“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Starke Sound IC-H1 Elite Standmount Loudspeaker Review

by Brian Kahn May 19, 2023
Starke Sound IC-H1 Elite

Starke Sound IC-H1 Elite

  • Product Name: IC-H1 Elite
  • Manufacturer: Starke Sound
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: May 19, 2023 00:35
  • MSRP: $ 1,560/pair
  • Enclosure Alignment: 3-way / bass reflex
  • Driver compliment:

Tweeter: 1” Soft dome

Midrange: 4” carbon fiber cone with phase plug

Woofer: 5.25” carbon cone
  • Sensitivity: 89dB / 2.83v / 1.0m
  • Impedance: 4Ω nominal
  • Frequency Response: 55Hz - 80kHz +/-2dB window
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 15.1 x 7.0 x 10.1"
  • Weight: 11.0 kg (24.2 lbs.)
  • Recommended Amplifier Power: 100 - 400W RMS
  • SPL capability @1m: 107.0dB peak


  • Highly detailed sound reproduction
  • Sounds bigger than its size would suggest
  • Attractive industrial design
  • Works well close to room boundaries
  • Excellent build quality


  • Bass slightly thick compared to upper frequencies
  • Slightly laid back treble


Starke Sound IC-H1 Elite Introduction

I was first introduced to Starke Sound at an audio show nearly a decade ago and remember their demonstration room as being constantly crowded with attendees. When I could squeeze in I recall being impressed with the engineering and build quality of the speakers. Now, a decade later, I can finally take a close listen. The speakers that we are reviewing are the Halo IC-H1Elite and are the smallest speaker in the Halo line of speakers.

Starke Sound was founded in Southern California in 2009 by three audio enthusiasts, one of which is Dan Wiggins. Some of you may recognize Dan as the audio engineer behind many popular speakers and headphones, including Periodic Audio and several of the Sonos speakers.

Starke Sound now makes speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers with a focus on multi-channel music. They have multiple facilities but have kept their home base in the Los Angeles area of California. During my discussions with two of the three co-founders, Scott DeLoache and Dan Wiggins, I learned that Starke Sound is vertically integrated. This means they make the drivers, cross-overs and cabinets for their speakers. No off-the-shelf parts that you will find in other products. An additional and perhaps unintended benefit is that in today’s world of supply chain challenges, the vertical integration reduces the likelihood of those supply chain impacts in addition to the intended benefits of providing more control over the finished product.



The Starke IC-H1s arrived nicely packaged in a leather trimmed soft case which itself was inside a traditional cardboard box with foam inserts. The nice packaging and white cotton gloves do nothing for sound quality but are a nice way to provide some pride of ownership while reinforcing the purchase decision. With some speakers, I must extensively experiment with positioning to get them to image well and disappear. The Starke speakers did that in both rooms with minimal positioning effort. Not that extra effort does not provide extra rewards, it does, but the first tries in each room were quite good.


Once the speakers are out of the packaging, you can appreciate their clean, modern design. The finish on the aluminum panel and automotive grade gloss paint on the cabinets would be welcome on speakers that cost several times that of the IC-H1. Overall, they reminded me of Focal speakers with their combination of clean design, fit and finish. That said, I would have liked some more options, starting with the option for a protective grille.


The bridge over the tweeter is a good start, but some additional protection would be a nice option if they are placed in an area with lots of young fingers. I would also like to see some other finish options other than gloss black or white. These are stylish speakers and I would suspect that those who are attracted to them may have some more color in their homes.

 Starke rear

I found the fit and finish of the Starke Sound IC-H1 Elites to be excellent. The front baffle is made from ¼” thick 6061 aluminum alloy with a brushed finish. The vertical brush strokes complement the tall, narrow footprint of this “Reference Compact Speaker” as it is referred to by Starke Sound. The IC-H1 Elite’s three drivers are exposed on the baffle with just a pair of small metal bridges running vertically in front of the tweeter to protect it from accidental impact. A small copper colored metal badge with the Starke name. The black, fabric dome tweeter is slightly recessed from the baffle and surrounded by a “pinnacle ring”, which happens to look a lot like what most of us would call a waveguide. Both the midrange and woofer cones have an attractive woven pattern, with the midrange being the attention getter with a shinier surface and copper colored phase plug. The carbon in the woofer is a different weave making it less reflective and the woofer also uses a more traditional dust cap.

Design Analysis

The Starke Sound Halo series is said to have “an unbelievably wide dynamic range and sleek midrange”. While I am not exactly sure what a “sleek midrange” is, I know that a wide dynamic range is important to properly reproduce music. Starke Sound was kind enough to set up a call with their Chief Technology Officer, Dan Wiggins. I had met Dan at an audio show many years ago and shortly into my call, found that his enthusiasm for audio engineering still ran strong.

