Coincident Speaker Technology Total Eclipse Loudspeakers
by Bill Cowen
The similarity of the names is accompanied by similarities in the speakers themselves. While each is offered at a different price point, they all share a narrow-baffled cabinet and high claimed sensitivity and minimum impedance, which translate to speakers that are easy loads for most amplifiers to drive.
I reviewed the Coincident Super Eclipse speakers in these e-pages back in January 2000. Ill refer you to that review for details on the company and the man behind it, Israel Blume. The Total Eclipse was introduced, in Blumes words, "To satisfy the audiophile/music lover who demands a loudspeaker that is completely unruffled by reproducing the most demanding music at high listening levels." Currently occupying the kings throne in the Coincident hierarchy, the $7999-USD-per-pair Total Eclipse is 52" tall and 22" deep, making it anything but a small loudspeaker. However, the narrow 9" width makes it seem much less imposing in the room than the raw dimensions would indicate.
On the front baffle, two 6.5" midrange drivers flank a 1" Scan-Speak Revelator silk-dome tweeter in a typical dAppolito configuration, and twin 10" woofers are mounted on the side of the cabinet. The crossover is first order and employs only audiophile-grade components -- the inductor used for the woofers reportedly weighs more than ten pounds. Crossover points are 3kHz and 125Hz. Claimed sensitivity is 94dB/W/m and impedance is 14 ohms.
The review speakers were fitted with a single pair of binding posts, but biwiring capability is available as an option at the time of order. The binding posts themselves are worth special commendation. Made of gold-plated solid metal, they are stout enough to withstand wild-eyed torqueing escapades, yet they can be tightened securely enough with your fingers that no tools are required. Just above the binding posts is a flared port, and the flare is noted by Coincident as offering a 20% reduction in distortion as compared to a typical cylindrical port. Coincident also includes their proprietary "double-tapered" brass spikes (four per speaker), which are an additional-cost option on the company's lower-priced offerings.
The cabinets are finished in the traditional Coincident cherry, which is visually appealing and elegant and blends nicely into my rooms décor. The cabinets employ numerous cross braces and feature spline-joint construction, which results in a very sturdy and non-flexing enclosure. The tweeter and midrange drivers are housed in an internal sub-chamber to keep the air movement produced by 20 inches of woofer cone from intruding into their airspace. Rapping a knuckle anywhere on the outside of the cabinet yields nothing more than a very dull thud.
At 165 pounds per cabinet, the Total Eclipse lays claim to a first-time event for this reviewer -- I had to slip the neighbors kid a $20 to help unpack and move them into place. They are simply too unwieldy and heavy for one person to handle, at least at the outset. After the initial placement, I had no trouble walking them around on their spikes until I settled on the best position. But trust me -- you'll need some help to get these speakers out of their boxes and into the room.
Setup and use
In my review of the Super Eclipses, I made much ado about the setup difficulties I encountered when the speakers were introduced to my new (at the time) 17'6"W x 25'6"L x 8'H dedicated listening room. In retrospect, I laid too much of the blame on the speakers; the reality was that the room itself was a sonic-boom disaster. With the excellent analysis and advice from Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC), a pair of Tower Traps in the back corners all but eliminated the standing-wave problems that caused so much grief. While I still preferred the presentation of the Super Eclipses placed well out into the room, experimentation with placement much closer to the front wall was possible without the bass problems encountered prior to Trapping.
The placement of the Total Eclipses proved to be relatively easy with the room-associated issues behind me. The Totals do need some space, however, and its not so much the room needed behind or to the sides of the speaker as it is the distance required between your ears and the front baffle of the cabinet. Too little distance, and the drivers do not integrate properly, the upper-frequency response sounding splashy, hashy and disjointed. In the end, I found good blending with as little as eight feet between listening seat and speaker fronts, but my final setup had the speakers 10.5 feet from my ears. The speakers were set up along the short wall, sitting 37" in from the side walls and 77" in from the back wall. Toe-in is set to point the drivers at the outsides of my shoulders when sitting in the sweet spot. Although the sweet spot is truly sweet, there is good rendering of the soundstage and image locations when sitting anywhere along my six-foot-long couch.
And then there's the issue of those side-firing woofers, which can be used to the inside or outside. While Israel Blume has obtained good sound at shows with the woofers firing out, in my room, I could only get the bass right with the woofers to the inside. Perhaps this is just a peculiarity with my room, but you should experiment nonetheless.
