AUDIO ALTO AA R101 FR SPEAKERS REVIEW


Both Saša Burian and his Audio Alto products should be no strangers to the Mono and Stereo readers. I've already reviewed the AA 5K speakers with positive conclusions and our Senior Contributing writer Ron Resnick wrote a highly praising words about them in his article here.

Over the past few years, I've had a pleasure to discuss more in-depth everything connected with high-end audio and above with Saša. His knowledge and understanding of technical aspects are beyond the usual suspects. On top of it, he's also an avid music lover and a regular concertgoer. Such combination ensures a potent outcome and nonetheless proper and spot on voicing of the speakers. And, this is exactly what you can hear from the very first notes played through the Audio Alto AA R101 FR speakers. Music just feels right, but more about that later on.


Audio Alto has already an impressive portfolio of the products covering everything, from the sources up to the speakers. Saša is never afraid of any challenges and he's making his clear mark with unique approaches and designs.

THE FULL RANGE


Years back (two decades+) I've experimented with quite a few full range speaker's concepts. At that time we were very found of the Lowthers and few others iconic drivers. It was more than just a fun. The full range driver based speakers can invoke a certain sense of music wholeness, that is not exactly easy to achieve with the multi-way speaker designs. Like it or not, on the ultimate scale, a crossover will always take something out sound transfer even in the most extreme designs. Both multiway and single driver approaches have their advantages and shortcomings and the implementation is always dependable on the specific system and environment, that speakers will be used. Still, the single driver speaker design is a king on its own. 

At present times, full range speakers are not the most popular choice for the variety of reasons, but they can deliver an audiophile/high-end grade performance and reasonable sound pressure along with linear frequency range extension between the lowest and highest audio frequencies (20-20.000 Hz).

The multiple driver approaches are in a way a compromise from the ground up, especially if such speakers are used in the typical listening rooms (measuring 20-25 m2). In such surroundings, the listener is positioned quite close to the speakers (between 2 to 3 meters) and there is a needed length for the sound (coming from various drivers) to expand evenly when it hits the listener's ears.

So, the biggest problem is time domain, the alignment of different intervals and linear phase between different frequencies. To get this right is quite a challenge, sometimes even to complex to achieve.
For these particular reasons and from the early beginnings of Audio Alto venture, their focus and R & D was pinpointed at the development of a full range based loudspeakers systems.

THE GOAL



From the initial idea and ground up Saša Burian wanted to create an affordable and well performing full range entry level speaker speakers, that would incorporate all of the Audio Alto upper echelon speakers models advantages. Consequently, the trickling down brings a bit less sensitivity and lower maximum SPL (sound pressure level).

MEET THE AA R101 FR


I've had a chance to hear Audio Alto AA R101 FR speakers at least two times over the years at the high-end audio shows. We all know, that you can capture some amount of the initial potential at the show's conditions, but it's always the best to experience them in the well know-controlled conditions and familiar listening environment.

Let us look at few AA R101 FR speaker highlights:

- maximum linear frequency range 34-20.000Hz (-3 dB/ 0 dB),low overall distortion for frequencies 40-20.000Hz,phase aligned and time coherent reproduction,
- the sensitivity of 85dB / 2,83V / 1m, which allows the use of medium power amplifiers
- no use of crossover design allows excellent bass driving capability with amplifier (vacuum tubes) having higher output impedance (lower Dumping factor),
- maximal sound pressure is greater than 100dB,- minimum and the maximum impedance between 4.9 Ohm and 7.3 Ohm (35Hz-20.000Hz),
- maximum linear electric and acoustic phase (from 300Hz to 20.000 Hz from + 16 deg. -2 deg.),
- switchable setting for medium-high tones (from 1.200Hz to 20.000Hz) -2dB, 0dB, + 2dB,

Audio Alto AA R101 FRK is a 6 Ohm (impedance), 84-85 dB (sensitivity) passive loudspeaker with the recommended amplifier power output up to 100W. It implements a special full range driver with the latest generation metal cone, that uses new ultra-thin wall coil. The latest upgrade allows the extension up to 25-kHz while retaining the “purist” single-cone design. There is a "safe" mechanical limiter inside of the magnetic motor sub-assembly, that prevent the damage if the over-load occur.

