SB Acoustics is not a familiar name to many Audiophiles although they are one the largest OEM speaker suppliers in the world. A collaboration between Danesian Audio of Denmark and Sinar Bajar Electric in Indonesia, SB Acoustics brings affordable and technologically advanced speaker drivers to the market by marrying the considerable design experience of Danesian and Sinar Bajar's 27 years of transducer manufacturing.
Manufacturing in Surabaya, Indonesia would result in certain cost efficiencies, and the lucky beneficiaries are cash-strapped audiophiles like you and I ! It's well worth to have a look at the factory visit done by AudioXpress to find out more about their manufacturing quality (Link here).
The Ara is sold overseas as a kit, but available in Singapore in fully assembled form. My review sample came in Gloss White, and has a visually interesting cabinet, with a chamfered corner (mirror-imaged for each pair), and a backward tilt of about 7 degrees which time aligns the drive units. The cabinet is very well made (18mm thick MDF panels), with a single pair of sturdy binding posts and magnetically attached protective grills - no DIY or homemade looking kit here.
The Ara is a bass-reflex design with a rear port with a flared opening. The standard Ara kit comes with the Ring Dome Satori TW29R tweeter and Satori MW16P-4 woofer. An option is also available to swap out the tweeter for the top-of-the-range Satori Beryllium tweeter. The crossover circuits are slightly different though, so it would be best that you make your selection at the outset.
The speaker crossover is a 12 element design and comes fully assembled on a PCB that fits at the bottom of the cabinet. Crossover parts are decent, with all capacitors being Jantzen cross cap, save for a single electrolytic capacitor. The large inductors are air-core, while sand-cast resistors are used throughout. Those handy with a soldering iron are free to swap components, but limited space will necessitate some creative mounting for some over-sized aftermarket capacitors.
The Ara's specifications are as follows :-
Nominal Impedance : 4 ohms
Sensitivity : 87 dB
Frequency Response : 45 - 25000 Hz +/- 3 db
Crossover point : 3000 Hz
Recommended power : 40 - 150 watts
My own experience suggests that you need a fairly powerful amplifier to drive these speakers. The best amplifier match for these speakers in my room was the Mivera Audio Purepower-Icepower 1200AS2-2 amplifier, which delivers 700 watts per channel into 4 ohms.I preferred this match compared to my usual Conrad Johnson ART monoblock amplifiers. The Mivera was driven directly from my Totaldac DAC using digital volume control.
The Ara was set-up on 24 inch Partington Dreadnought Broadside stands, and placed in open space with minimal toe-in. The fairly long footprint (388 x 190 mm) of the Ara would probably require you to have a customised top plate for maximum stability.
Any worries that the Ara kit would sound anything less than a finished commercial product were quickly put to rest after my initial listening sessions. The Ara is a very pleasing and easy going speaker, that combines a smooth tone with a detailed sound. You get a seamless presentation with very good integration between the two drive units. The Ara resists a common trend in bookshelf speaker voicing - a mid-bass hump and tipped up treble. Instead, you get very civilised and even behaviour throughout the frequency range.
The Satori drivers used in the Ara are from SB Acoustic's flagship range and offer remarkable performance for the money, even exceeding the performance of some other more expensive drive units I have used previously. No surprise then that the Satori has also been used by a number of leading audiophile speaker manufacturers.
To be continued ...