Exploring loudspeakers made of different materials, we move away from timber, glass and plaster on to METAL, in this case Aluminium for this young Swiss outfit Stenheim and steel from a new Parisian designer, Eden de Vismes.
STENHEIM has designed a speaker made of 6mm thick aluminium and fitted a 2-way arrangement into a bass-reflex enclosure. They only had a static display at the show, but I was intrigued enough to go and visit their only Parisian dealer, Sounds & Colors near the Parc Monceau.
Laurent Gelin was kind enough to let me run my own demo as he was busy preparing for the upcoming Monaco Salon.
There, the Stenheim were properly set up in their own room in good company with Ayre amplication and CD player.
With a claimed power handling of 90W and a sensitivity of 90db, "Alumine loudspeakers might not make it to the moon, but they can easily become the stars of your listening room!" as stated on their website!
At 9000 euros a (matched) pair with your own customised finish and 3000 euros for the stand, and electronics to match, you would expect to be blown away.
The short answer is: I was not...
The speakers certainly are very detailed, present a nice, precise, stable image of the music, but it feels somehow restrained, and certainly not like a 90dB speaker.
When pushing the volume to try to get a wider dynamic range, distortion comes up, rather than dynamics. Don't get me wrong, these speakers can be very loud, but then, maybe because the internal damping or the port are not tuned at their best, the main driver is not well controlled enough and distortion raises to a very obvious level.
Another surprise was that the cabinet was still generating vibrations, and you would not expect that from so much aluminium. Having said that, aluminium is also used to make bells...
Another imperfection coming from the port is quite obvious on female voices, occasionally raising some nasality because of the rear wave filtering through the port. I know from experience that this is quite difficult to avoid on a bass-reflex speaker.
These are obviously observations that are minor impediments from an overall very well designed loudspeaker. It is just so that you can spend 12000 euros more wisely and get a much better result even using less expensive electronics.
VISMES, a new outfit run by Eden de Vismes, as you would expect.
Maybe not the best name to export the product, but a very interesting concept altogether: An active loudspeaker with two integrated amplifiers running a full range modified Fostex main driver, reinforced by a down-firing woofer, all this crammed into a steel CUBE (it's the name of the speaker...) of 22cm only!
A real "tour de force"!!!
And then, you sit down and listen, and it is pure joy...
Extreme dynamics, perfect phase, no cabinet resonances, pinpoint image gives you a real musical performance on any of the material Eden chose to get us to listen to.
An iPod (uncompressed files, bien sur...) and two "CUBES" is all you need to break the ice at a party. You can even leave your glass of Champagne on top on these speakers and they will not go anywhere: The Champagne might just get a tad too warm when you are out there dancing to the tune of this extraordinary and unintrusive piece of real HiFi, bringing real music to your living room.
I am a big fan of these speakers, as they are encompassing a lot of the design ideas that I cherish, and the proof is in the pudding.
If you want even more bass, then you can go for the COLONNE(s), but as I was so taken by the CUBE(s) I didn't listen to them: same drivers though, same amps for medium and tweeter plus an enormous amp of 550W to drive the side mounted large woofer (26cm, my guess).
Prices are a very reasonable 3250 euros a pair of CUBEs and 7600 euros for a pair of COLONNEs - that will leave you with some change if you were to buy a 9000 euros pair of METAL speakers...Can I suggest a Michell turntable and a Nagra phono stage???
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.