Including the words 'iPod speakers' and 'audiophile' in the same sentence may invite cries of "Blasphemy!" from purists, but the Eclipse TD 307PA redefines what small speaker systems are capable of. A far cry from the weedy aspirations of PC surround-sound packages, the Eclipses are acoustically transparent reference monitors in the smallest package we've ever seen.
Don't assume it's only the sociopolitical elite who'd be interested in a £400 pair of desktop speakers. The Eclipse speakers could make a very satisfying investment for anyone who wants the most refined sound currently available from a discreet, stylish speaker cabinet. They are also supplied with a stereo amplifier and high-grade speaker wire. (The PA in the product name refers to this package; the TD 307 speakers alone are available as a pair for around £260.)
Fujitsu Ten, manufacturers of the 307s, claim that the Eclipses produce a sound that is religiously faithful to the original waveform. It's an interesting approach and sets it apart from other consumer speaker companies -- most aim for a 'complimentary' rather than accurate sound. These speakers are more like the reference monitors that professional studios use to mix music. Bedroom musicians and demanding music fans could well find there's no turning back after auditioning a pair.
Given that most iPod music is compressed in MP3 format -- hardly the gold standard for audiophiles -- do we think you can justify the Eclipse TD 307PA simply to listen to your music collection on?
There's no getting away from the fact -- these speakers are gorgeous. From the highly-polished black gloss of the cabinet chassis, to the lithe splendor of the tripod mounts, they scream good taste and a respectable upbringing.
They look rather like dinosaur eggs, but with the front sheared off and a small speaker mounted in the hollow. The Eclipses' design is apparently not some flamboyant designer's folly, but the result of an extremely complex series of mathematical calculations that determined this egg shape was acoustically neutral -- it had little effect on the waveform produced by the speaker cone.
All this technical nonsense is extremely appealing to the scientists among us, but what you're dying to know is how these speakers sound in comparison to a £9 pair of old squealers off eBay. The answer is: fantastic. Tone and definition reaches far beyond what we've heard from other speaker units. In comparison to the excellent Altec Lansing inMotion iM7s, for example, the Eclipses are refined and subtle, where the IM7s are capable but brash.
Tracks like Ryan Adams' Rescue Blues had a presence and clarity that was very impressive given that we were auditioning playback from an MP3 source. In fact, we could tell very little difference between this and other live recordings played through the three-way speakers on our reference system. The Eclipse TD 307s are single-coned, which makes their range and accuracy especially impressive.
Though heavier tracks like Nirvana's Lithium lacked clout on the Eclipses (mainly on account of the lack of low-end), the high-end showed detail that we've rarely heard in this recording. To really take advantage of the 307s you may want to add a sub, but even without this, the listening experience has good definition and a discernible stereo image. You could almost point to where each instrument stands in the mix.
Casual listeners may find that their enjoyment of music is not massively enhanced by the Eclipse TD 307s. They tend to reward concentrated listening in a position directly in front -- in the speakers' 'sweet spot'. Though they're quite forgiving in comparison to other speakers in this respect, the best experience is to be had when focusing on the music.
We'd find it difficult to recommend the Eclipses specifically for parties and gatherings. Though they are impressive in this role, you would gain the same general effect from a less expensive unit, like the iM7s we mentioned earlier, which are around half the price. The message is fairly clear: the Eclipse TD 307PA is aimed at an audience who expects great things from an extremely small package. Audiophiles will love these, while clubbers should probably save their money.
From our first listen it was clear that these speakers deliver something very special. The Eclipse TD 307s are a rare breed indeed: iPod speakers that sound like full-size professional hi-fi speakers. Both the build quality and sound output demonstrate that a lot of thought and careful engineering has gone into this product. If there was a speaker system worthy of the iPod's grand aspirations, this is it.
Because the Eclipses use a generic 3.5mm stereo jack, you're not restricted to iPod use. Professional musicians may find the speakers make an impressive accessory to a live show, while others will find a home for them in the studio. As a transparent all-rounder with looks to boot, the Eclipses are hard to beat.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide