What’s happened to me? I thought I knew my preferences. Jason likes well-damped boxes and drivers appropriately chosen for their intended frequencies. None of that fussy, retro stuff that inward-looking audiophiles like to champion.
Maybe I’m finally growing up, because shit just got real.
It started for me with a situation I generally try to avoid. In the past I’ve walked into Audio Note rooms and cast a withering glance at the big two-way boxes jammed into the corners. Pfft. Too specialized. Not my cuppa. And I’d walk straight back out again. So generally I’d just walk on by.
But this time the room wasn’t too busy in the Radisson Blu Sobieski, so I wandered in and grabbed a seat. Audio Note UK was playing its AN-K/SPe speakers, which retail for 27,000 PLN/pr., and the Cobra integrated amplifier, which also goes for 27,000 PLN. I caught the young man at the controls looking at me out of the corner of his eye, and I guess he sized me up based on my graying hair and my Rush T-shirt that Doug Schneider so likes to mock.
I sat down at the tail end of some fussy audiophile solo-flute bullshit, and right then junior slammed on Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”
“You like this?” he asked as he stood beside me.
“Sure do. How loud do these things go?” I replied.
Turns out they go quite loud. My mind did one of those flip-around moves where one minute the sound doesn’t make sense, and suddenly everything comes into clear focus. The music just gelled for me. The front of the room filled with a juicy, solid wall of sound (there’s no real sense of imaging or depth in “Paranoid”) that was just perfect. So there I sat, air drumming to that flawless drop-down break. Really getting into it. What the hell?
Anyway, “Paranoid” ended, and next up was Etta Cameron singing “You Are My Sunshine.” This sparkly jazz could easily be written off as just more audiophilia, but hey—it’s really nice, with a beautiful muted trumpet and Cameron’s voice a rich slice of fruitcake.
And bloody hell, this gelled too. I got a wide spread of instruments, good depth, and a rich tonal balance. A bit warm through the mids it was, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
I left the Audio Note room feeling a touch confused. Nobody likes to have their preconceptions shattered, and I’ve always been rather fond of some of my biases. It’s not easy for me to let go of something like this.
The gods were watching this all unfold with great amusement, I’d wager. Next, I set foot over the threshold of the Audio Anatomy room. Sitting on a large boxy platform was the Suave speaker (right speaker in photo below), made in cooperation with furniture and accessory manufacturer Shubi out of Łódź, Poland, and Audio Anatomy, a multi-location retailer.
The Suave, which retails for 15,900 PLN/pr., is one of those enclosures I used to love to hate. A big, floppy box with a 10″ woofer and a 1″ silk-dome, horn-loaded tweeter. How can this possibly sound good? Didn’t we move away from this sort of design because, well, science?
Don’t fall for it, Jason! My inner bigot was shrieking at me, but it was too late. The Audio Note experience had torn my biases open. The Suave sounded great! Rich and juicy, sure, but also with a nice sense of inner detail.
With my head reeling from this freshly injected cognitive dissonance, I wandered farther down the hall. I heard Leonard Cohen playing from a room on my right and stopped in to see what was going on.
Turns out this room was hosted by Falcon Acoustics, from Oxford, England, so I didn’t have to meekly ask if someone spoke English. Cohen’s plush, shortbread baritone was pulsing out from what were likely the smallest speakers at the show—the brand-new Falcon Acoustics M10, which retails for 13,100 PLN/pr.
I experienced an honest-to-God disconnect as I sat there listening to the M10s. These little guys have what looks like a single 5″ driver in a very small, smartly veneered box, yet Falcon Acoustics rates the low-frequency response as down to 40Hz. This shouldn’t be. The volume level wasn’t outrageous, but it was certainly loud enough for me, especially given that the sound was having to fight with a couple of noisy neighbors. I know, the BBC sound on which the Falcon Acoustics designs are based uses Jedi mind tricks to make the low bass seem more impressive than it actually is, but there’s definitely more to it than that.
Whatever was going on today—maybe there’s something in the water here in Warsaw—I had my world turned around on me. Am I now destined to start reviewing some of these oddball designs? Time will tell, I guess.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!