About 13 years ago, I became acquainted with Eric Alexander and his outside-the-box loudspeaker company, Tekton Design. Eric was kind enough to ship along a pair of Tekton Mini-Lore loudspeakers, and shortly thereafter an original pair of Tekton Pendragon loudspeakers for evaluation for an audiophile publication that I used to work with years ago. Way back then, the performance of the Pendragon was an incredible value, offering the presence of speakers 10 times their asking price. It was Tekton’s schtick back then, and they lived up to all of their promises.
Tekton’s loudspeakers gave a presence and efficiency that could not be found unless one opted for horn-based loudspeakers, which Eric knew have some inherent issues that not every audiophile loved. Eric was tired of speakers that lacked lifelike or visceral impact and this long-term veteran of acoustic engineering with a live-performance background was determined to bring the most realistic sound to everyone in an affordable package. No horns, no problems, just music through innovative loudspeaker design and manufacturing.
Flash forward 13 years, and in my listening room I have another pair of Pendragons. Only this time, they have 13 additional years of Eric’s design experience behind them, which includes a complex, patented tweeter array (when was the last time we saw a new, legitimate acoustical engineering patent that was not just some spin-off of century-old technology?), redesigned crossovers, improved cabinet, and a handsome custom orange paint finish. There’s a growing base of audiophiles who have gotten the memo on Tekton Designs and there are others who are curious. To use a Silicon Valley term, I am not sure that there is an audiophile speaker that is more disruptive than Tekton’s design. Let’s dig in.
What Makes the Tekton Pendragon Loudspeaker Special?
- The Tekton Patented Tweeter Array provides low-distortion, high-impact midrange and treble like no other. If so inclined, feel free to read the details of US patent 9247339. To make a long story short, Tekton has found a way to utilize a tweeter array for treble and midrange that allows the mass of the drivers to remain extremely low. Utilizing tweeters like this is unheard of historically in audiophile speaker design, however it makes a lot of sense since tweeters have powerful motors in relation to the weight of their diaphragms, a close proximity of the voice coil to the fixed magnetic field, and extremely low distortion. Their low-mass and high efficiency makes for lightning-fast dynamic attack, too.
- The Tekton Pendragon loudspeaker is truly full range. There are no flowery words about special designs to extend the bass, and no trying to make small woofers do what they physically cannot. The Pendragon has two custom 10-inch woofers from the pro audio world and enough cabinet volume to provide room-compressing, bottom-octave (20-to-40Hz) bass. Disclaimer: The bottom octave, often covered by is highly room-dependent.
- This pair of Pendragons had to fill a large listening space that measures 540 square feet with eight-foot ceilings. That is nearly 3,500 cubic feet of volume. The room was no sweat for the Pendragons, whether driven by the beefy Bricasti M30 mono block amplifiers, or the Quicksilver Audio 60-Watt Mono amplifiers. The transition from the woofers to the tweeter array is flawless. The Tekton Design Pendragons need the specialty woofers they utilize to accomplish this, and the surface area of the tweeter array matches the power from the woofers all the way to an extended, clean top-end.
- Customizable options allow you to build the Tekton Design Pendragon that’s right for you. You might have to weeks for the exact loudspeaker you desire but what’s a few weeks when you’ll likely keep this speakers for decades? Custom options are why the Tekton Design Pendragons range from $2,300 per pair for the base model to $4,195 per pair fully loaded including a custom color and high-gloss finish. It is important to note that each upgrade offered is not a gimmick, but a legitimate step-up in appearance or performance. The upgrades are priced relatively reasonably, too. The Tekton Design Pendragons that I received had the crossover upgrade and the tweeter array upgrade, bringing them up to $2,990 per pair.
- Audiophile speakers handmade in the USA with excellent craftsmanship aren’t a dime a dozen. Tekton Design loudspeakers are a military-level exercise in function over form. The engineering is executed to the finest degree, and the Tekton Design Pendragons stand tall with pride of quality.
Why Should You Care About the Tekton Pendragon Loudspeaker?
