Advance Acoustic UM20
12th May 2008 | 15:39
A combination of French design with global manufacturing
The £200 Advance Acoustic UM20 is the smallest of the company's four stereo speaker pairs and the only standmount in the line-up.
It's a simple two-way miniature, combining a small 130mm bass/mid driver and 25mm tweeter in a tough, yet attractive enclosure with a shaped front panel to assist high frequency dispersion.
The rear panel has a single terminal pair alongside the unusual combination of a wall bracket and a small reflex port.
The enclosure combines four cherry wood veneered panels, separated by heavily post-formed black edges, all finished in a glossy lacquer. The back and the front are all black, and the latter seems to be extra thick, with some chamfering around the tweeter.
The little 130mm main driver has a high-quality cast alloy frame and a flared and doped paper cone, roughly 100mm in diameter.
This crosses over at around 3kHz to a 25mm soft dome tweeter, using high-quality crossover components operating at 12dB/octave.
Although the smooth and open midband (and nicely judged top end) were immediately noticeable, a lack of bass weight and warmth was also rather obvious when the speakers were positioned on stands and well clear of walls.
Moving them back close to the wall produced an immediate and clear improvement, with very little sacrifice in terms of smoothness, though not unexpectedly image depth and air were slightly curtailed.
When a small speaker is coupled closely to a wall, acoustically, there's often a tendency to create an unwanted peak in the upper midband. This will tend to emphasise detail, especially in the voice band and can become rather wearing over the longer haul.
The UM20 largely manages to avoid this hyped detailing, though it does have a slight tendency towards forwardness and unevenness, leading to slight coarseness and some edgy coloration when reproducing human voice.
However, in a price context its limitations are only to be expected and eminently forgiveable, as the overall sonic character has a liveliness and openness that more than compensates for the mild-coarseness and colorations.
Enjoyable and expressive sound
In many ways the sound is fairly typical of a small and well-conceived paper cone drive unit, in which a degree of coloration is considered an acceptable trade-off for the fine delicacy and good communication skills of this approach.
Certainly the UM20 is very good at conveying the expressive qualities of human voices, which always makes the speaker an enjoyable and involving experience, notwithstanding the inevitably rather limited dynamic tension.
The ear/brain invariably focuses on the midband here, which perhaps does the entirely adequate and self-effacing bass and treble performance something of a disservice.
Suffice to say, both are smooth and well balanced to avoid attracting unwanted attention. They don't get in the way, so the listener gets sucked into the thoroughly enjoyable and informative midrange.