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"They have a very high degree of resolution and non-romanticized balance but never get irritating. Naturally one can hear problems in the recording but not in a way which takes away from musical enjoyment. We call this musical neutrality. It is important to notice that digital is ready now to do fun things. It is giving us unbelievable cameras and better sounding music. This is a great example of things to come. It did not sound that great on CD yet the high-res download done by Bernie Grundmann from original masters is fabulous. It is not only about digital technology improving. It is about people understanding the pro and cons of digital and learning how to properly use it.

Amphion Two15 in Martin Kantola´s studio. The next graphic details the ancillary gear.

"Most of the earlier digital remasters were horrible. Now a lot of the world's most exciting music is undergoing a process I call de-remastering where original analogue tapes are transferred to high-rez files, often like in Jack Johnson's case with a fuller more lively balance. These are interesting times for a neutrality-focused loudspeaker maker. DACs improve, file quality improves, people use more vinyl even. Summa summarum, the quality of the signal is getting better, fuller and smoother. Mona Lisa is spending more time outdoors enjoying fresh air. She needs no makeup to look fresh and inviting. There was a time when I thought we had to improve the quality of recordings to sell our speakers. No longer, though we do that too."

Ion+ thus really began as an off-the-books labor of love which was tweaked for mixing standards with feedback from a top microphone designer and a few recording engineers. It was not completely intended for actual production, at least not for Amphion's consumer line. But pros wanted them. Then Anssi Hyvonen realized that what was good for the pros was also good for the home listener. Now civilians can feel like prosumers and listen to accredited modern studio monitors.

Amphion pro models set up for surround-sound mixing

The dishy depression around all Amphion tweeters is a waveguide or acoustic impedance matching device. That helps to minimize radiation pattern offsets between mid/woofer and tweeter in the crossover transition. Such directivity control is quite popular in the pro arena.

Amphion's colleagues at Finland's 34-year old Genelec company are long-time proponents too. In fact Genelec chose the same Munich 2012 show to launch their 4-deep G range of active pro monitors aimed specifically at the consumer market expected to sell between €500 to €2.000/pr. Meanwhile Britain's KEF launched the €995/pr LS50 whose copper-tone Uni-Q coax achieves a very similar waveguide effect with the actual mid/woofer surface and also means to bring the nearfield recording studio experience into the home. Do we spot a trend?

Amphion at Munich HighEnd 2012 with NuForce electronics and QAT server

Back to Amphion and trends, Anssi Hyvonen began collaborating with NuForce electronics at the 2011 Munich show to demonstrate cost-effective high-performance systems with compact modern form factors. He suggested I requisition NuForce's new $549 DDA-100 to pursue this theme. This integrated is a 50wpc single-chip power DAC with five digital inputs. "The built-in DSP operates at 3Gbps to convert PCM into over-sampled data before applying digital-domain volume control. Efficiency is 90% and the built-in FIR filter creates 100% phase-linear speaker output as a FIR filter has no phase distortion compared to an IRR filter." Jason Lim at NuForce proved game to send a sample for inclusion in the Ion+ review but timing worked against it. The Ion+ thus would appear in the NuForce feature review instead.

On Ardán Audio elevation pro stand with 160GB iPod Classic (AIFF), Cambridge Audio id100 and Wyred4Sound mINT

Compact, flawlessly finished, with wall-mount bolt receivers between rear-firing small port and single-wire speaker terminals, Amphion's Ion+ is unabashedly cute and yes, a real looker. How serious could it sound though?