The driver ensures the extremely accurate sound rendition with outstanding dynamics capability and very low distortion. The result is extremely accurate sound with outstanding dynamics and very low distortion. It also maintains time and frequency alignment, that is very constant through the whole audio spectrum. 

The following figure shows overall frequency response (magenta), bass reflex response (blue short dashed), full range driver response (blue), impedance (green long dashed), driver cone movement (red) and SPL (grey). The next figure shows phase versus frequency relation of individual measures displayed in the previous figure (same colors).

The next figure shows phase versus frequency relation of individual measures displayed in the previous figure (same colors).

On the backside of the AA R101 FR, there are two 4mm binding posts. These floor-standers can be placed across the listening room to various spots and the dedicated switch offer a three positions adjustment that alters the higher frequencies response, thus changing the amplitude in three steps: +2 dB, 0 dB and -2 dB.


If the speakers are closer to the wall, then the + 2dB position may be adequate and if they're placed away from the walls then the -2 dB might be adequate.

Each of the full-range drivers can be covered with a dedicated speaker grill, that is fastened with three neodymium magnets. The grills are elegantly hiding the driver as well as mounting screws and are easily removable.

Two aluminum spikes (at the front) allow easily adjustable tilt and rear acrylic elliptic stand keeps the loudspeaker firmly in a static balance.

THE MUSIC


It was beyond interesting going through my listening notes. On quite a few occasions I've marked down quite refreshing observations. Audio Alto AA R101 FR speakers have managed to derive music from different sources with the airy, featherlike lightness when needed and they've provided an authoritative grip. 

For the relatively small enclosures, the sound easily expanded into the room with an immersive soundstage and multiple acoustic sonic anchors, that are usually reserved for a quite heftier price tag. Yes, this is one of the luxuries of evaluation the numerous products. It takes a lot of time and dedication for listenings, comparing etc., but at the end, here and there you stumble on a stand out products, that refill the enthusiasm batteries back to the usual levels. And I'm more than happy if like the AA R101 FRs, such products come at the down to earth pricing.

Somehow Just a Little Lovin', studio album by Shelby Lynne grew on me for various of reasons. When it comes to the testing of any speakers I especially love to spin the album's title-opening track. Little Lovin' can instantly establish the clear sonic ability of any given speaker under the stress.

I was quite surprised with the AA R101 FR ability to deliver a sufficient impact, that is needed with this track. AA R101 FRs have exhibited a much mightier rendition than expected and on top of it, they could provide the objective density without falling apart when multiple instruments blend in the composition.

The single driver "magic" was clearly evident with the pin-pointed positioning and formation of the instruments. But... That was not all. 

With Cowboy Junkies ‎– Whites Off Earth Now the AA R101 FR's sonic depth expanded far beyond the speakers, encapsulating the CJ distinctive atmosphere with the set of revivifying attributes. 

The AA R101 FRs ability to act with sort of micro loupe and the macro telescopic tendency was vividly projected with Rimsky-Korsakov - The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner ‎– Scheherazade Op.35 - Symphonic Suite. This exotic tale, masterfully captured and conceptualized by Rimsky-Korsakov is composers' remarkable crown achievement. 

It was Rimsky-Korsakov clear intention from the very beginning to create a certain, oriental mood in order to captivate and ignite the listeners' mind. And when the speakers are designed in a proper way, the Rimsky-Korsakov sonic narrative can really bloom.

Unexpectedly, the Audio Alto full-range floor standers managed to follow the pace, tempi and at the same time reflect an impressive portion of dynamic traits, regardless of the speakers' sheer given size. The orchestral fanfares were locked with the firm grip and with a surprisingly spot-on timbre, that encapsulated the very essence of the metallic wind instruments.

