Companies featured in gallery below: Metaxas and Sins, Sonus Faber, Audio Research, Blumenhofer Acoustics, Mytek, Zeta Zero, SoulSonic, Natural Sound, Esa Loudspeakers, Furutech, MySound, Dynaudio, Pivetta
All prices in euros (€), US dollars ($), or Polish zlotys (zł) unless indicated otherwise
The Metaxas and Sins Macrophones might be the most exotic minispeakers in history. Each of the speakers is handmade by company founder Kostas Metaxas, from two halves that are CNC machined from solid aluminum blocks then bolted together. The 6" woofer and 1" tweeter are made by Accuton using aluminum/ceramic composite diaphragms. The woofer vents through a port on the back . . .
. . . which sits above the enclosure for the crossover. The crossover comprises a simple, first-order circuit using just one capacitor, one inductor, and one resistor. Price is €25,000/pair including stands; US price is projected at $27,000 to $28,000/pair.
Sonus Faber introduced its original Aida in 2011. This new version, also called Aida, looks outwardly similar to the original, but contains all new drivers, a completely new crossover, and a host of new features that are mostly inside the cabinet. It’s priced at €82,000 per pair (plus VAT) and will be available in December. (Read “Sonus Faber Aida 2017 Debut” for more information on it.)
Audio Research’s Foundation VT80SE stereo amplifier ($8900 without the tube cage, $9400 with it) differs from the original VT80 only in that it uses KT150 power tubes instead of KT120s. The power rating is still 75Wpc, but the tube life has been extended to 3000 hours -- 50 percent longer than the KT120s. It uses a fully complementary circuit and offers balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs, and unusually for a tube amp, it includes an RS-232 jack to make it compatible with home automation systems.
Blumenhofer Acoustics has been making horns for pro applications for decades, but is just now starting to focus on the consumer business. The Gran Giola Mk.II loudspeaker (€50,000/pair) features one of the company’s horns mated to a modified version of a commercially available compression driver, and a larger horn mated to a 12" woofer built to the company’s specs in the United States.
We saw the Mytek Brooklyn amplifier (€1995) in a static display at the 2017 Los Angeles Audio Show, but it was fully up and running at Audio Video Show 2017. The stereo amp is rated at 250Wpc but, being a class-D-type design, weighs less than six pounds.
The Manhattan II DAC (€5995) is an updated version of Mytek’s original Manhattan DAC. It seems to feature just about everything one could want in a DAC circa late 2017, including PCM compatibility at resolutions up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD at resolutions up to quad-speed (DSD256), MQA, optional Roon Ready capability, and an optional built-in phono stage. A new femto clock is said to reduce jitter and noise.
The Zeta Zero Orbital360 is one of the most exotic speakers we’ve seen in a long time. That cylindrical top piece is a passive multidriver array containing almost 1500 separate components. Inside is basically a big ribbon driver divided into 20 elements, each of which is separately driven. It can be used as a conventional stereo speaker, or the 20 elements can be addressed as two separate arrays for left and right. The array sits atop . . .
. . . a woofer module with an upward-firing 12" woofer. The Orbital360 is available in four sizes, dictated by the height of the top array: 132, 139, 147, or 158cm, at per-pair prices ranging from €17,900 to €48,000. An optional upgrade allows the directivity of each speaker to be adjusted from 36 to 360 degrees to best suit the listening environment.
The SoulSonic Hologramm-X was one of two speakers at Warsaw that designer Miro Krajnc created. The Hologramm-X (€150,000 to €210,000 per pair, depending on finish, VAT included) stands about 7.5' high, and it incorporates a driver array we’ve never encountered before. The big cylinders house five drivers, each in an open-back enclosure. In the middle cylinder is a 12" paper cone midrange, and each of the other four houses a 15" woofer. The treble . . .
. . . comes from a ribbon tweeter measuring 1cm by 221cm and stretching nearly from the bottom of the speaker to the top. The speaker is rated at 95dB sensitivity. At first glance, it seemed like integrating such a disparate and widely spaced group of drivers would have been impossible, but the Hologramm-X’s big soundstage and neutral tonality made it one of the best speakers we heard at Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy Stadium, which hosted many of the larger audio companies’ exhibits.
The other Miro Krajnc creation being demoed in Warsaw was the Natural Sound Samurai, which looks quite a bit different from the SoulSonic Hologramm-X but shares some design traits and achieves similarly impressive performance. Again, a 12" paper-cone midrange is used, sharing the trapezoidal base with an 18" woofer. The top section . . .
. . . holds a 23cm-high air-motion transformer (AMT) tweeter, similar to those found in speakers from GoldenEar Technology, MartinLogan, and others, but much taller. It’s mounted in a wooden horn to increase efficiency; the sensitivity of the speaker is rated at 94dB. Depending on its intended market, the Samurai is built in two locations: Poland and the United States (Los Angeles, California).
With three 13" Scan-Speak woofers per speaker, it might seem that Esa Loudspeakers intended its Red House speaker (€40,000/pair) as a bass monster, but no -- the woofer cabinet is open-back, so it doesn’t have the efficiency of a sealed-box or ported cabinet. But it also doesn’t have the resonances and internal standing waves that those types of speakers have. Along with the two 4" midranges and a 1" beryllium tweeter, the drivers are mounted on a 7"-thick panel laminated from four layers of plywood and four layers of MDF.
Described as the “ultimate cable and connector damping solution,” Furutech’s NCF Booster is priced at €350 and has been designed to lift any cable off the floor and clamp it tightly, even at the connector end. The NCF Booster is made of ABS, stainless steel, and NCF (Nano Crystal² Formula), a proprietary Furutech material that the company says has two main properties: “it generates negative ions that eliminate static,” and “it converts thermal energy into far infrared.” The result, Furutech says, is that the NCF Booster reduces electromagnetic interference, eliminates static, and offers “optimum alignment between connectors and sockets.” Extension shafts to make the NCF Booster higher are available in ten-piece sets for €33.
The MySound Pre Cube three-chassis preamp combines a fully passive volume attenuator, a tubed buffer stage, and a separate power supply. The passive section includes a DAC with USB input, a Bluetooth receiver, three RCA inputs, plus an XLR input used to interface the tubed buffer stage. Price for the passive section and the power supply is €3900, while the tubed buffer stage costs an additional €1900.
Dynaudio’s new Music line brings the storied speaker maker into the wireless portable speaker biz. There are four models (from top): the Music 1 (€500), Music 3 (€650), Music 5 (€800), and Music 7 (€1000). All have circuitry that automatically adapts the sound for their placement in the room, and to overcome surrounding noise. They’re controlled much like a Sonos system, with a dedicated Dynaudio iOS/Android app that accesses streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal, but they also incorporate Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay.
Not new, but still noteworthy, is the Pivetta Opera Only amplifier. Designed by Andrea Pivetta and made in Vicenza, Italy, the 1500kg Opera Only is claimed to operate in pure class-A and to output up to 120,000W at 8 ohms (its output specs show six channels at 20,000W or 12 channels at 10,000W). The literature also says it’s completely stable down to 0.1 ohms. To generate all this juice, the Opera Only contains . . .
. . . 2112 bipolar transistors. The price for all this power: €1,600,000.