Product: Cabasse Jersey loudspeakers
Manufacturer: Cabasse - France
Approx. price: 1100 € (piano black finish) - 950 € (wood finish) - (YMMV)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: September 2011
This is not the first time TNT-Audio reviews Cabasse loudspeakers. In the past we examined the Sloop and the Caprera models. Cabasse is a very well known brand, especially in France, and their catalogue is extremely rich, ranging from basic entry-level gear to crazy high-end designs like La Sphere, an extravagant complete system costing 100.000 € more or less (not a typo!).
Now, considering many audiophiles seem to prefer tower loudspeakers priced below the 1000 € mark we've asked the Italian distributor to send us a pair of MT30 Jersey's. Our aim was to understand what the market has to offer in this price range and eventually compare these speakers to similarly shaped and priced ones, possibly with a completely different sound philososophy. And that's what we did, but these Jeresy's were interesting enough to deserve a dedicated review...so here it is (the head to head comparison test will follow soon).
The Jersey's are nicely shaped floorstanding towers belonging to the MT30 series, a range of models that includes other floorstanders and even bookshelves and subwoofers. They arrived at home inside two separate boxes and it has been a surprise to discover how much care has been put even in the packaging of these products. The finish is a sleek piano black (wood veneer available) which is extremely easy to stain with fingerprints. For this reason the Jersey's boxes contain a pair of handgloves and a black, soft mat for safe cleaning purposes. The owner's manual includes all the necessary infos for proper installation, besides the tech specs for any model of the MT30 range.
A special foot is also supplied and should be installed by the owner. Nicely crafted, adjustable spikes (supplied) should then installed under these bases.
Out of the boxes, these towers are amazingly elegant and thanks to their size (99 cm x 22 cm x 32 cm) they can be easily installed inside any listening room. They are quite easy to move around, also, weighing in 18.6 kgs each (30 lbs more or less).
Proprietary Cabasse drivers are used throughout: two 17 cm woofers (model 17TD15) and one DOM36 tweeter, a unit that equips other loudspeakers of the same range. The drivers aren't of the shielded kind but CRT TVs are rare, nowadays, so...no big deal.
The two woofers work inside a bass reflex enclosure with a generous front-firing port. The cabinet seems sturdy and is entirely stuffed with acoustic foam, while internal cabling makes use of standard red/black figure-8 wires of 2 mmq of cross-section. Fast-on connectors hook up these cables to the drivers.
In the rear you can find simple, bulky, monowiring binding posts which accept bananas, forks and bare wire. No biwiring? No, thanks God! Many manufacturers are forgetting this crazy biwiring fashion.
The level of craftsmanship and finish is very high, with rounded and smooth corners everywhere. The Jersey's come with a standard warranty of two years, but this can be extended up to five years.
Overall, the general feeling is that of a well-thought product, solid, meticulously engineered and nicely crafted.
Cabasse is a Company with a long and established tradition: during the years they have built a kind of family sound inspired to what is universally known as French sound which, in some ways, have also contributed to create.
These Jeresey's make no exception to this rule so their tonal balance hasn't been a surprise to me: their sound is generally rich and open in the mid-high range, lively and sparkly. On the other end a generous and solid bass range helps counterbalancing the general mood: the two 17 cm midwoofers add weight and drama to the performance. Hence, don't expect a bright and thin sound! The Cabasse Jersey's are full-bodied speakers and deliver quite a big sound, with powerful bass and pure energy. Frequency response isn't extremely extended (58 Hz at -3dB, claimed) hence the first two octaves don't possess the same energy of the rest of the bass range. The 58 Hz -3dB point seems even too conservative to me, other manufacturers would have claimed a deeper response. In any case, do not expect the earthquake-type bass of Massive Attack's Angel will shake the floor or the walls. And do not expect the lowest notes of a pipe ogan to resonate inside your chest and body! I'd rather define the bass range as honest: it does everything very well until it reaches its natural limits. Control, precision, power and speed, these are the keywords that describe the bass performance of these French towers.
More or less, I've had the same feelings analyzing the rest of the audio spectrum: everything seems to aim to draw a precise, detailed, crystal clear picture of the musical event. Female voices, for example, are excellently reproduced with a stunning sense of presence and clarity. On the other hand, male voices, though being clean and detailed, seem to lack some body. String instruments sound harmonically rich and metallic when required while percussions appear fast and adequately rhythmic: the snare drum and the cymbals play slightly above the rest (toms and kick drum).
This is a 2-way design, where midwoofers and tweeter crossover point is located at 2800 Hz: this means that most of the mid range is reproduced by the midwoofers. For this reason, when these drivers are busy trying to reproduce extremely low and powerful bass at high listening levels the mid range might appear a bit confused. I can't describe this sensation adequately but for sure the mid and the mid-high range perform way better when there are no extreme bass frequencies to reproduce.
Microdetails, thanks to the excellent performance of the tweeter, are handled and reproduced accurately: for example, it is easy to detect click and pops of an old master tape. In other words, these loudspeakers are extremely transparent, more, much more than I expected from a product in this price range.
