Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers

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vonwaffen

Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« on: 22 Feb 2007, 02:11 am »
    Review of Timepiece 2.1

     Before I begin my thoughts on this wonderful monitor, I feel a brief history is in order as it will give a better perspective of how I luckily stumbled upon Bob Smith of SP Technology and his products.

     In January of 2006, I attended what is known as “The Show” at the St. Tropez hotel in Las Vegas. For those unfamiliar, it’s pretty much an all audio component show in contrast to the CES show which includes audio components as well as other electrical products. I make this distinction so the reader understands that for the most part, many of
the best audio components across national & international markets do find their way to “The Show.” Hence, one had the pleasure of hearing/demoing a plethora of fantastic products in slight walking distance of one and other as each vendor had a hotel room and or suite where those like myself could sit and listen to the products of their choice.

     While attending this show, I had the pleasure of hearing many components. Since I was in the need for a new pair of speakers, I visited at least 10 different manufactures. Moreover, the prices of these speakers ranged from about $1500.00 to over $100,000.00 a pair. I tried to be realistic about my price range, but that would kill the fun so I listened to as many speakers as I could.
     
    To my surprise (as this was my first show) there were many manufacturers I’d never heard of before as well as the Von Schweikerts, Cabasse’s, and other top names in the industry. As time went on and I listened and re-listened to different offerings, I kept being drawn back to the SP Technology room where their flagship model called the Revelation was being played. I was not alone either for the listening couch was always occupied and many times there was standing room only in their suite. Frankly, the dynamics and musicality of these speakers left an indelible impression on me. So much so, about 6 months after the show, I contacted Bob Smith (whom I had the pleasure to meet at the show) and purchased a pair of his Timepiece 2.1 monitors.

     The Timepieces arrived extremely well packed via a trucking company for they are quite large and heavy as monitors go. What struck me was the sheer size of the cabinet as it was 21.5” high, 12.5” wide and 15 ¾ deep. Frankly, it’s the biggest monitor I’ve ever seen and I mean that in a good way. Plus, they weigh about 65lbs each and feel extremely stout and solid to the touch. I understand the large box size accounts for the impressive frequency dept as the bass is just phenomenal, (more on that later) Also, the physical attributes and construction of the speakers made me feel good about the money spent in a world where prices seem to rise and quality seems to drop. And yes, I do realize the sound is the determining factor, but it was nice to see/feel what a good bang for the buck the workmanship revealed. Furthermore, and I mean no degradation to any manufacturer, but I’ve seen speakers 5 times the price which did not rival the overall physical presence these monitors represented.
   
     For set up, I put them on 24inch stands 5ft from the back wall, 3.5 ft from the side walls and close to 10ft apart. My listening room is pretty large at 17ft wide, 28ft deep, with 8 ft ceilings. Moreover, I sit about 16-18ft back from the speakers. Furthermore, my system consists of Quicksilver tube mono-blocks (great products) a Placette passive pre (fine gear as well) a Pioneer jukebox CD player with a Monarchy Classic DIP to re-clock things and lower the jitter as well as a Kora tube DAC. I listen to a variety of music from Johnny Cash, to the old Stones/Beatles, to Norah Jones, pop rock from the late 60s, early 70s to Classical and all in between.
   
     The first thing I noticed about the Timepieces was their fantastic reproduction and extension of the lower registers. Low and mid bass is extremely enjoyable/accurate and one can easily hear the bass lines do their thing. Hence, I realized the bigger enclosure really paid off as the Timepieces dropped amazingly low. Also, the sound-stage is quite large/wide instead of that pinpoint type focus monitors are known for. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised for the last time my sound-stage was like this was when I was running Magnepan 111a’s. The mids were quite focused/detailed as well and reminded me of another nice pair of speakers I had called the Tyler 7U which although fine floor-standers, in my opinion, could not reproduce the lower frequencies like the Timepieces. Furthermore, I’m sure the tubes play their part, but the vocals, whether male or female were never forward or offensive with the Timepieces unless the CD was horribly recorded. The highs were very natural too with cymbals and high-hats, prominent without being aggressive or harsh.

