A little over 12 months ago we sold a pair of our Wyndham Audio BR1 loudspeakers to customer Steve, who is in the Illawara area of NSW. Steve is clearly delighted with his purchase and he published this review of the BR1s and I would like to present it to you below in its entirety - Cheers Keith.
A few months ago my wife and I moved into a new house, and as it is much smaller than where I previously lived it was time to retire my much-loved Richter Paladins; although not overly tall, their width and depth made them just too dominating in the new room. After a few measurements I realised that whatever I replaced them with couldn't be more than 200mm wide and around 300mm deep, and so the search was on for a floorstander with a small footprint; I wasn't prepared to forgo the bottom end sound by switching to a pair of stand-mounts.
Initial searches led me to the Subsonic range, in particular the XM3 and XM2; both of these were available through a local dealer so I went in for an audition. The XM3s were quickly ruled out due to a lack of low-end response; the XM2s seemed to fit the bill sonically, but were completely sold out in the colour I wanted, so I put my money away and went back to the drawing board a little disappointed. Funny how things work out...
After some more fishing around on the interwebs I bought a pair of Wyndham Audio's BR1s on a hunch; I'd never heard or seen them in the flesh, so it was certainly a gamble. Why did I buy them under such conditions? Well, I've got a thing for locally made products, I've got a soft spot for Blackbutt timber (one of the finishes available), the front-firing port would make setup easier in my limited space, and the price for a pre-production pair was too good to pass up. And I just had a feeling they'd be pretty good...
I sent some money to Keith and he got to work laying down the veneer, lacquering them, and giving them a quick run-in for a day or so before shipping them off to me in purpose-built timber crates. The courier arrived and it was time to see if I'd just blown my money, or if my hunch was right.
I don't have a dedicated listening room; the BR1s are in my lounge room and, like many people I suspect, their positioning was determined more by the need to fit in with the space and the furniture than by the quest for sonic perfection. They're around 2m apart, toed in about 10-15deg, and with the faces around 600mm away from the back wall; one is on a flat wall, and the other around 400mm from a side wall. My setup is SB Touch - Gieseler Klein DAC - Redgum Aquilina - BR1s, with Morrow Audio MA4s and SP6s linking it all together. Listening position is around 2.5m away from the speaker fronts, so it's an approx equilateral triangle between me and the speakers.
Anyway, back to business. Unpacking the BR1s showed a pair of stunning furniture pieces; the Blackbutt finish is unlike anything else I've seen before, the finished quality is outstanding, and I don't think you'll find anything more visually striking for less than $10K.
Hookup, sit down, take a deep breath, and press play...
I listen to a pretty eclectic mix of music, but there's plenty of acoustic guitar and Indian/world music in the mix, so I started with Harry Manx's Live at Glenn Gould Studio; a stunning album by all accounts. I cued up Samidha's Tune, where the opening vocals really did sound like I was 2 rows back at the gig; but it was the sound of the tabla coming in, which was so utterly realistic that it brought a tear to my eyes, that really stunned me. I let that track play through and into Tijuana, where the double bass solo revealed the full spectrum of voices from a stringed instrument; smooth, to singing, to screaming, to the most intense ominous growl I didn't know was possible. Seriously freaky, spine tingling stuff!!!
Ok then, piano; Regina Spektor's cover of Real Love, recorded live by JJJ. Another great recording, and the BR1s revealed the ethereal nature of Regina's voice like I'd never heard it before. And the piano! Not only is every note revealed in beautiful detail, but you can hear not just the resonance of each note, but the resonance within the piano itself; the whole instrument vibrating from the strike of the hammer on the strings. Utterly lifelike!
But what about the bottom end? Time for some electronica. Crystal Method's Vegas is one of my all-time favourite electronic albums and I know it intimately; but I'd never before heard the bass beats hit like an exploding bomb and then send a shockwave radiating out from that epicentre. The same result with Massive Attack and Empire of the Sun. I spoke to Keith a few days later and asked him how on earth he'd managed to get so much bass out of a single 165mm driver. His tongue-in-cheek answer was "white mans' magic" and I'm almost inclined to agree with him, the bottom end extension, clarity and control almost beggars belief. On AC/DC's Back in Black and Prison Song by System of a Down you can feel the impact of the kick drum hitting your skin even at fairly modest volume; punchy is the word that best comes to mind.
On John Butler's "Living" album you can hear the sound of his slide hitting the strings (if you're a guitarist you'll know exactly what I mean), and on "Money" the opening digeridoo is the first time I've actually heard a recorded didge sound "real"; it even had my dogs perplexed like they are when I play didge at home.
Drums of all kinds sound so lifelike that you can hear the resonance within the drum shell itself, hear the impact of the beater or stick on the skin, and even tell how tight or loose the skin is; levels of detail I'd never heard before outside of a live setting. Cymbals ring, splash, or crash with incredible clarity but no harshness, and you can hear the change in sound as a drumstick moves from the cymbal edge towards the bell.
I've not yet found a single genre or piece of music where the BR1s haven't excelled. Maybe it's out there, but it'll be a long search. Despite the level of detail they never sound fatiguing even after several hours (I've tried), and they just sound engaging; if you put on some tunes thinking it's just background music you'll soon find yourself dropping whatever it was you were doing, cranking the volume, and getting into the music.
Even with the compromised positioning of my setup a decent recording reveals an image which is higher, wider, and deeper than the speakers themselves, and the instruments are very fixed in their locations, with precious little wandering in the soundscape. The really interesting thing about the image, to me at least, is how the speakers themselves vanish as a point-source for sound; with eyes closed, it's virtually impossible to locate the BR1's in space. The music is coming at you from each instrument's location, rather than listening to a set of speakers reproducing these sounds.
So you might be wondering why I've bothered to write such a lengthy review of such a small brand product on my day off? Well, it's for numerous reasons. Firstly, I'm just so blown away by the BR1s that I wanted to let others know just how amazing they are. Secondly, I think it's important to promote a locally designed and hand-made product which is not only quite unique in appearance, but is also clearly a labour of love and passion rather than simply a quest for dollars. And thirdly, because a small manufacturer like Wyndham Audio doesn't have the money to spend on a huge marketing budget to compete with big national/international players, and I'm passionate about supporting small-scale manufacturers who make a brilliant product, in order to help them continue to give us the benefits of their time, effort, and skill. And Keith seems like a really lovely guy to boot. :-)
Funny how things work out; had it not been for a lack of colour choice I would have come home with a pair of Subsonic XM2s. I would have been happy with them, but they would have been a sideways move from my old Paladins; better in some areas, certainly, but overall not hugely different. The BR1s, on the other hand, are better in every way than the speakers they replaced; better looking, better bass, better treble, better clarity and definition, and overall more musical and involving. If you're on the hunt for a set of small footprint floorstanders I can't recommend them highly enough; even if you don't have the chance to audition them first. Trust me, the gamble will pay off!!!