Googly Eyes

Living with a pair of La Sphère speakers from French maker Cabasse might be a bit creepy—they look like giant eyeballs staring at you—but if you can get past that, you're in for a sonic treat. As Michael Fremer concluded in his Stereophile review, "...La Sphère sets new standards, both measurable and audible, for accuracy in the reproduction of music."

The first thing most folks notice is the speaker's spherical enclosure, which obviously gives rise to its name. This shape is inherently rigid, thereby avoiding mechanical vibrations, and it can load a large woofer in a relatively small volume. With no parallel surfaces, there are no standing waves to worry about, and with no sharp edges, there are no diffraction issues throughout the frequency range of human hearing.

The driver compliment is no less innovative. Cabasse has been making coaxial drivers for some time, but this is the first to combine four drivers in a single point-source array. Highs are handled by a 1-inch polyether-dome, horn-loaded tweeter surrounded by a 5-inch P2C-ring midrange and 8-inch Duocell-ring low/mid diaphragm, all of which sits within a structure that provides a highly damped acoustic "lens." This 3-way structure is placed in front of a 22-inch Nomex-honeycomb inverted-dome subwoofer that was specially designed for a spherical enclosure.

Even though the driver axes are perfectly aligned spatially, some fancy electronics were needed to align them temporally. The result is said to be a true 4-way point source with less than a 2dB variation from the specified on-axis frequency response of 20Hz to 25kHz (3dB) throughout a 60-degree cone centered on the tweeter.

A pair of La Sphère speakers with outboard crossover and DSP costs $140,000, but if you want to include Cabasse's eight monoblock, class D power amps—1000W for each woofer and low/mid driver, 300W for each midrange and tweeter—that'll be an extra $25,000. And of course, you need to ignore the sense that someone is watching as you enjoy what Michael Fremer calls "an amazing achievement."