The two masterminds at Perlisten, on the other hand, want to avoid pigeonholing and make no fundamental distinction between orchestra and action blockbuster; their loudspeaker models are intended to be equally suitable for all acoustic scenarios. Accordingly, the S4b compact speaker is designed to fit seamlessly into a surround setup or - with the support of a subwoofer if necessary - to serve as a stereo speaker. We have tested in detail how the small monitor performs alone in a classic hi-fi system.
As far as reputation in the discipline of home cinema is concerned, the new speakers come with a weighty seal of approval: Perlisten was the first manufacturer worldwide to achieve certification according to the THX Dominus standard. This recently introduced standard raises the bar even higher in terms of signal integrity and, above all, the maximum level that can be achieved in compliance with defined parameters: THX Dominus ensures that speakers are suitable for cinemas with a size of up to 184 square metres. In view of the experienced newcomer, the THX Dominus certification is like a bang for the buck at the start and should pave the way for the young enterprise beyond the multi-channel segment. The models of the Signature series initially launched in Germany are the S7t floorstanding speaker, the S5m and S4b compact speakers, the S7c centre speaker and the S4s surround speaker - the total of four subwoofer models are grouped in a separate series.
While the S5m with its two cone drivers and its comparatively stately dimensions just about passes for a compact monitor, the small S4b is also suitable as a shelf speaker, especially since it has a closed cabinet. This design promises particularly precise bass reproduction, but it is interesting to see how far this will go because of the small internal volume. For free-standing installation, the optional “SSLR” stands are available at a moderate pair price of 1,500 euros and are optimally matched to the loudspeaker both optically and technically. I‘m usually the first to say that in the case of a high-end compact loudspeaker, positioning on stands is obligatory, and indeed they do allow the S4b‘s imaging capabilities to be exploited to the full. However, when placed on a sideboard or a piece of hi-fi furniture comparable in terms of form factor, such as our Amitara by Roterring, the S4b comes as a surprise: its spatial imaging is hardly affected. In this set-up, which is typical for modern furnishing styles, the S4b couples to the furniture with felt feet and, in case of doubt, benefits from the proximity to the rear wall in terms of bass reproduction.
The cabinet and the thick-walled baffle are made of HDF, which is extremely torsion-resistant due to its particularly high density and has a favourable resonance behaviour. The chassis mounts are made of wood and protrude into the sides of the baffle, which are generously rounded to minimise early reflections. The tweeter unit is surrounded by a horn-like oval waveguide lens, which in turn also serves to avoid early reflections. But first and foremost, this waveguide provides a special directional characteristic: the radiation field of the central dome is wide-angled and at the same time deliberately limited vertically in order to reduce reflections from the floor and ceiling. As a result, a higher proportion of direct sound reaches the listening position - in other words, the acoustic properties of the room have less effect on the sound image. This wide, flat dispersion pattern is also mainly responsible for the fact that the S4b can be placed on furniture without hesitation.
Behind the keyword “central dome” lies a very special technical refinement of the S4b - to be precise, of all Perlisten loudspeakers. In cooperation with specialists from the USA and Sweden, the engineers spent one and a half years developing a new type of tweeter unit with the help of elaborate simulations and numerous listening tests. Part of this patent-pending technology, called “Directivity Pattern Control” (DPC for short), is the waveguide described above. At the centre of the DPC unit is a 28 mm tweeter whose dome is made of beryllium. By using this expensive material, Perlisten joins a handful of manufacturers worldwide that use this rare alkali metal. While the manufacturing process of a beryllium dome is very complex and requires specialised technical equipment, the advantages of the material lie above all in its extraordinary rigidity and low weight.
The trick: similar to a D‘Appolito arrangement, there are two further 28 mm domes above and below the beryllium tweeter, positioned further forward at the transition between the waveguide and the baffle to ensure a time-coherent reproduction. These domes are made of a special, particularly thin carbon fibre braid and allow to define the crossover point quite low: The two carbon fibre domes run down to about 1.2 kHz, so the DPC ensemble is basically a high-midrange unit. The beryllium dome plays alone above 4 kilohertz, within this frequency range the three domes run in parallel. With this dome combination a very high level can be achieved, this reserve should guarantee a distortion-free reproduction of the high frequency and the upper midrange. The level stability and dispersion characteristics of the DPC unit also allow for a greater listening distance, making the S4b fully suitable for large rooms.