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AIRLINE redefines emotion, space and transparency. Our challenge at the outset was to blend innovative and cutting-edge technologies into a new Reference loudspeaker which maintains a yet unheard holographic 3D sound stage from any place in the listening room from the faintest whisper to the most explosive level.
AIRLINES create a 3D sound stage from anywhere in the room,
an authentic impression of a live performance even though if the listener moves about the room, even outside the area bounded by the speakers themselves. The sound from each speaker is evently emitted around all around and eliminate the sharp axis of symetry where the slightest movement of the listener is so disturbing. They provide a new state of the art smooth and accurate audiophile performance.
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Rethinking everything for the music AIRLINE dramatically impacts both uncompromising sound quality and ease of inclusion of loudspeakers at home. This is not "one more varnished wood enclosure" which encumbers the living room and is only tolerated for its "sound function". They contributes to organize the home space to suit your lifestyle without compromising listening to the music at the highest level of quality.
Placed near the rear wall, the side walls or near a bay window, the AIRLINE speakers develop a realistic and natural sound stage. The living space becomes completely free and through this, the AIRLINES also contribute to consensus within the house.
|See what you hear|
No more single sofa in the middle of the room
AIRLINES solve the music lover's dilemma: see his living room cluttered with speakers enthroned at good distance from the walls to avoid the exaggeration of the bass and try to create a sound stage that is always an unstable equilibrium in one point and only one: in a sofa, in the middle of the living room, precisely right between the speakers.
With the AIRLINES there is no longer "A" privileged listening spot along the axis of symetry where the two speakers have consistently equal effect, no more unique sweetspot as imposed by all past and existing stereo and multichannel setups.
Moving around in the room in front of the AIRLINES with your eyes closed and discovering the orchestra pivoting like a virtual sound object in its complex, detailed and coherent 3D dimensions is a striking experience.
The utopia of focusing a theoretically ideal sound on a single spot suddenly seems totally obsolete and really unambitious.
The best loudspeaker in the world ?
It is the relevance of the innovations, the addition of factors of excellence and the convergence of performances which where decisive. The transducers, used in a radically different and unique way, allow for the first time:
- the cancellation of Doppler effect and intermodulation distortions
- the reduction of harmonic and mechanical non linear distortions
To provide a linear response throughout the listening room creating an hemispherical 3D musical virtual object
- the boomer's baffle is reduced to a 1cm ring
- the tweeter's baffle is reduced to a 1mm ring
For a chiselled rhythmic and an unheard resolution with a dynamic capacity out of the proportions of the speakers
- the zero flat panel inert cabinet is devoid of resonance and reflection
- the boomer is gounded to the floor in the axis of its displacement
- the emission of the tweeter is orthogonal
Only true disruptive innovations could free the emotion of the music.
A timeless beauty
Their slim and timeless appearance, such as a BAUHAUS creation, hides an highly innovative project capable of making the daily listening experience uniquely superb and enjoyable. The AIRLINES can either set a modern style or almost disappear behind a sofa, a chair or a mid-height piece of furniture without affecting the quality of the performance.
The challenge has been met. The result is a more contemporary and attractive loudspeaker design of limitless dynamics, extreme extension and redefined space and transparency. Everything we have expected and something we could have never imagined. Lecontoure is proud to unveil the AIRLINE loudspeakers
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Lecontoure AIRLINE, models & colors
white, pearl, slate, black, klein blue, marroon
Only experiencing the AIRLINES will let you understand that they are an outstanding invention. Their elegant appearance magnifies both the technology and the emotion of the music.
Forget traditional speakers.
Let the AIRLINES naturally find their place in your life.
AIRLINE 150 : a rarely seen absolutely perfect step response in a triangular shape. It guaranties the perfect rendition of transiants and a perfect lays down in the frequency domain.
AIRLINE 150 acoustical phase. The medium area where the two drivers merge their signals is critical : exceptional linearity.
