TODO alt text

Eclipse TD System review

How can Eclipse manage with just one drive unit per speaker?

Jump to Section:

Our Verdict

It doesn't do everything well, but it does succeed in some areas where its rival consistently fall down


  • Quick responses


    Instrumental-vocal separation



  • Limited volume

    Low sensitivity

    Not suited to blockbusters

If this system looks unlike any you have encountered in the past, that's because it is. I'm not talking about idiosyncratic styling for the sake of being different.

Those who know Eclipse know that form follows function in a very fundamental way, resulting in designs that don't do certain things as well as more conventional ones, but which do other things outstandingly well.

Whether or not you end up liking what this system does is partly a matter of expectations and preconceptions - and partly what it is you want from your chosen speaker system.

The elliptical cross section of the five satellites is not the most unusual feature. This honour goes to the single nominally full-range drive unit in each satellite, because, as Eclipse points out, using more than one means unavoidable sonic compromises.

The usual argument is that no single drive unit can produce all frequencies in a consistent way, and of course, this is true. But Eclipse's engineers counter with the premise that the phase (timing) errors inherent in multidriver speakers are unacceptable.

If the output is correct on one axis - straight in front for example, it is by definition not so on all others. In practice, even when sitting directly on axis, we hear a composite sound made from reflections from all other directions.

Of course the brand's single; full-range driver doesn't cover all frequencies. The extreme treble is suppressed, and there is no appreciable bass at all, in addition to which the output of the speakers is limited in level. This is not a system for listening at room- filling volume levels.

The sats are subtle and elegantly designed. The main fronts are identical to the centre speaker, except for the size of the stands, and are similar to the somewhat smaller TD510 rear effects speakers.

The shape is an all-out attempt to engineer a smoothly expanding soundfield off axis, and to restrict off axis voicing changes. Internally, a massive 'anchor' directs reaction forces harmlessly to earth from the rapidly moving drive unit cone.

With most speakers, back radiation from the cone energises the enclosure and leaks into the outside world after a time delay. There are many other such details too, and the current iteration of the Eclipse egg-shaped loudspeaker has a number of other points of departure from the norm, including a new, aerodynamically optimised pedestal stand, along with an optional shorter version for the centre position.

Lack of bass has been addressed with the TD725sw subwoofer. It shares none of the elegant detailing of the satellites, but as Eclipse points out, an elliptical subwoofer of equivalent internal volume would be enormous. But doesn't the whole idea of a subwoofer go against the grain of using only a single drive unit?

Well, the issue is only a live one at midrange frequencies, where the ear is particularly sensitive to such problems, and the wavelengths involved also argue against this being an issue with subs.

The design effort here was concentrated on making a sub fast enough to blend in (most subs are just the opposite, and you can hear it), and to reduce enclosure talk, achieved here by using two coupled contra acting drive units, one each side of the enclosure. This has been done before, but to my knowledge only by Martin Logan and Mordaunt-Short, in both cases with products of real distinction.

First, what's wrong with the Eclipse system? This is not the one for you if you like listening at high levels in largish rooms to films with busy, powerful, effects-rich soundtracks.

If you have some understanding of the way loudspeakers work, you may be surprised just how loud it does go, but it still doesn't compare to traditional loudspeakers. The treble is distinctly muted, though again it performs better than you might expect.

The fibreglass cones that Eclipse has chosen are surprisingly good, but the laws of physics set down limitations that cannot be bucked. Finally, the system is a little more coloured than some conventional alternatives.

This is frankly something you may notice, or may not, and the Eclipse system is far from alone in being mildly coloured, which in practice amounts to a touch of warmth rather than anything more destructive.

Despite these limitations, the Eclipse gave a compelling musical experience - more so than many nominally 'superior' systems. Many of my best experiences were wit multichannel music, particularly difficult works like Mahler symphonies for example, where the Eclipse's unusual speed and articulation makes the complexity easy to follow.

But this is not to deny its quality with film soundtracks. Okay, I wouldn't choose it to get the most from high-octane soundtracks, like Black Hawk Down. This particular film sounded a little undernourished on test, though the subwoofer meshes well with the satellites, and there is no lack of depth or tonal richness or variety, which as always are in the gift of a well-designed and well integrated sub.

But mostly this system is about timing. With music this means that a musical structure emerges, no matter how complex the source material. That said, at the other end of the spectrum, such as with smack- you-between-the-eyes artistically lightweight commercial pap like Black Hawk Down, the Eclipse is at no advantage over others, and may even be perceived to be weaker.

But if you're listening to the work of Danny Elfman or John Williams, the sound seems to just hang lightly in the air. It has a tangible presence, even a majesty that a more technically correct system will struggle to match.

In short, the system doesn't dumb down great music, and by the same token, it brings out some of the hidden spatial relationships, the subtlety in lower key soundtracks as found in movies from Chocolat to Chicago. Yes, the Eclipse system doesn't have the broadest spectrum, but when it does well, which is usually with the kind of material that causes difficulty for others, its limitations simply fade into the woodwork.