Teufel Ultima 60 Floorstanding Speakers

AVForums checks out the new stereo speakers from Teufel

by AVForums
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Teufel Ultima 60 Floorstanding Speakers
SRP: £356.00

Introduction

When I heard that I was getting the Teufel Ultima 60s, I was none the wiser as to what was coming. I was going to have to look at their website which if you ever have, shows one of the most staggeringly large ranges of products you will ever see. They may be a new name in the UK, but ranges of that scope don't turn up overnight – Teufel have been running for 30 odd years so are no newcomer. Virtually every shape, size and kind of loudspeaker is covered, and it can look a touch confusing at first glance. However, a few seconds of burrowing showed that I was to get a comparatively straight forward pair of stereo floor-standers which, if I'm clear on this, are from Teufel's current top end stereo speaker range, with only one other model sitting above them. So I left it there and waited for them to turn up.

Having not paid too much attention, I was slightly surprised by the size of the pair of boxes turned up and it required a good amount of effort to heft them into my car. Taking them out of the packaging didn't do a lot to diminish the size; the Ultima 60s are comfortably above average in size. Whilst not overly large in any one direction, being 102x21x32cms, they are quite an imposing presence and weight a not inconsiderable 18kg each. The packaged foam protection is not overly generous and indeed one of my pair had a clear courier drop 'ding' on one corner of the box which had dented a corner of the plinth on the corresponding speaker. I didn't notice this until I took the speakers out of the box a day later, so I would recommend that anybody receiving a pair inspect the carton carefully before signing for them.

Tech

So what do you get for your money? Clearly quite a large speaker and a full four driver, true three way speaker at that. Fronted by gloss black baffle, the rounded corner cabinet sports a vinyl wood effect wrap that looks pretty convincing if you don't look too closely. Visual details are tidy with the drivers rebated flush into the front baffle, which itself stands slightly proud of the cabinet and is matched in shape by the MDF and cloth grill. On the rear the veneer continues, with two flared and flush rebated ports for the bass drivers, plus the bi-wire/bi-amp capable speaker cable terminals, joined by the obligatory flat metal jumper bars. In a three way speaker, you might expect a tri-wire terminal – one for each driver section but here, the mid and treble units enjoy one pair of terminals, the bass drivers the other. If you're only going to split three drivers two ways, this would be the way to do it. Less forgivable is the very loose fit afforded to 4mm banana plugs, which remained loose even when I swapped plugs. I'd recommend spades or bare wire inserted directly through the terminal as they can be screwed down tight enough by hand although even that is a bit finicky if you have sausage fingers like mine.

Returning to the drivers and starting at the top, the dedicated midrange driver is a 150mm nominal (125mm effective) diameter unit with a Kevlar weave cone and pole-piece mounted phase plug. The basket is pressed steel rolled over to form a flat, alloy effect outer face. This will deform if you over tighten the four allen head self tapping screws that secure it, so you compulsive bolt tighteners, beware! The screws bite into the cabinet well and hold the driver firmly. The motor is of a good size and along with the sizeable rubber surround, leads me to suspect this unit may also be employed as a mid/bass unit elsewhere in the range. To complete the picture, the midrange driver is completely separated from the rest of the cabinet in its own sub enclosure formed by a solid brace just beneath it.

Teufel Ultima 60

The bottom 80% of the cabinet contains the rest of the drivers, starting with the tweeter. A 25mm soft fabric dome, it is loaded by a shallow flair in its faceplate, which is plastic. The faceplate is scalloped to accommodate the bottom of the mid driver basket, thus moving the acoustic centre of the two drivers closer together. Below, are the twin dedicated bass drivers. Sharing the same basket as the mid driver, they have much larger motors with vented pole pieces to assist cooling and alleviate air pressure behind the plastic dust caps. The cones are moulded with a fine weave texture, but are in fact a lightly doped paper cone. This half of the cabinet has a goodly amount of stuffing and the crossover board screwed to the rear of the cabinet, but no further internal bracing.

