Review: Specimen Little Horn Speakers

More audio gear should look as awesome as the Little Horn Speakers from Specimen. Out of the box, these full-range speakers are a thing of exceptional beauty: The 14-inch-diameter horn carved from high-density fiberglass sits atop a Baltic birch plywood throne that houses a Fostex FE-108 Sigma.

So how so they sound?

We paired our speakers with Neuhaus Laboratories’ T-2 tube amplifier (a less expensive alternative to Specimen’s own EL34 amp), and pumped digital tracks via a laptop in the linoleum-tiled room of the Gadget Lab. The noticeably colored sound seemed reasonable: Mids are more or less crystal clear; the bass is a little weak and the highs suffer from slight clipping (also expected), but we were more or less satiated, especially as we tweaked the setup.

Because the speakers are an imposing 36 inches tall, we first positioned them on the floor. But after listening to a range of genres — everything from Yo-Yo Ma and Sarah Vaughn to Tom Petty — we detected obvious high-frequency room reflection. Translation: Keep these suckers on a desk or shelf.

Although repositioning the base did wonders for the sound, we were shocked at how the speakers stacked up against a Reagan-era set of refurbished Polk Monitor 5s. Compared to those vintage speakers (which currently retail for only $150!), the Little Horns just didn’t have the same presence. The brush drumming behind Sarah Vaughn all but disappeared; the oomph of Tom Petty’s rhythm section faded away. And just maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The difference between getting your eardrums blasted in the front row versus taking in more ambience from the back of a large concert hall is entirely personal.

We can’t tell you what type of listener to be. But we will say this: You’re better off getting a set of speakers like the Polk Monitors and using the excess cash to buy tickets to a Tom Petty concert. That’s a sound decision we can get behind.

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