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Arendal 1961 Center/Monitor Speaker Review

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 5 2.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 20 9.0%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 112 50.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 85 38.3%

  • Total voters
    222

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests, EQ and measurements of the Arendal 1961 Center or Left & Right speaker. It was kindly drop shipped to me by a member and costs US $599 each or $1,099 a pair.
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Review.jpg

This is a surprisingly compact speaker but is built like a tank. The enclosure feels like cast metal, ala Genelec. It has textured matt finish and feels like you can drive over it and it would not care. The drivers as you see, have no visible fasteners and have very tight finish and tolerances. The look of quality extends to the back:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker back panel Review.jpg

Numerous mounting points are provided. The metal speaker binding is made out of metal and looks so good you may be tempted to have the back side toward you while you listen! :)

This is an "MTM" configuration (mid-woofer, tweeter, mid-woofer) which classically makes for a speaker with narrow mid-range/treble response. We will see if Arendal has managed to mitigate this or not.

As noted, you can use the speaker in horizontal configuration (as tested) or vertical. There are no ports as is typical in center speakers.

Reference axis was the tweeter center which is inside a deep waveguide.

Arendal 1961 Speaker Measurements
I usually start the review with frequency response measurements. But I think it is best to look at the impedance graph first:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Impedance and phase Response Measurements.png


Notice how the impedance shoots way up as we get close to DC (0 Hz). This indicates capacitive coupling, or said another way, a high-pass filter. We have seen this as a mitigation against overdriving in some in-wall speakers but not in a normal in-room one. Likely it plays the same role here given the small sealed enclosure.

Now on to our anechoic measurements created using Klippel Near-field Scanner:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Frequency Response Measurements.png


That is a very smooth response, sans slight elevation above 2 kHz and a couple of peaks. We can see the classic high-pass response in bass but also another one above 10 kHz. There seems to be a small signature of resonance around 15 kHz so maybe that was the reason for that roll off.

Near-field driver measurements immediately tell us why we have a couple of minor humps in our response:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker driver Frequency Response Measurements.png


The tweeter is resonating there. On the positive front, the crossover is stomping on the woofer resonances out of band which is good.

Edit: forgot to include the Early Reflections and PIR:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker early window Frequency Response Measurements.png


Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Predicted in-room Frequency Response Measurem...png



The high pass filter helps to keep distortion way down for this size speaker when it comes to low frequencies:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker THD Response Measurements.png


That kind of performance (on the left) is just not seen in such a small speaker. Here is the relative response:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker relative THD Response Measurements.png


A key concern as I mentioned with MTM design is narrow directivity. Let's see that:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Horizontal Beamwidth Measurements.png

Yes we have the beaming but with bringing down the crossover frequency, the effect is partially mitigated allowing nearly double the width that we typically see in small MTMs.
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Horizontal Directivity Measurements.png


You should have much wider sweet spot then than you would expect.

Vertically we see much better response of course:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Vertical Beamwidth Measurements.png

Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Vertical Directivity Measurements.png


To the extent you deploy the 1961 vertically, above responses become your "horizontal" response.

CSD/Waterfall graph shows only minor resonances:

Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker CSD Waterfall Measurements.png


Finally, here is the step response for fans of that:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker Step Response Measurements.png


Arendal 1961 Speaker Listening Tests and EQ
I started my listening in horizontal configuration. I was dreading to hear lack of bass but that was not at all the case. There was plenty of bass with typical tracks. Alas, the highs had a bit of "showroom sound" with extra brightness. So I dialed in a couple of filters for the resonance points:
Arendal 1961 Center Monitor Home Theater Speaker EQ filter.png


Note that while I started by looking at the measurements, I fine tuned them by ear. I say they may require a bit more work but it got me in the ballpark. Once there, the ability of this speaker play loud and clean surprised the heck out of me. No matter how much I cranked it up, it played clean and very nice! I think the key here was it not doing what it can't do. To wit, I threw my killer sub-bass track at it and instead of getting highly distorted as just about every bookshelf speaker does, it simply played those notes faintly. The spray of distortions in bass into upper range is a problem when this is not the case.

I checked for listening width and it was very good across my entire loveseat. At very close distance, you could detect a tonality change but that was mostly with highs getting narrower and not at all what you usually get from MTMs (where the middle falls out of the picture). It is not as perfect as a non-MTM solution but what is there is very good.

I then rotated the speaker vertically. This comparison was difficult because the tweeter now went above my ears a bit. I thought the overall fidelity improved a bit with upper midrange and lower treble improving slight but this could be a faulty observation. The sweet spot did enlarge with no tonality shift at all across across my loveseat.

Conclusions
Arendal was given a challenge: create a high performance MTM center speaker. While people are quick to completely write-off this configuration for center home theater speakers, there are mitigation techniques. The main one is lowering the crossover point enough so that the dual woofer don't get a chance to beam and stay there. We then get the benefit of dual woofers playing what would be a mid-range in a 3-way speaker (so higher SPL with lower distortion). Mind you, a 3-way speaker can do better but will cost more and take up more space.

