Ask any ardent audiophile or seasoned mature high-ender about his ultimate “wet” dreams type of the speakers. Over eighty percent will go for the horn speakers. People might not have the dedicated listening spaces to host such a big speaker system, still, in my conversations over the past three decades interestingly and intriguingly large horn speakers still stand for most of them as an end of the game and ultimate choice. Even Magico as a trend setter offer as their flagship Magico Ultimate Horn…
Usually in high-end audio society there are still not clear grounds and a healthy perspective towards the ultimate gear. This still bewilders me, as passionates, aficionados and connoisseurs from high-end horogly and extreme cars society/industry have no problem with the utmost takes on the most complex watch complication and sports cars costing sky high. Their passion seems genuine and respectful towards the exotic creations and have no issue with the pricing even if they cannot afford such items.
I was invited to spent three full days at Viva Audio Audio Bottega listening demo room and offices in Riga. These are also HQ’s of the company operations and they are hosting both full setup of Credenza and Master Horn speakers.
Due this time I’ve had a luxury of having long listening sessions and talks with both Amedeo Schembri and Sergey Porotsky of Viva Audio. It was enlightening experience. We talked about music, technology and extreme high-end audio reproduction in depth. What I really loved was a genuine dedication of both Sergey and Amedeo to get closer, more intimate to the core of the music. They are really working great as partners and urge each other in striving for the perfection.
Due my listenings Sergey took time and along with my familiar listening material presented and played many less or unfamiliar music. There is still so much absolutely fantastic music out there waiting to be explored and enjoyed and each time I meet with wholehearted passionate people I’m trying to expand my musical horizons. Even more importantly I’m trying to be affected with their enthusiasm.
High-end audio society leit motif should always closely radiate around learning, exploring and pushing the limits of whats is possible with high-end audio music reproduction. For ultimate audio reproduction this is not even discussable.
Viva Audio is known to most audiophiles and music lovers for a long time. Their design aesthetics closely embrace the renowned Italian design and iconic aesthetics. Viva Audio looks are different and instantly familiar. In a way, they managed to juxtaposition the timeless looks with the modern minimalistic language, that impress both high-end audio crowd and people unfamiliar with our industry. This is for sure one of the attributes of their continuing success on global markets.
MEET THE MASTERMIND
As a young teenager, Amedeo Schembri began experimenting with amplifier and loudspeaker prototypes which were designed using materials he managed to scramble together. Such early lessons of working with limited materials forged further creative skills and resourcefulness. With additional experience, while maintaining a hands-on design approach, Amedeo began freelance work as an audio equipment designer and technician. Further opportunities were gained through work at recording studios. By age twenty-six, Amedeo was able to design equipment for a complete recording studio employing all required acoustic properties. Later, he was hired as an acoustic designer consultant for high-end audio equipment manufacturing companies.
At the recording studios, Amedeo had direct contact with musicians and learned the precise sounds of musical instruments. Those sounds, which became imbedded in Amedeo’s memory, remain the most important element in designing Viva Audio electronics and speaker systems.
Amedeo’s desire to protect his creativity led him to choose to not study acoustic engineering at a university. He wanted to prevent moulding his thinking into the traditional engineering philosophy — placing emphasis on products’ technical specifications rather than focusing primarily on the listeners who perceive music with heart and soul.
ONLY REAL REFERENCE
Viva Audio’s philosophy is based on the premise that people stream live concerts in order to FEEL the music and to become immersed in it. Science has not yet fully revealed how humans perceive sound: it is not with our ears alone. The Schembri brothers’ aim is for music lovers to experience a live concert every time they listen to recordings using Viva Audio’s equipment.
Viva Audio's unconventional product development is based on using both classic techniques borrowed from the “golden era” of audio, many of which are still at the pinnacle of the audio design art, and modern technologies, using the highest quality materials and superior craftsmanship. Viva Audio's equipment achieves the quality of sound that can only be compared to a live performance.
LIFE OF THE MUSIC
Life. Its very presence is believed to have been spoken into existence. We live and breathe to the rhythms of life. These vibrations bring healing to our body just as the soothing lullaby quiets a baby. Whereas, the pounding jack hammer outside makes us want to escape. Sounds draw us into that profound place where harmonies lift us to a higher level.
Viva — Life — is full of sound. Our hearing is one of the most acute senses we have. We work to discern the sounds around us and seek out messages hidden behind simple words because slight inflections in a voice can signal an underlying need.
The bombardment with too many confusing sounds and an inability to match pace interpreting, cause our ears and brain to shut off the signals resulting in a loss of pleasure and comfort. This confusion creates instability within our being. We begin to lose out on hearing the message.
