Artison Sketch LCR Build Quality
We got our first "up close and personal" look at Artison's products back at the 2004 CEDIA convention. Curt Chrisholm of Velodyne introduced us to these custom flat panel speakers (it was the Portrait model we first saw and heard.) The concept of a pair of flat panels that also sported a "DualMono" center channel intrigued us and we put it on our list to eventually contact them and arrange for a review. While it took us more than a year to do so, we were pleased to be able to take a closer look at Artison's new Sketch LCR loudspeakers. The Sketch line of speakers differs from the Portraits in that they replaced the Kevlar midranges with polypropylene, and substituted Vifa soft dome tweeters for the Super Audio tweeters. Both systems are designed by Cary Christie, previously of Infinity Systems, Inc. and Acoustic Research.
Artison manufactures their speakers specifically to address the needs of custom installers. As such, they are not available in most retail stores (we believe Tweeters now carries them) and are targeted primarily for a solution which helps the speakers to completely disappear into the plasma or LCD display. They accomplish this by custom sizing the speaker grill color and size to perfectly blend with a majority of today's flat panel products. By eliminating the need for a dedicated center channel box they further increase the aesthetics of a surround sound system.
We requested a pair of Artison Sketch speakers to go with an Optima PD50A plasma
display we were currently reviewing. It seemed best to pair the Artison's with a system that would
allow us to perform a complete assembly and test the full process of integrating these custom speakers
to a completely random display we had on hand.
Build Quality & Features
The Artison speakers arrived in three boxes. One box contained the loudspeakers themselves, another held the grills, and still another contained the required hardware for mounting them to the display. This is an efficient packaging system for the company as it allows them to mix and match as needed in order to deliver a system that perfectly complements a particular plasma or LCD product.
In our case, the speakers came with light grey grills and hardware that was made to mount directly to the four rear mounting points of the plasma display. The hardware that came with the Artison speakers included almost every size of threaded bolt and washer used on currently shipping plasma and LCDs.
The Artison's glass beaded anodized aluminum cabinets were top notch. All of the hardware mounting pieces were powder coated. In taking a close look at the Sketch speakers I was given a glimpse at what the driver complement was and how Artison intended to use those drivers to accomplish its goals. The Dual Mono center channel units and midrange drivers are completely separated into their own chambers. Both are also ported to deliver some extra punch given their relatively small enclosure size. The 4.5" polypropylene drivers looked well built and the Vifa soft dome tweeters use neodymium magnets with heat sinking much like the ones they used in the past. The geometry of the cabinet and drivers is such that the left and right channel are directed outward from the screen a bit, while the top DualMono speakers are angled inward to originate sound from the center of the screen. The 4.5" drivers have phase plugs at the center and I found the overall construction of the drivers to be solid - from the stiff plastic basket (a nice step up from the typical Chinese stamped drivers) to the woven spider and rubber surrounds.