Arendal 1723 S THX 5.1 Speaker Package Review
The new 1723 S proves that size is relative
What is the Arendal 1723 S?The 1723 S is the latest range from Norwegian speaker manufacturer Arendal Sound. These new models follow on from their hugely impressive 1723 line-up, offering the same design ethos and technology but reducing the dimensions. Hence the ’S’ suffix which presumably stands for small, although they are still fairly large speakers compared to much of the competition. However, despite the reduction in size, Arendal have kept the same waveguide and tweeter, the same HDF cabinet construction, the same paint options, the same Spike Kit and the same crossover quality. Just like their bigger brothers, the 1723 S speakers include a floor-standing version, a monitor, a dedicated centre speaker and dedicated tripole surrounds.
There is also an existing range of 1723 subwoofers, allowing you to build an effective multi-channel speaker system with the new 1723 S models. For the purposes of this review we were running a 5.1 system that was composed of a pair of 1723 Monitor S speakers, a dedicated Center S speaker, a pair of Surround S tripole speakers and the Subwoofer 1. The latter is the smallest subwoofer in the 1723 range, we previously reviewed the Subwoofer 2, but that seemed appropriate given the more compact size of the S models. All of these speakers are available from the Arendal website, although they are priced in Euros, which means the exact cost will vary depending on the prevailing exchange rate but delivery costs are included.
It’s interesting to note that since we reviewed the original 1723 range they have been awarded THX Ultra certification which, given their performance, doesn’t surprise us. The new 1723 S range is also THX Ultra certified and, despite their reduced size, they have been designed by Arendal with the intention of delivering performance, accuracy, build quality and relative value. So let’s wire them up and see how they compare to their impressive but larger siblings.
DesignArendal have used the same classic speaker design for the 1723 S as their earlier model. So the emphasis remains on the quality of materials and the type of construction, resulting in a very traditional speaker with mid-range drivers either side of a central tweeter. The speaker is composed of HDF (High Density Fibreboard) which is designed to deliver a more sonically inert cabinet and can be machined more precisely. There are strategically placed internal braces to increase the overall cabinet strength and limit unwanted panel vibrations that might cause audible colouration.
Arendal use almost entirely non-plastic components, with high grade brushed and anodised aluminium back plates on their subwoofers and speakers, in fact even their logo is in anodized aluminium. The interior of their speakers also use high count multi-strand wire, braided together. This is done to produce the most consistent impedance possible and deliver superior electrical current carrying capabilities. The company claims this results in very low insertion losses and insures that each driver sees what the amplifier intended without any distractions.The speakers come in a premium finish with a choice of matte or gloss black and matte or gloss white, that uses up to 12 layers of paint, consisting of primers and polyurethane paint – no vinyl – and is then hand finished. The custom-made grilles use perforated metal wrapped in a clean black cloth to tone down the visually hard look, whilst simultaneously damping out any residual vibrations. Neodymium sub-surface magnets then grip the metal grille with great force, preventing unwanted movement and vibration during high level playback, and the grilles have a rubber protection to ensure the cabinet is not damaged when attached.
Around the back are binding posts made from copper (not brass or other lower conductivity metals), these are then machined into shape and polished to insure a smooth functionality and clean cosmetics. The final step is Rhodium plating which was chosen for its excellent conductivity, corrosion resistance and hardness thus protecting the copper material within. Each post accepts commonly used wire terminations - banana, spade, pin and bare wire – whilst the input jumpers, made from the same materials as the binding posts, create a simple bridge between inputs without any compromise in quality for use when bi-wiring or bi-amping is not employed.
The cabinets may be slightly smaller but the same stunning build quality remains
SpecificationsThe new 1723 S speakers are designed to tonally match the larger 1723 models. In addition both ranges are THX Ultra certified, which means they have completed a strict testing protocol where each speaker have to pass a set of 400 measurements. The THX certification is a guarantee of tight consistency within well established acoustic parameters and isn't just about movies, it can apply to music as well. Arendal were obviously delighted when their speakers passed the THX Ultra certification programme without any changes being required.
This success is undoubtedly because when designing their speakers, Arendal have concentrated on accuracy with specific emphasis on dynamics, linearity, distortion, power handling, frequency response and polar characteristics. They also employ extensive stress (or accelerated) testing of their own, including full power testing repeated for days and in some cases for weeks, plus mechanical, thermal and vibration tests. All speakers and subwoofers are then thoroughly analysed using laser based measurement and electro-acoustic testing systems before extensive listening tests are carried out.
