The 5.1 system of Arendal delights us in our test with outstanding musicality and a highly dynamical ability despite of the compact format.
Highly dynamic 5.1 THX certified system with bookshelf loudspeakers!
Appearing from nowhere about two years ago, the brand Arendal already created a wave of enthusiasm with their loudspeakers in our editorial office. Now is the time they fulfil the wishes of many fans of this brand: the Norwegians want to make possible their awesome home cinema sound also with a much more small-sized loudspeaker range. We test the „small“ 1723 S THX with the Sbuwoofer 1 as a 5.1 setup.
The desire of small-sized models that can be easily integrated in the room overcomes you as soon as the limitations to accommodate large floorstanders in the living room or in your home cinema become evident. However, it is precisely in a home cinema where such small loudspeakers should deliver the best sound possible with large dynamics. Manufacturers make then often compromises and pompously rave about a performance that proves nothing but a lot of blarney in the hard daily use. The Norwegian manufacturer Arendal offers in this context the new loudspeaker range 1723 S in a “bookshelf format”, to be understood as an extension of their range 1723 or to configure a full setup within the 1723 S range. We decided for the latter and setup a 5.1 system in our home cinema by combining them with a Subwoofer 1. The compact speakers are built and finished at the same high quality level and carry the same DNA and technology of the big brothers. They share the same tonal balance and thus allow for any combination within the loudspeaker family.
The Arendal engineers got granular on the design of the 1723 range and developed for the new 1723 S THX a considerably smaller, manageable and lower-priced version of the already well-proven 1723 series. The “S” in the product name stands for “small” just referring to the dimensions, because the Norwegians did not want to cut any corners in the sound quality or enormous dynamics of the THX-licensed package.
Apart from the cabinet size and woofer diameter, the only difference between the “big” 1723 system and the “smaller” 1723 S is the maximum SPL at the lowest octaves. Because physics demand big cabinets and huge membrane areas for high SPL at low frequencies. The smallest Arendal speaker, with dimensions 245 x 385 x 320 mm (width x height x depth), is large enough for a dynamic playback of its 6.5” and the accommodation of exactly the same waveguide tweeter from the bigger models on its front baffle. The 2-way design is mounted onto a sealed housing made of HDF (High Density Fiberboard), very solid and resonance-free thanks to inner bracing.
The design of the crossover network is the same in all models: mids and highs are crossed at 1.500 Hz with a 4th order filter (24dB/octave slope). Arendal uses their well-known 28-mm silk dome from the 1723 Series for a dynamic playback of the highs. They have been sourced from the high-end collection of the renowned manufacturer Dr. Kurt Müller in Krefeld. The dome is coupled to a large waveguide to optimize the polar response. This also increases the sensitivity and makes possible the low crossover frequency.
The robust bi-wiring terminals on the back of the speaker, equiped with massive metal brackets to bridge them, ensure the best electrical contact with the cable. Both the terminals and the brackets are made of copper and plated with Rhodium for its very high conductivity and corrosion protection. The Arendal speakers are available in an optional gloss finish as an alternative to the matte surface of our samples, in black or white depending on your preference.
Arendal has currently four subwoofer models in their portfolio [t/n: two additional models have been added in the meantime]. We have chosen the smallest one, Subwoofer 1, for our test. Actually, it is not really that “small”, after all it has to accommodate a gigantic woofer with a 300mm cone, as well as a monstrous amplifier. The cabinet is still manageable with its 34 x 50 x 45 cm and it can be positioned without problem in most rooms.
The 1723 Subwoofer 1 weights a very substantial 24,5 kg, as its sealed housing is extremely robust and absolutely free of resonances and also the massive magnet is a bit of alright. The exclusive driver has been custom built to the own Arendal specification, as this was the only way to ensure the extreme power handling, vast excursion at low distortion levels and optimum driver parameters. The 300mm cone of this “monster driver” is made of a fiber pulp and fiberglass compound, resulting in a stable, light structure while exhibiting a high self damping at the same time. The electronics used in the 1723 Subwoofer 1 offer enough headroom for enormous dynamics thanks to its powerful 500W (RMS) digital amplifier, while the built-in DSP allows to achieve the optimum frequency response and also includes the usual filter, phase and equalizer settings.