(The 200Hz bump is due to room reflection, like for any speaker)
AIRLINE 150 : low distortion average level of 0.3% at 88dB sound pressure. In addition, in the bass, the cylindrical air column loading in the axis of the drive unit rather than a rectangular volume, causing standing waves, allows excellent guidance of the membrana, improves pistonic mode and reduces distortion.
Lecontoure AIRLINE 400 Signature Lucide Red Edition
"They didn't know it was impossible, so they did it." - Mark Twain
|Key advances over the AIRLINES |
Form and architecture
The cylinder, Form Follows Function
The shape of the AIRLINE is the first noticeable aspect of the design. The cylinder enclosure comes directly from its basic function : Form Follows Function. The rectangular box with parallel sides, is the worst container for a speaker to be placed in. The inside parallel walls of the box coincide with wavelengths of musical frequencies, creating standing waves and air and panel resonances like the skin of a drum. Their assembly joints create multiple reflection of these vibrations reducing the possibility for them to get damped efficiently. Flatness and parallelism of the surfaces promotes stray reflections known under the names of "edge effect", "baffle step" diffraction and "standing waves". All this is just a disaster.
Seeking for the ideal form devoid of flat or parrallel surfaces, without assembly joints and having higher stiffness and pressure resistance, the cylindrical shape appeared among the most interesting.
A non baffled mid-woofer
When we finaly adopted the horizontal position of the main driver, the cylinder naturally imposed itself. There is no more reflecting front face neither flat nor curved.In this arrangement, the disastrous effect of baffling that destroys even sound spreading, makes impossible the creation of the sound stage and creates poor tonal balance becomes just non-existent.
A perfectly rigid and inert enclosure
As a consequence, as the most adverse vibration generator, the woofer, is in the vertical axis with the ground as reference for its movements and given the extreme rigidity of our cylinder, no more enclosure intermodutlation is allowed. Unlike conventional speakers, vibration are spread in the direction of the longest dimension of the cabinet. Thus, vibrations can flow freely over the 92cm tall cabinet.Throughout this trip, the energy is absorbed by the cuved 19mm thick (rigid as a 30mm flat panel) continuous structure consisting of self-damping pine and fir wood fiber with zero intrinsic resonance.
A total absence of "box-sound"
In the unlikely event where a little remaining energy would be reflected at the base of the enclosure and go back up to upset driver's frame, it is a journey of 184 cm that the signal will make while still weakening gradually. In a conventional loudspeaker, this energy emitted horizontally in a vertical column only travels around the circumference of the enclosure in an endless round, upsetting sound emission with intermodulation, blur and resonances contribuing to the so-called forward and "box sound".
By design, AIRLINE is completely free of this effect.
Are standard measurements meaningful ?
Conventional forward-radiating speakers are naturaly studied, measured, analysed and controled by facing a microphone 1 meter away to the tweeter. Frequency response describe their behavior with great precision but only in the volume of a tennis ball one meter in front of them. Two speakers with almost identical curves measured this way may sound entirely different in terms of whether they are bright or dull, smooth or rough. On-axis curve just forget to show that elswhere, lower, higher, on the right or the left or further away the response can be radically different showing dramatic cancellations over entire ranges of the audio spectrum ...
Measurements made at these other angles where it is hopelessly observed that the non-linearities can be moved but never canceled, are still experienced with fatalism, despair and frustration by speaker designers.
"Classic design is simply obsolete"
Are drive units imperfect or improperly used ?
Cone drive units are the most reliable and durable but they are not perfect. The most neglected area of their design is how their response is impacted when sound pressure is increasing. Mecanical distortions appear at the rhythm the mecanical limits of their components, assemblies and materials occurs.
These mechanical distortions are added to the electrical signal from the amplifier and nothing can prevent them or erase them any more.
