Audio Note AN-J Loudspeaker
Audio Note AN Speaker Range
The superb Audio Note AN speaker range, is based on the classic Snell design and improved upon by Audio Note designers. The fundamentals remain consistent throughout the various models; a two way, rear ported, stand mount design using an 8 inch bass/mid driver and 1 inch soft dome tweeter. The speaker proportions may seem quite different from modern fashion, being wider rather than deeper, but this allows the speaker to breath naturally as a musical instrument would. When you listen to Audio Note loudspeakers you do not get the sense that the music is restricted by the cabinet dimensions, rather instruments sound natural, full and effortless.
About Audio Note AN-J Loudspeaker
The Audio Note AN-J is the middle model in Audio Notes classic range of speakers. The ported J’s are unquestionably “fuller” sounding than their little brothers (the K’s), in the sense that they go lower with more authority, go higher with more ease – they are smoother and more open sounding; and they create a larger image.
The J’s bass comes remarkably close to that of their big brother E’s. In small and large rooms alike, with their 93 dB sensitivity, they are quite happy on the OTO. Actually, the OTO/J-SPe combination is one of our most popular.
There are thirteen different versions of the Audio Note AN-J, and all are available in 19 different real wood finishes, with a choice of veneers in standard or high gloss. The AN-E are available with either paper cone or Hemp cone drivers for the mid/ bass unit. The Hemp has an effortless sound, with lower colouration and greater midband resolution.
Over to our friends at Audio Note to get their take on this frankly incredible value for money loudspeaker…...
The majority of the high-end audio marketplace is occupied by ill-conceived low efficiency loudspeaker systems. These designs usually consist of several less-than ideally-matched drivers and a very complex crossover, crammed into a cabinet that exhibits the tonal and textural qualities of reinforced concrete. Their designers are blinded by the dogmatic quest for high sound pressure levels and flat response.
But what of the other factors which are essential for emotionally involving music reproduction? What about coherence, full natural micro – as well as macro – dynamics, inner detail?
What about LIFE?
What about EMOTION?
Sorry, they’re just not part of the “High Performance Audio” design brief. And Music suffers for it.
The design of the AN-J Loudspeaker, by contrast, follows an altogether different philosophy. It calls for a cabinet that complements the chosen drive units, rather than fighting against them. Instead of trying to kill the resonances, we tailor the cabinet to place them in frequency bands where they aid and enhance the operation of the drive units, culminating in a loudspeaker system that makes the most of the preceding amplifier’s output.
The material choice for the cabinet is an area where a great deal of research and development has taken place. Over the years, we have tried many different materials and combinations, a time consuming endeavour culminating in the current design, which utilises the highest quality Russian Birch ply for the entire cabinet. Bracing and internal damping is kept to a minimum and strategically applied to help, not hinder the drivers.
The ported cabinet has been designed to be placed close to room boundaries, where the bass performance is augmented significantly by the additional reinforcement offered by the nearby walls. In this position, it will outperform any similarly sized speaker regardless of origin, thanks in part to the shallow cabinet / wide baffle shape which gives the drivers the best possible operating conditions, allowing them to perform as if they are mounted in a virtual wall. This provides the most undisturbed sound field with the widest and most even dispersion possible from a real world cabinet shape.
The crossover is simple, essentially first order, hardwired and incorporates air-cored chokes and selected bipolar and polypropylene capacitors (either copper foil or silver foil, depending on model.) The internal cabling consists of either 99.99% pure copper or 99.99% pure silver Audio Note (UK) wire, depending on the exact model. (See specifications.)
Consistent performance is a major issue in loudspeaker design and unfortunately all drive units vary slight from each other, even if they look the same and have the same basic specification. Many loudspeaker manufacturer’s will tell you that they provide “computer matched” crossovers, and whilst this may be true in one sense (each crossover may have been matched to have the exact same capacitance, inductance and resistance) this essentially “passive” method does not adequately take into consideration the mechanical and acoustic variance present in the drive units themselves, where minute differences in acoustic behaviour will result in quite substantial differences in performance and sound. Therefore, to obtain the best possible combination of drivers and crossovers, we have developed a dynamic matching process. This ensures that each loudspeaker in a stereo pair matches a ‘master curve’ and also its partner, to within 0.4dB; to the best of our knowledge, no other loudspeaker manufacturer achieves such close matching and tests 100% of its production.
