Positive Feedback ISSUE 64
november/december 2012


Audio Ramblings - The T8 MkII Loudspeakers from Chapman Audio
by Dave Clark



So here we are with the second pair of "around $10k" loudspeakers that so graciously spent some time in my home this past summer... the Chapman T8 MkII loudspeakers ($9995 a pair)… which to put it lightly... are very good. Very good in just about every respect. Yeah, heard that before and besides, who is this Chapman Audio?

Well, they have been around for like… the past 4 decades now. (After visiting their room at various shows over the past several years—RMAF and THE SHOW in Newport to be exact—Stuart was finally able to get me a pair to review.) Sure the earlier years were more about custom designs, but then Stuart hit his stride and started creating the original versions of what is their current line of loudspeakers, around the mid 1970s (http://chapmanaudiosystems.com/speakers/trip.pdf ). Over the years, Chapman has sold thousands of their loudspeakers to anyone interested in music and not the parts of said music. Yes, that is thousands… the problem is they have been flying way under the radar for a quite a while now, although recent attendees to either RMAF or THE Show down in Newport Beach were able to hear what the company is all about… and that would be offering the music lover a speaker that pretty much does it all while never drawing attention to any one thing. Meaning music and… like I already said… not the parts of music.

chapman T8 loudspeakers

But before I get into that, let's see what makes the T8s MK II work. Constructed of real hardwoods and mdf, the cabinet varies in thicknesses of .75 to 1.75 making them rather solid to the knuckle. Being neither too tall, nor too wide, or deep (40.25" h x 10.5" w x 14" d) they come in at a svelte 100lbs even, making them an easy fit for most rooms. The driver compliment is a single 10" side-firing woofer made of a polylaminate fiber cone with a high temperature Kapton voice coil assembly situated with a compression line design for deep and extended bass. The midrange is a single 5.5" with butyl surround, cast frame, vented pole piece in a ducted port design. The tweeter is a 1" silk dome (Neodymium Magnetic Circuit) in a sealed rear chamber. The whole deal is wrapped in a black cloth grill covering the front, two sides, and about 1/3 of the top. Fit and finish is quite decent with beautiful hardwood present on all exposed surfaces. A single pair of copper binding posts can be found on the lower rear of the T8s. The crossover is hermetically sealed with 11 pounds of acoustical silica to dampen out any unwanted micro harmonics and resonances, and features #14 series coils (matched pairs), film capacitors (also matched pairs), and the highest grade carbon and foil resistors (also matched pairs.) Specifications are stated to be 4 ohms nominal impedance, 89dB sensitivity, and a frequency response of 28Hz – 30kHz (±2dB).

Good enough.

I found that when listening to the Chapman T8s nothing really drew my attention away from what I was listening to: I never thought to myself, "Wow, listen to that!" or "Gee… the treble is sure darn sparkly!" or "The tangibility of the singer is so… tangible… the bass is this or that." And wow… one can reach right out and touch the guys….! Sorry, but nothing jumped out at me as being a part from the whole. The music was just there. See, the speakers present the music as a complete entity… not as sonic pieces. Sure the pieces are there… but what sets the T8s apart from other speakers I have heard is that sense of wholeness or seamlessnessness. That is what is happening here with the T8s. Which is cool. In a good way. In a real good way.

chapman T8 loudspeakers

So how do they fit into the idea of being cut from the same (or similar cloth) as the designer? That is… do they present the music in a way that is reminiscent of the designer's personality? If you go back to my review on the PBN Liberty's I had suggested, in my experience, that too often a product appears to reflect the designer's personality. That is, if he (or she) is brash, so goes the speaker, shy and demure, then there ya go… big and loud, okay… honest and dry, got it… cold and humorless… bland and lifeless… whimsical and yet quaint… solid and robust… angry and crude… and so on. Well with Stuart Chapman Jones, getting to know him is quite easy. That is, Stuart is rather easy-going, open and friendly, avoids any sense of airs or attitude, is generous and kind, and is not one to boast or put others down. He comes across as someone who enjoys life to its fullest, and yet is neither rash nor impulsive. He is what you see… no hidden agenda, no pretense… just Stuart. The old, "What you see is what you get" fits him quite well.

Hey, just like his speakers. They present the music as it is with a wonderful sense of kindness, openness, and no hidden pretense. They leave it alone by not adding to or subtracting from… nor do they spotlight any one area. Like Stuart, what you see is what you get… or hear. The T8s offer you a big friendly presentation.

Of course if push comes to shove, one can sort of slice them apart. Yes the two 10" woofers will go very low and offer a big robust, yet tight and tactile bass experience. But since they have side firing woofers, they do load the room differently than my conventional front firing Tetons (four 8.75" woofers per channel in a dual isobaric configuration). I would like to add that I did prefer the woofers on the T8s to be firing out to the sides as opposed to firing towards the inside (or to each other): the bass went deeper and filled the room in a way that was more to my liking. Yet, like I said, they are not going to load the room quite the same as front firing woofers: a bit less distinct, not as tactile, less punchiness, and less of that taste of viscerality. Bass via the T8s is more about extension with a wonderful sense of fullness. The bass is quite good, just more different and somewhat less than I experience with the Tetons… but then one would figure as much based on the two designs.

chapman T8 loudspeakers

Not that there is that much of a difference, but when the deepest goes way deep and with some real slam, the T8s do it quite well though the Tetons can do it better. But then so what, and does it really matter? After all, who listens at the insane levels with such insane music as Ben Frost, Hecq, and so on. Well, I do, but if you don't then you will never care, as what the T8s can do is rather spectacular… nice deal. Never boomy, never loose, never slow… tight and clean.

ben frost  hecq

Now, trying to pick apart the midrange and treble is rather a moot point—just too seamless with nary a hint of anything (as I have mentioned prior) to make one say that it is either too much of that or not enough of this. The T8s are not bright, or recessed, are not shouty, nor are they subdued and shy… though I would suggest compared to my Tetons that they do tend to fall more to the richer side than the leaner side of things. In the Liberty review I felt them to be more of the yang to the Teton's yin. With the T8s, they are perhaps more yingier than my Teton's ying. Think of the Tetons being at 12 o'clock on the dial of what I like (clean and a touch mean), the Liberty's at like 1 o'clock (even cleaner and a might meaner), and the T8s at like 11 o'clock (clean and not mean at all). They are not forgiving and they will let you know if anything is amiss either with your setup or what is in the grooves. That they do. They are just a lot nicer about how they do it. Pretty much like Stuart, who might disagree with what you think, and in being honest about how he feels, he does it in a way that is oh-so-agreeable and polite. No need to be insulting or condescending… just like the T8s!

chapman T8 loudspeakers

The T8s are all quite there. They do it right, presenting the music in a very-well balanced manner, imparting as little insult to injury as one can. Nothing jumps out at you and nothing detracts from the music. They are truthful and organic in the sense of not being analytical or artificial … artificial in terms of some slight aberrations or character of coloration.

In my other life as a 6th grade public school teacher, the T8s remind me of me of one of my top students... smart, always on task, never being rude or offensive, well spoken, polite, and so impressive. Well done, Stuart!

Chapman Audio