The Total Eclipses spent time with a number of different amplifiers -- all tube -- from an 8Wpc SET amp to 100Wpc of pushpull, ultralinear power. Although Coincident specifies a minimum of 7 watts as sufficient to drive the speaker, I obtained much better results with higher-wattage amplifiers. The 10Wpc Wavac MD-300B did a nice job, but ultimately it ran out of steam when driving loud, complex, bass-heavy passages. The 15Wpc Audio Electronics Supply AE-25 Super Amp did a commendable job as well, but again, it fell just a bit short when Metallica hit the CD player's drawer. Both the 50Wpc Cary CAD-805C monoblocks and the Cary V-12 stereo amplifier (50Wpc in triode, 100Wpc in push-pull) worked wonderfully, however.
While I didnt have any amplifiers in the 20 to 30Wpc range to try, Id recommend a thorough audition if you plan to partner the Total Eclipse with an amplifier sporting less than 15Wpc unless you have a small room and listen at low volume levels. However, if thats your situation, the Totals may not be the best choice, because they sound best when played at louder levels. On the flip side, I found the Totals virtually unflappable at rock-concert volume levels. With the speakers driven by the Cary V-12 in ultralinear mode, I played music louder than I ever have in my life, with not a single complaint from either amplifier or speaker. There was no compression, no break-up, no hint whatsoever that anything was amiss -- other than Id be a-missing my hearing if I played music like this for long.
On a final setup note: the Total Eclipses took quite a while to break in. At the outset, they were pleasant and totally absent of pain-inducing brightness or aggressiveness. Or, in other words, they were speakers that didnt suck when fresh out of the box. But the bass was missing in action, and the dynamics, both micro and macro, were noticeably reticent. After 50 hours, the bass drivers started to connect with the rest of the music, and after 100 hours, the dynamics started to kick in. It was only after 300 hours (or so) that the speakers quit changing and seemed to offer a full serving of their ultimate sonic potential.
Whenever a new component is introduced to my system, its sonic characteristics are usually identifiable in fairly short order, and following break-in, the Total Eclipses announced their sonic signature in a most positive way. A full page of listening notes resulted, summarized briefly with terms like "quick, clear, lively, very detailed, outstanding dynamics, awesome bass, life-sized imaging, and 3-D soundstaging."
Spinning up "Indigo Blues," from The Smithereens' Blow Up [Capitol 7777-94963-2], the electric guitar was the first thing that caught my attention. For lack of a better descriptor, all I can say is that it just wailed. Scaling the midrange and lower treble frequencies with speed and articulation, it was piercing, yet not in an uncomfortable way. Subtle dynamic shifts were brought forth -- shifts that Id never heard before in this recording. Vocals were clear and highly resolved, yet somehow in the midst of this increased resolution, the sibilance on this particular recording didnt stand out as much.
Next up was Billy Oceans "Get Outta My Car," from Tear Down These Walls [Arista 7822-18495-2]. Wow, was this fun. The bass just hammered. Low bass-guitar notes literally shook the room, and bass-drum licks had a visceral feel. Although the NRC measurements will show the true low-frequency capability, Ill say that the Totals provided the deepest and most authoritative bass of any speaker Ive had in my system. The bass was full and powerful, with quantity that was not gained at the expense of quality. Definition and articulation were superb, as were dynamic contrasts. If I had any nit to pick, it would be only that the bass frequencies needed some volume to come alive. At lower volumes, the balance from top to bottom remained, but the bass lost some impact and crunch. Tonally it was still right, but it sounded like one of the woofers had been disconnected. Tweaking the volume control up a notch restored it, and this points to a need for at least a moderate listening level for best results.
On "Gaia," from James Taylors Hourglass [Columbia, 7464-67912-2], Taylors voice has a slight raspy edge, but its an artifact of the recording. The Totals do not cover up the flaws in bad recordings, but neither do they make such recordings unlistenable. In like fashion, the Totals speak volumes about the upstream components. I played this cut with each of the amplifiers noted above, and the Total Eclipses responded with a sweet and seductive presentation through the Cary 805Cs, and a more vivid, muscular presentation through the Cary V-12 in ultralinear mode. Both presentations provided enjoyment, but the sonic differences were laid bare, and more so than Ive heard with any other speaker.
