|The young and new in old-fashioned speaker design
loudspeakers caught my attention as soon as I auditioned
them at the Montreal Audio Fest in April. They were connected
to a Jeff Rowland amplifier with mega-buck source components
I met the speakers’ designer, a, 28 year old Dane
named Kim Neeper Rasmussen. To say that I was surprised by
the man’s age is an understatement, because I expected
to encounter a middle-aged man who has been around the industry
for ages. After I had put my bias away, I learned about Rasmussen’s
background. It seems he became interested in audio when he
was only 12 years old. At 17, he got a job at Thule Audio,
a Danish electronics manufacturer. The next job was with
Avance International and Gamut Audio. It was at Gamut that
he met designer and technical director Lars Goller whose
knowledge and background with DST (created through a merger
of Vifa, Peerless and Scan Speak) inspired young Mr. Rasmussen.
After attending the 2005 CES in Las Vegas, he decided to
design his own loudspeaker and Neeper Acoustics was born.
The design goal was to create “a more complete speaker
than anyone else in the world — complete in terms of
design, materials and, of course, performance.”
I have heard these words from many designers and Rasmussen’s
ambitions were not news to me, although, my immediate thought
was that he had a very good handle on design. I asked Angie
Nisi of Audio Pathways to get me a pair of Perfection One
for an evaluation under (my) controlled conditions, and she
agreed. When they arrived, I couldn’t help but again
be impressed with their slim-line tasteful look.
enclosures can't be considered small, yet
they render a sound stage one would expect from small,
I always like slim enclosures, because they are relatively easy to place. The
Perfection One is such a design, sporting a small footprint of 6 1/4 X 14 inches
(W X D) with a medium height of only 38 inches. On the baffle, a 21-inch aluminium
plate is placed, likely to assist driver mount integrity. Designed for time
alignment, the enclosures top part leans about 15 degrees back from the base.
A spiked aluminium plinth with built-in milled WBT NextGen binding posts, provides
stability and anchors the cabinets firmly to the floor. (On a hardwood floor,
it’s wise to use little pads to avoid scratches). Two flared aluminium
ports (one on top, one on the bottom) open on the enclosures' immaculately
finished rear. Though there are “nice little grilles” (mountable
with magnets) for decoration, I’d suggest taking them off before serious
listening. The Perfection One looks very elegant and is available in four premium
finishes — satin white, maple, Namibia rift, rose burl and black piano.
For the auditions, I used my in-house Wyetech Labs, Opal preamplifier, one
Bryston 14BSST amplifier, one 8 watts/ch Art Audio Symphony single-ended
amplifier and a pair of prototype monoblock power amps by Wyetech Labs, the
soon to be available 32 watts/ch (single-ended) Ruby.
Audio Aero’s new Capitole Classic CD player and a mass of
interconnects and speaker cables from JPS Labs — the Aluminata
series, Nordost — the Valhalla Series and BIS Audio Maestro
Series made up the balance of the system components, all plugged
into my old Tice power line conditioner.
The various system combinations
allowed me to arrive at a fair assessment of the Perfection One
loudspeakers and their most conspicuous attribute— imaging. These enclosures can’t be considered
small, yet they render a sound stage one would expect from small,
point-source-like designs. The overall sound stage is big with
great horizontal spread, an impressive vertical reach, and an awesome
front-to-back range. I had placed the speakers in front of and
on each side of my listening room’s fireplace, and while
using this placement with other loudspeakers, never reached the
height of a sound stage as impressive as with the Perfection Ones.
Using some of my favourite auditioning music , the speakers seemed
not to be where I placed them. The sound was indeed, way out of
the box. Perception aside, I went to work and began testing the
speakers' ability to reach into the bass region. For this listening
test, I used my old Todo Sobre Mi Madre CD (Universal 676 208-2)
and an older Dorian CD titled The Great Organ Of Saint Eustache
(Dorian 90134) with a wonderful rendition of Bach’s “Toccata
and Fugue in D Minor.” The Universal CD quickly showed the
Neeper's ability to reach down to its specified 30Hz. The Dorian
recording features organ pedal-notes reaching down to 24.5Hz, just
a little lower than the Perfection One’s reach to the bottom
fundamentals with resolution. However, I didn’t sense any
omitted frequencies, as the loudspeakers’ power and clarity
was accomplished and authentic, regarding size and tonal integrity.
To test the midrange, I used Carmen McRae’s Fine And Mellow
and Gene Harris’ Listen Here (both Concord recordings SACD1005-6 & SACD
1006-6). McRae’s voice is a mellow mezzo, which she uses
like an instrument, actually like many instruments with various
tonal attributes. This well-produced live recording (available
in SACD) is perfectly suited to check a loudspeaker’s ability
to recreate the recording space, the voice’s character, and
the degree of refinement. Well, all was right in the midrange as
every note, regardless of intensity, was controlled, with smooth
transitions to upper and lower frequencies. The lack of edginess
underscored McRae’s breathy voice throughout the auditions,
making it relaxed listening at its best. Her back-up group (organ,
sax, guitar, and drums) was clearly audible at stage left, right,
and centre, with every tone in its own space and in absolute focus,
including the most difficult-to-achieve front-to-back scope.
