Eclipse TD510ZMK2 Loudspeaker Review
David Price says this expensive, exotic-looking egg-shaped loudspeaker won't be to everyone's taste – but some will love it…
AUD $7,800 RRP
“Design”, as Le Corbusier said, “is intelligence made visible” – or in the case of hi-fi, audible, I suppose. The art of creating a great loudspeaker is normally about reaching an ingenious compromise, or indeed a number of them. Most are built down to a price, size, shape, style and fashion. Manufacturers understandably want to sell as many as possible, so they usually aim for the mainstream – forsaking purist engineering solutions that deliver superior sound in favour of widespread appeal and economies of scale.
For example, most speaker designers clearly prioritise a full frequency response, so as to fully carry the bottom octave of a church organ or a Roland TB303 bass synthesiser. They also want efficiency, ease of drive, a wide soundstage, sparkly treble and so on – and in all fairness, there's a real art to delivering all of this in customer-friendly quantities. Yet instead of engineering most people's idea of a good loudspeaker – with the TD510ZMK2 – Eclipse TD has attempted to do its own vision of a great one. That means a transducer that excels in the time domain, able to reproduce the lightning-fast transients of music. Eclipse told me that, “to reproduce the sound accurately, you cannot ignore phase response. This is simply an impossible thing to reproduce after disturbing the sound signal by using a crossover network.”
This makes this small, single-driver speaker arguably the most focused design you can buy for £6,500. Whether or not you agree with its design aim, you have to congratulate it for being uncompromising in a sea of groupthink and risk-aversion. Its full-range drive unit is both this loudspeaker's greatest strength and its largest weakness. Such a teensy cone limits bandwidth, particularly bass extension. The company puts it at 42Hz to 22kHz, but this is at -10dB points – remember that standard practice is to quote at -3dB. Its dinky driver, plus the low internal cabinet volume and compact reflex port all make for a poor quoted sensitivity figure of 84dB/1w/1m. Factor in the claimed nominal impedance of 6 ohms, and you'll need a really gutsy solid-state amplifier to push this speaker hard.
Most companies simply wouldn't dare make a cheap speaker that measures like this on paper, let alone an expensive one – but this brand doesn't have to worry. It's basically a 'walk on the wild side' for its huge parent company Denso Ten. This car audio giant churns out vast quantities of electronics and loudspeakers for automotive use, and is even credited for producing the world's first car CD player for Toyota in 1983. This massive OEM has huge engineering resources compared to most speaker makers. Indeed, legend has it that the Eclipse-TD brand was created when Toyota started Lexus in the late nineteen eighties, and wanted an in-car audio manufacturer that also had a high end home audio brand to supply the sound systems. They couldn't find one, so Eclipse TD was set-up for precisely this 'halo effect'. Toyota remains a major shareholder, even today.
Eclipse loudspeakers have become a little more user-friendly over the years. Indeed this is the first 5-series model to feature an integrated stand, which effectively gives it the feel of the high-end TD712zMK2 that's 'shrunk the wash', so to speak. It looks almost as exotic and at least appears to be built as well as the company's top product, too. The 100mm driver sits in the distinctive egg-shaped ABS polymer cabinet that has special 'diffusion stay'. This is what Eclipse TD calls a “floating mechanism” that stops vibration being transmitted into the enclosure. A specially designed magnet is fitted, with a high flux density. To the rear of this, a mass anchor is fitted that's said to 'ground' the drive unit for perfect pistonic movement.
Designed by Kiyosei Shibata and Naoki Tokunaga, this latest MK2 version was launched in 2012. It is significantly changed from the original, with its 7.3-litre internal volume being 14% larger to improve power handling and efficiency. The profiled rear port is a third larger to smoothen airflow. The same egg-shaped form is retained, of course, said to help eliminate internal standing and diffraction waves generated at the front baffle edges. Another tweak is to the drive unit; it sports a light, stiff glass-fibre cone with flexible rubber surround, and the ferrite magnet's flux density is said to be 4.5% higher for improved impulse response, a wider frequency response and greater power. “As we all know, glass-fibre is the next perfect material to paper for the sound to be natural”, an Eclipse insider told me. Tinned annealed copper wiring is used, with a silicone rubber jacket to damp down vibrations.
The integral stand is made from a combination of extruded and diecast aluminium and filled with dense kiln dried sand to add mass and increase stability. The fairly wide base helps with the latter, too. This has 20mm bullet-shaped spikes which make for a more secure floor connection than you might expect. The speaker' head' is adjustable between -10 and 15 degrees, which helps to get the speaker optimally firing at the listener. Finish on both stand and speaker is excellent, and there's a choice of silver, black and white gloss finishes – although I would have liked to see matt or satin options too. Vital statistics are 384x978x393mm (WxHxD), and 19.5kg. This loudspeaker is also available without the integrated floor stand; this comes with a small pedestal stand for desktop use.
Many loudspeakers are much of a muchness, but this isn't one of them. True to its design aim, the TD510ZMK2 delivers a blisteringly fast and fun sound, one that's mustard-keen to eke out the rhythm inside any piece of music. At the same time, it's not quite as single-minded as you might think – and does a wide range of duties rather well, despite being a specialist in one particular field. Certainly, if you heard the original version, you'd think the MK2 has come a long way; it doesn't sound as 'heroically flawed' as its predecessor. Indeed, given a punchy solid-state amplifier and a decent front end, it's a surprisingly capable all-rounder. I also found it very easy to position; it works well near the rear wall, only slightly toed in and with the heads firing at the listener when seated.
