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This review first appeared in the September 2008 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or audiodata. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog - Acoustic Solid MPX turntable; Phonotools Vivid-Two and SME M2 12" tone arms; Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 501 MK II and Zu Audio DL-103 pickups; digital - audiolab 8000CD
Amplification: integrated - Lua 4040C, Myryad MXI 2080; preamp - bel canto PRe 3, Funk LAP-2; power amp - bel canto M300 monos, SAC il piccolo monos
Loudspeakers: Elac FS 247, Volent Paragon VL-2, Zu Audio Druid Mk4, Ascendo C8 [on review], Zu Audio Presence [on review]
Cable: low-level - Ecosse Baton + Symphony, Funk BS-2, van den Hul Integration Hybrid, Zaolla Reinsilber; phono - fis Audio Phono, WSS Silver Line; high-level - Ecosse SMS2.3, Ixos 6006 Gamma, Zu Audio Libtec
Racks & stands: Creactiv, Taoc, Liedtke Metalldesign Stand
Review component retail: €3.860/pr Carré II; €3.780 Soutien 2+; system price €7.640

On the wall, off-the-wall
Confession time: I had to swallow a few bitter preconception pills for this review. One of them was that in order to happily plunk down 8000 bills on my dealer's counter, I'd want to schlep home something refrigerator-sized. Perhaps that betrays my simpleton mind but don't pretend you've completely transcended. Additionally, weren't on-walls for those hip art galleries in Berlin central rather than a serious hi-end mag in Berlin Kreuzberg? Yet curiosity and common sense prevailed. What's more, I'd never before gotten intimate with such speakers before to know what they could do. A name like audiodata also suggested serious hifi, not designer glitz. To get right down to it, today's system includes the wall-hanging Carré plus matching soutien 2+ sub for a very space-saving, living-room-friendly proposition with -- vital to our kind -- bona fide 2-channel high-end ambitions. Or as audiodata chef Herr Schippers insists, "a true alternative to our own Ambiance floorstander". Really?

The square: Wall-mount Carré
The concept for this model outgrew R&D our team from Aachen had pursued for a "reasonable" home-theater center channel: "The nonsense of horizontally turned d'Appolitos is ubiquitous." Schippers wanted to know: "For good reason?" Perhaps to minimize floor and ceiling reflections to shrink down the sweet spot? Well, 'tain't my métier. I know it's old-fashioned but when I want to watch a movie, I go to the cinema. Audiodata is convinced that the Carré is most suitable for quality 2-channel playback, a conviction that's underlined by their respect for its driver, a SEAS-sourced, audiodata-spec'd coax unit with 10cm Magnesium mid/woofer and 25mm silk-dome tweeter. Audiodata's custom version for the Carré II shortens the voice coil since large excursions aren't required with its deliberate bass restriction. This lightens the moving mass to increase sensitivity to 89dB, a ca. 3dB gain over the stock driver. The Carré reaches to 125Hz, hence bass augmentation is essential. The Magnesium driver hands over to the silk dome at 2.600Hz.

The crossover is described as "without circuit board and star-shaped", referring to the lack of space which enforced a circular point-to-point construction of the filter network around the transducer motor. Because small enclosures drive up the resonant frequency of a driver, there's also an acoustic high-pass filter effect which adds to the electronic hand-over to the external subwoofer. Audiodata trims its crossovers for each driver to go beyond mere pair matching -- anything less than 0.5dB is rejected -- into individualized adjustments. As already indicated, the MDF enclosure is small first of all but also asymmetrical and aperiodically damped. The former serves toe-in and focus on the listening seat while undermining compound standing waves (though an 8.5cm deep rectangular in-wall version is available as well). The aperiod damping employs two resistively stuffed ports which prevent internal compression during high SPLs without acting like a common vented alignment.

