Review: Tekton Pendragon Speakers

Category: Speakers

Here's a review of the Pendragon speakers from Tekton Design.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in high-end speakers by any means.

Specs: Early specs from manufacturer are 98db efficiency at a 4 Ohm pretty flat impedance curve, 2 large Eminence 10" drivers for lower frequencies, and 3 SB Acoustics ring radiator tweeters set in between them, all in a vertical array. Size are 54 H x 16 D x 12 W, 85 lbs each. Price: $2500 plus shipping.

-- First Watt B1 pre and F3 amp or F5 amp.
-- Yamaha RX-Z9 integrated amplifier (also use digital input).
-- DAC: Auzentech X-Meridian sound card.
-- Amphion Argon 2 speakers (comparison).
-- Polk LSI9 speakers (comparison).
-- Polk Micropro 4000 Sub (with Argon 2 or Polk LSI9).

Room: 22x27 ft with 10 ft ceilings, with a lot of random hard furniture and equipment in it.

Arrival/Unpacking: The speakers arrived about 4 weeks ago in imposingly huge boxes. The owner/designer of Tekton Design, Eric Alexander, sent specific instructions on how to unpack them to make sure the tweeters were secure. Unpacking them went quickly and I lugged them down to the large room in my basement where they were to live.

Setup: I first hooked them up to the Yamaha RX-Z9 amp then after a short bit switched to the First Watt B1/F3 combo. (Just the day of writing the review, I received the F5 unit to try out as well) All the combinations sounded great, though some calibration was required with the First Watt units I wasn't prepared for, which confused me for a bit. Setup has the rears of the speakers just over 3 feet from the wall on the long axis of the room, with about 5 feet between them. There are some bookcases between them and lots of shelving behind/around them. They are only slightly toed in, with the intersection point perhaps just past the end of the room.

Basic listening/sound quality on-axis/in the sweet spot: First set of music tried was principly singing/rock music. After getting lost for a while just enjoying myself, I noticed that even quite low bass was very detailed though not over-emphasized, which led me to pull out some pipe organ music and those with deep bass lines (like Blind Boys of Alabama). More listening went by, then realized that I had been smiling for a while. For example, there is an organ piece that has deep bass in it but the upper registers are exceedingly quiet. On the Pendragons, this sounds very natural, and it felt like listening to a real pipe organ... the most realistic experience of these recordings I've ever had. That is really a good summary: Most everything sounds so realistic that I get pulled into listening/enjoying the moment and forget to be critical.

Next on the listening agenda came acoustic guitar, acapella, southern rock, spanish/classical guitar, choral ancient music, plus a bunch more singer/songwriter. Not sure what else to say other than everything sounded wonderful. I kept trying to find more exotic genres in my collection to try, and nothing disappointed me.

Dynamic range: these speakers have a lot of impact/range. I usually play them at a reasonably quiet level (they are large enough that "quiet" is somewhat louder than many speakers, since you're just not as close to them), but when the kid/family is gone occasionally I run them up to room-filling loud. So far I haven't experienced any dynamic compression effects across the whole range I've tried. There is a surprising amount of impact at quiet levels (I mentioned the pipe organ, wow!), satisfyingly extending upwards as the volume is increased. One other effect that I have not experienced before is that the volume level doesn't change as much from distance compared to other speakers I have. In particular, the comfortable level at a moderate distance from them don't get ear-splitting when I get very close. This is likely due to how large the speakers are and the area taken up by the drivers, I.e. the radiating surfaces are larger. My other (somewhat smaller) floorstanders don't apparently have this effect at all.

Off-axis listening damps out a bit of the realism/liveness as one would expect, but to my pleasant surprise, after leaving the "sweet zone" of most detail/imaging cleanliness, I can walk around the room almost anywhere and the experience doesn't really degrade much more. I.e. the off-axis experience was very *consistent*, which is very pleasant to me since I have them in my basement office/lab/workroom.

Imaging: At first the image was notably fuzzier/bloomy compared to the Amphion Argon 2's I was using as a reference, and I was puzzled as to why... then I realized the problem was in the First Watt B1/F3 amp combo I was using, the B1/F3 combo wasn't correctly calibrated. Comparing Apples to Apples on the Yamaha RX-Z9 put them MUCH closer together, though the Argon 2's still edge them out. The B1/F5 combo (tried today as I'm writing this) produces a similar comparison to the Yamaha, though the B1/F5 is the best sounding pre/amp I've tried on the Pendragons. The speakers do disappear into the images as one expects, but it isn't *quite* as sharp as I've grown a bit used to. It doesn't really detract from my experience, and I would have been shocked to slam-dunk this given their price and size, but I'm putting it here in the light of full disclosure. This last comment is really in the catogory of "if you were to rate them against a perfect speaker, how would they do?".

Having said all of that, I would love to do a real comparison with, say, a Zu mid-range or even high-end offerring and possibly something more traditional like a B&W or Dynaudio mid- to high-end floorstander, but I don't really have the cash to lay out to try that.

-- On-axis listening/sound quality: Excellent.
-- Dynamic range: Excellent/Surprising.
-- Off-axis listening/sound quality: Good, much better than I expected.
-- Imaging: Good, perhaps a tad weak compared to the Amphion Argon 2's.

Summary statement: I've tried a range of genres and types of music and these are the overall favorite speakers I've ever listened to. Maybe some would argue that the monitor speakers I've compared them to are not supposed to be in the same class (the Pendragons are large floorstanders), but considering the rave reviews the monitors had gotten from many before and my own tests of a few other floorstanders in that price-range as lacking, I think it's a pretty fair comparison.

I'm *very* satisfied with the Tekton Pendragon speakers, especially for their price.
A month later I've had a chance to try some other amplifiers and the slight imaging issue mentioned above appears to be aleviated with the right setup and amps.

I'm even happier with them than when I first got them!
I'll add more detail:

The imaging issue mentioned in the review appears to be gone now, and seems to have been due to a miscalibrated First Watt F5 clone.

With that fixed, everything has been spot-on as well as my ears can detect.
Now that Eric offers a cap upgrade, have you considered doing so?
The new Pendragon-SE are a bit smaller and are more room friendly.
I ordered these with every option just out since Sept.
The Drivers are custom version 8 inch from Seas from their Prestige line
.for the Tweeters there are still 3 in between the 8 inch drivers
And these also re upgraded from Scanspeak ,the ring radiator from their
Discovery line.the Crossover uses all Jantzen Copper coils.
I bought the Mundorf Silver oil capacitors which their are only 2,which I have a lot of experience
With.the extra cost is well worth he added refinement detail.more open and airy around the instruments and the top end is much more 3 dimensional
The only down side is they take 200 hours if play time to start opening
And some 400 to fully settle in. For the resistors only-2 I ordered the optional Duelund pure graphite Silver conductor which are the purest sounding by far.I also ordered custom paint all total it was just over $4k.I hope to have them by week 1 of Nov. I will write my findings after I put two
weeks on them about 350 hours.