HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

LOTS OF FUN FOR LESS MONEY

As soon as there is talk of home theater, the discussion moves quickly in the direction of SPL, dynamics, deep bass and volume. But real home theater speakers should also be able to satisfy picky ears when playing music. This is demanding, but Arendal delivers masterfully.

Arendal delivers masterfully.

By: Håvard Holmedal. Read the original review HERE in Norwegian.

Arendal took the world by storm with its 1723 and 1723 S series of speakers. Great reviews, several awards as best of the year product both here and abroad. And, the very prestigious EISA Award landed in Arendal too. It tells greatly of a speaker series that obviously delivers both music and film.
Arendal Sound continues where they left off and has created a speaker system where the most obvious compromise is the size of the speakers. Cabinets and parts are still of high quality, and you immediately forget that these are fairly compact speakers when you start playing. The sound goes far beyond the size, and so does the dynamics and ability to handle volume.

More reasonable and a bit simpler

The new 1961 series from Arendal is a bit scaled-down edition of the larger and more expensive series 1723 and 1723 S. Of course, they are built on these, and you immediately see the relationship in terms of cabinets and drivers. Although the new and self-developed drivers are somewhat simpler.

In order to maintain what the people behind the brand often call the “Arendal sound”, it is not possible to put a number of cheap parts into lesser chip cabinet. The goal was to make smaller and slightly simpler speakers, but without compromising too much. It is a difficult exercise, and perhaps even the most difficult task Arendal has done to date.

The first impression is that the 1961 series is solid, and Arendal surprisingly also makes these in HDF (high density fiberboard), which is certainly not common in this price range. The finish is simple, but I think it is a good choice for Arendal to stay away from cheap vinyl and instead opt for lacquered cabinets. Admittedly in matt varnish, and only in black and white. The finish is good.

to be such a small driver it plays powerful, heavy, and the dynamics and control are very good.

The tweeter throughout the new range is a 28mm driver built with inspiration from the 1723 series. This means that the tweeter comes mounted in a newly developed waveguide that will ensure controlled dispersion. The goal is a speaker that not only plays well in “sweetspot”, but also delivers to those who are sitting at the very edge of the couch.

The woofers are the new 5.5 inch used throughout the 1961 series. It is a smart move, because Arendal doesn’t have to develop a lot of new drivers for each speaker. A 5.5 inch obviously doesn’t do the same job as the big and powerful eight-inch from the 1723 series, but to be such a small driver it plays powerful, heavy, and the dynamics and control are very good.

In the next issue of Stereo+ we do a separate review of 1961 Bookshelf and 1961 Subwoofer S1. A very interesting package!

Tower

The slightly backwards tilted floor standers have four (4) pieces 5.5-inch woofers in what looks like a 2.5-way system. Distributed at a height of just under 90cm (with spikes) and perform well as pure music players without a subwoofer – if you can manage without the deepest bass. Still, I think the typical Arendal customer envisions both one and two, or more, subwoofers to achieve the desired bass pressure.

The floor standing “Tower” extends down to around 40Hz if you do not block the bass ports with the provided foam plugs. Someone might say that the difference is not significant up to the larger 1723 Tower – which goes just a few Hz deeper into the bass. But here it is clearly demonstrated that it is not only frequency response that matters in how the bass operates. Large drivers move much more air, have greater volume, have more control, lower distortion and far better dynamics. It is simply a quite different bass experience.

The sensitivity of the 1961 Tower is just over 87dB and so you have to have some power to play really loud. Arendal recommends amplifiers of up to 350 watts, and it tells us a lot about the drivers’ capacities. A small home cinema receiver has nothing to do with these speakers. Buy the biggest amplifier you can afford!

Monitor/Center

If you buy the home theater speaker, the center speaker is called 1961 Center. It has the logo adapted to the landscape position, but it is exactly the same speaker as the 1961 Monitor. It is a closed structure and has the same tweeter as the Tower, the same waveguide, and two drivers of the same woofer. The potential to achieve complete timbre match with the front speakers is present.

1961 Center doesn’t play lower than about 70Hz and will not have much bass to add to the movie experience. Like the identical Monitor, it works brilliantly for music, but also needs help from a subwoofer.

The subwoofer

I have had the 1961 Subwoofer 1S at home for a while, and I have connected it to quite a large number of different speakers. It behaves nicely in all contexts and is very flexible and relatively easy to integrate with the vast majority of speakers.

This is perhaps the most impressive speaker in the 1961 series with the 550W on the inside supplied by an Avalanche 550 IQ DSP amplifier. It can also take up the task by matching speakers costing much more than the 1961 series.

The woofer is 12.2-inches and was developed by Arendal Sound specifically for this series. It delivers bass down to 19Hz, depending on the EQ setting.

There are many other subwoofers in the price range that manage this too, but there are very few, if any, that deliver such solid deep bass with such good control and purity, and with so little noise. If you are going to use it for music, the “home theater setting” EQ1 does not likely apply here, but EQ2 does. The subwoofer still delivers flat down to 26Hz, but is even tighter, better controlled, and more dynamic in the higher subwoofer frequencies.

The subwoofer also does the piece of art to disappear completely into the soundstage. Only subwoofers that do not have mechanical noise from the cabinet and driver can handle this.

There are many other subwoofers in the price range that manage this too, but there are very few, if any, that deliver such solid deep bass with such good control and purity, and with so little noise.

