AudioKinesis Bienville Speakers Preview
The Audiokinesis Bienville Main Modules speaker system is a balance between three important design goals: high sound quality, enormous dynamic range, and an agreeable appearance. While the appearance is slightly unusual, the first thing one notices about the Bienvillle Main Modules is the sound, which is exceptionally good. Effortless is the word for it. Everything comes to life with a sense of ease on the speaker’s behalf. Without a doubt, the firepower of the drivers on display do influence the listener’s perception; two 12” midwoofers and a good size waveguide provide for a sense of tremendous power potential, especially in the small hotel rooms at AXPONA where most of the exhibitors were relegated. Despite the cozy room size, the Bienville speakers still sounded terrific. They were not ‘too much’ for the room- and there is no doubt they can handle a larger room with ease. One of the advantages of having such powerful drivers is that, at nominal loudness levels, the drivers operate with extremely low distortion since they are not at all close to any range of mechanical stress.
Those who might be reticent to give the Bienville speakers a chance due to the reputation of horn-loaded speakers to have a honkiness or horn-coloration need not fear. Based on my listening tests, I can comfortably say that the Bienvilles exhibit none of that characteristic. The sound is simply one of high fidelity. One aspect that really pulls the Bienville speakers in an opposite direction from an expected horn sound is that they can actually be changed to run in dipole or bipole operation- not an obvious trait at first glance. In the rear of the speaker is another horn-loaded tweeter and a 10” midwoofer. This gives the Bienvilles a spacious character which defies the tightly controlled directivity pattern one would expect from the front mounted drivers alone. However, if one prefers, the dipole aspect can be ‘turned off’ since the rear driver array uses a separate set of speaker inputs, and the Bienvilles can simply be used as monopole speakers. This may be advantageous for placements where the rear is very close to a wall and the dipole radiation would be choked off. That is only the beginning of the adjustability of the Bienville speakers. The top end from 1 kHz and up have a ‘tilt’ control, which allows the user to set a flat response or to gradually taper down treble above 1 kHz at different slopes up to a 6 dB per decade response. This ‘tilt’ control can be set on the front tweeter, rear tweeter, or both. The rear driver array can also be reduced by levels down to 6 dB for a greater ratio of direct vs reflected sound.
Backview of the AudioKinesis Bienvelle Speakers
(note the rear drivers, ports and connection options)
Customize Your Sound!
Even further in adjustability is a variable tuning bass reflex design. Four ports can be either sealed or opened thereby giving the Bienville speaker four different levels of tuning frequencies. However, changing these frequencies do not change the extension as much as they change the level of energy in the lower midrange frequency region, in order to accommodate smaller rooms which can boost output in that region. If levels need to be reduced even further, the rear drivers can be wired in reverse polarity for dipole operation which can further reduce energy in that region via phase cancellation.
The sound of the Bienville speakers can be customized to almost any taste. Subwoofers are recommended to use with the Bienvilles, and a speaker package called the “Bienville Suite” can be purchased which includes the Audiokinesis Swarm Subwoofer system. Multiple subwoofers as a solution for a flat low frequency response is an idea that we at Audioholics have been emphasizing time and time again, and we are delighted to see that Audiokinesis gets it! These speakers were truly a unique design that offer enough configuration flexibility to satisfy virtually any audiophile.
The Bienville Main Modules can be had in a set of different finishes and will set you back $9,200, and $12,000 for the speaker pair and subwoofer set. They can only be purchased from Audiokinesis dealers.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.