Eclipse TD510Z MK2 Speakers Review
An Intimate Musical Experience
I had been itching to get my hands on a pair of Eclipse speakers ever since I my closed room demo with them at the Bristol Sound and Vision show 2018, where I met some of the team and made a very interesting video. I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review the TD510Z MK2. There is no substitute for getting a product in your own room and system and this is especially true with speakers.
The memory that stayed with me was the musical accuracy of the presentation, how the speakers and system transported me to another place because they engaged with me on a musical level. I didn’t realise at the time what was so powerful about this demo, but after about an hour of listening to TD510Z MK2 it was very clear to me, the speakers were giving me an intimate musical experience.
Unique Design Unique Sound
The Eclipse range of speakers are about as far from traditional as you can get and I don’t just mean modern traditional, I mean all speaker design traditions. Rectangle boxes, big horns, small horns the majority of speakers out there all have at least one thing in common. Eclipse have chosen to go a very different way with their speaker designs and for specific and good reasons.
The shape of the TD510Z MK2 looks like it would be more at home in a wind tunnel than in your average listening room, I think McLaren or Ferrari would be proud of the Eclipse design from an aerodynamics stand point. Despite just looking cool the shape of the speakers is a clever calculation that prevents the build up of standing waves inside the cabinet. It also cleverly prevents any diffraction occurring at the speakers baffle.
Extremely rare to see is the use of a single full range driver, there are obvious benefits to this such as not needing a crossover but there can be more drawbacks if its not done correctly. The 10cm custom driver used in the TD510Z MK2 is made from fibreglass, its rigid, light and its highly flexible rubber surround allows for very precise pistonic movement.
Even more Uniqueness inside
The Eclipse pursuit for speaker perfection continues as you look beneath the stunningly finished shell, the custom full range driver instead of being attached to the baffle, or bolted to the rear of the cabinet essentially floats in free air so that it is not attached to the cabinet. A cleverly designed Diffusion Stay holds the driver in a floating mechanism so that no vibration can pass from the driver into the cabinet and cause any colouration.
To get the most from the custom driver it must be driven correctly, the TD510Z MK2 has a custom designed magnet circuit that ensures a high magnetic flux density that creates a powerful magnet with an optimised voice-coil. Another unique feature of the speaker design is the Mass Anchor that is used at the back of the speaker to act as a ground, a mass sink to help stop the driver fast and ensure that ideal pistonic movement.
An improvement in the MK2 design is a 14% larger internal volume, this helps with the speakers frequency response but also with the back pressure of the driver improving the speakers impulse response.
Stand has a plan
The included custom designed Eclipse speaker stands are built for a purpose and with an impressive level of detail and they form an essential part of the speaker system. The speaker stands are solid and heavy being made from aluminium with extensive internal damping. The stands are pre assembled and come filled with irregular sized dry kiln sand ready to use.
On the underside of the large base are five 20m aluminium bullet shaped spikes. More exciting are the three steel legs mounted in the top of each stand. These have multiple uses, firstly they create a minimum point of contact between the speaker cabinet and the stand reducing the transfer of vibration. Combined with, you guessed it a unique and specially machined locking ring that tightens to a bolt built into the main speaker enclosure that holds the speaker cabinet and stand together and actually joins them as one solid unit. The speaker has a -10 to 15 degree angle adjustment built in, all possible because of how the speaker sits on the three steel legs. This is a very impressive and clever design and I am surprised we haven’t seen more speaker companies do something similar.
The sound of what’s not there
The TD510Z MK2 speakers have a retail price of £3840 for a pair, there are lots of speakers and competition in the sub £4k price range. Many of them will have more drivers, larger drivers, larger cabinets and will play louder, have more bass and create a more tactile musical experience than the Eclipse will. Its easy to assess speakers created to play music in this fashion, how big is scale of the images they create and how composed are they. The TD510Z MK2 are not designed to compete with speakers like this, Eclipse have focused on creating a speaker that is as musically accurate as possible, with the least colouration as possible and the resulting sound presentation is different. This type of presentation will either really resonate with the audiophile or potentially not depending on preference factors. This is not a criticism of the Eclipse speakers just my opinion as it is often the case when a company dares to do something different to the norm.
