds/Each

MSRP: $199/Pair USA

 

Radiient Technologies

www.radiient.com

Introduction

When I was asked to do the review of the Europa bookshelf speakers from Radiient Technologies, my first thought was, "Radiient Technologies? Who is that?"

Radiient was formed in July, 2005, with the mission to make high quality home theater products that are "easy to install" and "fun to use". The company is led by David Buuck, the former CEO of DVDO (makers of the excellent iScan video processors), and Jano Banks, the co-inventor of the HDMI standard.

Here is the company announcement in our Forum.

Although the company pedigree would appear to favor video products (which they shall in due time), their initial product offerings are limited to speakers and, in May, 2006, subwoofers.

Radiient labels the Europas as being "SACD-capable" as they rate their frequency response from 50 Hz - 35 kHz. This is an interesting piece of marketing, as any speaker is capable of playing the output from a SACD player, and honestly, as I am only human, most of those upper frequencies are inaudible to me anyway. However, the most important thing is the quality of the sound you can hear.

Initial Set-up

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count. Radiient has definitely got this covered with the Europas. Upon opening the package, I was pleasantly surprised at their attractiveness. Reminding me of the innovative design of B&W speakers, the Europas' silk-dome tweeters are mounted on top of the main cabinets, which themselves have a unique shape. The sides of the speaker cabinets curve to form a point at the back of the speaker just wide enough to hold the four gold-plated five-way binding posts (for bi-wiring or bi-amping). Upon removing the grille, I found the carbon fiber bass/midbass driver, as well as the bass port. To top it off, these are surrounded by a sexy black piano gloss finish on the front baffle.

Included in the packaging are both self-adhesive pads and spiked toes that allow you to place the speakers on hard or soft surfaces. After breaking the speakers in on my secondary system, I moved them to my main listening room and plugged them into my Denon AVR-3805 receiver. All of my listening was done with a Sony SCD-775 SACD 5-disc changer attached to the receiver's analog inputs and the receiver set to Pure Direct mode, thereby bypassing the bass management to get a clear representation of the speakers' abilities.

The Sound

The Europas exceeded my expectations in several areas, the foremost being bass reproduction and clarity. What people like, in terms of bass in their music, varies by personal taste. Some prefer boomy, powerful bass that they would rather feel than hear. Some prefer their bass to simply be accurate and balanced with the rest of the audible spectrum. When it comes to music, I prefer the latter. I want the bass sound to blend naturally with the rest of the music, and not call attention to itself as bass.

Usually, with bookshelf speakers (of which my normal system consists), I find a subwoofer is required not only to get full bass response down to the lowest audible levels, but to create accurate sound reproduction. The Europas surprised me greatly in their ability to create this highly accurate sound down to very low levels. They are rated down to 50 Hz. My current bookshelf speakers are rated down to 51 Hz, yet I prefer to set the crossover at 80 Hz and let my subwoofer handle anything lower because it produces a more balanced bass sound in my environment. The Europas, however, played extremely well throughout the lower frequencies. I found that with the subwoofer out of the picture, the bass was clear, balanced, accurate, and detailed. With the exception of some pipe organ music, and some movie sound effects that hit the lowest octaves, these speakers extended low enough to make the music listening experience totally enjoyable.

I began with Carole King's seminal album Tapestry. The opening track, "I Feel the Earth Move", is a very natural recording with little post production. This gives it an almost live quality, and makes for an excellent track with which to test speakers. The Europas accentuated the wonderful 70's bass guitar which sounded almost as if I were listening through the stage amplifier.

On Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium, "Boogie On Reggae Woman" features a unique synthesizer sound that definitely benefits from these speakers' bass kick. Again, it is not a huge boom that is added, but rather a small, subtle accent that adds to the body of the instrument.

In the SACD of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, bass is obviously integral to the experience on every track. I found that particularly on "Money", where the baseline is the first musical instrument to aurally appear, it was fantastically crisp. Again, in "Brain Damage", right after they sing "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon", the bass drum is so detailed that if you close your eyes, you can almost see the drum face moving with each beat.

Finally, I listened to several tracks off the Roots 2004 album The Tipping Point. My favorite track on that record, "Guns Are Drawn", features a very heavy bass drum beat that underscores the melody. There was absolutely no muddling or distortion throughout the track, or anywhere else on the record for that matter.

Imaging was another strong point for the Europas. Listening to the SACD of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue is always a treat for the ears, and these speakers demonstrated excellent stage placement of the instruments. (As a side note, anyone who thinks the difference between CD and SACD is subtle ought to compare those versions of this album.) In "Freddie Freeloader", when Miles lays down his first magical notes, he is placed just to the right of center, while the piano can be heard coming from stage left. The accurate imaging of the recording allows you to feel as if the performers were right there in front of you, and these speakers were up to the task.

Detail and accuracy were excellent throughout my listening sessions. I really felt that the Europas recreated instruments flawlessly, especially those of the percussive persuasion. Cymbals are always a good barometer of detail. Those in Stevie Wonder's track "Higher Ground" were pointedly crisp, as they also were in Aerosmith's SACD version of Janie's Got a Gun.

Going back to Kind of Blue, the very nature of the DSD encoding process assures a highly accurate recording, putting the onus on the amplification source and speakers to reproduce the instruments with high quality. As before, the Europas performed brilliantly. Each note from Miles, each snare from Jimmy Cobb, as well as the rest, are simply beautiful and realistic in their presentation from these speakers.

There was definitely a lot to like about the Europas; however, I did find one area where I felt there was room for improvement. While the speaker design is marketed to help enhance the melding of the two drivers' ranges, I thought midrange sounds, especially vocals, tended to be quieter and more subdued than the rest of the music. As I mentioned earlier, bass extension was superb, and the higher octaves of instruments were crisp and detailed, but they did not properly balance the midranges. Because of this, sometimes the three-dimensionality and depth of the listening experience is missing. Of course, this is correctable with equalization and after doing so, all was well. I think it is appropriate to mention this, however, since some listeners are purists, and do not like to introduce anything at all into their music, even equalization. The only other minor complaint I have is the lack of a speaker stand mount on the bottoms of the speakers, but this is relatively nit-picky.

Conclusions

Radiient is a very young company, and if their initial speaker offering is a preview of things to come, I predict a very successful product line for them. The quality of design and performance of the Europa bookshelf speakers is quite high, especially considering the $199/pair price tag. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us down the road. In the meantime, I can honestly give a thumbs-up and my recommendation to what they have now in the Europas.


- Gabriel Lowe -

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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