The State of Sound


Crystal – Clear Sound

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The first time I came face-to-face with a Waterfall floorstanding speaker, I must admit that I was rather disconcerted. When we imagine a speaker, we imagine an object made of wood. This floorstanding speaker model is immediately intriguing because it is entirely made of glass. Manufacturers of traditional speakers regularly offer models with cut-aways, which allow us to discover all the technology that goes into making these “boxes”, including the insulation, which is essential in damping the loudspeaker’s higher frequencies. As you get closer to a Waterfall floorstanding speaker, it is striking to see that its enclosures are simply empty! It is only possible to make out the discrete and elegant weaving of cables that runs along the glass wall and feeds the loudspeakers.

I therefore propose that we go back in time with Cédric Aubriot, the founder and general manager of Waterfall, to explore the genesis of this extraordinary product. After having built his first loudspeaker at the age of 12, this lover of acoustics worked in speaker sales. Being very familiar with the market, he quickly discovered that speaker aesthetics play an important role in speaker purchases. He has therefore ruminated and speculated on how to generate a product whose aesthetics differ from those of its competitors while simultaneously delivering high-quality, high-performing acoustics.

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The Top of the Niagara Floorstanding Speaker

But why glass speakers ? How does that work ?

Cédric Aubriot reminds us that a speaker needs an enclosed space, an “encircling” material. “Although wood fits this role perfectly, it is not a material that, strictly speaking, has unique acoustic properties when used to make speakers; this contrasts, of course, with the properties wood demonstrates when used in acoustic instruments. I very quickly became interested in glass as an alternative, and I tried to understand why several experiments involving glass speakers had all failed,” he reminisces. A first attempt was made in 1955 by a Danish designer, and then the German company, Backer & Muller, released a few glass products in the 1980s.

The primary constraint imposed by glass is one of size: it is a highly reflective medium, a true mirror, everything that one should avoid when designing a speaker. From the start, it was inconceivable that the speaker’s interior space should be filled with traditional insulation materials since it is precisely the glass’ transparency that is prized for clearly aesthetic reasons.

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The Acclaimed Loudspeaker Furnished by ATOHM

It was in the mid-1990s that Waterfall (in affiliation with ATOHM, the French manufacturer of high-quality speakers and loudspeakers) patented the “Acoustic Damping Tube” system, which allowed the loudspeaker to properly function within a non-insulated structure, such as a glass speaker. The loudspeaker is mounted along with an integrated damping chamber in the back of the speaker. It functions a bit like a valve and also behaves like a hydraulic damp at low frequencies.

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With the goal of further widening the bandwidth of the bass range, the model also includes a passive loudspeaker that conveys the lowest bass frequencies, which was wisely integrated into the aluminum pedestal.

For my part, I have had the chance to listen to a magnificent recording of a live Diana Krall concert in Brazil on Victoria Evo floorstanding speakers, and I was pleasantly surprised. What first struck me was the dynamic way in which they handled the playback, offering an audio experience that was both realistic and well balanced. Their ability to convey the music’s timbre is completely respectable. The singer’s backup trio also sounded good: the bass was well presented without being invasive.

Waterfall became a company in 1996; its commercial seat and factory are located in the south of France. Half of its sales come from exports. The manufacturer also offers wall and in-wall speakers as well as home theater systems. Generally, the price of their floorstanding speakers ranges from 2,200 to 2,900 €. The high-end Niagara is the brand’s showcase model and costs more than 30,000 €.

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This entry was posted on 26/04/2013 by in Interviews, Loudspeakers and tagged , , , , , .
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