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Reviews

Reference 3a Loudspeakers

MM DeCapo

         For a company that has been making loudspeakers for over twenty years, Reference 3a is a surprisingly little known name. Designer Daniel Dehay has been awarded many patents for his unique and creative designs, dating back to the mid sixties. Among other things, Mr. Dehay was the first to realize the importance of phase alignment. He patented the motional feedback system, developed the first push-pull isophase woofer system (used by KEF) and was a consulting engineer to Audax (manufactures raw drivers).
          Reference 3a speakers (manufactured in Canada) have garnered accolades from music lovers around the globe. Few speakers have captured the hearts of audio reviewers and audiophiles like the Reference 3a MM de Capo. The number of rave reviews are almost too numerous to count.
         What is it about the design of Reference 3a speakers that make them so special? Though no single element makes a great product, it's the way the elements that make or break a design. However, in the case Reference 3a, there are several interesting factors. Let's explore.
         The most taxing element of a loudspeaker is the crossover. Inside many speakers are complex, multi-element designs using capacitors, resistors, inductors. These components represent the the most "destructive" part of the speaker system, sapping power and inducing phase and timing errors. What if the crossover could be eliminated? Better sound, right? Yes, and Reference 3a has done just that. Here nothing encumbers the path between the amplifier outputs and the midrange/woofer. A single custom made multi-plate paper and oil capacitor protects the tweeter. This simple-is-better philosophy results in a loudspeaker that is incredibly phase and time coherent, is highly sensitive (92dB) and presents a benign impedance load. Almost any amplifier can drive Reference 3a speakers, including low power single ended designs.
         One need not be an audiophile to appreciate the Reference 3a speakers. Immediately one hears the correctness of timbre and harmonic integrity. Spatial recreation is astounding. While many of the qualities we as audiophiles describe with our fancy vernacular, the sense of those individual characters blend into a seamless musicality. Listening to Reference 3a speakers you'll find captured by the music, not by the speaker.

  • Proprietary, handmade driver

  • Eleven gauge van den Hul silver alloy wiring for the woofer

  • Twelve gauge van den Hul silver/carbon wiring for the tweeter

  • Drivers matched to within 1dB

  • Ultra rigid, ultra lightweight carbon fiber woofer/midrange cone material

  • Drivers run at high voltage for 72 hours before matching

  • Variable cabinet wall thickness reduces resonance

  • Dual suspension tweeter keeps the voice coil centered in the gap at high levels

  • Solid copper Cardas jumpers (bi-wiring is recommended)

  • Folded pipe linear port design allows near wall placement

  • +/- 10 degrees phase accuracy

  • Exotic, handmade multi-plate paper and oil capacitor

  • Frequency response 48Hz - 20kHz

  • Sensitivity 92dB

  • Impedance 8 Ohms

  • Dimensions 11"W x 15"H x 13"D

  • $2990 in natural or red Maple, $3289 in piano black lacquer


Veena

        The elegant new Veena offers outstanding performance at very reasonable cost. Following in the tradition of other Reference 3A designs, the Veena employs a very full range driver as part of a two-way system using the simplest crossover possible; a single capacitor. Drivers are precisely placed on the critically sloped front baffle in a perfect alignment for the most coherent propagation of sounds. The 7 direct coupled main driver is complimented with a new custom tweeter. The sophisticated enclosure design uses extensive vertical and horizontal bracing for a rigid, non-resonant cabinet. High quality internal wiring and five-way binding posts complete the design.
        All in all, another wonderfully musical design from Reference 3a.

  • 7 directly coupled main driver

  • Ultra simple, single capacitor crossover (multiple flat plate, paper in foil design)

  • Sloped front baffle time aligns the drivers

  • Extensive internal bracing resulting in a solid, non-resonant enclosure.

  • Three large pod feet for stability and mechanical grounding

  • Very stable, tube friendly, impedance - 8 Ohms

  • Sensitivity 89dB

  • Frequency Response 42Hz - 20kHz

  • Dimensions 36" H x 13" W x 5" D (measured at the top)

  • $3495 - Natural Maple, Cherry Red Stained Maple, $3845 Piano Gloss Black



    Review - Enjoy the Music Review


Episode

The latest introduction from Reference 3a, the Episode fills the gap between the Veena and Grand Veena. The Episode shares the sleek angled enclosure of both the Veena and Grand Veena, in a size that fits comfortably in most any environment. The Episode includes the same super-tweeter found in the Grand Veena. Kicking in at 20 kHz (where the tweeter trails off) and extending out to 100 kHz, the super-tweeter adds a sense of delicacy and air, enhancing performance in a subtle but meaningful way.

