Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
“They’re the SVS of Norway.” Such was my introduction to Arendal Sound in November 2023, when Doug Schneider dropped off a pair of their 1723 Tower S speakers at my home. The similarity to the Ohio-based SVS can be seen in the type, price, and quality of speakers from the two companies but also in their business model: both sell directly to customers (as do Canada’s Axiom Audio and Denmark’s Buchardt Audio, among others). This, of course, reduces overhead costs and allows the manufacturer to pass savings to the consumer.
Arendal Sound recognizes that purchasing audio gear without first hearing it is a terrible idea and therefore offers a generous 60-day in-home evaluation period. The trial periods offered by many of Arendal’s competitors—SVS and Buchardt allow 45 days, for instance; Axiom allows 30 days—are normally considered long enough. Arendal’s two-month evaluation period suggests (and signals) their confidence in their product—they don’t expect it to be sent back.
There’s no substitute for auditioning a speaker (or any other component, for that matter) in your own listening space, with the gear you know and intend to use. Even if you like what you hear in a dealer’s showroom, it won’t sound the same in your own listening space even with the same components because the room and furnishings won’t be the same.
The retail price of $3599 per pair (prices in USD) includes taxes, fees, and shipping. Return costs are fully covered in mainland Europe, the UK, and the contiguous US if shipped by one of Arendal’s designated couriers. Partial reimbursement for return shipping applies elsewhere.
Bias and build
A definite advantage one has in auditioning a product from a manufacturer one doesn’t know is the absence of preconceived notions. Inevitably, though, as soon as one learns of a product’s price or catches a glimpse of its finish or begins handling it, a bias creeps in. When one is familiar with a manufacturer, such bias may overlie existing prejudice and is nearly impossible to ignore. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have some expectations from a Revel or a PSB speaker. In the case of the Arendals, that bias arose the moment I opened the shipping boxes and struggled to lift the speakers out. Damn, these are heavy, I thought. I bet they have solid bass. See how quickly that happened? Prejudice and rash assumptions are part of human nature—objectivity isn’t—but I’ve learned to keep them in check.
Each speaker measures 38.6″H × 9.6″W × 12.6″D (without the rubber feet or spikes) and weighs 69 pounds. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that these solid-feeling speakers are constructed from high-density fiberboard (HDF) rather than the medium-density variety used by most manufacturers. In addition to being more sonically inert than MDF, HDF can also be machined more precisely, Arendal claims. This is especially important for the speaker’s waveguide, which is constructed from a combination of HDF and aluminum (more on that later). The HDF varies in thickness from 0.7″ to 2.0″ depending on where it is in the cabinet. (It is thickest in the driver mounts and speaker base.)
I liked the look of the Tower S. The cabinet, a clean, classic design, has pleasant proportions and is widely beveled, which takes the edge off its boxiness. Dimensionally, in fact, it is similar to my Monitor Audio Gold 300. It is available in a black or a white finish, satin or gloss. My review samples were satin white, which made a striking contrast with the five black drivers that populate the baffle. The magnetically mounted grille of the speaker is a panel of perforated metal wrapped in black cloth that is meant to soften the grille’s appearance and damp residual vibrations. I briefly mounted one of the grilles, curious to see how it looked, and found that it nicely accentuated the speaker’s clean, simple lines. I was actually surprised by how much I liked it—and then promptly returned it to the shipping carton. Unless the use of grilles is recommended by a manufacturer (it rarely is), I prefer not to use them.
The Tower S is a 2.5-way design, with four identical 6.5″ woofers and a 1.1″ tweeter set between the top two. The bottom two woofers are crossed over at 100Hz, the top two at 1500Hz—that’s four drivers handling bass. The lightweight, optimally damped tweeter, Arendal says, is produced to high tolerances and was selected “for its sweet sound character and consistent frequency response.”
Central to Arendal’s loudspeaker design is their tweeter waveguide. Many companies use waveguides, though most aren’t as deep as the one designed by Arendal. It reminded me of the waveguide in the Argon3L floorstanders, from the Finnish brand Amphion, speakers I owned for close to a decade.
When implemented properly, a waveguide helps control a tweeter’s dispersion and increase its output (by as much as 6dB in this case, depending on frequency). This, in turn, lowers distortion: the tweeter doesn’t have to work as hard to achieve a given SPL. In the case of the Tower S, the waveguide allows for the uncommonly low crossover point to the midrange drivers. Not since I owned the Argon3Ls (whose midrange crossover is at 1600Hz) have I encountered such a low handoff.
A tweeter’s dispersion pattern is broad in its lower range of frequencies but beams directionally at the higher range. A waveguide helps balance this directivity by focusing it at the low end. The ability to control a tweeter’s directivity allows a skilled designer to match its dispersion to that of the other drivers.
The four 6.5″ drivers employ long-fiber pulp cones that have been treated with a proprietary formulation for inherent self-damping. Finite element analysis helped optimize the acoustic suspension to ensure symmetrical cone travel with minimal nonlinear distortion. A Klippel analyzer helped fine-tune the cone performance to remain “pistonic through its operating range,” the speaker’s handbook informs.
