There are a lot of high-priced loudspeakers here at the Florida International Audio Expo, and each of the various designs can be described as ambitious, from the speaker’s architecture and driver complement to the cabinet material and build quality. But having heard Ammar Jadusingh’s dual-speaker Soundfield Audio Obelisk T710 loudspeaker system, which retails for $15,000 (in USD), I can confidently say that his new loudspeaker system is the most ambitious product at the show. Let me explain.
Conceptually, the Obelisk T710 is a fully active, variable-directivity loudspeaker system sold as a pair comprising a primary and secondary speaker. The system can also be room-corrected with Jadusingh’s help. Each mid-sized tower houses a three-channel Hypex Ncore DSP amplifier generating 600W. There are actually five drivers in each cabinet: a front-mounted GRS planar-magnetic tweeter, a SEAS Excel coaxial driver below it, a 10″ Dayton Audio subwoofer at the bottom, a 7″ Wavecor woofer on the bottom rear (the Wavecor woofer operates as a cancellation driver for generating cardioid bass), and one 3″ wideband ambiance driver on the top rear. A digital coaxial umbilical connects the primary and secondary speakers. An IR receiver in the primary speaker allows you to use the included remote control to select from one of three output modes, and it also controls the volume. The primary speaker has balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analog inputs, as well as optical (TosLink) and coaxial (RCA) S/PDIF inputs. The only provided specification is a frequency response of 40Hz–22kHz, ±2dB, with a -6dB point of 20Hz. This is a legitimately full-range speaker system despite each cabinet standing a mere 44″ tall.
The system has three modes: Narrow, Wide, and Omni. The 7″ and 10″ woofers in each speaker operate identically in each setting, with the 7″ woofer working to cancel rearward bass energy, making the T710’s bass output more directional, and therefore better controlled. DSP helps maximize both extension and bass control, with the intention being that the T710 should put out far more bass than a similarly sized passive loudspeaker, doing so in a more controlled manner. In Narrow mode, the SEAS coax driver partners the subs in the vein of a traditional dynamic loudspeaker. Wide mode sees the coax driver’s tweeter disabled, and the planar tweeter turned on, resulting in less stereo image specificity but yielding a wider soundscape. In Omni mode, the planar tweeter and the coaxial driver’s midrange remain activated, but the rear-firing 3″ wideband driver is activated for a more omnidirectional sound.
If your eyes are starting to glaze over, I don’t blame you. There’s a lot that Soundfield has tried to do with this design. But hearing is believing. I had no idea about either Soundfield or its T710 system when I walked into the room, but was gobsmacked by the towers’ sound after only a few moments of listening.
On “Hey Now” by London Grammar in Narrow mode, I loved how clearly articulated the entire soundstage was. I could aurally peer from one side to the other, focus on Hannah Reid’s vocal, or cast my attention to the various effects that danced around her. And then there was the bassline. Oh, the bass. The T710 setup produced some of the tightest and most impactful bass I heard at the FIAE. The cardioid bass configuration performed superbly in a suboptimal hotel-room listening space.
Switching to Wide mode broadened the lateral soundstage at the expense of image definition. Reid’s voice was suddenly a touch more diffuse, even as the space in which she sang expanded beyond each loudspeaker cabinet’s outer wall. I can imagine there are tracks in my personal collection that would benefit from Wide mode, but it was my least favorite of the Obelisk T710’s three settings.
Jadusingh finally activated Omni mode. With the 3″ rear-firing wideband driver springing to life, soundstage depth dramatically increased, pushing well beyond the room’s front wall. The effect was pretty wild on “Hey Now,” but was most satisfying on the more expansive instrumental works that Jadusingh proceeded to queue up. The soundstage was positively cavernous; talk about a portal into the performance. While the spatial presentation of the sound changed, the fundamentals remained: clear soundstaging, excellent spatial definition within the soundstage, and deep transparency to the source material.
The Soundfield demo was fascinating. I used to own a pair of omnidirectional Mirage OMD-28 omni-polar loudspeakers. While laser-cut stereo imaging was not that pair’s strong suit, there were many cuts that I adored playing through them that just don’t hit the same way with my current reference loudspeaker, KEF’s Reference 3. Conversely, the majority of my music sounds better on my KEFs than it would on the older Mirages, given the special imaging abilities of the KEFs’ Uni-Q driver arrays. But what if I could have both talents in the same loudspeaker and switch between them from my couch? I think it’s a terrific idea, implemented—at first blush, at least—really well.
The further down this audiophile hole that I fall, the more I realize that my preconceptions— whether through a product’s physical design, cost, measurements, etc.—color my judgment. To my thinking, the better approach is to check my biases at the door, listen with an open mind, and see where the journey takes me. Well, listening is believing, and Soundfield Audio’s Obelisk T710 is not only the most ambitious loudspeaker system at the FIAE; it’s one of the best-sounding, too.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!