Quick review: Cornered Audio Ci4

Loudspeaker installations don’t have to be obtrusive. But they still have to deliver the sonic goods. Danish speaker maker Cornered Audio specialises in meeting both requirements – and cost-effectively, too

By Deon Schoeman

Integrating an audio or home theatre system into an existing lounge or living space is easier said than done.

Hiding away the electronics and tucking away a subwoofers is still relatively simple. But accommodating loudspeakers often poses the toughest challenge.

Normal standmounts or floorstanders take up space, and even small-footprint designs have to be carefully located to deliver staging, focus and imaging, while interacting with their physical surroundings as little as possible.

You could opt for dedicated custom install speakers, typically consisting of in-wall and in-ceiling models, but those should either be incorporated during the construction of the room: gauging holes out of walls in existing rooms is messy and expensive.

The clever folk at Danish speaker maker Cornered Audio have a far more elegant solution that also makes sonic sense. The company has developed a range of speakers with a triangular profile and a rounded front that are pleasing to look at, easy to install – and sound great.

AT FACE VALUE

The Cornered Audio Ci4 is one of an extended range of loudspeakers that all have the triangular enclosure, hidden binding posts and flexible mounting and location options in common.

The main differences are in the enclosure dimensions, the mid/bass driver diameters and the tweeter configuration. The smallest model measures just 18cm tall, while the largest derivative is the 50cm C6.

Mid/bass driver diameters vary between 64mm and 152mm, and while most models features a silk soft-dome tweeter, some versions employ a horn configuration for the high frequencies.

The Ci4 is part of Cornered Audio’s installer-focussed range, but fit and finish are exemplary. The enclosure is produced from ABS plastic, which is not only acoustically inert, but also weather and fire resistant.

The Ci4, like most of the range, is available in either white or black with a matching-colour perforated metal grille. The grille is pressure-located, and easily removed, revealing a three-driver array mounted on a solid MDF baffle.

That array consists of a 25mm silk dome tweeter, centrally mounted in a D’Appolito arrangement, with a 102mm mid/bass driver below, and an identically sized passive radiator above.

One of Cornered Audio’s design masterstrokes is the way the binding posts are hidden. Instead of located at the rear of the enclosure as with conventional speakers, the terminals are situated on the front baffle, where they’re neatly hidden behind the grille.

The speaker cable is routed to the binding posts via an integrated channel that allows the Ci4 to be flush-mounted. The binding posts are push-down designs, which might irritate purists, but these are well-engineered devices that will also accommodate cables of a reasonable gauge.

The Ci4 speakers also offer several clever mounting options. They can be flush-fitted using the integrated mounting points, but also come with sliders that can be screwed or bolted to the required location (wall or ceiling), after which the speaker just clips into place – simple and effective.

The unusual shape means that the Ci4 fits snugly, be it vertically in the corner between two walls, or horizontally between ceiling and wall. You can also clip up to four Ci4s together to create a speaker array that offers 180-degree (with two speakers), 270-degree (with three) or even 360-degree (four speakers) dispersion.

UNDER THE COVERS

At 400 mm tall and 190 mm wide, the Ci4 is a slim, compact speaker that is easily accommodated in a wide range of positions – and not just the corner-based location it’s primarily designed for.

At a rated sensitivity of 86 dB, it deserves decent amplification: the company specifies continuous power handling of 60 watts, but the peak rating of 240 watts indicates just how robust these little ‘uns are. Maximum SPL is an impressive 110 dB.

Another benefit of the triangular enclosure is the wide dispersion: Cornered Audio claims 100 degrees by 100 degrees, which promises a bigger, broader delivery than the sleek, slim boxes should be capable of.

SETTING UP

In lieu of actually drilling holes and wall/corner-mounting the Ci4 review units, I positioned them on 60cm stands, placed flush against the side walls of the AVSA listening room. Two different locations were tried – one in the actual far corners of the room, the other about 1,8m into the room.

The speakers were brand new and spent the first 24 hours settling in. They were used in a stereo role, with our Marantz SR6011 AV receiver on amplifier duty, while I also tried them in a front left and right role with the system operating in surround sound mode.

Admittedly, the latter wasn’t and ideal arrangement, as the voicing of our regular Atlantic Technology centre channel is quite different, but it did provide a further indication of the test speakers’ imaging and focus potential.

SOUNDS LIKE …

If you were listening to the Ci4s blindfolded, you’d be hard-pressed to tell just how slim and compact they are. Their tonal breadth is admirable given the narrow enclosure and the small-diameter drivers – and they certainly appear to reach down lower than the quoted 60Hz.

That said, don’t expect room-shaking bass or a saturated midrange: the Cornered Audio sound is clean and neutral, with plenty of detail and definition. There’s no aggression or bite, and the overall approach is music-friendly, but you’ll want to incorporate a subwoofer if room-shaking bass is a must-have.

Of course, it depends on the application. The Ci4 is a viable option for a primary stereo role, especially in rooms where space is a limiting factor.

What it lacks in outright substance and authority it makes up for with clarity and poise, as well as a real talent for seamless, generously dimensioned staging, even when the speakers are located far apart.

Thanks to that wide dispersion pattern, the sound picture is both expansive and cohesive, while the precision of the delivery assists in ensuring a strongly dimensional, finely focussed image. As a result, the sweet spot is wider than one would expect, too.

That ability to spread its sonic wares far and wide also stands the Ci4 in good stead in home theatre applications, be it in a LCR or surround role.

In fact, based on my experience with the review pair, I’d wager that the Cornered Audio speakers would excel in a 5.1 or 7.1 configuration, as well in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X-compliant set-ups.

Their consistent voicing across all channels, their admirable clarity and fine resolution, and their ability to use their wide dispersion to create a cohesive, convincing image makes them particularly suited to this multichannel role.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Ironically, the Ci4s are most likely to be deployed as background speakers in commercial spaces such as restaurants and function venues – a task they’ll manage with ease. But they deserve to be taken more seriously.

They’re certainly lucid and accurate enough to please even critical listeners in a stereo application, while those attributes also benefit dimensionality, effect steering and dialogue projection in home theatre applications.

Add their compact form factor, smart but unobtrusive aesthetics, and versatile mounting options, and the Cornered Audio Ci4s are a slightly unusual but every effective alternative to more conventional small/satellite speaker choices.

VITAL STATS
Enclosure type: Sealed, infinite baffle.
Drive units:
– 1x 25mm silk dome tweeter,
– 1x 102mm mid/bass driver
– 1x 102mm passive radiator
Bi-wiring: No
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal
Sensitivity: 86 dB
Frequency response: 60 Hz – 20 kHz
Power handling: 60 watts RMS
Dimensions (HxWxD): 400 x 190 x 145mm
Weight: 2,7kg
PRICE
R5 290
SUPPLIED BY
Sky Audio