- Big sound when needed
- Responsive and detailed
- Tonally matched
- Flexible in installation
- Solidly built
- Superbly engineered
- Size and weight won’t suit everyone
What is the Arendal 1723 Speaker Package?
Arendal Sound might not be a familiar name to you but this Norwegian company has an excellent pedigree when it comes to speaker design and manufacturer. The firm evolved from retailer L Sound who clearly know a thing or two about AV products and decided to create their own speaker brand. The result is a series of speakers, all of which have been designed with the intention of delivering, performance, accuracy, build quality and relative value.
Arendal Sound’s first range is the 1723 Series, which is composed of a floor-stander, a monitor, a centre speaker, a surround speaker and a range of subwoofers. The company is based in the Norwegian city of Arendal and the ‘1723’ moniker relates to the year that the city was given privileges as such and allowed to levy customs duties. That’s a nice story but it might make naming later products a bit tricky. The entire range can be bought directly from the Arendal website, with prices in Euros, so exactly how much an individual product costs will vary depending on the prevailing exchange rate.
The 5.1-channel system that we are testing is compromised of two monitors at the front, coupled with a centre speaker. This is identical to the monitors expect for the location of the badge and the orientation of the binding posts. There’s also two dedicated surround speakers with direct, forward and rear facing drivers, along with a Subwoofer 2. This makes for a formidable set-up because don’t let the word monitor fool you, it would take one hell of a shelf or bookcase to handle these bad boys. So let’s wire the Arendal 1723 5.1 system up and see how it sounds.
Arendal Sound had a very deliberate goal when designing the 1723 range and we’re pleased to see that they didn’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel. The Monitor might not win any awards in the looks department, it uses a very classic speaker design, but frankly if it ain’t broke why fix it. The emphasis is more on the quality of materials and the type of construction, rather than exotic materials and wacky designs. Besides we’re old school, we like our speakers to look like speakers.
So you get a very traditional speaker with mid-range drivers either side of a central tweeter. The speaker is composed of HDF (High Density Fibreboard) rather than the normal MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). The reason for this is that it results in a more sonically inert cabinet and the HDF can be machined more precisely. This is especially important for the two-part HDF and aluminium waveguide and Arendal uses thicknesses of HDF ranging from 18 to 50mm, with critical areas like the driver mountings and speaker bases being the thickest.
The company have also strategically placed internal braces to increase the overall cabinet strength to limit any unwanted panel vibrations that might cause audible colouration. The internal braces also smooth airflow and minimise volume losses within the cabinet whilst maintaining their thickness at critical assembly points. The final detail is to apply a butyl-based differential mass damping layer to the inner faces of the cabinet, just to be sure that every last resonance has been damped out.
Arendal use almost entirely non-plastic components, with high grade brushed and anodised aluminium back plates on their subwoofers and speakers, in fact even their logo is in anodized aluminium. The interior of their speakers also use high count multi-strand wire, braided together. This is done to produce the most consistent impedance possible and deliver superior electrical current carrying capabilities. The company claims this results in very low insertion losses and insures that each driver sees what the amplifier intended without any distractions.
The speakers come in a premium finish with a choice of matte or gloss black and matte or gloss white, that uses up to 12 layers of paint, consisting of primers and polyurethane paint – no vinyl – and is then hand finished. The custom-made grilles use perforated metal wrapped in a clean black cloth to tone down the visually hard look, whilst simultaneously damping out any residual vibrations. Neodymium sub-surface magnets then grip the metal grille with great force, preventing unwanted movement and vibration during high level playback, and the grilles have a rubber protection to ensure the cabinet is not damaged when attached.
Around the back are binding posts made from copper (not brass or other lower conductivity metals), these are then machined into shape and polished to insure a smooth functionality and clean cosmetics. The final step is Rhodium plating which was chosen for its excellent conductivity, corrosion resistance and hardness thus protecting the copper material within. Each post accepts commonly used wire terminations – banana, spade, pin and bare wire – whilst the input jumpers, made from the same materials as the binding posts, create a simple bridge between inputs without any compromise in quality for use when bi-wiring is not employed.
