Even harder to work out is the effect of room resonance and reflectivity on the performance of speakers. Two identically sized rooms can exhibit totally different behavioural traits when the same pair of speakers is placed in them. You might be blown away by a pair of speakers you hear in a dealer's demo room and be deeply underwhelmed by them when you get them up and running in your own room.
The vast majority of speakers are designed with a view to providing a flat response for as much of the frequency spectrum as possible. This measurement is generally taken at a fixed distance in an acoustically neutral space and while it is wrong to describe them as ‘useless’, they don’t really give you that many clues about what will happen in your room. I’ve no problem with the rise of online sales but I still raise an eyebrow at the idea of someone buying a pair of speakers without at least trying to hear them in a space similar to the space they will be used in.
What you see here is a pair of speakers designed to different rules to pretty much everything else on the market. Swedish speaker manufacturer Guru designs speakers that are intended to produce a flat response for as much as the frequency response as possible - so far so normal. Where they differ is that they are designed to do this at any listening position when placed in a typically furnished room. Measure them like a normal speaker and the results will be a little ‘odd’ as the response is designed to take into account positioning and room interaction and ‘work’ at the point where you actually listen to the speaker. This sounds intriguing (and not a little complex) but does it work in practice?
There are some more unusual touches that are immediately apparent as well though. The bass port is at the front and takes the form of a slot rather than a conventional cylindrical tube. This has a number of potential advantages. It takes up less real estate on the front panel and should reduce the audibility of the air passing through it but equally they can be difficult to get working correctly and can affect the behaviour of the rest of the cabinet as the hole that results has a more profound effect on the structure than a circular bore. Around the back, the Junior only allows for single wiring and also will only accept connection via speaker cable that is terminated with 4mm plugs. Having recently had the Cabasse Eole3 pass through the house with connections that only accept bare wires, the irony of this isn’t lost on me but thankfully the two channel system the Junior’s were used in is exclusively fitted with plugs so this wasn’t an issue but you will need them in the event of taking the plunge on the Guru’s.
The front porting and flush speaker terminals are there with a view to getting the Junior as close to a wall as possible. While many standmounts are designed with a view to having them in free space, the design of the Junior is built around the premise of getting them as close to a wall as you can to partly couple them to the room. I say partly because at the same time as you place them in this position Guru also recommends having them on a stand with some form of decoupling at the top - in this case four rubber blocks.
This is all part of the grand plan of having a frequency response that is as flat as possible at the point where you actually listen to the Guru. To this end, the Junior has been voiced taking into account that a room will have furniture in it and most likely at least some form of fabric on the floor in either carpet or rug form (in fact my lounge doesn’t - more of which later) and takes an approximation of the effects these will have and voices the speaker to take these effects into account.
Guru has an entire presentation about how they have gone about this and you are left in no doubt that this is not a process that has been done in an ad hoc way. The research into room behaviour has been exhaustive and the instructions on positioning are not formed on a whim either. There is a sense that only a relatively young company (Guru has been trading roughly five years) formed by people with a wider engineering background than purely acoustic would have been prepared to try it as an existing manufacturer carrying out the same process would tacitly be saying that everything that they had built before wasn’t actually ‘right.’
As well as sonically working with the room, the Junior does a pretty good job at working in one aesthetically too. The more expensive QM10 is a ‘distinctive’ looking speaker and the QM60 floorstander is also going to leave a lasting impression as well. Compared to its bigger brothers, the Junior is an elegant and well proportioned bit of kit. The silver front panel with the light veneer sides are ever so slightly retro and none the worse for this. The review samples were supplied with no grille but I am assured that full production versions will have them which will help keep the drivers safe. The gloss black version has a slightly different aesthetic to it but still looks pretty cool as well. The pair I was supplied were pre-production but the fit and finish seemed more than up to the asking price.
Later, I decided to take the Junior out of its comfort zone and placed in the in the lounge connected to a decidedly un Naimlike Audio Analogue Verdi Cento integrated amp and a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 streamer to see what would happen. While I still followed the basic Guru placement instructions, they were further out from the wall and rather closer together in this setup. Music used included lossless and high res FLAC and vinyl.
