The time is ripe for Exotic
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|Brand / Manufacture||Seas Exotic|
|Price range||500-1000 Euro|
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Axels Simply Exotic
People have different ways of indulging their love of the exotic; mine is specifically focused on a pair of chassis made by Seas. More precisely, the Seas X1 Exotic F8. Seas developed this wide-range speaker with a retro look, which is the real draw here. It runs on a heavy ALNICO magnet, which causes a paper membrane with integrated papyrus fibers to vibrate. In addition, there is a solid die-cast basket and a decent rubber seal. And what do you do if you have two of them? Obviously, you start with a couple of boxes – sorry, too profane – a couple of loudspeakers. Udo based the name on them, naming his baby “Simply Exotic.” In the end, you get a 4-ohm TQWT with the abovementioned chassis. Done – now you can enjoy building it yourself!
Okay, I do have a few impressions and some background information for you, too.
Act I: First steps
What did I actually want before I went into Udo’s shop? Obviously, wide-range speakers – good ones. I skipped the pro/con discussion, and it’s not relevant for fans of this chassis. I had listened to a few already, but I was always scared off either by the price (for ready-made products) or the quality. Naturally, that’s a purely subjective response. So I just stopped by Udo’s place to get an idea of the drivers and the cabinets. From that point on everything happened pretty fast, and I ended up ordering the things right away.
Act II: Pure theory
Since I don’t have any woodworking experience myself, let alone the tools for it, I had to ask a friend to take care of the cabinet design. I chose Ewald. He builds speakers himself, and also empty cabinets, according to customer specifications. I think Ewald only helped me because he wanted the chassis for himself, but anyway...
Our cabinet is a little different from the original assembly kit. The width is 26.8 cm, so it’s 3 cm narrower in the front, and the height is 119.6 cm – within 4 mm of the original. The recalculation of the tubing created a depth of 37.5 cm, originally 34 cm; the opening was widened to 2.6 mm. According to Ewald’s calculations, the bass also goes down a bit lower. He used 18-mm birch plywood and 21-mm sheets for the baffle and rear wall.
For the interior wiring I used solid-core studio-quality cables. The connection brackets are made of solid copper without any gold, silver or rhodium coating. The correction network (frequency crossover) is currently still on the outside of the speakers in case it needs to be adjusted. Time to assemble it and screw everything together, and slowly break the things in.
Act III: At the record shelf
So, who wants to go first? No shoving, please, everyone gets a turn. Since we’re in the blues category, let’s start with the blues. First off is the one with blues right in the name – Blues Company, with ballads and choice love songs. “Cold Rain, Cold Rain, rollin down my eyes” – Toscho is slightly on the right side of the room, and the quickly struck chords create lightning-like explosions while building momentum. Behind him, the drums build up power and set the rhythm, every thump of the bass drum beautiful to the ears. The music keeps on flowing, interrupted by short breaks, and emphasized by the deep bass sound of a Hammond B3. The first piece is a bravura performance – nothing disruptive, nothing too strong or too weak. Maybe a slight humming in the bass, which was quickly fixed by modifying the insulation a little bit. Red Blood confirmed my first impression. The structure of this track is slightly more complex, with more percussion creating some depth in the sound pattern. Everything is great.
Now it’s time for a little more schmaltz: Willie Nelson’s album “Healing Hands of Time.” We choose the title track and hear a delicate orchestral intro, the first few guitar notes and then his voice. The song is like a feel-good barometer, in some sense setting the mood for the track “Night Life.” With Willie, I look a little more closely at the fine details. Everything is leisurely and unhurried, subtle but not flat. The Exotic does very well with it. You can dive right into the music, as long as you like the genre and the atmosphere is right. The Stockfisch albums are similar: “Direct Metal Master Cut Vinyl Series” – a title that long should guarantee good quality. Chris Jones’ “No Sanctuary Here” has a super resolution and shows us what he can do. Freed from the speakers, he sounds like he’s standing right between them. You can almost see the steel strings being strummed. The same for Sarah K., “Stars.” The sound experience builds freely in the room, and all of the details – from the chirping of the crickets to the fingers hitting the guitar – are clearly defined and prettily woven in on the wide stage.
