Artistic Audio is an audio company whose name might not
be familiar to you. I admit that I never heard the name until a friend, who
had just come back from CES 2003, mentioned it to me. He told me how
impressed he was with a pair of speakers from Artistic Audio, called the
Mobius, which according to him were capable of dispersing sound evenly in
all directions. He showed me the brochure, and immediately I was taken by
the unique appearance of the speakers. Not long after that, I decided to
request a pair of samples for review to get first hand experience on their
performance for myself. Luckily, John Larsen, the founder and the president
of Artistic Audio Inc., fulfilled my request, so I can report about my
impression on these speakers here.
The Mobius speaker was the result of the point source research that has been
ongoing in Artistic Audio since the company's inception in 1995. The
speaker's appearance is very unique and, to me, it is attractive. Don't
blame your non-audiophile guests if they think the speaker is just an
artistic sculpture standing in your living room. Its appearance is really
one of art. And it only seems appropriate that this speaker comes from an
audio company whose name has the word ‘Artistic' in it! Well, actually, if
it were me, I would be proud if I could fool my guests into thinking that I
had a pair of sculptures standing in my living room, when in actuality these
are sculptures that can sing!
The Mobius speaker has a sphere on top that houses a pair of 1" silk dome
tweeters and a pair of 8" dome-shaped polypropylene mid-bass drivers in
bipolar configuration. Rather than calling them midranges, Artistic Audio
chose to call them mid-bass drivers because of their size, which is
relatively large for midrange (midrange is usually handled by 6" or smaller
drivers), and their frequency response (120 Hz to 2500 Hz).
The sphere is supported by a Y-shaped front structure,
which is slightly tilted backward if viewed from the front. A side-firing
subwoofer module, which houses an 8" driver in a triangular shaped
enclosure, is attached to the bottom rear portion of this structure,
providing a stable support for the whole speaker. With a matched pair of
Mobius, the location of the drivers is in mirror image to each other.
Therefore, you have the option to orient both woofers to face towards or
away from each other. Which orientation will give you the best sound depends
on your room acoustical characteristics, layout, and the speaker placement.
The best way to determine the answer is of course to try it.
The upper part of the Y-shaped structure is actually
the twin tuning ports, which, according to the Mobius manual, direct air
compliance and unwanted acoustical energy to a sub-chamber located in the
subwoofer enclosure. The goal is to lower the compliance of the bipolar
mid-bass drivers, extending their low frequency response to blend seamlessly
with the subwoofer.
The geometry of the Mobius is not the result of an
artistic design only. It has a purpose, which is to improve the sound. For
example, the triangular shape subwoofer enclosure is for reducing the
standing waves inside the enclosure. Also, the tilting of the Y-shaped
structure is intended for better phase-time alignment of the tweeter and
mid-bass response with that of the subwoofer.
Notes by Colin Miller: Standing waves are
rarely a problem inside a subwoofer enclosure, unless it's incredibly large.
As the wavelengths get longer than 4X the cabinet enclosure, they cease to
exist as waves, so to speak. @ 100 Hz, that's about 3 feet of axial
distance, at 50 Hz, that's 6 feet, at 25 Hz, 12 feet, etc. Standing waves
are more of an issue in mid-bass enclosures, where drivers go up to 1 kHz,
roughly a wavelength of 1 foot, in which case dimensions of greater than 3"
are not difficult or uncommon. Given that many mid-bass drivers, if not
most, operate to about 2 kHz, it's not hard to imagine why people don't use
cubes, and do use damping material inside. As for triangular vs.
rectangular, as Dr. Floyd Toole said, "Non-parallel walls don't eliminate
standing waves, they just make it exponentially harder to deal with them
Each Mobius speaker sports two pairs of speaker terminals on the back, which
are connected by a pair of brass jumpers coming from the factory. This means
that you can bi-wire or bi-amp the speaker should you desire to do so. Each
speaker also comes with four silver-colored metal spikes.
The Mobius speakers only come with one finish, which is
the smooth silver metallic color as shown in the pictures. The build quality
of the speakers is excellent. I also found that because of their shape,
these speakers were easier to move around than other similarly sized
floor-standers. This was because I could just easily grab the twin tuning
ports and lift up the speakers if I wanted to shift their position.
Setup and Sound
My listening position and the locations of the speakers
are pretty much at the corners of an equilateral triangle, so I placed the
Mobius in accordance with the recommendation in the manual. However, because
the Mobius is advertised as a point source capable of producing 360° sound
(see the Mobius polar response plot as supplied by Artistic Audio, shown
below), I played
around with the placement as well as the orientation of the speakers a bit.
I found that these speakers were relatively easy to place, as it seemed that
the resulting sound was never bad, wherever I put them. So, the point source
design showed an advantage here over the regular directional speaker design.
