Cabasse Pearl Sub & Cabasse iO3, Riga & Baltic satellite speakers review: a wireless 2.1 audio system

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The Cabasse The Pearl Sub is a wireless subwoofer featuring two amplification channels to power satellite speakers. Available in black and white (matte finish), it uses the same woofer driver as the Cabasse The Pearl connected speaker, from which it also inherits the connections and circuitry. The Cabasse The Pearl Sub subwoofer features digital signal processing (DSP), which has been expertly programmed by the company’s engineers to get the best performance from the high-end satellite speakers it can be associated with.

The Cabasse The Pearl Sub is designed to power the Cabasse iO3, Riga and Baltic satellite speakers.

The Cabasse The Pearl Sub subwoofer can’t be bought separately as it was developed specifically to power the Cabasse iO3, Cabasse Riga and Cabasse Baltic satellite speakers. For each 2.1 stereo audio system designed in this way, the manufacturer offers a choice between floorstanding speakers or speakers mounted on wooden stands.

The Cabasse wireless 2.1 audio system range includes:

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: the brand

Cabasse is among the iconic manufacturers that contribute to the international reputation of French hi-fi. The brand was founded in 1950 as a result of Georges Cabasse’s passion for music and sound reproduction, and became a household name in 1952. It then created the sound system for the Grand Rex cinema in Paris, the first cinema equipped with Cinemascope technology. For the occasion, Georges Cabasse developed the Diphone, a 14” coaxial driver.

In 1958, the manufacturer innovated once again by designing the first active speaker, a three-way model with as many integrated amplifiers.

In 1959, Georges Cabasse and his wife Elisabeth, who both loved the ocean, decided to relocate the company near Brest. They had one of the largest anechoic chambers in the world at the time built there, allowing the French engineer to carry out the tests necessary for the development of his speakers.

Cabasse’s premises are located in Plouzané, just outside of Brest (Brittany).

Since the beginning of the Cabasse adventure, coaxial speaker drivers and active speakers have been part of the brand’s DNA. In 1974, the company won a competition organized by the Maison de la Radio: the Brigantin VTA and Galion 3VTA 3-way active speakers have been used in the Radio France studios ever since.

Cabasse returned to the active loudspeaker market in 1993 with the Atlantis MC, a speaker equipped with a revolutionary coaxial multi-dome driver. It acts as a pulsating sphere that emits all frequencies from the same point, thus respecting the initial direction of sound propagation and the shape of the sound wave. This driver is ideal for fully harnessing the potential of DSP (Digital Signal Processing): the correction of the different channels is effective over the entire listening area thanks to the coaxial alignment of the drivers. The Cabasse Atlantis MC speaker integrates 4 amplifiers associated with an active crossover filter module and a parametric filter module.

Introduced in 2006, the Cabasse La Sphère speaker represents both a revolution and a milestone event in the brand’s research and development process for coaxial active speakers. The La Sphère is a comprehensive high-end audio system that includes Cabasse amplifiers with La Sphère’s dedicated 4-channel stereo digital processor, high-resolution Cabasse Streamer, Parasound preamplifier, Kimber Kable audio wiring and Russ Andrews Accessories power wiring.

The Cabasse La Sphère speaker revolutionized the high-end speaker market.

The Cabasse La Sphère system features the manufacturer’s best technologies to provide musical emotion: the powerful and precise 21.5” low frequency driver, the total purity of the 4-way coaxial source, a deep and stable sound image, perfect phase linearity in a 60° membrane, a 4-way active crossover with a 96kHz processor, anechoic chamber calibration and custom adjustments for each customer.

In 2012/2013, the Breton manufacturer unveiled its first connected 2.1 audio system for the mainstream market, the Cabasse Stream 3, which consists of a Santorin 21 active subwoofer equipped with a 24-bit/96 kHz DAC, WiFi (DLNA) and Bluetooth streaming functions that powers a pair of Eole 3 satellite speakers. The subwoofer’s connectors also include an optical input and an RCA input for connecting external sources. Acclaimed by the specialized press for its acoustic qualities and its multiple functionalities, the Stream 3 nevertheless struggled to find an audience, perhaps not ready at the time to adopt such a system. Moreover, it suffered from a temperamental application that was not fully developed. However, the Stream 3 marked an important milestone for Cabasse in the development of wireless products and further reinforced the company’s belief that a well-designed and optimized 2.1 actived system delivers a more consistent and faithful sound experience than a pair of floorstanding speakers and a separate amplifier.

