The Hansen Audio Prince V2 speaker's liquid curves and physical presence demands respect--it all but shouts "this is very serious audiophilia," made for those with ears who appreciate the very best. Well, not just ears, but the means to indulge their vices. The 42 inch high speaker is small enough to fit in an apartment, at least an apartment with floors that can support the 540 pound weight of a pair of these $39,000 speakers.
Fellow Brooklynite Wes Bender, Hansen Audio's Senior Director and National Sales Manager, had me over to audition the speakers. Too bad he didn't have the top of the line King V2s that run $84K a pair, but if that's too rich for you, the Elixirs will set you back a mere $18K. So you see high-end audio is not so different than high-end cars... Lamborghini's new supercar, the Reventon is fourteen times more expensive then the fastest Corvette, but only a little bit faster. That wasn't a problem for Lamborghini, the entire production run sold out before the car was even built. Hansen Audio is likewise pushing the limits of what's possible in speaker design, and that's an inherently expensive proposition. Get over it.
Every aspect of these speakers' design was conceived with performance in mind, so that means not only are most of the drivers designed, engineered, and built in Hansen's Canadian factory; extraordinary efforts were expended on the speaker cabinets to better serve the sound. Which in the case of speakers, the best cabinet is the dead cabinet (acoustically inert), so the only sound you hear with Hansen speakers is the sound created by their drivers. Mass market speakers never get close to that ideal, their cabinets' "sing along" with the drivers, substantially coloring the sound.
The Hansen speakers' paint job also deserves special mention, it's the only element of the design not handled directly by Hansen. It's outsourced to a world famous luxury car manufacturer's factory in Toronto. Painting a pair of speakers takes five days and is a sixteen step process.
The "Hansen Composite Matrix" cabinet is a three-layer composite formulation (proprietary to Hansen) -- each layer is a different thickness from the other. Hansen's "Cloaking Device," the forth and final layer and is applied by hand to the internal cabinet. This sort of no holds barred design fanaticism is what separates high-end from mass-market brands, the drive to make the very best at any cost.
Sure, I've heard those claims before, but the proof is in the sound and Wes' system totally knocked me out. I played a ton of recordings I know well, and the sound consistently surprised me.
The Prince V2s sounded great cranked way up loud, and guitarist Larry Coryell's blistering fusion-jazz CD, "Traffic," kicked butt. I could feel the bass and drums locking in, the musicians trying to out bash each other, which added to the gripping power of the tunes, like Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso." This CD was recorded in a church in New York City (I was present at the session). With the Prince V2s I could hear the sound of the cathedral's acoustical space, the clarity and three-dimensional quality of the sound was that good.
Like many of the best high-end systems I've heard this one sounds equally great at soft, medium and max-ed out volume levels. It was mid afternoon so I went for the gusto, luxuriating in the full boogie, high decibel range, thoroughly enjoying the sheer power of the system. If you're into it, the Prince V2 can supply head hurting volume with ease.
Then Wes popped on Thom Yorke's "Eraser" CD, and its sharp as a tack bass transients made me sit up in my chair, wow, the system was taut as a drum.
Cat Power's take on the tune I mostly associate with Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York," powered by the biggest and baddest pounding drumkit and Keith Richards-ish guitar riffage were almost physical in their impact, I could as much feel the music as hear it. It was hard to sit still, but I didn't want to get up and dance in front of Wes.
The Prince V2 has a rock and roll heart, a rare feat for a high-end speaker. Some of the best speakers deliver detail and resolution by the boatload, but don't have much soul. The Prince V2, on the other hand, can get down and boogie like a real party animal. But at the same time somehow still satisfy my lust for audiophile sound. And that's with the mid-line Hansen, I wonder what the King V2 sounds like? It's good to be rich.