Bass is light by conventional speaker standards but less than you might think. Pushed against my listening room's boundary wall – with the rear just 10cm out – toed-in very slightly and with the heads angled correctly, I heard a surprisingly gutsy sound. True, it's not going to give a JBL Everest an identity crisis, but it proved gutsier than expected. Nookie's Give A Little Love is a classic slice of nineties electronica with vast tracts of low-end sub-bass, but this didn't knock the little Eclipse sideways. To my ears, it was no worse low down than a typical small stand mounter – something you could not have said of its predecessor. Although the bass response falls off a cliff faster than most, there's still enough bottom end to give a genuinely enjoyable sound with a wide range of music. This is something you cannot say of some small speakers like the classic BBC LS3/5a design, for example.
Another bugbear of single-driver designs – especially small ones – is their tendency to compress things at medium to high volumes. This is because cone excursion is limited, the cone itself isn't large enough, and/or the magnet isn't strong enough – plus various limiting factors coming into play with the cabinet. Yet the TD510ZMK2 sounded surprisingly unfettered at normal to highish listening levels. True, at nightclub volumes, it's not your ideal choice, but most audiophiles won't think it a limiting factor in practice. In fact, it was well able to signpost the dynamic swings on powerful eighties pop music like ABC's The Night You Murdered Love, and delivered a really tuneful, sinewy bassline while so doing.
So this little Eclipse deftly sidesteps the two major bugbears of most small full-range loudspeakers, to the point where most listeners won't think it fundamentally compromised. Thanks to this, the listener's attention isn't drawn away from its natural talents – of which it has many. Anyone who says “there's no such thing” as timing, needs to listen to TD510ZMK2 play a simple vocal-based track – and then give it to a huge, heavy behemoth of speaker. Randy Crawford's One Day I'll Fly Away was a case in point; this song is all about emotion and has an ethereal, dreamy quality that's hard to capture perfectly. The Eclipse nailed it, focusing on the delicate syncopation between the backing musicians and her lead vocals. This singer has a beautiful voice all right, but it was her phrasing that made it mesmerising, rather than other factors like timbral accuracy.
Indeed, there's something about this speaker that makes everything it plays seem snappier and more fleet-of-foot; the music feels like it has lost weight and woken up refreshed after a deep sleep. It was fascinating to try the new Cyrus ONE Cast integrated with this, to hear the Eclipse's magic at work. This amplifier is excellent at its price but has a slightly matter-of-fact, workmanlike rhythmic gait. It's certainly not a case of it being boring, yet it isn't quite the peppiest of performers. Yet when paired to the TD510ZMK2, the Cyrus suddenly seemed to have got some spring in its step. REM's Shaking Through, a shuffling, bustling slice of eighties indie guitar pop, hurtled along at a giddy pace – and in a most enjoyable way.
That's the standout feature of this loudspeaker, then. It has a transformational character, one which is seemingly able to unlock the door to aspects of a recording that you wouldn't otherwise hear. Every amplifier that I tried it with showed greater rhythmic alacrity, almost as if they had just downed a double expresso or popped a disco pill. Indeed, I found that the longer I lived with the Eclipse, the more I appreciated this aspect of its character. For example, Rose Royce's Wishing on Star is a beautiful seventies soul song but is so subtle and soft sounding that sometimes through some equipment, it instead meanders along. Not so with the TD510ZMK2 – the groove was infectious, and the vocals absolutely soared through the choruses.
The other benefit of having a single full-range driver is soundstaging. This loudspeaker is of course physically small, so is not going to fill Wembley Stadium with sound no matter how powerful your amplifier is – yet inside the average listening room, it sounds larger than it looks. The size and scale of its soundstage aren't bad at all, and inside it, the images are wonderfully placed in space. The opening bars of Kate Bush's Wow, for example, showed the precision with which the TD510ZMK2 can lock instruments in the air. The listener finds that he or she is suddenly invited inside the recording, at which point they can hone in on individual instruments and enjoy not just their own contributions, but how they interact with the other players there.
Overall then, thanks to its size, cabinet type and single-driver design, this loudspeaker has obvious structural limitations – it's bandwidth limited, with no bottom octave of bass, and a treble that's decent but lacks the delicacy and openness of some high-end designs. Yet despite these issues, any listener can easily hear around them and connect with the speaker's many positives. You soon begin to marvel at the speed, insight, energy and emotion in any piece of music that you care to play. The speed of transients – like a hard-struck snare drum or a plucked steel string guitar – is dizzying, and the dynamic range takes some beating too. It makes for a slightly different way of listening to mainstream loudspeakers, yet one that some will find far more rewarding.
Whether or not you feel the Eclipse TD510ZMK2's combination of strengths and weaknesses suit you, is something that only really a dealer demonstration will answer. I'll just say this – many people who regard themselves as conservative and middle of the road in their tastes might just be surprised by how much they get along with this little loudspeaker. This is a happy, fun and charming sounding performer that's hard not to love. In the great pantheon of hi-fi loudspeakers, that's not something I say very often. Hats off then to Eclipse, for making one of the most interesting speakers on sale today.
For more information, visit Eclipse.
David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.