Orchestra's sound was traveling in the very familiar way, that one can encounter in the live performance. A giant, harmonic "bubble" of instruments' energy was delivered with enough captivating vitality to experience an interactive connection with the music. What more can one really expect from speakers of this size and of such price; especially with the classical music, being the utmost challenge!?

CONCLUSION


AA R101 FRs have a stylish, minimalistic and elegant enclosure. The speaker's size allowed them to be easily placed and positioned in the smaller listening room. AA R101 FRs are the floor-standers and as such, they can breathe with ease when placed closer to the side wall or when moved further into the listening space.

Despite AA R101 FRs might appear minimalistic at the first encounter, they have quite a chameleon-like transforming nature and a dedicated higher frequencies response switch surely is an important part of the general room assimilating ability. All in all, AAR101 is a cleverly designed loudspeaker with a mighty heart and translucent essence, that is first and foremost subordinate to the music!

AA R101 FRs were conceptualized from the very beginning in such way, that they can be easily driven with the low powered SET amplifiers, Pure Class A solid state amps and nonetheless and most important with the wide selection of reasonably specced integrated amplifiers. This automatically makes them compatible with the wide range of amplifiers and opens up many matching possibilities, as well as a much broader path, that leads towards the finding of a proper and preferred synergistic electronic partner.

I've really enjoyed my time with Audio Alto AA R101 FRs loudspeakers. They've sort of reignited my passion from the past and avidly reminded me of what makes a full range, single driver speakers so very different and so special.

When driven properly AA R101 FR loudspeakers can encapsulate the natural, realistic and transparent sonic illusion, that can instantly lock and load with the music. There is a greater amount of information density needed to be transmitted via speaker transducer in order to replicate the correct color and texture of any instruments, and AA R101 FRs full range concept wasn't guilty of losing the bits of information along the way.

Nothing primary was lost in translation and this is what matters the most. If the music's essence is lost than nothing can cure it. No exotic driver, no fancy enclosure etc. Saša Burian did his homework exemplary, resulting in a standout, coherent and spatially correct speakers, that can offer something very unique.

One of my listening remarks noted: "It's always on the very edge and of paper tiger realms to bring up the subject of sonic spectral shading. Yet, these Audio Alto's full range floor-standers can really render the notes scattering in the most formidable way, especially when it comes to the illustrations of the acoustic instruments." 

Probably one of the most complex things to accomplish sonic wise is to deliver an order to so-called diffused nature of high-end audio reproduction. Despite generally knowing so much about the music and its reproduction, we're still farther away from understanding its complexity. To the point... Audio Alto AA R101 FRs have a stick-out-positive ability to mirror a grander portion of the original material without stepping into the uncanny realms. Quite a compliment from yours truly...

The finishes are the real wood veneer or mat or polished paint. My wife rarely comments any of the products, that are constantly coming in and out for review. But... She was instantly pleased with the Audio Alto AA R101 FR's aesthetics. I guess R101s have passed the WAF (wife acceptance factor) within the very first strike :).

In the world of ever-increasing prices, AA R101 FR speakers represent a great value and deliver a performance, that is more than worthy of highlighting. For what they represent at their given price point and for the highly potent sonic ability I'm wholeheartedly giving out Mono and Stereo Best Buy Award!

Matej Isak

PRICE


Retail price: 1990 EUR

TECHNICAL


Impedance: 6 ohm 
Frequency range: 36 – 23.000 Hz +- 3 dB 
Sensitivity: 85 dB Phase shift: above 100Hz from +28 st. to -2 st. 
Room size: up to 35 m2 
Dimensions: (W x D x H) 260 x 105 (with base 200mm) x 1030 mm 
Weight: 15 kg 
Finish (upon order) various colors, veneers and leather

CONTACT


Audio Alto
Prekmurska 6
1000 Ljubljana 
Slovenia

Telephone: + 386 (0)1 438 47 85 
Technical support: + 386 (0)41 399 256