Heck, you can even toe-out these speakers and still get an acceptable sound
out of them. However, that doesn't mean that there is no optimum placement
and orientation that will give you the “best” sound in your listening room.
In my setup, I found that the equilateral triangle placement mentioned above
with a slight speaker toe-in gave me the best results. The subwoofer
orientation, whether face in or out, didn't really have a noticeable effect
in my room. The sweet spot of the Mobius speakers was relatively large,
which seemed to be another advantage of the point source design.
Notes by Colin Miller: A smooth power
response and even dispersion, which if the supplied polar response is
correct, these speakers have, ensures that the listener doesn't get as much
in terms of nasty dips or peaks, though I've never heard that an
omni-directional speaker was necessary. In fact, the ideal scenario, from
the point of trying to delivery the flattest response to the listener, would
be a wide-dispersion in-wall, or a constant output horn.
One area that immediately impressed me during my critical evaluation of the
Mobius speakers was how wide and deep the image the speakers produced. In
this respect, they could certainly hold their ground well against the best
in their class. Unlike some other bipolar speakers that I have had a chance
to hear, the soundstage that Mobius produced did not come at the cost of
focus, which appeared to be quite good. I never craved for sharper focus
during my evaluation. But comparison to speakers with better focus revealed
that the image painted by the Mobius was slightly blurred, and thus it might
not satisfy people who prioritize pinpoint imaging out of their systems.
Overall, the balance of the Mobius across the frequency spectrum was
excellent with a tad tendency towards brightness. Midrange reproduction
through the Mobius was quite natural with good full-body characteristics and
no obvious coloration. It might lack a little bit of lushness on vocals, but
it was not something that I would worry too much about.
The treble of the speakers was clear, detailed, and extended. The Mobius was
quite revealing in this area, so with poor amplification, you could get
slight brittleness in the upper register. Occasionally, I was bothered by
slight lack of treble smoothness, but this appeared to be music-dependent. I
found the Mobius sound suited my taste better with the grilles on. Without
the grilles, the speakers sounded a little too bright in my setup. With a
different front end, however, you might get different results.
Bass was also one of the speaker's strengths. It was dynamic, tuneful, and
although the bass was only down to about 40 Hz or so, it had enough impact
and slam to make most music sound realistic and grand.
The overall presentation of the Mobius speakers was neutral, neither forward
nor laid-back. Most of the time, the leading singer was presented in the
same plane as the speakers. The nice soundstage characteristics and the
strong bass of the Mobius speakers made them very suitable for reproducing
classical orchestra or big band music. For example, Copland: "Fanfare of the
Common Man" by the Seattle Symphony (Delos) sounded glorious through these
speakers. While Vivaldi: "The Four Seasons, Autumn, Movement III" by Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Delos) showed that the Mobius speakers were no
slouch with music that required delicacies.
Because of the sound dispersion characteristics of the Mobius speakers, I
conjecture that they would be very suitable for home theater application.
The 360° dispersion practically minimizes nasty nulls or peaks in the
speakers sound field, and that would be very desirable in a home theater
setting, which often times has to accommodate off-axis seating. As of this
write-up, Mobius has not launched a center channel or surround speakers to
complement the Mobius, but John Larsen told me that they are in the works.
So for those of you who are thinking of using the Mobius for surround
applications, stay tuned.
Good-looking speakers don't always sound good, and
good-sounding speakers don't always look good. The Mobius from the Artistic
Audio is one of the few products that has successfully combined good sound
with good looks . . . no, make it fabulous sound with great looks. Its point
source design offers advantages such as large sweet spot and reduced severe
room nulls and peaks. If you are the kind of audio enthusiast who for some
reasons, often couldn't sit still in the center of the sweet spot while
doing your listening, these are some speakers you should check out. Apart
from those advantages, the Mobius speakers appear to be a very capable
performer, offering nice balanced sound and incredible soundstage. I'm quite
sure many audio enthusiasts will be happy, as I am, with what the Mobius
offers: combination of great unique look and strong performances. If you
have $2500 in your budget for a pair of speakers, I strongly suggest you put
the Mobius in your short list to audition.
- Yongki Go -
For the record, equipment used during
the review period for operation, comparison, and/or pleasure.
ACD playback: Shanling CD-S100
DVD playback: Toshiba SD-4700
Preamplifier: Adcom GFP-750, Lexicon DC-1
Amplifier: ATI AT1505, Sherbourn 7/2100
Other speakers: NHT Evolution T6, KEF AV1 subwoofer
Cables: MIT Terminator 4 interconnects, MIT Terminator 2 speaker cables,
Cardas Crosslink speaker cables