Product: Larsen 8 speakers
Manufacturer: Larsen HiFi - Sweden
Sample supplied by: MondoAudio
Approx. price: 5800€/pair
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: September, 2018
A couple of months ago I reviewed the quite surprising Larsen 4.2, the smallest model of the Swedish company Larsen HiFi, which specialize in designing and manufacturing loudspeakers with a “think different” approach. Their most unique feature is that their speakers are meant to be installed as close to the rear wall as possible and, in spite of this apparently less than ideal position, they are still capable of creating a realistic 3D soundstage.
The Larsen catalogue offers just three models: the already reviewed 4.2, the 6.2 and the top of the line, the model 8, which I'm going to review. Despite being their flagship model the price tag is quite far from the exaggerations of high-end maisons and their multiple zero price tags. With more or less than 5,000€ you have the possibility to purchase a pair of these amazing speakers.
For more infos on Larsen, their philosophy and their history please refer to my review of the 4.2 model, here on TNT-Audio.
The Larsen 8 is a compact floorstander (91,6 H x 27,8 x 32,8 cm), based on the very same acoustic principles of the 4.2, here brought to their most extreme consequences. The loudspeaker is a three way system (actually 2 and a half) with two extra “ambience” tweeters, which fire upwards, attenuated by 10 dB, cut at 500 Hz and finally wired out of phase. Then there's an additional woofer which fires laterally, towards the space between the loudspeakers. The woofers are both Scanspeak 18W/8545/01 units, cut at 300Hz and 2.5 kHz respectively. Each one works in a separate acoustic chamber. Even the tweeters are from Scanspeak. The reflex load has the unusual Larsen “upper triangular” configuration (the port is triangular and is placed close to the top of the cabinet).
As happened with the 4.2, the speaker must be placed as close to the rear wall as possible, with no toe-in i.e. they need to be placed parallel to each other. Indeed, woofer and tweeters are already angled towards the listener as required (± 45°). The crossover makes use of high quality components such as plastic film caps and low-resonancy glued coils. The binding posts allow for a bi-wiring connection and are installed as close as possible to the crossover and to the drivers, for a shorter signal path.
Different finishes are available: cherry, maple, black or white lacquer.
Considering how much I enjoyed the Larsen entry-level model, the 4.2, I was eager to put the flagship model to test! Well, undoubtedly the family sound is exactly the same, and this means the designer knows how to reach his goals even working with completely different drivers. Anyway, if you are thinking the 8's are just like the 4.2's with more bass, thanks to the dual woofer and the larger cabinet well, you are (partially) wrong. There's much more than deeper and more powerful bass! All the good things of the 4.2 are there, just better! The sound is way bigger, has much more weight and scale, and generally belongs to a whole different league.
Of course, the bass range is fuller and more extended, with better articulation and control. That slight trace of confusion in the mid-bass that could be heard on certain tracks has disappeared. Evidently, the presence of a second woofer makes the work of the first one easier. The low cut, placed at 300Hz, leaves the second woofer free to work as a real woofer, instead of being pushed up to 2500Hz like the first one.
The claimed bass response is 23 Hz but this datum seems a bit optimistic to me. In order to reach such low frequencies, bigger woofers and larger cabinets are usually required. In my opinion this loudspeaker reaches 30-35 Hz with an attenuation of -3dB, which is still an excellent perfomance, considering the compact size of the cabinet.
The rest of the audio range is clean, tendentially soft, sweet and smooth. The sound is detailed but the musical details aren't put “in your face”, like many other high-end loudspeakers. Here everything serves music and listening pleasure, and this happens with any musical genre.
When compared to the 4.2, it is clear the sound is much more classy and refined. As a result, the price difference can be unmistakenly heard. The sound is harmonically rich and natural, especially with voices, strings and brass.
