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The speaker measures a room-friendly 100 high x 20 wide x 27.5cm deep. The drivers are flush-mounted and all fasteners front and back are black Allen hardware. A stylish and rakishly raised semi-elliptical grill mounts magnetically to the face. The cloth is supported by an internal frame which affords an additional dimension of contour. While attractive the grill covers should be removed for serious listening. The rear has an elliptical black brushed metal plate with a pair of vertically stacked gold-plated binding posts shrouded in clear plastic and sourced from AEC in Taiwan. At the center of the plate is a port with the company logo above and serial number below. There are a pair of outrigger metal brackets attacked to the bottom matching the unusual angles of the speaker and threaded to accommodate four adjustable spiked feet with oversized cosmetic caps.

Internally the Auralea utilizes the firm's T20Z crossover described as a highly evolved design that implements very limited driver overlap and addresses the issue of back EMF by putting components in both the hot and cold legs of the connections, thereby controlling the loop-back impedance between driver and filter. Internal wiring is OFC copper sourced from Xeos of Japan. Specifications claim a response of 39Hz-22KHz ±3dB with fairly high sensitivity of 91db/2.83V/m and an impedance of 4 ohms (high-current amps preferred). The recommended power range of 25 to 250 watts promises a generous latitude of system matches. The opportunity arose during the course of the review to interview owner/designer Joseph Szall and explore some questions both simple and more philosophical about the nature of the product and the company. Here are a few snippets of our conversations:

Q: How did you arrive at the name Auralea 309?
A: Auralea is a nice if not very common woman's name. 309 is the date of birth of the design - March 2009.

Q: The Capriccio Continuo Admonitors are described as your response to the requirements of the multi-channel world. Would that make the Auralea 309 your nod at the two-channel universe?
A: The Auralea is as much dedicated to multi-channel as the Admonitor (other Auralea models are planned to complete such a system). There is HT multi-channel and there is musical multi-channel. I do not have too much interest in cinema multi-channel since it does not always sound appropriate with music. On the other hand a good multi-channel music system will sound good on cinema too. I think that for classic music 7 to 8 channels are interesting but recordings should be scalable from 2 channels (perhaps even optimized for headphones too) all the way to 8 and more. I have devised such an 8-channel recording system for classical music which is down-scalable to 2. If you think of it, the complete Decca Tree setup with the 2 outriggers is at inception a 5-channel frontal stereo system later down-mixed to stereo. In essence there is no conflict between 2 and more channels for me, just an upgrade where classical music is concerned. 

Q: Have there been changes to the 309's design since the initial release?
A: There has been an improvement in May 2011 and all models produced since are the 'Performance' version.

Q: Are Capriccio Continuo and ATD Italian companies or multi-national ventures?
A: ATD was originally born as an Italian company but has become multi-national/global with locations in Europe and Asia. It is however a  small company which I'm proud of. The Auralea is partially manufactured in the EU and partially offshore. Capriccio Continuo today is best described as Italian design, Swiss precision and German technology. 

Q: What prompted you to make the leap from raw driver manufacturer to complete loudspeaker manufacturer with Capriccio Continuo?
A: Actually designing drivers was already a consequence of manufacturing speaker systems from the 1981 Audio Physics beginnings. Drive units are still the heart of the system since you can get sound out of them without an enclosure or crossover. The same is not true for the crossover in isolation nor the enclosure (unless you hit the latter in which case it would be called a drum). Drive units, crossovers and enclosures have to work in absolute synergy and have to be designed in an interactive way for the best results. This is an old truth. See some of the classics of yore like the Advent loudspeaker, Winslow Burhoe's Epicure and BBC monitors like the LS3/6 etc.

Q: Are the raw drivers and basic parts used in the Auralea of your own design and manufacture?
A: Yes, the drivers are designed by me. The 6.5" woofer follows very much the classic BBC-style philosophy but uses a next-gen cone material called isotact matrix nanocarbon, a 5th-generation thermoplastic-based composite with carbon MWNTs used as additive. The tweeter is a variation on the FAST theme and its DNA goes back to Oskar Heil's air motion transformer. 