To complete the picture, the whole cabinet is mounted on a separate gloss black plinth. Which adds about 25mm to the overall height and looks nice, but adds little otherwise. As it doesn't extend the footprint of the cabinet, it adds nothing to the stability and even exacerbates it slightly by only coming equipped with four, non-adjustable rubber feet. There are no spikes supplied, nor any provision for fitting them. Fine for those with minimalist wood or laminate floors, but not for those of us with acoustically preferable carpet and a newly mobile 11 month old barrelling around the house.

So, a technologically straight forward picture of pleasant good looks that is eye catching with the grill off, but surprisingly discrete with it on.

The kit

My usual Audiolab CD player and surround processor were used throughout, but power amps variously jumped between a pair of Audiolab mono-blocks, a Cinepro 2k6 6 channel amp and an Onkyo TX-NR5007 that turned up late in the day. Positioning resulted in the speakers being pointed directly at the listening seat and about 60cm from the rear wall and 90cm from side walls. Any closer, and you have to start plugging ports to reduce the bass output. Grills were left off as they subtracted just a hint of sparkle.

Sound

Teufel Ultima 60

These speakers have quite a prodigious and deep bass output that can, if you don't have the room to pull them clear of walls, err on the side of too much. Plugging a port lowers the bass tune slightly and also reduces a touch of bass energy, but those with a larger room may well prefer both ports open for that extra power. Tonally, bass was tuneful with the power and texture of deep notes conveyed well, showing the natural advantage a full sized speaker has in this department. One or two of the basso drops in Madonna's 'Ray of Light' CD were portrayed with a power and depth I've seldom heard without a subwoofer in tow.

This size advantage also shows up in the efficiency of driving the speakers. I wouldn't quite get your single ended triodes out for these lads, but they'll work well enough with amps of more modest power than I had on tap, even though they are rated at a 4O nominal load. Even at high levels and Ultima 60s do go loud, the amps never got more than warm to the touch, so I'd suggest (by seat-of-the-pants measurement) that the 4O load is fairly benign, as opposed to some supposedly 8O speakers that are anything but. A good fifty Watter should suffice.

I digress. Back to the bass and if I were to level a criticism, it would be that kick drums thudded a bit more than they thwacked. The leading edge of each kick was being softened slightly. This suggests that dynamically, the Ultima 60s are a touch soft low down, but I noticed this effect less with electronic or rock music and more with acoustic recordings and yet bass tunes bounced along quite nicely without dragging their feet. I am left wondering if the lack of solid mounting provided by spikes is partially to blame here? There is a lot of (moving) mass up high that would benefit from being anchored more firmly.

Moving up to the midrange and voice was clear and expressive, without being at all shouty or hard and dynamically, we were on much firmer ground. Guitar, electric or acoustic, had bite and was able to convey how hard the instrument was being played very well. Piano had an equally impressive attack to the leading edge of notes suffering none of the (slight) softness lower down the scale. The only notable blot was was a slight lower mid thickening that I think comes from the bass half of the cabinet resonating in sympathy. It gives a slightly 'cuppy' colouration that adds a touch of chestiness to some voices and blurs the differences between two similar instruments that predominate in that region of frequencies. Rodrigo y Gabriella's eponymously titled CD didn't have the subtle differentiation to convince you they are playing different makes of guitar and during louder more complex passages it tended to collapse into sounding like one huge guitar full stop. By comparison, I noted it was particularly easy on during 'The Sky is Frozen' on the Ray of Light CD to pick out some of the weird and wonderful instruments that pop up in the rear of this dense layered mix. Zithers and things I don't even have names for are all in there.

At the top end, the soft dome tweeter's absolute level is very civilized and not all in your face in the way some AV biased speakers are voiced in order to throw the illusion of detail at you. Integration with the mid range is smooth with no obvious change in character through the crossover region. Detail levels are good enough, with only the finest details being glossed over. The ever present cymbals in Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five' were clean and clearly metallic, with only the subtle differences of each stroke being slightly diminished. That is far preferable compromise to a nasty insistent splashiness that makes all cymbals sound like a crash and is depressingly easy to find these days. A touch of spitty sibilance was evident on some voices but it seemed slightly higher in frequency than normal, so it seemed less of an issue than it might. I may be a bit critical here as I'm used to ribbon tweeters that are very clean in this regard.

