Dead-on transducer tech.
It’s not that long ago that British car audio maker Vibe Audio (just Vibe as it’s colloquially known) impressed us with its compact, self-contained subwoofer. Here we’re looking at a rather less compact 2-way component stereo speaker system from the company, the BlackDeath 6C-V6 loudspeaker set.
As component speakers the tweeters are separate to the bass/midrange drivers. Furthermore, the crossover networks are also separate, in their own substantial enclosures.
The bass/midrange drivers each have a 165mm (6.5-inch) cone. Vibe specifies them as handling 140 watts ‘RMS’ of power. I use ‘scare’ quotes because RMS (for Root Mean Square) is not a valid term to be used with respect to power. I assume they mean that this is the calculated power handling based on RMS voltage levels. Vibe also mentions
420 watts ‘peak’, a measure that could mean nearly anything.
Those quibbles aside, they are clearly high power speakers. And if the claimed sensitivity of 93dB (again, measured how?) is correct, then lots of volume ought to be available. Oddly, the specifications indicate that a minimum of 70 watts ‘RMS’ is required. If that’s true, then it rules these speakers out for use with the great majority of head units (which generally top out at 40 to 50 watts). But that’s simply a silly requirement. The difference between 40 watts and 70 watts is all of, wait for it… a mere 2.4 decibels. If you’re trying to break some kind of record that might be important, but for everyday use? Nah, not
in the slightest.
A word of warning: the BlackDeath 6C speakers shown on the Vibe web site are Version 1, whereas the review speakers are Version 6. There are a lot of differences between the two, including the cone construction and the basket design and the crossover shape and capabilities and the size of the tweeter. In short at this stage, don’t bother looking at these speakers on the Web.
So whereas the web site waxes lyrical about the ‘Black Hole’ dust cap and the honeycomb composite paper cone, the very different shapes and textures of the dust cap and cone on the review speakers suggests that those descriptions no longer apply. The aluminium dress ring is likewise different, although as sharp looking as its predecessor. The metal grille is solid enough to withstand reasonable abuse.
These drivers need a 139mm diameter hole for mounting and a depth of at least 65mm from the front of the panel to which they’re attached. The magnet is quite heavy – the larger speakers weighed in at 1.27 kilograms each – vented at the centre and 100mm in diameter. The basket appears to be die-cast. The spider is quite heavily sprung and the short leads from the terminals to the coil look refreshingly hefty. The terminals themselves are screw types, so a good hold on speaker cables is assured. One of the screws is slot only, so you’ll need both kinds of screwdriver handy. Reasonable gauge wiring is provided for connecting to the crossover.
The tweeters of this system have 28mm domes (that’s 1.1 inches), not the 25mm indicated on the web site. The old one was said to be a silk dome. The grille seemed to not be removable (I did not force the fact) however, peering through the grille revealed to be textured, so it’s probably also some form of cloth. Each tweeter comes with cables attached and they’re already fitted to a plastic surface-mounting fixture. Each also has an angled fixture provided as an alternative. They can also be flush mounted if that works in your car. There’s room for a few degrees of additional ‘aiming’ within each of the fixtures. All the necessary attachment hardware is provided. The tweeters have aluminium dress rings that match the styling of those of the larger drivers.
The two crossovers are large. They are contained between two rectangular plastic plates, the top one smokily translucent, measuring 128mm by 84mm, which are held apart by four metal posts. The overall height is 39mm. There are two large capacitors, two large coils and two high powered resistors. These are real 2-way crossover networks, not just high-pass filters to protect the tweeter. Six holes in the top plastic sheet align with the screws of the six terminals (plus and minus for in, low and high).
The earlier version shown on the web site had level switches for the drivers so that some independent balancing adjustments could be made. That’s no longer the case. It’ll be
up to your head unit to actually do all the work there. All round, the entire product is extremely well built.
Wiring up, the only minor difficulty was with the terminals on the main speakers themselves, where the screw-in-a-cylinder clamp left just a bit too much gap to grab the cable securely. That was something I did not discover until music was playing and found the main speaker on one side was not working. But some disassembly, stripping some more insulation and doubling over the cable fixed it all nicely.
