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- Written by SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors
- Category: Components Components
- Created: 01 October 2018 01 October 2018
The Muraudio SP1’s 42”-tall cabinet looks like a cylinder cut in half lengthwise, set atop a 15”-high integral stand bolted to the cabinet’s bottom panel. There are two 6” midrange-woofers at the bottom of the front panel and two more at the top, the two drivers of each pair positioned side by side. Between these pairs is an electrostatic panel about 21”H by 11”W, inset a little and looking like a window with a shallow sill. Most will agree that, even in one of Muraudio’s many nice finishes, the SP1 is an unusual-looking loudspeaker.
Like many of the best-sounding speakers, the SP1 is a case of form following function. According to Doug Schneider’s August 2018 review of the Muraudio SP1 for this site, the SP1 is “one of the best-sounding speakers at the price” ($14,700-$15,350 USD/pair, depending on finish) -- one that he feels “can knock the socks off many speakers costing considerably more.”
The two-way SP1 is a hybrid loudspeaker; that is, it uses two different types of drive-units. Its four midrange-woofers operate in unison from about 750Hz down to the specified anechoic bass response of 35Hz. That low-end point means that the SP1 is not quite a full-range design -- that is, it can’t go down to 20Hz, the bottom of the audioband. Its single electrostatic panel reproduces frequencies from 750Hz up to 22kHz, which is 2kHz above the top of the audioband. Second-order slopes are used in the crossover.
The drivers are bespoke Muraudio designs, the electrostatic panel being particularly noteworthy -- it’s curved horizontally and vertically, which is unique: all other electrostatic panels are flat, or curved in only one dimension, usually the horizontal. This dual curvature improves the driver’s horizontal and vertical dispersion, and the midrange-woofers are positioned the way they are for an optimal blend with the electrostatic panel.
Muraudio describes the SP1’s cabinet as “a singular structural system that distributes loads uniformly, like an eggshell, built from Baltic birch utilizing cold-molded construction techniques, which creates a light, rigid, anti-resonant structure.” An opening in the back allows the electrostatic panel to radiate as much energy to the rear as to the front, making the SP1 a dipole from 750Hz up. But even though the speaker radiates so much energy rearward, Doug had no trouble setting up a pair of them in his room; in fact, he set them up the same way he does the conventional front-firing speakers he reviews.
Doug admitted that he entered this review biased against hybrid speakers -- in his past experience of them, he’d consistently heard a lack of seamlessness between the outputs of the two different types of drivers. The Muraudio SP1 laid that bias to rest:
The moment I had the SP1s hooked up to the Constellation electronics and was streaming Joan Baez’s latest, Whistle Down the Wind (24-bit/96kHz FLAC/MQA, Proper/Tidal), it was obvious that the outputs of very different types of drivers can be mixed so seamlessly that, even if you knew nothing about a speaker’s drivers, you wouldn’t know which type was handling which frequency, or that it was a hybrid at all.
Acoustic piano, which Doug described as “one of the most difficult instruments for speakers to reproduce, not only for its wide frequency range but also for its weight and impact,” was reproduced by the SP1s exceptionally well. He listened to solo pianist Ola Gjeilo’s Stone Rose (16/44.1 WAV, 2L): “Once again, there was no disconnect from lows to highs. In really explosive passages, as in ‘The Line,’ I heard nothing but speed and attack -- none of the woolliness or distortion that plagues some speakers when they try to reproduce this track.”
Doug praised the SP1s’ soundstaging and imaging. They could reproduce a monaural recording such as “Smokestack Lightnin’,” from Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight (16/44.1 FLAC, Chess/Tidal), as “a tightly focused ball of unbelievably clear sound right between the speakers” -- then, moments later, with “Crossroads,” from Cream’s Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005 (16/44.1 FLAC, Reprise/Tidal), they could project a stereo soundstage that “extended past the outer edges of the speakers.” But for Doug, the SP1’s main strength was a “clarity, from lows to highs,” both at low and high volume levels, that allowed him to hear music “reproduced with extremely high resolution.”
Downsides were few. Bass in the bottom octave of the audioband (20-40Hz) was lacking, of course, as Muraudio’s own specifications indicate. And Doug found that the highs “weren’t as airy as I’ve heard from some topflight metal-dome tweeters, which can add a bit more sparkle that, provided it doesn’t sound actually bright, can make music sound a little more lively.” On the other hand, “for those who don’t like all that sparkle up top, the SP1’s voicing may be a blessing.” Finally, Doug found that his ears had to be at a specific height for him to fully enjoy the SP1s:
The SP1s had broad horizontal dispersion. This is no head-in-a-vise speaker -- I could move from left to right from the sweet spot with no changes in tonality and only minor diminution of soundstaging. However, their window of vertical dispersion is narrow -- only about 3’ at my listening seat. . . . Ideally, you want the centers of the speakers’ electrostatic panels roughly at the level of your ears -- which is just about where the SP1s’ stands put them.
Doug concluded that “it’s easy to forget and forgive the little it omits” in favor of the many things this speaker does so well: “In short, the SP1 punched high for its price of $14,700/pair.” He also stated that, for him, the Muraudio SP1 is a “retirement” or “desert island” speaker that he could live with for a very long time -- “not only for Doug the audiophile and music lover, but for Doug the reviewer.” No wonder the SP1 received a Reviewers’ Choice award when reviewed -- and is now one of our Recommended Reference Components.
Manufacturer contact information:
11 Tristan Court
Ottawa, Ontario K2E 8B9
Phone: (855) 955-0360, (613) 454-1790