Another much overlooked area of loudspeaker design is the material choice for the drivers. It has become very fashionable to use all manner of exotic materials (beryllium, diamond, carbon fibre, ceramics etc.) as cone materials in modern drivers, mainly because it gives the impression that the manufacturer in question is making great strides in their research into better sounding speakers. The sad fact is none of these materials work as intended, as they all have their own distinct sonic signature, so no matter how the crossover is designed, this sonic signature will be present when the speaker reproduces music. It may be less obvious and audible with some types of music, but ultimately the chosen material will always imprint some of its own signature on whatever sound is reproduced. In addition, it is vitally important that the sound and characteristics of an individual drive unit are complimentary to those of its chosen partner, so that when an instrument is reproduced by both drive units (which is almost always the case), the upper range does not sound detached from the lower range and visa versa. This is an aspect of performance that cannot be measured by even the most sophisticated test equipment; it can ONLY be judged by listening. We at Audio Note are keenly aware of this and have deliberately chosen drive units whose sonic signatures are as closely matched as possible. This has led us to favour good, old fashioned paper for the woofer cone and impregnated silk for the dome tweeter. These materials, when matched correctly, marry the low and high frequencies seamlessly, providing the best level of performance possible in the real world of acoustics.
Audio Note AN-J Reviews
“I could save the answer to create added suspense to that question, but rest assured the Audio Note AN-J is one of those loudspeakers that will do justice to any Beethoven Symphony, or your latest Trance/Hip Hop/Rock album. Your pulse will flow at low volumes or when you want those 90dB-100dB sessions. The Audio Note AN-J and E may be stand mount speakers, but they need to be viewed and compared to floor standers when it comes to volume and bass prowess. Granted there is a limit here. The AN J is capable of solid bass between 25Hz and 40Hz depending on positioning, which is remarkable for a speaker this size while also being very easy to drive.
“The speakers’ balanced presentation from top to bottom displays no hick-ups passing information from woofer to tweeter.”
The Audio Note AN-J is one of those chameleon loudspeakers which are equally at home with 1960’s Ray Charles LPs, while bringing about the soaring beauty in young classical artists like Hayley Westenra. The speakers’ balanced presentation from top to bottom displays no hick-ups passing information from woofer to tweeter. The speakers are as seamless in this regard as I have ever heard. This is absolutely critical and a failing of so many loudspeakers because without this seamlessness, the belief that the artists are in the room immediately crumbles and turns into a session of dissecting tweeters and woofers.
Beginning with human voice is usually a good starting point because our ear is finely tuned and wealthily experienced in listening to this important instrument. Using a wide array of CD and LP from several artists across genres from Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne, Alison Krauss, Loreena McKennit, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall, Katrina Gauvin, Kathleen Battle, Lucinda Williams, Andrea Bocelli, Madonna, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Ella Fitgerald, Frank Sinatra etc, (WHEW. –Ed.) without fail the AN J’s impressed at stepping out of the way and allowing me to be involved and touched by these artists. Moreover they allow me to listen for very long sessions and not become wary of annoying traits that often occur over longer listening sessions with a great many loudspeakers. Indeed, there is a lot here to convince me that Peter Qvortrup’s stance is closer to the truth than a lot of people would like to admit!
Okay so they’re great on vocals, but surely 8-inch woofers with one-inch tweeters are going to struggle with dance related music, synthesizers, and hard rock. Usually these genres are less well-recorded and with higher degrees of compression and the Audio Note AN-J will show up these warts. However, the AN’s won’t show them up by putting a spotlight on them and scream “This recording stinks – let’s only pay attention to the bad bits.” No, the AN J’s will let you know the recording is poor but they won’t highlight and bash you over the head.
For example, Motley’ Crue’s Dr. Feelgood can play loud but seemed quite thinned dimensionally. The Audio Note AN-J still rendered the LP enjoyable but you could certainly hear the limitations of this recording. Sifting through Mathew Good, Aerosmith, The Outfield, Goo Goo Dolls, Neil Young, White Stripes, Santana, I settled in for AC/DC’s Back in Black which is considered to be one of the better Rock albums in terms of dynamic range (LP). (Also try The Game by The Queen. –Ed.) And AC/DC is just plain fun. When you listen to this you want to turn it up and you want to feel it in your gut – you don’t want to be reminded that the speaker is compressing and bottoming out and generally huffing and puffing just to get a drum to sound remotely like a drum, which is often the case for stand mount speakers and smaller floor standers.
