This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
A quick'n'dirty primer on 1st-order topologies -- parallel or series -- tells us that because the rate of attenuation beyond the crossover point is very shallow or slow (akin to just a few clicks on a preamp's volume control), the respective drivers are operative far beyond the bandwidth circumscribed by the filter frequencies. Instead of brick-wall filtering a driver before it goes non-linear, breaks up, starts ringing or otherwise becomes useless, 1st-order networks depend on wide bandwidth drivers that don't misbehave outside the primary window. First-ordering on the cheap thus won't work. That's one aspect that sets such designs apart. To operate as intended, they rely on superior e.g. expensive transducers.

But even amongst 1st-order advocates, there are significant differences of implementation. Certain firms use a very high parts count in their networks to compensate for nonlinearities which either their drivers or cabinetry don't account for mechanically. One could posit that the greater the need for compensations in the crossover, the greater the number of errors the designer made in the selection and implementation of his chosen drivers and cabinet. To arrive at the quintessential single cap/single coil minimalism of 1st-order lore, every minute aspect of the transducers and how they behave in the cabinet must be addressed to perfection. Fail and it either creates audible artifacts or requires corrective measures in the electrical domain which unnecessarily complicates the network.

Simply put, doing a 1st-order loudspeaker with a minimum number of parts correctly is such a challenge that only very few firms attempt it to begin with and arguably even fewer pull it off brilliantly. Going from a two-way to a full-range three-way design such as under review ups the ante yet further. Considering that Roy Johnson has been at it since 1988 and brings to bear not only sound engineering and recording for the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra but sound reinforcement in the professional arena, technical process work for Hewlett/Packard and a Masters in solid-state Physics (two courses shy of advanced quantum mechanics) should tell us that Green Mountain Audio's present manifestation of the 1st-order art in the Continuum 3 came by way of very hard work. In fact, one glance at the firm's prior models beginning with the Imago and later the Diamante shows that Roy Johnson concentrated far more on formulating the necessary math and learning how to translate it into the materials sciences than building a company with a defined lineup and any practical ambitions to make a quick buck.

At least to an outsider, it appears that instead, our designer was prepared to chuck the laborious investment of molds and jigs each time he made another breakthrough in his R&D to fashion a new model that would implement his latest findings. It hasn't been until about a good year ago that the final puzzle to the mathematical equations fell into place. Since then, the design process of the crossovers has shortened by a very significant margin and the majority of engineering decisions now pertain to aesthetic considerations and the prototyping of the molds. 2004 alone will have seen three new model introductions by the time CES comes around and the hiring of Janet Lynn signifies the transition from wood-shack period of perfecting the craft to taking Green Mountain Audio the company to the next level.

Without outside investment capital to fund this going-on-20-years research project, GMA has operated quietly behind the scenes, generating enough cash flow with sales of current models to sustain Roy Johnson and his small team while the mad scientist learned about cooking up composite recipes, perfecting the predictive shrinking process of his rubber molds, optimizing cabinetry joints and surfaces for mechanical tuning and unimpeded dispersion and correlating mathematical models with experiential listening results.

Accelerating orders, new models and the training of additional staff this year has placed further strains on the working-class Johnson (lotsa class, lotsa work) who is looking forward to extricating himself from some of the operations procedures of the daily manufacturing grind and focus more on design and strategic alliances. This, in a nutshell, seems to be the past and future story of Green Mountain Audio that's on the verge to make a big splash now.

The Continuum 3 has morphed into its present shape about a year ago and has been in such demand that it's taken nearly as long to procure the review sample. 6moons is privileged to do the honors on the inaugural formal evaluation and I can already tell you that this speaker is a breakthrough in many important regards that come with a price. When distortion components on the speaker side are reduced, you'll begin to hear upstream effects previously masked. This could be as harmless as tweeter reflections off my Audiopax amplifiers which are placed unusually high but don't interfere with the highly directional Avantgardes they're normally connected to. Putting pillows in front of the amps made a readily audible difference with the Continuum 3s. This shall serve as a simple example for how heightened resolution requires greater overall care in system matching and setup.

The Green Mountain Audio Continuum 3s are precision instruments that need to be calibrated properly to within 1/8th of an inch to really show what they can do. Pay attention and sweat the details and you'll be able to hear deeper into your recordings and your system than before.