One of my definitive conclusions from my ongoing survey of state-of-the-art dynamic driver, ribbon, electrostatic and horn speaker systems is that height matters: a physically tall transducer conjures up a sense of scale, height, grandeur and realism which, in my experience, simply cannot be duplicated by a small or mid-size speaker system.
During the course of my travels at Munich High-End 2016 I came across Audio Alto, a Slovenian manufacturer of speakers and tube electronics.
The proprietor is Saša Burian, a very friendly fellow who has been designing audio equipment for decades. His speaker system, the AA 5K, is a unique design of modular, building-block, configuration. The speaker can be composed of one or more wide frequency range air motion drivers which cover 700 Hz to 20 kHz; one or more upper bass drivers; one or more woofers; and one or more subwoofers. (For both the upper bass module and the woofer module Saša uses the exact same driver; he simply changes the crossover frequency.)
The sensitivity of the basic AA 5K is 95 dB. Sasha explained that the air motion driver is very low in distortion compared to conventional drivers, which affords the speaker an unusually low distortion output from 700 Hz to 20 kHz.
The finish on the exterior of the modules was of a very high caliber. A variety of cabinet finishes are available.
I asked Saša why he does not have the air motion driver open at the back for a dipole radiation pattern. He said he experimented in the past with the driver with the back both closed and open, and that it sounds better closed at the rear. However, he said he is now testing a version of the air motion driver with adjustable dipole rear sound dispersion to see if it will improve sound-staging and project a more natural, three-dimensional sound.
I wondered if, by assembling a tall vertical stack of these modules –- placing more modules one on top of another than Saša shows in the photos on his website –- we could create a speaker with the height of the tallest state-of-the-art speaker systems, and achieve some of the scale and sound-staging advantages of those systems, at a fraction of the price of those systems. Could we use these Audio Alto speaker modules to build a "poor man's" Raidho D-5.1, for example?
Whatever combination of modules you choose to configure into a speaker system Saša will custom-design a crossover system to achieve a flat frequency response and to maximize sound quality. The crossover system is housed in a separate module box which matches all of the other modules.
I envision a seven module system with the air motion driver in the center in an M-T-M, D'Appolito array, with one upper bass driver above and below the air motion driver, one woofer above the higher upper bass driver and one woofer below the lower upper bass drive, and one subwoofer on top and one subwoofer on the bottom.
Each module is 308 mm tall, so seven modules would be 2,156 mm or 85 inches. That is a full height speaker!
I told Saša my design idea. He estimates that the sensitivity of such a system would be around 98 dB, and that this set of modules could produce a maximum SPL of over 122 dB. Such a system should have a frequency response down to almost 20 Hz.
While I listened to Saša's demo system at the show for only a few songs (on both LP and digital) I like what I heard. I think the use of a nearly full range air motion driver gives you a great deal of coherence and air and transparency for a reasonable (compared to the cost of other very tall speakers) amount of money.
The seven module system I am envisioning would cost about €28,000, Saša reports. That is only a modest amount more money than many small monitors and mid-size floor-standing speakers. If the seven module Audio Alto sounds as good as I believe it would sound, and if it produces the taste of the height and scale of much more expensive state-of-the-art speakers which I expect it would produce, then you are getting a whole lot more speaker system for your money than you get from one of the numerous conventional speakers at that price range available in the marketplace today.
Senior Contributing Writer
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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