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Product Review - Osborn Titan Reference Bookshelf Speakers - March, 2002


David Wurtz


Specifications:

Tweeter - 5 mm thick precision machined solid aluminum face plate with 2 part precision machined solid aluminum wave guides.  Inverted titanium dome, coated foam surround. 20 mm diameter voice coil, Neodynium ring magnet, Telar 57 Pole and plates, phase plug.

Mid/Bass - 179 mm Polyglass cone with cast aluminium frame.  25.5 mm copper wound dual voice coil. Total  moving mass 17.7g. Magnet weight 560g. Resonant Frequency 38 Hz.

MFR: 45 Hz - 19 kHz ± 2 dB. -10 dB points 35 Hz and 21 kHz

Crossover Points: 300 Hz and 3700 Hz @ 6 dB/octave.

Efficiency: 89 dB for 1 watt at 1 meter.

Minimum Impedance: 4 Ohms at 200 Hz.

Size: 250 X 370 X 455 mm

Weight: 25 Kilograms (55 Pounds) Each

MRRP: $4800/Pair USA

 

 

Osborn Loudspeakers, 17 Hammersley Court Rd, Taylors Lakes, Melbourne, Australia 3038; Phone +61 3 9390 1564; Website:http://www.osbornloudspeakers.com.au; Email: osspeak@ihug.com

Introduction

The reasons for buying a bookshelf loudspeaker in comparison to a “floor-stander” are varied. I would consider arguments like speaker location, room-size, power amplifier muscle and even styling to be valid arguments for such a purchase. Not everyone wants or needs (or can afford) a walnut veneer, 8 foot tall, 20 driver, pair of loudspeakers in their listening room, though this generally initiates discussions about the ability of the speaker you choose to be able to reproduce most audible frequencies with “quality”. Bookshelf loudspeakers can suffer in this department because of the very nature of their design, namely the number of drivers (usually only two drivers to cover the ten audible octaves) and the physical bass/mid driver size (to produce the very low stuff).

So, can you have the best of both worlds . . . that is, a small box that delivers a flat, full frequency range? I doubt it - unless Bob Carver puts a mid and tweeter in one of his “Signature” subwoofers with a couple of passive radiators. (You can pay me for the idea later Bob!!!) Can you get close to “audio nirvana” with a bookshelf speaker???? Let’s see.

The Box and Exterior

I believe this deserves a heading of its own. No one (in my humble opinion) supplies a cabinet for their loudspeakers like Osborn does. Made from 1 ¼" MDF all around, with internal felt-lead-felt lining, the cabinet is really beyond compare in the industry and is “rock-solid” and rock heavy, weighing 25 kilos each. The veneers are nothing short of spectacular. (The unit I have for review is in the stunning “Bubinga” veneer). I could prattle on for hours about the high quality finish, but I guess you get the idea. Both drivers are recessed into the cabinet by about 3 mm and are fitted very tightly. High quality bi-wire terminals are mounted on the back. Shorting straps are supplied, but Osborn recommends that the speakers be driven bi-wired or bi-amped. The grille is solid in construction and uses a very fine covering material. I could not hear any audible improvement by removing the grilles.

Mounted on and in the magnificent exterior we have . . .

The bass/mid driver is from the high quality manufacturer Focal, being 179 mm Polyglass cone with cast aluminum frame.  It uses a 25.5 mm copper wound dual voice coil and has a total moving mass of 17.7 grams. The magnet weight is 560 grams. This driver is employed in several leading loudspeakers as a reference quality midrange driver. It is used in this speaker as the Mid/bass driver, and with a resonant frequency of 38 Hz (among other factors), it is more than  capable of  fulfilling the task (a little more on that later).

The Osborn Titan Reference also uses the Audiom TLR tweeter. This is one of the finest tweeters available today. It is used in the JM Labs Utopia and Grand Utopia. The Grand Utopia is considered by many to be the finest speaker there is. The TLR tweeter features two unique defractors (sometimes known as a “BumFlare” . . . you figure it out) to give the tweeter a wider flatter dispersion pattern and therefore, wider sweet spot. The magnet assembly is constructed of a ferro-fluid cooled, high force Neodymium ring magnet. This rare earth magnet has a much stronger and more focused magnetic flux field then even the best conventional magnet. The center pole and plates are constructed of an alloy called Telar 57. This alloy contains absolutely no carbon and is incredibly difficult and expensive to manufacture. Until a few months ago, it was costing $1000US per tweeter to make. Recent improvements in metallurgy have reduced this cost, but the cost of the tweeter is 10 to 20 times the cost of other quality tweeters. The diaphragm is manufactured of an uncoated titanium 1 micron thick. This cutting edge technology results in a ruler flat frequency response and lightning fast transients. Ultimately, this is of a “No Compromise” design.