The 6.5” woofers used in the 1723 S speakers are based on the 8” driver found in the larger models and this bespoke design is optimised to cover a very wide frequency range and deliver naturally improved bass response and efficiency. The tweeter in the 1723 S speakers uses a 28mm synthetic soft dome with custom designed, matching waveguide. The soft dome itself is very light weight, whilst the waveguide is designed to take an already excellent tweeter and provide refinements to the performance. The size and shape precisely control directivity across the tweeter’s frequency range.The Monitor S is a downscaled version of the 1723 Monitor and features a completely custom built 2-way lineup of mid-bass drivers and a waveguide tweeter. The main difference is a smaller enclosure with 6.5” drivers, rather than the 8” versions used in the Monitor. At the rear of the speaker there are two bass ports that can be sealed using provided foam bungs. The Monitor S measures 569 x 245 x 320mm (HxWxD), weighs 18.7kg and costs €1,599 a pair with a matte finish or €1,699 for the gloss version.
The Center S is also a downscaled version of the 1723 Center and the only real difference is a smaller enclosure with 6.5” drivers. The Center S is identical to the Monitor S, but sold singly and with the grille badge and binding posts moved for aesthetic purposes. It is designed to match the timbral of the other 1723 speakers by sharing the exact same core MTM design, materials, drivers and crossover components. The Center S measures 245 x 569 x 320mm (HxWxD), weighs 18.7kg and costs €799 for a single speaker in the matte version or €849 for a gloss finish.
Finally the Surround S is, as you might have guessed, also a downscaled version of the 1723 Surround, with the primary difference being a smaller enclosure with 6.5” instead of the 8” drivers. By using the same drivers and waveguide tweeters as the other 1723 S models, better tonal matching is assured. The Surround S is fitted with 4” full-range dipolar drivers in its angled side baffles, which are imported straight from the original Surrounds. The Surround S measures 385 x 371 x 175mm (HxWxD), weighs 13.7kg and costs €1,299 for a pair with a matte finish or €1,399 for a pair in gloss.
The 1723 Subwoofer 1 is the baby of Arendal's subwoofer range and was conceived as a natural match for smaller rooms. However it's still a potent beast and uses a proprietary 13.8” driver driven by a 500W RMS Avalanche DSP amplifier. The cabinet volume has been sized to produce an optimally damped system, producing low distortion and naturally deep bass. There is a circular magnetic cloth grille that covers the side-facing driver and the usual controls including EQ1 (20-160Hz) and EQ2 (34-160Hz) settings. There are RCA line and LFE inputs and a balanced XLR input as well as an XLR pass-through. The Subwoofer 1 measures 492 x 335 x 450mm (HxWxD), weighs 24.5kg and costs €899 with a matte finish or €949 for the gloss version.
The specifications are superb and the new speakers are certified THX Ultra
Setup & TestingArendal kindly delivered a full 1723 S 5.1 system for review, consisting of two Monitors, a Center, two Surrounds and a Subwoofer 1, all in matte black. We positioned the speakers in our dedicated home cinema and ran them in for 50 hours before doing any critical listening. It's an acoustically treated rectangular room and although there are no nasty surprises in terms of the space itself, the speakers were all very flexible when it comes to positioning.
We placed the Monitor S speakers either side of our screen and we installed the Center horizontally so that it didn't block our screen. However you can position the Center S vertically and for the best tonal balance we would recommend doing just that so that the front three speakers are configured identically. We placed the Subwoofer 1 in the front corner of the room as per Arendal's advice and initially selected the EQ1 setting, although we also tried the EQ2 setting later.Finally we also placed the tripole Surround S speakers just slightly to the rear on the left and right of the listening position. It's worth pointing out that the speakers are side dependent so if you swap them around, one of the 4” side drivers will be in the wrong phase. When installed correctly the front firing side drivers should be in phase with the front speakers and the rear firing side drivers out of phase.
We tested the 1723 S 5.1 system with a mixture of material ranging from Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray, CD, DVD-Audio, SACD and music streaming. For amplification we used our Denon AVR-X7200WA AV receiver in a 5.1-channel configuration and the reference status Denon AVC-X8500H AV amplifier that we were testing at the same time.
