This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

I've never yet met reader-turned-retailer Fred Crane of StereoDesk/Audio Prana in Massachusetts but regular email correspondences indicate we share very similar tastes in equipment. "Just thought I'd let you know that I rather love the Albedo sound. You'll be seeing more of them on our site. One of our rooms at the Capital Audio Fest featured the HL2.2 and Crayon gear. It was a phenomenally spacious presentation. It had people looking for subs and so forth though they really just stayed abnormally long periods of time listening. Thanks for turning StereoDesk on to them. They're perfect for the urban dweller who can't settle in any department." Stereophile's listener Art Dudley covered the event. "A return to a more traditional sort of high-end performance awaited me in one of two rooms sponsored by local distributor/retailer StereoDesk and Audio Prana where I was impressed by the unusually open yet nicely fleshed out sound of the Crayon CFR-1 integrated amplifier ($6.000) and CCD-1 disc player/streamer ($12.000) driving a pair of the distinctively styled HL2.2 floorstanding dynamic loudspeakers from Italy's Albedo Audio ($6.600/pr)."

Photo compliments of Scott Hull and used by permission. His comments on the room: "The Crayon gear sat on a magnificent reclaimed wood table. A fantastic old-new combo there that Carol Taylor of Stereodesk tells me is a hallmark for them — great sounds with great looks. Works for me. Music was rich, detailed and groovy. Nice match to the room."

Having figured that the very similar Aptica must have surely replaced them, I'd not realized that 'my' HL2.2 were still in the portfolio. Or had the Aptica at Munich been an early sighting not ready yet when Fred's first order arrived in Montelabbate a brief stretch inland from Pesaro on the Adriatic Sea? No matter, Albedo had clearly made a good first American impression joined by another personal favorite that'd gotten away, Crayon Audio's integrated with Swiss SMPS. As I said, Fred and I see ear to ear on gear. Massimo: "The HL2.2 are still in our line but as I might have mentioned in Munich, Accuton is considering to discontinue their 5-inch driver. HL2.2 production thus will follow availability of the part which until now remains available whilst obviously ensuring spare parts for units already in the field. Because Accuton isn't planning on a 5" substitute, we started evaluating their new 6" equivalent. Then we learnt that to incorporate it properly, we needed to make important adjustments to cabinet volume and other parameters even though the driver already demonstrated improved performance on its own. So we discovered that rather than upgrading the HL2.2, we actually were under development of a new model. The price increase reflects that and sonic gains are greater than the technical specifications on paper between these would suggest. There's no supply issue for the tweeter by the way which remains the same for both HL2.2 and Aptica."

Still from the HighEnd Munich 2013 show
As the eagle-eyed reader will have spotted already on the previous page, unlike the HL2.2 the Aptica inherits from the 3-way Axcentia the baffle treatment whose pitted surface resembles a golf ball as has been exploited by B&W's dimpled ports for years (presumably for similar reasons, i.e. to scatter/randomize reflections). And the photos settled something else as well. The Aptica is a simple 6-inch 2-way with floor facing transmission-line terminus. Where two-ways enjoy the advantage over three-ways is their all-important midband which isn't filtered top and bottom but only where it hands over to the tweeter. Occasionally the very rare two-way avoids even a low-pass on the midrange to handle its cut-off mechanically. Whilst adding to the Aptica my giant Zu Audio Submission subwoofer would turn into a quasi 3-way job on just the number of discrete frequency bands—the lowest in mono not stereo—it still wouldn't strangulate Accuton's 6-incher with a high-pass as long as the sub connected line-level in augmentation rather than filter mode. That's the pro argument for a 2-way + sub.
The pro argument for a 3-way is its more linear transition between woofer and midrange because both are precisely mirror-imaged by filters. A counter claim for my 3-piece solution is that active/EQ'd bass in a discrete enclosure will go louder, lower and due to adjustments and placement options stir up less room modes than nearly all passive 3-ways. To make mono bass work in my experience merely requires that the main speakers reach low enough to restrict the sub's prime coverage band to the first octave. The Aptica complies perfectly. 'twas prime candidate for sneaking in a true infra sub below where the mains fade out in the low bass for just a bit of assist on extension and transient impact. It's something Mercan Dede's latest Dünya album would appreciate for example.

Official specs are 45 - 20.000Hz response, 8-ohm nominal impedance, 85dB sensitivity, dimensions of 26 x 19 x 101cm and weight of 19kg/ea. On paper those are identical to the HL2.2. Except for voltage efficiency. That's down a point. As Massimo explained, these specs alone don't tell the whole story. But not having an HL2.2 for direct comparison, I couldn't tell it either. But that was okay. I felt sure that the Aptica would speak for itself in no uncertain terms. Like the HL2.2 and as such the exact opposite of a rear horn, its line narrows rather than expands towards the mouth. This lowers the resonant frequency over an equally long line of constant diameter. Unlike classic TLs, Albedo's isn't progressively stuffed. Acoustic resonators* address the line's first two primary resonance modes via anti-phase cancellation whilst open-cell medium porosity polyurethane lines the inside walls to restrict the acoustic gain to the intended lower frequencies. As to the company name Albedo, in astronomy it's the reflective coefficient of a celestial body not capable of its own radiation, i.e. the ratio between reflected and incident light.

* The resonators also double as acoustic impedance compensators much like an RCL circuit compensates the electrical impedance of a driver connected to a filter network. This driver loading restricts excursions at high amplitude to increase control.

The 5-day shipment arrived via DHL from Ancona and with pit stops in Bologna, Milano, Bergamo, Lugano, Zurich and Geneva. The 70kg palletized cartons originated from Music Tools, Italian maker of speaker stands and component racks run by brothers Davide and Cristiano Bastianelli. The latter became my shipping contact. He advised that the speakers were Richard Branson—virgin—and would require from 60-80 hours to come on song. I prefer taking off without wait but you don't always get clearance to do so.

Owning the very large AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200 speaker from Lithuania, the far smaller German Physiks HR-120 and the even smaller domestic Boenicke Audio B10, there's no question. My living room looks grander and more spacious when the ultra-narrow and petite Swiss take to the floor. Shut-eye listening eliminates the effect but there's an undeniable psychological correlation. A bigger more spacious room and a big spacious sound from seemingly nowhere, certainly lesswhere than hulking coffins, reaffirm rather than oppose each other. This also avoids speakers blocking the stage by visually occupying areas our ears insist are really taken up by performers. If you love capacious wall-to-wall staging, don't underestimate such psychology. It goes without saying that our Italians pull that vanishing act with fanfare. Being able to easily move speakers about without a knee lift or wheelie cart, for cleaning or social occasions when you rearrange your setup, is another obvious but rarely talked-of benefit. Here the Apticas rule too. It's decorator appeal beyond cosmetics.

Fine hifi is a lifestyle. And what else would you call listening to music for hours each day? Such practical live-with-ability is key. It also helps make inroads with those who'd object to turning their living rooms into shrines to electronic boxes. Or cemeteries. I call it comprehensive design IQ. And the Aptica has 130+ smarts. For audiophile appeal there's the Accuton angle. It's long served as Kharma's and Mårten Design's trump card. There prices skyrocket quickly. Albedo occupies the €5.500/pr to €23.600/pr bracket. It's serious dosh but not unconscionably so considering what competitors charge.