We’ve reached a point in the high-end audio industry where brains and beauty need to be joined together at the same intersection in order to attract more demanding audiophiles and music lovers. The era of half-finished products is fading away and without a proper foundation, any product is subject to fail.
Many brands—even the old standing ones—have come to realize how riding on old glory is simply not enough to survive in today’s competitive market. Employing or contracting industrial designers, electronic engineers with unique skill sets, etc. is no longer a rare phenomenon. Bigger boys used to laugh at smaller, seemingly esoteric, high-end audio manufacturers. Now, they’re after the same brain power in an effort to infuse different and out-of-the box logic into their own products.
Yet, there emerges a new wave of people—those used to luxury and for them, reaching out to the high end is more than just a possibility, its reality.
MEET THE APTICA
It’s hard not to be stricken by the sheer aura of Albedo Audio Aptica speakers. They exude the phrase, “Italians do it better” in every way. In this particular case, Massimo Costa and Albedo team nailed it! Even for a non-high-ender, this is an object of refined industrial art. Unique and unusuallly shaped speakers might not radiate a lot of innards sophistication, however, there truly is much more than meets the eye. On closer inspection, you start noticing the small and unique design cues, that, backed up with the technical white paper, suddenly reveal highly complex loudspeakers packed in a highly stylish enclosure.
“It is natural evolution of classic HL 2.2 speaker. Just like it, Aptica is the result of years of research in the field of transmission line systems, but enriched by some important improvements. With a larger bass driver and the innovative tweeter diffraction trap DSD system, Aptica affirms its elegant and unique design that marks all Albedo products. The design objective is to embody, in a very compact floor standing loudspeaker, the best available technology for hi-fi home entertainment. The external appearance, which is dictated by the basic principles of acoustics and enriched by a precious finishing in the best ‘Made in Italy’ tradition, hides a highly innovative project, capable of making the daily listening experience unique and enjoyable. This is not one of the usual odd shaped speakers that invade the space of your home and are tolerated only because of the function they perform, but rather a contributor to make the home space more warm, cosy and suited to your lifestyle.”
There are three main aspects of the Albedo project:
1) Linear phase system.
2) Acoustically equalized transmission line woofer loading.
3) Ultra stiff mechanical coupling.
From the very beginning. these elements have been considered fundamental to achieve the design specifications. The linear phase response is an absolute requirement for the accurate reproduction of the transients and, as a consequence, for a correct perspective reproduction of the sound sources and the focusing of their physical positioning.
To achieve these objectives, the geometrical position of the transducers must be combined with the topology of the crossover network (an “acoustic” first order) with the objective to exactly compensate for the intrinsic phase shifts of the ways. It is to be noted that, in light of recently discovered psycho-acoustic mechanisms at the base of our perception system, which are just now beginning to be properly understood, the coherence of reproduction in the time domain also plays a major role for tonal balance, a role that is at least as important as the linearity in the frequency response.
APTICA DSD SYSTEM
To perform their task as a whole system, they must be placed in fixed positions of the space through appropriate mechanical constraints: the panel of a cabinet or, more in general, parts of its structure. The sound emitted from the sources reaches the edges of this structure and, because of the more or less abrupt change of solid angle, is diffracted, that is reradiated with a certain angular distribution and a given change in the phase characteristic. The edges of the cabinet thus become new virtual sources of sound with different phases with respect to the direct main emission.
|The distances between the centre of emission and the edges of the panel (of the order of some centimeters) correspond to the frequencies of a few kHz. They have a very important role in the overall emission. Thus reducing the deterioration due to diffraction from the edges can be an important contribution to a correct reconstruction of soundstage and tonal balance.|
The idea is to weaken the wave energy in the pathway between the source and the edge of the panel and have a diffraction the most modest possible. To do this we resort to an original and unprecedented application of the absorption power of micro-perforated panels. It is a variant of the classic Helmholtz resonator in which the masses of the various acoustic holes oscillate on a single back volume filled with absorbing material. At the resonance frequency, the system captures the sound wave and disperses it into heat. The technique of perforated panels has long been used in the control of room acoustics of concert halls and cinemas but has never been used for such an application, not only so special but so critical for operation and calibration.
Aptica tweeter mounted on the panel, with and without the DSD system. The main alteration due to diffraction has disappeared with an obvious advantage for the linearity of response of the tweeter and the work of the crossover.
The system is very flexible and efficient: the available parameters (location of the holes and their geometry) allow to critically control the effect in frequency and in level with remarkable precision.
