Component Reviews

Roan Audio Seven Loudspeaker, Review 1 of 3


Published on February 1, 2005

January-February 2005, Review 1 of 3  [2]   [3]

Roan Audio Seven Loudspeaker
$4999/pr

Roan Audio 7 Speaker Roan Audio 7 Speaker CU
Roan Audio LLC
14485 SW. Arabian Drive
Beaverton, OR 97008
503 504-2413 (voice)
503 524-5311 (fax)

http://www.roanaudio.com

Basic Description

2-way, ported, magnetically shielded loudspeaker system with 7-inch magnesium cone mid/woofer and 25mm fabric dome tweeter; available in natural cherry, mahogany, or custom veneers; 8 ohms nominal; 200 watt power handling; 85 dB sensitivity; Cardas 5-way binding post with bi-wire capability; 15” H x 10” W x 13.5” D; 27 pounds each; 5-year warranty.

Associated Equipment

Arcam DV-29 DVD player, Arcam AV8 Preamplifier, Arcam P7 Power Amplifier, Bowers and Wilkins 705 speakers (for comparison), Panamax 5300 Power Conditioner, B&W speaker stands, Audioquest interconnect and speaker cabling.

Background

Roan Audio is a new company that has been in business just over two years. They make three different models with the Seven being the best. They also make a subwoofer that sells for $2499 that can mate with any of the models and comes in similar finish options to the Seven. There are a few dealers for the speakers in the Oregon area and that may be expanding after the January Consumer Electronic Show. For people who live outside the area of a local dealer, the speakers can be mail-ordered. The cabinets are finished and the speakers are assembled in Oregon, although the high quality drivers (for this model) are from Scandinavia.

Setup

The “manual” was just a single page of instructions with specifications on the back. There is a section on speaker connections and wiring choices, care of the speakers, proper amplification, and placement. Stands of 24 inch height are recommended and that is what I used. Roan doesn’t make a matching stand, but recommends stands made by Skylan. Here is the link: http://www.skylanstands.com/stands.htm. The speakers were placed well away from the side walls and at least five feet from the back. The manual recommends at least 100 hours of playback for break-in. This is extremely important – and not just for this brand. The speaker’s sound improved markedly after many hours of use. (I ran TV and music through the speakers for many days to accomplish the break-in.)

The speakers have a pear-shaped grill that attaches magnetically to the speaker. The binding posts are made by Cardas and are very substantial. I had some difficulty getting the shorting piece out to allow for bi-wiring, but pliers did the trick. The speaker is solid, heavy, and well-damped. All the pieces are sunk into the wood cabinet nicely and look professional. The speaker is bigger than the picture would seem and will be bulky for some—be sure to check the sizing. The cabinet is made up of different pieces of wood and the grain didn’t line up evenly on the top and the sides of the speakers. Some may desire a nicer wood finish although it really didn’t bother me. The corners are made up of different pieces of wood as well (see picture). This was different than the B&W speaker that only utilized 5 pieces for the entire speaker and other speakers that have larger single sheets of wood.

Listening
note
I didn’t have a comparably priced monitor speaker on hand that I could compare the speakers with, so I used the B&W 705 speakers that retail for $1500/pr. It turned out they were dissimilar enough to help judge the sonic characteristics of the Roan Audio speakers. There was a slight sensitivity difference (less than 2 dB) between the speakers and I was able to adjust the level on the preamplifier to compensate. In truth, the speakers didn’t sound much at all like each other, so volume wasn’t particularly an issue.

I began listening with track 1, “Stolen Car,” from Beth Orton’s Central Reservation disc. The Roan’s had a lighter balance, and I was really expecting more bass given the size of the speaker. The Model Sevens put the image slightly behind the speaker plane and images were a bit smaller in size in comparison with the B&W. The voice was very clear and it too was smaller than that offered by the 705s. The Sevens weren’t thin sounding, but didn’t have the drive in the bass I would have liked on this recording. They offered more depth of image compared to the 705s. The B&Ws had more weight to the sound, were (overly) rich in the midrange, and slightly softened in the top end compared to the Roans. The sound being more up front gave the feeling of more presence although the image was slightly flattened in comparison to the Roan.

