Pros & cons. As a widebander with integral active bass, the Bhaava concept is in the distinct minority across the global speaker market. This warrants a brief recap of what prompts designers to rebel against the status quo. Usually, their rationale for this particular tangent crystallizes in two ideals: 'no crossover' and 'point-source dispersion'. Multi-way speakers dedicate specialized drive units to limited frequency bands. Think tweeter for the treble, midrange for the mids, woofer for the bass. Now a frequency divider network demarcates what frequencies arrive at what driver. In a traditional two-way, there's a ~2kHz high-pass filter on the tweeter, a mirror-imaged low-pass on the mid/woofer. In a conventional three-way, the now dedicated midrange gets a ~2kHz low-pass plus a ~100Hz high-pass; the woofer a mirror-imaged 100Hz low-pass. This separation asks our ear/brain to perceive three drivers' collective output as one even though, particularly on large boxes, various sound sources clearly operate from widely spaced locations (and routinely aim in different directions to boot).

The widebander ideal refuses the entire first-separate-then-reassemble process. So it uses just one driver for the entire audible bandwidth. This creates no filter-induced phase shift, timing errors or dispersion discontinuities. And it generates all its output from not multiple sources but just one. Then reality bites on bandwidth and linearity. Do 20Hz-to-20kHz drivers even exist? Most reasonable folks would say that they don't. How much bandwidth limitation is acceptable then? Do such drivers behave in linear fashion to require no response correction from passive filters? If not, are their response aberrations a lighter or heavier form of objectionable distortion than phase/timing/lobing errors? As voted by the market place's majority opinion, we know how most speaker houses answer these questions. It's why widebanders are so rare in the first place.

Plus, there's partial overlap already, between the single-driver/point-source ideal and the multi-way format. It's the dual-concentric driver à la KEF, TAD, Tannoy & Co.; or even the tri/quad concentrics from Cabasse. Whilst those don't eliminate the crossover, they do eliminate the physically spread-out multi-source issue. In fact, most wideband drivers of the AER, Lowther, Voxativ and Bhaava type are themselves twin cones. Their whizzer simply uses mechanical rather than electrical decoupling to not need a traditional filter. When it comes to allowable bandwidth limitations, modern music with its bass power and synth-enhanced reach obviously places far higher demands on a widebander than string quartets and Schubert lieder did in the middle of the last century. It's why already years ago, Jacob opted to leave the strict Church of Singularity, re-enter multiway heathen country and augment his widebanders below their natural LF roll-off with active bass systems. The argument was/is that for a contemporary dealer and buyer, a single woofer low-pass somewhere below 200Hz (depending on Rethm model) just has to be a far lesser evil than insufficiently loud, insufficiently low bass with full control; or enormously sized rear horns which most residences would refuse to ever look at much less listen to.

With his proprietary drivers—specific to each of his three models above—Jacob took pains to insure full treble extension. Given active bass to fill out their other extreme, this leaves on the board of potential perps only frequency response linearity. Traditionally, widebanders begin to exhibit a rising response and raggedness anywhere upward of 2'000-8'000Hz. This frisky forwardness or bite depending on severity used to be called the Lowther shout. Whilst 21st-century wideband drivers have made progress on this count, the tendency to get nonlinear inside the greater presence region remains. Particularly with their chosen amplifiers, owners tend to engage a game of 'opposites attract' to play down this aspect. Anecdotal evidence shows how this often leads to single-ended triode amps.

Cochin in India's water state of Kerala is home to Rethm.

In short, a prospective buyer used to conventional multiway speakers in the Bhaava's price range will want to know whether, on bandwidth and linearity, it competes with conventional options; what extras it offers to warrant leaving the usual suspects; and whether it requires unusual amplifiers to sing. With 94dB sensitivity and active bass, the demands which the Bhaava makes on a user's amp are unusually lightweight. It will connect directly to a single driver's voice coil without any filter components. This expands the option menu to simpler more cost-effective low-power amplifier variants across the tube, transistor and chip-based borders. In theory. If valve amps did remain a prerequisite to compensate for a hotter presence region, certain shoppers could walk. My review will thus focus on transistor amps à la FirstWatt F6, F7 and SIT1; the Clones Audio 55pm monos; the April Music Stello S100 MkII; then the Vinnie Rossi LIO DHT integrated as a quasi valve amp (spud-type 2A3 preamp without driver tube or output transformer coupled to 25wpc Mosfet power amp). My note that the Bhaava had landed on Irish soil came by way of a DHL call. Their chirpy gal with the lilting accent asked me to prepay €461.80 worth of VAT and customs clearance since the Indian shipment arriving from outside the EU would be taxed. After making a same-day transfer to their Barclays account whilst copying Rethm for reimbursement, I had email confirmation that the speakers would hit my door step the very next day. By sheer synchronicity, that same day dropped an email from competitor Voxativ, about a forthcoming active version of their smallest Zeth floorstander. That will add a 200-watt 10-inch woofer. Clearly the winning widerbander-plus-active-sub-in-one-enclosure concept was going rabbit. Relatively speaking. Examples remain rare. But between Rethm's four and Voxativ's existing 9.87 Pi system, we'll soon be beyond just a fistful already. And from where I sit, that's a good thing. It brings what otherwise remains a vintage concept fully into 21st century demands for bass-intense music and concomitant expectations whilst keeping enclosure size sane. It eliminates bandwidth objections but retains something of vital importance to low-power triodistas and their transistor brethren: easy drive with higher efficiency. With our scene now properly lit, let's crack into the shipping cartons from Cochin for a visual inspection.