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Eminent LFT-16 (2)
Sound quality
Conclusion
Readers Letters
Manufacturer's Correspondence
Measured performance
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EMINENT TECHNOLOGY LFT-16 LOUDSPEAKER REVIEW

The final review, of the third sample, will be published in the December 2011 issue.  

 

lft-16-mk2

Eminent Technology LFT-16, our second sample - prettier than the first!

 

(at September 2011)

THE STORY SO FAR  ...

This is an update to our original review, which you can read below.

The first sample did not work properly, but neither did the second sample you can see above. The tweeter did not work properly.

More detail on this can be found in Readers Letters on the subject, at the end of the review (see link above).


ORIGINAL REVIEW (first sample)

Eminent Technolgy's LFT-16 may not be physically beautiful, but its sound is an aural wonder in many ways. And its price, at £1150 in the U.K. for this U.S. loudspeaker, is attractive too.

eminent_lft-16

 

Style wise, the LFT-16 isn’t going to ring bells with your “average man on the Clapham omnibus” in the UK, or on any other bus elsewhere I suspect, including those in Florida where it is made. The ‘floorboard’ is a solid plank of wood that forms the front baffle, sprayed gloss black with no attempt made to cover the end grain. OK, it’s strong and it’s non-resonant, but that’s hardly enough to stop people at Hi-Fi World towers showing alarm – and boy do we see a lot of weird products.


You’ll notice though that said floorboard has two unusual adornments screwed onto it, a large matt black slatted grill and a smaller one alongside it. These are the loudspeaker’s secret strength and the source of its uniqueness. Both are magnetic planar drive units. An aluminium track etched onto a light Mylar film sits between bar magnets. The audio signal passes through the aluminium track, setting up a magnetic field that interacts with the magnets, a electromagnetic motor in effect that drives the air in relation to the signal. The big advantage is the film is thin, light and does not store energy, so it suffers little colouration. It is open front and rear (a dipole) and the absence of a rear chamber removes another source of colouration. So think: clean and pure sound.


The advantage over an electrostatic is that no power supply is needed, and the advantage over a ribbon is that it lacks their metallic sheen.
A big drawback is low sensitivity, our tests revealing a miserable 82dB, so high power amplifiers are needed. I pushed 50 Watts into the LFT-16s playing Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ really loud (95dB), where I would normally use 10Watts or so, but they were able to handle it and sounded quite relaxed.


Eminent make their own magnetic planar drive units and buy in a 6in bass unit, which they house in a sealed (‘infinite baffle’) bass chamber. Magnetic planars aren’t new: I first heard them in Leak 3090s I used way back in the early 1980s; they were fitted with Wharfedale’s Isodynamic magnetic planar tweeter. Eminent’s drivers cover a wider frequency range; in the LFT-16 the midrange unit works from 700Hz upward and the tweeter from 10kHz upward, our measurements show. The midrange unit resonates and peaks around 10kHz and I clearly heard this. The small 2in high super tweeter contributes little.


What can I say about build quality, styling and finish? Well, the LFT-16s are quite sturdy, as is a brick whatsit house. And they bear other similarities. Styling is non-existent and finish execrable. You have to be a true adherent of the faith or a style challenged engineer to appreciate these loudspeakers, and to help Eminent fit open electrical connections and good qualitry bi-wire terminals that allow bi-amping should you be so inclined. The terminals cater for 4mm plugs as well as American spades, but bare cables must be wrapped around the posts as the through-holes are occupied by wire links.


The LFT-16 comes in ‘handed pairs’ with tweeters on different sides. It’s usual to place handed loudspeakers with tweeter on the inside, to lessen reflective cancellations from cabinet surface waves and physical discontinuities. It does work: I designed World Audio Design loudspeakers with tweeter on the inside, asymmetrically positioned, after hearing clear benefits of more certain and ‘solid’ imaging, during comparative listening tests.


Our review samples came with bass units connected out-of-phase, measurement showed, which isn’t right. Conveniently, the open terminals allowed me to re-connect the bass units in-phase and this is how I reviewed them. Our exchange of e-mails with Eminent designer Bruce Thigpen provides an explanation. It seems our samples are likely to be updated so we have a rolling review situation here, an on-going story. I think the LFT-16 needs tidying up a little, with bass/lower midrange output reduced a little. The bottom line with this loudspeaker is, however, that it offers fairly spectacular results in many areas at an affordable price. It is a real taste of high end at a peanuts price, in a room friendly package (well, size wise!). That’s why I was so keen to review it (I reviewed their larger LFT-08 in our January 2010 issue).


Surprised the bass units were connected wrongly? A lot of loudspeakers arrive at Hi-Fi World for review faulty one way or another. Some that aren’t faulty get sent back in any case because they are so bad as to be unreviewable. In this context the LFT-16 situation wasn’t so extra ordinary. You have to hear this loudspeaker before passing judgement because even though imperfect it shades most else. The final iteration we will review in the magazine; this interim review is on our website where space isn’t limited, to explain the review circumstances. Correspondence on this is after our Verdict.



 

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