With continuing interest from my previous postings and review announcement I’ve managed to arrange first for listening to the six module version installation of Audio Alto AA 5 K6 modular speaker system in beautiful black piano finish and further on with the 8 module. First system was driven by Audio Alto AA DMI 3 H Integrated dual mono integrated in A Class and fronted via AA MMC Multi Media Center and second one with AA PSE10 - Dual Mono Preamplifier and AA MSE60 class A monobloc. Both was all versed fully fledged brand’s system.
I’ve spend quite some time in prior to all my visits to discuss and correspond with Audio Alto’s owner Saša Burian about his products, unique technology implemented, his vision and his observation of high performance high-end audio reproduction. Saša is an avid concert going and ardent gentleman. Consequently Audio Alto products clearly reflects his personality strongly affected with love for music and finer things in life. All combined, the result of my listening experiences was something very different and did noteworthy reenacting positive attributes described before as well ignited my further listening for the review.
One of the things I’ve always lay down before making my initial notes and listening impressions are multitude of questions being prepared for the company spoke person. If possible always with the main designer. In this way one can easily get into the mind of the specific audio mindset. Seeing how questionnaire fills up the gaps on the grander scheme of understanding high-end audio in general and own creations reveals a great amount of what important for the brand and how they see themselves. Its great when you can get hands on, instant and mostly important potent answers even when designer is being technically challenged or “dueled” in conversation. Saša didn’t even blink on my deliberately thrown “spikes” and provocations and he elaborated on the chosen topic with ease. Calm and profound answering went on and on without creating an urge of push forward self promotion. A virtue I do cherish dearly…
Before touching the sonic experience let me focus a bit on the AA DMI 3 H Integrated amplifier and AA PSE10/AA MSE60 combo. Saša strives to achieve perfect reproduction of sound that preserves all the purity, openness, width and depth of the original music. Digging a bit deeper into brand orientation reveals how all AA DMI 3 H voltage amplifying circuits are of class A topology and some of them are also single ended. It goes the same with AA PSE10/AA MSE60.
Interestingly no Audio Alto products implements global negative feedback. Along with voltage amplifying components this encapsulates warm and detailed sonics combined with the open natural sound, natural impact and micro/macro ability to portray minute changes closely connected with the real music. Both AA DMI 3 H/AA MSE60 are very different amplifiers and it shows. Locking with company one speakers was enticing and a thing of synergy.
On the back side of the AA DMI 3 there is interesting switch letting you choose between two damping factors on the fly. With the damping factor of the 15 for optimal (well designed) speaker driving 50 for less damped speakers. AA DMI 3 includes also a new practical way of correcting speaker response (called TILT – as was introduced decades ago – in year 1982 - in a Quad preamplifier).
Returning to the speakers. Audio Alto speakers are designed so that their box Q factor (driver damping) is correct per se without requiring the driving capabilities of the attached amplifier (and “usually” its high damping factor). I’ve heard both 15 and 50 “position” in play and its interesting how sound changes. AA 5 K6 acted instantly upon switching and on some songs I’ve might even prefer the 50. But more one that in the review below.
I’ve spent enough time to get my thoughts cleansed and settled in the listening environment at my early stage of exploring the AA 5 K. As experienced many times, a prolonged tiredness or mind unsettling can drive our perception of sound in extremes, thous quickly deciphering sound performance as harsh and fierce.
Open nature, lightness and flow captured the listening mood and after few songs I’ve managed to understand the transcribed mood. We agreed with Saša about one and only true reference in judging any component or system, live acoustical music. For believable realism there must be objectified reconstruction ability in ensuring enough focus and anchor points of believability. AA 5 K 5 embodied the path needed to be taken in making a music reproduction believable and realistic.
I’ve ended my first encounter with enough positive impressions and imprints to connect all being theorized by Saša. Audio Alto musical narrative follows the path that flourish music acting as an inner sanctum reminiscent of inexorably interactive communication between the performer and listener without confusion. You can look into the detail description of the AA 5 K here.
Q & A
I’ve asked Audio Alto Saša Burian few questions regarding the company and his vision…
How did all started with Audio Alto?
First steps were taken in the 70’s when I was 14 years old with creation of DIY (do it yourself) single ended EL84 mono amplifier and later more professionally during and after my finished studies at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, in Ljubljana. My diploma thesis (in 1982) was about the concept, development, and manufacturing of the micro-computer spectral analyzer for the needs of audio-recording studios. I developed the analyzer during my first employment at Iskra Elektroakustika, where I cooperated with several acknowledged people from domestic audio circles. From here on all I needed was time and years of gathering experiences.