The IC-H1 Elite is the smaller of the two stand mounted speakers in the Halo line at 24.2 pounds, 15.1 inches high, 7 inches wide and 10.1 inches deep. The side walls of the cabinet are angled inward, making the rear slightly narrower than the front, presenting a trapezoid shape when viewed from above. This eliminates a pair of parallel walls and their accompanying parallel interior surfaces, reducing standing waves. A gentle downward slope of the top panel eliminates another pair of parallel surfaces, but the front and rear walls appear to be parallel with each other. One of the first things I noticed about the speaker when I saw it was the front baffle which is made from ¼ inch thick 6061 aluminum alloy. This makes for a very stable mounting platform for the drivers. The rest of the cabinet is made from high-density fiberboard laminated over medium density fiberboard. Dan described the interior of the IC-H1 as asymmetrical and heavily braced, and my non-scientific knuckle test on various parts of the cabinet shows it is indeed solid. The rear panel has a small, flared aluminum port near the top and an aluminum plate toward the bottom with a single pair of speaker terminals. All the drivers are connected to the aluminum baffle with highly compressed Poron foam gasket to provide a seal and dampen vibrations.

Starke panel

The one-inch silk dome tweeter is a proprietary Starke Sound design, as is every driver in this speaker. Dan Wiggins was extremely proud to explain that Starke designs each driver to obtain maximum performance for its intended use. In order to make sure the benefits of the designs are not lost in the manufacturing process, Starke also makes all of its own drivers for improved quality control and, importantly, in today’s world, this has the added benefit of reducing supply chain issue. All the drivers incorporate “Linear Motor Force” (“LMF”) driver technology. As explained by Dan, this results in a flatter Bl curve. The Bl curve shows how much force the magnetic motor strength is exerting (typically displayed along the vertical axis of the chart) at any given excursion point (typically displayed along the horizontal axis of the chart). This helps with improving dynamics and reducing distortion by reducing the variables that arise as the driver moves throughout its range of motion. The architecture of the LMF assembly includes a dual-gap magnet design which has the voice coil travelling through multiple gaps in which the design is overhung for the individual magnetic rings but underhung for the overall structure.

Starke dynamics

Other than the eye-catching phase plug, the four-inch midrange looks fairly normal. In speaking with Dan, he explained that the carbon fiber is over molded with a polymer rather than utilizing a more common laminate construction methodology. Dan states he has found the over mold process to provide a more uniform bonded surface. I asked why use a hybrid material and he explained that while the carbon fiber cones are extremely lightweight and stiff; they need to be damped. In this conversation, Dan differed from the now popular approach of making drivers as light as possible. He believes there is a proper weight range for each driver and they can be too light. The over mold process provides damping and brings the overall weight within the desired range. The 5.25 inch woofer is also carbon fiber, but appears to be a slightly different material.

As part of the Halo line, the IC-H1 Elite uses the Halo crossover. My description will not do the crossover justice, as discussing audio technology with Dan is akin to drinking from a firehose. In short, like other crossovers, the Halo seeks to keep each driver operating within its optimal bandwidth. The design philosophy behind the Halo crossover is to utilize high order crossovers to reduce power bandwidth, lobing and comb filtering while also providing flatter impedance.

Starke Sound IC-H1 Elite Listening Tests & Conclusion

I used the IC-H1s in two systems in two separate rooms, with most of my critical listening in a room that measures approximately 12 feet wide by 17 feet deep. The front of the speakers were about two feet from the front wall of the room and they were toed in slightly to a point where they were aimed a spot about three feet behind my head. Having the speakers close to the front wall improves bass performance and the toe-in improves imaging. That said, experiment with positioning and toe-in to see what works best for you. I used a Margules Arch integrated amplifier for most of my listening, but at the end also tried my Krell FBI to make sure what I describe below was coming from the speakers and not the electronics.

Music Listening

starke 5“Muddy Waters” by LP from the album Lost on You features a female vocalist with a haunting chorus in the background. Laura Pergolizzi’s vocals were reproduced with great clarity, positioning her and the tambourine in the center of and just behind the IC-H1’s. The backing vocals were distinctly positioned several feet behind. The soundstage was solid and continuous, the width of the speakers and slightly beyond their outer edges, while the lead vocals and each instrument were distinctly positioned. The background vocals were wider and farther behind, with less precision in left/right position. The vocals in this track are the star. Pergolizzi’s performance is filled with raw emotion, which was readily discernible when listening through the Starke speakers. The drums were reproduced with more weight than I expected from a speaker this size.

