The in-house drivers bear an obvious relationship, with the R900 employing a simplified and slightly lowertech version of the Blade’s Uni-Q driver, each teamed with a single pair of bass drivers. Slightly smaller than the units in the Blade, these nonetheless share the same aluminium bowl diaphragm and over-hung, oversized voice-coils that characterize the flagship drivers. Look past the flat panels and you’ll find a tall, heavily braced and critically damped cabinet, its air volume divided into two separate vented spaces by a steeply angled partition. Why so tall? Because the R900 uses a fully symmetrical array, similar in appearance to all those d’Appolito designs out there – except that this is no two-way speaker. Instead, what we have here is a full three-way, four-driver system, yet there’s only a little over a foot between the acoustic centers of all its drivers. Not quite the coincident array of the Blade, but pretty damn close. Just as importantly, it also follows the Blade formula of placing its bass drivers further from boundaries than usual, sacrificing room-reinforcement but gaining clean, uncluttered bottom-end definition and transparency in return. The basic elements are all here, albeit diluted by financial necessity. However, the thinking is intact and informs every aspect of the execution, so as a result what you get is a performance that really does embody more than just a taste of what makes the Blade so special.
The physical coherence of the drivers – their proximity and consistent cone/dome material – are reflected in the R900’s presentation. Compare them against competitors of similar size and price and it’s remarkable how disjointed more conventional speakers sound. Where the KEFs create a single, credible acoustic space, conventional designs offer up a layer cake distribution, low frequencies at the bottom, high-frequencies scattered on top. The R900’s seamless spatial presentation is a result of both its integration and the lack of obvious colouration or exaggeration. Stripped of the dubious padding offered by room reinforcement the bass is light on its feet, transparent and tactile, placing notes and giving them shape in a way that you’d normally expect from a far more expensive system and speaker. That clarity and sense of musical purpose extends up the range, embracing a fluid and expressive mid-band before reaching the clean and extended upper frequencies. The Uni-Q’s tweeter might not possess the sheer speed and resolution of Focal’s beryllium units or the almost reticent smoothness of the more affordable diamond drivers, but it more than makes up for that with sheer continuity, providing a natural extension to the midrange that is indistinguishable in cast or character – helped in no small part by the consistent dispersion through the crossover point that is a major USP for the Uni-Q driver topology.