More work to set up
I approached the setup of the TD510Z MK2 with two targets in mind, I wanted to give them as much opportunity to demonstrate their main strengths to me in stereo imaging and create a sound stage with as much clarity and focus as they possibly could in my room.
I had some very good electronics to use with the Eclipse, I just added a Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler to my reference review system, this was feeding into my Chord Qutest DAC, up-sampling CD redbook from 44.1 to the full 705.4 and adding the 1 million taps to improve the transient clarity of the digital setup, ideal for these speakers. For amplification I used the McIntosh C47 preamplifier and McIntosh MC275 Valve Power amplifier, a great combination for clarity but also musicality.
For the speaker placement I decided to try something a little different, I know the best place in my room for the speakers to have the best bass response at the main listening position and I would normally place a pair of speakers here, for the best overall experience and least compromise. Instead I decided to pull the speakers more out into the room to allow more free space around and behind them to help with the perceived, psycho-acoustic effects of stereo image depth. I knew this would affect the bass performance of the speakers but it was a compromise I decided to make.
I toed in the speakers very aggressively to point them pretty much straight at me and set the angle of them again straight at my ears, so I was sitting very on axis to the driver. I decided on this setup after trying a few different options as I felt it gave the overall sonic presentation the most clarity compared to when I was sitting more off axis or having the speakers set to a different angle. I can see other audiophiles preferring a softer less analytical sound which I could have achieved by adjusting the speakers angle and or toe in. Having that extra level of adjustment is a fantastic tool but does mean a bit more time and work is required when setting the speakers up, I think this is important to consider if you book a demonstration of the Eclipse speakers. Pay attention to their angle as well as their toe in and adjust it to get the sound that best suits you as before you start the demonstration. Some literal hands on time with the speakers will also be a good thing for the audiophile to experience the Eclipse excellent build and materials quality.
Dirac Live huge benefit (as always)
I measured the speakers frequency response as part of the Dirac Live process, the measurements are an average across 9 positions surrounding the main listening position and as you can see my setup of them resulted in a pretty flat frequency response from around 200hz to about 17khz before any correction. Using Dirac I was able to remove the peak around 1khz( I could have probably moved the speakers as well to reduce it) but if we forgive that peak the Eclipse were giving me fantastic translation from mid range to around the high frequency point where an adult’s hearing stops.
When you combine this with the excellent impulse response you can see below we can see the Eclipse engineers have done a great job in these two very important areas, the design choices they have made work, these are fast speakers.
Bass is an important focus area
The TD510Z MK2 have a small enclosure and a 10cm (4inch) driver and I was therefore not expecting serious bass extension or output. You can see from the Dirac Frequency response graphs that the speakers are rolling off from about 200hz where I placed them in my room, but look how smooth they roll off. That smoothness is very important for the integration of a subwoofer and Eclipse sell an accompanying subwoofer the TD520SW
In this setup the Eclipse 5 series subwoofer would have been ideal for complimenting the TD510Z MK2 and filling in all the bass octaves, the Eclipse subwoofers are designed to technically compliment their speakers by being fast, uncoloured and also with a great impulse response. This should fill audiophiles with confidence that the Eclipse subwoofers are a high fidelity subwoofer and in no way a compromise in performance. I hope to have one in for review in the future and in hindsight should have reviewed the subwoofer as well this time.
For the purpose of this review without a subwoofer I used Dirac Live to adjust the sound and boost the bass output from the speakers to achieve a more perceived full range sound. This is not an approach I would take long term as an owner, I would add an Eclipse subwoofer but it worked just fine for this review and demonstrated to me what the TD510Z MK2 are capable of in this regard.
Settling in for a listening session
The strengths of the Eclipse speakers were pretty obvious straight away, they present a very clean and clear sound stage from left to right that is fast, detailed and focused. For some reason my initial reaction to their sound was to play many typical audiophile songs from my collection as if this music deserved to be played back on such an uncoloured speaker system. Two performance strengths stood out to me in particular, the first was the vocal clarity and quality.
Vocals were presented a little softer than I am used to but more natural and definitely with less artifice getting in their way. Vocal presence is something I pay particular attention to, possibly because I record my own voice a lot and I like a solid vocal, but listening to the Eclipse speakers had me doubting my preference in this regard. How much of the vocal presence is actually the speakers colouration of the sound because when its removed vocals are presented in a different way.
