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This review first appeared in the May 2014 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of Audiograde
in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Audiograde - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: VPI Scout II, VPI JMW 9T, Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 201, Zu Audio DL-103;
BMC Audio MCCI, SAC Gamma Sym; Luxman D-05; Logitech Touch, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook,
M2Tech Hiface, Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Octave HP300 w. MC phono, Musical Fidelity M8 700m, Denon PMA-2010AE
Loudspeakers: Dynamikks Monitor 8.12, Thiel SCS4
Rack: Creaktiv Trend 3
Power delivery and cords: fis Audio
Cables: Ascendo tri-wire, Dynamikks Speakerlink, Ecosse ES 2.3, fis Audio Studioline, Zu Audio Libtec; Ecosse, Vovox, Mundorf Cable and more; Aqvox USB & coax, Wireworld Series 7 Starlight Gold coax
Review component retail: €27’000/pr

The perfect wave? "I actually just wanted to build loudspeaker cabs. Then I turned into a composite mold-casting technician" punned Wolfram Szentiks, designer and operator of Audiograde AG during his visit to Berlin to introduce his Ardora, a fully cast speaker. Being deliberately disrespectful, you might call it a plastic box. Of course that’d get you way off course starting with raw mass. A pair of these nicely curved boxes weighs a quarter ton. 250kg. That’s net and sans flight cases which weigh as much as most normal floorstanders do on their best day. Here it’s good to acknowledge one’s own limitations. For the first time in fairaudio’s history, we hired moving muscle to get these heavies into the living room. Quite a start.

Obviously Szentiks whose regular training is as electrical technician with extra expertise in CNC machining doesn’t pursue mass for its own glory. It simply became a side effect of chasing a minimally resonant enclosure. He was insistent that the ideal enclosure would be monolithic. It’d have to be cast of a single piece to eliminate all seams. Typical transitions like glue joints of standard panel construction are always weak stress points.

Identifying his ideal composite mix became its own adventure. Once found, the unintended side effect of this polygrade stuff was being (cough) fucking heavy: nearly like concrete and three times denser than ubiquitous MDF. Hence Szentiks also calls it polymer concrete. The ominous knuckle wrap is anything but a joke. Tapping a bridge pylon would probably feel similar. Did I mention that the thinnest sections here are 3.5cm but the norm is 6cm?

Why the wavy shape? Not just for cosmetics though I’m told that particularly in Asia it’s popular perhaps because there’s a certain yin-yang association I’d not grasped before being told. Most speaker makers attempt to minimize internal standing waves with geometry. That’s true also for the Ardora. Whilst its box is arguably the most obvious element of distinction, it’s not the only one. Far from apparent is the excessive complexity involved in crafting it. Szentiks admits to having perfected his casting process over eight long years. Only once he’d convinced himself that the process was consistently repeatable to become practically manufacturable and not just a one-up did he launch Audiograde in 2010. He spent another year to dial in production until the quality of his vacuum casting protocol met expectations. Including surface treatment it takes a full week just to create a pair of enclosures. That’s enormously work intensive particularly in a country as costly to procure labour in as Germany. And Szentiks’ secret mix isn’t free either. Each pair consumes about 140 litres of which a few are lost during liquid injection, another 30kg removed during CNC surfacing "which pains me in my soul". Following these explanations I began to appreciate the extreme weight and associated sticker. The Audiograde Ardora is a labour-extreme product built entirely in Allemania.