Quality materials are applied throughout the Tower S. For example, the speaker’s voice coils are made from copper-clad aluminum wire, an approach that takes advantage of the lightness of aluminum and conductivity of copper. Aluminum shorting rings are used in the woofers to reduce inductance within the motor circuit, increase bandwidth, and lower distortion. Vents in the cone body and basket help dissipate heat from the voice coil, which increases the driver’s power-handling capability. They also relieve compression and rarefaction of air under the dust cap and spider, which reduces distortion.
The speaker’s dual binding posts are CNC-machined from copper and plated in rhodium, chosen for its high conductivity, corrosion resistance, and hardness. These posts accept banana plugs, spades, and bare wire. For users such as me who use a single set of cables to connect to speakers, input jumpers, made from the same materials as the binding posts, are included. The large terminal plate is constructed from brushed, anodized aluminum and provides a rigid, resonance-free support to the massive crossover circuitry mounted to it.
The binding posts/jumpers/terminal plate assembly is pure audio jewelry. It’s just one of many details that make the Tower S a formidable high-end product. It was designed and built with pride and care, and the attention to detail is apparent throughout, even in the packaging and user manual. First impressions are enormously important, something the folks at Arendal Sound clearly understand.
A Bryston B135 SST22 integrated amplifier was driving the Arendals through Nirvana Audio Royale speaker cables with banana plugs. An NAD C 565BEE CD player feeding a Bryston BDA-2 DAC via an i2 Digital X-60 coaxial cable served as the primary digital music source. Digital content was also sent wirelessly from Apple Music on an iPhone to a Bluesound Node 2i streamer. The Node was connected to the BDA-2 by an AudioQuest Forest TosLink optical cable. The DAC sent its analog output to the B135 SST2 through Nordost Quattro Fil RCA cables. Vinyl playback was provided by a Thorens TD 160 HD turntable equipped with a modified Rega Research RB250 tonearm to which a low-output Sumiko Songbird moving-coil cartridge was mounted. The TD 160 HD was connected to Pro-Ject’s Phono Box DS3 B phono stage (powered by a Pro-Ject Power Box S3 Phono outboard power supply) by Pro-Ject Connect it CC RCA cables. The DS3 B in turn was linked to the B135 SST2 by Kimber Kable Tonik interconnects. All electronics were plugged into an ExactPower EP15A power conditioner.
Conceived in Norway. Born in China. Raised by you.
The Tower S has two ports on its back and comes with two foam bungs that allow one or both ports to be blocked. The speaker’s bass output can thereby be optimized for the listening space. I began the audition with the foam plugs inserted but later removed them, preferring the greater bass extension of the ported configuration.
First on the CD tray was Jerry Garcia and David Grisman’s Shady Grove (Acoustic Disc ACD-21), one of my go-to discs. Whenever I set up a new pair of speakers, I start by positioning them exactly where my reference speakers normally stand. This has often been a useful starting point, but it doesn’t always work. With the Arendals, it didn’t: in that position, their imaging was more diffuse than I would have liked. I moved the two speakers several inches closer to each other and toed them in so that their tweeters’ axes passed just outside my ears. After some tweaking of the speakers’ positions and toe-in, while playing “Off to Sea Once More,” I was able to bring images into focus. Instrumental outlines were sharper and their positions on the soundstage were more precise. The greater coherence of the presentation solidified the image of the bluegrass ensemble at the front of the room. The more I listened, the more I agreed with Arendal’s characterization of their tweeter as sweet-sounding. It was incredibly smooth, making listening easy and inducing me to turn up the volume.
My first impression of the Tower S was that it’s built like a tank. As I mentioned, this instilled some unfounded notions in my mind about how it must sound. Those preconceptions, it turned out, were in fact correct. The bombastic “War Dance,” from Respighi: Belkis, Queen of Sheba Suite (CD, Reference Recordings RR-95CD), with the Minnesota Orchestra, was delivered with ease by the Arendals in all its power and drive. During my time with the Arendals, I also had an SVS SB-4000 subwoofer at my disposal and could have added it to the mix. But the Arendals generated such tight, solid bass, there was no need for a subwoofer (at least not for music).
Within the bounds of volume level I could tolerate, the sonic character of the Tower S remained the same. If you enjoy loud playback, the Arendals will oblige. As all other speakers, they too have their limits, but I never approached them. A shortcoming I did notice occurred midway through “War Dance,” when a solo clarinet enters. On some speakers, this clarinet passage captivates your attention as it gracefully floats in space. Not so much with the Arendals. The clarinet was reproduced clearly enough; it just didn’t have the presence to command the spotlight.
Feeling an itch for some rock, I reached for Pearl Jam’s Live on Two Legs (CD, Epic EK 69752). In the first three tracks, the music explodes with the sort of frenzied energy one expects from grunge music’s old guard at a live show. The recording is surprisingly clean, allowing the Arendals to render the band around Eddie Vedder’s arresting baritone with great clarity. On “Given to Fly,” the drum kit was punchy, and the lead guitar was lucid.