These distortions are emitted over 30 degrees frontly. It is also where high frequencies linearity is compromised. Torsional and bending modes appear from 40Hz and there are 80 whithin the useful bandwidth. Each cone breakup has its own coloration and induces aggressive and confused sounds.Shape and cone material choice and surface treatment can reduce some of the bending modes but could never achieve to cancel 80 different ones!
These are the defects that prevent the brain from forgetting the presence of loudspeakers because it recognizes their signature and lets you know it unconsciously without having to think further.
"It has taken a lot of hard work to forget previous knowhow and theory and create new concepts out of the box".
New questions, new solutions
We built our first prototype from this observation asking us with this new question :
Why not use the cone drive units in the domain where they are more stable in frequency response and have the less harmonic distortion ?
This question can also be rephrased as follows :
Why should we still focus on the frontal emitting beam where drivers exhibit the most unstable response and the busiest mechanical distortion and project all this garbage toward the face of the listener ?
Vertical firing mid-woofer
Thus, we placed our mid-woofer horizontally at the top of our cylindrical enclosure. In this configuration, unstable signals, non-linear frequencies and most polluted materials are sent vertically and never toward listener's face. The result is a dramatic reduction in the perception of cone artifacts, errors, non-linear distortions caused by the bending modes of the diaphragm. This deals with a uniquely clean and organic signal.Experiencing this, one can easely understand that the non-linear mechanical distortions are the origin of hardness and "forward sound" of conventional loudspeakers.
The horizontal position of the main driver has many other critical consequences :
1) A true linear response all round
Whatever the angular position of the listener, the response of the two speakers remains the same. This is unattainable with conventional speakers where the output becomes increasingly directional, "beaming" like a searchlight along the forward axis of the speaker.
2) No baffle around the woofer
Thus the sound balance remains linear all round never affected by reflexions and the cancellations due to a front face.
Actually the baffle surface is a 1cm ring surrounding the woofer that has no effect on the emitted frequencies.
3) Vibration reduction by anchorage to the ground
There is no better static reference than the floor for a vertical movement. Micro musical details are then revealed with the simple beauty of their infinite complexity.
4) Vertical firing mid-woofer cancels Doppler effect
With normal front firing speakers the large movement of the cone when bass are reproduced accelerates and slows smaller medium vibrations at the rythm of the cone displacement.
This causes the Doppler effect that can also be understood as an "in air" intermodulation with 3 and 4 ways speakers or as an "in cone" intermodulation on 2 and 1 way speakers.
This obscure but serious distortion is rarely mentionned by audio engineers because "we can do nothing against it". Meanwhile it produces a very audible and severe discomfort up to giving a robot accent to a natural human voice. Doppler is clearly audible with cone movements from 1mm !
As a matter of fact Doppler can not be measured like harmonic distortions, even if its impact on the sound quality may actually be much greater. AIRLINE's vertical emission cancels most of the Doppler effect. Acceleration and deceleration is transformed in a tiny undetectable vertical movement.
5) Measured harmonic distortion reduced
Most of the measured distortions of a loudspeaker are unwanted and uncontroled cone vibrations. They are harmonics, that means multiplications of the original frequency and they are emitted on the drive unit axis. The AIRLINES emit these frequencies vertically over them, where nobody actually stands to listen to music. Thus they are not thrown toward the face of the auditor.
In addition, in the bass, the cylindrical air column loading in the axis of the drive unit rather than a rectangular volume causing standing waves, allows excellent guidance of the membrana, improved pistonic mode and reduced distortion. This alone is a major step forward in loudspeaker design.
6) Minimum crossover for the mid-bass driver
Because higher frequencies are issued exclusively vertically, their contribution to the useful spectrum is tiny and filtering can be reconsidered. As a result, the woofer is connected directly to the output of the amplifier through a single component. A more simple crossover always deals with more music at the end.
7) Orthogonal mid-woofer and tweeter firing cancels inter-modulation
The high frequencies are reproduced by the tweeter. Like any other drive-unit its reponse becomes more directive with increasing frequencies. To keep the whidest possible trebles extention, its axis remains classic, almost horizontal. As a result, woofer and tweeter are acting orthogonally and the most disruptive unit, the woofer acting vertically never upsets (by inter-modulation) the most sensitive one, the tweeter on its horizontal axis.
