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To close out the introduction, a few more observations from Daniel Barnum: "During my stay in Europe at the Xavian facility, I was able to, first-hand, observe the building and design process and then listen to newly finished masterpieces. I come from a woodworking background. I built custom cabinets with my father throughout my teenage years, then went on to build pipe organs (wind trunks, the pipes etc). I then worked in outside sales selling industrial woodworking equipment to millwork shops in the Carolinas. During my time in the US military subsequently, I was a radio maintenance technician. I know what goes into building a quality cabinet. I understand veneering. I know which frustrations can come from working with wood. I also understand the electronics principles and proper procedures for creating great sound.

"What struck me about the Xavian woodworking facility was the lack of CNC routers, large beam or panel saws. There was practically zero automation. Instead, I saw craftsmen handling each and every piece of wood that goes into a Xavian loudspeaker. Once the parts are cut on the table saw and shaped with the proper tongue and groove edging, they are neatly stacked in preparation for assembly. A master craftsman assembles the boxes and ensures a proper fit. Another craftsman, specializing in veneer, plans the veneer cuts and labels each piece of veneer for a near perfect fit once glued to the enclosure. Note that the veneer is pair-matched and the veneer is cut and applied to the bevels such as to show no breaking of the wood grain along complex facets and surfaces. Two other workers sand the veneer to near perfection. Just prior to finishing, the finisher inspects the veneer and all seams before the final sanding stage to finishing.

"I asked Roberto if he would look into CNC machines even on a small scale. He responded that he is more versatile by hand and can do custom runs more easily than on CNCs. He is correct. CNCs are wonderful machines but not designed for small runs. It takes time to set them up, create a spoil board, write the program, work out the small bugs of material optimization and then run the machine. With a smaller, more conventional woodworking facility, Xavian is able to measure each and every tweeter faceplate and driver circumference and machine the speaker baffles to fit each faceplate to tighter tolerances than a CNC router could. Keep in mind that the faceplates of the drivers are built to certain tolerances. Programming a CNC router for each driver tolerance is not cost effective nor an intelligent use of time. Xavian matches the drivers to the speaker cabinets and machines the proper size mounting holes for each individual driver. This method also allows Xavian to build the exact number of speaker models and custom finishes in a shorter time than it would take to set up a CNC-based shop for a new run.

"The proof of a design is not in the construction of course even though to me that is a wonderful start. If a company can pay attention to small tolerances such as tweeter faceplate circumferential offsets and accommodate them, then it must show a true craftsman approach to the loudspeaker art as a whole. I found that the love for wood was not the only strong point of Xavian's approach to speaker design. The crossover, binding posts, custom-milled aluminum port tubes, custom spikes, custom machine screws and hand-cut leather are all part of the Xavian loudspeaker program. Internal damping methods include using small, hand-cut wood pyramids glued, one at a time, to the inside walls of the box; layered bitumen; and extensive bracing. The first-order crossovers are built on custom PCBs with extremely large traces and very thick mounting tabs, with crossover components matched to within 2%. The rear panel of all models except for the XN360 use custom-cut and colored leather with the name of the speaker burnt into the hide. The binding posts are either custom made for Xavian or top-line WBTs. All Xavian speakers are sent out in matched pairs and are designed to be within +/- 2dB across their functional audible band."

"Before deciding to import products, distributors must believe they are doing the right thing. What impressed me about Xavian loudspeakers was their tonal similarity to live acoustic music that I get to hear regularly. After more prolonged listening prior to officially importing them, I noticed that with Xavian speakers in my reference system, I was not longing for different, more exotic or more expensive speaker. I was simply enjoying music."

Against such an unexpected background check -- it's the rare distributor who offers actual photos of personal factory visits -- my forthcoming encounter with the XN 360s certainly looked most promising indeed...