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Having played a lot with hi-tech honeycomb composite structures and in general composite cones (Kevlar, carbon fiber, Dyneema), I have always liked the sound quality and performance of Jürgen’s ZSS cones. I had made a few projects with Görlich who has been continuously making 'Z' cones, having taken over in the 60s the manufacturing from his uncle Dr. Podszus. However the brittleness and health-related issues of the phenolic material were a concern. For my new developments I have used a syntactic foam of aerospace derivation, formulated such as to have a different density along the depth on the cone (smaller cells near the outer skins, bigger ones at the centre of the core). The very special skins are state-of-the-art for this application, consisting of nano-graphite fibres in a 3D alea structure matrix (hypergraph) strengthened with vacuum/plasma Titanium surfaces. Thus was born the Ariacell GTi = Z3. The early 'Z' cones had a paper back skin and an aluminium front skin. Görlich introduced the second iteration of 'Z' with aluminium front and back skins in the late 80s. The acoustic application of acrylic foam (Rohacell ) was actually patented by Philips in the early 80s. Simpler versions of constant-density cells & glass-fiber skins are being used by Focal. In the new Diamond Nautilus series B&W uses a constant-density Rohacell structure with textile carbon-fiber skins but their emphasis is more on great stiffness rather than low weight, hence these cones are optimised for low frequencies.

syntactic foam

The full-cone structure (no hole in the middle for the voice coil & dust cover) has many advantages as a cone profile. The first patent for a such a solution goes back to 1930 with Nagelvoort in the USA. 30 years later Rouy in France used the same geometry with some clever improvements and nodal drive. Görlich adopted it in his ZSS cones in the late 80s. The original 'Z' cone as invented by Dr. Podszus had its highlight in the Plural systems of the 50s where multiple full-range units were used in different angles to aid dispersion. The next generation of ZSS from Jürgen Görlich had its maximum expression with the 12.5cm midrange and 25cm woofer he had made for the Klein & Hummel OY studio monitor. High-end ZSS had its most known applications in the old Harry Pawel designs, Ulrich Rahe’s Rabox as well as the old Capriccio Continuo Z.

Attentive readers might recognize this diaphragm from the original Magico mini

Ariacell GTi or Z3 for short has been in continuous development for better performance since the 90s when I first started working with this kind of sandwich cone. With the advent of nano technologies and continuous innovations in material technologies it is possible to proceed with further improvements.

Air and Z3. Aria in Italian means air but the same word is also used to describe a musical theme. Air is the key element of all Ariacell GTi/Z3 cones. The higher the air content in the membrane, the better the sound since it is the most colorless element to be used for musical reproduction. Air is the carrier of music from source to ears. The best cone material is no cone material at all. Cellular structures come closest to this ideal. They allow the high percentage of air as the main cone material. The 3D alea structure matrix of high-quality graphite fibers is vastly superior to traditional textile or woven structures. Our fiber randomly go in every 3D direction in a random way not as a simple weave and due to better transformation of kinetic energy into heat offer better damping of spurious resonances. - Joseph Szall

Nominal impedance is 4-8Ω, sensitivity is a modest 87dB/2.83V/m and stated frequency response is 39Hz - 21kHz. Recommended amplifier power is 25 to 100W. Dimensions are 350mm high, 185mm wide, 280mm deep. I also received the optional matching stands which match the sleek curvaceous look of the 311 as well as their high-gloss finish. When I placed the Admonitors on the stands it was as if the speaker and stand were cast from a single mold. The top of the stand sports a soft velvet mat to protect the 311's bottom. However this did not provide a particularly stable interface. Hence I used a few globs of sticky tack for a good secure connection. Also included were nicely machined cones that firmly coupled the stands to the floor. Fit and finish were excellent but I wasn't particularly enamoured with the 311’s rather loose-fitting banana-only terminals. I understand that current models feature more traditional five-way binding posts. Whilst gorgeous, the piano black finish made it near impossible to obtain decent photographs hence my considerable use of stock photos from the distributor’s website.

With heavy use of masking tape, level, measuring tape and a few select recordings, I spent considerable time positioning the speakers for optimum results in my room. Interestingly I ended up with them spread further apart than usual and sharply toed-in so that the Admonitors’ direct output crossed a few feet in front of me. I also favored a closer listening position. While I admit that the sharp angle and closer seating seemed counter intuitive, the Admonitors sounded more focused and natural this way. If you have a small room or prefer nearfield listening, the Admonitors would be ideal. Once I had the speakers dialed in, they were sheer magic.

I’ve spent over 30 years listening to two-way speakers. While I have taken the odd detour down multi-driver lane and planarmagnetic avenue, I always seem to find my way back to two-way lane. My most recent examples hailed from Green Mountain Audio and the unfortunately defunct Meadowlark Audio. The first speaker I bought when I was 16 was an inexpensive two-way from Studio Lab, a small Toronto-based manufacturer. Several others followed. I never cottoned to many of the Brit boxes from Linn, B&W, KEF and Spendor. They came across a tad dry and music never seemed to fully break free from them. Also popular at the time were various Yamaha models particularly the NS1000 which a friend owned. To me they were quite painful to listen to, the aural equivalent of an ice pick stuck through my ears. Other two-ways that impressed me over the years include various models from JM Reynaud, Devore Fidelity and Duevel to name few. Many speakers these days come across as if the machines in The Matrix trilogy designed them - cold, ruthless, efficient, technically perfect yet devoid of humanity.

Perhaps it’s mostly due to their high-order crossovers or because so many seem to be designed by committees or outsourced to some engineering firm, i.e. there’s no real
personality behind them. But however they are designed, I like a speaker to possess humanity, some sense of flesh and bone, something to draw me in for long stress-free listening sessions. I can overlook minor colorations or lack of true deep bass as long as they can have an involving human touch. The Capriccio Continuo Admonitor 311 gave me a lot of what I desire. Artificial or clinical they were most assuredly not.