Teufel might not be a brand that springs to mind when thinking of hi-fi speakers, however the German company planted its roots in the speaker market more than three decades ago. Its budget Ultima range has been around a while.
We reviewed Teufel’s Ultima 60 floorstanders in 2009, which made an impression for their affordability, and we’re pleased to report the same affordability is present in their standmounts too.
Build and design
The quality of build and finish on the Ultima 20 Mk2 makes you think they belong in a higher bracket than their £150 price. Sturdy and built to last, the curved-corners of the cabinets are wrapped in a smart black finish that’s clearly been applied with care.
As design goes, the busy gloss baffle will surely split opinions with its screws and striking mid/bass driver – its orange-coloured cone is centred by a bullet-shaped phase plug to help integration.
It’s a more familiar affair around the back though: a bass reflex port sits above a single set of speaker terminals.
But are the Ultima 20 Mk2 speakers the bargain we hope they are? In short, no, but they do get the basics right. There’s decent body to sound, and presentation is fairly balanced. The Teufels happily run through everything from Pink Floyd to Prince with decent solidity and clarity. Their talents really stand out with bassy songs, however.
Although bass isn’t the tightest or most controlled we’ve heard at this price, the Teufels are generous. However, don’t put them too close to a rear wall, for the presentation becomes a little bottom heavy; we’d put them at least 45cm or so away from the wall for best balance.
Toeing them in slightly gives vocals more focus, too. Norah Jones’s voice is thick and clear, although we find expression in short supply: the vocal doesn’t have the trademark wispy qualities that are revealed by the best sub-£200 speakers. It seems the Ultima 20s opt for solidity over transparency.
Ultimately, a lack of detail across the frequencies is their undoing – they don’t possess the subtlety or dynamic insight to challenge the very best
We’d like more refinement in the mids and highs, too: the midrange can feel shouty, making the presentation sound uncomfortably edgy and assertive, while treble notes sound scratchy.
Couple that with a lack of spaciousness in the soundstage and you have a presentation that is at times troubled by higher volumes, and messy during playback of dense music.
So while the Teufel Ultima 20 Mk2 speakers show promising foundations – good build, clarity and balance – they fall well short of being a product we’d happily recommend.