RR1 Review, Hi-Fi+, Sept / Oct 2001

Reproduced from a review in Hi-Fi+, issue 13, September / October 2001.

Royd RR1
Royd RR1

Royd RR1

Loudspeaker

Which country do you live in? What room does your hi-fi sit in? If the answer to the first question is the UK then the law of averages says that the answer to the second is a lounge and a small lounge at that. And usually it has to be used for more than just listening to the hi-fi, so the last thing you want in this case is a huge pair of awkward loudspeakers eating up the available free space. What you need are a pair of loudspeakers that are diminutive, attractive, easy to site and yet manage to provide balanced and high quality music. Enter, and take a bow, the Royd RR1 loudspeaker.
Royd are a typical, small UK hi-fi company and they have been making loudspeakers for 21 years. Started and run by Joe Akroyd in Telford, Royd have always had a reputation for speakers that offer great sound quality at a sensible price. Joe was ready to retire at the start of the year when he cracked a problem he had been working on for some time. This inevitably led to the development of the new Revelation series, consisting of three models, the RR1, RR2 and RR3. These three loudspeakers do represent a change of tack for the company and a move to a higher market plane. This has allowed the Royd range to be rationalised down to just these three models. This review looks at the £799 baby of the range, the RR1 floor-stander.
I have a personal interest in these RR1 speakers as they are the descendants of the Minstrels that were my first pair of high quality speakers. A friend still uses that pair and they still sound great. Rest assured then that Royd products enjoy long working lives. In a similar manner to previous Royd speakers the Minstrels had a sound quality far beyond their price which meant that fed with a high quality source and amplifier the results could be spectacular. But unlike many components that perform this trick they were still relatively kind to lesser electronics, making them a great starter speaker as well as a good long term bet for the budding audiophile, capable as they were of showing the benefits of any subsequent upgrades.
The RR1 is a far more up market speaker than the Minstrel both in appearance and in price, but it shares similar external dimensions which must make it one of the smallest floor- standing speakers available. The box is an MDF carcass with bracing in the cabinet and a sloped front baffle, which should help time-align the drive units at the listening position. Unlike the Minstrel the cabinet backs are vertical. Or to put it another way, the front and back panel are not parallel, increasing the internal volume and removing any internal standing wave modes in the cabinet which should help reduce distortion. with its rounded corners, cabinet detailing and choice of superior quality veneers this speaker is very attractive,
The RR1 is a two-way, side ported speaker using compound bass reflex loading, that according to Joe is what allows a heavily developed in-house Royd 5″ bass/mid unit to produce so much good quality bass. And by good quality I don’t just mean quantity! Yes these speakers go deep for their size, but what is more impressive is that the bass can play a tune (more on this later), something rarer than you might think in this price band. It’s claimed that the compound bass reflex loading allows this through a reduction in the phase shifts found with normal reflex loading.
The bass/mid driver deserves some extra description as it is obviously key to the sound of the Revelation range, as well as a great achievement in its own right for such a small company, where you might expect them to just buy in a unit from the usual suspects. It is a new and much improved version of the driver found in previous Royds and makes use of composite multi- layer construction to make a very light and rigid cone capable of pretty long excursions without introducing distortion. The surface of the cone is uneven and this helps break up surface modes to further lower distortion levels. A Royd modified metal dome tweeter handles high frequencies and crosses over to the bass/mid using a slightly modified first order crossover. Joe has chosen this crossover with the aim of improving the phase response and therefore speed of the speaker. It is pretty obvious that Joe’s design ethic is to get the temporal response right even at the expense of a perfectly flat frequency response, and I have to say that listening to the RR1 goes a long way toward justifying this approach.
The speaker is not terribly efficient at 87dB and seemed to enjoy the power of my Naim NAP25O and the Dynavector HX75 power amplifier I used for the review. But don’t get the idea you need £2000 of power amp on hand; they have retained much of the Minstrels’ forgiving nature and they also sounded great with both a Naim Nait 5 and a Roksan Caspian.
Unfortunately the RR1 is a little unstable because of its small footprint and relatively low mass. This should only really be a problem if your children have a habit of pushing things to see what happens, or you have a largish dog, but to counter this Royd have produced what is best described as a heavy slipper. This optional (£65 for a pair) steel base bolts to the bottom spike holes of the RR1 and the speaker sits in and on it, with some small rubber bungs between the bottom of the speaker and the collar base. The slipper adds weight to the speaker and increases the footprint by dint of its well spaced spikes, thus increasing the stability. That said a St. Bernard or precocious child will still wreak havoc and I was not personally (and aesthetics are always personal) enamoured of the look of these bases. They just don’t quite fit with the quality of the rest of the speaker or its general style. I would have preferred a simple plate; perhaps a slate slab could be substituted if you have similar misgivings.