The setup was very easy and the speakers are designed to tonally match each other
PerformanceIt's probably worth pointing out that although the 1723 S speakers are smaller than the original 1723 range, they're still not exactly miniature. Arendal's desire to retain the sonic qualities of their original speaker means that the tweeter is the same and the drivers, whilst smaller, are still quite large. This is understandable because you can only cheat acoustics so much and you need a reasonably large cabinet and driver to physically move air and thus create sound. The dimensions might be smaller but the build quality remains as excellent as the original 1723 range, just tap the cabinets and you can appreciate the solid and inert nature of these speakers. When you pick them up the weight is very apparent and regardless of which colour or finish you choose, there's an immediate feeling of a thoughtfully designed and superbly made speaker that justifies the price tag.
The X7200 and the X85400 had absolutely no problems driving the 1723 S speakers and they took full advantage of the additional headroom, sounding responsive and dynamic. The cabinets might be smaller but given the design it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that the treble is identical. The use of the same tweeter is primarily responsible for this performance but the 6.5" drivers also play their part, resulting in an excellent mid-range and well defined higher frequencies. The speakers also have a nice tonal balance which helps create a cohesive sound field, thus allowing effects to be seamlessly steered around the room. There is an open front soundstage and the Center S maintains focused dialogue whilst blending nicely with the Monitor S front left and right speakers. In addition there's an equally well defined surround presence thanks to the tripole speakers at the rear, delivering an effective combination of focused sound and more immersive effects.In fact the only area where the 1723 S speakers really differ from earlier models is in terms of their bass response but that's understandable given the slightly smaller drivers; for all of Arendal's skill in speaker design, they can't cheat the laws of physics. However in a 5.1 system this is less of an issue than it might be in a pure stereo setup because there's still the subwoofer to deliver the lower frequencies. The Subwoofer 1's cabinet is solid and superbly well made, so despite being the smallest of the subwoofers in the 1723 range it still has the density and weight to suggest that its more than able to handle itself. In fact the Subwoofer 1 is very capable when it comes to handling itself and the sealed nature of the design ensures it is both tight and responsive. There is little in the way of noise and almost no distortion but the Subwoofer 1 can play loud whilst remaining controlled. It also integrates perfectly with the 1723 S range to produce a sound field that is ideal for small and medium-sized rooms.
We started off our testing with Dunkirk, a film that boasts one of the best 5.1 sound mixes we have ever heard. In these days of object-based immersive audio the combination of the X8500 and 1723 S system was a revelation, showing just what 5.1 is capable of when done correctly. The opening scene is unnaturally quiet with troops walking through a deserted town as leaflets rain down on them. The subtle sounds of the leaflets were delivered with wonderful clarity and precision before the unexpected sound of gunfire makes you jump out of your seat. There is a visceral nature to the gun shots as they tear through bodies and wooden gates. This sense of realism applies to the Stuka's dive-bombing the troops on the beaches and the Arendals handled the plane's high frequency wail particularly well. The subwoofer gave the explosions real weight and impact, as the shrapnel rips through the soundstage. There is a beautifully realised sense of space when the soldiers are hiding in the beached boat and you'll jump again as bullets pierce the hull. The more dynamic surround sequences, such as those in the cockpits of the Spitfires or during the scene inside the sinking ship demonstrate how cohesive the entire sound field is with excellent tonal balance, immersive surround effects and well integrated bass. There isn't much dialogue in Dunkirk but what there is was clearly delivered by the centre speaker and the music was nicely rendered across the front soundstage, whilst the ticking clock motif weaved throughout the score.
We use the opening scene of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a lot in testing and the 1723 S system brought out plenty of detail with Caesar's breath being clearly defined amongst the falling rain drops. There was the subtle sound of movement amongst the trees as the apes move almost but not quite silently through them and you could hear this over the choral arrangement that rises in the background. The Arendals picked out every small detail and delivered them with precision and realism. Once the hunt starts the whole soundtrack bursts into life and the speakers instantly responded filling the room with sound and immersing you in the chaos. At the same time the Subwoofer 1 weaves its way through the soundstage, underpinning the action.
