The Ultima 60 left these portals having created a broadly positive impression, so will a small price cut and the passing of two years leave a different impression this time around?
The wood effect vinyl wrap applied to the top, sides and rear, is one of the more pleasant looking simulated wood effects I've seen and the gloss black baffle helps to lift the overall impression further. One change from the Ultima 60, is that the baffle is now simply flush to the edges, the surrounding rebate having been dispensed with. It is a cleaner and less fussy look. The final visual change is that the plinth fitted to the 60, has been replaced by four metal feet. Whilst they look smarter they, like the plinth before them, do nothing to extend the footprint of what is a tall, top heavy loudspeaker. The base of the feet is rubberized to protect wooden floors, but doesn't offer the option of fitting spikes, so owners of carpet and rapid moving children/pets beware - these won't be the most stable speaker you have met.
Beneath the twin rear firing reflex ports, placed nice and low down, is the recessed cable terminal tray. Both it and the well fared ports, are nicely flush rebated. The terminals are gold plated and shrouded in clear plastic to help prevent shorting. Bare wire, spades or 4mm 'banana' plugs are all catered for, as is bi-wiring/bi-amping. Now a bi-wiring/bi-amping provision on a three way loudspeaker may seem a little mean, but it actually makes sense. For starters, there's no point in bi-wiring, never mind tri-wiring a speaker at this level. Indeed, anybody willing to shell out on six channels of amplification to tri-amp a £350 loudspeaker could, justifiably, be accused of having lost the plot. What is common enough though, is an unused pair of rear channel surround amplifiers in even the most modest AV receivers.
By allowing the extra pair of terminals, Teufel have allowed you to put them to use which can be of benefit.
Internal inspection reveals an 18mm MDF carcass braced with three horizontal braces. The top one, partitions the mid range driver in it's own sealed cavity, which has a light fill BAF (Bonded Acrylic Fibre) wadding stuck to the rear to help with internal reflections. The lower compartment contains the tweeter, bass drivers, ports and the crossover which is fixed to the rear of the cabinet behind the upper of the two bass drivers. The nine crossover components, whilst modest in number, are of decent size and grade. Nothing from the the 'tweaky' audiophile end of the spectrum, but there are ceramic resistors and air cored inductors all well spaced. Crossover points are 540Hz and 2900Hz. Another light filling of BAF wadding to the sides of the bass cavity complete the internal picture.
The tweeter is a 25mm fabric dome with plastic face plate and ferrite magnet. The face plate is eclipsed by the pressed steel basket of the mid-range driver, in order to make these two, most critical, drivers as coincident as possible.
Contrary to its looks, the mid-range only driver is a cellulose (read paper) cone, dressed to look like a kevlar weave, and is motivated by a moderate sized magnet. The roll surround is quite large for a dedicated mid only driver, perhaps because the same driver is used for mid/bass duties elsewhere in the Ultima range. The aluminium look phase plug, is a plastic extension of the pole piece.
The cellulose coned bass drivers have completely normal convex dust caps and sport the same pressed steel basket as the mid range unit, but have far more massive ferrite magnets, with a deeper motor, promising the greater travel a bass dedicated driver needs.
Breaking it down from the bottom up - Bass is powerful and tuneful, although not especially deep for a speaker of this size. My larger listening room is less helpful (than my old one) at boosting bottom end weight and presents more of a challenge. I still don't think you'll find yourself craving a subwoofer as there's useful output available, even at high levels, down into the low 40Hz region in room. Bass texture is a little on the soft side, but the pitfall of peaking up the bass to provide more kick has been avoided and so bass tunes play quite nicely. Teufel have engineered a sensible balance here.
The bass through to the lower mid, is still handled by the bottom pair of bass drivers that run in parallel up to their 500Hz roll off. In the upper end of this range, significant vocal information is handled by this pair of drivers and I find the output to be excessive, with vocal and speech clarity impacted - It tends to make male voices in particular, sound overly deep, resonant and therefore a bit chesty. This is to the detriment of intelligibility in either busy musical passages, or softly spoken on screen dialogue. It is more normal that where two drivers handle bass information, one will tend to roll off as the baffle step frequency approaches. This removes it's output from the region where the speaker's efficiency increases and the extra output isn't needed, or wanted. This extra overlap, only really affects a 2-300Hz wide range, but as that range is at the bottom of the mid range, the range in which the human ear is most critical, I found it pretty obvious.