It should not come as a surprise the very good dynamic performance of these loudspeakers. High power handling is not a problem, these speakers can sound brutally loud (fancy a party anyone?). If you add they have 91 dB/w/m of sensitivity, they can do that even with low powered amplifiers. I've listened to them at very high levels (more than 100 dB at the listening seat, 105 dB during peaks) without detecting traces of dynamic compression. Actually, they can follow tough dynamical variations with ease, even big choirs and orchestras aren't a real problem: these speakers retain their lively personality even at high listening levels.
The bass range, within the limits I've already analyzed and described, sounds fast and aggressive when required. This means the bass reflex enclosure and the cabinet itself have been designed accurately: the usual boomy bass of many tower loudspeakers with two woofers is completely absent. Despite the tour de force (killer tracks with lots of bass) I've not perceived any annoying turbulence coming out from the reflex ports.
A good performance in the micro-dynamics department, as well, confirms once again the quality of the tweeter DOM36.
I've tried many different positions searching for the best compromise: if set too far apart one from the other the Jersey's can't avoid the creation of a hole in the center of the scene while if toe-in is excessive they sound overbright. On the other hand, placing them nearer one to the other generates a too narrow soundstage. In other words, it's up to you (and your listening room) to decide, but there's always something which is missing, in a way or another. At least, I haven't been able to get an acceptable compromise in my listening room. Other similarly sized towers were far easier to place for enjoying a reasonable soundstage.
This geometric difficulty notwithstanding one can enjoy a very good focus on instruments and singers. Voices appear extremely stable and defined, that kind of performance one might expect from better quality loudspeakers.
On the other end, the lively character of the Cabasse's makes horizontal planes of the soundstage appear closer one to the other and, finally, closer to the listener. I've had the sensation everything was happening right in front of the speakers, rather than behind them. There's image depth, yes, but it plays a secondary role somehow, despite I've kept the speakers 1,5 meters far from the rear wall. Moreover, especially with certain recordings, I've heard the sound coming directly from the tweeters more than once.
Of course, it can be a problem of correct placement of the speakers inside my room or their interaction with the room itself but all the other speakers I've tried didn't behave this way. Your listening room, of course, might be a completely different story.
Generally, considering the price tag, I'd rate the soundstaging capability of these Jersey's as sufficiently good but if you're looking for that kind of sound that breathes behind the speakers perhaps this is not the right choice for you.
Craftsmanship and finish.
I normally use this paragraph to unleash all of my critic's power :-) These Jersey's haven't helped much in this direction, unfortunately. Besides the lack of biwiring (I don't love biwiring, actually) these speakers have everything one might need: good looks, excellent finish, ease of use, high WAF. And if the black monolite look isn't your regular cup of tea, you can choose a wood veneer (cherry or wengé), at a lower price, too. The front firing reflex port might be welcomed by those who need to place the speakers very close to the rear wall (which is never a good idea, reflex or not).
It is extremely easy to leave fingerprints or scratches on the piano lacquer finish but, then, you can use the supplied pair of handgloves!
The only thing I really hated has been the need of self-installing the floor bases. I hate IKEA'ing pieces of speakers together: give me a plug & play cabinet and I'll love you forever. I might just spend few minutes to install spikes and that's all :-)
This is the reviewer's point of view, of course! Regular audiophiles might find the installing procedure an entertaining prelude.
The sound is - more or less - like the one I'd expect it to be: lively, open, crystal clear and it certainly leaves no room to warm and mellow sounds. Is this a plus or a minus? That depends! It depends on what you're searching for and on the rest of your system. Evaluate them carefully - possibly at home - or at least with components which are very similar to yours.
These speakers perform very well in certain areas (clarity, precision, PRaT and impact) and worse in others (imaging, global extension of the bass range). Because of their open and sometimes bright character they tend to be unforgiving with poor recordings, especially those which are too bright and compressed.
These Cabasse Jersey's are easy to install and their sub-20 kgs weight is a welcomed gift when playing around to find that sweet spot. Usual suggestions apply: stay far from walls and corners, experiment with some toe-in and avoid partners that possess the same tonal balance. They are easy to drive (impedance minimum at 4.5 ohm) and their highish sensitivity (91 dB) allows the partnership even with low-powered amplifiers. As said, I'd avoid bright ancillaries, unless your listening room is highly absorbent (or if you prefer that kind of unbalanced tonal balance :-)).
50 hours of break-in are necessary to get a more homogeneous performance. Do not be afraid to experiment many different positions inside your listening room: the difference might be NOT subtle, as Kamasutra aficionados might say.
The Jersey's are rather complete loudspeakers: they perform nicely with many (most) musical genres and give your Music a touch of liveliness that is welcomed most of the times. Despite of this they never sound harsh or shouty as one might expect. If you're in the market for speakers with a soft and warm attitude, maybe you should look elsewhere. With the right partners they can perform incredibly well for the price, confirming they are a very well thought and enginereed design, with a distinct personality, certainly worth an audition.
Incidentally, these speakers have made be think about the level of performance we can get nowadays for under 1000 €: building a nicely sounding HiFi system does no longer require a mortgage. Bravo Cabasse!
© Copyright 2011 Lucio Cadeddu - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com