The same applies to music. Just as we can tune out a foreign speaker once we fail to keep up translating, so can the confusion and the missing elements in recordings cause us to quit listening. If there is less distortion to distract us, we are able to experience and interpret the music as it happened. The pleasurable experience carries on for an indefinite time.
Elements that bring pleasure get lost inside the noise of disturbances such as distortion of electronic devices altering the full harmonic sequence. Viva Audio equipment assists the listener in receiving a clearer message; at points so clear the imagery of the live performance can be sensed.
ARTISAN WAY OF DOING THINGS
"This meticulous approach is impossible to translate into a routine mass production process. Each step is carried out by highly skilled professionals, many of whom have a professional musical background. Some continue their work with orchestras designing acoustic setups with and without amplification.
Our wood finishes are developed by skilled professionals in Italy and Latvia. High standards are set for every element we use in our products including those provided for our suppliers. Every element in a piece of perfect audio equipment requires the highest level of professionalism and a personal touch."
“Every Viva employee has to be aware of this. It is like making good wine, good whiskey, good food. The last touch is personal. More than just making a good product.”
THE COMPANY AND LIFE’S PENDULUM
A passion for music led Amedeo Schembri to found Viva Audio in 1996. Together with his brother, Giampietro, Amedeo has set out to develop audio systems that can reproduce sound with life-like authenticity. The core of the Viva Audio DNA is LIFE!
“Life. Its very presence is believed to have been spoken into existence. We live and breathe to the rhythms of life. These vibrations bring healing to our body just as the soothing lullaby quiets a baby. Whereas, the pounding jack hammer outside makes us want to escape. Sounds draw us into that profound place where harmonies lift us to a higher level.
Viva — Life — is full of sound. Our hearing is one of the most acute senses we have. We work to discern the sounds around us and seek out messages hidden behind simple words because slight inflections in a voice can signal an underlying need.”
TO THE EXTREME
What do we expect from any company flagship, statement and state of the art product? A vision, unfettered presentation and something that is utmost involving and emotionally pleasant.
Viva Master Horn System encompass all that and more. Its Amedeo life long vision and company most refined and researched product up to date. A life long sum of everything learned and cherished about the music.
Master Horn was developed after years of experimentation and study in a quest of making the most "complete" speaker system.
Initially it was not meant to be a commercial "product" but rather a perpetual study or a tool for obtaining the best possible reproduction from a speaker system. Viva Audio used, at first, some exotic vintage drivers, because they could not find in the current manufacturer’s catalogues the drivers that could address their most demanding needs. Then a few years later they’ve been able to get the wanted, resulting in using somewhat "heretically” the modern drivers.
Viva Audio team made a lot of studies on time alignment, low distortion characteristics, response at low sound pressure level, overall dynamics, not to mention the strong quest of making a "horn" system that would not "sound like a horn". These were studies for them, not intended to achieve a commercial product. They’ve determined that the so called "horn sound coloration", happens when there are unresolved issues, which can be found with any speakers project, no matter what technology is applied. The horns simply amplify the effect of these issues.
After they brought the level of the performance on wanted plane based on the selection of the drivers and with reliable cabinet manufacturing they developed the system further and decided that Master Horn could place be positioned as a top level product.
Master Horn is a 5 way, 6 driver speaker system, in which most of the audio bandwidth is managed with the use of waveguides (aka "horns"). The single ways are managed by carefully selected drivers together with specifically designed matching waveguides. Particular attention was given to the rendering of the best possible dynamics, refinement and articulation of the music, starting from the slightest nuances at the very low level and extending to the overall dynamic range with realistic impact.
The amplifiers, for the horn sections, are based on company "Aurora” monoblocks housing two specialized amplifiers in each chassis.
For the bass, Viva team designed and developed hybrid amplifiers made with tubes driving class-D modules, two in one chassis, each driving one of the woofers.
In sum, a total of three double amplifiers are supplied, per channel (L-R).
Let us look at some of the technical facts:
- five ways, six drivers
- waveguide/horn between 90Hz to 22Khz
- 2 bass modules per channel, each with a 18" woofers
- dedicated multi amplification:
the frequency cut is done by acting on amplifiers bandwidth limiting, by varying the intrinsic response characteristics of the amplifiers themselves. No traditional crossover is used
- peculiar care on best time alignment for coherency and correct response
- composite cabinet based on best birch plywood
- custom finish by request
MASTER HORN EXPERIENCE
There is no easy description of what happens, when music flow through the Master Horn veins. Its really something need to be experienced to be appreciate it. This is where things go damn serious guys!
Count me in the camp of the horn speakers believers and fans. I’m accustom to sound of many traditional (Western Electric, Altec, Vitavox etc.) based horn speakers. You could say I have quite a mileage with them and heard many crazy, uber expensive and complex system during the years. They all explore the particular path of sound reproducing and chase the holly grail of best possible audio illusion. Results I’ve heard were a mixed bag. From really impressive, jaw dropping impact to mediocre falsely tuned system hankerings with lots to desire. Especially for the money, efforts spent and exotic, ultra high end labeling people and connected companies should really strive for much, much more.