This is thrown into sharper relief as the 500Hz crossover to the dedicated mid driver, also heralds a change in tonality as the leaner, cleaner output of this unit takes over. The mid unit isn't an explicit window on detail, but it's generally a reasonably smooth sounding device, that handles it's job in a pleasant fashion, without getting too shouty. Female vocals are handled quite nicely and benefit from the wide bandwidth a dedicated mid range driver offers. Simple acoustic material is actually rather good, with a well conveyed sense of the vocalists range of expression and the leading edges of mid range dynamics are punchy without sounding overly emphasized. The only slight complaint is the way the mid range can start to get a bit crowded as complexity increases, although I would be tempted to point the finger at the lack of absorbing material in the mid range housing. Preventing reflected sound from within the cabinet, re-radiating out through the speaker cone is pretty fundamental and in this, the Ultima 40 betrays it's budget origins.
Topping this all off is the treble, which follows the mid-range lead of being pretty civilized, with only a slight zing added to the top end of cymbals and string instruments. The sibilance zone (circa 7kHz) is pretty well handled and as a balance trade off, I'd again say that Teufel have judged this well. There isn't the detail to let you know whether the percussionist has polished his brass (okay, I am kidding on this one), but at least all of the cymbals and crashes sound distinct rather than just a series of undifferentiated metallic splashes.
The extra zing, whilst not accurate, isn't overbearing and helps add an impression of top end air and is ameliorated by firing the speakers dead ahead, which worked best for stereo imaging anyway. This is one area where I found the Teufel Ultima 40s did rather well, probably because of the wide, coherent range handled by the mid range driver and the close proximity of the tweeter. Although I won't claim there was any real depth to the sound stage, the lack of excessive mid emphasis stopped vocalists from sounding like they were overly large and performing in your lap, the solid image sitting nicely between the speakers. Other images were restricted to much the same plane between the speakers, but were well defined in position and even sounds biased heavily toward one side (as opposed to only coming from one side) didn't trip up and simply collapse into sounding like they were a left/right mono sound.
- Big speaker, with satisfying bass
- Good, if imposing looks
- Well made for the price
- Comfortable with other budget components
- Buy on-line without risk
- Huge warranty
- Equaled or bettered by smaller 2.5 way speakers
- Complexity sacrifices all round competence
- Very big
- Not very stable
Teufel Ultima 40 Floorstanding Loudspeakers review
It's difficult to know how to judge the Teufel Ultima 40s. You certainly can't complain about material value and cosmetically, they look very tidy indeed. The Ultima 40 is one helluva lot of speaker for £350 and they're comfortable crunching out pop and rock at high volumes, off moderate front end components, without exposing any weaknesses further up the chain.
For me, the problem is that in a range that offers a product at virtually every conceivable price point and market niche, the Ultima 40 is trying to occupy a niche that isn't really needed and sacrifices a bit too much trying to do so. Yes, three way loudspeakers can offer significant advantages, but the corollary to that is that they cost more to do it and that trying to do it at this price point, is sacrificing too much. For instance a dedicated mid range can offer extraordinary vocal coherence but if, by employing one, you have to give up the use of sufficient damping materials to absorb it's rearward output, then you may as well just use a two way. Equally, twin bass drivers are lovely for bottom end performance, but two is one too many, if you aren't going to roll one off where it isn't needed.
Ultimately, the issue is that whilst I felt the Ultima 60 just about offered enough strengths against the market place of two years ago, things have moved on and the Ultima 40 hasn't, or at least not enough. Simpler, smaller two and two and a half way speakers are cheaper and easier to execute successfully. They spread their component budget less thinly and as a result, offer a more even performance, with less areas of obvious compromise.
The Teufel Ultima 40s do have their strengths and you do have to weigh in the advantage of the buy 'n' try marketing model that effectively removes the risk of buying on-line, as does the huge 12 year warranty. However, for me, I'd say they're worth a look if they fit your bill, but are a too uneven to warrant recommendation.
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