I continued to peruse Tidal for a female vocalist whose voice I was more familiar with and found “Ballad Of The Runaway Horse” from Rob Wasserman’s Duets with Jennifer Warnes on vocals. I have listened to this track many times on several systems I know well. As with the prior track, the imaging was well formed at or slightly beyond the plane of the speakers with the speakers themselves disappearing. Jennifer Warnes’ voice was very natural and detailed, creating a great sense of realism. The micro dynamics and clean leading edges reproduced details in Warnes’ voice and breathing, which bolstered the illusion. This clarity also benefitted the reproduction of Wasserman’s bass playing. Wasserman is a master on the bass, with the ability to blend speedy, agile plucks and more powerful bass notes which the Starke’s could reproduce both with seeming ease and with substantial weight. It was only at the lowest end of the IC-H1’s range, perhaps about 50 Hz that there was a slightly audible thickening of the bass.

The drums were reproduced with more weight than I expected from a speaker this size.

Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” from the Brothers in Arms album has one of my favorite openings of any rock song. The first minute of this track was reproduced through the IC-H1s with a solid wall of sound. The kick drums were clean and taut and positioned well behind the speakers. The electric guitars were dynamic, clean and had some bite to them. The Starke’s remained composed and maintained their dynamics throughout the opening crescendo. I knew the speakers did a good job with female vocals and was pleased to hear Sting and Mark Knopfler’s vocals also being accurately portrayed.

I switched to Qobuz for this last track “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Greig and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This is a much larger and more complicated soundstage than the tracks above and the Starke’s scaled up the presentation to provide an image that expanded beyond the outer edges of the speakers and back slightly beyond the front wall of the room. The positioning of the low brass and strings sounded right, but on a slightly smaller scale than when I listen to this piece on my Revel F328Bes or RBH Sound SVTRs. The IC-H1 reproduced the instruments with sufficient detail to make out individual instruments with the strings being rendered clearly. The speakers remained composed when the pace picked up at the end, but there was slight compression when I turned up the volume.

Last, I played some more current club type music with including and found that the IC-H1’s needed a subwoofer to play this music at anything other than background levels and lets face it, if you're listening to club music, it’s probably on the louder side. As expected, the IC-H1s speed did a great job with cleanly reproducing the synthesized mids and highs as well as with the vocals. The synthesized bass line in Cardi B.’s “I Like It” was weak without a subwoofer but would probably be enough to get you in trouble in most apartments or condominiums.


The Starke IC-H1s are excellent compact stand mounted speakers. Listening to them with my eyes closed, the speakers disappeared, leaving a wide and detailed soundstage giving the impression of mid mezzanine seats. The overall sound profile was detailed throughout the midrange and treble but slightly polite. Now I know what Starke meant when they said ‘sleek midrange’, it’s there without any extra bloat are warmth with all the details laid bare. The bass was weightier than you would expect from a small speaker with small drivers, but this intentional choice of voicing to provide the weight at the low end means slightly diminished detail. I think it was the correct choice. The bass rolls off pretty fast below 50 Hz, so if your musical tastes include a lot of dance music or pipe organs, you will want to get one of Starke’s larger speakers or add a subwoofer. I did not have any of the Starke subwoofers on hand, but tried a SVS 3000 Micro with excellent results.

The Starke IC-H1s have a lot going for them beyond their industrial design. They provide detailed and natural sound. The treble is on the slightly rolled off side of neutral, but if you prefer something a little more forward, the Beryllium tweeter option is about one dB hotter on the top end. The voicing that Starke utilizes for the IC-H1s walks the line of the providing illuminating detail into your music but without bringing out the harshness that plagues so many recordings from the 1980s. Despite the unusual crossover design, the IC-H1’s do an excellent job with smooth transition at both the 300 Hz and 2,900 Hz crossover points.

starke 4

If you're considering speakers in this price range and format, the Starke Sound IC-H1s should be on your audition list. They maintain the strengths of the small, stand mounted speaker format by disappearing and imaging well. The Starke’s add in a larger than expected soundstage that maintains well-formed and positioned images within and has more weight in the bass region, at least until the low 50 Hz range, making it easier to integrate with a subwoofer if you so desire. Music lovers are fortunate today to have so many small, stand mounted speaker options to choose from. Many of them in this price range are pretty good such as the Polk L200s and Arendal Sound 1961 Monitors. Starke Sound’s IC-H1 is an excellent option in that range, providing excellent sound when it is on and still looking sharp when off and doing all of this at a competitive price.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor