Portable audiophile speakers. Oxymoron? Usually. High quality sound out of a small, portable speaker system is usually nearly impossible. the drivers and enclosure are just too tiny to operate properly. Drivers need to be a certain size so that they reproduce bass frequencies, and a tweeter for highs. They need to be in a box that gives the drivers enough room to breath and function adequately. These laws of physics (pesky buggers that they are) usually preclude small speakers from performing at an acceptable level for your typical audiophile.
It doesn't have to be this way, says Jan Plummer of Thorough Bass Inc. Plummer takes delight in getting big and lively sound out tiny drivers, and he does it well. I met Plummer in TBI Sound's room at T.H.E. Show in Vegas in January 2006 and I was impressed with what he was doing. Getting great, full sound out of itty bitty speakers. He was extraordinarily excited about his products and spent a good while selling me on the merits of his technology. But it wasn't his pitch that sold me. It was the sound I was hearing.
The Majestic Diamonds are sealed black four inch cubed shaped "monitor" type speakers, housing a single three inch driver. their foot print is about 4.5x4.5 inches, and about five inches tall. My review sample came with a Sonic Impact T-Amp, an equally tiny "switching" amplifier touted by audiophiles as a low cost wonder. They seem to be a perfect pairing with the Majetic Diamonds, and Plummer believe so as well, as the T-Amp is part of the Diamond package sold on his site. Paired with an iPod, this complete system takes up very little space and packs easily into a suitcase or backpack.
I used the majestic Diamonds at the office as desktop speakers with the included Sonic Impact and T-Amp, and at home with a small EL84 based tube amp i have in for review. Sources at home and at the office were my computers using lossless and low-compression lossy music files, as well as high bandwidth (128-192k) internet radio. My home system used the Scott Nixon USB Tube DAC. At the office, i used the Headroom's Micro DAC.
The first thing I was noticed was the seriously good midrange. Music had that rich, textured and detailed sound audiophiles know and lust after. Instruments and voices were well articulated with good separation. Music jumped out of the speakers with enthusiasm while maintaining its integrity.
I was also impressed by the Majestics' ability to play incredibly loud for such tiny speakers. In my 22'x12' room, I could play them to very loud volume levels without any break up or distortion - a key benefit of Mr Plummers technology. I often forgot that I was listening to such small speakers. Even while in the kitchen at the other end of my apartment music was full and sweet. I was consistently impressed by this. The lack of low bass slowed them down a bit, and obviously left something out of the music. But the speakers still provided enough music to have a good time, and when you are on the road travelling and can't fit a subwoofer in your backpack, what you do get is very satisfying.
Sitting very close to the speakers in desktop monitor setup, they were still quite enjoyable and conveyed a very good sense of the music, but I also occasionally detected a slightly stiff and nasally quality to the music. This didn't affect the music too much, but it was most certainly present and noticeable. It disappeared once I got a bit of distance from the speakers and gave them a bit of juice. They seemed to have certain power threshold on each amp where they really started to come alive and open up. This is a small drawback if being used in a nearfield setup at low volume levels.
Obviously, you aren't going to get much bass response out of a single three inch driver. What you do get, however, is enough to make you happy. This particular configuration that i tested did not include a subwoofer, and I did not have one on hand to try with the Majestic Diamonds, but I would love to hear it. Subwoofers being another of TBI's specialties, I imagine this would be a great combination.
Another great application for these speakers, aside from portability, is in a home theater system. The speakers are small, front ported and equipped with wall mounts, making them ideal for placing around a living room. Powered by a modest home theater receiver and complemented by TBI sub or two could make for a very exciting little home theater system.
TBI's Majestic Diamonds are great sounding little speakers that provide far better sound quality than most small speakers out there. Their ability to play very loud while remaining coherent, natural and true to the music is very impressive. Their small size makes them an exciting option in many other applications as well: home theater, around the house, on the deck. The possbilities are endless. Unfortunately, TBI's small size as a company means they have tough competition in the portable market. Their price is not terribly competitive with similar offerings out there, and the system as a whole is not as slick as it's bigger competitors.
What I would like to see, however, is to see this technology get picked up by those very large manufacturers of "home theater in a box" and portable boombox type systems. This technology sounds great, and anyone with a discerning ear knows that those types of mass consumer systems could really use some improvement.
In the meantime, if you're looking for a nice pair of travel speakers to toss in your backpack and take camping, to your hotel room, or wherever, this is a great option. They sound great, they're convenient, and fun.
TBI Sound Majestic Diamonds
$399, package includes T-Amp