Banner
Banner
cookie-banner

Amphion Argon 3L


From Hi-Fi World - February 2011 issue

READ ONLINE

BUY THE MAGAZINE (back issues subject to availability)



Ice Power


Hailing from the frozen north, the Finnish Amphion Argon 3Ls are subtly different from your average European standmount loudspeaker, says David Price...


amphion_argon_3l

Amphion are an interesting company, with a very distinctive looking range of loudspeakers, as these prove. Measuring 925x191x305mm, they’re sizeable enough to fill most UK listening rooms. The speakers come with a complement of two drivers; a one inch Krypton2 derived Integrator titanium dome tweeter that’s recessed deep into the baffle, inside a waveguide. This makes for, the company says, correct time alignment between the two drive units. The matching 6.5” aluminium coned mid/bass driver is set close by and crosses over at 1.2kHz. In this it follows the approach of the Argon 2 standmounter on which it’s based, reviewed in September 2008.


The Argon 3L claims to go right down to 32Hz (as opposed to the standmounter’s 40Hz) – [see MEASURED PERFORMANCE], although I wouldn’t say this is spectacularly evident when listening. However, in their defence the bass was weightier than the substantially more expensive, yet similarly tall B&W 804Ds reviewed elsewhere in this issue! The speaker features a proprietary bass loading system with separated internal chambers for midrange and woofer. They come with two rear reflex ports, both of which are supplied with bungs for damping down backward boom. Rap the cabinet with your knuckles and you’ll find it’s well damped, with little in the way of resonance. The Argon 3Ls come supplied with plinths to ensure good tight contact with terra firma, and interestingly are not biwirable.


SOUND QUALITY

Aided by Musical Fidelity’s AMS50 solid-state Class A power amp, I kicked off with Sade’s excellent cover of ‘When Am I Going to Make a Living?’ from ‘Diamond Life’. The Amphions showed themselves to be clean, open and engaging. I have to say the midband is rather good, throwing out a lot of detail that other speakers simply muddle or throw out of focus. I was struck initially by the lovely detailing on the guitar work, the speakers picking out quite subtle rhythmic electric guitar work that via most boxes remain stuck at the back of the mix. This, allied to a very ‘up close and personal’ rendition of Ms Adu’s vocals made for an unusually direct and emotive performance of a track that can be delivered by lesser speakers as a bit of jazz-pop filler, music for wine bars on rainy Wednesday evenings in provincial towns.

 

Moving to Eleanor McEvoy’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blonde’, and again I was fascinated by the vocal rendition. Having spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour with Ms McEvoy a couple of months ago, I remember her voice vividly from sitting two feet away. It was the first time I’d heard it played back on a hi-fi system since then, and so it was fascinating to hear the Amphions’ rendition. Actually it was very good, the speakers sucking just a fraction of the warmth of her vocal chords out, and removing just a touch of air from it up top.  And yet it was still very well carried, leaving the listener feel totally connected to both her singing and the recording in general. In their typically efficient and fuss-free way, the Argon 3Ls just got on with the job of playing the music, throwing out vast amounts of detail and power into the listening room and making the track a most enjoyable experience.

 

Indeed, the Amphions did, I found, give a particularly close-miked sound. There’s a slight upper midband peak to them, but this isn’t in any way offensive and simply makes for a great sense of immediacy; almost as if you were listening through headphones. The treble and mid/bass units cross over well, and display good phase coherence, which makes them particularly good for female vocals. I very much enjoyed Samantha Sang’s ‘Emotions’, a beautifully recorded late seventies disco ballad from the Bee Gees/RSO stable, with the Gibb brothers lending backing vocals (as well as writing the song and supplying the music). Strings were beautiful; very distinct yet smooth and full bodied. Bass was well damped, decently tuneful and provided the appropriate underpinning to the proceedings.

 

Rhythmically, the Argons worked well too; rhythms had an unhurried quality about them; the speakers seemed very well paced and able to let the music flow. I also enjoyed a nice, believable hi-hat sound up in the treble, the titanium dome tweeter proving itself to be a particularly good example of the breed.

amphion-argon-3lrear

The only caveat to all this was the occasional tendency of the loudspeakers to screech. Admittedly it was at high levels, via a CD source (hardly ideal) and via the falsetto backing vocals of the Bee Gees, but I could detect just a slight searing quality at full tilt. I wouldn’t say this is a fault of the speakers as such, more of a tendency that has to be borne in mind when choosing ancillaries and matching them to rooms. For example, you’d not want to partner the Amphions with a hard amplifier, in a reflective, echo-prone room and play brightly recorded music all the time at high volume. Conversely, they’d be just ideal for putting a tiger in the tank of relatively tame sounding systems in dull, dead, over damped rooms. Not a criticism, but something to bear in mind when matching, all the same...