There is no simple solutions and easy paths in achieving state of the art musical reproduction. Thats solitude standing fact that many if not most are having hard time to digest. There are so many technical approaches and ways to go wrong, thats creates a mind boggling complex universe of choices. People to often overlook the basic principles and their quest ends into the fools errand.
This is what captivated me with Master Horn Speaker System from the first song. A coherent, embodied musical presentation, that simply flow with unfettered lightness of music. Three dimensional palpable presentation of the recorded music took a completely different turn from what I’m used to. Master Horn’s diverse, chameleon like nature radiate with concert hall like balance and authority. This is not a statement for the sake of statement, but a bow down to the music and culture.
In their Riga listening demo room Viva Audio dedicated stereo Master Horn system can also act as a surround audio/visual room. Now, I don’t usually fall for the cinematic experience as it in most cases lacks of bout aural and visual sophistication, but I do stand corrected if something moves me and go beyond expectations.
After seeing two longer inserts from the movies, I was not only mesmerized, but moved to the tears. It was such an emotional impact, that brought tears to my eyes, let me experience goosebumps and pushed me into the deep emotional affection by the drama presented. It took me almost half an hour to return into my steady pace of usual mindset. This was special!
What happened, lingered on for few days and reminded me of what I cherish the most with this high-end. The real deals that can affect our emotions. This is what should happen when things go extreme and all is a true balanced act. Emotional packed journey of the highest degree!
“Sound tuning comes from human senses and sensitivity. The quality standard for our finished products is critical listening: How well does the sound quality allow the listener to connect with the original musical message? Our only reference is live music — not reproduced sound. While many manufacturers compress sound, making it more one-dimensional, Viva Audio’s products enable the full dynamic, acoustic range to be reproduced and HEARD by the audience, evoking a wide range of natural emotions.”
There are a lot of expectations in the upper echelon league. Seeing so many BS with the mind blowing pricing and quite often a catastrophic sound is a failure of the high-end industry. Failure to recognize what it high end reproduction should stand for and on top of that what true ultimate high-end performance is abel to present.
I don’t bite and buy into the audiophile nonsense of false arguments and attributes. For ultimate high-end reproduction there is only one real reference. The real music! I’ve often hear the comments regarding this subject matter and long conversations of the particular fractions of the sound performance. High-end high performance music reproduction is not about pin pointing, extravaganca of details, overblown basses and ear bleeding, squelching highs. Its about music and how it supposed to sound!
Viva Master Horn System is an antidote to whats wrong up there in the extreme audio stratosphere. Its a complete system ready to deliver whats its supposed to at such pricing. The pristine emotional, musical reproduction that’s soulful engaging to listen.
With recents flavor of the month things gone south with squealing sound waves… I’m more then happy to report, that there are still people and companies taking their quest for the musical reproduction perfection in the right direction. Viva Audio is for sure a stand out candidate for such labeling.
I've heard often how horn speaker can achieve some impressive performance, but they lack transparency and airiness. I've hear numerous system self positioned in the state of the art plane based on the brand picking an extreme pricing. These two attributes ensure no factual results!
Master Horn system goes into the epicenter and core of the music where one can forget about all the agendas of a speakers types and technological takes. On the ultimate plane there a certain goals to be met regardless of the technical direction and Viva Audio demystifies the snobbishness with their Master Horn System.
Master Horn brings impressive coherence over a wide bandwidth and this is where science works best in harmony with the nature/music. There are s so many things to write about this complete package. Once you hear how Master Horn can delineate the timbre and tone of individual violin within the mass orchestra its hard to be left untouched. And these happened across all the genres being played. Master Horn System is transparent and genre-less. This is something, that is never easy to achieve.
Viva Master Horn have an equestrian heritage to the horn designs of the past without their shortcomings. Its a contemporary take, that follows the book and adds on! For what it represent I'm awarding it with most prestigious Mono & Stereo Matej Isak Editor Choice award. I don't give out this lightly and it only shows how much Master Horn affected me!
Anyone having and interest in upper echelon “horn” speakers and having actual funds should not miss the presentation of Master Horn. Even if you cannot afford it its more then worthy to hear it just for the sake of what its possible. Compared to what some companies are charging these days for their “sophisticated-state-of-the-art-nonsense” Viva Audio Master Horn system is an actual bargain… Yes, you can quote me!
Text: Matej Isak
PRICE: Master Horn System retails for EUR 250K without VAT. Dedicated amplification - 4 Auroras (specialized) and 2 hybrid bass amps - are included.
Bergs Bazaar Center,
Marijas Street 13/IV,