Another disc that we use a lot in testing is the 5.1 mix of Gravity, which is simply the most directional soundtrack we've ever heard and thus the best test for tonal balance and steering. The excellent tonal matching of the 1723 speakers meant that the dialogue and sounds moved around the room seamlessly and the steering of effects was extremely precise. The Center S delivered dialogue with absolute clarity but also merged almost seamlessly with the left and right Monitors S speakers. Although we would still recommend keeping the orientation the same for all three front speakers, if that isn't possible you can use the Center S speaker in its horizontal orientation and you won't be disappointed. Overall the Arendals were able to deliver a highly cohesive sound field which was both immersive and tonally balanced.
If you plan on also using the Arendal Monitor S speakers for two-channel music then you'll be glad to hear that they were excellent in this context as well. We initially tested them as a simple two channel setup and they delivered a lovely musical performance with favourite songs such as the simple vocal and piano of 'This Woman's Work' on The Sensual World by Kate Bush or the widescreen majesty of 'Jungleland' on Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. The Monitor S speakers were large enough to produce a wide front soundstage, with plenty of detail and clarity and a precise localisation of instruments. They may not have as much bass as the larger Monitor speakers but they were still very capable in this area and the lovely treble was evident. We also ran the system as a 2.1-channel setup with the Subwoofer 1 handling the lower frequencies. Purists might not like this approach but the fast and responsive nature of the sub meant that it added a tight and controlled low-end to the speakers and integrated with them perfectly. Finally we listened to some 5.1 recordings such as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips and a recording of Carmina Burana and again the 1723 S system impressed with its ability to deliver a spacious 360 degree sound field with great timbre matching and precise localisation.
Aside from slightly less bass the 1723 S speakers were as impressively awesome as their larger siblings
- Impressive sound quality
- Responsive and detailed
- Tonally matched
- Flexible in installation
- Solidly built
- Superbly engineered
- Smaller but still big by most standards
Arendal 1723 S THX 5.1 Speaker Package ReviewArendal Sound's ambition when designing the 1723 S range was to create a smaller and cheaper speaker that still retained all the acoustic qualities of their original models. Whilst that may sound like a simple aim in theory, it's far from easy to achieve in practice. However we're pleased to say that Arendal have succeeded admirably in this goal, delivering a thoughtfully designed and beautifully engineered range of speakers. They retain the superb build quality that made the 1723 models so impressive but also manage to deliver the same detailed and precise sound. They remain incredibly responsive, whilst the inert cabinets and neutral qualities of the speakers themselves deliver lovely detail and clarity. There is also a definite sense of tonal balance between all the models in the range, which helps to create a cohesive sound field. The fact that these speakers and the larger range now boast THX Ultra certification doesn't come as a surprise.
The Monitor S speakers deliver a solid front soundstage, whilst the Center S reproduces dialogue with a focused precision and the Surround S speakers create an enveloping rear presence. The mid-range and high frequency performance is identical to the larger speakers, so the only area where there is any noticeable difference is in terms of the lower end. This shouldn't come as a surprise given the reduced dimensions of cabinets and the smaller size of the drivers but you can easily augment the bass performance with a subwoofer. In this respect the Subwoofer 1 is a great choice because it integrates well the 1723 S speakers and, despite being the smallest of the 1723 subwoofer range, it delivers plenty of low-end energy. As a result the Arendal 1723 S speaker package delivers exceptional performance which, despite the hefty price tag, delivers enough relative value to be awarded a Best Buy badge.
The obvious alternative, if you have the space and the budget, is Arendal's bigger 1723 range which are quite simply superb speakers for the money. However, whilst Arendal have managed to reduce the size of their 1723 S speakers, it's fair to say that they are still quite large when compared to much of the competition. So if space is a premium then you might consider the XTZ Spirit 5.1 speaker system which delivers cracking performance from a genuinely small cabinet and is quite a bit cheaper. If you're less bothered about size then the Monitor Audio Silver 500 5.1 speaker package is certainly worth considering. They look good, sound big and, thanks to 8" drivers and a decent subwoofer, are capable of some serious bass. Finally there's the ATC C1 5.1 speaker system which is composed of a phenomenal set of speakers that are exceptional when used in conjunction with an equally capable subwoofer. The result was a speaker package that, like the 1723 S, received a Best Buy badge despite a relatively lofty price point.
Value For Money10
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