The Subwoofer 1 has two presents on board: the EQ1 position ensures maximum depth for home cinema and the EQ2 setting somewhat puts the brakes on the bass below 40Hz for more precision, ideal in smaller listening rooms or pure stereo applications. Just due to its construction principle, the sealed housing of the Subwoofer 1 already takes care of a very precise and dry deep bass playback, because sealed designs usually have an advantage over bass-reflex regarding transient response. The natural roll-off of sealed alignments towards deeper frequencies is discreetly compensated by the DSP. The operation and connection options of the Arendal 1723 Subwoofer 1 are limited to RCA and XLR sockets, as well as the usual volume, crossover and phase knobs. A remote control is not included.
The small-sized Arendal 1723 S THX perform superb in our test bench and shine with their very good polar characteristic. The frequency response on axis and under a 15° angle are practically identical. Also 30° off-axis there is just a minimal drop of the SPL. The 1723 S THX center, laying on its long side with a D’Appolito configuration, stands head and shoulders above its competition. The response rolls off gently below 120Hz. The waterfall diagram displays the fastest, awe-inspiring decay without any visible issue. The 1723 Subwoofer 1 scores in our measurements with a considerable depth down to 20Hz (EQ1) . The setting EQ2 delivers a somewhat higher value at around 35Hz. This setting will be useful in smaller rooms or when positioning the subwoofer close to a wall. The region around 45Hz is slightly emphasized in both EQ settings. When we demand high SPL from the Arendal 1723 Subwoofer 1, it delivers with no complaint and knocks out brutal bass power up to 110dB. Compression artifacts in deep bass only start to appear above extreme listening volumes above 110dB, but the neighbours of your semi-detached will be up in arms at your front door way before you reach those limits.
The small-sized Arendal 1723 S THX have to prove themselves first as stereo speakers without subwoofer support. They succeed with a lively and higly precise playback, although the bass cannot bent any trees due to the sealed aligment and our arrangement away from the walls. Still, this loudspeakers sound powerful enough in our large, reference home cinema even playing solo.
Furthermore, they score with their awesome stereo imaging abilities and very detailed resolution. Adding the subwoofer converts the compact speakers into genuine giants. We now have endless punch and the depth seems to have no limit, even the soundstage seems to widen. All this happens without the sealed subwoofer standing out in the sonic scene: the 2.1 system blends together in acoustic unity, just as it should ideally happen. We connect the full 5.1 set to a high-quality AVR and listen to a wonderfully balanced signature and perfect layering of sounds in the room.
The six speakers play soulfully or cut the hell loose following the owners wishes. They execute their challenging job extremely well and delight us in our test room with the fine resolution of nuances, the excellently crafted details and the plastic representation of sound effects. The action on the screen is underlined by the sound accurately and with perfect timing, displaying great class. Although the Arendal 5.1 system plays very neutral, they never sound boring or contained. They are highly impetuous and can unleash a tremendous dynamic when pushed – splendid! The Arendal Bookshelf loudspeakers are equally and perfectly at home with music or movies thanks to their excellent tonal balance and sound homogeneity around the room.
Figure page 41: the front grilles are attached with magnets to the front baffle of the Bookshelf
Figure page 42: already the smallest subwoofer in Arendal’s range displays an imposing figure. Its performance is simply brilliant.
Figure page 43: the speaker comes also ready for wall-mounting. The best electrical contact is guaranteed by the massive terminals on the recessed connection panel.
The 5.1 system of Arendal delights us in our test with outstanding musicality and a highly dynamical ability despite of the compact format. We can only recommend the set of five 1723 S THX plus Subwoofer 1. In a single word: magnificent!
Sound (70% of overall score): 1,0 (11/12)
Measurements (15% of overall score): 1,0 (10/12)
Use (15% of overall score): 1,0 (11/12)
+ excellent sound
+ high power handling ability
+ extremely powerful subwoofer
Reference-grade, Outstanding, 1,0
By Michael Voigt, Heimkino.