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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.87g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.5 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena
Integrated amplifier: Wyred4Sound mINT, Bakoon AMP-12R, Crayon Audio CFA-1-2, Gato Audio DIA-250, Clones 25i [on loan]
Power amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2, AURALiC Audio Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke Audio W5, German Physiks HRS-120, Zu Submission, AudioSolutions 200, Gallo Acoustics Strada 2/TR-3D
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, Light Harmonic LightSpeed and KingRex uArt split USB cables
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 and Vibex Two 1R DC filter on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Art: paintings by Ivette Ebaen,
Indian bronze musicians and other Rajasthani furnishings from images-atmospheres.ch with jewelry from ninomedina.com
Music sources: bandcamp.com, qobuz.com, amazon.co.uk, tulumba.com
Room size:Room size: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 9.5m open floor plan combines the living/listening room, kitchen and office. Added to this space the speakers see the air volume of the entry hall and a long corridor plus the 2nd-storey 6 x 9.5m loft. Wood-panel ceiling slopes up to the loft. Parquet flooring. Lots of non-parallel surfaces ('vertical gable' windows, twin-angle ceiling, spiral staircase enclosure, fireplace enclosure). For a pictorial tour, see here.
Review component retail: €12'500/pr


"Greetings. We would like to introduce you to Grand Cru Audio, a high-quality French speaker brand with currently two models, the Essentiel and Horizon. The Essentiel is a two-way monitor with a ribbon tweeter which has already been reviewed. The Horizon is our new model released November 13th. It is a two- way 3-driver floorstander with the same ribbon tweeter. We would love for you to review it." - Nicolas Gillet


Asking for specs at a time when the model wasn't yet listed on the maker's website, I received this. "10cm horn-loaded ribbon tweeter of the Essentiel, two paralleled 180mm mid/woofers loaded into two front-firing ports. 92dB/2.83v/1m sensitivity. 4-ohm impedance. ±1dB response of 40Hz-30kHz. 40kg weight. 120 x 22.6 x 29.5cm dimensions HxWxD."


Re-reading Doug Schneider's enthusiastic review of their €4'600/pr monitors; admiring the Horizon's ambitious response spec to very tight tolerances; its use of a ribbon—I consider Serbia's Raal ribbon my favourite tweeter—and its very room-friendly dimensions netted a big oui for the solicitation by Nicolas of retail salon Jefferson Hifi Video in Perouse. And a bien sur for his offer to deliver the speakers in person to explain the design in detail.


Grand Cru—approximately top crop—usually refers to wine appellations but also sees use with chocolate, coffee and even beer. It takes no imagination to guess why Daniel Bendeck and his chief designer Jefferson Torno chose it to name their company. It signifies France and high-class viticulture. Santé! Which about exhausts my supply of Gallic terms. Time to switch to anglais.


"Horizon has the same philosophy as Essentiel. The wave guide or short quad-flare horn around the 5-inch ribbon tweeter optimizes the phase stability of its load impedance since it's well known how amplifiers are more prone to distortion into complex loads. Create a more benign load and your amp will sound better*.


"Our main goal was to deliver the music without requiring added reconstruction work for the brain before believing it to be real. Human hearing is exceptionally sensitive to time-domain errors. Hence that's the area where Torno spent most his time and attention perfecting the design." The speaker is available in Walnut veneer or black or white lacquer.
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* Hidden inside that brief sentence hides a fundamental truth which all too many speaker designers violate like barbarians. Behind the 'power is cheap' excuse they take the lazy way out and create speakers whose wild phase angles and impedance behaviour put large burdens on the amplifier. Whilst in this age of class D power has indeed become cheaper, to my mind this doesn't (shouldn't) excuse speaker design that relies on brute force to work properly.


For some history we learn that since 1988 Daniel and Serge Bendecke were in the speaker business for their Strasbourg Musitec firm. 20 years later they approached Jefferson Torno to design the Tanagra Audio line of Iris and Dahlia 2- and 3-way towers and Lotus 2-way monitor [left]. Today Torno owns Jefferson Hifi Video. Some of his brands are Absolue Créations cables—also what the Horizon and Essentiel are wired with as are my soundkaos Wave 40—Atohm, Chapter, Focal, Goldmund, Orpheus Labs, Raidho and Vitus. This makes Grand Cru their house brand of sorts. That's very fancy considering how most such efforts particularly for chains of stores tend to be entry-level affairs. The obvious genetic carry-over from Tanagra Audio is the use of ribbon tweeters. Wildly different from conventional dome tweeters, those present a challenging task of being seamlessly married to a dynamic mid/woofer. Clearly Torno wasn't new at it.