Q: There is an unusually close character match between your FAST driver and woofer in this speaker. Was this a design requirement from inception and what do you attribute the closeness to? 
A: The closeness in sound character is one of my cooking recipes. The Kapton foil substrate on the FAST merges well with the Kapton voice-coil former of the woofer (both use also aluminium as conductor). That way the inherent material colorations are very much the same. However to blend drive units well further requires a top-notch crossover and our T20Z solution avoids having the drive units fight each other on radiation in the crossover window.

Q: Why a Kapton substrate rather than the familiar Mylar?
A: Kapton in some applications is a must. Mylar or Kaladex are very good but melt at lower temperature. Kapton however has a sonic signature which must be accounted for. 

These extended e-mail conversations gave me a very good idea of what to expect from the speaker in terms of tech application as well as the direction and musical mind set of the designer - a classical approach with all the advantages of modern materials and methodology and the in-house resources and control to realize them. This Italian beauty was promising to be more than skin deep. As always I tried to pour through my collection of recordings to ascertain if the system would enjoy exposure to a wide range of styles and tastes. I’ll sample a few to demonstrate.

"Into the Final Frontier" from Symphonic Star Trek [Erich Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Telarc20 CD-80383] contains a wealth of musical material from Goldsmith, Horner, Courage and other fine composers shown to advantage with all the advantages of Telarc’s big and bold orchestral presentation. This short piece contains the narrating talents of Leonard Nimoy who has proven my acoustical friend despite a withering glance in response to my over-intrusive paparazzi  photo barrage that translated as the opposite of 'live long and prosper'. His unique deep voice has consistently shown up matching problems between woofer and tweeter as well as image focus - a nice little reference tool imbedded in an enjoyable and well-recorded retrospective.
"Harlem Airshaft" from Clark Terry's The Chicago Sessions 1995-96 [Reference Recordings RR-111] is an infectious cut from a thoroughly engaging compilation of Big Band material in the masterful hands of Professor Johnson and Reference Recordings with a big luscious soundstage and dynamics to capture the propulsive energy of Clark Terry and the De-Paul University Big Band under the directorship of Bob Lark.

"Espana Rapsodie by Emanual Chabrier" from Stokowski Spectacular [Leopold Stokowski and the National Philharmonic, Precision Records and Tapes CDPCN 4/Stereo] is a little gem of a recording featuring a strong collection of varied material recorded in 1975 with legendary recording engineer Ray Pricket at the helm, Antony Hodgson producing and Bog Auger Associates on the mobile equipment. This cut is a lovely bit of romantic fire showcasing analog warmth and a more traditional approach of strong orchestral timbre and texture awash in a dense atmospheric cloud as opposed to the holographic precision of Telarc and Reference Recordings. Here the maestro delivers a stirring and dynamically involving rendition of a work he had not recorded since 1919.

"Shelter" from Sarah McLachlan's Rarities B-sides and Other Stuff [Netwerk 06700.30105-28] is a strong grouping of material all musically worthy and unusual. This cut has an unusually well-layered and spatially differentiated interplay of vocals, overdubs and violin in a huge dense sound space for an ambitiously engineered piece in service of an emotionally engaging performance by Sarah McLachlan.
"16th Prelude in D Minor: Jean de Sainte Colombe" from Nima Ben David's Resonance [MA Recordings MO88A] is a delightful marriage of purist microphone technique, lively room and an inspired solo performance by Nima Ben David on the viola da gamba captured by the wizardry of engineer Todd Garfinkle. These are intimate works that explore the character of the instrument, the acoustic of the room and the intensity of the music.
"He Trusted in God: G.H. Händel" from Messiah The Complete Choruses [Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and Orchestra, Ivan Taurins, CBC records SMCD 5193] is a delightful recording of the Messiah choruses delivered with a clean and very detailed perspective by the considerable talents of Canada's own Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Recorded in 1998 at the Grace Church-On-The-Hill Toronto. This cut features rapid-fire interplay of male and female sections in the large church acoustic that lets the system unravel en-masse vocals and present them in a cohesive environment.