Bamberg Series 2 TM Speaker Review
I have long been a fan of phase correct, coherent speakers that are able to pass along the source's signal to the ears unhindered by time smear. Whether the means to accomplish this has been single-driver systems, coincident-coaxial, or in the case of the Bamberg Series 2 TM, physically aligning the acoustic centers of the drivers by sloping the baffle combined with crossover wizardry, the effect is toe tapping-musicality.
Attending the Lone Star Audiofest 2013, I happened upon Philip Bamberg's room for a demonstration. I had heard of Bamberg Audio before in passing, but was not fully aware of their offerings. Mr. Bamberg's speakers are of seemingly conventional design, but contain a few twists that allow the separate drivers to integrate into what sounds almost like one single driver. I auditioned the lauded Series 5 TMW the second and third days of the show, but never had a chance to hear the more affordable Series 2 TM, so arrangements were made to take these loudspeakers home with me for review.
The Series 2 TM is Bamberg Audio's most affordable loudspeaker, a sealed two-way dome and cone "bookshelf" loudspeaker with a 1" dome and 7" midrange/midbass, intended to be used with at least one subwoofer and crossed over at a minimum of 80 Hz. Dimensions are 15.8H x 8.7W x 13.4D, weighing in at 25 lbs each. Recommended amplifier power is 25-200 W with 8 ohms stated as nominal impedance. Sensitivity is given as 88.5 dB (half space) with a bandwidth of 48 Hz - 24 kHz. Crossover between the tweeter and midrange is 1.8 kHz with a modestly sloped 4th order (24 dB/octave) Linkwitz-Riley filter. Inter-driver phase response is a tight 40 degrees or less from 100 Hz to 7 kHz. More technical data can be found here:
The Series 2 TM Monitor
The speakers are very well constructed, employing basic, common sense engineering. Finish is a beautifully done high gloss black, looking like a black mirror, and a flat black baffle. They look a bit like Darth Vader to me! Baffle and rear mounted back plate seams are tight tolerance with gaps evenly spaced. Drivers are secured with black screws and countersunk into the 1 1/4" thick sloped baffle. Edge diffraction is dealt with by varying the distance from the cabinet edge to the drivers. The outside edges of the baffle are faceted, with canted 45 degree angles to prevent diffraction from summing in frequency. Knuckle rap test on the sides or top of the enclosure gives a satisfying "thunk", while rapping on the top facet of the front baffle is almost like rapping on a brick. Handsome grills are very thin to avoid diffraction effects, and held on magnetically. Four threaded rubber cone feet are fixed to the bottom. Peering inside the cabinet reveals heavy duty bracing, sturdy drivers, copious amounts of stuffing and a fairly complex filter network made of high quality components. Knurled 5-way binding posts are mounted on the back.
Ordering can be done through the Bamberg Audio website. The site also contains a wealth of detailed information regarding each individual speaker, proper set up and designer bio. The speaker pair I received were single boxed, with plenty of room between the speaker and side walls, wrapped in a thin Styrofoam blanket to protect the finish, then encased with dense 2" thick foam end caps.
- Sources - Marantz VC6001 Universal Player/Sony BDP S590
- Amplification - Exposure 2010S/Sherwood Newcastle R972
- Cabling - MIT AVt 1 Interconnect, MIT AVt 1 Speaker Cables, Monster XP Speaker Cables, Monoprice HDMI
- Subwoofer Augmentation - Chase Home Theater VS-18.1 (duals), Dayton SA1000 Subwoofer Amplifier
- Light 2" Foam Treatments (Reduce Flutter Echo)
The tweeter has an attenuator switch, and since my hardwood floored room is a little bright, I employed it. Ideally, the user will want to position the speakers and listening position and treat the room to achieve the target goal of flat tweeter position. After playing with positioning, I did achieve that target goal and the flat position was my final preference.
Images appeared just as they should. Pinpoint-sized percussion hits, medium-bodied for voice, strings and horns, and full-sized for large instruments like floor toms and piano. Highs were smooth when called for, but strident recordings were laid bare. The Series 2 tells the truth, and is very effective in helping to maintain stable, clearly defined images. I dare anyone listening to this speaker pair to be able to focus on any other task (like reading or studying) for long. You will have to make a choice between productivity and leisure. More than once goosebumps were produced, and on one occasion with a song I am completely unfamiliar with, "Lebanese Blond" by Thievery Corporation, played through lossy, compressed Slacker Radio (!).
