Sorcerer Review, Gramophone, March 1994

Reproduced from a review in “Gramophone” by Geoffrey Horn published in March 1994.

The Royd Sorcerer Loudspeaker

The year just past as I write, has shown a definite trend in serious loudspeakers for serious listeners with quite serious money to spend. That trend takes the form of a decided split between sizeable floorstanding models and classy miniatures which nearly everybody calls bookshelf models – though to use them as such often compromises their performance to an unacceptable degree. To be sure, there are still plenty of examples which fall between these two extremes but it is becoming increasingly apparent that such designs, perched on stilts, are losing domestic acceptability although they still have their place in low cost systems.

Historically I suppose the original Goodmans Maxim of 30 years ago (yes it arrived in 1964) started the worship of the miniature, bolstered by a rather ridiculous vote in a consumer magazine, and I well recall a sarcastic American visitor asking me how one wore them as there was no headband; he took a pair back home though! Sensibly less extreme was the BBC licensed LS3/5, taken up by several makers who subsequently produced their own slightly larger copies as well. Recently the Italians have added beautiful cabinet styling to the breed, a model from Canada has appeared and the BBC has offered another design for licensing. Joining these is newcomer Origin Live’s model OL1A [to be reviewed by JB next month – IH] and more upmarket still, The Sorcerer from Royd, a Telford based company that has been in the loudspeaker business for some years, although this is its first appearance in these pages. That there should be a remarkable similarity between all of these designs in dimensions, appearance and drive unit complement is, I suppose, inevitable but there is still room for originality as we shall see.

Joe Akroyd, who fronts Royd and whose ideas are behind these loudspeakers, has devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to the removal of all the sources of coloration which he feels has marred many previous small box loudspeakers. Some of his techniques are quite novel and some do not lend themselves to quantity production which is part reflected in the cost. One’s first reaction on taking delivery of a pair of Sorcerers is to ponder what might be responsible for the weight of almost 50lb (22kg); we shall find out later. On unpacking, the appearance too is impressive: accurately halved and beautifully finished walnut veneer on four sides plus the baffle which is recessed in a solid walnut quadrant frame into which the black cloth covered grille frame sits.

On removing this the two drivers and the circular port are revealed and it is the unusual appearance of the bass/midrange which attracts immediate attention. As our picture shows this has a cone which is coated with a very thick layer of slightly sticky soft plastics damping material, which has been deliberately allowed to pile up and set in a shallow trough formed by the projecting rim of the voice-coil former. There is no dust cap; instead the centre-pole of the magnet assembly has been extended flush with this rim and carries a small tapered plug of acoustic foam. The unit has a cast frame of 145mm outside diameter which is recessed flush with the baffle surface and retained by eight crosshead bolts. On removal one discovers a surprisingly large magnet assembly (70mm wide by 30mm deep) for such a small unit, with a correspondingly small 19mm diameter voice coil. Examination of the rear of the 9Omm cone shows that it is formed of paper pulp which in practice is little more than a foundation for the coating but serves to mount the coil former and both inner and outer suspensions, the latter a convex roll of neoprene rubber. The coil winding is quite long to maintain linearity with displacement and has a DC resistance of 6.5 ohms. A nice touch was the placement of a blob of damping ‘gunge’ opposite the terminating eyelets for the voice-coil lead-out wires to balance their weight. The completed moving assembly is heavy for its size and shows a correspondingly low free-air resonance at 36Hz. However, a reasonable sensitivity is retained by virtue of the powerful magnet provided.

The tweeter carries the Royd name although it would appear to have Vifa origins – now somewhat modified in their 19mm recessed soft-dome design. Squeezed between the two is a 32mm diameter open pipe some 130mm long, which takes it quite close to the rear cabinet wall. The cabinet is constructed from MDF (Medite) except for the baffle which is thick particle board, chamfered behind the bass/midrange unit. But now we discover the reason for the weight, for a large part of the interior is tiled in thick steel plates, firmly bonded to the surfaces. It is difficult to imagine that any resonant tendencies could survive this treatment and any that do would be forced up to high frequencies where they would be easily taken up by the moderate quantity of BAF wadding included. Clamped between the bass/midrange unit’s magnet and the rear cabinet wall is a tube filled with a hard sponge rubber which acts as a form of shock absorber. This bass/midrange unit is fed direct from a pair of gold-plated universal terminals recessed into the black painted rear face of the cabinet and there is a simple single series capacity, shunt inductor, feed to the tweeter with a level adjusting resistive network. The acoustic response of the main unit is tailored to replace the usual low-pass part of the network and there is consequently a negligible advantage in providing for bi-wiring.