For classical music, you need plenty of time. My test starts with Stravinsky and his “Firebird.” Does it work? I’m not sure. The opening is gentle, but by the time you get to the “Dance infernale du roi Kastchei,” the bass attacks start to sound pretty funny. Yes, folks, dynamics are a wonderful thing! Later, when you get to the finale, everything is nice and complex. The triangle announces the big kettledrum, which unloads its charge onto the listener with a mighty boom. This recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Mariss Jansons comes from a CD. Another nice recording is Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dance by Eiji Oue with the Minnesota Orchestra on LP. It features beautiful dynamics and subtlety – here, too, the Exotic puts on a high-level performance. Structure, plasticity, subtlety, location, staging – everything is there, and the pulses are short and dry. To be fair, it should be said that large orchestral pieces aren’t its MAIN strength, but it doesn’t make any missteps. On the contrary, if you’re standing right on top of it, a big multi-way speaker will have more “whump” around the bottom and more “ping” around the top. Just give it some room and 20-30 watts of tube power, and Wagner will put you under his spell. .
How about a little bit of opera? All right, but let’s be quick about it – Maria Callas in “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini. By the time you get to “Cononore Murore,” her legend is explained. No other soprano inhabits roles the way she does – it’s an ancient recording from 1955, but no one dies more beautifully. And what does our Exotic do with it? Emotion level: high, goose-bump factor: present, a little moisture in the eyes: done.
Cut – Time for a scenery and costume change. Now we’re hearing Jazz at the Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall, NY, 1952, on Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich’s stage. “The orig Brum Battle,” the Verve LP from the 1970s, volume up and down. It’s crazy how much swing and drive this disc gives us, when you consider that the recording is 60 years old and my LP is about 40. You can almost feel the scenery from the recording – you’re right in the middle of it, not just in the audience. The audience eggs Gene on, and Gene gives the energy right back to the audience – fantastic. It makes you feel like hearing another live recording: “Jazz at the Pawnshop,” my favorite. The live atmosphere is even more intense here, with good sound quality, too.
The speakers do a wonderful job of conveying the flair of the Jazz Club in Stockholm. It doesn’t matter whether the sound of the vibraphone moves slightly forward and the lighter beats on the hi-hat are more in the background, or whether the drummer isn’t playing on the drumhead, just tapping lightly on the edge of the kit – nothing is lost or swallowed up. Speaking of swallowing, listen to the glasses clinking in the background. Now for the quiz: how many glasses does the bartender break during which song? Please send your answers directly to the bartender.
All joking aside, I think wide-range speakers were made for this, skipping the last “ping” right at the top, along with the lowest “boom” all the way at the bottom – here you don’t need it. They precisely sketch out the room and the stage, and they fade into the background as the source of the sound. The high notes are clear as glass; the vibraphone vibrates wonderfully; the beats on the snare drum are clearly drawn; the saxophone is never too sharp or overdone. Sure, we could keep going, for instance with Benny Goodman’s “Happy Session” on Wax Time Records, a pure big-band feeling; “Otello live at Schloss Elmau” by Dieter Ilg; ACT, Oscar Peterson, Rammstein Seemann live LP, etc., etc.
I think this exotic wide-range speaker is one of the best devices for audiophiles out there, with absolute long-term listenability. There’s no comparison to the “slap-bang horns” around 96 DB, which have amazing dynamics, but the high range often sounds exaggerated. No matter whether you’re listening to voices, a small jazz club or a big stage, it’s just plain fun, and that’s what matters. Obviously the quality of the recording makes a difference, too – garbage in, garbage out – so you’re going to have to re-listen to your whole music archive. Everything flows, and here it’s the music that is flowing. So that’s it for now. It’s 26° C outside and (thanks to the tube) 28° C in here. Time to turn everything off and grab some food. But wait, the speaker’s saying something to me – what, one more song? The Doors? Which one? “The End” – a solid choice, my exotic friend, you’ve got good taste. Off we go.
