Audio Physic Tempo (£2600)

A sophisticated German with some likeable sonic traits

Like Audio Physic’s Sitara model recently reviewed in these pages [see HFN June ’09], the latest incarnation of the Audio Physic Tempo – the sixth, no less – catches the eye by being notably slim, deep and tilted back at 7º to provide time alignment of its small midrange driver and soft-dome tweeter.
   As the grilles on either side of the cabinet hint, a pair of opposed bass drivers handle the low frequencies, an arrangement which facilitates the narrow front baffle and reduces vibration through cancellation of their magnet reaction forces. The only puzzle is why Audio Physic didn’t take the opportunity to mount the two bass units at the bottom of the cabinet, a disposition pioneered by Roy Allison to help reduce low frequency power output variations caused by interaction with the room boundaries.
   Its narrow footprint makes the Tempo cabinet relatively unstable, so Audio Physic provides aluminium outriggers which screw to the bottom of the cabinet to carry spikes outboard of the base at either side. Push-on plastic covers serve to make these quite elegant and the gain in stability is considerable.
  Immaculately finished, the cabinet – with its gently curved side panels – is available in five different wood veneers (maple, black ash, cherry, ebony or rosenut) and two colours of high-gloss lacquer, black or white. Although it is a three-way design, the Tempo has only a single pair of input terminals so no provision is made for bi- or tri- wiring or amping.

Not unlike the B&W in this month’s group test, the Tempo produces a big, smooth sound but with a little more resolution. The reproduction of the Widor piece was notable for its wide, deep image and sumptuous clarinet tone and although there wasn’t quite the hear-through transparency of the best in group, the sound was fluid and enticing. Good bass extension was obvious on the Davenport track, together with a caramel vocal delivery but there was just a little crispness and sparkle missing.
   The latter was also true of the Alison Krauss song, which my listening notes describe as ‘too creamy’, and Clapton’s ‘Double Trouble’ likewise sounded a little too smoothed over, with some of the electric atmosphere and warts-and-all nature of the live rock band performance suppressed.

Its closest price competitor in this group, the Pioneer S-81, has a leaner tonal balance than the Tempo and a more vital sound quality, but the Tempo’s sugar-coating makes for low listening fatigue and will delight anyone who prefers a less than
full-on musical delivery. Family resemblance to Audio Physic’s considerably cheaper Sitara (£1950) is strong, but this Tempo VI is clearly the better of the two.

Originally published in the August 2009 issue