You can tell from the above and below song demonstration videos that the TD510Z MK2 presented all manner of vocalists with fantastic clarity with each singers different singing personality being presented perfectly.
This is a very interesting topic and audiophile bone of contention for an audio systems presentation – can you have too much transient clarity, is a sharp and crisp leading edge of notes natural or too bright? I have been thinking about this a lot recently after spending time with the different Chord Electronics DAC’s and getting a true understanding of what separates them. This has changed my preference, I would say my understanding of what constitutes good / better audio system performance with transient clarity very much a defining factor of good audio. Its no good if the DAC can do it if the speakers can’t.
Transient clarity and clarity in general is another of the obvious strengths of the TD510Z MK2 in fact I would assume it was one of Eclipse main focuses when designing the speaker range. Perceived transient clarity can be softened by colouration and we know the lengths Eclipse have taken to prevent colouration in their speakers. The leading edges of notes are clean and clear with the TD510Z MK2 but the overal presentation is slightly softer and more relaxed than with other speakers for the most part. The TD510Z MK2 never shout at you, even after you turn the volume past where you should, they just don’t present music that way, yet they still have fantastic transient clarity, its not softened. That is a very clever balancing act that will either really appeal to the audiophile or seem like something is missing to another who craves a sharpness to their presentation
Musical Insight and engagement
I find very good audio quality to be completely engaging, it grabs my attention and draws me in and often I cant hold a good conversation as my attention is focused on the music. I found the musical presentation from the TD510Z MK2 very engaging but for different reasons to my norm. Normally I am taken by the size and clarity of the phantom images speakers create across a sound stage or often by the physical impact the music has on me. The Eclipse speakers didn’t do either of those and yet I found myself concentrating on other things, such as the tone of instruments. I am not from a musical background, I haven’t played in a band or orchestra and I am not seeking that level of musical insight in an audio system, however for those audiophiles who are I think they would really appreciate this aspect of the Eclipse sound quality.
Its not all serious, there is some fun there too
Throughout the review and throughout the song demonstration videos I tried to listen and record as many different styles of music as possible. I started with your typical audiophile cliche and worked my way through a whole variety of music. I am aware that speakers such as these Eclipse could appear as music analysis tools, for those who care more about the type of instrument recorded than just kicking back and enjoying the musical experience. That is why in the last song demonstration video I deliberately chose a fun song, with all manner of sound effects and more. There is no doubting for music like this big bopping bass is fun and adds to the overall impact of music and that is missing. However despite that Indeep’s Last Night the DJ saved my life was still a hell of a lot of fun played through the TD510Z MK2 and I actually found the clarity and insight into the production of the song really enjoyable to sit and appreciate.
The Eclipse TD510Z MK2 speakers are not going to be for every audiophile, either from a visual styling or sonic presentation because they are different. I do think all audiophiles will be very impressed with the speakers once they literally get hands on them. The build quality and materials used fill you with huge confidence that they are a quality, well engineered product. I hope my review also helps to give audiophiles an insight into the design choices Eclipse have made to achieve a speaker system that is fast, detailed, un-coloured and insightful with excellent transient clarity but relaxed nature.
Are the Eclipse TD510Z MK2 the speakers for you? That is the million dollar question and I can half answer it now for you. If you want a speaker that plays big and loud, that creates big scales of sound and gives you a visceral experience the Eclipse will not be for you. If you want musical accuracy, musical insight, to be engaged with the music but have it presented to you and never at you then these Eclipse are very much for you. I would guess a lot of audiophiles sit somewhere in the grey middle area. As audiophiles we are naturally greedy creatures and will probably want it all but as we know that never happens with audio, not even at this price point or above for that matter.
My recommendation to every audiophile who feels unsure and are shopping for speakers around the £4k price tag is to go and listen to the Eclipse TD510Z MK2 because they have the power surprise and seriously impress with their strengths and could easily be the perfect speakers for you. Only each audiophile will know if the Eclipse tick just the right boxes for them, I think that will always be the case when you dare to be different. It would be easy for audiophiles to discount them for what they don't appear to have or do, but that is completely missing the point of them, its what they don't have that could be what the audiophile ends up loving the most
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential