Buchardt S400 MKII Speaker Review.
By Steve Huff
I have been listening to a pair of Buchardt S400 MKII speakers for a little while now and these are absolutely gorgeous speakers in the flesh.
Holy wow. I can not believe the price point of these.
My Video Review
I have the rosewood version here and are they super sexy. Oh, and they use real Rosewood veneer as well. The Veneer is done in a nicer way than what I am used to. For example, the finish on these is much stronger and nicer looking from what I have on my Klipsch Heresy IV. It’s also nicer than the JBL’s I reviewed a couple of years back.
From the unique “upside down” appearance to the passive radiator in the back for added oomph this sealed design comes in at under $2,000 yet sounds like a bonafide high end bookshelf speaker that costs much more.
The last time I really raved about a bookshelf was when I reviewed the Dynaudio Heritage Special, which I absolutely think are stunning. I thought at the time it would be my last speaker but I ended up spending much more and getting more with my Fleetwood Deville SQ later on down the road.
While I did not need to do that, those were a “want” as I truly fell for the looks, build, and philosophy of the Fleetwood Sound brand. They sound amazing to boot with the big huge warm “full hug” human kind of sound I love.
With these little S400 MKII speakers I am experiencing some fine sounds indeed and they are a bit more lively than my beloved Deville’s which can be a touch warm in most systems. They are also smaller sounding, as they should be. Even so these sound mighty big for their diminuitive size.
Before I get to the meat of the review I will say that I have heard a large number of bookshelf speakers in my lifetime. In fact I used to only buy two way bookshelf speakers due to their amazing ability to completely disappear from the room. Bookshelf speakers are also rather special when it comes to pinpoint imaging, usually, if you get a good pair.
I recently reviewed an uber affordable pair of Emotiva B2+ speakers that really impressed me at the price point of around $500. These speakers offered quite bit of performance for the price and had some really good bass kick behind them. They were very good for the money but here I am today with a $2,000 set of similarly sized speakers. Hmmm. While they cost $1500 more than the Emotiva’s, these S400 MKII’s absolutely look more like a $5k speaker. Oh, and they sound like one too.
Yes, these are a big step up from the B2+ in looks, build and sound as they should be. The B2+ are pretty awesome for the price and even up to $1k.
I have to say that IMO today’s high end world of audio has gotten out of control when it comes to prices. I see bookshelf speakers that sell for $15k and in some cases even more. They are not always “better” than speakers that cost less, and in some cases much less. Usually these high end brands offer up world class treble and detail and if you love that kind of sound, there are some costly speakers out there that can deliver the best of that to you. Wilson Audio, Magico and Sonus Faber are just three brands that come to mind.
For me though, anytime I heard the larger Wilson or Magico speakers I was disappointed as they sounded more mechanical than musical to me (though some love that kind of sound as audio is quite subjective).
Me? I love a musical, slightly warm yet detailed speaker that speaks to the heart. Music for me is about emotion rather than hearing every microscopic detailed enhanced artificially. We feel music, we delve deep into it at times. It can make us get up and dance or even make us cry. It can even get us through hard times as it did for me on more than one occasion.
I WANT THAT EXPERIENCE when I listen to a set of Speakers.
Ghosts of Bookshelf Speakers Past
I remember reviewing the B&W 705 S2 which I LOVED for the price that they cost. They look nice, sound wonderful and were affordable for the quality they gave back in return. For around $3k you could have a set, but hold on…these $2000 S400 MKII may be even sweeter for less.
I have had bookshelf speakers that range in cost from $500 to $25,000 and these little S400 MKII’s have impressed me so much. They are up there with some of the $3500 and even $5k speakers I have heard. BTW, these are designed in Denmark and made in Indonesia. The build quality is top notch.
The looks and style are pure quality and the sound… the sound… is beautiful, delicate, sweet, smooth and very airy. The treble is one of the stars here, as is the bass as these go down to 33hz due to the passive radiator in the back. They have some kick, much more so than the small SoundKaos VOX3a speakers did. Moreso than the Dynaudio Special 40’s as well. Heck, I was hearing deeper (not more prevalent) bass from these on some tracks than my Fleetwood speakers! Whoa.
They have a more pronounced treble than my $20k Devilles as well, and actually have a deeper soundstage front to back. While they do not have the scale and massive sound of the Deville, or the huge midrange voice that sounds so human, the Deville are large speakers, not a bookshelf. They are also $18k more expensive!
As I write this I am now listening to “Lost Cause” by Cassandra Lewis and let me tell you…these things have some balls, but with a super clarity in the mids and treble.
These do not put out a big full throated midrange, rather they sing a delicate sweet song, an intimate song and they do this with a bass kick I did not expect. Not a midrange fullness kind of kick but a LOW BASS kind of kick. This truly helps with songs like “Lost Cause” as it delivers the grunt of the song very well. Makes me feel like I am listening to floor standers.
The sound is full but not at all bloated. They are present and do not sound thin, hard or lacking in any area, at all. These are not big full throated crispy head banging metal speakers, but they do rock out very well.
Where the SoundKaos VOX 3a excelled with the extreme treble detail they lacked a bit down below which made them sound smaller than I expected. They required very special placement to get the most from them and a small room is needed. The Buchardt on the other hand truly sound big for a speaker of their size. They have some warmth but with a gentle airiness that allows notes to hang in the air in a 3 dimensional space.
