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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.4 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena, Burson Conductor
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2, F5, F6; Job 225, ModWright KWA100 SE, Bakoon AMP-11R, Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, AudioSolutions 200, Zu Audio Submission
Desktop: Wyred4Sound mINT, Gallo Strada 2 + TR-3D
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt split USB cable optionally with Bakoon BPS-02 uninterruptible battery supply
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 & Vibex Two 1R DC filter on amps, GigaWatt PC3 SE Evo on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail in Europe: starting at €7.450/pr for Makassar Ebony; €9.380/pr in gloss graphite Ebony as reviewed, €9.380/pr in high-gloss lacquer by request

Second chances. For audio reviewers those mostly don't come. Let something get away—which happens; after all, how much hifi can one really justify owning?—and opportunities to rekindle old flames are very rare. One can't ask to review the same thing twice just because of withdrawal symptoms. But at Munich HighEnd 2013 the rule book turned to a blank page. I spotted a new model in the Albedo Audio booth. It looked like the HL2.2 I'd reviewed four years ago. Except not quite. Different drivers. Different plinth. Familiar but new. Improved. Dubbed Aptica it'd since replaced the line's two smaller floorstanders which had followed the HL2.2. Over last year's show (which I'd missed but not certain reports) it had also grown a sturdier base to replace the interim bumerangs on edge. But like a bumerang, the reborn HL2.2 would return to casa SE. The designer welcomed my interest. Grazie, Massimo. Italians do understand affairs of the heart.

Don't ask don't tell would be usual form. But I'll come clean. Not only had the HL2.2 been the only ceramic speaker I'd ever truly gotten, I'd also thought it exceptionally handsome. With the FirstWatt SIT1, Bakoon AMP-11R and Job 225, my amps and their sonics had since moved up and away from the valve sound I'd pursued previously. I thus was most curious. How would Albedo's minimum-phase 1st-order 2-way speaker with physical time alignment, the latest Accuton drivers and resonator-enhanced transmission-line loading hit me now? A second date. More maturity with both parties. Would sparks fly again and lead to even deeper appreciation and insight than before?

Okay, stop! This isn't a romance novella. It's simply good form to stretch. I'm quite entrenched in paper driver sound and ribbon tweeters. It was high time to be reminded again how the other half lived. But show exposure hadn't warmed me to specific metallic or ceramic speakers. With Albedo I was on sound ground. No blind date. It didn't matter that their exhibit had been static. Seeing the new Aptica next to the big 65kg twin-woofer Axcentia 3-way which I'd never get up my winding staircases sealed it for the smaller lighter one. With my wide-bandwidth transistor amps, the superb Nagra Jazz valve pre and quality digital options I'd test-drive non-ported—yes!—ceramics and reacquaint myself with the genre. Time to shave and prepare for my date.
HL2.2 back then (and now as it turns out)

As the photos shouted all along, Albedo and parallel surfaces don't belong in one sentence. Think pointed wedge with a hull-shaped narrowing rear and rear-sloping baffle floating atop a counter-weighted plinth. To this eye it's a geometrically very happy—dare one say prototypically Italian style—confluence of lines and proportions. That designer Massimo Costa's concerns extend far beyond pretty skins and becoming curves is attested to by a number of white papers on his website. He's big on impulse response, timing, pistonic low-distortion drivers and minimal resonance. His Helmoline™ bass loading combines a TL with tuned Helmholtz resonators to linearize response. Specifics were calculated on proprietary software (a novelty as predictive modeling of transmission lines in general is at a prehistoric state compared to sealed/ported loading schemes whose functions are fully documented). As a hifi reviewer in a previous life Massimo had plenty of exposure to the competition's best efforts. He got into speaker design with open eyes, pointy ears and a developed sense of what qualities were most important to him and what solutions in their pursuit would work and which ones wouldn't.