Fujitsu Ten is a huge manufacturer of automotive audio with over four thousand employees and a vast wealth of electronic and mechanical engineering resources. It’s an ideal parent company for Eclipse TD, one of the world’s most quirky yet accomplished loudspeaker manufacturers. The ‘TD’ nomenclature stands for ‘Time Domain’, which is the absolute root of the company’s philosophy. Designer Hiroshi Kawaki says it approaches loudspeakers from a fundamentally different angle to everyone else, focusing on the time-domain performance rather than attempting to get a wide, even frequency response as first priority.
Whereas most loudspeakers are designed above all else, to cover a wide bandwidth, to be reasonably efficient and go loud, and have a flat frequency response, Eclipse speakers prioritise transient speed. This comes through ultra light drive units (which are exercised by the tiniest dynamic peak) with no crossovers to introduce phase distortion, and cabinets that have no overhang; they don’t store mechanical energy like a capacitor would electricity, only to release it later. From this, all else follows…
Indeed, if transient speed is your design priority, the speaker practically designs itself. It’s got to be full range (to remove the need for a crossover), it’s got to be smallish (to remove the need for an energy storing cabinet), and it’s got to have a very light and stiff cone (you can’t use a single ribbon or electrostatic panel because there’s not enough bass). You could go for a large cabinet or frame and use electrostatic panels or ribbons, but then you’ve got other issues to deal with, and life becomes a lot more complex, and then suddenly you’re diluting your original design brief. That’s why Eclipse has kept it simple.
The flagship TD712z was launched in 2004, and the revised mk2 version arrived in 2009 costing £5,100 per pair in silver, £5,400 in black. It has a 120mm full range driver with a fibreglass cone mated to a special, ultra flexible rubber surround, and a “huge” magnet behind. The 989x347x431mm egg-shaped cabinet is made from steel, zinc, aluminium and composites; the egg is the most rigid form known to nature, says Eclipse, and maximum rigidity means minimum cabinet flex. With no two radial surfaces in the same plane, it’s not a happy place for standing waves, and the internal zinc-alloy structure makes for a massively strong shell which is bolted to its matching stands to “earth all unnecessary energy” to the floor. An elaborate ‘diffusion stay’, a five–armed, cast zinc structure on the rear of the drive unit sends any residual energy down into the stand. A special ‘poron’ material is used to give an ultra strong seal between the driver and cabinet.
The ‘damped Wing Stand’ allows adjustment of up to 12 degrees upward, and is said to echo the design of an aircraft wing in the way it slices through the air, so as not to diffract the sound emanating from the speaker all around the room, it is claimed. It’s made from a combination of extruded and diecast aluminium, offering rigidity and internal damping via irregular sized, kiln dried sand. It has an unusual integrated spike and insulator foot arrangement, which further helps ground stray energy; the speakers can be moved without scratching the floor and adjustments can easily be made, and there’s a recess for cables built in. Total weight of one speaker and stand is 25kg.
The revised version of the 712 had a more powerful motor system for the drive unit with a more efficient magnet structure, a redesigned damping system for the driver surround, new high-density zinc internal components, a new design of coupling to the integrated stand and a cabinet that’s fifty percent larger in volume. The result was a speaker with a claimed “useable” frequency response of 35–26,000Hz; it’s notable that this is taken at -10dB points, at -3dB this is a different story. The speakers need a seriously powerful transistor amplifier for best results, because they’re not paragons of efficiency.
A number of recording studios use the Eclipse TD712z/2s as a sort of semi-near field monitor, pointing right at the sound engineers from behind the mixing desk. They’ll go loud, but still won’t drive really large rooms, so buyers would be running them in small to medium sized environments, and even here they’ll not be expecting huge swathes of low frequencies. There’s not an awful lot going on below 100Hz, whereas it’s the opposite state of affairs as far as the midband is concerned. However, this doesn’t mean shrill, as it’s of superb quality and that’s precisely what makes it so special. Whilst there is a sense that these speakers are ‘well lit’ there’s no sense of them being shrill. Instead, they use their withering intensity to shine a searching light on the mix, putting you right in the centre of the action. The effect is almost like wearing a pair of ultra high end headphones.
The midband is amazing in its way. Whilst not possessing great scale and power, it is blisteringly fast and lucid. Rhythmically the Eclipse is sublime, giving a heightened, otherworldly sense of the flow of the song, stringing vast tracts of information together in a wonderfully cohesive way. Vocals hang from the heavens with impunity; you get the sense that you can stand up and walk about the room where the recording you’re listening to was made. Spatially everything is so precise and accurately located, doubtless down to the brilliant transient speed which does so much to help the human brain recreate spatiality. You find yourself enthralled by the playing of the instrumentalists, and the fierce syncopations of the music. These loudspeakers cast an exotic spell over me, heightening the effect of every sinuous twist and turn of a song’s rhythms.
Tonally, you might call these large eggs a tad uninviting. The cone sounds distinctively dry and lends a certain sort of tonal patina to the proceedings which doesn’t quite ring true. But familiarity soon helps you ‘tune’ this out of the equation, and when you’ve got used to these loudspeakers’ distinctive personality trait, suddenly you’re into a world where the timing of the music is unlocked in a way hitherto almost never heard before. It does the same trick with the frequency extremes too; they’re limited more than most speakers – especially in the bass – yet still you end up listening to that wonderfully fast and immerse midband and forgive it everything else.
The Eclipse TD712z/2 singularly excels at making music magic; enthralling, gripping, compelling. Once you forget about traditional hi-fi notions of ‘deep bass’ and ‘sparkling treble’, you become a slave to the rhythm, and as the song says, it never stops the action. Not everyone’s cup of Japanese tea perhaps, but it’s true audio exotica all the same.