     To me though, the real signature of these monitors are their musicality. I did listen to many of my old Cds and definitely heard things I’ve not heard since I used albums. I know that’s a strong statement, but there was a fullness and non-fatiguing timbre which brought back wonderful memories. Actually, all the Cds I played, both old and new, sounded more open with a fullness and substance at the bottom, which I’ve not heard in any speaker I’ve ever owned. I would also mention I never found the Timepieces to be overly analytical, just detailed, full, and quite musical. Plus, on the better recorded Cds, the instruments were wonderfully positioned across the sound-stage front to back and side to side with a depth that created a 3d type of impression on the right material. Moreover, all these observations were made at moderate listening levels. So, of course, what red-blooded American would not take the opportunity to give them some juice? Especially, having heard the Revelations at the Show and knowing Bob’s speakers like to be revved a bit. Frankly, I was shocked how well the sonics stayed true as I gave them the gas. Actually, in my opinion, they sounded better as I added the power and they reached levels much higher than I would ever listen for extended periods. I guess it’s just comforting to know it’s there if you need it. And let’s be honest, I think we all blast our systems every once in a while. Furthermore, although I never pushed my 100 watt tube mono-blocks into the red, the dynamics and realism just exploded as I sat back and let the music envelope me. Better yet, it delightfully pinned me to my chair like I was 21 again.

    On a somewhat technical note, and although I wish not to repeat the same old descriptions, I must say these speakers bring out the most in your ancillary components, whether good or bad---and from what I’ve learned, that’s precisely what a great transducer is supposed to do.

    Next, I’d like to add my thoughts pertaining to some kind of numeric evaluation based on a 1-10 scale. Please note, I hesitate to give any speaker a 10 rating in any category as I’ve surely not listened to everything out there. The customer service issue is another thing though and I’ve had nothing but honest, friendly, and forthright dealings with Bob Smith of SP Technology and truly recommend him and his products to the fullest degree.

   
    Performance:        :   9.5 
    Value                    :   9.25
    Build quality         :   9.5
    Customer service  :  10

    In closing, aside from the many attributes I’ve given these monitors, I truly feel one would have to spend quite a bit more to equal the overall performance these speakers offer. I say this not only from listening to my pair, but from listening to some well known manufactures at the aforementioned audio show whose offerings were priced 6-10 times the current price of the Timepiece.

     Again, I’m not a professional reviewer. I’m a music lover who over the years has tried like many of us, to put together the most satisfying and dynamic, yet realistic and natural audio system possible within budgetary constraints. To that end, I find the Timepiece 2.1 monitors to be an A+ transducer and quite an achievement at any price point.

    Please feel free to e-mail any questions and I’ll get to them as quick as possible.
    Thanks for reading this review and God Bless,
    Paul               


« Last Edit: 20 Apr 2007, 12:32 pm by SP Pres »

Aether Audio

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Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #1 on: 22 Feb 2007, 01:54 pm »
vonwaffen,

THANKS!!! :thumb: :green:

Everyone,

Vonwaffen & Double Ugly are the first two customers to receive systems that have had the new crossover topology implemented.  As we can see, vonwaffen uses tube amplification.  FYI, the new topology and resultant smoothing of the electrical impedance has made all of our products MUCH more tube friendly. 

Although...it's interesting to note that neither of these gentlemen have experienced the improvement provided by the new Mundorf woofer inductor/crossover components.  I can't imagine how one can get better than all "+9s" in a review, but I'm certain that had either of them experienced it, their comments would be filled with even more superlatives!

-Bob

TomS

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #2 on: 22 Feb 2007, 02:12 pm »
Vonwaffen & Double Ugly are the first two customers to receive systems that have had the new crossover topology implemented.
Bob,

So does all current production as well as what you have as demo's in house at SP now have these changes?

Tom

Russell Dawkins

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #3 on: 22 Feb 2007, 06:10 pm »
Vonwaffen & Double Ugly are the first two customers to receive systems that have had the new crossover topology implemented.  As we can see, vonwaffen uses tube amplification.  FYI, the new topology and resultant smoothing of the electrical impedance has made all of our products MUCH more tube friendly. 
Although...it's interesting to note that neither of these gentlemen have experienced the improvement provided by the new Mundorf woofer inductor/crossover components. 

Bob, congratulations on the new crossover breakthrough! You must be feeling great to find out that there was that much more potential already within the design.