If youre a classical-music lover, and especially if youre fond of full symphony orchestra, the Totals are a must-audition speaker. Witness Tchaikovskys Marche Slav, from the Telarc Symphonic Spectacular compilation [Telarc CD-80170]. String tone from the cellos growled with authority, cymbals shimmered with just the right bite and slowly fading resonance, and the crescendos were purely bombastic. In my experience, it is rare to hear a non-horn-loaded speaker that handles macrodynamics so quickly and effortlessly. The Totals go from silence to too loud in a blinding instant, and lend so much more realism to an orchestral piece as a result.
Tonally, the Totals are neither warm nor bright. They strike a very fine balance between ultimate resolution and the ability to play most recordings enjoyably. Youve likely heard speakers that pour out buckets of detail, and while thats impressive in the showroom, it becomes quickly irritating at home. Dire Straits' "You and Your Friend," from On the Night [Warner Brothers 9362-45259-2], is a very nicely recorded live event. Every guitar pick was laid out, and stray noises from the enthusiastic audience made the reproduction sound, well, alive. Space and ambience were projected well out to the sides of the speakers, and the depth seemed to be limitless -- the front wall of the listening room disappeared. Reverb and sustain on the drum beats and electric guitar faded nicely into silence. This recording also pointed to another of the Total Eclipses' strengths -- rhythmic vitality. This is closely tied to dynamic performance, and I believe, more closely to the microdynamic side of things. As mentioned, the Totals are capable of large-scale dynamic swings, but they dont do so at the expense of inner detail and subtle volume shifts that determine, for me, if a speaker has the ability to involve.
Euday Bowmans "12th Street Rag" (American Piano Classics [Telarc CD-80112]) gives the final clues to the Total Eclipses' string of accomplishments. The piano was tonally correct, keeping intact all the harmonic overtones that make the difference between sounding real or artificial. So involving was the re-creation that I ended up listening to every piece on this CD, some of which Id never listened to before.
Any issues? In my opinion, no. As with all speakers, personal preference is key. Some might prefer a warmer-balanced speaker, and some might prefer one thats more aggressive and highlighted in the treble. The Total Eclipses scored a direct hit on my personal preference target, as you might have gathered by now. Thats life.
The only close contenders Ive had parked here recently are the Alón V Mk 3s and Coincidents own Super Eclipse. The $5500 Alóns were decidedly darker- and warmer-sounding, and they didnt match the resolution capabilities of the Total Eclipses. Although the Alóns were quite adept at the soundstaging thing, the Total Eclipses gave a deeper and more holographic presentation. The Alón speakers needed more power for a given loudness, but they didnt need to be played quite as loudly to get up and jump. These are two very different-sounding speakers, to be sure.
On the flip side, the Totals sound surprisingly similar to the $5500 Super Eclipses. Give this man a cookie! Where the Totals cross the finish line ahead of the Supers is in size and scale -- performances are life-sized, grand, and all-encompassing through the Totals, and theyre just not quite as big and bold through the Supers. Additional bass heft and slam are other one-uppers, and the bass of the Total Eclipses seems to have more control -- perhaps a slightly more damped-sounding nature.
Finally, although Ive gone on and on about how well the Totals do with large-scale stuff at louder volume levels, both they and the Super Eclipses make an exceedingly good showing in the areas of refinement and delicacy. The Supers might just have an edge when played at very low levels, though.
What its all about
is the music, and thats what the Coincident Total Eclipse speakers bring to my listening room. While neither bright nor aggressive, they are lively and vivid, and inject a level of excitement to the music that is appealing, but subjectively natural in presentation. With stellar bass performance and midrange frequencies that are alive with tonal color and dynamic shadings, the Total Eclipses distance the reproduction and bring closer the illusion of the live event. Yes, they will show problems in upstream components if such problems exist, but they dont do so in a ruthless and unmerciful manner. While providing an easy load on the partnering amplifier, they require some juice to truly come to life. Couple that with their need to be played at moderate (or higher) volume levels, and I wouldnt recommend them for a small room.
But if you have the space, the Coincident Total Eclipses paint a life-sized, three-dimensional soundstage of believable proportion. The Total Eclipses are a quality reference, not only for reviewing duties, but in the grander sense of being faithful to the musical message.
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