Teufel Ultima 60

Imaging is very good in the plane between the speakers, with a slight flattening of the sound stage front to back, lacking the airy space compared to the best that would add that depth and height. Images hang free of the speakers creating a believable sound stage within their limits and voices, perhaps because of the colouration noted earlier, project solidly out front.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Full sized speaker with a full blooded sound
  • Easy to listen to quietly
  • Goes very loud
  • Tunable through port bunging to suit a wide range of rooms
  • Easy to drive
  • Undemanding of partnering equipment
  • Huge warranty
  • Value for money

The Bad

  • It is large by modern standards (this is the fault of modern standards)
  • Only one finish/colour option
  • Slight softness at the very bottom end
  • Not as transparent as the best at the price
  • Colouration evident in lower mid
  • Not at a showroom near you (but 8 week home trial)

Teufel Ultima 60 Floorstanding Speakers

Now, I must confess that in the rush not to prejudice this review by reading too much in advance, the one thing I didn't know about the Ultima 60s until quite late in the day was their price. Finding out that the Ultima 60s only retail for £178 each; that's £356 per pair, was quite a surprise to put it mildly. At £360(ish), to my knowledge the number of true three way, four driver floor-standers is not large.

It became apparent during their stay, that here is a pair of speakers comfortable crunching out rock, pop, dance and electronica in general in a confident and often impressive fashion. They go loud and comfortably off not a lot of Watts and equally, their easy going nature isn't going to result in a forensic dissection of less than stellar kit further up the audio chain. Equally, they sound good when fed a really first class quality pressing, but don't descend into sounding like a transistor radio when presented with a mix clearly dynamically compressed for radio airplay. Those CDs that sound good in your car, will still sound good at home if the Ultima 60s are involved. This is not a bad ability to have at any price.

Equally, I found then to be capable 2.0 movie speaker; not everybody has the room or a partner willing to accommodate more than a pair of coffins in the front room. Whilst I won't kid you that these will replace a full 5.1 rig, they're at least as capable as some of the offerings I've heard being sold as subwoofers when it comes to rattling the furniture. Then again as they offer the equivalent radiating area of an 8” woofer in a 40L cabinet and there's two of them, so it shouldn't be a surprise they're no shrinking violet in this regard. Push them against a wall and they should lift you clean out of your seat on the big hits.

The flip side to all of this is that those with a taste erring toward small scale vocal and/or acoustic recordings where the source material quality tends to be more of a given, may find they are better served by a simpler speaker that maybe doesn't make such a concerted bid for full bandwidth, high volume status at the expense of ultimate detail retrieval and accuracy. Subtle tonal shadings and the finer touches of instrumental technique tend to be glossed over by the Ultima 60s, which leaves them feeling a touch bland and expressionless in exactly the way they're not with more mainstream fayre.

Teufel Ultima 60

And this I think sums up the Teufel Ultima 60s; in trying to tick all of the boxes, they might have missed a few goals that a simpler design might have hit. In theory a three way is great, but it doesn't really offer any additional output over a two-and-a-half way and certainly does add an extra level of cost and complexity to fit into a given budget. The plinth looks nice, but is more expensive than and less effective than supplying spikes and rubber studs for those with wooden floors. A gloss black baffle is nice, but it isn't very glossy and I'd happily trade it for something plain and have an extra internal brace to damp the cabinet.

I don't want to damn with faint praise. If you have mainstream tastes, want a capable room filling loudspeaker on a budget, then I heartily recommend you take Teufel up on their eight week (Yup! That's 8 weeks!) return or exchange policy (return shipping at your cost) and if they do stay put, remain safe in the knowledge that they come with a twelve year warranty. If your tastes are less mainstream then there are likely to be speakers better suited to your purposes and this compromise is reflected in my marking below.

Put it another way; if you favour Radio 1 or 2 over 3 or 4, these may be right up your street and you can add one notch to the music and overall scores.

Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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