Tekton Ulfberht Speaker Review by Dick Stein - (LONG - photos below)
Hi all, I am a long time audiophile who started my journey in high school with a hand built Heathkit Receiver and a Garrard Zero 100 turntable in addition I hand built set of AR15 (Acoustic Research) speakers also courtesy of Heathkit. Life after marriage and two children slowed down my hobby but did not end it, once my oldest was off to college I started to re-explore what was available having owned a BK Pre-amp, Aucrus power and pre-amps and more recently several PS Audio components. The only stand alone DAC in my system was a Topping D90 DAC which I owned for a short time. My current DAC is integrated into the Mark Levinson 526 Preamp, a very nice unit. For speakers I have had several versions of Thiel’s and a set from Dayton Audio speakers and a few others over the years. Certainly not as wide a range of products as many of you but enough to have a feel for what is possible from a sonic perspective. For my current system please see the equipment list at the bottom of this review.
After a long nine month wait I finally received our new custom Tekton Ulfberht speakers (still waiting for my grills for both, it will be a year in May), so now it’s time to share my observations with those interested in these Tekton speakers. First a little background on where I came from, I have been living with a set of upgraded Tekton Double Impacts for the past three years and they have been a remarkable set of speakers in my system and a great value. The DI’s were also paired with a set of Tekton Enzo subs. This combination was very dynamic, with good deep bass and solid mid’s however, I always felt the top end to be a little lacking. My room is large, 24 x 30 feet with 12 foot ceilings. The Ulfberht’s were my logical next step, additionally I paired them with a set of Tekton 4-10 subs which were ordered at the same time as the Ulf’s. The Ulf’s also have the beryllium tweeter upgrade (centers only) and I had ten sheets (24” x27” each) of GR RESEARCH - NO REZ installed at build time by Tekton. The no-rez greatly reduced cabinet resonate by replacing most of the normal white batting in the Ulf’s with the no-rez. The Ulf’s also have Herbie Giant Gliders replacing the standard spikes. I will list my full system front end and my room details below.
Setup and sound…
After the initial unboxing of these beast of a speaker and before break-in I must say I was a bit surprised the Ulf’s didn’t blow me away, they did however show some hints of promise of what was to come. Out of the box they were a bit drawn in and didn’t excite me they way I had hoped. The Ulf’s needed quite a long break-in (a couple hundred hours) and placement was far more important than with the Di’s. The final resting place for the Ulf’s is about seven and a half feet from the back wall with a 20 degree toe-in. The speakers are about 12 foot apart with a main listening chair about 11-12 feet back. The 4-10 subs sit outside and back from the Ulf’s (photos below).
So how do they sound after break-in and proper placement? After much waiting and anticipation and hours finding proper placement; they have made me a happy man. The 77”, 225 pound monoliths have disappeared, vanished! The soundstage is wide and the imaging well detailed. The highs that were slightly lacking in the DI’s are now pristine and present. I will say one observation I noticed is that the beryllium tweeters appear to have a narrower vertical dispersion than the silk DI tweeters. Not a problem when seated at the proper listening level however, when standing (I’m 6’5”) the highs are noticeably diminished. As large as the Ulf’s are, they do not seem to radiate as evenly throughout the room as the DIs or some other speakers (Thiel 2.2’s) that I have on owned. It may be that the sweet spot is just so amazing that other positions just can’t compare. One other observation is that I need to play these Ulf’s about 20% louder (75 - 80db) to equal the volume of my DIs. This is not an issue since I am powering the Ulf’s with a recently purchased pair of Parasound JC1+ mono-blocks which are rated at 850 watts in 4 ohms (the first 25 watts are class A). The Parasound JC1+’s have replaced a pairs of PS Audio M700 Class D mono amps which did paired well with the Tekton DI’s.
I will try to describe the tonal character as best I can as an amateur evaluator. First, these speaker will project what is feed them from up stream, equipment and source matter, recording quality will impact what you hear. Room treatment has been a large part of my journey in this room and the position of the panels can have and enormous impact on sound stage and imaging in this room.
