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Hansen Audio Prince V2

February 23, 2009 By Steve Guttenberg



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Hansen Audio Prince V2
Hansen Audio Prince V2
Hansen Audio Prince V2

Break on Through

The most striking thing about Hansen Audio's Prince V2 is its superlative sound, but that's kinda like saying a Dodge Viper SRT10 is a really fast car. It's quick alright, just lacking the reflexes and finely honed sophistication of a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano.

The analogy can be made for uber speakers—you can buy a speaker for a fraction of the Hansen Prince V2's lofty price that measures nearly as well, but once you hear what the Prince V2 can do, you know there's no substitute for excellence.

Oh, and you don't have to be an audiophile to know the cabinet's luscious curves and seductively flowing lines hint that radically new thinking is at work here.

Hansen Audio Prince V2

I'm not sure if designer Lars Hansen sees his work as a means of self-expression, but starting in 2003 he poured blood, sweat and tears into developing a speaker line that would push the limits of sound reproducing technology.

For him, it wasn't just a matter of plucking state-of-the-art woofers, midranges and tweeters off the shelf and building speakers around them, which is what most of the competition does. No, his "holistic" approach required him to master every aspect of speaker design. The harmony of form, function and sound are the underlying principles of Hansen's mission.

Not that he was on an ego trip. When Hansen started his journey he bought the very best drivers he could find, but none quite measured up. The driver materials—paper, plastic, metal, and ceramic—used to fashion woofer and midranges inevitably superimpose their own sonic signatures over the music they play.

After all, when you're listening to a piano recording, the speakers have to do more than reproduce the sound of the piano—you want to hear the musician playing the piano. True, Herbie Hancock will never be confused with Thelonious Monk, but with great speakers the differences in the player's dynamics, touch and timing become vastly more clear.

The Prince V2 does that sort of thing better than any speaker I've ever heard. It plays music, not sound.

Hansen Audio Prince V2

The speaker's 10.5-inch woofer and 7-inch midrange drivers feature sandwich cones concocted with epoxy resin, infused with glass and other proprietary ingredients -- the middle layer of this tasty sandwich is Rohacell, a closed cell rigid foam -- and the inside layer is similar to the side of the driver you see, but with a slightly different mix of epoxy and glass. The three-layer cone is eight times stronger and stiffer than an aluminum cone. The idea is simply to make drivers that won't deform as they play music.

The one-inch tweeter is, alas, the only element of the Prince V2 not designed by Hansen. Not that he didn't try to create a superior tweeter, but after nearly a year of building prototypes, Hansen decided to use a top of the range European model.

Next, the Prince V2's curvaceous cabinet was literally designed around its tweeter, midrange and woofer drivers to free them of the constraints imposed by the high-mass, inert cabinets so in vogue now. Not that the Prince V2 is a lightweight; tipping the scales at over 200 pounds it's a hefty beast.

The Prince V2's upper cabinet is a fiendishly complex structure, the culmination of years of research. Its swooping curves were precisely rendered to minimize the diffraction and image smearing effects endemic to speakers with flat baffles and hard corners. In other words, the Prince V2's sonically invisible cabinet lets the drivers "speak" for themselves.

Hansen Audio Prince V2

In order for the tweeter, midrange and woofer to work as designed Hansen's enclosures had to be harder, stronger and more durable than conventional wood based designs.

The Prince V2's upper cabinet is a molded form, fashioned out of Hansen Composite Matrix.

There are three distinct layers involved, each one hand applied and formed until the precise thickness of each layer is achieved. It's a time consuming procedure requiring a total of eight man hours per speaker to complete.

Oh, and each layer is a different formula, hence the name, Hansen Composite Matrix. There's also a forth internal layer Hansen dubbed the "Cloaking Device," a tar-like substance that further quells cabinet energy/vibration.

Two-inch thick medium-density fiberboard is used to fabricate the lower cabinet. The speaker is finished in eight coats of "Hansen Audio Silver" or "Hansen Audio Black," with another four clear coats to complete the job.

It's a three-day process. The Prince V2 is entirely hand-built in Hansen's factory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.

I'm a huge Ray Charles fan, but I never really understood his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music album. It was too syrupy sweet and Charles's soul was in short supply. I'm happy to report the Prince V2 righted that wrong. The very last song on the CD, "Lucky Old Sun" bowled me over. Charles doesn't just sing the tune, he inhabits it. When he sings "Roll around Heaven all day," it's goose bump city—the communication between the artist and yours truly was total.

Neil Young's stripped down Unplugged CD sounded like a private concert, with a this-is-happening-now live quality, so much so I couldn't tear myself away to take a bathroom break! And like many a live concert I wasn't all that thrilled with the mix; Young's vocal was a hair too loud and the reverb was a bit much, but none of that mattered. I was digging the tunes like never before. The Clash's pedal-to-the-metal rock and roll had the visceral kick of a concert sound system.

Switching over to LP, the Prince V2's sound was even more palpable. The reach out and touch believability quotient jumped up a few notches. So you see, with this review I'm not breaking down the sound of the Prince V2 into the standard treble, midrange, and bass categories. No need to trot out the usual audiophile lexicon, and rave about transparency or soundstage depth. With this speaker I heard just the music. That sounds like nirvana to me.

PRICE: $39,000/pair
CONTACT: 905.731.8434, hansenaudio.com

 Hansen Audio Prince V2

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