We recently tested the Cabasse MC170 Antigua bookshelf speakers, the first at this price point to feature coaxial technology. The Cabasse MC170 Antigua is a compact, 3-way model optimized for hi-fi listening and combines curved side panels with a neutral and elegant finish. But has it inherited the sonic coherence associated with coaxial transducers?
Cabasse MC170 Antigua: why is a compact, 3-way model such a rare find?
With the Cabasse Antigua MC170, Cabasse proposes one of the few three-way, compact models (lows, mids, highs). Usually, three-way systems are the hallmark of floorstanding speakers as their size provides sufficient space for three drivers (or more). On the other hand, compact speakers– to stay true to their name–often only integrate two drivers in a two-way configuration.
It’s not often discussed, but the drawback of a 2-way system is the fact that the drivers are jockeyed between two extremes. The bass driver is filtered so as to restitute not only low frequencies, but also mids up to 2 kHz or even 5 kHz. And there’s the rub, as producing convincing lows requires the driver to be fitted with a large diaphragm, and it’s easy to understand that such a diaphragm is not built to oscillate 5,000 times per second in order to restitute high frequencies. Following the same logic, a tweeter needs to have an ultra-light cone and a very small coil, and as such it cannot efficiently go below 2 kHz without the risk of overheating. For these reasons and many others, three-way systems are preferred by manufacturers, at least for floorstanders whose size allows for the installation of additional drivers.
In a three-way system, a third driver is thus given the responsibility of bridging the gap between the bass driver and the tweeter, both of which are filtered so as to restitute a more specific frequency range. With the Cabasse MC170 bookshelf speakers, the bass driver is “cut” above 700 Hz, while the same action is applied to the tweeter below 3.6 kHz. The midrange driver, for its part, handles frequencies between 700 Hz and 3.6 kHz.
This offers several advantages:
-each driver is assigned its optimum frequency range while offering a more efficient transient response
-passive filtering has a less profound effect on frequencies ranging from 2-3 kHz, to which our ears are very sensitive
-the overall emissive surface is increased, thus widening the soundstage
Cabasse MC170 Antigua: coaxial driver
In order for the MC170 Antigua to maintain the dimensions of a compact speaker, Cabasse has opted for a 2-way coaxial driver. Its modus operandi is simple: the tweeter is installed in the center of the midrange driver, and each is filtered separately. This technique presents another sizeable advantage: it allows for an excellent spatialization of mids and highs. The tweeter is a semi-horn-loaded, coated fabric dome, while the midrange driver employs a low excursion, coated pulp paper cone mounted on a small, half-roll surround. The entirety of these elements is encircled by a metallic ring.
Cabasse MC170 Antigua: speaker enclosure
The 7” bass driver features a metal alloy cone and is loaded in a volume of air supplied by a circular port situated at the back of the speaker (bass-reflex). Cabasse announces a high excursion for the driver’s coil, which has been designed to generate a significant amount of power without creating audible distortion.
Moreover, Cabasse has opted for non-parallel, curved side panels in order to harmonize the circulation of sound within the speaker. A choice usually reserved for much more expensive models.
Cabasse MC170 Antigua: for which amplifiers?
While peak power is announced at 550 Watts, continuous power from lows to highs is established at 75 Watts. In other words, the Cabasse MC170 Antigua bookshelf speaker has been designed to work with more modest amplifiers (from 20 Watts and up). It is nonetheless important to note that the speaker’s impedance can dive down to 3.2 Ohms in the upper bass register. People looking for a club type sound delivery will thus take heed to pair up the Cabasse with an amplifier capable of flawlessly generating sufficient power into 4 Ohms (i.e. amplifiers whose power between 8 and 4 Ohms increases at a rate of at least 50%). The speaker’s sensitivity is listed at 88 dB for 1 Watt (at 1 m) and its frequency response ranges from 60 Hz to 20 kHz (plus or minus 3 dB). These values are coherent with the drivers used and the size of the speaker, which both favor linear mids.
Cabasse MC170: listening impressions and conclusions
Lows: smooth, without opulence, but with an extensiveness and a transient response which make it easy to follow percussive hits and bass lines.
Mids: Luminous and alert, the mids add a significant amount of depth to the soundstage.
Highs: Smooth and seamlessly integrated into the mids, the highs tastefully outline the qualities of each register
The Cabasse MC170 Antigua bookshelf speaker stands out for its wide soundstage, both with demanding recordings and quality live soundtakes. The timbre of each instrument is correctly reproduced and we immediately enjoyed our listening experience. This model’s solid foundation in the lows is sufficient to forego adding a subwoofer. To maximize its qualities in terms of spatialization as well as the speed of its coaxial driver, this speaker may be paired up with an energetic amplifier such as the NuPrime IDA-8, Rotel A-10 or Rega Brio-R. For those looking for an amplifier with streaming functions, the Yamaha R-N602, Sony MAP-S1 or Cabasse Stream AMP 100 are good leads.This post is also available in: French