1723 Monitor THX – Audioholics

The Arendal Sound 1723 Monitors offer superb sound quality.

Arendal’s loudspeakers are not the least expensive out there, but they are shockingly low-priced considering what they promise to bring to the table. But the keyword there is ‘promise’ – it all seems to be too good to be true. Are they every bit as good as Arendal purports? Let’s dig in to find out…

Packing and Appearance

Packing was good for the 1723 Monitors, but it needs to be since they all ship by parcel post from their warehouse in the Netherlands. They were packed in a sturdy cardboard box with edge protectors all around. They were sandwiched between two polyethylene pieces with another piece protecting the middle – a good idea for the shape of this speaker. Inside, the speaker was covered in a drawstring rayon sack to protect it against scuffing and moisture, a very elegant touch! Furthermore, they come shipped with cotton gloves to handle the speaker without leaving fingerprints on the finish. That is certainly going the extra mile and shows pride in their product.

Once uncovered, the 1723 Monitor is quite an attractive speaker of its type, that being a large stand-mount speaker. It had an unexpectedly fine gloss white finish over a front baffle with beveled edges and some sleek-looking drivers. The bass drivers had a clean, satiny luster, and the tweeter had a similarly silky sheen mounted in a brushed aluminum waveguide. There are included grilles that use magnetic adhesion, so there are no grille guides on the front baffle, which preserves a very clean look. The grilles have a light rounded shape so they look a bit nicer than just black fabric hung over a frame, although I think the speaker looks nicer without the grille. The rear-mounted binding post plate also had a brushed black aluminum finish with rhodium-plated binding posts and jumpers. Overall, it’s big but very classy-looking. The 1723 Monitor also comes in a matte white, matte black, and a gloss black finish. Not having seen the other finishes in person, I have to think that the gloss white would look the nicest, but given the stylistic sensibilities seen here, I am sure they all look very nice.

Design Analysis

The 1723 Monitors are a two-way MTM design using 8” woofers and a waveguide-loaded dome tweeter. The overall design, as well as the THX-Ultra certification, suggests a stand-mount speaker with a relatively high dynamic range as well as controlled dispersion. The tweeter is a 1.1” synthetic soft dome loaded into a circular aluminum waveguide. The waveguide should help control dispersion by constricting the lower end of the tweeter’s band but also widening the high end. This is done so that the dispersion remains more consistent than what normally occurs for dome tweeters without a waveguide, which is a very wide dispersion at their lower end that ends up becoming narrow at the top of the tweeter’s frequency range. Arendal’s literature states that the tweeter uses a neodymium ring magnet, copper and aluminum shorting rings, ferrofluid cooling, as well as an aluminum heatsink and a damped rear chamber to mitigate resonances from backwave radiation. 

The two 8” woofers of the 1723 Monitors use long pulp fiber cones with an inverted dustcap and an nitrile-butyl rubber surround. Removing the driver from the cabinet, it looks to have a 1” diameter voice coil, a shielded motor, and venting done under the spider. Shielding can keep more of the magnetic flux within the motor assembly, but it isn’t seen much anymore since it was mostly used to prevent stray magnetic fields from interfering with the picture of CRT screens. The motor is hidden behind the shielding, but the driver is fairly heavy and solid, so I would guess it has a pretty hefty magnet. Arendal’s literature states that it uses an aluminum shorting ring, suspension optimized by FEA analysis, and copper-clad aluminum wiring for the voice coil. It looks like a capable driver, and two 8” cones have nearly the same surface area as a 12” cone, so the bass system of the 1723 Monitors should have a pretty serious dynamic range.