Mounting the Carrés is child's play. A frame affixes to the wall with four molly bolts, then the speaker proper screws into the frame. Finis. For review purposes, I didn't conceal the speaker cables inside the wall. The baffle is a square 28x28cm. Standard finish is grey, black and Titanium but a surcharge creates access to all RAL and KfZ lacquers. There's also a trim ring and cloth cover. Now enter bass reinforcement aka the bass module Soutien 2+. Since the Carré is bandwidth-restricted, it relies on foundation assistance which the Soutien 2+ sub supplies. Herr Schippers prefers bass module to subwoofer, perhaps to stay clear of the bad rep boom boxes have collected. I think that's unnecessary. Plus, the sticker alone creates distance from that kind - 3.780 euros. Unfortunately, bass doesn't come free, particularly quality bass. Naturally, that's true also for floorstanders but subwoofers in particular drive home the message: "What, such long green for a measly two or three octaves?" Cough.

There are justifications for this sticker however. For one, audiodata manufactures in Germany. Technically, two aspects about this apparently ordinary 55x23x34cm (HxWxD) box stand out. There's audiodata's signature sandwich construction for the enclosure which damps the MDF panels with steel-shot filled inner chambers. Schipper's metaphor for this application invokes a gun whose slug readily penetrates through multiple boards but gets stuck in just 3 centimeters of sand bag. The minute movements of thousands of grains of sand absorb the bullet's energy. Ditto for steel shoot in speaker enclosures. It absorbs acoustic energy, hence minimizes enclosure resonance. Incidentally, the Soutien is a sealed box.

That it plumbs the depths beyond its size is due to active equalization. Two 180-watt amplifiers drive the 17cm Kevlar woofers with 38mm voice coils. Electronic compensation extends mechanical limits and if desired, a "true 20Hz" (-3dB) is possible. Equally important is the control loop which uses inductive motion sensors behind the big dust caps to compare is to should values and set corrective measures. Audiodata claims this makes for always clean bass reproduction. The servo technology is sourced from Backes & Müller who have years of experience in this sector.

Music signal reaches the audiodata sub either via standard speaker inputs -- i.e. via a pair of speaker cables from your main amplifier -- or, likely preferable, via its XLR line-level sockets which tap into your preamp instead. The lower cut-off can be set to 20, 28 or 40Hz, the upper at 50, 63, 80, 100 or 125Hz. Output is variable by +/-10dB, phase in five steps from 0 to 180 degree and a rocker switch can active a signal-sensing 'music mode' which shuts down to stand-by after five minutes of silence and reactivates with the first fresh bars.

Carré & Soutien sound
It's well possible that the rationale to choose wall speakers is interior design. I'm told there are people who dislike refrigerators in their living room. Occasionally some of them are of the feminine persuasion? But hey, I'm no Better Living editor. Nor would I be that interested. My beat is acoustics. As an intrepid HighEnder, I immediately went fretting: Would I be able to localize the sub? Would strong early reflections from wall proximity turn everything into sonic mush?

While setting up the Carré -- hanging 'em up to be more accurate -- I simply extended the legs of the customary stereo triangle used for normal speakers until those lines hit the wall. Even though this meant quite the spread, I couldn't find geometric fault with my thinking since the sound sources too were more distanced. (Nor was there an acoustic issue as I didn't suffer collapsed center fill). You can of course hang up the Carrés closer together but I'm into width. The sub simply ended up in the middle.

First sound check: Bass thunder, quite impressive but plainly too much of a good thing. What followed was subwoofer integration - down with the level and corner frequencies, experiments with phase. I ended up with -5dB on the output, a 100Hz low-pass and 20Hz cut-off and 150° phase. Naturally these values are room-specific and thus somewhat irrelevant; but another word on the low-pass. With the Carré's F3, theory would have set it to 125Hz. But this localized the sub more readily unless the level got attenuated to where the bass foundation crumbled away - a classic trade-off.

80Hz experiments went similarly. Levels could go up, the bass foundation was solid and localization was no issue – but there was a hole in the response, with certain instruments and vocals running toward the lean. Just a bit, mind you, hence subject to personal preference; but in my room, 100Hz was the best compromise for all sonic parameters. Still, when I concentrated, a remaining localization cue could tell the absence of low stereo bass. Normal folks will call me nuts but high-enders know whereof I speak. It's easy to live with but there is a difference between mono and stereo bass. I was simply surprised how small this difference could me made with proper subwoofer integration. Fully HighEnd dogma committed extremists can employ two Soutien 2+, one left, one right, to enjoy true stereo into the bottom octaves. I'd consider that a bit of overkill of course. Onto the second, more serious sound check which would likely surprise everyone for the tacit disconnect between looking at small squares on the wall and the huge sonic image they spread out in front of them.