When it comes to the inside of their speakers, Arendal are just as interested in getting the basics things right as they are on the outside. So they have concentrated on accuracy with specific emphasis on dynamics, linearity, distortion, power handling, frequency response and polar characteristics. Arendal employ extensive stress testing, including full power testing repeated for days and in some cases for weeks, plus mechanical, thermal and vibration tests. These are intended to quickly identify and correct any potential problems during the design phase. If a component breaks, Arendal find out why and replace it with something better. All speakers and subwoofers are then thoroughly analysed using state-of-the-art laser based measurement systems and electro-acoustic testing systems. Finally, extensive listening tests are carried out to ensure that the speakers perform to their full sonic capabilities.
The 8” woofers used in the 1723 Monitor are based on the 13.8” driver found in the Subwoofer 2, but with certain details changed. So the 8” cone does not have the glass fibre reinforcement of the 13.8” as it is already stiff enough and the base material’s inherent self-damping with its proprietary cone treatment is an important part of the design. The bespoke 8” mid-woofers are optimised to cover a very wide frequency range and the use of a larger driver provides a naturally improved bass response and efficiency. However it also presents it’s own engineering challenges, with the motor, suspension and diaphragm delicately balanced to be able to cover the critical midrange frequencies without colouration, whilst multiple drive units are combined to further reduce distortions and augment bass output and power handling.
The tweeter in the 1723 Monitor uses a 28mm synthetic soft dome with custom designed, matching waveguide. The soft dome itself is very light weight, totally pistonic to ultra high frequencies, optimally damped, produced to exceedingly tight tolerances and specifically chosen for its character and consistent frequency response. The role of the waveguide is to take an already excellent tweeter and provide refinements to the performance. The size and shape, although appearing rather simple is in fact the result of painstaking modeling, testing and refinement. In precisely controlling directivity across the tweeter’s frequency range, Arendal are able to broaden the top end dispersion, which the tweeter naturally wants to beam straight ahead and focus frequencies at the bottom end of the tweeter’s range, which naturally want to spread out in all directions.
This provides a more consistent polar response across the tweeter’s entire range and provides a close match to the dispersion pattern of the mid-bass driver it works with, simplifying the crossover design. The result is a very wide bandwidth, high efficiency, low distortion tweeter capable of being crossed over at a low 1500Hz, even at very high power levels. The final piece to Arendal’s tweeter design is mating the dome with the custom matched, proprietary waveguide, which serves several purposes – augmenting tweeter performance to a level that no flat baffle mounted single dome solution could reproduce. The air chambers, venting and damping materials found behind the dome and surround are optimized to create a very well controlled impedance, free of secondary resonance spikes that typically result in electrical phase shifts that present an awkward load for amplifiers and further smear the sound, adding a harsh character.
The Arendal 1723 Monitor uses a 2-way lineup of 8″ mid-bass drivers and a 28mm wave guide tweeter with a 1500Hz crossover frequency. As mentioned the cabinet is made of HDF and comes in a matte or gloss finish and a choice of black or white. The sealed cabinet can be vented by removing foam plugs from the twin 2″ ports at the rear; with both vents sealed the response is 58-20kHz (+/-3dB) and with both vents open it’s 34-20kHz (+/-3dB). The 1723 Monitor has a nominal impedance of 4-ohms and a sensitivity of 89dB/2.83v/1m.
The 1723 Monitor might technically be classed as a shelf or bookcase speaker but that rather understates the sheer size and weight of these babies. They actually measure 63.5cm high, 27.5cm wide and 40cm deep and weigh in at 26.7kg. Since there isn’t a shelf or bookcase in existence that you could place the Monitors on, Arendal offer dedicated stands at €650 a pair. In the box along with a pair of the 1723 Monitors you’ll also find a manual, rubber pads and the foam port plugs. Arendal recommend a minimum of 50 hours break-in time for optimal performance and the recommended amplification is 300W RMS @ 4-ohms. At the time of writing (April 2017) the 1723 Monitor is listed on the Arendal website at €1,600 a pair for matte and €1,700 for gloss.