Then it was music time. EQ first? No. I like to listen with how the speakers sound in their natural state. If that’s good, then they provide a solid foundation to which EQ can be added. If they’re not good, EQ could well plaster over some of their deficiencies. The fact is, the Vibe BlackDeath 6C-V6 speakers were good. Very good indeed. True high-fidelity-good.
I started with a bit of great jazz from the Alistair Spence Trio, specifically the album Mercury. There was exceptional dynamism in the music, with the lovely drum kit punching out each strike above and through the music without obscuring any of it, the piano full in tone and rich in detail and equally dynamic.
When the acoustic bass would be offered a solo, it was delivered with excellent articulation and with the finger noises on the strings tightly tied to the bass notes thereby generated. I was going to write about how full the bass was too, until I realised that what I was actually hearing was an extremely well balanced and powerfully presented mid-bass, solid and even down to at least 60Hz. Because of this, the absence of the full depths of the bass drum and strings wasn’t immediately apparent.
Remember, there was no subwoofer running. Everything I was listening to was being produced by the Vibe BlackDeath system, and at the bass end, their 165mm cones. The result was really very impressive.
Before moving on, I’ve got to add something about the treble and the imaging. The cymbal work was bold, and perhaps a touch bright, but extended and precise and controlled. Thrilling, in fact, seemingly without limits. Meanwhile, there was exceptional precision in the stereo imaging. And a very tangible reality to the instruments as a result, while there was an excellent sense of air around the music.
Moving to something very different indeed, I played Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP and the first few tracks were very effective diagnostics on several aspects of the speakers’ performance. First, “Kill You” is a very minimalist track with a strong bass line that was reproduced with enormous strength by this system. It also has a great deal of space in the recording, with moments of nothing that instantly disclose any sloppiness or overhang in a speaker system. There was not the slightest hint of that with this system. The control was first class.
Yet the next track was quite different. As we all know “Stan” opens with a heavily processed version of Dido’s “Thank You”, and this was delivered with the same precision and same sense of tangible presence that I’d notice with the jazz. But then the bass and drum lines started up. I had the volume up very high, so that may have explained in part a certain harshness in that drum line. It also seemed to be more synthesised with a greater treble bite than I’d previously realised. In any case, this tended to stress the treble somewhat, adding harshness to what had previously been an utterly clean performance. Pulling back a little in the 2kHz to 4kHz band in EQ would be advisable.
The other surprise with this track was the disappointing bass. It soon became obvious that the bass line in ‘Stan’ is all way down deep, with very little falling into the mid-bass band with which these speakers are so very good. As such it was largely absent but that’s the realm of a subwoofer, a context within which these high quality speakers would most likely be used. And it must be said that it would be surprising if any similarly sized loudspeakers could do a better job, but I’d been lured into a space of such high expectations by what I’d heard so far that some readjustment was somewhat inevitable.
That slightly troublesome upper midrange prompted me to put on Laura Marling’s Once I Was an Eagle, since it has a clear issue with sibilance in the opening track, and these speakers did prove to deliver somewhat of a whistle on one or two of these sibilant syllables, but nowhere to the level I’d feared. Again, with a few decibels of attenuation at the right frequencies all that would be gone.
As for the rest of it, the hand-struck drums were beautifully handled, and all the other music elements were excellent, while Marling’s close-miked voice carried that in-the-same-room feeling it does with the very best high fidelity speakers.
Vibe makes a bit of a thing about it being “designed and engineered” in Britain. And I think it should. It’s clear that they are drawing on the British audio heritage to develop stand-out audio systems. The Vibe BlackDeath 6C-V6 speakers, dubiously named though they may be, demonstrate that British quality.
Vibe Audio BlackDeath 6C-V6 2-way component speakers
+ Excellent sound quality; Flexible tweeter installation; Quality crossover
– Minor mid driver installation complexity
Type: 2-way component speakers with 165mm mid-bass driver & 28mm tweeter
Rated Power: 140 watts RMS, 420 watts Peak
Frequency Response: 45Hz to 25kHz