Some of my seventy’s rock music whether CD, LP or streaming just never got to the audio nirvana I was hoping for. However, put a quality track on the system and you will be rewarded by these speakers. The Ulf’s are neutral in general as is the rest of my system. The bass is tight and deep, there is mid-bass you can feel. These speakers provide layered micro detail in the mid’s and have highs that are not bright or harsh but provide satisfying leading edge clarity. As with all Tekton speakers the Ulf’s are as dynamic as any speaker I have heard, concert level dynamics, as loud as you dare to push them.
A couple of tracks that I believe really allow the Ulf’s to show what they are capable of are: (SEE PHOTOS ATTACHED)
Some of you may ask do you really need two subs? For me, absolutely, while you would think that the two 12” woofers (4 total) offer all the bass you could ever want, that is not the case in my opinion. The bass from the Ulf’s while satisfying will not give you that live experience many will crave. I’m not talk bloated, thick heavy bass, no this combination offers deep, quick, tight bass that can’t help but make you smile. Your neighbors might disagree if they are close by, but lucky for me that is not the case. The Tekton 4-10 subs provide clean, quick bass that integrates seamlessly with the Ulf’s. I have attached and image of the setting from the back of one of the 4-10’s for reference.
In conclusion, I believe the Ulfberht are one of the best sonic values available. If you have the room and a supportive wife, I am bless to have both you owe it to yourself to hear these amazing speakers for yourself, my listening room is available if you are ever in the Midwest (Ohio). Thanks for your interest in this review, enjoy the music and enjoy the journey.
Equipment and Room
About the Room: 24’ x 30’ with 12’ ceilings. The painted wall behind the system is the custom painted portrait wall we used in our business and was preserved to remind us of our roots (we owned portrait studio for 40 plus years) During COVID we remolded the room gutting and removing the lighting system and added a 24” bulkhead round the ceiling, which includes 24 foot of 8” thick sound absorption batting built into the corners and the sides of the bulkhead. The room also serves as a home theater space with and retractable 150” screen and a separate AV equipment rack in a side closet. The two channel system has 3 - 20 amp dedicated circuits, with one additional dedicated circuit for the Marantz AV receiver.
Two Channel current system as of 4-4-2022
Mark Levinson 526 Preamp
Innuos Zenith MkIII
PS Audio P12 Power Plant
Parasound JC1+ Mono Amps
Marantz TT-15S1 Turntable with Clearaudio Virtuoso MM Cartridge
California Audio Icon MKII CD Player
Morrow Audio speaker and Interconnect cables
GR Research power cables
Tekton Ulfberht speakers with beryllium tweeters, upgraded with Bi-wiring and Large Herbie Gliders
Tekton 4-10 Subs for music with SVS footers
Tekton Enzo sub’s for movies
Custom built bass absorbers from AcousticFields design plans on back wall behind equipment 4-(60”x 48” x 14”)
Additional panels on wall and stands
Pair of Schumann 7.83 Hz Wave Generators
Custom equipment rack made from Grey Elm
(I build all cabinets in my shop)
Movies equipment: (7.2.4)
Marantz SB801S2 Receiver
PS Audio M700 for center channel
Tekton DI wide Center
DYI Rear and side speakers are GR-Research X - On Wall speakers (4)
Panasonic UP820 Blu-ray player
Apple 4k TV
Epson 4050 4K Projector
Special note: Free tweak! I recently watch a YouTube video by acousticfields.com and he spoke of stacking some of their foam absorption material between the speakers. So on a whim I moved two of my portable absorption panels that normal sit on the first reflection points on the outside left and right of the main speakers. I placed these 2 - 60” x 24” x 4” panels in the center between the speakers in front on my equipment rack (as pictured). The result “ mind blowing” I would have never guessed the difference in clarity and presence this would make. Better imaging and a more solid center image. Try it if you have the chance, you won’t be disappointed. I know this is not as attractive of a setup aesthetically, it now has and even less WIFE APPROVAL FACTOR but, easy to move when necessary. Please let me know if you try it out for yourself.