In developing the 1723 Series, one of Arendal’s reasons for using a waveguided tweeter was that it offered controlled dispersion, plus a lower crossover point than a traditional tweeter flat mounted on a baffle. Lowering the crossover point, removed concerns about turning the 1723 Monitor on it’s side for use in the horizontal format under a screen. As such, the 1723 Center is the same speaker as the 1723 Monitor but sold singly and with the grill badges and binding posts moved for aesthetic purposes. However in all other respects it remains the same speaker and is a tonal match for the 1723 Monitor.
All the specifications are identical to the 1723 Monitor, so you get a 2-way lineup of 8″ mid-bass drivers and a 28mm wave guide tweeter with a 1500Hz crossover frequency. The cabinet is also made of HDF and again comes in a matte or gloss finish and a choice of black or white. There are twin 2″ ports at the rear and with both vents sealed the response is 58-20kHz (+/-3dB) and with both vents open it’s 34-20kHz (+/-3dB), the nominal impedance is 4-ohms and the sensitivity is 89dB/2.83v/1m. The measurements are now 63.5cm high, 27.5cm high, 63.5cm wide and 40cm deep in its horizontal orientation, although the weight is still 26.7kg. In the box along with a single 1723 Center you’ll find a manual, rubber pads and the foam port plugs, whilst Arendal again recommend a minimum of 50 hours break-in time for optimal performance and a maximum amplification of 300W RMS @ 4-ohms. At the time of writing (April 2017) the 1723 Center is listed on the Arendal website at €850 each for matte €900 for gloss.
Arendal have designed a surround speaker to go with the 1723 Monitor and the 1723 Center which is, rather obviously, called the 1723 Surround. The speaker uses the same 8” mid-bass driver and 28mm waveguide tweeter on the front baffle as used throughout the 1723 Series, thus ensuring excellent tonal matching and precise imaging. To deliver a more enveloping surround sound field and better effects steering, Arendal have fitted custom-built full-range dipolar 4″ drivers to the angled side baffles into what they call a TriAxial speaker.
The 1723 Surround uses a sealed enclosure and HDF construction with either a matte or gloss finish and a choice of black or white. The crossover frequency for the 4″ drivers is 200Hz and for the 8″ driver it is 1400Hz, the sensitivity is 87dB/2.83v/1m and the frequency response is 58-20kHz (+/-3dB). The nominal impedance is 4-ohms and Arendal recommend a minimum of 50 hours break-in time for optimal performance and a maximum amplification of 250W RMS @ 4-ohms. The 1723 Surround measures 45cm high, 43.2cm wide and 21.6cm deep, it weighs 17.4kg and in the box along with two speakers there are wall mounting brackets, rubber pads and a manual. At the time of writing (April 2017) the 1723 Surround is listed on the Arendal website at €1,300 a pair for matte and €1,400 for gloss.
1723 Subwoofer 2
The Subwoofer 2 sits in the middle of the Arendal range, above the Subwoofer 1 and Subwoofer 1.5 (guess someone messed up the models numbers) and just below the Subwoofer 3. The Subwoofer 2 uses two proprietary 13.8” drivers that are driven by a 1000W RMS Avalanche DSP amplifier and it has a sealed cabinet with a volume that has been sized to produce an optimally damped system, delivering low distortion and naturally deep bass. A further performance edge is provided by a dual opposed, force cancelling driver topology to deliver clean deep bass, without cabinet movement subtracting anything from the driver output, although to be on the safe side Arendal have used also used 1″ thick walls and 2″ thick baffles. The 1723 Subwoofer 2 comes in either a matte or a gloss finish and a choice of black or white.