Next I put on track 2, “Alive,” from P.O.D.’s Satellite. Here again, I felt the bass was a little lacking and made the speaker sound smaller than it was. Voice was clean and clear as before, but still a little laid back. Clarity as a whole was good (considering the quality of the recording). As before, the B&W was up front, had more bass, sounded bigger, and had a flatter soundstage with more midrange. Rockers and those who want deep bass really need to consider the addition of a subwoofer. I did play the speakers at relatively high levels on this cut and didn’t feel the speaker was stressed, although the speaker never sounded as full as I’d like.

I tried a two channel DVD-A mix from the Doobie Brothers The Captain and Me disc—track 2, “Long Train Runnin’.” The added presence on the B&W helped this disc as well. The Roans were cleaner, but not as involving. The low bass and impact was somewhat missing with the Roans.

I switched gears and went with a recording that I thought would highlight the abilities of the Roan speakers. I put on track 6, “Just Remember I Love You” from Firefall’s Greatest Hits CD. As long as deep bass isn’t an important part of the mix, these speakers acquitted themselves rather nicely. Harmonies were pleasing and the guitar was light and airy like it should be on this recording. Presentation was laid back, but it suited this song. The 705s offered a wider soundstage, emphasized mids, and added bass that wasn’t audible (or noticeable) with the Model Sevens. The B&Ws didn’t have the same detail on the top end—there was the slight softening as before. This sound may not be as neutral, but many will prefer it on rock.

I tried some jazz next: Patricia Barber’s Nightclub, track 6, “Alfie.” With the Roans I found the voice beautiful and natural sounding. Instrumentation was detailed and pleasant. The 705s sounded quite different on this recording—very analog-like with the feeling like I had changed to tube equipment. Everything was warm, big, rounded, and the guitar sound was rich and full. The difference in presentation on this recording was surprising.

In the same vein I tried track 2, the title track from Jamie Cullum’s record Twentysomething. The B&W speakers had nice presence, but were clearly limited in resolution and clarity. The speaker was euphonically pleasing and easy to listen to, but there is better available for more money. Bass was a little too plump and loose. For neutrality on this instrumental track and instrumental music in general, the Roans had an advantage.

From a Deutsche Grammophon sampler I played the 1st movement from Beethoven’s Cello Sonata op. 102 no. 2. It was harder to make the comparisons on the classical than it was with the other types of music although many of the traits previously noted were evident re: the bass, clarity, presentation, etc. There was nothing amiss or offensive in any way through the Roans on this recording. I did some further listening with Wagner’s “Brangane’s Warning from Tristan und Isolde” from Delos DE 3120. The female vocalist had an effortless quality and was liquid. You could hear the breaths and enunciations at every measure.

Conclusion

For full-range performance the Roan Seven will perform its best with the addition of a good subwoofer. Taken in isolation, the speakers offered a clean presentation that was slightly recessed, good soundstage depth, and high resolution, neutrality, and clarity with an ever-so-slight top-end emphasis (that was mostly due to its lack of low bass that shifted the apparent tonal balance).

The appearance of any speaker is subjective, so it will be up to the consumer to decide if it is to his/her liking. The speaker is definitely solid and well put together. A good stand will be essential and it is a shame that Roan doesn’t offer a matching stand with the appropriate threading in the bottom so the speaker can be firmly mounted to it. Spiking on the top of the stand should work fine, however.

The only thing that gives me pause is the price of this speaker system. In the process of the review I had five people (who are knowledgeable about hi-fi) come by to check out the speakers. They were all visiting at different times, so I was able to ask them what they thought about the speakers independently. After inspecting the finish and listening to the speakers for a while all of them guessed a significantly lower price. Two of the people pointed out two speakers that were less expensive and/or better sounding for the same money (in their opinion). Like many things, what is value for one person is not for others. And although it bettered the $1500/pr speakers in the comparison in some ways, in others it did not. This will make it hard to justify the $5000 price; but that is just one man’s opinion.

– Brian Bloom
big_brian_b@hotmail.com




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