Over the last couple of years, I have been lucky enough to listen to some of the best and most expensive speakers available in Australia, namely the Steinway Lingdorff at Audioconnexion and the Focal Grand Utopia EM at Len Wallis Audio, both worth around a quarter of a million dollars.
Four Grand Utopias have been sold in Australia alone so far!
This time around, Len invited me to listen to his newest arrival: the huge Acapella Sphaeron Excalibur, this one worth a tad under half a million dollars, and you really need a barn around them to do them justice...
So, even though Len and his team (Charles in particular...) have taken great care in setting these monsters up and pairing them with the best equipment, the room is certainly not large enough to develop their full potential.
Having said that, I spent a few hours with my favourite music both on vinyl and on CD and prepared myself to be amazed, and amazed I was!
Can I start by listing the equipment driving these very unusual speakers:
Michell Orbe turntable, Rega arm modified by Michell with Dynavector cartridge
Meridian CD player used as transport only, and Electrocompaniet D/A converter
Musical Fidelity PRIMO pure Class A tube preamp (Primo, zero feedback, pure Class A, triode, fully balanced preamp. Superlative sounding, beautifully built, beautifully designed, extremely reliable. - quote from MF website....)
Krell Evolution 400 mono amp (The Evolution 400e amplifier is the smallest monaural amplifier in the Evolution Series. With a robust 400 watt output into 8 Ohms, this baby brother delivers plenty of punch - quote from Krell website...)
Now, what about the speakers themselves?
Well, for starters, although they are not a full range (as in one driver) system, they are very efficient at 100db/w/m, and thanks to four 15" (38 cms) drivers and a plasma tweeter, they are indeed very wide band, probably from 40 Hz to 50kHz in a "normal" size room, and certainly capable of going lower in frequency if you add the barn around them. The manufacturer recommends a room size of 40m2 (400sft) as a minimum.
interestingly enough, although there is enormous potential for bass, these speakers never seem to over do it - instead the respone is very tight and well contolled.
At the other end of the spectrum, the plasma tweeter is extremely accurate and extends way beyond anything I have listened to, and still is mellifluous.
It is supposed to work from 5khz to 50kHz.
My guess is that if you are a professional drummer, you should be able to recognise the brand of drums used in any given good recording.
Now, what about the two horns? well they are spherical in shape (as the sails of the Sydney Opera House, btw...) and Acapella are claiming credit for their invention back in the late 70s...
Although, the manufacturer does not share much about their frequency range, one can assume they use the same as in their Triolon speaker which only difference is in the size of the subwoofer.
The frequencies below 170Hz are handled by four 15-inch drivers in each woofer tower. Each pair of woofers is in a separate sealed enclosure. Each woofer tower is composed of two of these enclosures. The enclosures are extremely rigid, heavy and well damped with felt, bitumen and lead. The bass towers are finished in a piano black high gloss. The sound from 170Hz up to 50,000Hz emanates as a spherical wave front. Frequencies from 170Hz to 700Hz are handled by the 30.5-inch horn which loads a 12-inch driver; those from 700Hz to 5000Hz, the 18.5-inch horn, and frequencies above 5000Hz is handled by
the plasma tweeter.
How does it sounds?
The first impression is of life, and of being enveloped by music, immersed in the performance. Quite a feast!
However, after listening to various types of music, both on vinyl and CD, there are some resonances in the horns that can muddle the sound, specially on voices.
Also, at times, the instruments seem to "travel" from one driver to the next depending on the range in which they are played, and that can be quite annoying at time.
But what they never fail to achieve is to involve you into the performance, particularly on live recordings like Bill Evans trio recorded in Paris in the 70s or my reference record, Alchemy live from Dire Straits.
You find yourself tapping your feet or wanting to clap your hands!
This in itself is what I crave for in any speakers, and these ones certainly qualify.
Do you need to spend that sort of money on a pair of speakers to get there, not to mention the ancilary equipment? Well, I am not sure.
I was certainly impressed, but probably not sold...Your own impressions are welcome!
So, if you are in Sydney, go and visit Len wallis Audio in Lane Cove: it is certainly worth your while!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.