The Subwoofer 2 has the usual controls for volume, variable phase and crossover, as well as an EQ-rocker that, in position 2, produces 32-160Hz (+/-3dB) and, in position 1, can go down to 20-160Hz (+/-3dB). The crossover has selections from 40Hz to 160Hz and Arendal recommend a break-in time of 50 hours for optimal performance and the subwoofer comes with a 2.5m power cable and a manual. It sits on rubber cones, although these can be removed, and the Subwoofer 2 measures 54.2cm high, 42cm and 50cm deep (it’s height is 1.2cm lower without the feet) and weighs 41.4kg. At the time of writing (April 2017) the 1723 Subwoofer 2 is listed on the Arendal website at €1,500 per unit for matte and €1,600 for gloss.
Setup & Testing
Arendal kindly delivered a full 1723 Series 5.1 system for review, consisting of two gloss white Monitors, a matte white Center, two matte white Surrounds and a matte black Subwoofer 2. The speakers had all been run-in already, no need to spend 50 hours doing that, so we set about positioning them in our dedicated home cinema. It’s an acoustically treated rectangular room and although there are no nasty surprises in terms of the space itself, the 1723 Monitors are very flexible when it comes to positioning.
We left the Monitors sealed and placed them at either side of our screen, we also used our own stands but even then the Monitors were so large that they did block the screen slightly but since it was at the edges we weren’t too bothered. Although you can position the Center vertically, and for the best tonal balance we would recommend doing just that so that the front three speakers are configured identically, we actually installed the Center horizontally so that it didn’t block our screen. We also placed the tripole Surrounds just slightly to the rear on the left and right of the listening position. It’s worth pointing out that the speakers are side dependent so if you swap them around, one of the 4” side drivers will be in the wrong phase. When installed correctly the front firing side drivers should be in phase with the front speakers and the rear firing side drivers out of phase. We placed the Subwoofer 2 to the front and side of the room, more out of necessity than design because of the sub’s sheer size.
We tested the 1723 5.1 system with a mixture of material ranging from Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray, CD, DVD-Audio, SACD and music streaming. For amplification we used the Arendal system with our reference Denon AVR-X7200WA AV receiver in a 5.1-channel configuration and also with a Denon AVR-X4300H AV receiver that we were testing at the same time.
So how does the Arendal 1723 5.1 system sound? In a word – fantastic. When you first set up the speakers their sheer size and weight makes you think they’ll be lumbering beasts but in reality it isn’t like that at all. Yes they can sound big and powerful when the soundtrack calls for it and they will make the most of the amplification that you feed them but what really struck us was how nimble and responsive they were. We had no problems driving them with the Denon X4300 in a 5.1 configuration and although it isn’t the most powerful receiver, the Arendals delivered an impressively large and immersive sound field. Once we switched over to the bigger and more powerful X7200, the 1723 Series was able to take advantage of the increased headroom and produced that ideal combination of detail, responsiveness and power.
As always we went straight to our favourite test sequence, the opening scene of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the 1723s brought out more detail than we’ve heard before. The clarity was remarkable with the merest whisper of breath being heard amongst the falling rain drops. There was the subtle sound of movement amongst the trees as the apes move almost but not quite silently through them and the choral arrangement of the music rises in the background. The Arendals picked out every small detail and delivered them with precision and realism. Once the hunt starts the whole soundtrack bursts into life and the Monitors and Surrounds instantly responded filling the room with sound and immersing you in the chaos. At the same time the Subwoofer 2 weaves its way through the soundstage, underpinning the action.
Another disc that we use a lot is Interstellar, this soundtrack has some great moments that demonstrate dynamic range, with a scene right at the start of the film where we go from a quiet farm early in the morning to a crashing spaceship. The sudden change can be quite alarming and the 1723 system handled it superbly, instantly moving from the subtle sounds of morning to the sudden roar of the spaceship hurtling through the atmosphere. Later in the film there is a scene where a spaceship is trying to escape a black hole and the entire sound design is filled with rattling effects, which completely surround you. Once again the Arendals handled this with ease, making you feel like you’re inside the spaceship.
