A.R.T. Alnico 8 Loudspeakers
Very good condition. Slight veneer chip at base, no spikes/feet.
Made in Troon Scotland.
The drivers in this hefty speaker consist of a 35mm soft dome tweeter and an eight inch doped paper mid/bass unit. The alnico in the product’s name refers to the use of this old-school magnet type in the tweeter. Alnico is a mix of aluminium, nickel and cobalt along with iron ore that was used by the likes of Tannoy and Lowther and is still prized for its sound quality, mostly by aficionados of valve amplification. It’s not as powerful as ferrite or neodymium but is said to have a smoothness and refinement that eludes those materials. Derek chose to use it in the tweeter alone because he feels that its performance at low frequencies is not as good as ferrites. ART does however, make a speaker with an alnico powered midrange which is could be interesting. The mid/bass driver cone is a proper eight-inch (200mm), a figure that relates to actual cone size and not to the chassis diameter, as such specs are often quoted; in other words, the metric figure reveals the full diameter of the beast.
Both units are bolted to an aluminium baffle that’s machined from 20mm billet with a slight curve to match the woodwork, this is a two metre radius curve so it’s not obvious except in plan. Derek chose aluminium for its flexibility of machining and the fact that it offers a stable anchor for the drivers while reinforcing overall cabinet rigidity. Ringing can be an issue with metal baffles, but the large area of MDF it’s attached to damps that very effectively. The baffle and the cabinet are available in a range of finishes, with matte automotive colours and even pearlescent options on the menu. ART does the cabinet making and finishing in-house, so the company is very flexible in this regard.
Given its size and Derek’s preference for 300B powered SET amps, I had expected the Alnico 8 to be a high-sensitivity design, and while it’s a fairly easy load, the 90dB specified is only slightly above average. Which means that it’s probably fairly accurate – companies that quote much higher figures with a reflex enclosure of this volume are probably measuring just the midrange… or merely guessing. I had no difficulty driving this speaker with either an ATC P1 or Valvet A3.5 monoblocks, in fact the latter (being class A, solid state, 50 watters) proved the best match. The P1 was able to provide plenty of power, extension and dynamics, but also brought out a slightly forward and loud characteristic that made the pairing less enjoyable in the long term. The smoother sound of the Valvets let the Alnico 8s produce a full scale sound with lots of layers, I was playing Laura Marling’s ‘Take The Night Off’ [Once I Was An Eagle, Virgin] where she borrows much of the acoustic guitar sound from Jimmy Page [who got it from Bert Jansch, etc.], a fact that was immediately apparent here. Another rather more sparkly acoustic guitar played by Nils Lofgren [‘Keith Don’t Go’ from Acoustic Live, Demon] was beautifully open, relaxed, and detailed while maintaining the tension of the live sound, and the mistakes, naturally!
They are good at voices, very good when the voice is well recorded as is the case with Sabina Sciubba on Antonio Forcione’s version of ‘Take 5’ [Meet Me In London, Naim Label]. Here the voice is on one channel only but is rendered with lifelike presence, the other channel is dedicated to one guitar while a second guitar takes centre stage for the solo, all three elements seem solid and lifelike in the Alnico 8’s hands. This is partly because they are revealing of detail but equally because the timing is so strong, it’s impossible to keep your foot still when there is a beat in the music.
This speaker really revels in good recordings, it makes Chris Jones’ ‘Roadhouses & Automobiles’ [Roadhouses & Automobiles, Stockfisch] sound immensely polished. The bass guitar has real weight and there is an ease to the whole presentation that few tracks achieve, which presumably is down to the Alnico powered tweeter’s ability to smooth over any grain in the chain. Being a sucker for power, I went back to the ATC P1 to find out whether it was truly as badly matched as had initially seemed the case. It still sounded a little forward, but this brought out more of the sparkle: so long as I stuck with the better recordings, things were pretty dandy. On Fleetwood Mac’s classic ‘Oh Daddy’ [Rumours, 24/96 HD Tracks], the drum snare is brought to the fore, as is the electric guitar, but the bass is attractively lush with lots of timbre. The voices are excellent, of course, and you can hear a lot of the treatment that was added in the studio, the echo on ‘Gold Dust Woman’ for instance, but this does nothing to undermine the power of the climax on that song.
The ART Alnico 8 is not a ‘comfy slipper’ speaker like other alnico-powered designs I’ve encountered in the past, but rather a wide-band and high resolution design that takes no prisoners. I suspect that Derek’s choice of amplification may have something to do with that, you can’t beat a good SET for giving you the finesse and nuance of a recording. And this speaker is designed to make the most of such details without breaking a sweat. Strongly recommended.
Type: 2-way, two-driver, floorstanding speaker with reflex loaded enclosure.
Driver complement: One 35mm soft dome tweeter; one 260mm mid/bass driver with treated paper cone.
Crossover frequencies: 2.1kHz
Frequency response: 22Hz – 20kHz
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Dimensions (H×W×D): 1170 × 395 × 290mm
Finishes: real wood veneer or automotive paint.
Retail price: £10,000/pair