Once upon a time, audio used to march to its own beat. Now, it seems to march to the beat of the smartphone world. Launch a piece of hi-fi today, and by the end of the week it’s old news. Companies therefore keep pace by launching ever smaller and larger variations on the same theme. Pearl Acoustics begs to differ. It has just the one product – the Sibelius SG floorstanding loudspeaker – and there are no plans to expand, alter, change, restructure or turn the Sibelius into a ‘range’. In a time where ‘what have you done for me lately?’ rules the audio roost, the Sibelius is a loudspeaker for the ages.
The idea behind the Sibelius is a distillation of technology old and new. The loudspeaker cabinet is a quarter-wave, folded horn design that follows a tradition that stretches right back to Paul Voigt and the first years of electrical loudspeaker systems. Back in 1930, Voigt’s concept was to amplify the relatively small signals emanating from a loudspeaker drive unit using a column of air chambered within a cabinet, something Pearl Acoustic’s designer Harley Lovegrove was investigating some 82 years later.
It begins (as it so often does in audio) with a personal quest for musical perfection. Having listened to classic Lowther designs and even commissioning a variant on the Scott Lindgren Frugel-Horn, perfectionist Lovegrove began to think about building his own loudspeaker; he was drawn to the work of Voigt, and realised that such designs rely on extremely rigid cabinetry. MDF and its ilk simply did not cut the musical mustard. This prompted a move to a solid timber cabinet, and finding a similarly like-minded perfectionist in both driver and woodwork. This led to working with Mark Fenlon (of Markaudio-Sota fame), joinery expert Chris Cabergs, and to the use of unbraced cabinets of 3.3cm thick, slow grown, solid French oak, in timbers aged for 12 years (under the ‘if it works for whisky, it must be good’ rule). Coupled with a classic version of one of Fenlon’s wide-range drive units (Lovegrove prefers this to the latest voicing), and months of listening to damping materials (Lovegrove and his team don’t get out much), the Sibelius slowly came to fruition.
The Sibelius is a single-way loudspeaker with a relatively narrow front baffle and the exit point of the internal horn at the base of the loudspeaker. It is single wired to two solid connectors at the rear, with no filters or electrical components in between. It is offered with an adjustable steel base with an L-shaped upright for cable support. There’s a panel on the back bearing Jean Sibelius’ signature (this is not the kind of loudspeaker that ends up in the kind of dealer who would think Sibelius was the designer… hopefully), and that’s about it. There’s no grille or ornamentation, but they do offer a dust cover to protect the drivers from prodding fingers and adventurous household pets when not in use. So there is nothing to fall off, tarnish, or break. Even the manual is out of the ordinary, as it is a hardback autobiography, philosophical treatise on loudspeaker design and room treatment, and installation guide. Also the lack of bracing means although the loudspeaker is made from solid tree, it’s not too heavy as it comes in at around 29kg per loudspeaker.
You are not entirely without options, though. There are a range of stains available alongside the well finished, dozen year aged, solid French oak cabinet. There are also minor variants on the driver itself, such as a ‘CG’ version that replaces the silver alloy drive unit with a copper alloy cone (all other specifications remain functionally identical) and a ‘P’ version that replaces the metal cone with a paper one. This last is designed to be deliberately reminiscent of classic paper cone designs like Lowther. This makes the loudspeaker slightly more efficient, at the expense of a hair less maximum output and greater limits on power handling. On paper, at least… as we only had the standard ‘SG’ version to hand, we can’t comment on the performance of either of the other models.