Recently I was invited to Cleveland Plasma to check out Swan's smallest entry in their "Ultimate" line, the floor standing F2.2+. The F2.2+ features two 8" woofers, each in it's own vented enclosure, along with a 5" midrange and a ribbon tweeter per channel. The 8" woofers feature oversized voice coils, reminding me of some of the Dynaudio and Morel offerings over the years and, of course, Hi Vi's own DIY drivers. Each channel consists of two bass cabinets with a midrange/tweeter cabinet stacked in between. Very high quality binding posts allow the cabinets to be wired together, and great care needs to be taken to ensure correct polarity at each connection. There is real technical merit to giving each driver it's own enclosure; transmissions of vibrations from the woofers to the midrange cones are reduced, possibly resulting in a reduction of certain distortions.
It makes an imposing but absolutely stylish statement, with one of the most impressive finishes and eye-catching designs around. These are speakers that would look at home even in the most opulent houses.
The F2.2s were set up in a large, open room. Though not acoustically treated, the room's large space and absorptive furnishings give it a pleasing sonic signature. I positioned the drivers about 37" from the back wall and just over 4 feet from the side walls. The tweeters are only 31" from floor level, though as I found out later the F2.2's sonic characteristics work well with listening positions higher than tweeter level.
Even though Chris had the F2.2s set up for a while, they were still only in the beginning stages of break in. Most speaker's sound significantly improves with heavy use, which allows the driver suspensions to loosen up; the F2.2s are no exception. After a quick initial listen, I made a couple of significant changes in the setup and decided to help the break in process along by playing high level bass tones before the serious auditioning. It's very possible the F2.2s could improve even further with age, but after a while I felt that they were at least a good way along and were ready for review.
I played mostly lossless audio files from my computer, sent via HDMI to an Integra pre/pro, which was connected via balanced interconnects to Red Dragon Audio 1000 watt monoblock amplifiers. The pre/pro was set to Pure Audio mode, which bypasses all processing. In the day I spent with the F2.2s, I managed to get in some light jazz and a good amount of country, folk, rap, crunk, and soft to hard rock.
The first thing that impressed me about the F2.2s were their crisp, extended high frequencies. The treble sounded neutral and transparent, allowing each recording's sonic signature to shine through. The only times the F2.2s sounded scratchy or abrasive was when it was in the recording.
One of the F2.2's most magical qualities is it's ability to throw a wide, spacious soundstage. Instruments had "air" around them, and sounds frequently appeared to come from beyond the barriers of the loudspeakers. In fact, in a couple of instances, it sounded as if there were surround speakers playing behind me, even though the F2.2's were the only active speakers in the room. The soundstage width was most impressive; depth behind the speakers was also good, though it was not particularly extraordinary. Imaging was good, with instruments in their tightly defined spaces, though vocal sibilants did not always stick with the vocal body at center stage. This is not untypical for point source speakers.
I was also smitten with the F2.2's bass extension. There were four 8" woofers playing in the room, yet when I had a heavy hand on the volume control the bass shook the room. It did so in a controlled manner, with just a slightly rounded quality, but absolutely none of the dreaded one-note bass that brings down so many speakers. I heard depth and power down into the 20-30 Hz range that would seem unlikely with four 8" woofers. There was weight to the low end, and even up into the upper bass instruments had a satisfyingly meaty character. The F2.2s handled heavy rap bass impressively well, while still giving naturally recorded bass instruments appropriate weight and power.
Despite the many magical qualities of the F2.2s, I was often bothered by hardness in the upper midrange and a slightly thick lower midrange. At low volumes it was not noticeable at all, but as I approached demo levels a wide variety of vocals, from Rascal Flatts to Clair Marlo, exhibited a slightly edgy quality. I quickly found what I believe to be the source of the problem: the F2.2's bass cabinets were extremely lively in the upper midrange. Despite the woofer's transition to the midrange driver rolling off the upper frequencies of the woofers, when I put my ear up to the woofer cabinets I could easily hear the cabinet walls "sing" at a certain upper midrange frequency. As a DIY tinkerer, I couldn't help but wonder what applying some additional dampening material to the interior of the bass cabinets would do for the sound.
After several hours of listening, I set up my calibrated microphone and took some measurements, which are shown in the attached Word document.
The first graph shows the F2.2's change in response off axis. The straight red line at 0 represents the on axis response. The dispersion is fairly wide and smooth, with just a slight dip in the upper midrange/lower treble as the midrange driver crosses over to the ribbon, and the expected roll off of the tweeter above 9-10 KHz.
The second graph shows how the tonal balance changes with height. The response develops a suckout between 5-6 KHz at heights above the tweeter, but this actually compliments the speaker's balance and helps the in-room response, which is shown in the 3rd and 4th graphs.
These in room responses show nearly ideal behavior, with a slightly elevated but fairly even bass response and a gently sloping response above 1-2 KHz. These characteristics are desirable for in-room response measurements, where a perfectly flat response would sound thin and bright. As suggested by the listening, bass was strong into the mid 20's, which is great performance.
Overall I hold the F2.2s in high regard for their exceptional imaging, lifelike treble, incredible bass, dynamics, and fit 'n finish. At times bordering on magical, their performance is worthy of very high end 2 channel systems and home theaters.
Hi Vi F2.2+.zip 457.9619140625k . file