Compared to the Dynaudio Special 40, my previous favorite bookshelf under $3500, these are sweeter, more open, more spacious sounding. They have a more transparent midrange as well. In fact, I prefer the S400 MKII to the Special 40’s in build, style and sound. The S40’s have a more dynamic impact but not as sweet of a sound.
How these can be sold for $2,000
The reason Buchardt can sell these for $2,000 is because they eliminate the middleman. If you want the S400 speakers you must buy them direct from Buchardt as there are no dealers. If there were dealers involved I am confident these would reach the $4-$4500 price point. Would they be worth it at that price? Maybe, it depends on your room (these will work best in a small to medium room) and your amp that will be powering them.
These are quite easy to drive as I am enjoying them with both my Enleum AMP 23R (which as been astounding with any speaker I have paired it with in my space) and my Pass Labs XA60.8’s. With the Pass Monblocks these have a bit more warmth to them and are bigger and fuller in presentation. With the Enleum they are a bit lit up and sound more open. So the character of your amp will shine through with these. Feed them well my friends and they will reward you, like most speakers will.
These also image very well but they do not do the surgical type of imaging. These are very natural sounding speakers with nothing offensive about them, and that offer plenty of detail as well. The treble though, for me, is fantastic.
Compared to the $7k Dynaudio Heritage Speacial, the S400 MKII are not as punchy nor is the treble as prevalent. They are not as dynamic either but the bass is equal and the midrange is comparable. The Heritage are an all around nicer speaker but remember, they are $7,000.
The S400 II’s are $5,000 LESS! I enjoy both of them equally really and dare I say that the S400’s may be a touch more smooth and easier to drive. The Heritage in comparison is a teeny bit more analytical and tears apart the instruments in a more detailed way. The S400’s are sweeter and more delicate and have a touch more warmth.
I guess it depends on your tastes, but both are truly spectacular speakers.
One of the reasons they may sound so damn good is the fact that I am running them with some pretty nice gear. Pass Labs Monoblocks, the very unique Enleum AMP 23 R, a DCS Lina DAC, all plugged into a PS Audio PP20. My gear far outclasses the price of these speaker but it doesn’t outclass the speaker itself. That is astonishing.
I thought that maybe it was not a fair presentation of the S400’s so I moved them into a second system and powered them with the $500 Emotiva integrated amp I recently reviewed. They still sounded fantastic, had the same signature of sound but were a little less refined and smooth and a touch thinner. They were a touch less open and airy and sounded a bit more direct but still very very good. The better you feed them, the better they will sound.
Back in the reference system I fired up the end game Grimm MU1 Streamer and played some tunes via ROON. Whoa….I mean…Whoa. These now sounded like a $7k speaker and again, goes to show that running a nice Streamer, DAC and AMP can do wonders even for speakers that are affordable.
Debby walked in while I was listening to this combo and said “WOW, how much are those, $10k”.. Lol. I told her no, they are $2k retail. She couldn’t believe it. These little $2k boxes were sounding mighty fine with about $30k of gear driving them.
Going back to the listening…
Playing “Tres Hermanos” from Hermanos Gutierrez had me astounded. So 3D, so present, such beautiful treble and the soundstage was very very deep, more so than wide. While it was a wide stage I could see more into the front and back of the performance. I usually do not hear this kind of performance as most speakers seem to do the “wide” better than the “deep”. Very impressive. These sound very vivid in my room, very detailed and at times crisp but never ever do they enter the ragged or offensive territory, not even close.
These actually lean a little bit warm but are far more neutral than my Deville’s.
Compared to my $20k Deville SQ.
In no way is this a fair fight but in comparison these are not as warm as the Deville SQ and the treble is a bit more prevalent and airy. The Deville sounds much bigger and has a much larger more lifelike midrange. The Deville have a wider soundstage but one that is not as deep as the S400 MKII.
The Deville SQ is also a much larger speaker and sounds like one. The voice of the Deville is bigger as well, but that is to be expected. There is magic in the SQ Deville’s when run with the right gear.
Overall I really do enjoy the S400II and if I had to forgo my Deville and cut back costs these may be the speaker I would settle with. They are that good, especially when driven with the proper gear.
I will not be selling my Deville SQ anytime soon (probably ever) but man I regret waiting so long to hear the Buchardt S400 MKII! They are lovely to look at, easy to place in a room (they are not too fussy with setup) and sounded fantastic with any amp I paired them with.
These are a 4ohm speaker, at about 88db efficient. Buchardt recommends at least 40WPC but again, the Enleum at 25 WPC drove them just fine in my 13X18 room. The Enluem is designed differently from other amps and is current driven. It’s a super sweet sounding powerful Class A/B integrated that is now my reference (until I find something in an integrated that bests it for the cost, so far I haven’t).
The S400 II’s are attractive, small, easy to place in a room and offer up a sweet detailed sound that leans a touch warm. The deep bass is phenomenal for the size and they just have such a sweet musical sound that kept me listening into the night.
These are not big beefy sounding speakers, rather they offer up a beautiful and intimate look into the recordings. They can touch your heart and for that I love them.
This belongs in the “No Brainer” category and joins products for me like the Willsenton R8 amp that offer tremendous value for the dollar spent. In fact, these will pair very well with the R8 amp. Add in a Blue Sound Node and you have a legit beautiful HiFi system for under $4k.
As for stands, I used my Dynaudio Stand 6 for these and they worked out great but Buchardt offers up their custom stands for these as well as an integrated amp that is said to match them very well.