Recorded at various stops on their 1998 North American tour, Live on Two Legs brims with intensity. The vibrant, infectious energy of the audience was nicely captured in this recording, and the crowd sounds, particularly between tracks, strongly conveyed the charged atmosphere. Live on Two Legs was a treat to listen to through the Arendals. Even at the high-volume playback this album encourages, it wasn’t fatiguing, and the singing was more intelligible than in any rock concert I’ve ever attended.
Turning back the clock a quarter century, I put Donny Hathaway’s Live (LP, ATCO Records 603497844753, R1 33386) onto the turntable. “The Ghetto” is a sprawling, funky 12-minute track during which Hathaway introduces conguero Earl DeRouen for a lengthy, impressive conga solo. DeRouen’s playing was as tight as the skin on his drums was taut, which the Arendals conveyed palpably. As in the Pearl Jam album, the cheering audience was captured vividly stoking the energy in that venue, Greenwich Village’s fabled nightclub The Bitter End.
On “Voices Inside (Everything is Everything),” the band was spread across the front of the room from speaker to speaker. Hathaway is his band’s biggest fan, turning the spotlight on Cornell Dupree, with his soulful, bluesy lead guitar, Willie Weeks, with his funk-infused bass, and other members of his band to showcase their talent. Unfortunately, the sound quality of this recording isn’t quite good enough to feel like the musicians are right in the room with you, and the Arendals couldn’t change that. This performance would have sounded more dynamic and crisper live; for example, the guitar would have had more bite. Still, with the ambient sound of the audience, it was not hard to imagine being at the show. Live was easy to listen to with the Arendals, and once again, I found myself turning up the volume—they simply were not fatiguing. Those soft-dome tweeters may have had something to do with it, but whatever the reason, I found the Tower S speakers smooth and easy on the ears.
The British Monitor Audio Gold 300 ($9500/pair) is comparable in size and weight to the Tower S, and it, too, is ported, but the similarities end there (mostly). The Gold 300 is a three-way design employing a Micro Pleated Diaphragm tweeter, a 2.5″ midrange, and two 8″ woofers—a different kind of beast, but it made for an interesting comparison.
Returning to Shady Grove, “Louis Collins” sounded more precise through the Gold 300s. The twang of the mandolin was crisper, though the bass was a touch leaner. The Arendals had a warmer character, as demonstrated by Jerry Garcia’s deep-tone voice. The upright bass was fuller-bodied through the Norwegian towers, commanding a greater presence, whereas the British towers were more articulate, offering a more detailed presentation. Overall, I found the Arendals musical and highly enjoyable. Their more forgiving demeanor may be preferred by some listeners.
“Rocks Off,” from the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (LP, Universal Music Group Recordings B0014203-01), came across brighter on the Gold 300s, though not harsh or irritating. I also noticed that the horns had more sheen, the piano was clearer and more vibrant, and Mick Jagger’s voice had more detail. I had a greater sense of space with the Gold 300s too. For this gritty style of gospel-inflected bluesy rock of the American South, some listeners may favor the Arendals: they still offered a good level of detail but seemed warm and organic; the Monitor Audios seemed analytical by comparison. As with Pearl Jam’s Live on Two Legs album, Exile on Main Street sounded best loud. The romping “Rip This Joint” absolutely swung through the Arendals with toe-tapping infectiousness.
This, my first encounter with Arendal Sound left a positive impression. The 1723 Tower S combines distinctive styling, rock-solid construction, and engaging sound at an attractive price. I can now appreciate the confidence behind the company’s generous return policy. With its smooth top end, the Tower S can be enjoyed for long periods and at high volumes without fatigue. If you’re a listener who prioritizes detail above all else, however, you may find other speakers in this price range more satisfactory.
I like the direct-to-buyer business model that Arendal Sound (and others) have adopted. Invariably, it allows you to audition a product of interest in your own listening space, through your own system, which is the most meaningful way to evaluate an audio product. If you’re in the market for a pair of speakers at this price point, you’d be taking no risk auditioning the 1723 Tower S in your home. In mine, they were most enjoyable. I look forward to seeing and hearing more from this brand in the future.
. . . Philip Beaudette
Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
- Speakers: Monitor Audio Gold 300 5G.
- Subwoofer: SVS SB-4000.
- Integrated amplifier: Bryston B135 SST2.
- Digital sources: NAD C 565BEE CD player, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Bluesound Node 2i streamer.
- Analog source: Thorens TD 160 HD turntable, Rega Research RB250 tonearm, Sumiko Songbird MC cartridge.
- Phono stage: Pro-Ject Audio Systems Phono Box DS3 B and Power Box S3 Phono outboard power supply.
- Speaker cables: Nirvana Audio Royale.
- Interconnects: Nordost Quattro Fil (RCA), Pro-Ject Connect it Phono RCA CC, Kimber Kable Tonik (RCA), generic RCA.
- Digital links: AudioQuest Forest (TosLink optical), i2Digital X-60 (coaxial).
- Power conditioner: ExactPower EP15A.
Arendal Sound 1723 Tower S Loudspeaker
Price: $3599 per pair.
Warranty: Ten years, parts and labor.
Industritoppen 6C, 4848
Phone: +47 37 71 53 00