Imagine listening to music through a speaker that is the equivalent of a sonic electron microscope—reproducing detail in a recording on what seems to be a molecular level (if sound can be imagined to exist in material form) and yet painting an aural wall-to-wall picture as if with a one-haired sable brush. The Eclipse TD712zMk2 ($10,600 per pair), a product of the Japanese firm Fujitsu Ten, is such a device—as much a scientific instrument as a component in the chain of gear that constitutes a state-of-the-art music-reproduction system. After hearing this speaker, it is easy to appreciate that it was developed as a professional monitor for use in recording studios, a place where near-field, hyper-focused listening just goes along with the job.
Fujitsu Ten created the speaker in pursuit of a solution for the nagging problem of time-domain and imaging anomalies—the crossover and enclosure coloration that challenge speaker systems using multiple drivers in conventional cabinets. Front-baffle diffractions, cabinet resonances, and audible driver mismatch have been made irrelevant in the Eclipse speaker, because it has no cabinet to resonate or to impede sound waves. Since it employs only one transducer, the entire frequency spectrum is seamless and pure, from about 35 Hz to 26,000 kHz—a top end that is well beyond the range of human detection. (The speakers have a sensitivity rating of 84 dB per watt.)
The speaker employs a very special 4.72-inch cone driver of fiberglass composition and considerable sophistication, designed to function as a true point source. The driver is held in the vicelike grasp of a machined armature that is elastomerically suspended within an egg-shaped composite enclosure that is as sonically inert as it is fastidiously fabricated. In fact, the entire speaker system—delivered in two boxes, one for the speaker proper and one for the dedicated stand—is manufactured to the fanatical standards expected from the best Japanese brands, such as Accuphase, Esoteric, and Luxman. The speaker and stand assembly are available with either a silver or a black automotive-paint-grade finish and are complemented by machined feet and mounting hardware in polished aluminum or black chrome. Surround-sound fans should note that the Eclipse speaker is a great choice for multichannel systems, as a low stand is available for center-channel application and the speakers themselves, with a 14-square-inch footprint, can be positioned like sentries behind the listener without dominating a room.
Placed about eight feet apart and aimed at a central listening position, an Eclipse two-channel system produces a holographic sonic image of individual voices and instruments or small ensembles—or, as if from a whole different vantage point and distance, an entire symphonic landscape, stadium performance, or energy-charged studio recording. As with any revealing system, excellent recordings (usually acoustic) reward the listener. Imagine discovering a pair of headphones—the best Stax, Sennheisers, HiFiMan, or Audeze—that reveal a depth of detail and nuance without having to be worn on the head; such unencumbered listening is what one experiences with the Eclipse speakers.
Of course, as with all good things, moderation is key, and so it is at volume and low frequencies that these speakers exhibit limitations. Headbangers and those who listen at ear-damaging levels will take their pleasure elsewhere.
As for bass, the engineers at Fujitsu Ten have been very careful to engineer a subwoofer as formidable in its performance as it is complementary to the sonic signature of the Eclipse speakers, meaning it is clean, lightning fast in transient response, and so wholly integrated with the mid-bass frequencies of the main speakers that it can take over responsibilities of everything from 60 to 80 Hz on down to about 30 Hz (−10 dB at 20 Hz).
The Eclipse TD725SWMk2 subwoofer ($6,400 each) employs twin 9.84-inch drivers in an exquisitely finished 112-pound, piano-black lacquered cube. Powered by an internal 500-watt digital amplifier, the subwoofer can be variably crossed over from 30 to 150 Hz, with remote-controlled volume output adjusted precisely to one’s room acoustics and taste. While a single cube is quite sufficient—bringing life to a jazz ensemble’s string bass or an orchestra’s lower registers—a pair delivers bass that is simply devastating. The secret is allowing the speaker to run full range; any limitation in sound-pressure level is more than made up for by a seamless sound signature from top to bottom, with main speakers and subwoofers working together like they were made for one another. Which, of course, they were.
With 84 dB efficiency and presenting a 6-ohm load, the TD712zMk2 speaker is relatively easy to drive. As for amplification, it had better be good, but it need not be huge: 35 to 70 watts will suffice. The Luxman MQ-88 I have chosen to test the speakers with is a 40-watt-per-channel push-pull tetrode design using a quartet of KT88 output tubes. It is an unusual solution that tips its hat to those for whom a bit of tubelike warmth is not unwelcome; others may opt for more neutral solid-state fare. LPs are simply luscious, while digital sources are mercilessly revealed through the Eclipse system to be as excellent—or as awful—as they really are.
So who buys a speaker system that requires near-field configuration, looks like a displaced scientific laboratory apparatus, and requires an 8-cubic-foot subwoofer to tell the whole sonic story? A two-channel perfectionist: someone for whom music is an inextricable part of the day. To drive home a point, I have used varying pairs of the Quad ESL-57 electrostatics (a loudspeaker designed in 1957) in my reference system since 1973. Dozens of other costlier and more elaborate speakers have come and gone, but the Quads have remained a constant. Now the Eclipse monitors and subwoofer have earned a permanent place in their own reference system, and they are not going anywhere soon. (eclipse-td.com; distributed by On a Higher Note, onahighernote.com)