Joël Chevassus
Sources: Esoteric K-03, Lumin U1, Audiomat Maestro 3 Référence, Apple iMac Yosemite, JRiver Media Center 21, MacBook Yosemite, NAS Synology DS412+, Qobuz streaming
Preamplifier: SPL Volume2, Coincident Speaker Technology Statement, Audiomat Maestro 3, SPEC H-VC5
Power & integrated amplifiers: Luxman M800a x 2, Lumin M1, Red Dragon S500 x 2, SPEC PA-W3 EX x2, Goldnote IS-1000 [on review]
Loudspeakers: Vivid Audio G1 Spirit, Elipson Planet L
Cables: Coincident Speaker Technology Statement series interconnects and speaker cables, Grimm TPM interconnects, Esprit Lumina USB, Esprit Lumina S/PDIF, Esprit Eterna USB, Skywire 2020 digital, Naturelle Audio Live 8 MK2 interconnects and speaker cables, Phi Audio speaker cables and interconnects.
Power delivery: Triode Wire Labs 10+, Sebkawire Western Ultimate, DIY and generics
Equipment rack: Music Tools
Room: 7 x 7.5 m with high beam ceiling, acoustically treated by Tecsart.
Review component retail: €40'000/pr depending on country and VAT

Lawrence Audio are a very distinctive brand. I cannot remember any poor performance of their speakers since they began participating at European trade shows. Every demo I attended so far was always carefully groomed for musicality. Designer Lawrence Liao never pursued spectacular sound effects which aren't realistic, just something that sounded both genuine and beautiful. Having already reviewed two models in their instruments range—the Violin and Double Bass--Angela Yang and Lawrence Liao asked me two years ago during the Munich HighEnd exhibition if I would be interested to next investigate a speaker in their new Bird line.

The range again highlights the unusual industrial design chops of this Taiwanese company, here based on different artistic shapes a bit like a sculptor's framework. But as it turned out, these new birds were more than just a new artistic direction. They also heralded a technical change. Where the previous Instrument line was mainly based on cone drivers with ribbon tweeters, the Birds use exclusively Accuton domes with more sophisticated crossover. My first knee-jerk reaction was that of just another Accuton-based loudspeaker. The German company Thiel & Partner sell so many OEM drivers to our industry that I felt quite disappointed to see Lawrence Audio follow the Mårten, Gauder Akustik, Lumen White, Albedo and Tidal footsteps.

Don't get me wrong, Accuton's range of drivers is fantastic. They are all paradoxically lightweight and extremely rigid. Their ceramic drivers usually excel at linearity but sometimes had small ringing issues which kept me away from such speakers. I also thought that the primary differences between various Accuton loudspeakers would be their filter networks and more or less sophisticated enclosures. Despite my belief that it was easier to work with ceramic than typical aluminium or magnesium transducers since defining correct slopes and appropriate crossover frequencies isn't what we call rocket science, I held on to the notion of clinical cleanliness and unforgiving brightness.

Lawrence Liao and his two Dragons.

I was also aware of the diversity of drivers in today's Accuton portfolio which aren't purely based on low-mass corundum-ceramic membranes but also diamond and aluminium sandwiches. In my opinion that was a great step forward as it allows greater coherence across the full bandwidth for all speakers using their midranges. The exclusive convex honeycomb membrane of their aluminium sandwich drivers can be manufactured up to the 10" across and is said to offer the best combination of flexural and torsional stiffness. The largest ceramic domes which Thiel & Partners can manufacture without any loss in quality is 6". Their diamond tweeters are subject to less resonance but rather expensive and in the Lawrence catalogue only appear in the flagship Dragon. Still, I was a bit upset by Lawrence Liao's decision to embrace these drivers which smacked of somewhat of a fashion/marketing decision. Still, I also knew that one of his strengths is the ability to fine-tune any OEM driver via many small details which would seem completely innocuous to Westerners. In fact, his Eastern mentality completely different from the usual American and European thinking reminds me of SPEC Corporation's art of electronic design which identifies the audio component with a stringed instrument.