Shamelessly cool – purely mystical.
CD player: Opera Droplet, amplifier: Octave, PhonoPre: WBE, record player: Amazon, Opera arm, Dynavector needle, cables: compl. VoVox, power strip: Isotek. Rack: Finite Element, AntiSpike for the Simply Exotic. Comparison loudspeaker: Etalon Essence, a two-way speaker about the same size, made in Hungary, about 90 DB.
Thanks to Udo and Ewald.
Greetings to my wife’s displaced Chi.
You can buy the Simply Exotic from Intertechnik .
Now it really has been more than three years since I finished building my first construction model, when I promised a sound review of the Exotic F8 from Seas that had just come out. In the meantime, there were plenty of other things to do, which gave me the welcome mental excuse that I couldn’t start building the cabinet just yet. As a halfway honest person, though, I have to admit that my procrastination had more to do with the fact that I didn’t have a mental image of the right cabinet for the high standards of the Exotic. The Q values indicated that a reflex box might work, but the necessary capacity of 200 or more liters told a different story. I also couldn’t really get excited about a closed cabinet with -3dB at just under 60 Hz and a volume of 80 liters. Then what would be the point of the open-air resonance under 35 Hz? On top of all that, I had really liked the F8, which I only had one of, even in mono during a random listening test on my measuring wall. Putting it into an open two-meter-wide baffle board, which would be totally incompatible with home listening conditions, just because of the sound I had heard conflicted with my desire to sell the thing at some point.
The print media had no such problems with it – they accepted the chassis very quickly. Since they mainly sell publications and generate their revenue from advertising, the issue of whether or not a construction plan is marketable is understandably less important. They get the reader’s attention with unusual assemblies whose pros and cons are then discussed in detail in the relevant forums. So in one case the F8 was put into a tube that had already been successful with other equipment; another time it turned up in a closed block with a front was unnecessarily wide, structurally speaking, and would have looked very out of place in a living room, but it gave the editors plenty of space to add their own signatures. Later there was another universal tube whose name clearly showed that it had by no means been developed for this specific chassis. Instead, it relied on easily exchanging the drivers, so it wasn’t a good fit with the F8’s special tonal features. I can’t make any statements about the sound quality of these structures, since I neither built them myself nor listened to them.
I also can’t offer those kinds of boxes in this magazine – as you know, we aren’t financed by selling our articles or any associated ads. Leaving aside the few strong-principled followers of closed wide boxes, hardly anyone would voluntarily set up something like that in the living room and give up on the bass range. Even tube constructions, however exciting they may be, are more popular with younger do-it-yourselfers who are very unlikely to buy a high-priced driver. Seventeen interior boards with various angles on two sides that have to be sawn by hand, with weeks of detail work, are no project for a fifty-year-old audiophile who ultimately just wants to listen to his records in peace. The right cabinet for the F8 needs to be easily built and small enough, but with a powerful bass. Otherwise it won’t find a home with its target group, something that Seas already properly took into consideration in developing the chassis. I spent a long time looking for a brilliant way to house this old-style wide-range speaker in a way that meets the needs of potential do-it-yourselfers.
If I have learned anything in almost three decades of working in speaker construction, it’s that you can’t force things. Ideas need time to ripen and to combine with new experiences, which eventually creates a meaningful whole. An unexpected idea came from the Cyborg needle that was performing so well in our Dayton RS 100-4. Then came the Quickly AX-5 and Holly’s AX-08 TQWT, which gradually began to open my eyes to a completely new concept that would certainly be interesting for the Exotic, too. With this construction type, you can more or less ignore the chassis parameters; like a transmission line, the membrane area and the lower frequency limit are included in the calculations. In addition, it establishes a diffusion area at the end of the line. After some fancy calculations, I found an assembly in less than an hour that was not only simple to build, but also promised deep bass notes. Sometimes things just go quickly once the idea is hatched. Even the name of the new construction plan was easy: Simply Exotic.