Keeping with the space theme, we moved on to Gravity which has an incredibly directional soundtrack where the audio often follows the source on screen. The excellent tonal matching of the 1723 Monitors, Center and Surrounds meant that the sounds moved around the room seamlessly and the steering of effects was incredibly precise. The 1723 Center delivered dialogue with absolute clarity but also merged almost seamlessly with the left and right Monitors. We would still recommend keeping the orientation the same for all three front speakers if possible but if you have to use the Center speaker in its horizontal orientation you won’t be disappointed. Overall the Arendals were able to deliver an extremely cohesive sound field which was immersive and tonally balanced. The tripole 1723 Surrounds also delivered a great combination of focused sound and a more immersive surround experience.
Finally we popped in Pacific Rim to give the Arendals a thorough workout and immediately realised that amongst all the solid engineering and technical prowess, what the 1723 Series has in spades is a sense of fun. As the opening scenes of Pacific Rim introduced us to the Jaegers and Kaiju, the Arendals were doing everything right, the dialogue was clear and focused, the front soundstage was wide and detailed, the rears were delivering an immersive sound field and the sub was producing some thunderous bass. However as the music began to soar we realised there was a grin on our face, to put it quite simply – we were having fun. If you enjoy watching movies and want a system that will not only deliver balance, detail, clarity and dynamism but also that added ‘X’ factor of pure fun then the 1723s are definitely worth considering.
In terms of their performance with music, the Arendal Monitors were no slouches either and all the factors that made them great for movies also applied to their two channel performance. We tested them initially as a simple two channel setup with the foam plugs removed and the Monitors delivered a lovely musical performance with favourite songs from the simple vocal and piano of ‘Life on Mars’ on the Lazarus cast recording to the symphonic majesty of Suede’s ‘Still Life’ on Dog Man Star. There was a wide front soundstage, with plenty of detail and clarity and a precise localisation of instruments. We also put the plugs back in and ran the system as a 2.1-channel setup with the Subwoofer 2 handling the lower frequencies. Purists might not like this approach but the fast and responsive nature of the Subwoofer 2 meant that it added a tight and controlled low-end to the Monitors and integrated with them perfectly. Finally we listened to some 5.1 recordings such as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips and Amused to Death by Roger Waters and again the Arendals impressed with their ability to deliver a spacious 360 degree sound field with great timbre matching and precise localisation.
Arendal have done a marvellous job of designing and building their 1723 Series of speakers. They may appear very traditional but that’s not a bad thing in our book and the company’s careful attention to detail and the excellent build quality means you get a range of speakers that look and feel far more expensive than they actually are. The downside to all this careful engineering is that they are large and heavy, even the Surrounds, which means you will need to take that into account when installing them. However don’t be fooled by the Monitor’s tank-like appearance because Arendal’s attention to detail extends to every aspect of the engineering on the inside as well as the outside and these speakers perform.
This means that the Monitor, Center and Surrounds are nimble and responsive when they need to be but also capable of being very dynamic, making the most of the power that’s fed into them, and resulting in a big sound that befits their size. The inert cabinets and neutral audio qualities deliver lovely detail and clarity whilst the low-end capabilities coupled with the powerful but fast Subwoofer 2 results in bass that is solid and deep. The entire system is also perfectly matched in terms of tonal balance, which means that the steering and positioning of effects is impeccable, and the Surrounds create a suitably immersive sound field at the rear.
Ultimately what we really like about the Arendal 1723 Series is that along with all this design and engineering, they manage to retain that all important fun factor. Listening to this system brought a smile to our face and reminded us of how good a 5.1 system can sound when done correctly. The Arendal 1723 Monitor, Center, Surrounds and Subwoofer 2 make an excellent package and whilst they may at first seem quite expensive, when you consider the build quality and performance they’re actually a bit of a bargain.