Whilst Robert’s open baffle designs are great-sounding speakers, their size, appearance and room requirements can make them a tough fit for many an audiophile listening room. Plus, I hardly need mention possible resistance due to W/SAF (wife/spouse acceptance factor). Recognizing this, Robert recently introduced three new models based on slightly different widebander designs. A single widebander still mounts on the front but now has its rear wave vent into a downfiring horn. These cabinets are much more conventional in appearance. These three models are the Matterhorn (15" widebander with Gemini tweeter), the Wildhorn (12" widebander + Gemini) and Rothorn (10" widebander + Gemini). Robert wanted the Wildhorns reviewed and I was amenable. My loaners were supplied by Mark Loewen, Canada’s new Bastanis distributor. Mark imports the fully treated drivers from Robert, then has a local woodworker make the cabinets to Robert’s specifications. I must say that the appearance of the speakers was first class. This fits with Robert’s intentions of making the Wildhorn and Matterhorn welcome into more upscale listening rooms than the more aesthetically challenged open-baffle models. Thankfully the widebanders were already broken in. Mark feeds them 20Hz on his work bench for about 200 hours straight. This is a critical point as they sound thin, aggressive and edgy before break-in is complete.

The speaker’s 5-way binding posts sit at the bottom rear and are of very good quality. The enclosure is made of high-grade 1-inch Birch ply. My samples were finished with a beautiful thick Walnut baffle attached to the front of the ply box. The Gemini tweeters were enclosed in a round pod finished in matching walnut veneer. A small wooden stand has them sit squarely on top. Two stiff connecting wires arch down from the back of the tweeter to be easily inserted into two connectors on the cabinet’s top. Technically speaking, the Wildhorns are rated at 100dB/1W/1m meter, 8Ω and with a tube-friendly impedance curve. There is a 15Ω resistor in parallel with the drivers to help flatten the impedance and smooth the response.  This resistor is high-quality graphite with silver leads. The 15Ω resistor can be switched out of the circuit with a small toggle below the binding posts.  It is recommended to keep the resistor switched in (up position) when the speakers are used for normal home listening. When used with high-power solid-state amps to produce large SPL, it is recommended to switch the resistor out. Apparently Robert sells some of these to DJs in large dance halls.

A Bastanis-branded 1.1µF capacitor is used in series with the open-backed compression tweeter as an electrical high-pass filter at 11kHz. The tweeter diaphragm is phenolic and treated with lacquer/oil to extend its response above 20kHz. According to Bastanis, the acoustic rolloff of the widebander begins at about 8kHz. The tweeter is flat to 9kHz, enough to meet the big driver. It then falls off gradually above 12kHz. Regarding the quality of this capacitor, Bill Demars and I have compared the Bastanis cap to some other high-end caps (e.g. TFTF Reference Grade V-cap oil cap and custom Urushi caps from Kenji (no website but can be ordered via CleanUnderwear@gmail.com in Japan) on our open-baffle Mandala and Prometheus Mk. II respectively. The Bastanis cap competes very well. I ended up with the Urushis. The widebanders for the Wildhorn and Matterhorn models are described by Robert as follows: "The Wildhorn widebanders are completely different from those for the open baffles. The Wildhorn drivers need to work in a bass horn so the Qts is much lower and the cones are stiffer, the voice coil is bigger and the X-max is higher. The design of the Wildhorn widebander is new, the magnets are Neodymium and it was most tricky and complex to design these because they are 100dB/1W/1m efficient; have an extended midrange; and produce extremely dynamic bass fundamentals in most rooms. This is normally the task of three completely different drivers with completely different parameters. To get even two of these parameters working properly at the same time is tough…”

I started by positioning the Wildhorns in the same spot where my Proms had been. This turned out to be very bad and put these speakers too far out into the room. No owner’s manual came with the speakers (perhaps the info could be put on the website as a downloadable PDF) so I contacted Robert. He replied that "... the floor-loaded bass horns need a solid wall behind them to couple to the room. They don't need to be placed directly before the front wall but between 30-120cm works best in most rooms." After much experimentation, I found the ideal position to be 37 inches (94cm) from the front wall with a slight toe in. The tweeter in their own housings allow the listener to rotate them and optimize their dispersion pattern for the listening seat. Robert stressed this unique aspect of his backloaded speaker models. "The Wildhorn speakers offer additional possibilities for fine tuning of the imaging and tonal balance by moving the tweeters a bit to the inside or outside. Also, the tweeters can be positioned with a slightly different angle than the cabinets." My preference was to rotate them a bit more outward than the main baffles. That aimed the tweeters a bit more than two feet past my ears. Forty inches up my front wall, the wall slopes forward along the roof line before it hits the 11-foot high ceiling. If I pushed the speakers closer to this wall, they began to get a bit shouty. Moving them too far back sacrificed some soundstage depth.