But the ‘big’ aspect of the Tozzi Two is the drive unit; a variant of the 75mm Alpair 5 drive unit designed by the ‘Mark’ in Markaudio – Mark Fenlon. This is a crossover-free design (what’s there to cross over, there is just one drive unit?). It’s a free to air design, permeated from the baseline with Fenlon’s engineering smarts. Although he now lives in Hong Kong, Mark Fenlon is every bit the British engineer in the style of Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars. He lives by Chapman’s ‘Simplify, and add lightness!’ maxim, and it shows in the all-range unit. The Alpair 5 drive unit in the Tozzi Two eschews almost all loudspeaker conventions, right down to doing away with the spider at the rear of the unit and instead uses a single front suspension arrangement. The result is an ultra-wide band driver with exceptional linearity, especially when used in the kind of cabinet it was essentially designed for. In a way, if I’m being picky, the Tozzi Two reflects the design criteria of a loudspeaker drive unit engineer building a cabinet to house that unit. Concerns like a gently radiating wide horn taking up the whole of the front baffle, the square front plate. The sort of utilitarian, almost puritanical lack of embellishment on the loudspeaker cabinet... all shout ‘driver guy’. It is something of a tribute to Fenlon that he hasn’t simply sold the Tozzi Two as a cardboard box with a hole for the driver... that’s the kind of single-minded approach he’s taken here, and all the same, the loudspeaker is the better for being designed in an uncompromised manner.
The exciting part of the whole Tozzi Two is its performance. Mark clearly has been getting his sums right, because these loudspeakers behave like a notionally ideal point source, while also possessed of incredible speed of attack and release, extraordinary detail retrieval, and pin-point precise imagery. With the right music, played through the right electronics, in the right room, the Tozzi Two disappears in a way many products strive to achieve. Many are called, few are chosen.
I played Birdy’s cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ from her eponymous debut album [14th Floor, Atlantic], and I must confess that I’m conflicted on this track. On the one hand, it’s an awesome first outing from someone who’s likely to be a fixture on the indie-folk scene for many years, I’m prepared to forgive her a lot as this was her first album (she was aged just 14 when it was released), and it’s a great track that lofted her to stardom. On the other hand, it can sound a bit breathy and fey. However, through the Tozzi Two, you don’t get so much of an accent on ‘breathy and fey’, instead you get someone standing in the room singing her young heart out with the kind of unalloyed candor and energy that only a teenager can deliver. The audio system folds away and it’s just her and the piano in the room.
Where this loudspeaker excels is in the playing of one or two instruments in an unamplified setting. Birdy’s voice has tiny reverb tails that you can easily define here, and her voice has a sense of organic body and presence that’s extraordinary at this price. However, scale things up to a larger band, and the same ‘disappearing’ quality is foreshortened. It’s perhaps not unexpected, but this is not the loudspeaker for showing off your latest cut from Mastodon, or playing ‘Du Hast’ from Rammstein’s Sennsucht [Motor Music] at an appropriate lick is not going to put a smile on your face. It’s not painful, but it’s not loud, and nor does it have a powerful enough grip over the bass to make it alluring. Similarly, trying to squeeze a powerful orchestral swell out of the Tozzi Two in anything larger than a box room is going to sound a little bass light.