So I decided it would be a TQWT, working with just under 90 liters and two interior boards, that would house the four-ohm version of the F8. Since this version of the Exotic has not yet been introduced in the magazine, it’s time to bring it out to take the usual bow: .
Item No: 1381071
Price: 599 Euro
Measurements as a Zip-file
|Membran:||Pappe/ Papyrus||Air gap height:||12 mm|
|Seal:||Gummi||Linear height:||4,2 mm|
|Pole-piece hole:||yes||Mounting holes:||6|
|Centering:||raised flat spider||Outside diameter:||221 mm|
|Short-circuit ring:||yes||Installation opening:||188 mm|
|Voice coil:||26||Milling depth:||5,5 mm|
|Bracket:||fiberglass||Installation depth:||110 mm|
|Frequency response and phase||Impedance||Frequency response under 0/ 30/ 60°|
|Distortion for 90 dB||Step response||Waterfall|
I used the calculated specifications to design a cabinet for the F8 that is hard to overlook (120 cm tall, 30 cm wide and 34 cm deep), but still makes a slender visual impression. The use of beech plywood and black-dyed MDF gave it a handsome style – I seem to be acquiring a taste for both of those materials. The contrast between the wood and the paint helps the eye see beyond just the square box, which is important for a TQWT because of its rich inner values. Even though you are probably seeing this for the two-hundredth time, I couldn’t help quickly documenting the gluing process in a series of photos. There are way too many people out there in the real world who still don’t believe that building cabinets is really very simple.
On the back side is the connection box, and the interior of the box features five bags of Sonofil, which needs to be inserted into the back section before the second side panel is glued on. It’s not a bad idea to countersink the cutouts for the chassis and the terminal in advance and run the interior cable. I use a rolled product 1.6 meters high, cut to a width of 25 cm and folded in half once; it is then pulled into the boxes once they are completely finished.
After sanding, countersinking the cutouts and painting the boxes, the F8-4 was connected to the outside world via the terminal and placed in its new home for the first time. Up to now, only the first part of its name had fit; now came the exotic part. As a rule, even a speaker box with only one chassis needs a correction network in order to make the choppy frequency response more linear. This is particularly true for the high range, where the emissions are more and more precisely directed, which necessarily raises the volume level very quickly. Since the increase is very even in the F8, Seas initially suggested a simple, frequency-dependent volume regulator for it using a small coil and an overlaid resistor. It’s a very simple trick, because the coil is essentially open at the bottom; only at higher frequencies does the resistance continuously increase. In order to make sure that it doesn’t wipe out the whole upper range, only smoothes out the exaggeration, you add a resistor to it that sets an upper limit. I tried it out right away, and it wasn’t bad at all. Okay, so there were narrow peaks at 800 Hz – 3 and 8 kHz are manageable for a wide-range speaker. But I wasn’t so happy with the measurement under 15 degrees, despite the reduction in spikes. The volume drops by 5 dB between 3 and 7 kHz, and above 8 kHz it falls sharply.
It needed to be better than that. After all, we’re not dealing with a pocket-change chassis here. I didn’t abandon the idea of L and R volume regulators, but I changed the values. In the next step, three suction circuits took care of the peaks before I turned the frequency-dependent pre-resistor into a voltage divider using a parallel C and a downstream R.
In terms of the measurements, the gain from the eleven additional components is not exactly dramatic overall – except below 15 degrees. Also noteworthy is the impedance curve, whose response is guaranteed to warm the heart of any tube owner with its increase in LCRs.
It may be unnecessary to say this, but I avoided taking shortcuts with the relatively low-value components. Even so, that didn’t mean pulling any silver, gold or other precious metals out of the bank vaults. The Audyn Q4 capacitors guaranteed long-term stability, and durability came from the exclusive use of 10-watt MOX resistors. For the voltage divider, I used a 1.4 mm²-thick air coil, while the suction circuits used an equalizer coil, one air coil with 1 mm² wire and one that was 0.71 mm² thick.
