Thonet & Vander Hoch Connections, Use, & Construction
The Thonet & Vander Hoch speakers are a strange hybrid. Many Americans think of self-powered speakers in the province of the computer. Speakers in your living room tend to be connected to other devices that have amps that drive them. Home theaters in a box or surround sound bars are a typical solution for people with limited space. But overseas, that's not the norm. There, space is often at a premium and the preference is for self-powered speakers. While it might sound strange to us, it is actually a pretty elegant solution. If your source is a single device, like a Blu-ray player, then you are good to go. If you have a couple of devices already connected to your display, you can often use the RCA outputs on the display to connect to the speakers. Either way, it isn't as impossible as it might seem.
The advantages are very clear. No receiver, no additional boxes, just a couple of speakers and your source. While HDMI may have promised single cable connection, this is just as good for those looking to upgrade their speakers without the hassle of a receiver or additional boxes.
As I mentioned, the connections are fairly basic with only dual stereo RCA inputs. There is no provision for a subwoofer which shouldn't be surprising considering the Hoch come from the "Classic 2.0" line. While adding a subwoofer isn't impossible, there are no line-level inputs so it'll have to be done at the RCA level. A receiver would do it easily but part of the advantage of self-powered speakers is getting rid of your receiver. If you already have a sub, you should consult your manual to see if the internal crossover can be used via the RCA inputs and outputs. The left speaker is connected to the right by standard speaker wire (provided) with a spring-type connection. The wire provided is very thin though I doubt you could get better than 12 gauge into those spring clips. The provided RCA cables are also very thin and unshielded so you'll likely want to use your own.
There are volume, treble, and bass controls on the Thonet & Vander Hoch speakers. They are located on the right speaker. You'd expect a speaker that is 460 x 181 x 230 mm or 18 by 7 by 9 inches to be able to play pretty loud. You'd be right. I tried them out in my office, which is basically open to the rest of the house, and also in my home theater. In the smaller home theater, they could easily get to volumes that would make you want to turn them down (some might call these 'ear-bleed' levels). Out in my office, which is adjacent to the kitchen, they were loud enough to rattle dishes and other unsecured items.
The treble and bass controls were surprisingly nuanced. I liked how the changes they made were very subtle but still noticeable. I started with both controls in the 12 o'clock position (which is about half way) and played with all the extremes. Turning the bass control all the way down just about killed the bass (as you might expect) but it was very gradual. You could fine-tune it all the way up to quite a bit of bass boost. Fortunately, the Hoch controls didn't allow you to boost the bass so much (at a reasonable volume) that the bass distorted. The treble control was similar though the top end distorted as you turned it up too high or too loud. I'm sure some people, especially those that are used to using their display's speakers, are used to that sort of distortion, though I found it very distracting. I tended to prefer the controls at the midpoint which seemed to give a good balance. The treble I sometimes dialed back if there was a lot of high-end in the recordings as the tweeter wasn't the smoothest.
Thonet & Vander Hoch back
In a smaller room it was pretty much impossible to turn the volume up past the midpoint. This was both because it would be too loud to be comfortable and the tweeter would distort. In a larger room, the Hoch speakers had more than enough headroom to fill up the space. The one problem with self-powered speakers is the internal volume control. Some speakers work around this with a remote but the low price point of the Hoch speakers pretty much precludes this possibility. This means either your source will need volume control or you'll need to have a couple of kids so you can use them as an automatic remote (my personal solution). There is also no provision for level matching the two speakers which is common with self-powered speakers. If you need to do this you'll have to do it at the source (very possible if your source is a receiver or a computer).
Inside the Hoch
Breaking open the Hoch speakers, I found a two channel, 35 watts each, amplifier. The enclosure is crafted out of HDAA which seems to be specific to Thonet & Vander. Rather than explain it to you (since it looks like MDF or HDF to me), I'll let them:
After years of arduous work of our engineering and development department, we have managed to create this noble material, capable of optimizing 32 % the acoustic capacity of the equipments. It is a natural polymer of high density that when combined, generates a more rigid and dense material than the MDF manufactured today. These properties prevent vibration and leakage of sound, enabling a more accurate, efficient and sustainable performance.
Now, just so you know, many things are called "noble" on their website so I'm betting that's a translation thing. The enclosure itself is only braced at the edges. The Hoch speakers fail the knock test but you could tell that by the lack of bracing. There is a rear port that is flared on the outside for additional bass. The Hoch sport a 1" silk dome (also called 'noble') tweeter and two 5.25" woven fiber midrange drivers. The midranges have stamped baskets (expected at this price point). All in all, the quality of the drivers are at least as good as I'd expect out of a $200 pair of speakers, not to mention speakers that are self powered.
Amp, power supply, and connections
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