If you have been following this blog recently, you would have noticed me mentioning the names of Brad Serhan and David Allen who were kind enough to help us with the listening session of the new Kronos by Kyron Audio at Len Wallis Audio a couple of weeks back. Following this chance encounter, I was invited to give an opinion on a bespoke pair of speakers that these two gentlemen designed for an overseas and wealthy client.
This client had Quadral speakers and was interested in a little know Finnish brand, Penaudio, but eventually convinced B.A.G. to design a pair of speakers that would use similar drivers to the Penaudio and a ribbon tweeter, as a link to the Quadral he enjoyed listening to previously.
Now, a bit of background: Brad was one of the founders and is still the designer behind Orpheus speakers, a very famous Australian brand and works for other brands no less famous on the local scene as consultant/ designer for hire if you want. He has been designing speakers since 1984, same year I introduced Microphase back in France: good omen!
David on the other end is a Hifi enthusiast and has been for quite a long time. He is also more of a business man than a designer, although he told me that he had once 15" subwoofers embedded in the floor of his living room!
So, we have a lot of talent and experience behind this new venture: Brigadier Audio Group.
We had a first listening session at David's place in Walsh Bay, where we used only digital files from David's computer, Spotify Premium and FLAC files from my iPhone. We had other Hifi geeks joining us and we had a great time! These speakers work, period and they are exquisitely crafted and finished: High WAF, bravo!
Interestingly enough, I have not been given any specifications for these speakers. I have only been told about their genesis, the way these particular drivers ended up being used, some of the challenges along the way (!), but no frequency response or impedance curves. I had only my ears to judge of the result! It was a very interesting and fun exercise...
After an hour or so into this first listening session, I identified two areas for potential improvement, both to do with the way the drivers integrated with each other at the two cut-off frequencies of the filter, which I also identified correctly. We listened to more music, drank some more wine (great choice, David, btw...) and had more conversations between the very seasoned members of the audience and then we eventually had to split.
Brad and David decided then that they would work on my comments and would organise a second session later on, probably at Brad's place! And we did earlier this week.
Trust me, these two guys know their trade, as it took them only a few days to confirm my findings, think about how to improve these speakers by tweaking the filter appropriately and voilà!
For the second listening session, we had David's amp and streamer, Brad's Macbook for digital files and I was convinced to bring my very own OPPO player. Sorry, no turntable, no valves this time around, but eh we are in the 21st century after all!
Here are some of the stuff I brought we listened to:
Well, what can I say? In a nutshell, I really like these speakers. They are really accurate, speedy, they image very well, specially being quite large and the bass is extremely tight, although they are bass reflex, with very low distortion and coloration.
Now, I need to confess something: I don't normally like metal cone drivers and these 6.5" SEAS Excel drivers have magnesium cones. I do like ribbon though and this one from RAAL is really detailed and smooth, which is not a given for that type of driver. Same tweeter as the Kaiser speakers that I like a lot, by the way!
Crossover frequencies are 250Hz and 3.2Khz approximately. The cabinet is a work of art both externally - that you can see for yourself from the photos - and internally: The cabinets are made of a double layer of MDF and ply separated by a viscous compound (can't tell you, would have to kill you...). The drivers are mounted to the internal cabinet and there are two separate chambers for the midrange and the woofer, both bass relax tuned.
The two 6.5" drivers look the same, but are actually two different models with different magnets, voice coils and parameters ((can't tell you more - see above...). Nice terminals, good internal wiring, it is all done by the book!
And not only does it show, but you can hear the care taken in the design of these speakers! Well done!
I sincerely hope that this one off will trigger a suite of new commercial releases. I have been arguing about using a paper version of that midrange driver in future designs: time will tell, stay tuned!
A Swiss company, relatively new, but that has become quite famous quite quickly for its "money is no object" audio solutions with "soul" obviously!
6moons, Hifi News and other experts rave about these electronics, including the recently released 540, a combination of SACD player and HiRes DAC, that will set you back around 35K$
I didn't get a chance to listen to these digital jewels, so I would be quite happy with a 1k$ OPPO player and/or a Metrum DAC in the same price range.
Sooloos by Meridian
I have always had a sweet spot for Meridian products, and their CD players in particular. Their intrusion into "virtual music" by the acquisition of Sooloos add another dimension to their commitment to reproducing digital files.
Martial Hernandez, DJ extraordinaire, was keeping the audience riveted - to their seats - by his intimate knowledge of any of the 4000 CDs ripped on his 2To Sooloos system. He was helped in this exercise by the beautiful Vienna Acoustics speakers. Certainly one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining demos at the Show!
Sonus Faber has a long tradition of good speaker design in fabulously finished cabinets.
Here, the new Guarneri Memento are driven by the PrimaLuna 35W tube amps, a fine combination indeed, which retained a lot of visitors for more than the average time - I certainly was one of them!
It is always difficult to assess the performance of a speaker at a trade show, but some of them - and the Guarneri Memento is one of them - just make you stop and notice the difference.
What does it for me is the sheer balance, dynamic range and accuracy of this splendidly designed and manufactured pair of speakers, and the pleasure it gives me listening to most music you throw at it - even if they cost 15k$!
I would recommend you reading a proper review by Michael Stremer in Stereophile: http://www.stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/807sonus
An innovative music server, and multiroom system, the Maestro proposed by Soledge, one of these new breed of French manufacturers who embrace new technologies, but still respect the main "raison d'etre" of hifi equipment, which is reproducing music.
They had "borrowed' a pair of KEF speakers for their demos, which were driven by their Tenor "remote" amplifiers, the signal being transported via the power lines in a 200 Mhz PLC "envelope", quite an impressive feat!
We are far away from the X-10 PLC systems, used in early home automation systems!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.