Fuck the box? Being Swiss, Martin Gateley would be far too civil to say so. Having worked in Dublin/Ireland for a stretch, he'd at least pronounce it fock if kept in a pub too late and pressed hard enough. So, no dice. But if we did roll 'em, we'd agree. Many DIYers indulge this particular cuss because they can't build a proper box. With Martin's Wave 40 model having proven spectacularly otherwise—not for nothing do I call them our Swiss eggs on sticks—his abandoning an enclosure in favour of an open baffle was not for any lack of can-do. It was for curiosity. What if?


At right we see an early Libération prototype. Despite l'accent, it's not named after the French revolution. It's about freedom from box talk. But things are never that straightforward. Dispensing with a box in lieu of a raw sheet of Plywood or derivatives thereof demands its own dues. Without air pressurization on its back, a cone suddenly sees the entire room, not the far punier volume trapped in a box. This has the driver behave different; with a weaker return stroke. It explains why our Swiss liberator pairs up on its widebanders, then doubles up on its ribbon's length to maintain balance.


With descending freqs, sounds begin to disperse in full not half space (4pi or omni). If the out-of-phase rear radiation is no longer contained in a box, it's free to cancel out the front. Voilà, the alter ego of libération, French or not. True, this cancellation won't be a total solar eclipse, only partial. Just so, for a given extension, a woofer's diameter must scale up dramatically to keep up with what a far smaller woofer puts out inside a box, particularly one that's goosed via port or two. That's why if the menu promises full bandwidth, going OB doesn't mean a free lunch. Pay up, bubba. Big woofer time!


As the press release indicated, there's also the cosmetic challenge of assets turning hairy cheeks and nasty crack. To become salonfähig—ready for visitors and significant others—means more than nude magnets and nekkid wiring spilling forth in arrears.


In his other life as the always time-pressured chieftain of kaosevents (a trade show exhibit firm that specializes in the design, build and erection of industrial-sized multi-media displays for Samsung type clients far beyond audio's very biggest), Martin Gateley is quite hip to unusual materials, architectural requirements and industrial design per se. Thinking out of the box, he had to address dressing up his shallow baffles in ways that were structurally sound, cosmetically attractive and acoustically transparent. Early on he'd isolated bronze mesh as a perfect material. But as any cop show would tell us, identifying a perp and gaining an iron-clad conviction are two very different things. You gotta have unassailable evidence and perhaps a jury trial before anyone's put away for good.

Putting away our freedom fighter meant figuring out the ideal weave pattern, how to bend, shape then affix it for a perfect reliable finish. DIYers know that they must please only themselves. When push comes to shove, "matey, it's the sound which matters. Close yer eyes. It'll sound better that way!" Cough. If it is to be a success, a commercial product will be held to higher standards. Denmark's Jamo have their R909, Oz's Kyron Audio their Kronos. Both expose their driver baskets, magnets and hookup wiring, then accompany this fairing-less motorbike look with massive aluminium braces. Both end up with a modern glass/concrete loft ethos on the macho end of things. Being on that count an unrepentant woodsman, Martin had to find ways to incorporate real trees into his final equation. Because driver fronts and backs are obscured by mesh, that left the connecting brace and beveled trim.

One imagines equal parts stubbornness and self doubt along the way. The saving grace for this outré concept was Martin's practicality. Where hardcore widebander freaks insist on one lone driver to routinely pursue gargantuan rear horns for bass extension whilst condemning any crossover correction as the devil's work, Mr. soundkaos had wised up. To obvious success, he'd already used hi/lo-pass filters and auxiliary tweeters in the Wave 40 and Skiny 16 models to augment and response-shape his chosen Enviée widebanders from Germany.


Shedding the enclosure, he now had hangups neither about adding the necessary displacement artillery to augment the same core drivers for proper open-baffle use; nor embracing filter circuits. Being a small-time boutique outfit, he didn't feel locked into having to revisit the Wave 40 precedent in bigger and smaller sizes like corporate competitors might to isolate brand identity. He'd not called himself Everything But The Box like the Bulgarians either who eventually did launch a very typical box speaker called, oh bitter irony, the BoXXeR. As soundkaos—kaosevents applied to acoustics—he was free to explore different ways to skin the same widebander cat; plus indulge his personal curiosity. What if? It's exactly how the glossy Wave 40 at left could remain stable mate to the matte Libération at right. It must be another reason for its name; freedom for audionautic explorations. How about mundane specs? And what about that lateral driver array of the head? Doesn't that conflict with audiophile beliefs... well, head-on? Let's flip the page for our heads up on that head-on and other heady stuff.