The tweeter crosses over to the woofer at 1.5kHz, which is a very sensible crossover frequency going to an 8” cone for preserving smooth directivity, so long as the waveguide shape is well-conceived. The crossover slopes are all fourth-order, which is quite steep and surprising for a loudspeaker of this price point. These are electric-acoustic slopes, so they combine with the natural roll-off of the driver and are not purely electric slopes, at least for the tweeter. Arendal specifies their crossovers to use heavy-gauge air-core inductors, polypropylene capacitors, high-power resistors, thick PCBs, and twisted-pair multi-strand wiring, and, from taking a look at the crossover circuit, it is no joke; these are some beefy capacitors, inductors, and resistors. The 1723 Monitors allow the user to bi-amp/bi-wire them, but I have to question the need for bi-amping in this instance, even for a speaker as beefy as these. However, with a specified 400-watt RMS power-handling ability, there is a better case for bi-amping ability with these than many other home audio loudspeakers. The binding posts are plated look like nickel plating but are actually plated in rhodium, which was chosen for its conductivity, corrosion resistance, and hardness.

The enclosure has a very formidable construction that uses high-density fiberboard instead of medium-density fiberboard all around. I measured the front baffle at a 1” thickness and side panels to be ¾” thick. There is a window brace at the midsection of the cabinet. The cabinet is very generously stuffed with polyfill and the interior surfaces are lined with a soft, nearly gel-like substance that Arendal calls a “butyl-based differential mass damping layer” to dull internal pressure waves from resonating the cabinet. I thought that was going the extra mile, but Arendal also has the interior of the cabinet painted, although not with the gloss finish. The advantage to putting a layer of paint on the interior is that it is better protected against moisture affecting the wood of the cabinet. The 1723 Monitors do not come with feet attached, but they do come with some small adhesive rubber feet that the user can attach; I would recommend owners do so to preserve the finish on the bottom surface. Might as well keep it nice all over when you can. The grille uses magnetic adhesion but with very strong magnets, so it does not come off easily. The grilles need that strong adhesion since they use a perforated metal frame wrapped in black fabric. They really do protect the drivers from getting hit by foreign objects instead of just hiding the drivers with a sheet of fabric like most grilles. Arendal proudly boasts that there is very little plastic used in their speakers.

There are two 2” diameter ports mounted on the rear with 7” lengths. They are flared on both ends and come with port plugs for those who want to shut down port output. Killing port output will reduce bass headroom but it makes the phase response a lot more simple, and that can help the speakers integrate with subwoofers better. Another advantage of sealing ports would be for center channels where boundary gain can really boost bass output, and that excess bass can degrade speech intelligibility. However, unless you are getting excess bass from the speakers’ placement, I would advise users to run the 1723 Monitors with the ports open.  

The 1723 Monitors boast THX Ultra certification which means, among other things, it can hit THX Reference levels in a 3,000 cubic feet room with a 12-foot distance from the speakers. THX Reference level loudness is 105dB peaks with low distortion, so it takes some real firepower to achieve that at a 12-foot distance in a 3,000 cubic foot room. But THX loudspeaker certification is more than just dynamic range; it assesses frequency response, dispersion characteristics, electrical behavior, and time-domain behavior too. In other words, it has to be an all-around good performer.

I was so impressed by the build quality of the 1723 Monitors, in fact, that after I had unboxed them, I went back to refer to the product page to double-check the pricing. How are these only $1,200 to $1,250 per speaker (including shipping)!? Not that those prices are cheap, but if I had taken a look around the speaker without knowing its cost, I would have guessed that they would go for around $2,500 each. There is a lot of speaker here for the money, at least in terms of build quality. However, speakers are principally meant for sound reproduction, not craftsmanship, so let’s now give them a listen to see how all of these design attributes translate into sound…

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with a few feet of stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position. I angled the speakers to have a slight toe-in toward the listening position. The listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Amplification and processing were handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used. No subwoofers were used unless otherwise noted.

Music Listening

The best music for evaluating a sound system’s tonality has always been orchestral on account of its dense spectral makeup due to the mixture of so many different instruments. The production of this recording is impeccable and was presented in a 96kHz/24-bit resolution.