Performance
A conversation with Mr. Akroyd had elicited the fact that all this anti-coloration work stemmed from computer analysis of impulse tests, which he had been conducting for some time and which had led him to these novel solutions. My own measurements had been equally satisfactory, supporting the usual initial listening assessment which I find increasingly ‘on target’ with advancing years (friends kindly call it experience). Briefly the in-box band-pass resonances came out at 22 and 75Hz (a reader asks why I often quote these for reflex designs and the answer is that, provided their ratio is close to, or a little less than, 4 to 1 it is usually possible to find a position which provides a pretty level ‘in-room’ low-frequency response down to the arithmetical mean of these two, in this case 48Hz and half power, -3dB, to half the upper one, in this case 37Hz – purely rule of thumb you understand!). The sensitivity for 1 watt of wide-band (20kHz) pink noise at 1 metre was 85dB SPL and the frequency response for the pair in my listening room was remarkably even over the major part of the range with the usual slope off in the extreme treble and no sharp discontinuities off axis.

Well I expect you can guess what comes next: this has to be the finest small loudspeaker to come my way (so far!) though it only really made its mark after a quite prolonged running-in period. It so happened that because of circumstances I rarely permit, it had been necessary to juggle with three pairs of loudspeakers sent for review over the Christmas and New Year period, when fortunately I was only away for a few odd days. Consequently these Royds had spent a period on the end of a Nicam TV and it was only when I got them back into the main listening room that I could settle to a prolonged session. The first disc I picked up was a recent arrival from EMI (CDC5 55016-2) a further Maria Callas collection, “La Divina 2”. The sixteenth and last track was the famous Mad scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, one of her few recordings made in the Kingsway Hall; it was breathtaking to listen to that voice in that acoustic. Then a realistic piano playing Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev under the hands of Yefim Bronfman (Sony Classical SK46481, 1/92) and the lighter touch of Jacques Loussier’s Bach on Start SCD2. Solo Violin from Nigel Kennedy, also playing Bach on EMI CDC7 54574-2, (12/92).

One thing about small loudspeakers is that one is tempted to keep trying them in different positions. Originally I had placed them on very solid 460mm stands filled with lead shot but I felt they would be better higher up and what came to hand was another makers floorstanding model. Atop these with the tweeters a fraction above seated ear level proved to be the chosen spot in spite of a (quite justifiable) remark of “That’s ridiculous” from my foremost critic. I also used them on a wide window-sill with good results and simulated a bookshelf situation by pulling a dozen LP boxed sets from their little used shelves and fitting each Royd tightly in their place. Not unexpectedly this ‘gruffed up’ voices but even large organs were unbelievably spectacular if one didn’t try for too much volume. Lastly I set up just one on the two 460mm stands stacked in a central position and played some really old BBC tapes of speech from the mono days of unrestricted response and caring engineering. Careful adjustment – of volume and with the lights out this Royd became a true talking head which would have fooled anybody.

As you can guess I had a ball with these loudspeakers and at £598 a pair they are not a penny too expensive if you have got to have small loudspeakers, even if they have to be placed in a less than optimum position. However, if you have to buy a pair of expensive stands as well (at around £100, say) then the same total spent on a carefully chosen pair of floorstanding models will take up no more room and could certainly outperform them in terms of bass extension and absolute volume level. As always the choice is yours.

Specification
Drive units 130mm bass/midrange 19mm tweeter
Frequency range 33Hz-22kHz
Sensitivity 86dB/watt/metre
Nominal impedance 8 ohms
Recommended amplifier suitability 20-80 watts per channel into 8 ohms
Crossover frequency 3kHz
Bass resonance frequency 44Hz
Dimensions (H x W x D): 305 x 203 x 185mm
Weight 21.5kg per pair
Manufacturer Royd Loudspeaker Company Limited, Unit B2, Stafford Park 15, Telford, Shropshire TF3 3BB
Telephone 01952 290700
UK retail price £598 per pair

By Geoffrey Horn, “Gramophone” March 1994
Original can be found here.