With speakers, drivers, and most audio equipment, the truth is that bigger is almost always better. More space means more resonance, more weight means more air displacement potential, larger circuitry allows for more separation so that components don’t overheat or have power issues.
But bigger typically means ugly, more obvious, and less attractive, not to mention that few people have space in Manhattan apartments for huge speakers or other gear of any sort.
The Audience ClairAudient The ONE speakers balance these competing needs and demands nicely, treading the thin line between “too small to offer much bass performance” and “too big for your wife, girlfriend, or interior designer to be OK with”.
Glossy black cabinets are ideally sized, with dimensions (7″ x 5.5″ x 9.75″ and only four pounds each) that can fit on a large desk or take their home in a mid-sized room for your home entertainment system.
These aren’t floor-standing units but come with nice stands to allow the right angle for near-field listening, similar to a two-speaker bookshelf system. Made to perform well without a subwoofer component, we tested them out primarily on their own, in a wide array of circumstances. If you can appreciate great headphones, there is absolutely no reason not to have a set of these on your desktop, and invest in amazing sound.
At this price level, you expect, and you’ll immediately notice that you’re listening to a vastly different range. The better the recordings, the better your amplifier, the better these will perform.
The 25-watt ONEs feature a proprietary A3-S titanium crossover-less full-range driver and are built specifically to avoid crossover that can drain your sound, with nothing to distort phasing.
They offer finesse over power, depth over oomph, but pack a huge wallop for speakers their size. In fact, we challenge you to a blind listening test- we haven’t found a speaker nearly this size anywhere near this price range that can offer sound as detailed and full-spectrum.
You’ll find better lower bass frequency response with many 2.1 systems, but we haven’t heard anything like The One for an integrated, dual-component setup with only a passive radiator.
Even at higher volumes, there was no audible distortion and we only reached their limits when we placed the speakers near the corner walls of a large room and found the separation a little thin and too airy for movies and hip-hop at their loudest.
When you move, naturally, single-driver speakers are a little too precise, and the sound field gets limited- hence they are optimal for near-field use.
We burned them in for about forty hours, noticing more warmth and greatly improved high frequencies as we did so. Slip-on albums like Radiohead’s Kid A for a sonic exploration where The ONEs can fire on all cylinders, or try something jazzier like Brooklyn Babylon from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, one of our favorite albums of 2013 and one that will quickly ruin you- with steampunk big band sounds that are phenomenal on great equipment but incredibly harsh and too dissonant on lower-end systems that can’t keep up.
Basically, the ONEs are exceptional for their size, and well worth their price tag, performing like speakers twice their footprint. Rich and forward, they offer the detail of studio monitors while being a little warmer instead of a boring, tonally neutral.
They are pretty easy to use and set up as well, since they play nicely with a wide range of other equipment (in our case, the Arcam amplifier we have on-hand, along with the Antelope Zodiac DAC we bring out for special occasions).
Our only real criticisms of The ONES from Audience stem from the glossy cabinets, which attracted fingerprints, as well as the slightly ugly front of the speaker when the magnetic grills are removed.
Normally, we prefer speakers with visible drivers, but here the matte metal and sparkly wood don’t mesh well. Available directly from Audience for under $1000, The ONEs won’t disappoint- whether you’re an audiophile, or just really appreciate great music.