  • 7 directly coupled main driver

  • Ultra simple, single capacitor crossover (multiple flat plate, paper in foil design)

  • Sloped front baffle time aligns the drivers

  • Extensive internal bracing resulting in a solid, non-resonant enclosure.

  • Three large pod feet for stability and mechanical grounding

  • Very stable, tube friendly impedance - 8 Ohms

  • Unique super tweeter adds air and dimension

  • $5500 in natural Maple, red Maple or black Maple. $6050 in piano black lacquer


Grand Veena

The Grand Veena adds scale and weight to the refined performance of the smaller Reference 3a models. Long prized for resolution of subtle detail and accurate harmonic timbre, until now these designed were not known for a big powerful sound. The Grand Veena combines both ends of the dynamic envelope and frequency realm.
        
The Grand Veena is a tall, slender tower housing five seamlessly integrated unique drivers. The front baffle is tilted back at a critical angle and the drivers are positioned precisely for correct time alignment and sound wave propagation. The multi chamber cabinet provides isolation to avoid interference between the drivers operating at different frequency ranges.
        
The hand-built 7" (170 mm.) main driver is hyper-exponentially shaped and covers a wide range of the music evenly. Utilizing advanced materials and techniques the driver is designed to not require crossovers and it is coupled directly to the amplifier. The potentially harmful effects of crossover components are removed from the path so the musical signal arrives at the driver uninterrupted and intact. Every tiny musical detail is tracked precisely and immediately.
          Two powerful 8" (21mm.) long excursion bass drivers are used for extended low frequencies. Very stiff and light cones of Fiberglass and Kevlar in honeycomb construction are used to eliminate driver break-up modes. Rigid cast metal driver frames are used to ensure mechanical integrity. A unique acoustic device is constructed internally to absorb excess pressure generated by the enclosure's standing waves to avoid interference with the driver's motion. With only a quasi-second order low-pass filter, low frequencies are tuned to extend flatly down to 36Hz. while significant information is still realized at even very low 20Hz.

"Given the space to strut their stuff, the Grand Veenas bring a neutrality and immediacy that spoils you for most other speakers under $20,000. You can pick these up for $7990 (maple finish) or $8800 (high gloss black piano finish). Reference 3A design their own bass and midrange drivers and directly connect the midrange driver to the amplifier. Then they use the simplest and highest quality components to match the tweeter and bass driver output levels to the midrange. An expensive Murator Exciter sitting above the tweeter ensures a completely open sound even if we aren't supposed to hear that high. These speakers represent an easy load and work well with tubes or transistors. I'm not crazy about the looks but that's about all I can say that's negative. On the plus side they made the very best of every recording I threw their way." Phil Gold, Enjoy the Music. Blue Note 2008 Award for best components of the year.

  • 7 directly coupled main driver

  • Dual 8" long excursion woofers

  • Ultra simple, single capacitor crossover (multiple flat plate, paper in foil design)

  • Sloped front baffle time aligns the drivers

  • Extensive internal bracing resulting in a solid, non-resonant enclosure.

  • Three large pod feet for stability and mechanical grounding

  • Very stable, tube friendly impedance - 5 Ohms (+/- 0.5 Ohm)

  • Unique super tweeter adds air and dimension

  • Efficiency: 90 dB. 1Watt/meter

  • Frequency response: 36Hz - 20 kHz (+/-) 3dB

  • $8795 in natural or red Maple. $9200 in piano black lacquer

 

Review - Enjoy the Music Review


Dulcet

Three years in the making, the Dulcet represents the latest in the line of superb loudspeaker designs from Reference 3A. For it's diminutive size, the bass extension is both surprisingly deep and very resolved bass, thanks in part to a custom woofer, hand built by Divergent Audio. Like other Reference 3A speakers, the Dulcet uses no crossover.
       Particular attention has been paid to the enclosure design. Careful design, construction and materials selection results in a particular inert c
abinet.
       In many ways, the Dulcet sets the standard for monitors in this price range. Even though it is the entry-level speaker from Reference 3A, it gives up nothing in quality and refinement.

 

 

  • Proprietary, handmade driver

  • Drivers matched to within 1dB

  • Ultra rigid, ultra lightweight carbon fiber woofer/midrange cone material

  • Drivers run at high voltage for 72 hours before matching

  • Solid copper Cardas jumpers (bi-wiring is recommended)

  • Frequency response 48Hz - 20kHz

  • Sensitivity 88dB

  • Impedance 6 Ohms

  • Dimensions 7.5"W x 12"H x 9.5"D

  • $1795, or $1975 in Premium Finishes

  • Absolute Sound Editor's Choice Award winner

 

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