I am now a little confused, though. My impression up to this post was that this involved mainly the inductor and to a lesser extent a capacitor upgrade. I am wondering whether the new topology to which you refer applies to my pair since you say that Double Ugly and Vonwaffen are the first two to receive the new topology. Is this different from what I have in mine?

ooheadsoo

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #4 on: 22 Feb 2007, 06:40 pm »
Not to speak for Bob, but on Feb 3rd, Bob posted

Quote
New crossover components along with a new crossover topology have really brought those products into a whole other league of performance.  To be quite frank, it is highly unlikely that their performance will ever exceed the level that they are at now.

Maybe Bob or others in the know like DU can share more about this new crossover.  New zobel filter?

Double Ugly

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #5 on: 22 Feb 2007, 07:17 pm »
Vonwaffen & Double Ugly are the first two customers to receive systems that have had the new crossover topology implemented.
Bob,

So does all current production as well as what you have as demo's in house at SP now have these changes?

Tom

Hi Tom,

I'm not Bob, but I don't believe *any* speakers contain the latest topology change aside from those owned by myself and Paul (vonwaffen).  That said, I don't think anyone aside from Karsten has the Mundorf crossover upgrade yet, including Bob.


I am now a little confused, though. My impression up to this post was that this involved mainly the inductor and to a lesser extent a capacitor upgrade. I am wondering whether the new topology to which you refer applies to my pair since you say that Double Ugly and Vonwaffen are the first two to receive the new topology. Is this different from what I have in mine?

I remember your crossover (and woofer, I think) being upgraded a while back, but wasn't there an additional change/upgrade?  I can't be sure, but check our e-mail communication from 13 Dec 06 and see if anything rings a bell.


Not to speak for Bob, but on Feb 3rd, Bob posted

Quote
New crossover components along with a new crossover topology have really brought those products into a whole other league of performance.  To be quite frank, it is highly unlikely that their performance will ever exceed the level that they are at now.

Maybe Bob or others in the know like DU can share more about this new crossover.  New zobel filter?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but since I'm not sure it's warranted, I'll begin by saying Bob is the expert, and what I'm about to say is at least incomplete.  Hopefully Bob will correct any mistakes.

Big picture (which is all I know  :oops:):  Excluding the Mundorf upgrade, I believe the latest changes to the crossover topology results in two major changes -

  •   The impedance curve is further smoothed, and I believe it is also raised even further than before (thus Paul's fantastic results w/ tube amps).
  •   A change to the tweeter circuit (maybe the Zobel network, too?) that to my ears made as big an improvement as anything Bob has done to date.

There was also a recent change in the material Bob uses for stuffing, and I *think* he also changed something in the 'way' he stuffs the speakers.  I wish I could say more, and would if I had the slightest idea anything else I have to say would be remotely accurate.  Truth is, I know what the result sounds like, but I'm far from an expert on how the sound was achieved.  Maybe from now one I should ensure Bob sends me an e-mail every time he discovers a new upgrade so I can share them when asked.  :wink:

I'm sure Bob will be by soon to correct my mistakes and expand on what he's really done in a way that will be clear to everyone.

Sorry I couldn't be more help!   :oops:

-Jim

TomS

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #6 on: 22 Feb 2007, 07:28 pm »
You know you're really growing quickly as a company when the discussion suddenly turns from just getting good product out the door to the joys of configuration management/version control (on crossovers) :thumb:

Aether Audio

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Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #7 on: 22 Feb 2007, 11:38 pm »
Tom S,

Well, yes and no.  The current production is in process of being built as I write.  As far as they go, the crossovers aren't even built yet.  The demo units do have the new topology but they’re going to be upgraded with the Mundorf parts as soon as they begin arriving.  Essentially, it’s easier to build whole new crossovers than to take the ones in those units apart and replace the parts.  Essentially, everything will be “new” that goes out the door or sets in our demo areas once Mundorf gets the parts to us.

Russell,

Your units are a bit of a hybrid.  They are the closest pair out there to this final design, but there are a couple of capacitor/resistor value changes that yours lack.  It’s a long story but Double Ugly loaned his original pair out to Jim Merod, who then forwarded his pair back to us.  We then upgraded that pair to the final topology and shipped them to D.U. After that pair went out to D.U., vonwaffen purchased his pair.

Don’t worry, just e-mail me about this and we’ll get you fixed up.

Oh, and as to how I’m feeling right now?    :hyper::bounce: :dance:


ooheadsoo & D.U.,

So...there are a few demented minds such as myself that are interested in such mundane little technical details?!  OK, you asked for it.