Consisting of an active subwoofer and two satellite speakers, the Cabasse Stream 3 system can stream music wirelessly via WiFi and Bluetooth.

Released in late 2018, the Cabasse The Pearl speaker is dedicated to Hi-Res audio streaming and features the most compact triaxial driver developed by the French manufacturer. It is associated with a new 10” low-frequency driver. Capable of a linear excursion of over 30mm, it offers an exceptional bass level for a speaker of its size. The Pearl is the embodiment of a perfect understanding of both the analog and digital aspects of sound processing by Cabasse’s R&D teams.

The recently released The Pearl Sub subwoofer is the logical continuation of this desire to fully control all factors, from the design of the drivers and the choice of the most suitable amplification, to the digital audio signal processing (DSP) and acoustic correction based on the listening room. The aim is to offer the user a completely optimized audio system before which they simply have to sit comfortably and enjoy their music.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: presentation

Design

The aesthetic lineage of the Cabasse The Pearl Sub subwoofer with the Cabasse The Pearl and Cabasse The Pearl Akoya speakers is evident. Barely larger than the Pearl, this subwoofer rests on a circular chromed base. From the front, it looks as if it’s floating in the air.

Mounted on its chrome base, the Cabasse The Pearl Sub seems to float.

10” driver, colossal amplification

The Cabasse The Pearl Sub subwoofer features a 10″ long-throw woofer, the same one used in the Cabasse The Pearl speaker. It is powered by a 1000 watt RMS (2000 watt peak) amplifier module and covers a frequency range from 14Hz to 180Hz.

The Cabasse The Pearl Sub’s 10” woofer is driven by a powerful amplifier.

The Pearl Sub also features two 300 watt RMS (600 watt peak) amplification modules to power a pair of satellite speakers via the speaker terminals at the back.

More than just a subwoofer…

The Pearl Sub has the same features as the Cabasse The Pearl speaker:

Deezer, Napster, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal are all supported by the free Cabasse app for iOS and Android. The application can also access thousands of webradios (vTuner), play audio files stored on a smartphone, and stream tracks shared on the local network as well as those on a USB key connected to the Pearl Sub’s USB port.

The Pearl Sub’s connectors are situated under the cabinet and at the back of the subwoofer.

In addition to the USB port that is compatible with MP3, AAC, WMA, AIFF, FLAC and ALAC files, the Cabasse The Pearl Sub is equipped with:

  • A stereo RCA line input to connect any analog source: DAP, CD player, turntable (with an integrated phono preamplifier or with an external phono preamp)… 
  • An optical digital input (Toslink) to connect a television or a Blu-ray player, for example… 
  • An Ethernet port (RJ45) to connect to the local network (this can also be done via WiFi)

Lastly, the Cabasse The Pearl Sub is Bluetooth compatible to allow direct wireless music streaming from a smartphone without going through the local network.

32-bit / 768kHz DAC, multi-room

The digital audio section of The Pearl Sub features a powerful 32-bit / 368kHz DAC that supports the majority of high-resolution audio files (PCM only), ensuring that you can enjoy its Hi-Res playlists with optimal playback quality.

The Cabasse app provides access to the main online music services.

The Pearl Sub is multi-room compatible in high resolution and can therefore be paired with one or more Pearl speakers to play music in several zones simultaneously. Moreover, the Pearl Sub’s inputs are compatible with multi-room streaming. Consequently, the sources connected to the Pearl Sub’s optical and RCA inputs can be played simultaneously on one or several The Pearl or The Pearl Akoya speakers installed in different rooms of the home.

DSP profiles & auto-calibration

The Cabasse The Pearl Sub features a powerful 4-core processor dedicated to digital signal processing (DSP). This digital section was developed over many hours by the company’s acoustic and software engineers in order to adapt the processing of the amplified signal to the characteristics of the woofer. But that’s not all. The two amplifiers dedicated to powering satellite speakers are also controlled by the integrated DSP, which offers three distinct profiles. A dedicated profile is automatically activated when you determine which pair of Cabasse speakers is connected to the subwoofer.

