Eclipse TD-M1

Hardware Review

Eclipse TD-M1
Thursday, November 13, 2014
airplay loudspeaker
Jason Kennedy

Small is beautiful. This elegant Japanese desktop proves that size need not limit musical enjoyment nor aesthetic style.
Desktop speaker systems take many forms but none as elegant as Eclipse’s ovular TD-M1. Not only does it have looks but it ticks all the boxes as far as audio technology is concerned too: active drive from an onboard amplifier, Airplay wireless operation, NOS (non oversampling) high resolution DAC and a single drive unit for maximum coherence. I first heard this speaker at CES in Las Vegas and all it took was a few bars to let me know that here was something special. It’s not everyday that I tidy my desk to make space for a loudspeaker system, in fact this was the first such occasion, and thus a momentous one.

Sound
I normally run a desk top system (AudioZone Pre-T1, Russ Andrews PA-1 and Tom Evans FR1 as it happens) but it sits above the computer monitor on a shelf, slightly above head height which would not have worked for the Eclipse so changes had to be made. The TD-M1 has a clever system for adjusting and fixing the angle they sit at and this allows for three positions, but firing downward is not one of them, so the space was made. I put them either side of a 27inch iMac and connected them up with AudioQuest Cinnamon USB cable.

The first thing that hits you with the TD-M1 is the scale and realism of the image, they produce sound of at least the same scale as the monitor, so if you’re watching something on YouTube the sound and picture become one. It’s quite uncanny really that something so small can create such a big sound, they’re 24cm high but the round shape and slim stand make them seem smaller. With most speakers even if you close your eyes it’s possible to establish where each one is, with these it’s not. The absence of a flat baffle means that sound escapes the speaker with tremendous ease and integrates into a strong stereo image. It would probably work better without the screen there because they get in the way, but then it wouldn’t be a desktop system in the full sense.

I played a range of material including quite a few streams from Soundcloud where If You Crump Stand Up by edIT proved very engaging, although I’ve no idea what it takes to “crump”. I do know that the Eclipse deals with that style of ‘broken’ electronic beats with ease.

This isn’t the most powerful speaker system on the planet but it’s extremely sophisticated and fast, timing is very good thanks to the single driver and its partnering electronics. Percussive music works really well as do voices, not least Serge Gainsbourg’s on his exquisite Melody Nelson album, you can almost smell the Gitanes on his breath, fortunately only almost! The more I heard the more I liked voices on these speakers, midrange is naturally their strong point so I guess this should be expected but it’s still a pleasant discovery, especially when using a low bit rate streaming source rather than high end separates.

Operation
The TD-M1 not only looks great but its control system is very slick too. There are touch controls for input selection and volume control, white lights indicate which source is selected and more white lights show volume level. Green and red LEDs indicate whether Airplay is coming in directly or over the network. It takes a bit of familiarisation to remember which light means what but you get there after a while. Settings include the option to the change to a standard rather than NOS DAC.

 

 

Technology
The NOS DAC is perhaps the most radical thing about this loudspeaker, it’s a technology that’s usually found in esoteric standalone digital to analogue converters. It’s usually built around another NOS, new old stock, DAC chips because there were no modern ones, but Eclipse has been working with a Wolfson WM8742 to get it working this way. What non oversampling means in practice is that the filtering element that most converters incorporate to keep out unwanted noise is eliminated, this on the basis that the frequencies involved are so high that they can’t be heard. Audio Note has been successful in using NOS in its high end tube DACs as has CAD, but neither are said to be capable of converting 24-bit/192kHz signals for which this Eclipse specced.

Single full range drivers have been a feature of Eclipse loudspeakers since day one, this not only gives them a certain style but it means there is no crossover inside. Any speaker with more than one driver has to have a crossover network of components to split the signal into bass and/or mid and treble and that network introduces distortion and sucks up power. They also introduce phase anomalies, variations in the timing of different frequencies, another form of distortion and a particularly difficult one to surmount. There is as ever a price to pay for all this and that’s the difficulty of delivering wide bandwidth, no single driver can do everything from low bass to high treble. But then again no desk top system can do that either, even those with a subwoofer don’t produce serious bass.

 

 

Eclipse speakers also inhabit compact cases that help the driver to disperse the sound, the absence of a flat baffle means that sound radiates directly out without travelling across to an edge where it will diffract. The drawback with this approach is that you lose sensitivity in the system, a speaker without a baffle has to work harder to produce the same volume level because sound is not reflecting off the baffle. The casework on the TD-M1 is polycarbonate but it hides what the company calls a ‘ground anchor’ which is a lump of zinc that’s attached to the rear of the driver and serves to inhibit its movement, stopping the whole case from vibrating along with he music in the process.

Conclusion
I was attracted to this speaker system because of the technology and the styling but come away from it slightly in awe of what Eclipse have achieved in such a compact and elegant design. It’s not powerful enough to use like a conventional speaker and amp set up unless you have a small room or don’t need high volume levels but as a desk top it’s excellent. The fact that it is Airplay ready is less of an issue for me but I can see this aspect being very popular with the ‘fanboys’ and am not surprised to see that the TD-M1 is in the Apple Store. It’s pricey for a desktop system but it’s a bargain if you want to hear fine detail, great voices and a mind blowing stereo image from beautiful a small scale system.

 

Specifications: 

Colour Available    white, black
Speaker Unit    Full range speaker with 8-cm cone
Method    Bass reflex box
Playbacj frequency    70Hz to 30kHz
Rated output    20W(T.H.D: 1%) *When one channel is operating
Maximum output    25W(T.H.D: 10%) *When one channel is operating
Harmonic distortion    0.08%(at 10W output, 1kHz)
S/N ratio    90dB or higher
Resolution    60dB or higher
Input    Wi-Fi, USB B(for PC/Mac), USB A(for iPhone/iPod touch), and analog(3.5mm stereo mini)
Input sensitivity    950mVrms(at 20W output)
Input impedance    10kΩ
Power consumption    10W
Standby power(during network standby)    2.7W
Standby power(during standby)    0.5W or less
Accessories    Grille x 2, AC adapter x 1, Power cable x 1, Antenna x 1
AC adapter
Input voltage    100V to 240V(50Hz/60Hz)
Output voltage    20V
Output current    3.6A
Outer dimensions (mm)    W132 x H31 x D54
Weight    About 400g
 

Price: 
£999
Manufacturer Details: 

Eclipse TD
T +44 (0)20 7328 4499
www.eclipse-td.net