From the first notes onward, the 1723 Monitors gave this mass a full and vivid sound, Lead vocals were crystal clear and anchored firmly around the soundstage center, and the choral and instrumentalists surrounded them for an expansive soundstage that seemed to stretch out beyond the speakers’ placement. Instruments and voices had a natural tonality, and I did not detect any tonal imbalance. Bass extension seemed adequate for this recording, and bass drums had a weighty presence. The dynamic range abilities of the 1723 Monitors, was, of course, more than adequate for this recording. ‘Mass in C Minor’ was exquisitely reproduced by these speakers, and surely any fan of classical music would be very happy with what they have to offer. It would be a mistake to think that these speakers are intended for movie content and are somehow less able with more delicate musical recordings such as this.

With music as massive as the movie, I wanted to get an Imax-level sound experience, so I turned to a powerful amplifier that I had on hand–the Parasound JC 5, a high-end amp rated at 600-watt RMS for a 4-ohm load. The resulting sound was very impressive. I did notice that the lower bass was a bit thin, but I reasoned that THX speakers like these usually have a 12dB/octave roll-off at 80Hz for tightly controlled subwoofer integration, and that kind of roll-off would yield a fair amount of boundary gain, especially with rear-ported speakers such as these, so I scooted the speakers close to the backwall giving them only a few inches of space back there. That did the trick nicely, and now the bass sound was as if subwoofers were in use. The 1723 Monitors had no trouble with this immense sound. They produced a tower-speaker-like range and authority. These speakers paired with this amp with this album could conjure up what I think most people would think of if they were told to imagine a THX experience. The speakers were not bothered by these elevated loudness levels, and they had a true big-screen dynamic range. In normal use, I would probably still use subwoofers with them for a bit more extension and also for the greater control of the in-room frequency response that subs can provide, but for those who need standmount speakers with serious dynamic range down to bass frequencies, the 1723 Monitors are an excellent solution. ‘Baraka’ sounded fantastic with these speakers; this album is a musical voyage I had taken many times before but this was the finest presentation I have yet heard. 

Movie Watching

One recent release that I watched with the 1723 Monitors was called ‘Psycho Goreman,’ which is not a huge studio release but looked to have a fun and engaging sound mix. The plot of the movie concerns a couple of children who uncover an evil creature of enormous power, but they also capture the means to control the monster. All kinds of bloody mayhem ensue, much as one would expect from a film with its title. Naturally, a film with that plot is very effects-heavy, and it also features an eccentric music score from the group Blitz//Berlin that has orchestral pieces, retro-synthwave pieces, and 80’s big-hair rock type music, so it looked like it would have a lively sound mix that would nicely exhibit a loudspeaker’s dynamic range. With the system in 2-channel mode, I set the volume level at a high point and alternated between using the 1723s full-range and bringing in a subwoofer to get a sense of the difference.

‘Psycho Goreman’ ended up being a hoot, and the sound mix was a big part of it. The evil creature’s voice was heavily processed to sound as demonic as possible, so it had a lot of emphasis on bass and sounded like an amped up version of Darth Vader. There were a variety of creatures throughout the movie, and they had wildly different voices, but they were all understandable, at least when speaking in English, so that is a good sign of how well the 1723 Monitors can reproduce dialogue clearly. The many effects sounds of the movie were unconstrained by the dynamic range of traditional sound systems and so were furiously belted out by the speakers for the kind of cinematic sound promised by THX Ultra certification. The orchestral elements of the music score sounded big, which gave the movie a more epic feel even though it was not a big-budget feature.

Switching between letting the speakers run full-range and handing the lower bass of the subwoofers, the 1723 Monitors were very capable on their own, but the addition of subwoofers did give a stronger foundation to the bass sounds. The supernaturally baritone voice of the creature had a more palpable presence when the subs were on, although the speakers alone did capture enough of the menace that they were quite competent in conveying the magnitude of power held by the creature. Similarly, the effects sounds had a bit more punch with the subs active. Nonetheless, ‘Psycho Goreman’ was a blast to watch and hear on the 1723 Monitors, and with speakers this capable, subwoofers are not essential for enjoying a movie like this.

