It’s hard to be a small standmounter at the best of times, but when you cost £10,900 it is trickier still. Who would be Raidho’s C1.1, a compact speaker that costs more than almost every large one? The only way it can justify its price is to sound absolutely exceptional in a good many respects – although even at this price it will not be beyond compromise. It is after all, a small box.
Inside the 25mm high density fibreboard cabinet, the two drive units are affixed directly to the rear face of the 20mm thick aluminium two-piece baffle, giving a very stable mounting for the drivers. The upper transducer is a bespoke, in-house planar-magnetic tweeter with a thin aluminium trace etched onto a diaphragm of mylar sheet. It gives lightning attack transients and low distortion, but is hard to integrate with a conventional moving coil mid/bass unit, not least because the latter is a good deal heavier. With this in mind, the mid/bass unit has a special 115mm ceramic coated coned of just 100-microns thick, with an aluminium base sandwiched between the coating.
These two drive units are divided at 3kHz by a second order crossover using bespoke inductors and capacitors built to high tolerances, set into the narrow (200x370x360mm) but sturdy (12.5kg) cabinet lined with natural sheep’s wool to damp standing waves. This is reflex loaded by a rear-facing port. The finish is – as you’d expect from a high end Danish design – superlative. Raidho customers can choose between a standard gloss lacquered paint finish in any available paint colour, or Walnut Burl (£1,300 extra). There’s also the option of a matching stand costing a whopping £1,595.
The C1.0 put Raidho on the world map for small, high quality loudspeakers, but this C1.1 gains an improved tweeter with a differently patterned high-frequency membrane for greater rigidity under load. The mid/bass unit gets an uprated former and double layered winding with new titanium voice coil, and the cabinet enjoys extra internal bracing. Outside, the bespoke speaker terminals replace the WBTs of the C1.0, and these lead to improved Nordost Odin wiring within.
The C1.1 just about pulls off the trick of justifying its vast price – and that is no small achievement. Here we have an exceptional small speaker, one that dissolves into the middle distance and letting the music shine through. First things first, and it has excellent bass; that ported cabinet is super-stiff and reins the bass in. It goes down as low as you would expect from a speaker of this size, but doesn’t trip over itself in so doing. It remains taut and tight and tuneful, and there’s no sense of a crude 100Hz bump being engineered in, to give it an apparently weightier sound – it’s even and honest.
Good news, but the midband is this speaker’s strength. Wonderfully open, in no small part thanks to the tweeter, it sounds very open and subtle, yet dynamic and engaging too. Soundstaging is excellent too, images hovering in space in an almost ethereal way and locked in position with great precision. Moving up and the treble is beautifully carried, with a beautifully silky hi hat sound for example, although it doesn’t sugar the pill. This little box has a light, bright, spacious sort of personality with a really open top end – cymbals sparkle out of the darkness, female vocals shimmer and electric guitars ring. You’d never call it ‘bright’, but it’s certainly not dull – you don’t get a sense of a cloth dome tweeter damping off the higher harmonics of the music, like a great big acoustic curtain. This makes it a joy with classical music, in particular.
Despite being highly entertaining to listen to, the Raidho C1.1 has a very self-depracating character. It does very little to the music it is asked to make, preferring instead to disappear out of the picture and present the whole, unvarnished truth. Of course, it’s a small standmounting design with limited low bass – you’d get better extension from practically any floorstander – but somehow this doesn’t intrude on the overall listening experience, as the speaker itself is so lyrical and lucid. It fizzes with energy, making the music sound as vivid as it has a right to. Whether you think that’s worth the asking price is up to you, but if you have got to the point of contemplating spending this much on small speakers, you must hear it.