Tucked away in the main halls of Munich’s MOC, and with no new products to show, many people overlooked Eclipse’s stand and small demonstration booth. They were missing a trick, because Eclipse’s demonstration was perhaps one of the smartest at the whole event, because they’ve cracked how to use 2.1 channel audio in an audiophile context better than almost everyone.
The system comprised a mostly Esoteric front end, driving into the new glossy black versions of Eclipse flagship TD712z Mk2 loudspeakers and a TD725sw subwoofer. A swift recap is in order – Eclipse uses a single full-range drive unit in the pod-shaped, rear ported loudspeaker enclosure, so there’s no crossover and no crossover components between amplifier and drive units. The limitations of the small single drive unit impose some limits on room size and positioning (they are used professionally as near-field mastering monitors and are best used in a space where they aren’t more than about five paces from the listener), so the natural temptation would be to use the TD725sw as sound reinforcement. By giving the bass a boost, the speakers would work better in bigger rooms and sound potentially deeper in smaller rooms.
But that’s not how they did it. Instead, the speakers were run full range and the subwoofer was used more like a resonance control device than a bringer of additional low-end sound, The sub was carefully positioned just off center and turned about 20° out of true with the rest of the room and was incredibly carefully set up to cancel, rather than reinforce, bass. In this respect, it was helped along by careful use of room tuning and bass trapping in the corners of the booth. But the result worked; the speakers fast-paced character shone through, never once impeded by the subwoofer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a system used this way; I have a Cabasse Riga/Santorin 30 combo in for review, where the subwoofer has a high degree of DSP-driven automation that works in broadly the same way. And this is something continually learned and unlearned by each generation of home theater folk. Many advocate using two subs in the room and the real reason for that is bass management instead of bass boost. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t quite make it to the installation phase and instead, the hapless subwoofer owner spends years thinking Alvin and the Chipmunks sound like Barry White with the treble turned down.
There is a knee-jerk reaction among audiophiles; it’s as if subwoofers were made from Poison Oak. We don’t like them and we don’t want them in our homes, unless they are playing movies. Companies like Eclipse (and Cabasse) are trying to desensitize us to our allergic reaction to 2.1 channel sound. Done right, it can work wonders.