Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core w. 16GB RAM running OWS 10.8.2, PureMusic 2.02, Audirvana 1.5.10, COS Engineering D1, Aqua Hifi La Scala II, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, SOtM dX-USB HD w. super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier V2; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
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; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, GigaWatt PF-2 on amps
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: €9'500/pr for monitors, €11'500 for sub, €19'500 for system

Inset: HighEnd Munich 2013.

"My name is Christian Brückner. I’m the founder and owner of the new German brand Cygnus. We manufacture high-end loudspeakers like the Quasar, a passive sealed two-way studio monitor on stands with an external crossover in an extra cabinet; and the DiSub X15, a modified Linkwitz-design H-frame dipole subwoofer with 2 x 15" PA drivers and integrated DSP-controlled class D amplifier of 1KW power rating. The original market introduction of these two products was in 2010 at the World of HiFi in Hannover. We had many other German shows with fantastic results and now need a review in English which is visible worldwide. As a physicist, I’ve now been building speakers for 30 years. Cygnus was founded in 2003 between me and my companion Stefan Melzer who left the company at the end of 2013. Now I’m doing it alone. The Cygnus Quasar/DiSub project started as an enthusiast's idea of creating a loudspeaker which was completely different from existing designs. This novel speaker system was to have the genetics of an ultra high-end studio monitor applicable for midfield mastering applications plus a little PA, all in a modern living-room friendly design. The result was the implementation of a personal dream, of a speaker about which one could say, "for the home, nothing more is needed"."

Quasar two-way crossover, certain parts values blocked out.

Completely different from existing designs? A sealed monitor with outboard crossover and 170mm Kevlar/cellulose dynamic mid/woofer mated to a 28cm² HiVi Research reminiscent magnetostatic tweeter certainly isn't. A dipole subwoofer is rather more unusual but not unique per se. The Zugspitz Klang 3-way Seligkeit I reviewed last month for example incorporates single 18-inch active dipole subs per channel. Running high-power low-impedance class D for subwoofers is about as common as it gets. No, the arguably most unusual bit about the Cygnus threesome is that presently, it's their only product but positioned as a statement effort. How many speaker companies do you know who propose a sub/sat set as a €20'000* ultimate achievement?

Personally, Christian's approach makes absolute and perfect sense. I've long said it and now practice it exclusively with pure two-ways and a sealed Zu Submission sub. For the home, the most practical high-performance speaker solution for the money is a semi-active 2.1 combo. A compact two-way of the sealed kind eliminates a 3-way's high-pass filter for a purer midrange and simpler filter. It can be placed where it sounds and looks best. And by virtue of having been designed for external bass augmentation, it needn't attempt ported tricks or heroic efforts to force more LF from a small box than it naturally wants to give. A powered subwoofer with DSP control to counter the three dominant room modes and build in time delay is adjustable to the room; nearly invariably packs more reach, power and linearity than a passive multi-way; is less placement critical; and won't play havoc with the main speaker's cabinet on vibrations or required size and weight. Anyone around the hifi block at least once knows it perfectly well. For a passive loudspeaker, the first 15 cycles of the audible bandwidth are the costliest to realize. They also know that little is as annoying as spotty boomy bass where the only adjustment is placement. That makes for an endless compromise between where the passive towers offend the least and sound the best over the rest of the spectrum.

Most people who follow the smarter divide-and-conquer approach of course must match mains with subs that weren't really designed together. Most subwoofers run generic plate amps with cheap 4th-order low-pass filters of dubious precision that clearly aren't any final words on the subject. It's also obvious that for best results, the monitor's acoustic roll-off behaviour should really become a perfect mirror image of the subwoofer's roll-in and the handover frequency be low enough to blend invisibly. Here the Cygnus proposition would seem to ask a simple question: what if one approached this scheme with a no-compromise attitude and made cost no issue? And quietly, like a casual aside, it also asks what is actually required for home playback. Here much of the High End pursues overkill specs particuarly for max loudness which no sane user ever taps. Overkill throws away money by the bushel just for hollow bragging rights.

* Sven Bauer's 2010 review actually lists this exact system at a mind-boggling $56'000 international price. Marco Breddin's 2013 review still shows a far higher €31'500 sticker. This reflects attempts at selling via the traditional dealer/distributor route. After poor experiences in his domestic market, Christian Brückner has since decided to limit himself to direct sales. This sets the current price. It also limits sales to territories he can service himself by car; or to customers willing to see him in his German home for an audition.