19. April 2022 · Comments Off on 3 Square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers · Categories: Hifi News, Hifi Reviews, Loudspeakers. · Tags: , , , , ,

3 SQUARE AUDIO AYAL LOUDSPEAKERS REVIEW

British-made 3 Square Audio Ayal loudspeakers are a compact two-way, rear-ported design making use of novel materials, physical time-alignment, first-order crossovers and cost £1299. Ian Ringstead tries them out for HiFi Pig.

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers Pair

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers have a distinctive design allowing for the physical time-alignment of the tweeter.

Anyone having read my reviews before will know I am no stranger to 3 Square Audio’s loudspeakers as I tested their Translator model back in 2016. Six years ago, where did that time go? Stuart the designer has a similar background to me having spent many years in the HiFi retail business before moving on but never losing his passion for music and audio equipment. The Ayal is a compact bookshelf design for audiophiles who are spatially challenged at home (i.e. small listening room/space) and a very common problem not to be overlooked. My listening room is small, being approximately 4m x 3.5m x 2.3m, but it has solid walls and a concrete floor laid with solid oak satisfying my needs. I saw the prototype for the Ayal back in 2019 at the North West Audio Show and had Covid not got in the way for the last two years then this review may well have been sooner.

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers Side

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers have no right angles on their front panel.

3 SQUARE AUDIO AYAL LOUDSPEAKER DESIGN AND BUILD

First-order crossovers are still crucial to Stuart’s design, and we discussed this at length because my resident Jern 12WS speakers also use a first-order crossover. Phase alignment is key to a loudspeaker’s design and Stuart has physically time-aligned the tweeter to sit behind the bass/mid unit on the front baffle and directly above it. He states that had it been a 2nd, 3rd or 4th order crossover then the physical time alignment wouldn’t have been worthwhile. I am a great advocate of simplicity myself and using high-quality components in the crossover is vital for any design in my experience.

The speaker is a 2 -way rear-ported cabinet using a SEAS 27mm Sonolex fabric dome tweeter and SEAS 120mm treated paper cone mid-bass driver. The first-order crossover filters for the HF and LF drive units use Jantzen 3% tolerance air-core inductors, Jantzen Superior Z-cap capacitors 2% and Mundorf M-Resist supreme resistors. The components are all hard-wired with silver solder. Good quality gold plated 4mm multi-way binding posts (x 4) are used on the rear panel to allow bi-wiring /bi-amping option and bespoke high-quality links are supplied with spades should single wire be the listeners choice – as it was mine.

The cabinets are made from a material new to me called Valchromat. Valchromat is a panel made of wood fibres like MDF but is coloured in the production process. The fibres are impregnated with organic colouring agents and chemically bound to one another by a special resin that lends Valchromat unique physicochemical characteristics -this allows exploring the third dimension, the beauty of textures and the best of engineering. Valchromat is produced in different colours, sizes and thicknesses. The choices are light grey, grey, black, chocolate brown, yellow, orange, red, blue, green mint and khaki. It’s a highly flexible and easily engineered material perfect for making complex shapes and holding its physical structure. The Ayal’s don’t have a right-angled edge anywhere on the cabinet as they have all been machined at 45% to counteract edge diffraction. The shape is therefore unique and may not be to everyone’s taste. I remain neutral. No grilles are included. The company badge is located on a metal plate beneath the bass/mid unit. They feel very solid and weigh 6.3 Kg each. I placed them on my 24” oak speaker stands which had the rubber rings on top that I use with my Jern’s and are a safe effective way to assist supporting speakers.

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers rear

This is a rear-ported design with two sets of binding posts to allow for bi-wiring and bi-amping.

SOUND QUALITY

Stuart assured me they had been run in, but I gave them a few days so I could acclimatise to their presentation. They took a while to grow on me, but once I had sussed them out they remained very stable and reliable in their overall character. I didn’t mollycoddle them and certainly played at loud levels when my mood felt the need.

Power-wise the Ayals loved to be driven hard and didn’t baulk as the volume rose. I’m not a loudness freak per se, but if the music lends itself to cranking up the level, then I will. We all have different tolerance levels, but if the system can go loud without distorting then why not… occasionally. A case in point was the album ‘Close-up’ by David Sanborn. He is a phenomenal saxophone player, and this album really showcases his abilities and is superbly recorded. The Ayals handled the raw energy and reediness of his sax with aplomb and pushed the sound field out into my room with excellent spacing and instrument location. The sound engineer must have been working overtime to get the balance right because it’s a complex album. The percussion programming fits seamlessly with effects easily picked out by the Ayals making for a rollercoaster ride on some of the tracks. It’s an album I don’t listen to all the time, but when I do it never fails to impress. The musician list is very impressive and with people like Marcus Miller on bass and Nile Rodgers on rhythm guitar, to name just two, it’s a real tour-de-force of session men. The sax is an instrument I love when used in the right way and the Ayals never sounded harsh and tiring, instead, they had the right balance being faithful, but not smoothing the edges excessively.

To contrast raw energy jazz, I played Rickie Lee Jones’ eponymous first album which I have on a supercut mastered by Nimbus records for Practical Hi-Fi and purchased in 1980. Nimbus were world-famous for its record mastering and although sadly long gone all their cuts are highly prized. My copy is still pristine and quite sublime. The album is an absolute joy from beginning to end and it won a Grammy Award for best new artist for Jones and sold several million copies over time. I’ve heard it many times and it was a show favourite and demo record in my retail days. A classic album 42 years on and it still thrills me. Chuck E’s In Love’s dynamics are brilliant with the brass and percussion weaving in harmony flawlessly. Played on a good system at a realistic volume level it is spot on. For a forty-two-year-old recording, it’s remarkable. Jones’ voice is so distinctive, and she manipulates it with such ease from track to track. My recently acquired Acoustic Signature Neo Double xx turntable lapped this album up and the Ayals portrayed detail like never before. This is credit indeed to the Ayals given their relatively modest price in my set-up. Proof that a good source with quality amplification doesn’t need expensive speakers to still shine.