How were and still are your inspirations from industry?
With the market’s high diversification of products but faint differentiation I took the decision to create devices based on aesthetically exquisite, devoted and at the same time pleasant reproduction of sound, which differs from the approach that most manufacturers follows.
The real purpose of audio equipment is to provide the listener, as faithful as possible, pleasing reproduction of music. As a lot of music is produced and tailored to be pleasing, the real reference music for “voicing” the speakers is listening live classical orchestra performance. Live classical orchestra in a concert hall performance is not amplified and “treated” so it is a very good starting point as reference sound. I should also mention, that “voicing” the speakers means that we are actually “voicing” the audio system. Audio system means more than source recording, speakers and amplifying chain; it means also the listening space – room. I tune the speakers in (at least) two different rooms, that I know well, one larger and the other smaller (with their pros and cons).
What exactly defines high-end audio loudspeaker?
The fact that there are so many loudspeakers manufacturers with even more models tells us that there is no universal truth translating into the right and wrong. At the end (especially in High-end) what matters is the listener subjective taste and that should be the benchmark. This is not always the case. Forgetting the personal taste and feelings is also one of the reasons so many (used but almost new) equipment is sold on the market.
But I do believe that certain acoustical and electrical parameters must be met for a natural and pleasant reproduction (like phase and time response, distortion, efficiency etc.). High-end approach includes also high quality and aesthetics requirements, but unfortunately we can see a lot of models that somehow ignore the acoustical and electrical parameters and they submit them (just) to aesthetics.
Who would you say you see as Audio Alto customer?
AA customer is a person that loves music and while listening cares to enjoy the repertoire in an effortless and pleasant mood. It is also a person that cares for aesthetics and believes that all our senses should be involved to maximize the pleasant moments while absorbing the energy the music is providing. It is also a person, which cares for uniqueness, as he or she is not satisfied in buying usual made-up products from the shelf.
What is the high-end performance though the eyes and ears of Saša Burian?
High-end performance for me means technically and aesthetically accomplished appliance - product that will work and last in time. The user should, from the first moment and every next time he (or she) starts to interact with the appliance, enjoy those moments and feel relaxed in the sight while listening to the reproduced sound.
How important is for your the selection of built in components?
In one word – very important. First the components must be selected by their primary parameters. As AA products do not use global feedback to correct and maintain circuit parameters in planned limits, I do select and test each component before is installed. Quality is not for free and good components cost more (compared to usual ones). As example: the electrolytic capacitors have the shortest life span and if I would use ones declared for 85 degree Celsius their predicted time to failure at the same temperature would be 4 to 5 times shorter. I use only capacitor declared with 105 degree Celsius. Some components have also (some) impact on sound quality so the right components must be selected to fulfill this requirement. But I would like to point out how sometimes components with brand names and price doesn’t mandatory also introduce the better sonic performance…
How do you see current trends in high-end audio industry and your role in it?
It’s difficult to describe the situation in few words. I do believe, that a lot of changes are going on; younger generations approach the listening of music in a new way. The digital era is setting new frontiers, but the basics are still the same - our ears and perception and intent of the music – vibrations. As during past decades (in the eighties and nineties) the equipment prices dropped radically, now a lot of people think that a gadget for 50 Euros can give equal qualities in reproduction as a more expensive one. The problem is that they are unaware that the music can be heard much better. Sometimes people are not aware that bad reproduction (and to loud music) makes them nervous. Humans “invented” the music thousands of years ago, it is in our genes. We should demand that listening must be pleasant and that listening should charge our “batteries”.
Audio Alto is a small company, that produces for known customers. I adapt our product to customer needs and I see ourselves as providers of excellent products that will give our customers years of pleasure without getting in the situation that they should sell and buy new equipment to feel better while enjoying their (preferred) music.
Any last thought for our readers?
Be demanding in choosing and buying audio equipment. Select quality products that you like visually (unfortunately the price tags gives you an idea, as quality is not for free), that will fit comfortably in your listening environment and while choosing trust your ears and feelings (don’t listen just at “friendly” voices). I suggest that you test the product(s) in your own environment. You will be surprised how differently they can sound. Remember, you are buying and listening to the “system”, as I mentioned before, and big part of this system is your own listening place.
Audio Alto AA 5 speakers represent a true modular speaker concept, that offers interesting option for either simple or complex setup. Its theoretically an unlimited concept. Number of modules depends on the budget, room size and desired sonic performance, but most people will probably use it as a stack of three of four modules per side.