It should be mentioned that it’s been a long time since something legitimately new or game-changing has popped up in the world of speaker engineering, as many of the best technologies are age-old and time-tested. Typically, new loudspeaker technology is just a spin-off from long-expired patents. The brilliant design behind the patented tweeter array in the Tekton Design Pendragon speaker breathes new life to full-scale loudspeakers, allowing them to do a few things that have never been heard in home audiophile listening rooms, at a consumer audiophile show, or in an audiophile dealer’s showroom. More importantly, these improvements are real, both measurably and experientially.
Have you ever heard a loudspeaker standing over 5.5 feet tall that nonetheless disappears in-room as well as if not better than a micro-bookshelf speaker? How about a tall loudspeaker with a large driver array that actually scales instruments properly, and does not make it sound as if you’re listening to a seven-foot-tall violin? How about a large loudspeaker that can be delicate and laid back and used in any sized room? Tekton’s innovative engineering of the Pendragon makes all of the above a reality.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Tekton Pendragon Loudspeaker
- The Tekton Design Pendragons are physically very large. One thing well understood by Tekton is that there is no free lunch (acoustically). If you want realistic, live sound, you need to move a lot of air. Moving a lot of air requires physical size. This is the trade-off for the Pendragon’s performance. Yet the Pendragon only occupies a slim 12-inch by 16-inch foot-print, and a majority of its bulk is skyward. This footprint is not much larger than a modest stand for a bookshelf loudspeaker.
- The Tekton Design Pendragon will not be visually appealing to some who want a very slickly designed speaker cabinet. Another design choice was to keep the cabinet very simple. This means grills will run an owner extra money and the cabinets are square, painted boxes with round-overs to soften the edges a bit. They are not works of art like the Sonus faber Lumina V loudspeakers and if grand elegance is desired over outright performance, the Pendragons are not your endgame. All is not lost, however, since the Tekton Design Pendragon speaker can be customized to any Behr, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, or Valspar color, and the gloss finish from the pictures section on Tekton’s website is beautiful.
- There is a very minor sonic ire in the upper midrange that I am convinced is not from the design, but rather the drivers utilized in the Pendragon. The Pendragon averages around $2,500 per pair. This means Tekton uses high-quality speaker drivers. However, the drivers are not top-tier even though Tekton’s business model allows them to use much better-quality drivers than comparatively priced competitors. Realistically, drivers simply cannot be top-shelf offerings from driver companies for the kind of retail value the Pendragon offers. The Tekton Design Pendragon’s tweeter array utilizes dimple-dome tweeters. I have had a gripe with this style of tweeter after hearing it used in several designs throughout the years, and that grievance is a slight glare in the upper midrange. This design choice is not sonically offensive in the Pendragon at all. However, it is a sonic quirk or anomaly that does exist, and keen listeners might pick up on it.
Listening to the Tekton Design Pendragon Loudspeakers…
To critically evaluate the Tekton Design Pendragon loudspeakers, I utilized three amplifiers: thetop-tier Bricasti M30, the heavy-hitting Parasound Halo A21+, and the refined Quicksilver Audio Sixty Watt Mono amplifiers. All three drove the snot out of the Pendragons, albeit with some differences. The M30 was the flawless window into the music. The A21+ was the quiet bruiser of the group, hitting hard yet getting out of the way when asked. And the Sixty Watt Monos were laid back and warm without missing the right details. The Pendragons presented these three amplifiers as expected.
Selecting what musical selections I wanted to use with the Tekton Design Pendragons was trickier than normal. They needed to run the gamut of exercising the capabilities of the speakers, while not making this evaluation so long that it becomes a boring read. If you feel I’m missing any key points, or want more detail, feel free to comment below and I will follow up as soon as possible.
Danny Carey is the 61-year-old drummer from a progressive metal band Tool. With the unfortunate passing of Neal Pert from Rush, there is no argument that, when it comes to technical perfection in drumming, Danny Carey is one of the clear frontrunners. The screaming track of torture and anger for those who try and be parasites to others, aptly named “Ticks and Leeches,” appears on Tool’s 2001 album Lateralus (buy at Amazon on CD or vinyl). Carey’s amazing drumming is extremely hard for many lofty, well-reviewed audiophile loudspeakers to sort out. On the under-$3,000/pair Tekton Design Pendragons, every drum hit is purposeful, accented, and the entire kit is utilized throughout, including a symphony of various cymbals.