The high-pass filter is clever in that it leaves much of the bass response there but takes out what would be pure distortion a small speaker. With this in place, the 1961 is able to produce incredibly high SPLs despite its super compact size -- exactly what you need in home theater applications.

The combination of high pass filter and slight resonances in high frequencies means the sound signature out of the box is rather bright, or put inversely, seems to lack bass to compliment it. With a sub added, this may go away. Alternatively, you can fix it with EQ as I did.

$599 is a fair bit of money for a compact center speaker but for it, you get a beautifully built speaker making you feel like you have gotten your money's worth.

I am happy to add the Arendal 1961 Center/Monitor speaker to my recommended list. It is the most perfect MTM speaker I have tested and oozes good engineering and quality execution.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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brandonhall

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The 1961 Center appears to be $599 while the 1961 Monitor looks to be $1099. @amirm Just to confirm, is this the 1961 Monitor?
 
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ririt

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Thanks Amir, as usual another great review! Can you please add the estimated in room response of this center speaker?
 

polmuaddib

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So, this is LCR speaker, right? Can be used for all bed channels in home theater, I guess. But not without a sub for stereo, right?
Thanks
 
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amirm

amirm

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It's the same speaker. $1099 is price per pair. The center alone is $599.
Thanks. I thought it was $599 but then couldn't figure out why they said $1099. I corrected the review.
 
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amirm

amirm

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So, this is LCR speaker, right? Can be used for all bed channels in home theater, I guess. But not without a sub for stereo, right?
Thanks
Correct. It works for stereo as long as you are not interested in deep bass.
 

JSmith

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Good to see a manufacturer with some measurements on the product page;
Yes, it's $599;
Cheers for the testing @amirm. :)


JSmith
 

pierre

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Hello,

i tried to add an EQ to see if the speaker would react well to it. Score increases from 3.5 to 5.0. You see that 2 Peaks are really useful
the others are really small and can be skipped. The EQ degrades the on axis a bit too much for my taste but the Listenting Window
is significantly flatter. The EQ is limited to 3 dB and cannot match the target exactly.

filters_eq.png
 
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abdo123

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This is pretty good performance, I don’t know if lowering the tweeter’s output a couple dBs would change the directivity but I genuinely don’t feel like paying money in 2023 to any speaker that is not well tuned out of the box.

@amirm do you think you can manage the time for an on-wall placement spinorama considering this whole series supports VESA mounting?
 

Vovgan

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Hope that someone will read this review and buy & drop ship their bigger

1723 CENTER THX​

speaker to you soon!

Given how good this smaller speaker performs, clearly worth the risk of buying the more powerful one and worth the time measuring it I think!
 

milosz

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Build quality counts for something, even if it is applied in areas that don't necessarily improve sound quality. There is something satisfying about owning well made things. Also, one might assume that if they took care with overall construction, that the designers paid equal attention to factors that made sonic differences.
 

respice finem

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Build quality counts for something, even if it is applied in areas that don't necessarily improve sound quality. There is something satisfying about owning well made things. Also, one might assume that if they took care with overall construction, that the designers paid equal attention to factors that made sonic differences.
This, and, if something were already "underwhelming" on the outside, it is presumably not better inside.
 

Aerith Gainsborough

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Way to go, Arendal. :D

Always nice seen Amir happy during reviews.
 

milosz

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Those sorts of assumptions CAN be misleading, and they can also give rise to placebo effects: it looks really well made so I imagine that it sounds great, too*. But, IF the product actually walks the walk, so to speak, then fine assembly and design quality on perms of physical presentation is very nice icing on the cake.

*kind of similar to the it's-more-expensive-so-it-must-be-better trope. Like people with eye-wateringly expensive DACs looking down their noses at Topping DACs - I heard someone say "Well it's cheaper so it CAN'T be any good." Whenever I think of that comment, I hear it mentally with a Locust Valley lockjaw accent ala' Thurston Howell III
 

Beave

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respice finem

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Those sorts of assumptions CAN be misleading, and they can also give rise to placebo effects: it looks really well made so I imagine that it sounds great, too*. But, IF the product actually walks the walk, so to speak, then fine assembly and design quality on perms of physical presentation is very nice icing on the cake.

*kind of similar to the it's-more-expensive-so-it-must-be-better trope. Like people with eye-wateringly expensive DACs looking down their noses at Topping DACs - I heard someone say "Well it's cheaper so it CAN'T be any good." Whenever I think of that comment, I hear it mentally with a Locust Valley lockjaw accent ala' Thurston Howell III
Yes, I've seen some "nice outside and cr@p inside" (not limited to audio gear BTW). But I've not really seen the opposite.
 
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