Each module is separated with the dedicated spikes and its own weight is pressing it down into the safe, self-locking.
Each AA5 module has a removable speaker grill that are attached to the front panel by four neodymium magnets. Easy and simple. Back side offers very handy the position switchable settings for mids and highs being “bumped”, acting affectively from 1.200Hz to 20.000Hz in three steps; –2dB, 0dB, + 2dB.
Audio Alto AA 5 K modular speaker system offers an intriguing variety of setup possible as mentioned before. As each module weight approximately 25 kg and its of modest size (H x W x D) 308 x 308 x 500mm its great that sole person can unpack, set and play around with the different stacking of this speaker system. AA 5K speakers can be positioned vertically, horizontally or even form a cube form. In this way one can create his own preferred visual and sonic high-end audio speaker system without paying for the next speaker setup.
Modular separate stacking is less prone to the vibrations and one can easily mix the modules in any desired way. Medium/tweeter units can be placed on top of the bass unit or in the middle of them. End setup will depend on the desired configuration and system setup.
Significant feature of AA 5 K system, that might be to quickly overlook is ability to tilt each speaker unit. It his way one can beam the sonic pressure in a desired way. When everything is combined, it will help with the tunning of the system and practical application in a listening environment.
In this day and age there is no going around without fresh quality and meticulous design. This counts also with the top notch finish and refined selection of the materials.
If you want to stand out of the crowd and offer something unique, the proper design outtake comes as mandatory.
Audio Alto AA 5 speakers shows instantly that design was not merely a secondary thought. Form clearly follows function, but in a profoundly, refined way. AA 5 instantly shows elaborated attention to the details, profound finishing and carefully selected materials. Both high gloss piano lacquer and hand picked Slovenian walnut finishes revealed the attention to the details and beautiful hand work. There was no “orange” (d)effect in the lacquering and layers of transparent coatings are letting both black color and would radiating in a beautiful and captivating way.
AA 5 front panels comes in black acrylic on black anodized finishing. Both works really nice with the modular boxes, but of course final selection is left to the end customer and the way one wants them to be incorporated into the surroundings.
Acrylic front panels are projecting more translucent and reflective nature while solid aluminum gives more of the solid, massive and sturdy feeling to the AA 5K’s.
As the rest of the Audio Alto products, AA 5 K not only gives a high value for the money, but pushes many high-end audio manufacturers into a shameful corner for what they offer at the utterly high price points.
As I’ve stated many times, product of high-end origin, naming and pricing must reflect the given price. We’ve passed the quality milestone while ago and its about time that whole industry take up the cue of luxury and quality.
Audio Alto AA 5 K speakers surely justify their position and are of high value.
Audio Alto AA 5 K is a passive loudspeaker system with an impedance of 4 Ohms. Model 6 (as of 6 units) comes with a 200W of nominal power 400W of music power. Model 8 resolves with 300W of nominal power and 600W of music power.
Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is known as a perfect acoustical driver with amplitude and in phase across the radiating area of the transducer working area. Combined with the Beima professional drivers AA 5 K brings an accurate sound with unrestrained dynamics and very low distortion. Horn design lets AA 5 K in reaching the phase alignment with the subwoofer and maintain very constant and wide horizontal radiation angle.
All in all these speakers were designed from ground up to offer a grand scale of dynamics impact with their sensitivity of 95dB/2,83V and they show this instantly.
And to the music. As mentioned, AA 5 K are of highly efficiency and designed by someone who love, follow and respect acoustic/classical music with wholeheartedly. Saša has told me that AA 5 K were designed in such way, that they can handle the dynamics and I was looking forward to put quite some “stress” on the Audio Altos’.
By nature AA 5 K is designed by music lover for music lovers and I couldn’t at any point pin down AA 5 K as a genre specific. These speakers will transcribe blues, rock, electronic music and other genres in very resolving way.
Sometimes even a “simple” pop track can instantly point out what’s happening at once. I’m sure many of you remember Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games. This song was on the charts for quite some time, but certainly most of the crowd didn’t listen to it on high-end audio system. In its own way Wicked Games is a little production marvel. A clever jointure of samples and instruments joined into the expert mix down. Even on the mediocre system one can hear this song’s potency.
It normal… Once you’re climbing up the ladder, everything becomes much more subtle. AA 5 K ability to act in a via medium sense revealed heck a lot of studio sonic sculpturing of this Chris’ composition. Their ability to drive, project and ignite music was highly involving and of emotional burst.