Our choice of loading the woofer through the transmission line is driven by our firm belief that this guarantees the best quantitative increment in the bass response without compromising quality in tonal balance and response to transients. On the other hand, in order to reach this desired performance we developed a very innovative system which represents a major step forward in the technology of transmission lines. To achieve a sensitivity aligned with the rest of the bandwidth, we chose an “empty” line only stuffed on its walls, in which the control of resonances is performed by a properly tuned resonator. At the same time, the decreasing conic section allows us to tune the system to a frequency that is lower than would be possible with a constant section line of the same length, therefore allowing an extension of low frequencies which is frankly unimaginable for a speaker of such small dimensions.
DRIVERS AND CROSSOVER
Accuton transducers are built with ceramic ultra stiff, low mass diaphragms which provide excellent transient response and very low distortion. They are made available in matched pairs to guarantee the lowest deviation from the specifications, therefore contributing to a firm, reliable soundstage. The woofer shows a very good linearity and extension in the mid/high band, allowing us to choose a crossover frequency high enough so that it does not disturb the frequency range of the maximum psycho-acoustic relevance. In the crossover network, we used only air core coils and poly capacitors mounted on a double layer, high thickness copper board.
Albedo worked on two fronts at the same time: first, physically aligning the acoustic centers of the speakers, and second, equipping them with a filtering network to achieve such time coherence.
ULTRA STIFF MECHANICAL COUPLING
The drivers of a loudspeaker systems should work in such a way to convert into sound energy all the electrical energy supplied by the amplifier. In fact, it must be strictly forbidden that other parts of the system catch and store part of this energy, giving up it after a while to the environment or back to the drivers themselves. Both these effects are highly harmful:
The energy wasted in vibration of the structure and of the prop/stand and in parasitic sound emission are simply noise added to the unperturbed emission; The incoherent back transfer of energy to the drivers disturbs their correct working, further increasing noise and distortion. The necessary condition to warrant the absence of those deleterious phenomena is that of 5minimizing perturbation effects. This objective is reached through a perfect coupling of the drivers to the cabinet and an ideal matching of the cabinet-support-environment chain, suppressing the effects due to the resonant modes of the mechanical system.
In the new Albedo loudspeakers, this is achieved by an ultra-stiff mechanical coupling of the cabinet to the support and then to “Earth” by means of:
• A damped steel binding bar.
• A massive basement with adjustable ultra-rigid spikes.
• A loaded sandwich tapered cabinet.
• Ceramic low-moving-mass drivers with ultra-stiff basket.
The idea is to remove the unwanted frequency bands from the line response by means of a selective acoustic filtering provided by Helmholtz resonators tuned to the necessary frequencies and quality factor.
In order to further clarify the concept, it may be useful to refer to the electrical equivalent: the resonator plays the same role of compensation of the acoustic impedance as the one made by an RCL circuit to compensate the electrical impedance of a driver connected to a filtering network. This balancing of the load has the main effect of facilitating the working of the woofer; in particular, the diaphragm excursion in the areas of higher solicitations turns out to be quite reduced if compared, for example, with a bass-reflex of analogous characteristics.
Aptica comes with the precision of the laboratory quality instrument enriched by the pure Italian soul. In an era where a profoundly technical and elaborate approach is mandatory, the infusion of pure breed Italian DNA morphs Aptica in a beautiful object of sonic art.
Despite its given size, Aptica purrs with much more gestalt than one might assume from a causal visual grasp. Aptica’s ability to render music fully, even at low level listening, makes them interesting for many audiophiles.
The hidden technical complexity brings with it a great disappearing act and expanded soundstage, where relief layering is of its own kind.
There are many great attributes of Aptica including focused pin-point localization, non brittle transparency and refreshing accuracy.
Aptica not only act as audio microscope lenses, but greatly distribute density delivering more than just believable timbre, and that is quite a large hurdle for a ceramic based speaker.
In a second part, I’ll focus on music and sum up the final conclusion.
All in all, these are very interesting speakers with both highly engaging aural and aesthetic impact.
Black Oak: 9.660 EUR
Makassar Ebony: 9.660 EUR
Glossy Graphite Ebony: 11.950 EUR
Glossy black lacquered: 12.790 EUR
System: floor standing two way, linear phase
Loading: transmission line filtered by resonators (Helmholine System)
Drivers: 6‘’ ceramic mid-woofer, 1‘’ ceramic tweeter with DSD system
Crossover: acoustic first order, linear phase
Nominal impedance: 8 ohm
Sensitivity: 85 dB SPL (2.83V/1m)
Frequency response: 45 - 20.000 Hz
Dimensions: 26 x 19 x 101 cm
Weight: 19 kg net each
Finish: makassar ebony, glossy graphite ebony, black lacquer
Via Pantanelli, 119
61025 Montelabbate (PU) -