Doublet Review, Gramophone, December 1995

Reproduced from a review in “Gramophone” by Geoffrey Horn, published in December 1995.

Royd Doublet Loudspeaker

It was back in March 1994 that I reported on the first Royd loudspeaker to grace our columns; it was called the Sorcerer and was a highly refined and suitably expensive small two-unit design of the “bookshelf” genre (would that someone could think of a better one-word description). Though many have come after it, it still remains in the memory as one of the very best of its type, remarkably free from any of the obvious blemishes which can detract from the enjoyment of music. Of course small size sets physical and related limits to both low frequency extension and maximum attainable volume of sound, and although both were nicely adjusted in the Sorcerer many people would justifiably want more. The obvious answer is to increase cabinet volume and diaphragm radiating area, hence this new three drive unit Doublet (take a number and ‘double it’?). At £600 a pair, plus suitably adequate stands, the Sorcerer was only for those with deep pockets. At £450, the more modest Doublet substantially cuts that cost.

The tall, slim Doublet cabinet, slightly wider than it is deep, comes with a bolt-on plinth of graceful shape which adds considerable stability, is threaded for optional spikes, and pushes the height just above 900mm (which we oldies still call one yard!). The material used is MDF (medium density fibreboard), veneered either with vinyl or real wood, according to finish. The loudspeakers come in mirror pairs, the two bass ports exiting on just one side of the cabinet (as can be seen in the photo), thus offering an alternative room interface – the ports either facing the side walls or facing each other. Four linked gold-plated terminals are fitted in a recessed plastics moulding low down in the rear panel, which is finished in black. Pegs protruding from the baffle area engage holes in the black cloth covered grille frame, also of MDF, which is angled internally to assist dispersion and rounded externally which avoids early disfigurement of the cloth. The overall appearance is decidedly bland and unlikely to offend in any context.

Two bass/midrange drivers are fitted flush into the front baffle, retained by no less than eight screws each, with the Royd 19mm soft dome tweeter between them. As in the Sorcerer they are of Royd’s own manufacture, built into 145mm cast baskets carrying hefty double ceramic magnets. Paper cones of 90mm diameter are fitted to the 19mm voice-coils which are wound on gapped aluminium formers; the latter are arranged to project slightly proud of the cone and a heavy layer of damping material is allowed to ‘puddle’ around them – this material remains slightly tacky to the touch after setting. No dust seal is used; instead the centre pole of the magnet is extended to be flush with the top of the 7.5 ohm voice-coil assembly. A convex rubber roll surround completes the units.

Starting in 1980, when Joe Akroyd formed the Royd Loudspeaker Company in Telford, we have seen a series of interesting loudspeakers from him, always incorporating unusual features such as those I have just described. In the Doublet, careful design has enabled Royd to run these bass/midrange drivers paralleled and fed directly from the incoming signal without requiring a low-pass crossover section. However, although the two units are coupled electrically they are isolated acoustically, each in its own reflex housing. This has been accomplished by an internal inverted ‘L’ shaped partition situated immediately below the central tweeter so that the lower unit does not see the full depth of the cabinet and the upper unit works into a shorter section of full depth with a long slot added; this arrangement gives each unit an approximate half share of the internal volume. The internal space is largely filled with acetate fibre wadding and the two 32mm diameter tunnel ports are of slightly differing lengths, 130mm in the upper section and 105mm in the lower. Each drive unit has a free-air resonance of 38Hz and paralleled together in their individual housings showed the usual twin reflex resonances at 23 and 70Hz, perhaps rather flatter than usual.

The tweeter dome works into a short flared faceplate which is covered by a 120mm diameter soft plastics ring, presumably to avoid early reflections from the baffle. It is housed in its own sealed chamber and driven via a simple half-section high-pass filter which brings it into play at around 3kHz. The complete loudspeaker has a nominal impedance of 6 ohms; the one I checked came down to a shade below 5 ohms in the 200 to 250Hz area but was up to 8 ohms and above for much ofthe range. I would not expect that any reasonably well designed amplifier would have any difficulty with this.

Initial listening tests soon established that in my room the favoured bass-end performance resulted from the ports facing inwards towards each other. However, although it was clear that these Doublets could go louder and deeper than the Sorcerers, there were some irregularities to be observed. Recalling experience with the Sorcerer, I tuned in Jazz FM (for a change) turned the wick up (an expression held over from the days of paraffin lamps – like them if carried to excess it results in smoke!) and went for a long weekend in Norfolk – I thought this was far enough! Fortunately I have no near neighbours and the postman is now inured to funny noises when he pushes stuff through the letter-box, so I can get away with this anti-social behaviour! On my return the expected improvement had taken place and I could get down to some serious listening. I remained aware of a fairly low frequency coloration which hollowed speech to a certain degree; I think it mainly originated with the lower unit and may be due to reflection from the rather close proximity of the partition behind it. However, it was far from damaging and one soon became used to it. After all, it would be too much to expect this relatively inexpensive design to quite reach the high standard set by its senior.

I had come away from the recent Gramophone Awards ceremony with an early copy of the related 66-minute CD, with its 13 tracks skilfully compiled from items which featured at that annual event. Such a wide assortment of programme material is ideal for testing the abilities of any loudspeaker to handle classical music and the Doublets were in their element. Subjection to bass-heavy rock music and cathedral organ caused them some embarrassment if asked to produce high sound levels, the small cones dissolving into a blur and the airflow from the ports easily capable of blowing out a lighted match held 100mm away! Of course this sort of torture is not what these excellent loudspeakers were designed for and used with more circumspection they will provide their owner with much musical enjoyment while taking up a minimum of space. They were very uncritical of room position although undue proximity to adjacent walls is always to be suspect in free-standing designs. There was a barely detectable change in the sound when the grilles were removed but I preferred them left in place.

As usual with narrow designs the stereo image was well defined and depth readily retained when the recorded ambience offered it. At the asking price these new loudspeakers from the Royd collection are something of a bargain and, not least in importance, will fit happily into a wide variety of surroundings.

Drive units 2 x 127mm bass/midrange, 1 x 19mm dome tweeter
Frequency range 30Hz-20kHz
Sensitivity 89dB for 1 watt at 1 metre
Nominal impedance 6 ohms
Crossover frequency 3kHz
Peak power handling 200 watts
Recommended amplifier power 50 to 150 watts
Dimensions (H x W x D) 881 x 181 x 161mm
Weight 29.5kg per pair, packed
Manufacturer Royd Loudspeaker Company Limited, Unit 821 Stafford Park 15, Telford, Shropshire TF3 3BB. Telephone 01952 290700
UK retail price £450

By Geoffrey Horn, “Gramophone” December 1995
Original can be found here.