3 square Audio Ayal Loudspeakers

The Ayal is a compact loudspeaker using Valchromat for the cabinet.

Peter Gabriel’s album ‘So’ also on vinyl is another treat I don’t listen to enough. ‘Sledgehammer is the track most people will remember from doing so well in the charts and that famous video. Tony Levin’s bass is thunderous and the Ayals did well to hang in and not disappear in a cloud of smoke. I put this down to the inherent quality of the crossover and careful design Stuart and his team put into the development, spending hundreds of hours experimenting and honing ideas to achieve their end-goal.

When I received the Ayals for review my previous turntable was out of action, so I used my Gato CDD-1 for several weeks. Marillion is an old favourite who as a prog-rock band has evolved and nearly always makes highly enjoyable albums. As a group, they like to mix live album releases amidst their studio albums on a regular basis which I personally love because I hear their live interpretations as well as the studio efforts. Bands when they play live, of course, will use poetic licence to change things and relieve possible boredom night after night when on tour. It shows they’re not afraid to experiment. Their last live album ‘With Friends at St David’s was recorded in Cardiff it’s a two-hour concert showcasing classic music from the last 30 years accompanied by a small orchestra. Hardly a new idea, but it’s a formula I really like because when done well the mix of rock and classical is highly emotive. Old favourites such as Seasons End, Gaza and This Strange Engine touched me in a new way compared to the studio versions and the Ayals didn’t fail to impress, having space and a real feeling that a live performance conveys. When listening to any musical performance it’s the overall sound that’s so important, don’t get fooled into trying to analyse every minute detail and driving yourself mad becoming paranoid about apparent imperfections as you’ll never be satisfied. The Ayals’  portrayal is easy on the ear allowing long term aural satisfaction.

CONCLUSION

Small in stature but with a big heart the Ayals were always impressive and eager to please.

They locked in the sound stage, and they confidently strutted their stuff without any fuss.

It’s a crowded market now, so for any new models to impress they must go above and beyond the norm to have any chance of competing. I was mightily impressed and if you do attend the Northwest Audio Show this June go and have a listen.

Like a Jack Russell dog, the Ayals are small but feisty, and when made a fuss of respond well, and by this i mean don’t let the price fool you into using cheaper electronics or sources because they respond to quality.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality:

They are unconventional in shape but expertly machined to produce the complex cabinet and with the time aligned tweeter offer an alternative aesthetic at odds with conventional approaches

They are well finished and the choices of eight different colours should suit most people’s tastes

Sound Quality:

Solid and authoritative in nature they don’t shy away and are no shrinking violet

Power is the Ayals’ friend, and they like to be driven hard, being dynamic and articulate

A wide and deep soundstage due to the time and phase-coherent design – I know Stuart has modest electronics in his own system and realistically designs his speakers to work well with budget or higher-end electronics. I can confirm the Ayal’s responded well to more expensive electronics proving great pedigree

Being rear-ported didn’t pose any problems in positioning in my room as long as 15 to 30cms was allowed to the back wall 

Value For Money:

£1299 is competitive considering this is a very crowded area hotly contested by many manufacturers

We Loved:

The clever design and first-order crossover combined with the excellent SEAS drive units come up trumps

The Ayal is not another “me-too” product and moves away from conventional thinking

We Didn’t Love So Much:

The aesthetics won’t appeal to everyone. The colour choice is reasonable but may limit appeal. I’m ambivalent, my wife certainly wasn’t a fan. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a phrase used thousands of times in HiFi designs over the decades, so like the sound it’s all down to personal taste.

Price: £1299

Elevator Pitch Review: Stuart has stuck to his design principles with his solid belief in first-order crossovers and the advantages they offer over more complex designs. I admire him for remaining loyal to his gut instincts. When many manufacturers decide to improve a loudspeaker model with a revamp invariably, they will play around with new drivers, cabinet designs and especially the crossover. Often simplifying the crossover and tweaking the component quality is the icing on the cake. To me, that seems obvious but not all designers/companies always adhere to this path. The Ayals deliver on sound quality with a clever and well thought out design.

SUPPLIED BY 3 SQUARE AUDIO

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Ringstead

Review Equipment: Gato DIA – 250S NPM Integrated amplifier, DAC and Network player, Gato CDD-1 CD player and DAC, Acoustic Signature NEO Double X turntable, NEO TA-500 tonearm, Acoustic Signature MX3 cartridge, Keces phono stage and dedicated power supply, Tellurium Q Ultra Black speaker cables, Ultra Black 2 XLR to XLR, Way cables, Atacama stands and equipment rack.

HiFi Pig Tenth Anniversary Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specifications

2-way rear-ported enclosure

Height 326mm Width 170mm Depth 242mm

SEAS 120mm treated paper mid-bass driver

SEAS 27mm sonolex fabric dome tweeter

1st order crossover filters for both HF and LF drive units

Jantzen 3% tolerance air-core inductor

Jantzen Superior Z-cap capacitor 2%

Mundorf M-Resist supreme resistors

Components hard wired with silver solder

4mm/bare-wire/spade terminals allow bi-amp & bi-wire options

Sensitivity 85dB 1w/1m

Supplied with bespoke link-wires with spade terminals

Advise amplifier to be 40 – 150 W at 8 ohms

Weight of single speaker 6.3Kg

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