Cabasse Antigua MC 170 HiFi Speakers REVIEW
I recently undertook a group test on nine standmount HiFi speakers to try and find the best affordable standmount speaker under £650
Reviewing, by its very nature, is a subjective thing and lots of factors can influence perceptions. In order to minimise the external influences, my listening room is heavily acoustically treated with panels from GIK acoustics to manage sound reflections and the rooms behaviour. To take this a step further I use DIRAC Live to manage the frequency response of the speakers I am testing to undo what negatives effects their placement in my room may have. I also take this one stage further utilising Dirac Live as a tool to get the very best sound from the speakers.
This is the last speaker I reviewed in this group test and in this review I will compare the Cabasse Antigua MC170 HiFi Speakers with all the group test speakers I have reviewed previously.
My initial reaction to the Cabasse Antigua MC170s is that they were a little unusual looking, perhaps more function over design. The tweeter, protruding from the mid-range driver reminded me of the ‘Eye of Sauron’, any Lord of The Rings fans out there will know what I mean.
Cabasse are known for making superb point-source spherical speakers and some of this technology is trickled down into the Antigua MC170. The midrange driver with the protruding tweeter is complemented with a bass driver making the Antigua Mc170 one of only two three-way speakers in the group test, the other being the Wharfedale EVO 4.2.
I found the Cabasse Antigua MC170s to be somewhat of an enigma speaker. Their in room frequency response showed me some oddities, that I could hear but wouldn't have predicted the speakers are designed like this to achieve it. In the main, the response curve is linear and smooth, with exceptionally good bass, but there is a large peak in the treble. The only other speaker in the group test to have a treble peak is the Bowers 606 but as you can see, the peaks are different in shape and frequency and as the listening tests proved sound too.
As I refer to the frequency response and the treble peak, this is a good place to start. You might expect the Cabasse to scream its treble at you given the response, but it doesn't. I could not find any information on it, but it looks like the Cabasse has a soft-domed tweeter in the Antigua MC170 similar in looks at least to that in the Q Acoustics 3030i. These two speakers make an interesting comparison, which I will explain later.
Compared to the Bowers 606 which features an aluminium dome tweeter you expect the Cabasse to have a sweeter treble (soft dome vs aluminium) but perhaps, the expense of some sharpness and liveliness. Soft-domed tweeters tend to sacrifice dynamics and airiness for a softer sweeter treble and this is the enigma with the MC170. The Cabasse Antigua MC170 are really lively, upbeat and forward ion their treble similar to how metal tweeters sound, but with sweetness and the rounded edges of notes like that of a soft-domed tweeter. I have not heard this blended characteristic from a soft-domed tweeter before. The treble delivery is definitely a stand out character of the Antigua MC170
If you like the Bowers 606 liveliness but find the treble hard then the Cabasse could be a good speaker to consider instead. Similarly, if you find the Wharfedale EVO 4.2 to be a little soft in the top end, the Cabasse may be a good alternative option to consider. A great contrast is the Klipsch RP600M. If you like the Klipsch bass, dynamics and upper frequency energy, but find the mid-range a little on the lean side, the Cabasse could again be a speaker to consider.
Moving on to bass, I was extremely impressed with the Cabasse delivery in this important area. I would say, without hesitation, that they deliver probably the best overall bass of any speakers in the group test. Perhaps not quite as punchy as the Klipsch RP600M and not as tight as some of the others but but there is a good amount of taught bass.
My custom DIRAC Live calibration dialled the bass into my room to be full and impactful and extended without any negative effects such as a thickening of the speakers sound. This is another speaker which delivers a small floorstander level and quality of bass which is always impressive from a standmount speaker. As I have mentioned in previous reviews and talk about a lot the right quality and quantity of bass is requires to act as a support for the rest of the sound to be built upon, in the case of the Cabasse which have a very lively top end the bass quantity adds the warmth that is required to balance the speakers sound.
Midrange and vocals are an interesting area, the Antigua MC170 has a big bass and a lively treble so there is danger of their presentation having a ‘V’ shaped sound and without my custom DIRAC Live calibration the Antigua did sound a little hollowed-out in the middle. The Cabasse were certainly not helped by the known acoustic issues in my room and this is why I use DIRAC Live and my calibration changed everything for the better and fleshed out the lower mid-range to match the frequency extremes and balance the overall sound.
Male and female vocals both sounded excellent, similar to the Klipsch, forward and present but the Cabasse are even-handed with their vocals. Not quite the best in the group test, but certainly up there, I place them somewhere between the Focal Chora 806 and the Wharfedale EVO 4.2. They are not as clean and crisp as the EVO 4.2 and are, perhaps, more on a par for quality with the Focal Chora 806, although more lively and dimensional, more similar to the Klipsch RP-600M in this regard.
The soundstage created by the Antigua MC170 is clean from top to bottom and left to right, not quite the best in the group, but up there. The treble presence from the soft-domed tweeter in the Cabasse speakers gives a fantastic sense of 3-dimensionality, without having to overly toe-in the speakers. Think of the Acoustic Energy AE300 and the Klipsch RP600M. The Cabasse is not quite as crisp sounding as these two speakers, but not far away. They are equally as big and engaging to listen to a listen as the Klipsch which is impressive.
The Cabasse Antigua MC170s tick a lot of the right boxes, but it wouldn’t be a complete review if I didn’t talk about any perceived negatives and there some, no speaker is perfect. I feel the MC170 timing could be a little better and they could slightly lose their composure with complex music, more of a niggle rather than major criticisms and major negative.
In this group test I have deliberately used neutral sounding electronics and I feel that the Cabasse may benefit from slightly warmer sounding electronics. With DIRAC Live, I toned down the overall treble some for a better balance of sound and for the sound to be a little less fatiguing at louder volumes, which is the equivalent of using warmer sounding components.
Although impressed with the overall delivery, I did notice a small amount of grain in some vocal tracks. Maybe Cabasse has accepted a slight trade-off of sweetness and smoothness for the impressive treble dynamics. It was difficult to know if this characteristic was the speakers reflecting some character of the system being brought out by the tweeter, I think more likely the former.
The last negative is build quality, I would place the Antigua MC170 between the Focal Chora 806 and Klipsch RP600M for build quality, not at the same level as good as the Acoustic Energy AE300, the Fyne Audio F500, SVS Primes and the Wharfedale EVO 4.2.
The cabinet is pleasantly curved and, uniquely in this test, the Cabasse Antigua MC170s have a metal grille, protecting the drivers in a see-through way.
Not perfect but The Cabasse Antigua MC170 offer a lot for £549, the same price as the Bowers 606.
The protruding tweeter, which I have likened to the ‘Eye of Sauron’ does not mean that they are the Dark Lord of this group, perhaps more the Dark Horse. They took me by surprise, and I didn’t expect to like them as much as I do, well done Cabasse for making an speaker that is a real enigma, in a good way
Style - Three-way rear ported box
Sensitivity - 88db/1m
Normal Impedance - 8Ω
Power handling - 75w
Peak Power - 550w
Dimension - 40 x 23 x 30cm
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential