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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: see here
Source Digital: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE Remote Control
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy System 6
Cables: digital - Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; interconnect - Cerious Technologies; CRL Gold [in for review]; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon [on loan]; speaker - Cerious Technologies and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; power: Cerious Technologies AC; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; Shunyata Research Diamondback, Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic Treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen
Review component retail: AUD$8000 or $15,000 in Classic guise

"I want to listen to instruments and voices as though they are in my room and have the ability to finely alter sound to suit space." John Lenard Burnett

Did you ponder tone, timbre and detail when last at a Diana Krall performance? Did Ms Krall's presence center stage provoke concerns on imaging and soundstage? If so -- and at the risk of sounding preachy -- you're caught up in a smidge too much hifi and not enough of the live stuff, mon ami. Lengthy discussions with many an audiophile over the years have frequently concluded in my surprise over how many of these musically savvy, golden-eared enthusiasts actually go about their music listening, well - ass backwards. There's a propensity to measure the merit of the live experience against the home stereo system as the reference, rather than the other way around. Even more curiously, the facsimile is judged superior to the live event.

John 'Lenard' Burnett has been around live sound since day dot of the Aussie music industry. From his humble beginnings when he founded Lenard Audio in 1966 to the domination of our Down Under market as the premier professional sound provider to the likes of home-grown acts Doug Parkinson, Billy Thorpe, Max Merritt and others, Lenard Audio amplifiers and PA systems have become de rigueur at most of Australia's major rock festivals. The company and the man went on to supply sound to legendary international bands arriving on our sunny shores - think Deep Purple, Free, Manfred Mann to name just a few.

John's passion for music and sound would lead to pioneering endeavours that served as vehicles for his fervent belief that any young person with an interest in audio should be given the opportunity for a sound education, first by launching one of Australia's premier youth radio stations (2JJ, then 2JJJ) and then by founding the SAE School of Audio Engineering, where John was Head Lecturer for a number of years. Although no longer involved with the School, the SAE remains
a key international educational institution for up-and-coming audio professionals.

More recently, Lenard Audio was commissioned to design, build and install at Sydney's historical Chauvel Cinema what might be the largest cinema audio system in the world. Dubbed the K4 project, the aim of this system is to effortlessly reproduce film soundtracks with the utmost fidelity and sonic quality in line with the intentions of the film makers.

John Burnett's live event credentials even extend to his involvement in the restoration of the massive pipe organ at Sydney Town Hall, considered the largest and finest 19th
century Romantic concert organ in the world. What I am trying to convey is that designer John 'Lenard' Burnett is a true champion of the Australian music and recording industry, an educator, a designer with a wealth of loudspeaker and amplification engineering know-how, a sage teller of wondrous stories and to this writer, one of the most fascinating inhabitants of our blue planet.

This progression of historical events, acquired technical wisdom and evolved philosophies have led to the relatively recent launch of the company's consumer loudspeaker designs. Lenard Audio specializes in the production of a small range of products that are extensively customizable and aimed strictly at the no-compromise stereo music lover.

From the man himself: "My products are designed to last a lifetime and therefore do not attain to faddish design trends or fashions. This is similar to musical instruments. A piano can only be a piano; a violin can only be a violin. A sound system that replicates the virtual reality of musical instruments can only be 4-way active and scaled in similar structure to the musical instruments it replicates. Therefore its form is dictated by its function. Music and physics reflect each other and create our technological world. Music masterfully performed transforms our feelings of relationship to the world. How we hear music defines who we are. Go with children on an excursion to hear a symphony orchestra. Watch how they are captivated and inspired by the richness and detail of the music. The same music through an average sound system can be unrecognisable. As we get older, the superficial world of marketing and pop culture dominates our lives. At 14 I heard a sound system that gave startling realism and it became the focus of my life's work. Webster defines Fidelity as 'exactness, as in a copy'. I want to listen to instruments and voices as though they are in my room and have the ability to finely alter sound to suit space."

John's take on the above -- an all-out assault on the way music is to be reproduced -- is his flagship Opal [left], a massive floor-to-ceiling horn-loaded speaker using two custom 27-inch (not a typo) woofers per channel and a choice of high-quality JBL Pro compression/slot drivers or -- for the more audiophilically and politically correct -- ribbon tweeters in the firm grip of dedicated valve amps housed in a tower of power. The Opal design is a statement product on par of scale with such tour-de-force ultimate loudspeakers as the Magico Ultimate, the Rockport Arrakis, the Wilson Audio Alexandria or the Acapella Sphaeron Excalibur. But the price tag reflected by Lenard Audio's gemstone luster does not blind with enormity but with its maker's generosity and its sonic intensity.

What of us, you wonder - mere mortals toiling the fields of sorrow? Enter the active Sarabande, a speaker that even at Lenard's entry point maintains its designer's adherence to his principal philosophies, albeit on a lower scale to allow for broader appeal and acceptance: "'Active' means each driver is managed by its own amplifier, as musicians playing their own instruments. This active technology is more complex; arranged in order, similar to the music it reproduces. The music spectrum is divided into four sections by an electronic crossover. Four speakers similar in size to the instruments they are reproducing,
cover the musical range. Drivers of 1 inch for harmonics, 4 to 5 inches for upper voice, 8 to 10 inches for lower voice and 12 to 15 inches for sub bass."

The remainder of the simple high-fidelity recipe in the Lenard kitchen, according to the Head Chef, consists of the following exotic ingredients:
  • Accurate aural judgements
  • Integrity of electronic signal path
  • Neutralization of acoustic environment
  • Efficiency and dynamic range of transducers