Each profile processes the signal by applying specific compression to different frequency bands using a sophisticated algorithm that analyzes the audio content being transmitted in real time, in particular its dynamic range. This process refines the passive filtering of the speaker’s coaxial drivers by progressively adjusting the signal addressed to them. The drivers then function optimally, without saturation or coloration, no matter the music you are listening to.

The Cabasse app also allows you to perform an auto-calibration of the audio system in order to optimize the sound reproduction according to the acoustic behavior of the room. A series of sound signals is emitted by the speakers and the subwoofer, before being measured and analyzed in order to adjust the sound and correct the effects of the listening room.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: key specifications

Diver

  • HELD (High Excursion, Low Distortion)
  • Carbon fiber cone
  • Rare earth magnet
  • Diameter: 10”
  • Throw: 30mm (-15mm / +15mm)

Amplification

  • Left channel: 300W RMS / 600W peak
  • Right channel: 300W RMS / 600W peak
  • Woofer: 1000W RMS / 2000W peak

Measurements

  • Frequency response: 14 – 180Hz
  • SPL (mono): 100dB (112dB peak)

DSP

  • Dedicated equalization profiles (DEAP – Digital Enhancement of Acoustical Performances) for the Cabasse iO3, Cabasse Riga and Cabasse Baltic satellite speakers.
  • Auto-calibration via the Cabasse app

Connected features

  • Access to Deezer, Napster, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal streaming services
  • Web radios (vTuner)
  • Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible
  • Network media player (DLNA/NAS)
  • Multi-room

Connectivity 

  • Ethernet (RJ45)
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • SPDIF optical
  • RCA analog

DAC and codecs

  • DAC: Asahi Kasei AKM4490 768kHz / 32-bit
  • Compatible audio formats: MP3, AAC, WMA, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC

General

  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 320 x 368 x 338mm
  • Weight: 20kg
  • Finish: Matte black / Matte white

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: listening conditions

We were lucky enough to test the Pearl Sub at Cabasse’s premises in Plouzané, Finistère. This was the opportunity to meet Pierre-Yves Diquelou with whom we discussed the origins of The Pearl Sub project, the advantages of a 2.1 stereo audio system compared to floorstanding speakers and the benefits of digital signal processing.

The Cabasse Pearl Sub with the Cabasse iO3 speakers.

In the auditorium provided by Cabasse, we were able to listen to the three different 2.1 configurations offered by the French manufacturer, starting with The Pearl Sub subwoofer coupled with Cabasse iO3 speakers, then the Cabasse Riga speakers and finally the Cabasse Baltic speakers.

We streamed the tracks from our test playlist wirelessly from a smartphone in CD and Hi-Res quality via our Qobuz Studio subscription on the Cabasse application. The Pearl Sub subwoofer was placed on our right, near a corner of the room, while the stand-mounted satellite speakers were positioned about 60-70 cm from the rear wall and about 3 meters apart.

We were able to test the Cabasse iO3 speakers, then the Cabasse Riga speakers and finally the Cabasse Baltic speakers.

The system is quick and easy to set up. Simply connect the speakers to the subwoofer’s terminals, connect an RCA and/or optical source if necessary, connect the subwoofer to mains power and launch the application to connect it to the local network. Once the network connection is established, all that remains is to select the speaker model associated with the subwoofer to start the automatic calibration. After this step, which only takes a matter of seconds, the system is operational.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: listening impressions

iO3 system

The Cabasse iO3 is the smallest satellite speaker that can be paired with the Cabasse The Pearl Sub. The 5” coaxial driver with its 1” dome tweeter covers a frequency range from 150 to 22,000Hz. Once the calibration was done, which only took a minute, we started listening to music.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub iO3 system.

What surprised and impressed us first was the integration of the different frequency ranges and the sonic cohesion. It never felt as if we were listening to “small” satellite speakers with a “big” subwoofer. Although it was cut-off rather high, the bass was not directional, which made the soundstage wonderfully uniform.

