This is the best all-round, most truly satisfying small speaker of high-end intent we have ever heard
Like the original, the Duette 2 uses the separate Novel crossover, its outboard status increasing the internal volume of the speaker so it still has ample space for an 8in woofer. Mounted inside the newly-designed stand, the crossover is mechanically isolated in its own dedicated enclosure.
Upgrading the tweeter has involved the inclusion of a rear wave chamber, which is said to attenuate spurious energy ‘generated at the rear of the driver that would otherwise leak out of the acoustically translucent dome’. One benefit from this is said to be a lower noise floor.
The restyled enclosure is made entirely from Wilson’s proprietary X-material, an extremely well damped and ultra-rigid composite, with added bracing. The sloped front baffle is made from S-material, and tilts back at 10° to align the tweeter and the woofer in the time domain. The Duette 2 is configured solely for near-boundary placement, whether on its stand or on a shelf. (There is a separate Novel crossover enclosure for shelf placement, as well as ‘furniture-friendly’ spikes that then bolt to the Duette.)
A giant killer
The Duette has been transformed from a coherent, detailed compact, into a giant killer. Everything about the sound is grander, bolder, more convincingly real. But equally, it is disconcerting. You look at a speaker with the dimensions of a ’70s two-way from Rogers or Spendor, and you hear the mass and scale of something in which Clark Kent could endure a wardrobe change.
With recordings like the Strypes’ retro BritRock on their impressive debut, Snapshot [Virgin], the ‘wall of sound’ is floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, with an energy level that suggests a sweaty blues bar, circa 1966. ‘I Can Tell’ – with guitar playing that’s surely a homage to Wilko Johnson – is deceptively raw, and yet there’s real width to the event, the opening just lean enough to offer a hint of air.
The lead guitar soars almost exactly as it does through the Alexias, while the bottom end is as rich and controlled, if not as massive or as extended. Indeed, many might find it preferable to a surfeit of bottom octave activity as delivered by some larger speakers.
Track after track delivered a little miracle. We felt the urge for some majestic pop, with a huge drum sound. The Wonders’ CD single ‘That Thing You Do’ [Play-Tone Records] opens with a fat, bulbous, airy drum attack – you’d swear you could hear the skins stretching. The intro leads straight into Beatles-esque harmonies and jangly guitars, this track from Tom Hanks’ tribute to the wannabe bands oozing punch and sparkle. The attack from the Duette 2s was crisp and the vocals coalesced with Hollies-like purity.
Daryl Wilson and his team seem to have defied the laws of acoustics. For this is, without question, the best all-round, most truly satisfying small speaker of high-end intent we have ever heard. Size, it seems, no longer matters
Originally published in the 2014 Yearbook
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