Synopsis & Commentary
in the high frequencies, the range from 8000Hz to 20kHz, sounded
very smooth, with a bit of a sparkle here and there, the kind
that can be defined as polished brilliance with a hint of savoir-faire,
I have encountered only in the best high-end designs.
I like listening to pianos to audition speakers and few musicians play the instrument
like Gene Harris. I listened carefully and clearly heard the sonic signature
of Gene’s Steinway. This fabulous instrument’s typical timbre and
harmonics came to life; the piano seemed to be in my listening room — live,
that is. I found that the harmonics that delineate an instrument’s personality
are of the utmost importance, and the Perfection One speakers rendered all of
the ones produced by the amplifiers.
Best sound was most definitely with the Wyetech Labs Ruby monoblocks and Ruby
preamp —as mentioned earlier, finished prototypes not yet available. Second
best sound was with the powerful Bryston amp. However, all amps provided me with
the kind of listening experience I’d call involving — it’s
difficult to stop listening — and the feeling of being there that envelops
and engages the whole body and holds one’s attention.
To define the Perfection One speakers, this last statement should suffice: Great
highs, transparent midrange, and solid bass, all conveyed with smooth continuity
on an outstanding sound stage, makes these loudspeakers something very special.
I'm thrilled to see that the industry attracts new, young talent to perpetuate
the science and art of high-end audio. If I didn’t know this designer’s
age I would ascribe the design expertise to a veteran in the field. Consequently,
I am intrigued by this young man’s focus on quality components, his attention
to artisanship, and his understanding of the importance of loudspeakers to reproduce,
rather than produce. I believe Rasmussen succeeded by designing a very revealing
loudspeaker that reflects the quality of its back-up components. My personal
preference in loudspeaker design is what I call an “organic” sound — an
attempt to explain a natural type of sound with the loudspeaker out of the way
of the music. The Perfection One has a good portion of this organic sound quality,
but a good part of its performance characteristic is its unique sonic signature,
its voice. And what a voice! A multi-octave range, a tenor, a baritone, a bass,
a soprano and much more in one small, beautiful package I’d call damn close
Rasmussen states that he knew what he wanted in terms of loudspeakers: Not speed,
size, or pretentiousness “an intangible combination of design, materials
and, of course, performance that makes it desirable above all others."
Well, he may have done it, for the bottom line is that the Perfection One ranks
amongst the few designs I’d rate as state-of-the-art. Did I mention price?
It is mentioned in the right place (under Facts) but I think that this speaker’s
performance alone should be equated with high-end. Can we look for a Perfection
Two? I hope so. Rasmussen did say that, in good time, more Neeper Acoustics products
will follow and will include larger, smaller and centre-channel speakers as well
|Neeper Perfection One Loudspeakers
||Satin White, Maple, Namibia Rift, Rose Burl, Black Piano.
|100 cm (h) 19.5 cm (w) 46 cm (d)
|30 Kg each
The enclosures are rock-solid. I checked with my stethoscope
on the sides, top, and bottom and I couldn’t detect
any resonance to worry about. The cabinet’s design,
shaped to avoid most parallel surfaces, with a slight curvature
in the side panels, inhibits resonance. This was an expensive
process custom made by Danish artisans, after Rasmussen tried
and rejected Chinese-made cabinets.
The bass/midrange driver is a custom-made 5-inch Scan Speak
wood fiber design; the tweeter is another Scan Speak one-inch
ring radiator driver. The drivers are mounted in a patented “Hornflex”,
bitumen damped enclosure.
The crossover is a two-way higher order, non-resonant design, with a frequency
response from 30Hz to 50kHz; sensitivity is 87dB/ 2.83 V RMS; nominal impedance
is 4 ohms (minimum 3.8 ohms) and recommended amplifier power is from 70 watts/ch
to 300 watts/ch, though I don’t think that a more powerful amp, such
as the Bryston I used for my audition is a mismatch.
The bass/midrange driver is a proprietary, custom designed
Scan Speak 5 1/2 inch unit. It features a black laser-cut
wood fibre cone driven by the same magnet system found in
the larger standard Scan Speak 6 1/2 inch woofer. The SD
(Symmetrical Drive) magnet system incorporates copper short
circuiting rings mounted at the magnetic focal point to reduce
unwanted induction in the voice coil. This reduces harmonic
distortion by approximately 20dB — almost unheard-of
in speaker design.
The long-stroke bass/midrange driver has a total throw of
20mm, which enables it to move more air, thus generating
more bass output than most 6 1/2 inch woofers. The special
linear spider doesn’t force the assembly, even at maximum
The high frequency driver is Scan Speak’s ring radiator,
found in many of the world’s best and most expensive
high-end speakers. It was chosen because it maintains controlled
constant diaphragm motion. The tweeter remains flat to 50
kHz without breaking up.
The magnet system features a special, large neodymium NdFeB
rare earth magnet 20 times more powerful than commonly used
ferrite (its magnet is strong enough to drive a 15” bass
unit). As in the bass/midrange, the tweeter’s magnet
system incorporates a symmetrical drive arrangement to reduce
Heady stuff, but in this business, nothing beats listening — the ultimate