This point is particularly striking when the scale of the movement of the tweeter membrana. If at max power the tweeter's dome moves less than a tenth of a millimeter, the majority of its job lies in movements of the thousandth (60db dynamic) or a ten-thousandth (80dB dynamic) that is then the 1/100 th of a micron ! Therefore to ensure proper dynamics the stability of the tweeter's body on the horizontal axis must be guarantied at this scale. Because the movements of woofer and tweeter are in the same axis this condition is difficult to fulfill in conventional front firing loudspeakers. Orthogonal emission can, if well implemented, ensure the stability of the tweeter's motor on its axis. This unique feature allows AIRLINES to deliver an unknown clarity and subtlety.
A non-baffled infra-cardioid tweeter
The most dramatic accidents in the response of a tweeter are caused by the flat or curved cabinet front face on which it sits, or even just, in an already alarming way, its own front fixing plate or its surrounding as small as 3mm ! Our tweeter has no mounting plate and is not fixed to any panel. The dome is maintained on 1 millimeter at its periphery and the magnet and the body have a smaller diameter. The tweeter's baffle is reduce to a 1mm ring. It then acts like a pulsating hemisphere and its dispersion is amazingly wide and uniform.
This performance is just out of the thinking with tweeters fixed to a cabinet, loaded with a front horn, simply surrounded by a mounting plate or with ribbon tweeters where the ribbon is recessed in a cavity inbetween two big magnets.
An ultra-linear frequency response
Working on the linearity of the AIRLINE's response curve was facilitated by the absence of baffle and reflective cabinet. As a result, with 1cm ring baffle on the woofer and 1mm ring baffle on the tweeter AIRLINE display a frequency response of a straightness worthy of the most recognized and expensive professional monitor speakers. Alas these allow neither to move away nor deviate more than 20 degrees out of their axis of emission.
A point source for an all around coherent phase
The virtually coincident emitting of the two drive-units maintains a linear phase and spectrum throughout the all listening room. From the lower frequencies the tweeter has a natural infra-cardioid radiation pattern. The AIRLINE is meant to be installed against a wall, in which position the woofer output is most uniform because there are no cancellations of its output from wall reflections within its frequency range. It then acquires the same infra-cardioid pattern. As the two patterns are the same there is no black hole, no coloration, no suckout no cancellationis any more.
From the floor to the ceiling and 120 degrees horizontally, there is no accident in the response that would be due to signals canceled or reflected. The frequency response remains linear in a range of a few dB.
This performance of spatial and spectral dispersion is rare or even unique in the history of loudspeakers. It is the Holy Grail, confessed or not confessed as it seems so inaccessible, any engineer who designed loudspeakers.
No more unique sweet spot
These are the features allowing to build an holographic soundstage either wide and accurate even though if the listener may stay outside of the space between the two speakers. From a distance of one meter, the speaker's response linearity allows the formation of this spectaculary holographic image significant anywhere in the listening room, even from the left of the left speaker !
The utopia of focusing a theoretically ideal sound on a single point suddenly appears totally obsolete and very unambitious.
There is no more privileged listening "sweet spot" as all past and existing stereo and multichannel setups impose.
AIRLINE pushes the boundaries of room acoustics
Because AIRLINES spread their energy equally in all directions room acoustics defects are no longer exited by the high pressures of classical beaming loudspeakers. It is then possible to play louder.At very high level, it is surprising to find the same sounds, the same tonal balance and clarity than at a very low level: Room acoustic limits are pushed forward.
AIRLINES in the listening room
Because of their broad dispersion the reverberant damping of the room will be less significant. AIRLINES emit energy into an hemispherical pattern reducing the adverse effect of room reflection that destroy focus, coherent imaging and linearity. They load all wall surface evenly and have 60% less energy hitting the walls than conventional beaming speakers. Wall returned energy is reduced by the same amount, facilitating emergence of more nuances and more details all round .