As we know, the noise is not limited by the crossover, and if the noise occurs in the bass, you can forget to get the desired clarity and clarity in the area from the upper part of the bass, and frightening far up in the mid-range.

Surround/Back/Height

There are offered a large number of possible configurations. You can hang the surround on the wall. Use an extra pair of the Towers too. Mount the Height in the ceiling. Or, pretty much do just as you want depending on the room and your preferences.

What is interesting is that all the speakers have the same basic driver layout. The tweeter with the waveguide is present everywhere, and so is one or more of the 5.5-inch woofers. And of course, you can run with as many subwoofers as you want or have room for. The more, the better! It provides great flexibility and a fairly similar sound image whether you go for one or the other solution.

The experience

Although it’s a downscale in just about every area from the 1723 series, the 1961 Tower delivers an impressive amount of detail and a very vivid and engaged sound, which is completely free of blemishes and overly hard edges. It’s almost a shame to pack the compact floor-standing speaker into a home theater, because it does such a good job as a pure hi-fi speaker as well. With a good integrated amplifier, it plays solid and strong, and if you prioritize dynamics and an enthusiastic style, this is a very good purchase. There is surprisingly lots of energy in this compact floor-standing speaker, and it is straightforwardly entertaining what it does with hard-hitting electronic music of all kinds.

the 1961 Tower delivers an impressive amount of detail and a very vivid and engaged sound, which is completely free of blemishes and overly hard edges.

Among other amps, I connected it to the monster amplifier Musical Fidelity M8Xi, which delivers more than 550 watts per channel. Then you really get to experience what a great amplifier can do with a small speaker. It grabs the sound, and within all normal volumes, there is no hint of compression or flattening of the sound, even if the recording is dynamically tough for the speaker.

It is often talked about that some speakers are better for home theater use than others. Arendal Sound 1961 Tower certainly challenges everyone in the price range of this exercise, but that does not mean it has come at the expense of its hi-fi qualities. Good, colorless and neutral speakers with great dynamics can be used for both film and music with great success.

I play different music as a preliminary exercise to see if there are certain types of music it prefers. It really isn’t, but it’s not a typical speaker you buy to play string quartets and piano sonatas. On the other hand, they are in their ace when playing electronic music in electronics/techno-land. And the more hard-hitting the bass, the more the Tower stands out from most other speakers in the price range. With hard guitars, tough vocals and hard-hitting drum tracks, it’s in its ace.

The sound balance is neutral, and the speakers play without anything sticking out or becoming aggressive.

There is enough energy in the midrange and tweeter that the sharp and loud sounds are credibly reproduced, but not so much that it takes over and becomes irritating. The mid-tone has just enough warmth to give the voices and instruments credible reproduction, and the serenity and space created in the soundstage is actually quite impressive. The decision to make really good cabinets comes in handy because no energy from the inside protrudes and radiates from the speaker. The sound remains unstained, and very homogeneous from bottom to top.

Movies

The entire new 1961 series from Arendal Sound does what it can to place itself in the home theater category of speakers. It’s not without reason, because they really do a great job in the home theater. Now many people would think that the price is not exactly at the reasonable end. You can buy much larger and less expensive speakers elsewhere. Even someone who plays very much louder and can do with smaller amplifier.

But that’s where Arendal thinks the limit goes for what they can currently deliver of speakers, to satisfy their own sound quality requirements.

The difference between Arendal 1961 and other speakers out there, and which may be Dali, B&W, Monitor Audio, System Audio or Klipsch, is that Arendal tackles to play loud and engaging, but at the same time do it in a very quiet way.

This speaker system conveys volume and dynamics with a tranquility that you can hardly find anywhere else in the price range, and with a rare clarity even during demanding source material.

The value of a timbre matched speaker system is also evident, and perhaps especially noticeable in the front system where objects from the screen flow effortlessly around the soundstage, without changing either sound or size on their way from one side to the other. Although we are talking about a fairly substantial price range, there are far too many systems that come with a cheap and small center speaker. It completely ruins the good cinema experience. While it may not seem like a big deal at first, it is totally devastating to the experience when you first notice the mistakes being made. When the train crashing across the screen sounds like a very good freight train when it comes in from the left, and becomes a toy train in the middle, and then thundering out on the right-hand side of normal size. The brain does not compute with this. You do not hear what you see, and this is a major obstacle to a totally enveloping movie experience.

The sound goes far beyond the size, and so does the dynamics and ability to handle volume.

Conclusion

Arendal Sound continues where they left off and has created a speaker system where the most obvious compromise is the size of the speakers. Cabinets and parts are still of high quality, and you immediately forget that these are fairly compact speakers when you start playing. The sound goes far beyond the size, and so does the dynamics and ability to handle volume.

The 1961 series has everything you need to create a real cinematic experience in smaller to medium sized rooms, but don’t forget that Tower can also play music at pleasantly high levels, too, as single speaker system in a living room.

Arendal offers an even more impressive experiences with its 1723 series speakers, but you hear where the 1961 series comes from and what Arendal Sound has in mind when they made this “budget series”. And it’s not that small.

We like

• Lively and engaging
• Balanced and homogeneous
• Good dynamics
• Spacious soundstage

We don’t like

• Simple design and finish
• Requires a decent amplifier

Stereo+ says

Arendal Sound has managed it again and made the 1961 series one of the winners in the prize category. Here you get a lot of fun for your money!