Reference 3A loudspeakers have always met with a warm welcome at Hi-Fi Plus. Indeed, the Da Capo is something of a benchmark product chez Gregory, its combination of efficiency, an easy drive characteristic and the company’s trade-mark direct-coupled bass-mid driver delivering an astonishing sense of musical scale and tactile communication from its comparatively compact, standmounted cabinet. Likewise, PM was suitably entertained by the hot-rod Royal Virtuoso version of the Da Capo, while CT positively swooned over the diminutive Dulcet. But what we have here is about as far from a two-way stand-mount as you can get. Given that the potential for success in any speaker design plummets exponentially with each increase in the number of drivers, can Reference 3A really translate the virtues of their simple, direct approach to an imposing four-way, five driver floorstander?
On the face of it, the Grand Veena represents quite a stretch, but look a little closer and we actually find evolution rather than revolution. What the designer has actually done is graft a few of the more consistent emerging trends in loudspeaker design onto his existing concept and then further refined the mechanics and construction. So, the heart of the Grand Veena is its 180mm directconnected, woven carbon-fibre midrange unit. Derived from the in-house unit employed in the smaller Veena model, it runs from around 94Hz with useful output up to 8kHz. It’s bandwidth is entirely mechanically controlled, the gentle low-end roll-off a result of the separate, sealed volume that loads it, whilst the company makes extensive use of AVM damping fluid on the voice coil, around the cone’s periphery and at strategic points on its surface to further control colouration across its very wide operating band. The upper frequencies are handled by a refined version of the 25mm silk-dome used elsewhere in the range, this one fitted with a Farraday ring to improve the linearity of both its field and output at high levels. True to form, the high pass filter comprises a single high quality capacitor. And there you have the central core; a high performance two-way with a directcoupled midrange driver and minimal crossover to the tweeter – just like all those other two-way designs from Reference 3A we like so much. But what makes the Grand Veena special (and it is very special) is the fact that it successfully extends the bandwidth and evenness of the concept without in any way diminishing the virtues; in fact, quite the opposite. The twin 200mm bass drivers are again designed and built in-house, from the company’s preferred woven carbon-fibre. With their own enclosure and terminals, they effectively constitute a passive subwoofer system, matched to the midrange with the gentlest (quasi-2nd order) slope possible and with an extremely extended, mechanically controlled low-frequency roll-off. The enclosure is loaded by a large, rear-facing port tuned to 36Hz. The heavy reliance on mechanical control and the minimal cross-over also creates minimum phase shift, with less than 10 degrees of phase error across the lower frequencies – an impressive result, while pair-matched drivers ensure excellent speaker to speaker consistency.
At the other end of the spectrum (and heavily sloped front baffle) you’ll find the increasing familiar gold hemisphere of a Murata 12mm ceramic super-tweeter. Much has been written in these pages, both about the benefits of extended highfrequencies and the importance of balancing their output at the bottomend, so I won’t repeat it all here. Needless to say, the Grand Veena achieves both goals and definitely reaps the sonic harvest. But the really impressive thing is the attention to detail that’s gone into the execution of the cabinet and other aspects of the design. The sloping baffle certainly makes for a striking, even imposing appearance, but it also creates a stiffer cabinet, with non-parallel sides. The structure itself is MDF, but opposing walls vary in thickness by around 10% in order to help minimize the material signature. Each panel then receives a layer of specifically selected bi-component acoustic felt. This layered natural/synthetic mix is highly tunable and has been developed in Canada (whence Reference 3A hail) specifically for the motor industry. A further, free mounted roll of this felt is positioned at the acoustic centre of the bass cabinet, an unusual technique but one I’ve seen used in other speakers that I’ve also enjoyed. Both the midrange and tweeter are fitted with a pair of Bibee filters, while the wiring and all the solder joints receive a coating of AVM damping fluid.
The speaker stands on three spikes, each of which screws into a cast metal outrigger. The result is extremely stable, while the hexagon profile of the spikes and large knurled locking screws make precise angular adjustments extremely easy. The speakers offer an overall efficiency of 90dB and while impedance is a low-ish 5 Ohms, it stays within ±0.5 Ohms of this, making for a very easy drive characteristic. Set up and system matching are thus fairly straightforward, the speakers designed to work best with a three to two ratio between listening distance and spacing. Positioned thus they will require minimal if any toe-in and a dead vertical stance. If you end up sitting closer, a little extra toe-in and dropping the front of the speaker slightly (easily achieved thanks to the spiking arrangement) will snap the soundstage into focus. Amp matching should clearly present few problems and I achieved superb results with both the Hovland RADIA and the VAS valve mono-blocs. However, the biggest surprise was the happy match with the 400 Watt Hovland Stratos, not something I would have predicted on paper, making this one of the most versatile speakers I’ve ever used. It’s also one of the best value speakers I’ve reviewed. As I hope by now you’ve gathered, there’s a lot of material and engineering effort gone into this design, and not a little care. The Grand Veena stands roughly four and a half feet high and each one weighs 75lbs. Anyway you look at it this is a substantial speaker. The price tag, starting at £6895 is substantial too, but given the content and versatility (not to mention the performance) they are worth every penny – and more.