I first heard the RR1’s at the Bristol hi-fi show back in February and it was obvious that here was a special product. The Royd room was outperforming a great many others featuring much more expensive boxes; they had to be reviewed. So, did the RR1 continue to shine in a better environment? Well the simple answer is yes. One of the main strengths of these and previous Royd speakers is the quart out of a pint pot effect they seem to pull off, producing real bass from a diminutive cabinet. But what is really impressive is that this bass isn’t bloated and slow and it certainly isn’t woolly. Indeed these speakers time extremely well, always managing to carry a tune. If you agree with me you’ll rate timing and the ability to play in tune as the most important attributes for any hi-fi component. I don’t demand the flattest frequency response as long as the music is brought into the room. Linn Kans would be a good example here, an eminently musical and fun speaker but very, very inaccurate. I used a pair for two years post Minstrel. These little RR1’s are a bit unusual, especially at the price. They manage the trick of making music but also being tonally correct and detailed, providing an open window onto the recording. Very low coloration is a hall-mark and the cabinet doesn’t seem to contribute in the usual negative way at all; as you would expect, small surfaces vibrate less and are easier to control! Think of the RR1 as a high quality stand-mounted miniature, one that doesn’t need stands, and you will be way on the way to under- standing this speaker. I found these speakers pretty relaxed when it came to position as well, and the side ports allow a degree of fine-tuning to match the room. mat said they do still demonstrate the benefits of careful experimentation, preferring plenty of distance between them, but given their light weight its not a chore to try them in a few different locations. As it happened they ended up in the same position as the Shahinian Obelisks that usually grace this end of my system and like the Obelisks they filled the space between them without a hint of a hole in the middle of the image. I preferred the ports in but if they are like the Minstrels, ports out will be the order of the day in most rooms.
Lest you think this review is all praise I do have one or two complaints to make. The most important is the inclusion of a bi-wiring facility. At the bottom of the rear panel is the familiar four terminal panel, complete with gold shorting bars. I have never been a fan of this configuration and where possible I’ve overcome this by attaching two sets of plugs to my speaker leads so that I don’t have to use the shorting bars. It’s an arrangement that has always yielded superior results. Anyway, a similar cable trick was tried with the RR1 and yes, improvements were heard. However, on a visit to my dealer I had the chance to hear a pair of single wire RR1’s (simply converted by attaching all the internal wires to one set of binding posts), and these were incontrovertibly better at playing music. Clearly, such a modification would invalidate your warranty, so I’m not suggesting you should do it, but under the circumstances it seems a shame that the option (and cost) of bi-wiring was included on this speaker. The comments in this review on the sound quality of these speakers are based on a pair of RR1 as sold by Royd (bi-wirable), but throughout the review listening I was using Naim NACA5 speaker cable with 4 plugs per side to avoid the shorting bars.
The only other serious limitation that become apparent in the course of listening was absolute loudness. If over driven they start to sound hard and I would recommend that if you have a large room or the need to play it really “neighbours at war” loud then the big brother RR2 could well be a better choice.
If you want to hear how rich a voice Johnny Cash has, just listen to the Murder album. Here we have some wonderful tracks and the RR1’s simply disappear. You know the drill; close your eyes and try to visualise where they are by ear. No chance with these speakers. But it’s not just location, it’s also speaker- signature you try to look for, and these speakers have very little of that. me trick was repeated with Kathryn Williams and Little Black Numbers and the excellent Turin Brakes, The Optimist LP. In fact these speakers are very genre neutral and were happy with everything I threw at them. If I was being hypercritical I would say they are a little dry but this is largely due to their lack of overhang. Provided the amp is man enough the speaker is capable of starting and stopping on the proverbial sixpence, dime or cent, take your pick.
Listening to Dongs of Seuotion by Smog we are more than aware of the multi-level interaction of the band. Track 6, ‘Bloodflow’, is a particular favourite. lt is stark and the constantly changing tempo lends it atmosphere and tension. When done properly it is captivating, but it’s also a severe test, and on some systems it loses its way, just sounding boring. me RR1 was excellent here, sustaining the ebb and flow with aplomb. Okay, compared to the Shahinian obelism they sound veiled, closed in, bandwidth limited and slightly slow, but this misses the point. The obelism cost over four times the price (a quart from a pint pot then maybe, but not a gallon!) and let’s face it, the majority of RR1 owners aren’t going to have them available for comparison. In isolation the little Royd is very hard to fault, but perhaps most importantly, it is always great fun to listen to.
The RR1 continues Royd’s tradition of creating excellent speakers at affordable prices. Maybe it’s prettier and not quite as affordable as early models, but I for one would be more than happy to own a pair, short of space or not!

” After the review was completed, Royd informed us that they have changed the bi-wiring arrangement to internal hardwires that have to be cut to split the cross-over. This sounds like a much better solution to us. Ed.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Two-way compound reflex
Drivers – HF: 19mm Polymer dome – LF: 125mm Multi-layer cone
Bandwidth: 28Hz – 20kHz +/-3dB
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 83dB
Dimensions (WxHxD): 192x642x154mm
Finishes: Cherry, Dark Apple Maple, Mahogany
Price: £799-00

Manufacturer: Royd Loudspeakers Co.
Tel. (44)(0)1952-290700
Fax. (44)(0)1952-290190

Review by Jason Hector