Another movie that I caught with the 1723 Monitors was the 2019 science fiction film ‘Ad Astra.’ Since it was a much more serious movie with a far larger budget than ‘Psycho Goreman,’ it should have a tamer and more polished sound mix. Nonetheless, the sound mix for ‘Ad Astra’ should be an interesting one as much of the movie takes place in outer space. For those who have not seen it yet like myself until now, the story centers around an astronaut who takes on a mission to the outer edges of our solar system to find out what happened to his father who mysteriously disappeared in a voyage to that region many years ago. As a modern major studio-produced film, the sound mix was sure to have the best sound engineering that money can buy, especially as it was natively mixed in Dolby Atmos, and it is complemented by an orchestral/electronic score from the highly-sought-after composer Max Richter. In other words, this movie should sound great – at least on a great sound system.

I watched ‘Ad Astra’ at a high loudness level and was surprised at how many action scenes it had. From the trailer, I assumed it would have been on the talkier side of science fiction, but it turned out to have its fair share of crisis moments and big effects scenes. It all sounded vibrant on the 1723 Monitors. The movie started out with a bang on the ‘International Space Antenna’ where the sound of action in space was vividly relayed through the physical transmission of energy through the spacesuits. The audience hears what the characters hear (except for the music), and in this sense, the movie stuck to a more realistic sound design. The effects noises were still very potent, and the sound mix had an array of scenes with a wide dynamic range. The intensity of the sound was brought to life by the 1723 Monitors, and I found this more realistic type of sound design to be more immersive than the typical, fantasy sound schemes that Hollywood usually resort to for these types of films. Of course, it helps to have a speaker that can scale with the dynamic range of the sound mix, and the 1723 Monitors were very capable in that regard. Replaying a handful of scenes with subwoofers in use, the subs did make a real contribution in some scenes with very deep bass like the rocket launches, but the 1723 Monitors managed to catch almost all but the deepest bass. As I mentioned before, the 1723 Monitors can reproduce deep bass, but they don’t do so with the force of a deeply tuned subwoofer. However, what they manage is very respectable, especially for stand-mount speakers, and they don’t need the addition of a subwoofer to make a large-scale movie into a powerful aural experience. 

Measurements

The Arendal 1723 Monitors were measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 10-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/12 octave resolution. See graphs and all measurements here.

Conclusion

Those who have read this review up to this point will know that my opinion of the Arendal 1723 monitor is very favorable. They would be right, of course. Before we get into the summary of why I feel that way, let’s go over the pros and cons of the product under review, and, as is my custom, let’s start with the cons. That will be a short list.

What is likely to be the biggest ‘con’ of the 1723 Monitors for many people is their size. As was discussed before, they are stand-mount speakers, but they are fairly large ones. At nearly 60 lbs. each, they need some sturdy stands too. Arendal Sound makes a pedestal-like stand shown in the pic here suitable for the task. However, to criticize them for their size would also undermine one of their strengths, which can’t be had in a small loudspeaker. You can not get the kind of audio performance that this speaker provides from a small enclosure, so the size is a necessary trade-off. In this light, they can’t really be criticized for their size. However, the size does rule them out for a number of speaker shoppers.

Another con of the 1723 monitors is that owners who want a matching horizontal center will have to use the 1723 Center speaker, but, as discussed before, the MTM design leads to a narrower horizontal dispersion when laid on its side, so users will want to be sure that listeners are seated within 20 degrees of the on-axis angle for the best sound. In most situations, that will probably be the case, but if you have a wide seating area that isn’t very far from the speakers, those who are off to the side will end up in an area where some of the midrange frequencies are heavily recessed. It might not be fair to hold that against the 1723 Monitors which are the subject of this review and not the 1723 Center, but it’s worth keeping in mind for certain setups. It’s a nitpick, but I will list it anyway to counterbalance the long list of these speakers’ strengths.

With the cons out of the way, let’s talk about the pros. First and foremost is the sound; the 1723 Monitors offer superb sound quality. They are very linear, they have a tremendous dynamic range, and they have terrifically controlled dispersion. The frequency response is nicely flat; I recommend a 15-degree toe-in for the best response, especially for an inward toe-in so that the speaker’s aim crosses in front of the main listening position for some time-intensity trading magic. That will get you very accurate tonality as well as a very precise soundstage. They can get loud without running into distortion, as one would expect from a THX Ultra certified speaker of its design. If you like to rock hard, these can accommodate your tastes. They also have unusually low bass extension for a stand-mount speaker; as I said before, a 30Hz extension is what I would expect from a tower speaker, not a stand-mount speaker. If you need speakers that can output serious bass but don’t have floor space for a subwoofer or tower speakers, the 1723 Monitors are a terrific choice.

