Robson Acoustics Chronos speakers review

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posted on Tuesday, 27th May 2014 by Steve May

home cinema  Hi-fi 

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The Chronos loudspeaker from British hi-fi specialist Robson Acoustics is a shallow on-wall design, boasting audiophile fildelity. Unusually for this style of enclosure, they're marketed as much for hi-fi listening as home cinema. We're told by the maker that these speakers have been in development for two years. Significantly, the brand appears to be keen to work with both installers and interior designers, as it's able to tailor the finish of the speakers to match individual furniture and fabric choices, when required.

Robson Acoustics Chronos loudspeakers: Build and Installation
Build quality is high. Unboxed, the speakers appear expertly finished and are reassuringly heavy.  Although on the large size for on-walls, the dimensions remain the right side of practical, measuring 95 x 79.5 x 10cm (w/h/d). A dedicated horizontal centre speaker version is also available.

Robson Acoustics will supply the Chronos in a wide variety of finishes, from bespoke grilles (oil painting imagery available) and a multitude of RAL colours, to guilt picture frames. Clearly all tastes are catered for. The pair supplied for review were classic Henry Ford black and came with standard grilles (white is also available). They look handsome enough.

Pop the grille off and you'll see a pair of 6.5-inch bass units with a large voice coil, specifically designed to be used in compact infinite baffle enclosures. They flank a ribbon tweeter, said to be the same as that used by the high-end Burmester B99 floorstander.

Badge

The company logo is badged in gold beneath, duplicating the metallic stamp on the grille's cover. The rear of the loudspeakers sports a single pair of heavy duty binding posts. There are two cabinet mounting holes, top and bottom of the enclosure.

While their audiophile status doesn't immediately conjour images of them partnering a TV, we can't help but feel these Robsons would eminently suit a larger room, sat either side a 65-inch 4K panel - now that would be an audiovisual partnership of unusual eloquence.

Robson Acoustics Chronos loudspeakers: Performance
The performance of the Chronos speakers, not to put too fine a point on it, is superb. The Hi-Vi Research drivers are impeccably smooth, and the spatial imaging available is extraordinary. The ribbon tweeters complement the bass drivers, exhibiting immense air and space. At times it's as if the boxes themselves had disappeared. The ribbons' grain-free sweetness is brought sharply into focus with String Quartet No 16 in F Major 11, by the Belcea Quartet, a 24-bit/96kHz Linn download. The speakers keep the soundstage clear of confusion, with each instrument distinctly rendered, musicians spread wide.

Although we measured these speakers down to 31.5Hz, most of their sonic energy is dispersed between 50-100Hz, resulting in an outstanding vocal performance. The Chronos positively revel in the burr of Admiral Fallow vocalist Louis Abbott, as heard on The Paper Trench (from Tree Bursts in Snow), a 24-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download from Linn Records, while the percussive jazz of Alyn Cosker confirms the speakers to be both tight and fast. Straight Through Boogaloo (24-bit/96kHz FLAC from Linn Records), has wonderfully precise imaging, with guitar picked dead centre and locked solid.

While the ribbon tweeters shine like diamonds, the speakers still reach low and deep. Cascada's club anthems pump and thump like a deranged neighbour. Given just how shallow the enclosures are, the amount of air they can move is nothing less than phenomenal.  

They also appear unusually sensitive for such large enclosures, and are easily driven; this should allow integrators a great deal of freedom when it comes to partnering kit. Don't be shy on the amplification. These speakers can handle a huge amount of volume without any sense of distortion or contraction.

Having established their credibility as hi-fi speakers, we then integrated them into a 5.1 system, acting as the left/right speakers partnered with a fleet of Definitive Technology Reference in-walls. The Super Audio CD release of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, in an 88.2kHz 5.1 mix, proved revelatory; although not a conventional soundstage (a consequence of mixing and matching different brands and speaker designs), but one that shows the finesse of the Robsons off a treat.  A symphony of a different kind was heard with the opening to Fast & Furious 6. This scene setter is high octane tarmac torture of the finest order, and the Robson's never lost control.

Although we employed them up front, integrators could, of course, relegate the Robson's to surround duties - nothing wrong with that if the budget allows. After all you can always do the weekly shop in a Porsche. Alternatively, they can be matched with Robson's Stella picture speakers.

While intended for on-wall use, it transpires the Chronos also make fearsomely good near field monitors (toe them in slightly), thanks to their prodigious power and imaging. If you are specifying a media space, mixing room or studio, they are solid contenders.

Ribbon

Robson Acoustics Chronos loudspeakers: Verdict
From their agreeable dimensions to their fabulous sonic imaging, Robson Acoustics' Chronos are real thrillers. The ribbon tweeters (pictured above) sound crisp and precise, with unfeasibly smooth bass drivers providing expansive support. It's not always possible to specify audiophile grade loudspeakers as part of an AV CI install, because the form factor typically doesn't fit; the Chronos, however, break the mould. These loudspeakers offer a no compromise performance that doesn't place a tax on space. Factor in the sheer variety of finishes and bespoke options offered by the manufacturer, and you have a very unique proposition. Robson Acoustics Chronos speakers come highly recommended.  

The Robson Acoustics Chronos speakers are available now
Retail price: £1,300 each
For more visit the brand online at www.robsonacoustics.co.uk.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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