The Audio Note AN-J rocks and rocks well. Their lightning fast transients gets the heart pounding and impressive bass lines easily negotiate bass guitar without creating “one note” deadness to the proceedings. Nothing becomes blurred, vocals project strongly into the room and are not glazed over in a sea of distorted noise. The downside to this is that you can now make out the words and thus the lyric writing ability of most of these rock groups. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. (Opera lyrics are generally boring, too. –Ed.)
“You have that mid-bass hump that people discuss with disdain but if it’s on the recording then your stereo and speakers NEED to pelt you with that mid-bass drive.”
Okay how about dance? There’s usually more synthesizer and that dance beat kind of bass. Different music generates different kinds of bass. And it is this aspect that really isn’t discussed enough in this industry. You have that mid-bass hump that people discuss with disdain but if it’s on the recording then your stereo and speakers NEED to pelt you with that mid-bass drive. So put on some Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Tupac, Delerium, and away I ago again.
Madonna albums run from the rather well-recorded Immaculate Collection to the rather poorer recordings in Confessions from a Dance Floor. The J’s will tell you what’s up and they keep the high-octane boogie factor in confectionary music (which is what Madonna is when she’s at her best in my view) in tracks like “Into the Groove,” “Vogue,” “Cherish,” and “Express Yourself.” The driving club-like bass is retained to acceptably high levels. Delerium’s “Silence” with Sarah Mclachlan (LP and CD) is a busy powerful synthesizer driven trance track and the AN J’s really show what they can do when pushed to high levels. The speakers fill the room with terrific treble stability and sound that washes over you. The J’s continually amaze me that sound this big can come from a speaker this small.
Naturally, the big monster club speakers are going to win out here – we’re talking home speakers and there is a limit because clearly the speakers are aimed at more polished classical and jazz aficionados. However, I wanted to make it very clear that despite their modest size and driver compliment, and unlike a vast array of speakers aimed at classical and Jazz listeners, these speakers can rock the house with wall rumbling chest pounding vibes. They won’t crack plaster but no one is stopping you from adding subwoofers.
Yes, but Richard I am one of those polished classical and jazz listeners and mentioning Madonna and Tupac in a review is hi-fi heresy. Okay. Sheesh don’t be such a snob! I’m an equal opportunity listener and pulling out my collection of Wes Montgomery, Dave Brubeck, Lee Morgan, Miles (does anyone mention jazz without Miles?), David Sanborn, YellowJackets, Ella Fitgerald, Chopin, Corelli, Vivaldi (my favorite), Beethoven and even adding other instrumental music such as Acoustic Alchemy, Jesse Cook, Leahy, Spyro Gyra, Mike Oldfield, etc., well we can dispense with the worry that the J is just about rock.
“Piano is perhaps the most difficult instrument for any speaker to negotiate and what the Audio Note AN-J provides is a real visceral sense that you are listening to an actual piano in almost all of its power and glory.”
Indeed, it is with classical and jazz and acoustic instruments where the Audio Note AN-J truly shines. Perhaps this is due to the box design or lack of damping or sprinkled fairy dust in the silver wires, but instruments are allowed to breathe in a way that makes them sound hauntingly real. Piano is perhaps the most difficult instrument for any speaker to negotiate and what the Audio Note AN-J provides is a real visceral sense that you are listening to an actual piano in almost all of its power and glory. Indeed, listening to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on Audio Note speakers was a revelation to me of what loudspeakers were capable of providing, and I have heard several acclaimed panel loudspeakers where this kind of thing is considered their bread and butter.
Hilary Hahn’s violin playing is majestic and beautiful and the J’s don’t skip on the nuance and beauty contained in her playing. Violin is often mangled in an overly screechy affair or dulled down to being difficult to distinguish from a cello. The AN J is one of the best tonal and timbral reproducers available with a sense of imaging and staging that places instruments in their perspective places. However, to me, getting the sound of the instrument right is more important than where the instrument is located and the cello is such a wonderfully sad-sounding instrument and tough to get right. If there is one instrument that pulls my heart strings, it’s the cello.
To conclude, the Audio Note AN-J, like the bigger AN E, navigates anything you throw at them with aplomb. They are always engaging, enjoyable, and have an overriding sense that what is being sent to the ears is “right.” And where the J goes wrong is more about omission. They won’t dig the deepest pedal organ notes out for example, but they will artfully relay most of the fundamental to trick you into believing there is more there than what is there. There is a great deal of art in the design of loudspeakers, and artfully shifting weaknesses so that they do not impede your enjoyment of music is paramount in retaining your willingness to suspend disbelief.”- DAGOGO. RICHARD EUSTON.
To read the full review of the Audio Note An-J speakers in Dagogo by Richard Euston click here