Time is of the essence, right? Ask Eclipse the question and the Japanese company’s answer is likely to be along the lines of “well, yes and no”.
“Yes” because the company maintains loudspeakers that prioritise accurate reproduction of the time domain are more convincing and enjoyable than loudspeakers that focus on getting the frequency balance right. Eclipse has been convinced of this emphasis right from the off – the ‘TD’ in the model name stands for ‘time domain’, just in case there was any confusion.
On the other hand, “No” because the TD307 mkIII is the first new Eclipse model for seven long years. Plague years notwithstanding, that’s a glacial launch schedule. And while I don’t doubt the company has been hard at work for that entire time, a glance at the product itself suggests those seven years haven’t been spent rethinking its aesthetics.
If you’re at all familiar with Eclipse loudspeakers, the appearance of the TD307 mkIII is going to come as no surprise. The egg-shaped enclosure stands on a pedestal, and features a single driver glaring out – this is what Eclipse speakers always look like, and the TD307mkIII is just a very compact variation on the established theme.
Small is beautiful
At 21cm high and slightly less than 14cm in width, the TD307 mkIII are little, all right – though they’re actually a bit larger than the outgoing TD307 mkII, with nearly 200cc extra cabinet volume. The idea is the extra space will help low-frequency extension – Eclipse is claiming frequency response of 80Hz – 25kHz. That doesn’t indicate teeth-rattling bass power, true, but then again Eclipse is positioning the TD307 mkIII as the ideal desktop speaker for the discerning at-work listener – and the last thing anyone needs when trying to get some work done is low-end activity disturbing their paperwork.
The bigger cabinet is far from the only amendment over the outgoing model. The single 65mm drive unit is now made from fibreglass rather than paper – the stiffer cone material allows less resonance and allows greater excursion. There’s a new magnet system, consisting of a bigger main and sub-magnet, plus a ‘repulsive’ magnet giving a 20 percent increase in magnetic force which, in turn, allows for bigger sound pressure levels. The reworking of the magnet system also reduces distortion and sound leakage.
The use of a single drive unit is central to the Eclipse philosophy. A single driver means there’s no requirement for a crossover network (which will inevitably promote phase distortion and inhibits dynamic expression, no matter how well implemented it might be), and it means frequency integration should be smoother than the multi-driver alternative. And as is customary with Eclipse, the driver itself isn’t attached to the cabinet – instead, it’s connected to an internal five-pillar stay with high-mass anchor, which is in turn connected to the stand. This helps direct vibrations out of the structure, and means the cabinet itself is about as quiet as they come.
There have been other, more practical, changes too. The new speaker terminals are a big improvement, for example – they’ll now accept either 4mm banana plugs or bare wire. There’s some rudimentary cable-management in the base of the stand. And there’s now only one screw that needs adjusting in order to change the speaker’s angle of orientation on its stand – the previous model required you to adjust three.
Simpler and tidier
So the TD307 mkIII are far simpler and tidier to position on a desktop than the model they replace – for the purposes of this test they’re either side of a 2020 Apple MacBook Pro and toed towards the listening position just a tiny bit. The laptop feeds a Chord Electronics Anni amplifier (it’s both the ideal size for desktop use and every bit as talented as the company’s full-size amps) via a Chord Electronics Qutest DAC. Admittedly this is not the most compact, nor the most affordable, desktop system around – as well as reasonably deep pockets you’ll need a reasonably big desk. But the resulting sound isn’t especially typical of desktop audio systems, either.
Using Colibri to access properly high-resolution digital audio files, and opening up with a 24bit/96kHz file of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Waiting For? [Mute], it doesn’t take long for the TD307 mkIII to establish their modus operandi. The positives and negatives to their performance seem to mirror each other – the Eclipse coin most certainly has two sides.
The most obvious and immediate entry into the ‘plus’ column is the straightforward insight they seem to have into the recording. Resolution is approaching revelatory here: the TD307 mkIII are alert to even the most minor, most transitory information and can integrate it into their overall presentation in the most natural and unforced kind of way. The full story of the way brushes interact with drum-skin, the harmonic variations apparent from one piano key-press to the next, even the mouth-noises of a singer preparing to deliver the next line… the Eclipse lock onto all of this and more, and as a result there seems no doubt you’re getting every scrap of information contained in the original digital file.
And, what’s more, you’re getting it in the most unambiguous, most unfussily musical way. There’s a directness to the way the TD307 mkIII present the recording, a tangible sense of a performance in progress, of musicians sharing that hive mind that compels them to act as a single unit like starlings in murmuration. The unity and singularity of the recording is made almost indecently obvious.
As long as you spend the time getting the positioning of the speakers right, you’re also rewarded with soundstaging and imaging that’s a considerable distance ahead of any nominal desktop rival.
You want them reasonably close, you want them pointing at you – and then the precision, the focus and the three-dimensionality of the stage the Eclipse conjure is yours to revel in. Even a fairly busy, reasonably complex and usually rather hazy recording like Spiritualized’s I Think I’m In Love [Dedicated] absolutely snaps to attention, as in thrall to the TD307 mkIII’s authority and powers of organisation as the listener is.
The tonal balance the Eclipse strikes is equally confident and convincing, and where low-level variations in intensity are concerned they’re without serious peer.
Of course, you can’t expect all this sunshine without a little rain. And where the Eclipse TD307 mkIII are concerned, it’s a predictable lack of low-frequency power and extension, along with a corresponding lack of dynamic impetus, that rains on their parade.
It’s Scotty time
You cannot, as a famous pretend-Scotsman used to say, change the laws of physics. And though the advantages to using a single driver to cover the entirety of the frequency range are unarguable, the disadvantages are equally obvious – especially when it’s a driver of such modest dimensions to start with. Both extremes of the frequency range suffer, but it’s bass extension (or the lack thereof) that’s most obvious here. The bass guitar is uncommonly high in the mix during the Nick Cave tune, but here it struggles to make its presence felt. And with a recording that’s propelled purely by low-end sounds – Mexico Sundown Blues by James Ray & The Performance [Cleopatra], for example – the bass roll-off is so steep the recording changes character entirely.
In the same way that a greyhound is different from a bull mastiff, the Eclipse TD307 mkIII are different from all the other desktop speakers around. They have negligible bass weight and equally insignificant bass power – and if you don’t take care with positioning, their treble response can roll off quickly too, leaving you with a sound that’s basically all midrange. Forget listening off-axis, in other words – the compromises are too great. And that sensitivity rating of 80 db/Wm means they won’t go particularly loud – so don’t ask them.
These, then, are the accommodations you’ll have to reach if the idea of the most vivid, most focussed, most thrillingly direct-sounding desktop audio system available appeals to you. What else? Well, all that careful positioning is going to cover the glossy plastic cabinets with finger- and palm-prints – so don’t go thinking you’ll get away without doing regular house-keeping.
The Eclipse TD307 mkIII are far from perfect. But power them appropriately, position them correctly and generally accept them on their own terms, and they’re about as rewarding a listen as a desktop set-up can be.
- Driver complement 1× 65mm fibreglass full-range dynamic driver
- Frequency response 80Hz–25kHz
- Crossover frequency n/a
- Impedance 8 ohms
- Sensitivity 80 db/Wm
- Dimensions (H×W×D) 212 × 135 × 184mm
- Weight 2kg per speaker
- Finishes Gloss white and black
- Price £600/pair
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