Once again, installing the components in the boxes was completely simple. But since there are often questions about the procedure, I took pictures and provided captions for them.
From the photo studio, I packed up the Exotics and sent them straight to my listening studio – funny names for my very simple quarters, which Olaf described in his reader’s review as being very “personal.” Slightly angled toward the chair but not pointing directly at it is the ideal setup for the wide-range speakers, which – it should be said right away – are not designed to provide even sound to a sofa with three seats side by side. I connected them to my type-appropriate eXperience KT 88 and didn’t waste a moment plugging in the CD player. The record player was what I needed, probably the main course for every potential do-it-yourselfer. But what do you play when you only have 2000 discs from every musical genre except for German Schlager singers at your fingertips and you want to test out a wide-range device? I started out with something easy – a man with a guitar, or rather two men with guitars: Friday Night in San Francisco. Pure goosebump material, because it’s just two men playing their guitars for their audience. Clearly they have nothing to do with a couple of wooden boxes standing around in a room completely without motivation. When the notes crash into the room like fireworks, with at least 37 notes per second per man and without a single hesitation, there’s only one thing to do: close your eyes and forge ahead. The only shame was that “Mediterranean Sundance” was over after a much-too-short eleven and a half minutes.
Okay, so full-range speakers should be able to reproduce the mid-range without any problems. Providing a clean bass and high range at the same time is a much bigger challenge when they need to come out of a single chassis.Still cautious, I tried out another jazz classic, Oscar Peterson’s “We get requests,” which at least involved one more man. Bass foundation? What had I been so worried about? At the same time, the bow strokes and then the plucking of the strings on Ray Brown’s upright bass weren’t overshadowed by any undefined rumbling tones. Everything was in harmony, no worse than a box with three specialized speakers in it. In all the excitement, let’s not forget about Ed Thigpen’s cymbals – describing them as silvery would be completely off base. The four plates are clearly made from brass, and the ear is not fooled for a second. I should also mention the piano, which is centered but slightly to the back of the stage, more than living up to its name as a pianoforte with its range of loud and soft notes.
A few more men (and women) found plenty of room on the imaginary stage when I opened up the classical section of my record cabinet, which is actually more of an overgrown shelf a couple of meters wide. Strings in the front, woodwinds and brass behind them, and the kettledrum right at the top – all of the musicians had plenty of elbow room and a good distance from their neighbors, so they never ran into each other and they were able to make their music harmoniously and completely without stress. Just listening to it was a pleasure, regardless of whether it was Mendelssohn’s “Italian” or Haydn’s “Londoner” filling the room behind the boxes. Now, to make sure that no one feels left out by my somewhat one-sided music selection, I have to admit that Prince, Peter Gabriel, Rammstein and Peter Fox are also among the artists whose records made it off the shelf for a listening test. Sometimes my musical tastes are Simply Exotic too, and with these boxes it’s not a problem. I finished up with wide-range blues at its best: Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble transported me to “Tin Pan Alley.” Anyone who can lean back motionless in an armchair while listening to that is probably a lost cause when it comes to music.
|Chassis||Seas Exotic F8-4||Wood list in 19 mm MDF per box|
|120,0 x 34,0 (2x) sides|
|Sales||Intertechnik, Kerpen||26,0 x 34,0 (2x) lid/floor|
|Construction||Udo Wohlgemuth||26,0 x 116,2 (1x) back wall|
|26,0 x 114,0 (1x) front|
|Functional principle||TQWT||26.0 x 100,1 (1x) diagonal board|
|Nominal impedance||4 Ohm||26,0 x 11,0 (1x) channel board|
|Insulation||5 bags Sonofil|
|F8-4: 5,5 mm|
|Cost per box:|
|Assembly kit:||685 euros||Wood cutting: 30 euros|
|Frequency response and phase||Impedance||Frequency response 0/15/30/60°°|
|Distortion for 90 dB||Step response||Waterfall|
The Simply Exotic can be purchased from Intertechnik