From 10 watts ...
The Airlines don't have the excuse for being difficult to drive. A 10 watts amplifier can already allow a realistic sound level. However only the best currently available amplifiers and sources and a rigorous implementation of the whole setup will allow to reveal the true emotional potential they are capable of.Then, in return, AIRLINE will reveal the true potential of a true state of the art setup that other speakers will limit and will always hide.
An invisible connection
To reduce the visual impact of the speaker cable (some good ones are thin or even flat), the terminals are placed in the base under the speaker. Thus no speaker cable will hang behind the cabinet.
Funilly "wireless speakers" will always proudly exhibit a mains lead that requires to be plugged into mains outlets and installed not too far from them ! nice !
3 points for a perfect stability
Contact with the floor is provided through 3 small tangent cylinders, allowing infinitely small tangent contact withoutthe drawback of spikes that will always destroy wooden floors. This give the drive units an incredibly stable platform to work from, and with 3 points, no set up is required.
AIRLINE are vented cabinets. As a bass port connects the inside of the cabinet to the listening area, having the port opening in the direction of the auditor or even on the back of the speaker would have been a dramatic design mistake. From the port opening of a prestigious brand reference speakers we measured medium frequencies as loud as minus 12dB only under the driver level. Is this seriously acceptable in the high end industry? Definitely not for a Lecontoure speaker.
The port opening of the AIRLINE faces the floor and this deals with a reduction by a factor of 20 of the unwanted sounds it actually may radiate over 360 degrees instead of 20 degrees for frontal ports. The gain is a blur free reproduction without the distracting and masking airflow and the background box escapted notes.
A differentiated reflex tuning
The effect of a reflex port is too often identifiable if its efficiency is too high (quality factor). This is mostly the case with speakers studied in a deaf room. For maximum articulation of the bass we study our speakers in the listening room. More so, in order to avoid adding the resonance of the two reflex ports, their tuning is slightly different. This prolongates the benefit of the reflex ports to the extreme bass and spreads its efficiency more evenly. Thanks to this, the AIRLINES deploy an incredible extreme bass depth for their size and a refined fluidity to appreciate the bass melody. A bass player's play becomes luminous and expresses the musician's intention with nuances and articulation rather than clogging up the signal of an omnipresent and anonymous bass flow.
Airtight diaphragm for a silent woofer
The mid-woofer driver have a sealed center cap. This cap eliminates internal pressurised turbulent air noise leaking through the ring opening arount the center when a phase plug is used. This removes the unceasing airflow noise and hissing modulated by the sound pressure of said high end drive units having a phase plug. Conventional spectrum analysis fails to detect such a very audible non linear distortion, but good ears can !
A rock steady crossover
Vibrations and magnetic fields have a desastrous effect on analog and digital electronic circuits and signal pass. We located the crossover in the basement. Then it sits like on its own, directly on the floor and free of any vibration.
A more transparent internal wiring
In order to limit the losses induced by the internal wiring, we only use three wires instead of four to connect the two drive units, i.e. a 25% reduction in the adverse influence of the connecting wires.
The Reference versions of AIRLINE use the CX cable with very low memory created by Lavardin Technologies and allow maximum transparency, especially if a Lavardin cable with low memory is used between the amplifier and the speakers.
Trebles adjustment switch
Once the AIRLINE loudspeakers are correctly positioned, some tuning of the sound may benefit the performance.The high-frequency output level of the AIRLINE 200 may be adjusted using the toggle switch near the binding post under the enclosure. The default setting (0 dB) provides a flat response. The + position gives more output, which may be required, for example, in larger rooms or if the acoustic of the room is dull, if circumstances dictate that the speakers have to be placed more off line than recommended, or if the speaker is placed behind or near curtains.
à suivre ...
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