To begin, a little background is in order.  The biggest source of benefit and headache in our designs is the waveguide.  Obviously, not every speaker has one of those things so their implementation is not as straight forward as a simple woofer & tweeter in a box.  Such designs may be boring and low tech, but these days "boring" would be a nice change of pace. :?

Anyway, the waveguide produces an acoustic gain effect (increased SPL) at the bottom end of the tweeter's operating range.  The combined tweeter/waveguide system exhibits 10dB of more output in a frequency range centered on either side of about 1.5KHz.  Above 5KHz, the output is the same as if the tweeter were mounted in a flat baffle.

Well, if this big 10dB "hump" in the frequency response were not corrected for by an equalizer circuit, it would sound horrible!  So...we have a passive network (engineering term - band reject filter) that is a subsection of the complete crossover.  The problem arises from the fact that the reactive impedance's of this network will interact with the traditional "High-Pass" part of the crossover in a very complex way.  10dB is a lot of gain to try and attenuate over a limited band while avoiding interaction with the other components in the network.  Invariably, the selection of components is a difficult process because many more than one set of values will achieve the desired "flat frequency response."  The problem is that any given set of values will exhibit their own unique "terminal impedance" as seen by the driving amplifier.

The set of all possible combinations that give a flat response is just a shade shy of infinite.  There are 3 possible ways to pick the best combination that yields both a flat frequency response and the smoothest electrical impedance.  The first is to model it mathematically on paper.  Even an EE with a P.H.D. wouldn't want to tackle that by long hand - and I sure ain't no P.H.D.

The second way is to do the modelling via computer.  Problem is, you have to have the software that will allow you to import the actual frequency response from the driver, as well as it's electrical specifications.  This is the 21st century way of doing it, even if you don't have to have any brains.  Well, when we started building these things, that software didn't exist, or if it did, it was way too expensive.  Besides, the hardware wasn't up to snuff back then anyway.  Now days the stuff that's out there will do everything but get your coffee for you. So in lieu of that option, we followed the third approach.

The third option is...run some basic numbers to get component values in the ballpark.  Then...fly by the seat of your pants.  Use your intuition and take measurements.  Adjust values and repeat - ad infinitum.  Hopefully you're sanity will remain intact when you're done and the impedance won't be too bad.  If it is, back to the dungeon until it's acceptable.  In a lot of cases "acceptable" is about the best you can hope for.

Well, along the way we picked up the software...and since then I've been too darn busy to learn it!!!  So, I just went with what I know and toiled over my test bench until I got the darn thing right. 

Specifically, 1 coil went away, 1 coil went up in value, 1 coil went way down in value, 1 capacitor went way down in value, 1 went up in value, one resistor changed in value and 1 resistor was added.  Then, another tweeter compensation network of 1 coil, 1 capacitor and 1 resistor went away completely! - No longer needed.  As far as what each of these parts does, we don't have the space, I don't have the time and trust me...you DON'T want to know!  Hell, for the time it's cost me, I wish I didn't.  Oh yeah, no offense intended but...HA! it sure wasn't as simple as a stupid little Zobel network!

Anyway...that's the scoop.  Now aren't you sorry you asked?  :green:

PS.  The stuffing issue is my little secret.  You can't expect a girl to give them all up can you? (No!...I'm not really a girl.) :lol:

TomS

Thanks!  Yeah, things are getting a little hectic around here lately.  I guess the NuForce S-9 project has had several benefits.  The time it's taken to do it has given us the time needed to refine everything else.  Along the way, I guess folks have figured out that we're not as dimb as we look. aa

-Bob


« Last Edit: 22 Feb 2007, 11:51 pm by SP Pres »

Aether Audio

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Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #8 on: 23 Feb 2007, 12:16 am »
OK...before the wise-cracks start..."dimb" was suposed to be part of the joke!!!

Double Ugly

Re: Review of SP Technology Timepiece 2.1 speakers
« Reply #9 on: 23 Feb 2007, 02:29 am »
ooheadsoo & D.U.,

So...there are a few demented minds such as myself that are interested in such mundane little technical details?!  OK, you asked for it.


OK ... *that* ought to make it clear why I'm uncomfortable trying to describe what Bob does.  :o

Every time I talk to Bob, I learn something, but I still come away from the conversation feeling dumber than before. 

That's why I stick to flying and let Bob do the speaker thing.

-Jim