This particular driver has an industry reputation to be extremely difficult to control unless a good crossover is employed. This is why they are only used by people who know what they are doing. The crossover is completely hand built on what is essentially a piece of thick peg-board. It uses capacitors imported from the US, wire-wound resistors, and completely hand-wound inductors. Greg hand-winds his own, as none are available to suit his “no compromise” designs. One of these inductors measures 15 cm across, 6 cm deep and weighs about 4 kilos. Now that’s an inductor!!!!!! All internal wiring is via what is essentially Cat 5 data cable. You may think that this is a bit strange, but using this type of cable is extremely difficult to work with and Greg believes this works best with his designs. It takes him approximately one hour per speaker to wire, and using standard cables would take 10 fold less time. All components are connected using a high quality silver solder.

All this fine work and cutting edge technology, but what does it sound like? 

The sample set I received was not burned in at all, so they were very bright when first connected them. I have come to expect this from most loudspeakers manufacturers. Besides, it is a joy to hear the subtle changes each time I sat down and had a listen. I’ll take this time out to thank my neighbors, as they have to put up with very loud music whenever I go out for a while. It took them about 100 hours to settle down. The Titan References were positioned on stands 60 cm high, 50 cm from the side and rear walls, and 3.5 meters apart.

My first impressions (at the time of putting pen to paper) were that I could not believe they were bookshelf loudspeakers. The Titans had no problem in reproducing excellent quality and quantity bass right down to the second most audible octave (40 Hz +). The bass was very well controlled, and not boomy for the amount of bass that they produced. The bass did roll-off rather quickly below the 40 Hz mark. The overall design, box size, and port tuning etc. has obviously taken a lot of testing to achieve this sort of performance. Double bass on Monica Trapaga’s jazz album “Too Darn Hot” was very tight and well defined. Kick drums on Metallica’s "Black" Album went deep and were fabulously solid.

Lower midrange and midrange were exceptional, vocals from Rebecca Pidgeon’s “Spanish Harlem” were stunning. The Titan References have ability to have her in the room. It was not only her presence though. All the acoustics effects recorded on the disc were transpired as perfect as I have ever heard them. She was with me!

The mid performance was obviously good on popular hard rock and metal. Powerful guitar riffs and aggressive, high-energy snare drums were handled with ease. This loudspeaker is no “powder puff” when asked the big question.

High frequency focus and detail were stunning. Cymbals were crisp, and their overtones and harmonics were rich and full. The sweet spot was quite broad due to the Audiom tweeter/crossover design, and a beautiful soundstage was produced.

Overall I was presented with a wonderful three-dimensional image, in fact, the best 3D image of any loudspeaker I have reviewed. The ability of the Titan References to separate instruments and voices, then place them on the soundstage, was amazing. The speaker was superbly accurate throughout its entire operating spectrum. This is truly a high quality product.

I crossed them over with the Osborn Monumental Subwoofer I reviewed (and subsequently bought) last year with fantastic results. The Monumental effectively brought the low end of the set down to 25Hz (± 2dB). This is an excellent marriage, and I would say ultimately (if pushed to commit) produced the best sound I have heard from a speaker system.

Conclusion

I have not mentioned price yet - $4800 USA. Definitely at the high end of the bookshelf price scale, but in saying that, definitely the high end performance to match or even exceed the price. I certainly have heard no better bookshelf speaker. If you are after what I consider the ultimate speaker in this size, look no further. Audition a pair of Osborn Titan References (though make sure they have been fully run-in), and you will be instantly sold.

         David’s Reference System

Source

Toshiba SD-K350 DVD player

Redgum RGDVD1

DAC

Perpetual Technologies P1A and P3A

Preamp

Consonance Reference R1.1 (valve)

Digital Processor

Meridian 568

Amplifiers

Audio Aero Capitole (valve)

ME 550 II (Hi-cap optioned)

Redgum RGi120 (integrated)

Speakers

Osborn Reference Epitomes

Subwoofer

Osborn Monumental

Cables

Misc. from Eichmann, Analysis Plus and self designed.

 

- David Wurtz -


© Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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