Never have I reviewed a product that has come with such a story. This is no slap up speaker 6 months in the making, nor is it 5 years, or 10… or 25. You get the picture.
The man who has been behind the journey from the start is Harley Lovegrove, although the company is now run by his daughter, Summer. It all began in South East England not far from where both Kef and Lowther were based! With regular visits to the Lowther factory in infancy and being a very musical bloke himself, it is probably no surprise that speaker design made its way to the forefront of Harley’s interests.
Harley’s outlook is this:
“For me speaker building is more like instrument making. It’s a passion and a craft all at once. Sure there is science too but not many Luthiers know much about science, they don’t need to test their cellos, violins or classical guitars in anechoic chambers to know if they are any good or not. All I have done over these last five decades is to design and build the best possible cabinets and then to find really great drivers (ones that can cover the full range effortlessly) to put in them. By teaming up with Mark Fenlon of Mark Audio, I now have my own custom drive units made exclusively for the Sibelius SG and CG models.”
I find there is always something special about a company with a great history and true musical passion. Something that has taken time and been constantly iterated is usually a better product than a quick release money maker. Up until the 90’s Harley was building loudspeakers with multi drivers and all sorts of electronic components in filters and crossovers that are the norm in the majority of speakers. Once the 90’s were underway, the designs moved toward the “quarter wave, with a single drive plus tweeter…”. The move to the more simplistic design was considered a real step towards the final goal, but the final pieces of the puzzle came way down the line in 2012 when both the cabinet and drive units were finalised. Mark Audio in Hong Kong got the gig of producing some custom drive units after a couple of their Alpair cones impressed. The small sonic adjustments to get the finished article took months of tweaking. The meeting with Chris Cabergs deserves a mention too; he’s the guy behind the bespoke joinery firm that makes the awesome cabinets from a superb quality slow grown oak. The stiffness of the cabinet is key to a speaker enclosure but I will talk more about this later on!
After all this, a chance meeting on the Munich High End shuttle led the speakers to us two guys who weren’t born until half way through the creation journey of these speakers!
So there we are, a brief summary of how the Sibelius came about, was all that trouble and effort worth it though?!
This £4500 single driver speaker should not be judged solely by its specifications but they are worth noting nonetheless, so let’s skim through. We have an impedance of 7.5 Ohm and an alleged power handling of 35W RMS and 70W at their peak. Efficiency is rated at 87.5db and the frequency response is quoted to go from 30 KHz all the way down to the depths of 28 Hz (pinch of salt required). The dimensions are fairly standard which means they can be just as at home in a living/dining/bedroom area as a dedicated listening room, 1093mm (H) 225mm (W) 295mm (D) to be exact.
Because of the quality of the cabinets these are not a light speaker, at approximately 60kg for the pair, but let’s be real, how often are lightweight speakers any good? I know there are exceptions, but I can only see the weight as a good thing!
These single drivers aren’t particularly efficient as I have mentioned already, this means you can confidently hook up some whacking great SS amplifiers as well as something like the Audiomat Aria (30w tube amp). The ability to have this choice is great, unlike a >100dB sensitivity single driver where a low powered valve design is your only option really.
Build and Finish
Don’t be misled by the boxy exterior reminiscent of lower value speakers, the construction of these cabinets is real quality carpentry. The material for the enclosures is slow grown French Oak, no, not a veneer, SOLID Oak. Solid oak doesn’t mean ‘in places’ either, 30mm is the thinnest the oak is in any part of the enclosure (hence the weight).
It’s well known that slow grown oak lends itself to use in the audio domain with very good stability and high density, and this has stood the test of time having been used for hundreds of years in organ building. Not only this, but it looks absolutely stunning. Everything from the grain pattern and structure to how it holds its stain is wonderful; it’s a piece of furniture really. The finishes themselves are a natural stain coated in a matt varnish but if desired, a gloss varnish can be requested, colours are: Natural, Light Oak, Medium Oak, Wenge (Dark Oak), Weathered and Cherry. My pair is medium Oak, which would be my personal choice.
The quality of these cabinets have benefits beyond sonic impact, also effecting durability. Harley knows that if they are in a normal, well-regulated room (humidity and temperature) they should last generations with no trouble at all, whereas with veneers this may not be the case, they can start to peel and even crack after long periods of time.
The other thing to consider is that if they were to be dented or scratched it’s either unnoticeable, because of the depth of the thickness of the oak, or it’s a relatively easy fix. Worst case scenario you need a good sanding and reapply the finish, that’s it. If that was a veneer (like the very talented Audioplan Kontrast) it could leave the MDF on show and believe me it’s a bit of an eyesore!
One optional extra with these speakers are the very handy and very weighty stands. Steel stands with adjustable spikes are nothing ground-breaking but the cable management solution up the back is brilliantly simple and very effective. The pictures will show what I mean, but they are really handy for keeping everything neat and concealed.
Stands everywhere have high profit margins and aren’t cheap, and if you have carpets you are going to want a good set of spiked stands with these and I see no reason to look any further than the £500 asking price to bundle these together (taking the total price to £5000). They fit the base of the speaker perfectly and support cables really well up to the higher than usual binding posts, a result as far as I’m concerned!
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