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Cabasse La Sphere: US$176,000 speaker system is a giant feat of audio engineering

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August 17, 2009

Cabasse La Sphere speaker system

Cabasse La Sphere speaker system

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French company Cabasse has redefined the notion of high-end loudspeakers with the creation of a speaker system that costs almost as much as a base model 2009 Ferrari F430. But for your UK£108,000 (US$176,000), you're buying a monumental engineering achievement - the world's only four-way, point source speaker system (more about that after the jump). This audio perfectionist's dream required a spherical enclosure - which means you also have to accept the fact that two giant, ugly eyeballs on sticks will be watching you enjoy some of the best audio reproduction, sound staging and stereo imaging the world has ever experienced.

4-way point source... huh?

Cabasse claims that its La Sphere speaker system is the world's first and only 4-way coaxial point-source loudspeaker. That's lovely - but what does it mean?

Well, 4-way speakers, as most would be aware, are speakers that use four separate cones to replicate the breadth of the audio spectrum. A large 'woofer' cone handles the bass, using a big vibrating membrane to push the large amounts of air needed to get a rich bass sound. A small 'tweeter' cone handles the delicate high frequencies, and two more cones are dedicated to low and high mids.

Imagine a tall speaker box with those four speaker units in it, arranged with the tweeter at the top, and the woofer down the bottom. Now, imagine what happens to the sound waves that come out of those four speakers. You can think of each of those speakers as a point in a perfectly flat pool of water, and you can visualise sound waves as if you're dropping four stones into the water right at the centre of each of those speakers.

With four separate points, you'll find the sound wave ripples will almost immediately get very confused as they cross over each other and the waves interact. But if you drop a single stone into a flat pool of water, the waves will reach the edges undisturbed. The same principle applies perfectly to sound waves as well - 4-way speakers with multiple point sources for the sound produce messy and confused signals as they reach the ear.

If, however, you can arrange all your speaker cones in such a way as to place each cone's centre of wave propagation at exactly the same infintesimally small mathematical point in space, you can produce clear, undisturbed soundwaves that reach the ear without multiple-point source interference. The effect is increased clarity and more accurate sound representation - as well as better "imaging" - or placement of the sounds in stereo space.

So you can appreciate the technical and mathematical challenges involved in building a speaker that mounts four separate cones for accurate representation of the frequency spectrum - positioned in such a way as to have a unified sound emanating from a single point source.

La Sphere

Cabasse achieved this lofty goal by mounting the coaxial speaker cones in a spherical enclosure around 28" in diameter. Theoretically, a spherical shape allows an infinite number of membrane diameters within it that can push sound out from a single point.

Practically, it's very expensive to achieve, as evidenced by the stratospheric price tag the speakers carry - 108,000 UK pounds, or roughly US$176,000. This accounts not only for the massive R&D task and long hours of mathematical modeling it took to design La Sphere, but also for the expert installation service and the no-compromise materials used in construction - many of which are usually more at home in aerospace programs. Learn more about the speakers' construction at the Cabasse website.

Cabasse claims that La Sphere delivers perfectly linear sound response right up to 25,000Hz - well above the generally accepted 20,000Hz ceiling limit for human hearing, and reviews have generally been very positive about the sonic experience they can deliver. You'd hope so - in ordering a pair, you're sacrificing a pretty amazing sum of money.

And it has to be said, while the spherical shape is absolutely necessary in order to achieve the system's sonic goals, La Sphere would look like two enormous webcams peering at you in your listening room. It's hard to imagine them blending in with the decor. A system for incredibly rich, blind audiophiles, perhaps?

Either way, La Sphere is an astronomical engineering achievement and a monument to sonic purity, linearity and uncompromising commitment to a single point source. The question remains - what musical recordings would be worthy of such a system? I need some new listening material - let me know in the comments below!

La Sphere will get its first public showing in the UK at the upcoming National Audio Show, 26-27 September, Whittlebury Hall, near Silverstone.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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8 Comments

As the article says, co-axial point-source speakers are mind-blowing in putting each instrument in its own space. Very realistic sounding. But the technology has been in use for decades. KEF has some nice point-source speakers.

For DIY folks, check out this link and use the dollar difference to buy the rest of the system. http://www.commonsenseaudio.com/paudio.html

Facebook User
18th August, 2009 @ 06:27 am PDT

So ... if I have this right: the 176,000USD speakers using point source technology will be precisely able to reproduce the sound of a 100 piece symphony orchestra and exactly replicate the original crossed-over, confused, and interacted sound waves eminating from 100 different instrument locations and impacting the point recording microphone?

Wow - that is good news. I think. Too bad I have 50 dollar ears.

Andrew MacPhee
18th August, 2009 @ 08:11 am PDT

Uh, thanks. I'l stick with Bose. At least I don't need a mortgage for that.

Roderick Bertrand
18th August, 2009 @ 08:47 am PDT

Bose...

LMFAO

Andrew Robinson
18th August, 2009 @ 09:20 pm PDT

$176,000? Get a pair for every room!

Steve Henderson
19th August, 2009 @ 07:21 pm PDT

This is way too expensive to even fathom buying. 176000 USD. For some speakers. If I was ever in a situation in which I had to choose between a Ferrari and those speakers, I would definitely pick the Ferrari. Not that it's a bad invention but, 176 GRAND? HAHAHAHA

Derek Johnson
31st May, 2010 @ 11:12 pm PDT

You guys need to also realize that these have a completely linear flat response up to 25khz. That's over and under the limit on the human hearing range. There is also no phase cancellation, etc. This is the first speaker to ever accomplish this. This is the Ferrari of speakers. If you would rather buy a Ferrari, then audio isn't your dream. If I had the money for one or the other, I would definitely pick the speakers over the car because this produces exactly what the recording plays. Frequency by frequency exactly as the bits in the recordings. The level of distortion is also under most audiophile headphones at almost .03%. That means no matter what it plays, the audio will never be audibly distorted. This is exactly as the CD sounds. Plus, when they set up the system in your home, these speakers will also be tweaked for that room. Plus, if you had the money to afford these, the room you are placing them in is probably perfect as well. These in the perfect room is a audiophiles wet dream come-true.

Jus sayin'

=D

Kristoffer McElhaney
22nd August, 2011 @ 07:30 pm PDT

I like the "I can't afford them speakers" for several reasons.

1. If we go to high end audio stores/shows, we get to listen to them for basically free or for very little money.

2. If we get a chance to listen to them, it gives us a better idea of what great audio is, so we can try to get close to that with less money.

3. We have something to dream about (which is free), so if by chance we get the money to afford them, then we can buy them.

4. That technology gets filtered down to the masses or lower price points so it eventually becomes affordable.

People that hate these ultra expensive speakers just seem to be jealous because they can't afford them, or just don't understand why they sound as good as they do, or simply don't have trained ears to hear subtle differences in audio products.

My favorites are MBL, but I haven't heard these, so I can't comment on them. They are a little strange looking, so by that alone, I probably won't buy them if I did have the money. I don't mind strange, but these definitely looking like an eye ball and that's not something of interest to me. But I'm sure some ophthalmologists might be lining up to buy them. There are many of them that do have the money and probably would love having big eye ball looking speakers in their home.

RichDavis
27th December, 2013 @ 10:39 am PST
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