 

Moving to Michael Jackson’s classic ‘Billie Jean’, and the Amphions proved up for a bit of fun. I wouldn’t say these are the most conspicuously rhythmic sounding speakers; Linn Kans they are not. However, they don’t shirk when asked to bring on the boogie, and indeed proved well up to the challenge. The Argon’s bass is workmanlike in the best possible way; they got on with the job, drew little attention to themselves and made it possible for the rest of the song to sprinkle its magic. The midband again threw a spotlight on percussion, throwing incidental elements of the mix out – such as trumpets and rhythm guitar. It positively bristled with detail. It was great on Michael Jackson’s unique vocal syncopation, being able to time it with particular success, throwing a spotlight on every last ‘oh, ‘uh’ and ‘eel’! At the same time, it set up an expansive soundstage with lovely space around the exquisite backing strings. Treble was a joy; clean and delicate and completely devoid of any nasty metal dome tweeter clanging, although it has to be said that it wasn’t the most spacious or extended I’ve heard.

 

Moving to orchestral music in the shape of a Deutsche Gramophon recording of the Emerson String Quartet playing Edvard Grieg’s ‘String Quartet in G Minor op. 27’, and violins were as clean as an arctic plain; spacious, expansive, open; dry, cool, crisp and bracing in equal measure. There was a commendable tonal accuracy to the Amphions, these speakers conveying the body of the instrument very well. Their ‘wiry’ quality was there in abundance, as were the rich harmonics of the violin, but there was little in the way of screech even at high levels. Still, that’s not to say the Argon 3Ls were in any way recessed across the mid; there was a great sense of sunlight, with vivid dynamic and tonal contrasts. These are not sultry smoothies, however you listen to them and whatever you play.


CONCLUSION

An interesting pair of loudspeakers, the Amphion Argon 3Ls proved a calm, reassuringly accurate and engaging listening companion with oodles of detail and insight, especially across the midband. They get on with playing music in an enjoyably complete way.  Well worth braving the cold for an audition!

 

verdict 4

Insightful, engaging, detailed and distinguished sounding floorstanding speakers with ice cool aesthetics.


AMPHION ARGON 3L £2,299

Nuforce Europe

G. Bildersstraat 4a, 5753 DE Deurne, The Netherlands

tel: +31 (0)493 744020

email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

www.nuforce.com


 

FOR

- transparency

- immediacy

- delicate upper registers


AGAINST
- strongly lit midband
- powerful amplifier required

 

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

Frequency response of the Argon 3L is reasonably smooth and even, with peaks at 750Hz and 5kHz, treble rolling down gently and smoothly above this frequency. The 750Hz peak is caused by an internal box mode, showing the usual peak and dip caused by phase addition and subtraction. The rear ports both output strongly at this frequency too, shown by the white and red peaks. This is likely to introduce a bit of colouration but may well enhance intelligibility too.

 

Low frequency output rolls down smoothly in what appears to be a response tailored for near wall mounting. The ports are both narrow tuned to 35Hz and – surprisingly – add little to overall output power, having sound pressure levels at 80Hz lower than the main bass unit, where narrow tuned ports commonly measure +6dB or so. So bass is likely to be on the light side and the ports apply limited damping to the bass unit, the impedance curve shows.

 

Sensitivity measured 9.5 Ohms with pink noise, a very high value and indeed the DCR was also high at 6.4 Ohms. Our impedance curve clearly shows that over most of the audio band impedance exceeds 10 Ohms, so the Argon does not utilise the potential power delivery of solid-state amplifiers. Sensitivity was inevitably on the low side at 86dB SPL from one nominal Watt (2.8V) of input, so the Argon will need to be paired with amplifiers having some power, say 50 Watts or more.

 

Our 200mS decay spectrum shows a few hot spots, inevitably including one at 750Hz where the Argon has a strong internal mode. Some colourations may be audible.

 

The Argon 3L has areas where it could be improved, like most loudspeakers. All the same, it is a well engineered package with unique properties, measurement shows. NK


FREQUENCY RESPONSE (what it means)

amphion-argon-l3-fr

Green - drive unit;  Red - bottom port; Yellow - top port


IMPEDANCE (what it means)

amphion_argon_l3_z


DECAY SPECTRUM 200mS (what it means)

amphion-argon-l3-decaygraph

DECAY MAP 200mS (what it means)

amphionargon-l3-decaycolour

DISTORTION (what it means)

amphion_argon_l3_thd


BASS DISTORTION (what it means)

amphion_argon_l3_lfthd

 

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:
  The word for verification. Lowercase letters only with no spaces.
Word verification:

Search

Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.