Those audiophiles who prefer a more pyrotechnic sound, with lots of details and hyper-definition, might not like the Larsen approach to musical reproduction. And even those who prefer listening to aggressive, punchy musical genres (heavy rock, techno etc.) might found these speakers a bit too “educated”. They definitely lack some extra brute force. Me? I've just found myself listening to more music than usual and my notepad has been forgotten on the listening seat for most of the time. This means much to me: it means that I enjoyed every single moment I spent with these speakers, forgetting I was there to review them and take notes. If you are searching for this kind of approach to music reproduction at home, you can't avoid listening to these speakers.
The company claims a mid sensitivity (88 dB) hence you don't need hundreds of watts to make them sound loud. Anyway, in my opinion, they seem to prefer to be driven by powerul amplifiers to give their best. Overall macro dynamics is very good, though they won't shake your floor. Of course, with rock tracks some extra punch and deep impact might be needed. On the other hand, you get used to the gentle sound of these speakers very quickly and you'll never find them “boring” or lazy. Never! Natural, yes, boring, never.
In the micro-dynamics department they perform well, thanks to the high quality of the drivers. Attacks and decays are exactly like you'd expect them to be, considering the general behaviour of the speakers. Quick, but not lightning fast. Anyway, if you crank up the volume, these speakers could surprise you. This happened while playing at insanely high listening levels the Sheffield Drum & Track Record, for example. In other words, there's some fire burning under ash.
The almost magical performance of the 4.2, as expected, can be found in the flagship model as well. Despite the speakers being installed close to the rear wall there's still a realistic 3D soundstage! The 3D image is large, deep and there's even an appreciable sense of height, which was missing with the smaller 4.2's. Certainly the taller cabinet plays a role here, but even the ceiling-firing ambience tweeters add some magic in this area.
The sound doesn't seem to be created by the drivers or the cabinets and it is pretty independent from the listening position, which is a very welcomed gift! You can move from the central listening position and the soundstage remains almost the same. Say no to an excessively rigid sweet spot!
Instrument and singers are pretty “stable” though you can't expect the pin-point focus of traditional speakers with front firing drivers. The compromise you have to accept is absolutely tolerable, though, certainly the 4.2's were less convincing in this sense.
Manufacturing & finish.
Exactly like the smaller 4.2's these are “no frills” loudspeakers, pure substance, no bells and whistles. Their price takes into account the higher complexity of their construction. Certainly the cabinet is far more complex than a standard floorstander. Considering everything has been designed and manufacturer locally (no Far East subsidiaries) the quality/price ratio is very high. The quality of their finish isn't on a par with other competitors but these Larsen 8 are simple, elegant, fairly understated. It should be remarked that, because of the unusual (and fairly exposed) position of the drivers, these are quite prone to suffer from accidental damage. A traditional floorstander with solid dust grids is safer.
The sound is gentle, smooth and never aggressive, yet it is emotionally rich and involving. The speakers are not the ultimate in brute force and impact and certainly there are more transparent competitors in the same price range. This peculiar “personality” is of the “love or hate” kind. If you are looking for cheap thrills, these speakers are't for you! Finally, as remarked above, their imaging ability isn't on a par with traditional speakers in the same price range.
More or less you should follow the same advices I gave for the 4.2 model: place them close to the rear wall, with zero toe-in. The supplied damping feet are mandatory as well. As for partners, I'd choose powerful and fast solid state amplifiers so to avoid any excess of smoothness and warmth. Avoid slow, warm and euphonic valve amplifiers like the plague.
My first encounter with the “ortophonic” technology developed by Larsen, when listening to the entry-level 4.2 model, has been quite a shock. I couldn't believe what those speakers were capable of in terms of 3D imaging, considering their placement against the rear wall. These Larsen 8 play in a different league and improve every single area of the performance of the smaller sisters. I could happily live with these speakers: they make you forget your HiFi system and let you concentrate on music alone. If that's what you're looking for, give these speakers a chance, they'll amaze you. They are incredibly fascinating smooth operators!
© Copyright 2018 Lucio Cadeddu - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com