What Hi-Fi (UK)
Amphion blends quality with practicality – and throws in an eye-catching design
A great-sounding pair of speakers is one thing – and the Amphion Argon1 certainly fit into that category – but what’s more impressive is when you can hear a company’s values with every note that is played.
In Amphion’s case, the Finnish manufacturer’s ambitious aim of creating versatile speakers that will pair with almost anything, and that you don’t have to rearrange the house to make sound good, is clearly evident. At this price, that skillset is rather hard to come by.
It has been more than a decade since we last tested a pair of Amphion speakers, and it’s fair to say we weren’t overly enamoured back then. That these diminutive gems are worthy of recommendation is even more welcome.
Compact and versatile
At around 32cm tall and 27cm deep, the Argon1s are the second-smallest offering in Amphion’s bookshelf range, after the tiny Argon0, and are dwarfed by competitors such as the KEF R3. Though we wouldn’t recommend taking that bookshelf moniker at face value, it means the Argon1 will fit in pretty much any room – something you couldn’t say about their KEF rivals.
They aren’t built to sound small, however. Amphion promises referencequality midrange and deep bass from the 13cm aluminium-coned driver, which sits below a 25mm titanium-dome tweeter. The tweeter sits in a deeply dished faceplate that aims to produce a degree of horn-loading and controls the unit’s dispersion characteristics.
While the metal speaker grilles can be removed each time you want to play music, they actually aid dispersion rather than hamper it – as most removable covers do. It all contributes to these speakers’ accommodating character, catering for plug-in-and-play, place it anywhere listening.
And that’s how it transpires. Placing the Argon1s with their back right up against the wall returns a bit more bass weight than having them out into the room, but in the latter position, the sound isn’t weakened at all. The character remains wherever you put them.
That’s even better news when you consider that body and balance are major fortes of these truly likeable standmounters. The pursuit of such likeability can often lead to a roll-off of tricky or easily provoked frequencies, but Amphion is confident in its ability to deliver treble and bass that is equally as rich and detailed as the midrange.
There is a fullness to that midrange you might not readily associate with smaller speakers, best demonstrated by the lavish vocal lines that still have enough texture to remind us these are speakers with a four-figure price tag.
There is plenty of bass weight here too, but the Amphions don’t sacrifice that mature balance trying to sound bigger than they are. Most importantly, the low end is fast and detailed, leaving you the option to pair with a subwoofer if you crave more muscle, but by no means making that a necessity.
That is all complemented by a really strong sense of focus. While relatively mellow in character, the Argon1s have decent stereo imaging, that layers and focuses sounds well.
The problem is that the Argon1s face some incredibly tough competition. They are clean and fast but, in terms of detail, they struggle to lay a glove on the class-leading speakers around this price, including the KEF R3 and even more insightful KEF LS50 Meta.
Pitting the Argon1 against the R3 might not be an entirely fair fight – those who can accommodate the latter probably won’t be auditioning these Amphions. The LS50 Meta are a generally manageable size and also a few hundred pounds cheaper. This makes us feel less demanding for wanting more of the KEFS’ strict timing and punchy dynamics from the Amphions. The Argon1s are not void of expression, nor would we call them boring, but they often fail to grab us when the music demands it. That also means that it’s important not to pair them with anything slovenly or apathetic.
But these are gripes only when you consider that the competition is stiffer than ever at this price point – and no pair of speakers can claim to be perfect.
In terms of a pair of bookshelf speakers that it’s possible to place anywhere, and pair with pretty much anything, you’ll struggle to find many more versatile than the Amphion Argon1. Add in a maturity that’s consistent with their four-figure tag, and we’re sure these standmounters will find many grateful owners.