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To obtain additional downstairs audio gear meant delving into relationships with our friendly Benelux distributors. The first contact hit pay dirt already. After we explained our luxury problem, Audio Life was thrilled to help out. In the end we were offered to borrow some nice Audio Note gear. How about the Ongaku and later Jinro integrated amplifiers? These extraordinary horns surely deserved extraordinary amplification. What about an Audio Note CD 3.1? We were thrilled. Moreover the whole concept of what had turned into a project recalled discussions with Harvey Rosenberg on why and how Japanese audiophiles run giant horns in small rooms. This link gives a good idea. Our own Avantgarde horns upstairs too were a result of Harvey guiding us towards horns and SET amplifiers. Compared to the towering Pnoes the German horns suddenly seemed shell-shocked and shrunk.

When the Ongaku arrived we installed it and ran a long line of Crystal Cable speaker wires to the highly placed terminals of the Pnoe. The CDP was connected with an ASI LiveLine interconnect, power cables were PS Audio AC-10. After switching on the Ongaku its pair of General Electric 211 tubes with their bright emission was allowed to warm up properly while we searched for the right CD to christen this combination.

Before we continue we shall report on our communications with the people behind Arcadian Audio. The first thing we wanted to know was their history. Arcadian is a very new company established to market the Pnoe and one or two more designs conceived during its development. So as a company they don’t really have a history yet. On the other hand its people have a long personal obsession with hifi and music in general.

Arcadian Audio was founded by Michael Stassinpopoulos and Nikolaos Kopanos, two businessmen with a strong passion for hifi and classical, jazz and rock music. They work in the engineering and metal processing sectors respectively. Both have very capable technical personnel as well as relationships with outside technical and scientific teams. The Pnoe team further includes George Teperekidis who had been working with speakers since the 80s; and jazz guitarist  Lakis Zois, an important musician in Greece who strives to reach sonic perfection always. John Ioannides, one of the most prominent mastering engineers in Greece, also played an important role during the speakers’ development. He came to audition the Pnoe at a preliminary stage and gave valuable directions to insure that the speakers would not only be acceptable to hifi freaks but sound engineers and musicians too.

One can certainly appreciate how love of music and audio might culminate in the desire to create and build one’s own equipment. But why start with the insane challenge of a completely smooth hornspeaker? The founders jointly developed the basic concept by the Millennium. At the time they were building super high-end valve amplifiers using the best available parts and experimented with various speakers. It was obvious to them that a rationally designed round and smooth back-loaded horn was missing from the market. For the first 3 to 4 years they went through many prototypes of laser-cut steel sheet whose many sections were welded by hand. Then they progressed to composite horns, gradually improving design and construction quality until manifesting the current standard.

The mathematics behind horn geometry are serious business. How did they cope? Michael Stassinpopoulos explained a process with many steps and a number of different approaches. Initially they applied standard formulae combined with advanced calculus software. Finally there was a great deal of lab testing using a specially conceived setup to evaluate different designs. It was a gradual process with surprising twists and turns. During the design stage the developers used a number of loudspeakers as references. Among those—remember this all started more than a decade ago—were JBL K2 9800, Sonus Faber Guarneri, Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy, the Lamhorn and Quad ESL 63 and 988. About 5 years ago the AER driver was committed to for its clearly better highs and detail reproduction over any other driver then evaluated. AER has constantly refined the MD3B and the results are apparent. We are aware that today other drivers exist which might prove very suitable for the Pnoe as well.

Regarding the construction process, Michael explained that the moulding and finishing involved CNC equipment and was far from the easiest of projects. To arrive at the shiny inner and outer surfaces with sufficient self damping meant that the individual pieces had to be manufactured to very tight tolerances. The assembly process itself is largely manual and performed by skilled personnel. It has to be perfect as in the end all seams must entirely disappear. The finishing thus is also done by hand. “Please be aware that the surface finish of current production exceeds that of the pair you have.”

The fact that the Pnoe is pieced together from smaller parts is stunning. The longer your eyes linger over its seamless smoothness outside and inside in places not accessible but with long tools, the more you wonder how it was done. Sales are presently conducted direct. Were there plans for adding dealers in the near future? “The Pnoe is very costly to produce. It can never become a mass-market proposition. At the moment the price is likely a bargain considering the probable manufacturing cost of similarly priced speakers. Arcadian is looking for serious dealers but anyone interested should realise that our aim is to sell at a fair price. We hope to introduce in the next year another very advanced horn design to complement the Pnoe.”

For now Arcadian Audio kicks off with a review campaign. Michael continued: “We are also very interested to participate in a show.” We told him about the upcoming Rotterdam Doelen Lente event which would run soon. The Pnoe was already in the country. A great opportunity?

Coincidence or not, it also happened that the show’s organizer Tom Gosselaar came by to have a look at our new digs. Of course he wanted to hear the prominently placed Pnoe with the Ongaku. Just like anyone else who was allowed close up  to the speakers (we do have a door policy) Tom could not resist the urge to stroke the smooth surfaces of the gentle giants. Before listening he took some photos over his iPhone.

Later we heard back that especially all the women he showed the photos to had been over the moon. Imagine. Women actually liking humongous speakers? We would be happy to give them all shelter.

Once seated in our makeshift second listening room we treated our guest to a variety of music. For us it spoke volumes to see Tom’s eyes glaze over with tears during a Liszt piece. That’s the power of music and a great system.

After this he asked us to mediate with Arcadian Audio to have them attend the Rotterdam show. A wider audience should be able to see and experience these speakers. A few mails between Greece and Tom later and the deal was made. The Pnoe would be presented at the Rotterdam show April 16 and 17. Michael and Nikolaos of Arcadian Audio would make the trip from Greece to attend as well.