The reason for this is that switching to the Guru effectively and almost instantly stopped driving the room and instead began to work with it instead. The effect is subtly different from what happens if a speaker is EQ’d in a room in that there is absolutely no sense of the performance being reined in or artificially boosted at any point in the frequency range but instead the response is impressively flat from top to bottom. The Guru presentation on their philosophy was fairly interesting but the most eloquent demonstration that they can give is ten minutes with these speakers in a normal room.
The other area that was more than a little surprising was the bass response. The Junior is 29 centimetres tall with a ten centimetre mid bass driver. To be absolutely clear, they are not going to trouble my regular speakers - a pair of Neat Momentum 4i’s but they have more impact and low end shove than you’d ever expect. What’s more this bass doesn’t seem to have been achieved by the standard ‘cheat’ that can be applied to small speakers where the bottom end of the bass response is boosted but usually at the expense of lower midrange detail. The huge low end of the TRON Legacy score was reproduced without the Guru ever sounding strained or harsh. The detail within the bass was also impressive and massed strings sounded like multiple instruments and not an amorphous mass.
With the room under control, the performance that the Junior gave was extremely impressive and generally very likeable. As well as detailed bass, the information that the Guru’s provided throughout the frequency response was extremely impressive and managed to avoid feeling forced or forward while it did so. If I am being hyper critical, I felt that certain aspects of the midrange didn’t have quite the same weight and body as some of the speakers in this price range that I have had pass through the same system. The Piano that underpins most of Regina Spektor’s Far didn’t sound quite as full as it has done - almost like an electric one had been substituted instead. The effect is never too pronounced but if the recording is somewhat thin, the Guru won’t really beef it up.
The other area where the Juniors might be seen to be at least different from other speakers is the soundstage. Guru recommends a fairly high degree of toe in when placing the Junior and this means that although the presentation that they give has impressive depth and three dimensionality but doesn’t necessarily extend out beyond the speakers. For smaller performances, this means that the scale and layout of the performance is extremely impressive but bigger orchestral pieces can lack a degree of scale in comparison to some other designs at the price point.
Moving the Junior from my well carpeted listening room and sympathetic partnering Naim equipment and taking them downstairs was extremely impressive. My lounge is hardly sparse but with uncarpeted floors and no easy way of getting the Junior right up against the wall, it represented a tougher challenge than my listening room. Despite this and using electronics that are tonally rather different to the Naim equipment, the basic behaviour of the Juniors stayed the same (in fact the valve preamp in the Audio Analogue did go some way to helping fill out the slight leanness in the midrange). This points to the calculations that Guru has made about in-room behaviour are not so absolute to render the Junior useless if used slightly outside them.
- Superb sound in real world environments
- Excellent detail retrieval
- Handsome design and solid build
- Can sound a little lean in the midrange
- Only accept banana plugs
Guru Junior Standmount speaker Review
The way that Guru has gone about voicing the Junior is fairly radical when viewed objectively. The most significant thing I can say about what it is like to live with a speaker designed in this way is that you don’t spend much time analysing how they have gone about it and instead you find yourself enjoying the speakers instead. All too often, a product with a radical design ends up being seen as a test bed for the idea and rarely gets considered on its own merit. This is not the case with the Junior. You could experience a demo of this speaker knowing nothing of the design back story and because the appearance gives nothing away, you will simply listen to it for what it is.
And what it is, is an extremely lively and involving two way speaker with sensational bass performance, explicit timing and superb detail retrieval. It is attractive, well built and considering it is built in Europe, reasonably priced. Depending on your musical tastes and personal preferences you may want a slightly fuller sounding speaker or one that offers a slightly wider soundstage but in looking for a speaker that offers these things, you will lose the Junior’s uncanny ability to work seamlessly in most rooms. Thinking back to my review of the Naim Unitilite, the idea of combining one of those with the Junior is an extremely appealing one. The resulting system would offer a phenomenal feature set with the ability to work in almost any room. This is a seriously clever speaker but one that never lets the cleverness of the concept overwhelm its ability to make great music.
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