Moving to a bit different source material, Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos 2 & 3 by Andrei Gavrilov revealed how music played through AA 5 K managed to project piano notes illustratively in either sole or more complex formation. Its never easy to create a viable piano illusion consisting of focus points and particles that are a vividly defining acoustical space and form the correct timbre. AA 5 K proven to be voiced and optimized correctly and enabled to reconstruct believable scale and sense or realism.
Further on via Leopold Stokowski & RCA Viktor Symphony Orchestra - Franz Liszt/ Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In C-Sharp Minor AA 5 K released the fluidness in unapologetic way. Stokowski was replayed via AA 5 K with low level anxiety without plunging into the harsh and edgy territories.
Audio Alto AA 5K speakers system comes as a revelatory without sounding austere and in absence of critical listening fatigue. At present, there is ongoing trend of in your face transparency and uber pronouncement of the sound. In reality this is to often mistaken for natural neutrality. AA 5 K speakers have the ability to step into the musical core and reflect the enliven musical energy, that is of open nature, but not going over the edge and stepping into the pronouncing the high spectrum.
Within high-end audio we’re always working with the utopia. It might be of miniature scale or of grand impact, but it still is an illusion. Everything depends on the system, components and the setup skills, that comes with the mileage. Point it, that is never easy to combine components in potent system. And with mediocre products such a task in impossible.
How ever we turn things around speakers will be always the first and foremost important interactive part of the listening rig. It is the first and the last medium that is establishing the emotional exchange and the importance of speakers is overlooked to many times. You simply cannot correct and fix what is unfixable. You have to start with a potent speakers that can handle the music information and Audio Alto AA 5 K comes a potent building block, that can offer a lot of insights in the musical repertoire.
Audio Alto AA 5 K speakers represents Saša Burian intimate understanding of the high-end audio sound reproduction. He loves live, un-amplified acoustic music and AA 5 K are voiced to present the open/transparent nature of music without distortions.
95dB / 2,83V / 1m sensitivity opens up the world of low powered tube and pure A Classa solid state amplifiers. AA 5 K can handle sonic pressure and its maximal sound pressure is greater than 116dB. This is clearly a result of pro audio driver implementation. I’m a gain junkie and when music needs to transfer the energy speaker must follow instantly. For this many of the high-end audio speaker drivers are simply not applicable as they distort to quickly and this is where AA 5 K kicks in instantly and of difference.
Its never easy to optimize pro audio drivers for high-end audio application. Saša Burian invested a lot of energy and efforts to encapsulate such energetic, yet still lively signature of the speakers, without being to push forward.
Its known, that audiophiles love to experiment, tweak and change their system over the time. By the initial design AA 5K was envisioned as multiplex modular system, that offers wide array of setup and upgrading and as well handy “tunning” of the midrange and highs via the way switch on the back side of the speakers.
Audio Alto AA 5 K modular system also offers a unique and clever solution for audiophiles and music lover. Modularity can be seen an investment for future, that will holds it value even if you have to move or create a new listening environment.
Its great to stumble on the product, that is from ground up different, effective and aesthetically pleasing. Audio Alto AA K 5 speaker system clearly reflects Saša Burian mindset. He most highly enjoys music, is an avid concert goer and connoisseur of finer things in life.
AA K 5 resembles his life’s work and passion for music and high-end audio in a highly potent speaker system.
For the given price Audio Alto AA K 5 speakers represent a true value and exemplary approach to a speakers design. From the technical point of view up to the aesthetics AA K speaker system raises a bar with shown dedication for a finalized product. I do hope many high-end audio manufacturers will follow such a positive and focused path as Audio Alto story.
Text: Matej Isak
Price (suggested retail with no TAX)
AA 5K/6 Pair of speakers (6 units), Slovenian Oak - Piano polished, Piano Black or custom veneer or color upon request: 10.750€.
AA 5K/8 Pair of speakers (8 units), Slovenian Oak - Piano polished, Piano Black or custom veneer or color upon request:13.900€.
Impedance: 4 ohm
Frequency range: 30 - 20.000 Hz +- 3 dB
switchable settings: 1.200Hz to 20.000Hz in three steps; –2dB, 0dB, + 2dB
Sensitivity: 95 dB
Phase over 200Hz: from +30 deg. to 0 deg.
Dimensions (each unit) (W x D x H): 310 x 510 x 310 mm
Dimensions (AA 5K/6) (W x D x H): 990 x 510 x 310 mm
Dimensions (AA 5K/8) (W x D x H): 1320 x 510 x 310 mm
Weight (each unit): 21 kg
Detailed tech article: here
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