Reviewer:
Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO with DHT module,COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE UP NC500MB; LinnenberG Audio Liszt
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver; Titan Audio Eros power cord
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €45'600/pr passive, €72'450/pr semi-active [20% VAT incl.]


Linæum mausolæum? North Americans with memories good to 1983 may remember Paul Paddock and Ben Stutz's unique bending-wave driver which later commercialized with the Oregonian Linæum outfit. Mohawkish like the omni CDT on Anthony Gallo's first sphere, the affordable LFX mini speaker rocked their signature twin half-cylinder floppy plastic foils on its petite head. Before this exclusive tech licensed to RadioShack, Linæum had scaled it to a midrange driver to broaden usable bandwidth. Doubled up, that bigger driver debuted in their floorstanding Model 3 which the Santa Rosa store I worked in at the time had a very rare pair of.


As happened to Oscar Heil's air-motion transformer when patents expired, once RadioShack expired, Linæum's driver tech was suddenly free for all. With their Airfoil 5.2 project, Impact Loudspeakers promised a second coming. That soon faded. Ditto the planned Frescobaldi line-source concept by Aero Loudspeakers which had sought investors. Clearly not fated to be snuffed out, Linæum's clever idea then crossed the Atlantic. In France it was reborn and further developed by one Mr. Deminière in his Janus 50. This subsequently sired a commercial offspring in Serge Schmidlin's Rubanoide under the Swiss Audio Consulting banner. But it also lit a flame with another French firm, AudioNec of Sainte-Mesmes. And it is their new semi-active Crystal Signature which is the subject of today.


Present tense. AudioNec's so-called DuoPole driver far transcends the original Linæum tweeter with 7-octave bandwidth of 200Hz-20kHz and a 1 Tesla neodymium motor for 99dB sensitivity and 8Ω impedance. As an open-backed dipole built in-house, it appears in all of their models. In the Crystal platform, it gets augmented by a 20kHz-40kHz ribbon super tweeter above and one 9" woofer below.


The Signature version activates that woofer plus adds to it a fully digital crossover with Trinnov-based room correction DSP and expert setup by AudioNec or one of their agents. Activating a standard version only requires a change of woofers, bi-amp speaker terminals and that AudioNec's DSPV4 be added to the system [lower right]. For finishes, the entire RAL palette is on demand as is classic piano black in satin or gloss lacquers.


As shown with their flagship Diva XL model at right and below, in one of the €18'000 super cabins of Munich HighEnd 2018's Hall 4, "customers may choose personalized finishes by one of the very famous Parisian handcrafter houses like Maison Fey for leather, Atelier Lison de Caunes for straw marquetry, Lacroix Marrec for wood marquetry or Marc Bedikian for oxidized metals for an obvious surcharge."


Room correction and response optimization aside, signaturizing the passive Crystal version also builds out LF reach from 35Hz to a stout 21Hz. Unlike Munich's colossal range topper, dimensions remain a very manageable and narrow 124x28x56cm HxWxD. Weight is 65kg/ea. Because a dealer visit to expertly dial in and set up any Signature version is part of the deal, I happily accepted AudioNec's proposal for a personal visit to Co. Mayo. Not only would this bear opportunity to observe and report on that process, it would make for an in-depth exchange well beyond what the Munich demo enabled to really fill in the gaps between the early Janus 50 and AudioNec's most current evolution of this driver.


It's still so unfamiliar to even experienced audiophiles that a veteran Stereophile reviewer recently mistook it for an AMT. An air-motion transformer to 200Hz really would be quite the thing. A ribbonesque driver I did hear which actually claims to be scaleable to very similar bandwidth is Zoltán Bay's BRS. At the 2018 Munich show however, it premiered as just a >2kHz mystery tweeter with 90dB sensitivity. Whilst also composed of twin cylinders of undisclosed makeup, its radiation pattern is nearly pure omni so apparently quite different from Linæum's DNA.


In the words of pater familias Paul Paddock, that DNA concerns "a class of devices called 'traveling wave' drivers. With a linear voice coil along one edge of the diaphragm, you basically set up a shock wave which ripples through the membrane. Unlike with a traditional driver, you want this device to break up immediately but in controlled fashion. There's no pistonic motion but a wave which moves smoothly and dissipates as it moves around." Other bending-wave drivers of very different makeup can be found with Ohm Walsh and their descendents German Physic; with Göbel; and with Manger. With far more global press visibility for all of these German iterations—only Ohm Walsh remains American where Linæum started—my review here is hoped to instead double as a sort of overdue exposé for AudioNec. The French team around Hervé Brasbin and Francis Chaillet really deserve a regular seat at this particular table, too. "The usual, please." Clearly not!
RadioShack brochure.