The Accentus A-104SE speakers arrived at my door in two large cardboard boxes, typical of full size floor-standing speakers. Normally I can handle moving the speakers one at time to my second floor living room. But this time, carrying each of the A-104SE speakers up two flights of stairs proved to be a grueling two-man job. Lucky for me, Suave (CANADA HiFi’s editor-in-chief) was there to lend me a hand. We could only hope that the labour was worth it.
The size of the boxes combined with their hefty weight had us guessing that these were pretty large speakers. Once unboxed however, the speakers turned out to be of a much more manageable size. The first thing I noticed about the Accentus A-104SE speakers was the quality of craftsmanship of their MDF cabinets. Their finish was very elegant and their construction was rock solid. A rap of my knuckle on the cabinet produced absolutely no resonance, instead gave me a sore hand. The rear of each speaker houses dual sets of heavy duty gold-plated binding posts which allow bi-amping or bi-wire. These posts are fastened to a fancy gold plaque inscribed with the speaker model number and serial numbers. A rear firing port is positioned just beneath the plaque.
A black piano paint on the front baffle combined with a beautiful Sapele finish on all other sides gives these speakers more of a fine furniture look than typical hi-fi noisemakers. This fine finish is a result of 23 layers of high gloss transparent piano paint and hours of polishing, a process that takes 6 months from start to finish. If the Sapele doesn’t do it for you, Accentus offers six other finishes including Rosewood, Maple, Sycamore, Burl Poplar, Black Walnut and Piano Black. The pricing ranges from $3999 to $4799, depending on the finish. My Sapele evaluation pair is the most expensive of the choices.
The three-way design of the A-104SE speakers comes from a 4-inch aluminium ribbon tweeter, a 5-inch compound material midrange cone and an 8-inch compound material woofer. The tweeter, midrange, and woofer are all coated with a patented proprietary AVM (Anti-Vibration Magic) material from Uniko. AVM dampens and absorbs unwanted microphonic vibration, resulting in numerous sonic improvements. The A-104SE speakers are crossed over at the 200 Hz and 2300 Hz points, with high-end Mundorf capacitors used in the crossover design. Accentus claims that the A-104SE speakers have a frequency response of 32 Hz to 40 kHz at 88 dB and recommends 50 to 250 Watts of amplifier power. The impedance of the speakers is rated at 8 ohms.
As I was waiting for a new power amplifier to arrive at my place, I burned these speakers in on my 30 watt custom-made amplifier. It was clear right from the start that the A-104SEs demanded a much more powerful amplifier to truly come to life. When I finally swapped the amplifier for a Classe Audio CS-2100, things really opened up. The 100 watts per channel of clean power from this amplifier made for significant improvements in the bass, treble and sound staging of the A-104SE floor-standers. This is precisely why this caliber of speakers requires a solid power amplifier.
Now let me start from the top, literally. If you’ve never listened to a great pair of tweeters, you don’t know what you’re missing. The A-140SE’s ribbon tweeters reproduced transients with astonishing speed and accuracy – a transient is a short high-energy burst at the beginning of a sound. A speaker’s ability to reproduce transients depends on whether it can play low and high frequencies at the correct time. The A-104SEs played with excellent timing, not once did I hear distorted or harsh high frequencies that other speakers in this price range can produce. At the same time, it’s important to note that these ribbon tweeters did not have a smoothed off high-end. Instead they put forth an incredibly vivid and non-fatiguing presentation of the recordings that I listened to. In some cases, it was like opening a brand new window on some of my favourite recordings. When I listened to the track “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” from Sade’s Stronger Than Pride album, the air and vocals shimmered with a silky sweetness that tickled my ears. The A-104SEs produced a natural feeling of air and depth that moved across the room and beyond the walls. With Sade’s vocals in the centre of the soundstage, I could hear her lick her lips with astounding clarity and naturalness, which gave me the sensation of being in the same room as her.
But of course a great set of tweeters alone means nothing. Many ribbon and electrostatic designs are great in the high frequency area but lack when it comes to full frequency integration. I’m glad to say that this was not the case with the A-104SE towers. These speakers did an incredible job of integration from the top right to the bottom, better than I’ve heard from other sub-$5000 speakers. The A-104SEs were capable of producing a powerful musical experience rather than just sound playing from a good high-end stereo system. The awesome imaging and dynamics of these speakers immersed me in the events of the music. At times I heard sound that I could have sworn came from behind me. During the time that these speakers spent at my house, I revisited a number of records and CDs from my collection, often discovering new layers of sound and nuances that made these tracks spring to life.
In the low frequency domain, the A-104SE towers produced a fast, rhythmic, if not somewhat of a submersing sound. Thanks to their solid cabinets, there was absolutely no colouration of sound that can often make bass sound muddy. The bass was clean and played as deep as most recordings required, although it did not exactly reach the lowest levels that other loudspeakers are capable of. Instead of going after the deepest bass levels, the A-104SE towers opted for transparency and speed. When I listened to Laurent Garnier’s “Forgotten Thoughts”, the bass was presented in its full glory and I could clearly hear the various textures of sounds from the analogue synthesizers. Vinyl recordings had much more bass texture compared to the CD versions, when I listened to them on the A-104SE speakers. Harmonics flowed smoothly from low frequencies all the way up to the highest notes with great dynamics, where the ribbon tweeters did their magic.
For my listening preference, I found the mid-bass frequencies to be a little light compared to speakers that I work with when mastering and music production. Mind you, no speaker design is perfect and the speakers in the mastering studio are almost double the price of these Accentus. I also found some of the lowest bass to be ever so slightly pushed up (enhanced), although this could also be viewed as adding positive weight to the music.
If you’re looking for a loudspeaker pair in the $4000 to $5000 range that can paint a clear, natural picture of your favourite recordings, the Accentus A-104SE towers are worthy of being placed on your audition list. Based on my listening tests, I’m confident that these speakers could hold their own against many higher priced speakers. The Accentus A-104SE loudspeakers meet the stringent demands of a high-end speaker system and their luxurious finish certainly doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, it would be great if these speakers could stay in my living room, and not just because I don’t want to re-box them and man-handle them back down my stairs.
$4799 MSRP (Canadian)
Accentus A-104SE Speakers
• Design: three-way
• Frequency response: 32 Hz – 40,000 Hz
• Sensitivity: 88 dB/W/m
• Impedance: 8 ohms
• Recommended power: 50 – 250 Watts (RMS)
• Crossover frequency: 200 Hz and 2300 Hz
• Crossover attenuation slope (per octave): woofer -18dB, midrange – 12dB, tweeter -18dB
• Connectors: 18 mm gold-plated
• Finish options: Rosewood, Sapele, Maple, Sycamore, Burl Poplar, Black Walnut and Piano Black
• Dimensions (LxWxH): 330 mm x 255 mm x 1100 mm
• Weight: 37 kg