One nifty aspect of the 1723 Monitor design is the versatility for a range of applications. They would be great for a dedicated home theater environment, or just a living room home theater, or a pure two-channel system, or a two-channel system with subwoofers. Being a high-fidelity stand-mount speaker with serious bass ability makes them a great choice for any of these applications. It also helps that they are not demanding of a heavy-duty amplifier; with an impedance minima of 5 ohms and a near 90dB sensitivity, they don’t present a very taxing load for any competently engineered amplifier, although a more powerful amp helps them to fulfill their potential dynamic range, of course.

Another very impressive attribute of the 1723 Monitors is the build quality. The massive HDF cabinet is as solid as a rock, and there is near-obsessive attention to detail: interior enclosure painting, interior lining with butyl damping, rhodium-plated binding posts, a sunk backplate for flush-mounted binding posts, brushed aluminum backplate and waveguide, the very generous amount of stuffing that fills the enclosure, the large crossover circuit with beefy components, hulking driver motors, heavy-duty grille magnets, among other features. Let’s not forget the rayon satchel or the included cotton gloves for handling the speakers without fingerprints.

Another important aspect of the build quality is the fine finish, which brings us to the looks of the 1723 Monitors; they may be large but they do look quite nice. The pristine gloss finish is very much worth the $100 upcharge, but I would guess that the matte finishes are very nice also, although I have not seen those in person. The beveled edges and simple driver design give them a clean look that can help take the edge off for those who prefer not to have such large speakers. They should fit in well in a wide variety of decors on account of their sleek aesthetic.  

All of these design cues add up to a stylish yet high-performance loudspeaker with superlative build quality. At $1,200 to $1,250 each (includes shipping), it isn’t a cheap speaker, but you do get an astonishing amount of speaker for the cost. As I said before, I had to double-check the price when I unpacked the 1723 Monitors, because these seem like they should cost considerably more than they do. Most other speakers in this price range have to give something up to stay focused on a narrower set of strengths, so they will have a balance of build quality, sound quality, dynamic range, and a nice appearance, with the scale tipped toward a couple of those attributes at the expense of some others. Somehow Arendal manages to hit all of those attributes at a high level for an extremely reasonable cost.

One of the ways in which they accomplish so much for the money is by having the speakers manufactured in China, of course, but for those who think that Chinese-manufactured goods are subpar, they ought to see the craftsmanship of this speaker. It is superb. Another way they hit this cost is by cutting out the middlemen and going for a serious manufacturer direct business model where they don’t even have distributors in other continents. Everything you buy from them comes right from their warehouse in the Netherlands no matter where you are in the world. As was said before, this creates a more cumbersome shipping process, but it does save on cost.

Arendal Sound has a well-thought-out plan for shipping, warranty and returns. Their speakers come with a 10-year warranty which is virtually unheard of for loudspeakers. Their product pricing structure includes shipping and they will handle all shipping costs on their end for any warranty issues. They allow for a 60-day at-home trial period in which the buyer can return the speaker for a full refund. The buyer still has to pay for shipping fees, though Arendal Sound covers part of this expense too. They also uphold this generous return policy for European customers too, and that is a mark of confidence in their own products; they are not expecting many returns. Indeed, by all indications, Arendal has been very successful in the European market. Based on what I have seen in the 1723 Monitors, I believe that if North Americans discover what Europeans have already been shown with these speakers, Arendal will have similar success here. Highly recommended!

Pros

  • Wide dynamic range
  • Neutral, accurate sound
  • Nicely controlled directivity
  • Unexpectedly good build quality for the cost
  • High-quality gloss finish
  • 10-year warranty

Cons

  • Relatively large and heavy for stand-mount speakers

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