Spatialization was wide, the organisation of the different elements allowed the music to breathe and the sound unfolded effortlessly throughout the room.

The Pearl Sub provided a powerful and lively tempo. The lows were incisive, well structured and tight. Above all, they were just present enough to add texture without overwhelming the sound delivered by the iO speakers.

The small diameter of the satellite speaker’s coaxial driver limited the intensity of the midrange somewhat. Although it was well defined, it sometimes lacked substance and expressivity. The highs were very smooth, subtly highlighting the message.

Riga system

The Pearl Sub + Riga system immediately offered us a richer soundscape. The larger emissive surface of the BC17 coaxial driver and the DSP that optimized its response allowed this system to fill the soundstage more effectively. The vocals had substance, the percussion instruments displayed accuracy and aplomb, the highs seemed smoother and more transparent. Once again, the integration of the different ranges was remarkable.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub Riga system.

The imperial subwoofer provided a generous foundation along with incredibly energetic lows. The lowest notes were extremely well controlled, with no unwanted vibration or saturation.

Baltic system

Unsurprisingly, it was the 2.1 system consisting of The Pearl Sub and the pair of Cabasse Baltic speakers that impressed us the most. The TCA (Tri Coaxial Aramid) driver of this speaker, entirely manufactured in Cabasse’s workshops, is characterized by the fact that the same material is used for the membranes responsible for reproducing both the midrange and low-midrange. The whole driver forms a section of a pulsating sphere that produces a very uniform sound with good depth, a very stable stereo image and excellent timbres, even outside the listening axis.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub Baltic system.

The integration of The Pearl Sub with the Baltic speakers is just as effective as it was with the other speakers, but this third ensemble provides the best performance for the listener. Its ability to truly embody the music makes the sound incredibly realistic. The vibrations and resonance of the percussions were tangible, the nuances of the saxophonist’s breath in the mouthpiece were perfectly perceptible, the vocals were beautifully rendered. With these speakers and The Pearl Sub cabinet at the helm, you are truly in the presence of the artist: the ideal conditions to let yourself be carried away by the emotion that the performance evokes.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: compared to… 

B&W Formation Duo 

Situated in the same price range as The Pearl Sub + iO3 package, the British connected speakers offer a distinctive yet appealing aesthetic with their decoupled tweeter. In practice, the latter’s carbon dome provides more accurate highs that are brighter than those of the French speaker. Offering beautifully rendered mids and low-mids, the B&W Formation Duo’s Continuum membrane shows its limit in the lows, which aren’t as deep or intense as the Pearl Sub. The B&W Formation subwoofer needs to be added to these speakers to achieve more substantial lows.

Cabasse The Pearl Sub: conclusion

The French manufacturer’s three 2.1 audio systems featuring the Cabasse The Pearl Sub subwoofer are appealing in more ways than one.

First of all, from an aesthetic point of view, it has to be said that the spherical speakers and subwoofer are very attractive. Mounting the satellite speakers on their dedicated stands really makes them stand out, and the overall visual presence of the system is much less invasive than a pair of traditional floorstanding speakers. Lovers of refined designs and beautiful objects will definitely appreciate the Cabasse systems.

The user experience offered by this Cabasse ensemble is also remarkable. They are Plug’n’Play systems that don’t require any special knowledge to be installed. The Cabasse app is reliable, intuitive and easy to use.

The listening experience is magical. The soundstage is stable and coherent, the timbres are accurate, and the frequency ranges are balanced. Probably the most surprising is the quality of the integration of the different frequency ranges.

The Pearl Sub’s spec sheet might make one fear a deluge of lows that overshadow the rest of the sound, but in reality, this is not the case. The subwoofer’s powerful, impactful and energetic lows are perfectly controlled and subtle and, above all, blend in perfectly with the satellite speakers.

The result is a well-balanced stereo audio system with a particularly realistic and lively sound.

What we liked

  • The very appealing design of the three 2.1 audio systems
  • The integration of the frequency ranges
  • The coherence and stability of the soundstage
  • The impactful, powerful and always perfectly controlled lows

What we would have liked

  • DSD audio file compatibility


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