This is really different
Stig Carlsson was a Swedish sound engineer who dedicated his career to the beginnings of what he called Orto Acoustics. His first patent dates from 1953 and he already showed his ideas: a loudspeaker that interacted with the walls and ceiling of the listening room. In the mid-1980s he began to collaborate with John Larsen, studying in detail the relationship between direct sound and reflections. They began to make prototypes and models of loudspeakers and in 1995 Larsen founded his own brand, just two years before Carlsson passed away (1997) at the age of 72.
Larsen continued to produce loudspeakers according to the “Carlsson Ortho Acoustic” principle for another ten years, and when he thought of leaving it the growing demand did not leave him: this is how the current range, the Larsen 4, 6 and 8, was born since 2009, and recently the new Larsen 9 higher end. Always under the same principles: good quality / performance ratio (far from the increasingly common pursuit of luxury in this hobby) and with unique acoustic characteristics that we will soon see. But this is the important thing: the Larsen are speakers designed to be attached to the wall (yes) and occupy the minimum in the room. We have tested the intermediates in the range, the Larsen 6.2, just between the 4 and the 8 (as I said the new 9 are a little full stop although with identical principles).
I go with the standard description of the boxes, although as we will see the important thing goes far beyond the review of its technical sheet. The Larsen 6.2 are very discreet column boxes: barely 75 centimeters high with an almost square base (by 23 cm wide and 26 cm deep), which when you put them against the wall (that is how they should go) practically disappear. Although there are several colors, let’s say normal (white, black and three woods), Larsen paints the boxes to order with the desired color code if we want them to match the wall: in that case they virtually disappear from view.
They are two-way boxes and bass-reflex output (something particular) with high-end Scanspeak speakers. It’s actually the biggest difference from the old original Larsen 6s: the 6.2s mount the speakers used in the higher priced Larsen 8s. This is a soft dome tweeter and 7-inch loudspeaker with a treated paper cone, mounted on the top and directed at an angle upwards and in the center (the boxes are symmetrical and not equal, that is one is “right” and the other “left”). With them and the filter used, Larsen declares 88 dB of sensitivity (in my somewhat optimistic experience, it should go rather around 84-85 seeing the volume that I needed) and a friendly impedance with any amplifier (8 ohms). One piece of information that already reveals something different is the frequency response: bass below 30 Hz.
The filter supports bi-wiring and is on the top (rear) of the case. In that upper part the boxes are open but they have different absorbent materials to control dispersion, for example a felt attached around the tweeter in its upper part that prevents it from radiating towards the wall. At the back there is an opening that leads into the internal cavity of the loudspeaker (the “reflex” output, although it is designed to tune into the wall). A small triangular grille covers everything quite discreetly in front, but I must point out that the overall finish of the boxes, and in particular that top part, is not very well finished aesthetically. In their favor, say that as they are designed to go somewhat apart (attached to the back wall) and are short and small, they do not stand out much.
We do not know in detail the principles on which the Acoustic Ortho concept is based, but it works! Let’s remember how to place these boxes: glued to the back wall, and glued is “glued”, at most one or two centimeters of space for the skirting board or for the used cable (perhaps the filter should be further inserted to avoid that). On the other hand, they recommend using the widest wall of the room, if it is rectangular, and to be able to be symmetrical (at the same distance from the side walls, at least 50 centimeters). The ideal listening point will be forming an equilateral triangle (the same distance from us to each box as between them) but in reality this is much less critical than with “normal” boxes.
The key to the matter consists of two factors: on the one hand, the reflex enclosure of the boxes is tuned to the wall to enhance the bass. These boxes have, as I mentioned above, a woofer of 7 inches each, in a box somewhat larger than a monitor, but they could reproduce notes below 30 Hz as the same brand advertises. With more extension than impact, if anything, but with a totally unexpected presence of such small boxes. On songs like the soundtrack to “Dark Knight” or the already very popular “Liberty”, if you don’t have those low notes you’re missing a lot of the music, the Larsen’s impress. Also with any rock or pop song, reviewing my favorites from Madonna or Dire Straits, or trying Metallica and other songs with drums that do not leave indifferent, these incredible Swedish boxes surprised with their “march”.
The bass is a factor, surely the one that will attract the most attention from the beginning and the most. But it is not the most important: the other is how the boxes play with the reflections on the ceiling and the side walls, avoiding those on the back wall (they are glued together but there is a lot of absorbent material to avoid radiating towards it). They play with these reflections and with direct radiation, so that a sound equivalent to the usual configuration of boxes reaches our ears, achieving the desired stereo effect: a wide and high scene, with depth, and with focus on the different virtual sources, such as that very important central point in which we usually locate soloists.
And that’s the way it is in practice: if the bass from the Larsen are surprising to begin with, it is no less surprising how they “paint” the music on the wall, even with a sense of virtual depth behind it. They really project a huge sound scene, larger than the physical size of the wall behind them, and the good news is that if we move from the listening point, the same stereo illusion remains practically intact. A remarkable acoustic effect is the incredibly real feeling that you have the musicians in the room. And I don’t mean sitting listening, but walking, moving through it, even standing: a jazz trio seems to be there playing “static” while one moves around the room, as if they were really there playing. It’s not something you remember from any other box, so realistically.
Regarding the sound profile, the Larsen are very pleasant to listen to: perhaps because the tweeters are not oriented directly to the listening position, or because they are designed that way, it is a warm sound although it does not lack details in high frequencies. They are supposed to be heard with the grilles on, but without them it seemed to me that they gained some detail, perhaps because of this: something important is that the ceiling should be “clean”, that is, without treatment (absorbent or diffuser) that would modify the reflections sound, as Larsen works with it (a bit like accessory “Atmos” speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling).
Its price is affordable with respect to its features (shame about finishes or aesthetics although it is linked to its functionality) and combined with the simple Linn Sneaky DS (network player with internal amplification) they formed a combination with which many would be more than happy. Raising the bar on amplification (better with transistors, like the capable Riviera Levante) showed that the cabinets have very high potential, although a single-end tube IC was also able to make them sound very good.
I didn’t know what to expect from such rare boxes but I accepted the challenge of trying them out, even though I had a hard time moving various pieces of furniture and changing my living room (and the system) temporarily. But already while I had them playing in the background “on the shoot” I realized that the Larsen are something special and that for a reason the brand continues to exist after many years in the market. What I do not understand is how they did not have imitators, because they really “work”: they do not take up space in the room, they project an unexpected sound scene (such as their capacity in bass) and to finish off their sound there are hardly any “buts”, much less at the price they have. They are at the top of my recommendation list for those friends who ask “what boxes do I put in the living room.”
+ Amazing sound with bass and scene equivalent to much larger and more complicated cabinets
+ Scene wide and high, even deep, and without a “necessary” optimal listening point
+ Warm sound profile but with realistic timbres and detail
+ Very easy and perfect positioning in shared domestic environment
– Low polished finishes
PVP: 2990 euros