The horizontal listening window is tight, meaning there is a narrow sweet spot, about 3 persons wide, so it's not so narrow you feel the need to put your head into a vice, by any means. A wide sweet spot is hard to achieve without all drivers actually physically aligned in space and time, and is not a big deal with a serious 2 channel speaker meant to be listened to from a sweet spot. That spot is just as much part of the speaker design as the components themselves. Vertical dispersion is superb, the sound is almost the same as sitting, to the degree of "which one sounds better?". The difference is so small, it is barely discernible and also hard to pin one down as "better". But who wants to stand and listen? This is just a characteristic worth noting, as most speakers are not able to maintain tonality at standing height.
The speakers are very "quick", the Vifa tweeters and Peerless midrange/midbass drivers seem to start and stop on a dime with no overhang. This is as much a testament to the rock-solid enclosures as to well-chosen drivers and exemplary crossover work.
Two amplifiers were used and equal time was given to each. The Exposure 2010S was used running the Series 2 TM full range, with dual subwoofers rolling in the bottom end. The Series 2 TM had absolutely no qualms running wide open, no bottoming was ever experienced, the copper shorting ring and sealed alignment kept the mid bass driver reigned in.
The Sherwood/Newcastle R972 was used without any Room EQ applied, bass management utilized for crossover and distance settings. Phil encourages experimenting with higher crossover settings of 200 Hz, even as high as 300 Hz. Guided by test tones and an SPL meter, my ears and meter found a crossover of 110 Hz to be most satisfactory in my room. This is due to a floor bounce null around that frequency, the subwoofers flatten it out when rolled in there.
I spent a lot of time with the Series 2 TM. Although I did put the speakers through their paces watching broadcast TV/sports, Netflix and DVD/Blu-Ray movies, the large majority was spent on 2 channel music listening, either to Slacker radio (I am really digging the Smooth Jazz station) or silver discs. Here is a small slice of my auditioning:
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (SACD) - The crescendo at the beginning of "Breathe" hits max volume and subsided beautifully, the Series 2 TM handling the dynamic swell with aplomb. Saxophone solo on "Money" was rendered with just the right amount of bite, without being overly harsh. The famous "Time" clock alarms rang through clearly (as a bell, pun intended), each individual alarm distinct from the other. When Roger Waters comes in with the opening vocals, it is startling real, as is the following David Gilmour guitar solo.
Chicago: If You Leave Me Now (And Other Hits) (Redbook CD) - I like to use the song "25 or 6 to 4" to test for shrillness. The tweeter handled the upper registers of Peter Cetera's vocals well, allowing the recorded bite to play through, but without being shrill or overbearing.
The Alan Parsons Project: I Robot (DVD-A) - Track #4, "Breakdown", is another great song for testing shrillness. The recording's highs can come across as strident on lesser speakers, but the Bambergs tamed it down to the perfect level in my room. My listening notes say "big thumbs up!".
Sepultura: Chaos AD (Redbook CD) - An acid test for composure. I was amazed at how well the Bambergs held it together when the band went all out, allowing me to hear each performer without one masking or blurring the other, details and clarity brought forth. "Chaos AD" is far from a great recording, the Bamberg's ability to unravel it for me was impressive! I listened to the entire album all the way through.
The Bamberg Series 2 TM is rather dry, with no warmth or harshness added to the signal, I found the honesty of the Series 2 TM to be refreshing. PRAT factor is toe-tappingly high, especially with the Exposure amp feeding them. These speakers do not excite with added colorations, but with their exquisite timing.
Lacking a bit in ultimate dynamics, but made up for by the sheer amount of program detail delivered. Do not mistake the purpose of this speaker; it is not a big HT SPL monster, it is a serious music machine. Honestly, they can satisfy as double-duty speakers in a home theater/2 channel system for all but the most SPL-crazed listeners, which I admittedly happen to be one of. Regular TV audio was satisfactory, with dialogue intelligibility extremely high. There is no asking a viewing partner or wondering to yourself "What was that they just said?".
I spent a lot of time shaking my head, saying "Wow!", because they really dig deep into the program material and bring the music to the forefront. Listening fatigue is not in the Series 2 TM vocabulary, one can listen all day and easily find themselves listening long into the night well past bedtime. Having to peel myself away at times, I lost a lot of sleep listening to the Bamberg Series 2 TM. I have never heard a sub $1k monitor sound so good, and it easily challenges speakers well above its price range. Bamberg's motto is "Speakers for Life", and I can agree. The Series 2 TM could live in my system for a long time.
Please use the Bamberg Series 2 TM Discussion Thread for question and comments.