This wasn't merely spatially expansive but tonally complete and anchored by powerful bass. Luxury compact boxes of equivalent price could not compete unless equally augmented by a sub. I do have a few towers whose lower registers by comparison seem quite bloodless (and some which go even farther). On operative bandwidth, I had zero complaints with the Carré | Soutien combo. How about quality within that bandwidth? From the mids upwards, no complaints either. Everything was as it should be - neutral, articulate, free of artifacts, a performance reminiscent in fact of the Ascendo C8, without preference for a specific tonal band to instead create transparent rapport. Those cherishing plenty of air in the treble will find the Carré spot-on. It's not lit up but exudes plenty of air, the polar opposite of a dull sound which I liked very much.

Bass quality in most aspects was first-class - quick, tautly coiled and cleanly articulated. I'm listening of late to a lot of Dancefloor-Jazz and when rhythm is lacking, that genre doesn't work. And the Soutien delivered not just according to certain HighEnd criteria but also for the party animal inside. Particularly with electronica though, it did become notable that synth bass could have rolled out dimensionally larger. The total energy was present but delivered in a smaller and more compact way. It emanated from a specific area where it could have been more generous. "Specific area" is not synonymous with "coming from the sub". It was a rather bigger area but still, it could have been bigger yet. I related that to mono vs. stereo bass.

Another distinction versus 'normal' speakers came in how space was depicted - differently. We often hear of the acoustic window through which one enjoys a more or less accurate view of the music. Depth of field, sonic embodiment and localization accuracy... whatever you might cite, the window remains. It means a cut-out, a frame. Here you could forget about the frame. There was no outline, no limitation, no framing. Music played from wall to wall with complete freedom, perhaps aided and abetted by my wide spacing (in which case, emulation would be the ticket). It simply was astonishing to be faced by a 5-meter wide stage. In that sense I was reminded of panel speakers, at least in matters of box-less freedom. There even was depth perspective albeit not extreme. Plasticity of voices and instruments was good but more is possible. Image outlines were good too but well removed from laser-etched. Honestly, it weren't those qualities which interested me with the audiodata combo. I was blown away by the giant soundstage, a quasi anti-hifi virtue if hifi means "neatly packaged, millimeter-accurately sorted and put in a box". Here it wasn't speakers at work but music in the living room, bluntly the core reason to deal with this trio of Carré and Soutien 2+. This simply is not very common.

With the wall-hanging Carré II augmented by the Soutien 2+ subwoofer, audiodata offers a very décor-friendly loudspeaker system. Some will prefer it solely from an interior design perspective. Music lovers concerned about sonic compromises should rest assured that audiodata's system has nothing in common with sound distribution. Not that the sticker should suggest it. This combo is fully competitive with conventional High-End offerings and in my book, its uncommon freedom from boxiness is a powerful argument to actually prefer it over standard boxes.

The Carré + Soutien system is characterized by...
  • A high tonal neutrality. Of course anyone can overdo the bass by misdialing the sub but correctly integrated, this system betrays no imbalance in any direction. Mid and treble playback in particular is transparent and natural and endowed with a hefty dose of airiness.
  • A very dynamic, deep and clean bass. Speed, control and timing are all accounted for. Especially on electronica, I occasionally found the bass too spatially concentrated however.
  • Good dynamic chops aren't a core virtue but neither a weakness.
  • High resolving power.
  • An utterly free music depiction which is built on something feather-light and generous to become the polar opposite of restrained. Those favoring a millimeter-obsessed blueprint rendering will be disappointed while everyone else will simply take a deep breath: In-room music rather than music through a window no matter how transparent. While some won't cotton to that quality, others won't do without it.

Model: audiodata Carré II wall speaker und bass module Soutien 2+
Concept: Wall-hanger with purpose-designed subwoofer; Carré II two-way coax, Soutien 2+ actively steered 360-watt subwoofer with twin drivers
Sensitivity: Carré II 89dB/W/m
Dimensions: Carré II 28x28cm baffle, max depth 13.5cm; Soutien 2+ 55x23x33.7cm, removable 25mm plinth

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