In the past, I’ve ripped into Ensemble’s names, for no other reasons than sport and devilment. But when it comes to the Natura loudspeakers, it’s humble pie time. I simply can’t think of a better name to sum up one of the most natural sounding speakers around.
These two-way ported and backswept ‘floorstanding’ loudspeakers are masters of decoupling. The speakers sit on a base with four squidgy rubber feet and a constrained layer base plate, so no direct coupling there, but then the loudspeaker cabinet itself is internally further decoupled from the base. This means the loudspeaker cabinet itself is free to move around, nearly independent to the base. This can be disconcerting for people more accustomed to loudspeakers rooted in place with spikes and high mass, but it seems to give the Natura several important sonic benefits we’ll discuss later.
The cabinet itself is a multi-layer aluminium sandwich arrangement, and Ensemble prefers the damping such an arrangement brings to overstuffing a speaker with wadding or long-haired wool. This means the cabinet is relatively lightweight (by audiophile standards), but surprisingly inert. The swept-back look helps to create both a natural time alignment and helps deal with some room acoustic properties (such as first reflections from the ceiling and floor).
The drivers are custom specified but not made from space age stuff; the 25mm fabric dome tweeter is notable in its deliberate lack of ferrofluid in the magnet gap, while the 180mm mid-bass cone is doped paper and custom made to Ensemble’s specification. On the end of the phase cap, there’s a very small white foam pip topped with what looks like silver foil, and there’s a felt over-baffle that visually connects woofer with tweeter. And at the rear are a couple of medium sized ports and the Ensemble-made connectors.
While I’m in humble pie eating mode, I’ve had something of a sea change about the Delrin-based Ensemble multi-way connectors. The Synergia posts take Ensemble’s oversized 6mm banana plug in the centre hole, pull the spring-loaded white Delrin sleeve out and there’s space for spade lugs. Unscrew the Delrin sleeve and you get access to a through the plug 4mm banana plug hole. Screw the Delrin sleeve back in and you can make them even grip bare wire. Ingenious? Perhaps, but practical certainly, although the Delrin itself can be slippery to gain purchase when scrabbling round the lower back of a loudspeaker. Behind the speaker terminals, the Ensemble custom devices continue with extensive use of Slinx Extrema cable, and Ensemble’s own high-grade Procap capacitors (alongside air-cored inductors) in the minimal phase, minimal group delay crossover.
While an obvious partner for Ensemble’s own Fuocco integrated amplifier, the Natura is in its comfort zone between 15-120Watts. With a modest six ohm minimum impedance and 87dB sensitivity, this doesn’t call for a powerhouse to drive it, but it shouldn’t be considered a speaker to be played at high volumes. If your tastes run all the way from AC to DC and like it loud, keep looking; the Natura isn’t the speaker for you.
The speakers I received were well run in (they were the demonstrators used at Whittlebury Hall) so I have no idea whether they require a significant amount of time to warm up. They were finished in Ensemble’s all-over silver-grey livery; an option of wood veneered side and rear panel is available. There is also an optional grille, with a little Ensemble logo standing proud at the top, like a small Rolls-Royce Silver Lady but without the cool retraction device. The grilles come supplied with little grommets that fit around the holes so that the grille does not rattle or buzz and the grille itself is damped, but still… £325 for a pair of grilles is somewhat ‘spendy’, even in the context of a £12,800 loudspeaker.
That decoupling mentioned earlier has a significant advantage it seems. It makes the Natura one of the least room fussy loudspeakers around. Put it in a room not much bigger than the box it comes in and it sounds great. Put it in a barn of a room and it sounds great. Put them in a room that doesn’t fit the profile (say, an L-shaped room, or something with an alcove) and they still sound pretty damn good. Just give them some space to the rear to let those ports breathe and try to have them form the bases of a triangle and everything is fine. This room independence is extremely good and uncanny. Yes, the more you can do to treat the room the better, but the Natura is a great loudspeaker for those who cannot add room acoustic treatment due to having to make domestic compromises. As in, any of us who have a shared listening room that doubles as a living space.