The Pendragons had no trouble sorting out Carey’s masterful playing, regardless of the guitar, lyrics, and bass that round out the song with as much mastery as Carey. Complicated music is simply not that complicated for the Tekton Design Pendragons to reproduce. With the incredible dynamics and impact the Pendragon is capable of, the body and character of each tom-tom, the snap of the snare, and the speed of the sixteenth notes on the double-bass drum were all presented with fierce presence. “Ticks and Leeches” is an epic song, and the Pendragons delivered it in a massive way, when so many other loudspeakers simply fail to live up to the complexity.
Listening to this track, it makes sense that Eric Alexander is a drummer, and the fact that most loudspeakers have trouble reproducing the drums was an inspiration for the founding of Tekton Design.
Genius Loves Company (buy at Amazon) is the last album by Ray Charles before his passing in 2004. Each track features a superstar duet. “Here We Go Again” benefits from the smooth-as-warm-maple-syrup vocal accompaniment of Norah Jones, along with fantastic organ, vibes, drums, bass, and a 1950’s waltzy vibe. The Tekton Design Pendragons threw a giant soundstage that sounded effortless, with all of the musical details etched in space. Jones’ voice melts from centerstage, with a sexy breathiness, accurate timbre, and scale that feels as if you can reach out and shake her hand – right in your own listening room.
Hans Zimmer did a fantastic job with the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (buy at Amazon on CD). The track “The Kraken” has thunderous drums, dynamic strings, chorus, and even a pipe organ. It is certainly an adventurous and intense orchestral track that brings you into the salty sea air with cannons ablaze. It should be no surprise by now that the Pendragon had as much issue with a complex, full-range orchestra as my overweight cat has with ham, which is no issue at all.
This track was where the minor anomaly in the upper midrange was most noticeable to me, though. Everything else, on the other hand, was on the scope and scale of an orchestra right up to as loud as I was willing to push it. The low strings had tremendous body and the upper strings were full of harmonic texture. There are many layers of dynamic information in this track, and the Pendragons had no issue unraveling them all.
Do the Tekton Design Pendragon Loudspeakers Have Any Resale Value?
Given the size of the Tekton Design Pendragon speakers, they could be difficult or expensive to ship. Otherwise, those who know Tekton speakers will jump at the chance to buy them at below retail price. The ever-growing base of Tekton Design fans are rabid about their speakers and buy enthusiastically.
Who Is the Competition for the Tekton Pendragon Loudspeaker?
The Sonus faber Lumina V makes a very interesting comparison at $2,999 per pair. It’s much smaller and offers a more laid-back but finely detailed sound than the Tekton Design Pendragon overall. Beyond anything moderate in volume or in regard to very large-scale music like orchestra, it loses a lot to the Pendragon, including low bass. It certainly looks better though, and remains a mainstay in my loudspeaker lineup for its amazing balance and overall performance.
It may be a stretch, but the Klipsch Heresy IV (buy at Amazon) at $3,200 per pair will scale up in sound like the Pendragon, though the smaller cabinet restricts bass response. The Klipsch Heresy loudspeakers are very tube friendly like the Tekton Design Pendragons. It would be an interesting comparison to get them side-by-side, since the Heresy utilizes horns for both the midrange and the tweeter.
The SVS Ultra Tower (buy at Amazon) at $2,600/pair has the potential to move some serious air and play deep bass like the Pendragon does. The design is pretty but a bit industrial. The dual 6.5-inch drivers will provide full-bodied midrange, too. The SVS Ultra is an award-winning loudspeaker that also represents a very strong value like the Tekton Design Pendragon.
Final Thoughts on the Tekton Design Pendragon Loudspeaker
The Tekton Design Pendragon, with its patented tweeter array, is certainly worthy of the phrase “excellence in execution.”
When I think about the first pair of Tekton Design Pendragon that I was fortunate enough to evaluate 13 years ago, I am gobsmacked at how far Eric Alexander’s loudspeakers have come. If the Tekton Design Pendragons are any clue as to the direction the company is going in, every loudspeaker manufacturer should be taking notes and be a little worried, as these speakers are game changers in a game that rarely ever changes.