Exclusive - Building the Analog Domain Argus loudspeaker!


Here is are the exclusive insights, info and photos about the all new Analog Domain Argus loudspeaker. Angel Despotov writes: "Let me start by clarifying why I decided to build this loudspeaker. The Analog Domain brand (AD for brevity below) is well known for its state of the art electronics. In fact, I would never build a “me too” product just for the sake of having it in the portfolio. Every single one of AD’s products is a leader in its class, bringing superior performance based on radically better technology than what can be found in the “mainstream”. Period."

"Obviously, in my work I need a set of true reference, no compromise loudspeakers, that would reveal every little detail in the music played. Looking at what the market had to offer was saddening – generally mediocre performance at premium prices, most of the cost going into cabinet appearance and “brand value”, with a handful of exceptions. I had to choose between sound quality and output capacity.


Few people know that before establishing the AD brand, I was building all kinds of custom systems – monitors for recording studios, high output systems for clubs and PA, etc. For over 25 years...

So, there you have it. Since there was nothing on the market that would satisfy all my requirements, the only way ahead was to roll up my sleeves and build one. I do realize that adding a loudspeaker to the AD portfolio will discourage many potential partners, as they now see me as a competitor, but so what? I’m not in this business to please anyone else except my customers. Dear “speaker guys”, here’s a real reference for all you to measure up to and exceed. Good luck!
Now to the details. Following is a no-nonsense description of the Argus.

Driver selection


All drivers are from “pro audio” manufacturers. Why? For a number of reasons:

- Consistent high performance;
- Many years of experience;
- Superior reliability.

This is the most important component.

The midrange driver is from the highly respected pro-audio manufacturer 18 Sound.


It has the highest sensitivity (102dB/W), the lowest distortion, a very natural timbre and a fantastic power rating of 180W AES, 480W peak. It is built for true high performance.

The absence of resonant peaks and an extended frequency response allows me to tailor the crossover points for optimal power loading and matching with the other drivers to use their natural roll off, thus achieving a steeper slope.

Tweeter: an outstanding air motion transformer type from Beyma. Again, a pro-audio manufacturer. 

This specific driver has a number of advantages: no inductance, high sensitivity 101dB/W (with our custom waveguide) and a flat frequency response beyond 20 kHz.
Power handling is 150W, which is about a decade more than it will have to handle in the system. AMT (or HEIL) drivers have superior performance over dome tweeters. The effective surface of this specific model is about two magnitudes (100x) higher than a 1” dome tweeter. The large area ensures
better coupling with air and extremely low distortion, even at high volume. They are free of “breakup mode” by design.

All this amounts to a tweeter that has no coloration, produces fast, accurate transients and truthfully renders the tone of instruments, especially obvious with percussion. Furthermore, there is no artificial sibilance, as in dome tweeters, regardless how or from what materials they are made.

A custom waveguide enhances the sensitivity, yet is free from the nasty “honking” of a typical horn. It was revised and optimized several times over the past two years to achieve the perfect result.

Woofers: a pair of 12” long throw, high output woofers provide the low end foundation. Again, made by BMS, a pro-audio manufacturer, with some customization to my requirements.


What makes this woofer special is the extremely low distortion, even at high playback levels. Two units operating in parallel achieve an effective sensitivity of 99dB at 2.83V input. This is an excellent match with the other drivers in the system.

The smart design ensures high power handling with very low compression, resulting in fast transients for a tonally accurate bass free of any bloating, smearing or boominess. Bass is rendered with tonal and amplitude accuracy.

The crossover

Think twice before commenting on my choice components. Yes, I am aware of all the junk science peddled by “high end audio component” manufacturers, however none of them have succeeded in convincing me in the “magical” properties of their products, nor have they produced any objective data to support their claims.


If, on the other hand, one wants the crossover to be built from components of a certain brand, feel free to ask for it. It’s your money and if that makes you happy – do it!

There is no “one size fits all” when voicing of a speaker is concerned. As no two rooms are the same, some control of the frequency response is desirable. Subtle level changes have a very noticeable effect on the overall tonal balance as they affect several octaves. Controls are provided on the rear panel of the Argus to allow adjustment the tonal balance to the room acoustics and personal preference.

Rotary switches with clear marking provide the user with the ability to adjust the level of the midrange and tweeter, in five steps covering -1 dB to +1 dB each, relative to the flat response.

All heat-producing components of the crossover assembly are located in the top half of the PCB so as not to heat up any other components when playing really loud, especially important for the inductors. Proper resistor power ratings ensure safe operation when the Argus is driven with consistently high power. Inductors are positioned as to eliminate mutual interference and interaction with the metal plate.


The custom gold plated 5-way binding posts attach directly to the board. They may look familiar, as do all car tires, yet the similarities end there. Bridges are provided to uncouple the bass from the mid/high filters if one wishes to do bi-wiring or bi-amping. Will this provide any advantages? Depends on what electronics one uses. The crossover assembly is mounted directly over the binding posts on a thick metal plate to eliminate any potential resonances. It is recessed so that the binding posts do not protrude from the rear of the cabinet.
  
The cabinet: thick 21mm birch plywood forms the body of the cabinet. Front and back panels are double thickness, 42mm. Multiple braces ensure rigidity and prevent the cabinet from resonating. The corners are custom aluminium extrusions that add stiffness and ensure dimensional accuracy of the assembly.

The body assembly locks together with perfect precision. It is so strong and rigid by design that one can jump on it even before it’s glued together. I actually did...


The internal bracing ensures perfect alignment of the assembly on all three axes. Especially important is the brace located between the woofers. It couples the front and back panels as
well as the side walls to eliminate any resonances.

The cabinet bottom is a thick aluminum plate to which the foot assembly attaches. Ports are downward firing to provide more freedom of placement.

Locking castors are installed prior to shipping, to allow easy unpacking and moving about of the speakers in search of their perfect location. Once the speakers are set in the right spot, the castors can be replaced with the provided adjustable feet.

   
The top plate is a grey glass mirror. One’s spouse may want to place her favorite flower pot on top, and she’s welcome to do so, as long as this tips the WAF in the desired direction.

The drivers, being “pro audio” are protected from the elements, although I wouldn’t recommend hosing the Argus to keep it clean. Occasional dusting or wiping with a damp cloth would be sufficient. Common window cleaner produces excellent results. Avoid strong solvents like acetone.
Finishing: the standard options are Titanium or Black.

  
Packaging: the Argus is shipped in custom flight cases on pallets to ensure they arrive in perfect condition. Two persons are required for unpacking. Once on its feet, moving the speaker around is easy.

Some final words

The Argus is a “Mastering reference” class loudspeaker that has the ability to accurately reproduce all genres of music up to the live sound level of the respective instruments. It has no preference for a particular genre. Its response covers the full range of human hearing, both with respect to frequency, as well as sound volume. The high power handling ensures lack of compression when playing at live sound levels.


It is hand built from premium components, with meticulous attention to detail at every step of the process.

The Argus is definitely enabling my dream come true – to be able to hit the Play button and be magically transported in time and space to the place where the recording took place, and to experience it in its full glory."

Technical specifications