Running my customary Pass Labs XA30.8 amp fronted by the Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII DAC and COS Engineering D1 as volume control had Andreas Friedl pronounce himself very satisfied with the sound. He also called it superior to what he'd ended up with at the Warsaw show with the tube-hybrid Trilogy integrated. However, subsequent experiments had me pass up on the Pass and what in this context became an even darker heavier Reimyo KAP-777. My favoured poison was the lit-up-all-over Goldmund Job 225 driven direct via the COS DAC/pre. With that combo I didn't have to play loud at all—loud is something the Pharoah does very well!—to arrive at musical charge which communicated. By basic triangulation, this put the Trenner & Friedl box in a very different sonic class than for example our Albedo Audio Aptica ceramic two-ways from Italy. With the same electronics, those would get too front-loaded on the leading edge and tonally a bit bleached and prickly. Meanwhile our solid-wood soundkaos Wave 40 two-way with widebander plus ribbon tweeter which one might presume is or ought to be related to the Austrians hates the Job. It takes off like magic with the FirstWatt F6 instead. So much for one size fits all; or iron-clad predictability; or any other hifi assurances for that matter.

With their two thumbs way up for the Job, the Pharoah reminded me of the Kaiser Acoustics Chiara and Classic Panzerholz speakers from Germany. Their main paper drivers with dynamically expressive AMT or Raal ribbon tweeters on narrow baffles exploit very strategic dispersion to produce similar density and inherent warmth without having to otherwise rely on any obvious ancillary assistance. Here we have Andreas Friedl's retro choice of an 8-inch mid/woofer. Using such artillery up into the presence region is bound to sound different than a 3-inch Fountek metal cone or one of Anthony Gallo's small dynamic drivers. Add a broad baffle to delay the wraparound effect whence frequencies stop being reinforced and you arrive at a meatier chewier bigger vocal band than current modern sound produces. After retreating from his earlier Lowther efforts, Rethm's Jacob George began rolling his own. Now he noticed that as the diameters of his proprietary widebanders grew—from 5 inches to 6.5 inches to currently 8 inches in his top model—so grew the richness and substance of music's heart land in the midrange. That's what finally got him to experimenting with a 12" coax just to see whether said trend might continue or suddenly turn about. And here we once again cite the obligatory Tannoy legacy 12"/15" dual-concentrics and their vintage appeal particularly to Japanese valve lovers (but former contributor Jeff Day in Washington State is a fan and owner, too).

That I personally most fancied Pharoah's 8-incher with the DC-coupled wide-bandwidth Job 225/Goldmund merely illustrates my own current tastes. Those are predicated upon—'conditioned by' if you like—the smaller mid/woofers in our Aptica and EnigmAcoustics' Mythology 1 references. At the lower SPL we prefer, their energetic jump factor is snappier, twitchier, faster. If desired, tone-colour deepening is injected with the tube-buffered LaScala DAC or the Nagra Jazz preamp. Trenner & Friedl's broad-shouldered if shallow boxes behaved as their own injection. Have needle, will travel. You might prefer even more and go after warmer darker amps; perhaps even electron valves. To my ears, those weren't needed. What's more, my two amp samples within that general genre delayed the "all men on deck" curtain call by demanding higher volumes. Whilst I already had a very unfussy big-portioned dynamically active comfort sound like for example an older Vandersteen, I wanted extra finesse or sophistication. That's where the Job 225 happened to come in as ideal. It declumped the soundstage for more insight and acted as general accelerator not unlike downshifting a car whilst stepping on the gas will up its RPM and with it, your take-over vroom.

Andreas explained that his design goal for the Pharoah was unfussiness in general. This sound furniture apparently works well close to the front wall or corners. I tried the former but heard the compression effects of early reflections on soundstage layering and midband lucidity. I thus moved the boxes back out to where most others sound best. Whilst this diminished LF boundary gain—there clearly were things missing below about 35Hz—it opened up the presentation to get my easy vote. Making the grills so very hard to remove is another nod at unfussiness. Friedl didn't want 'tekkie' cosmetics that might pain the interior decorator. The sonics of his speaker are thus dialled in with the grills in place. There's no sonic benefits to be had from their removal.

Once you prime the pump, the Pharoah kicks into a kind of overdrive. It loves to go loud as though that's where and when it hit its true stride. Now comfort sound turns into boisterous rollicking fun. Rather than a degenerate blue blood as the sorry spawn of too much incest, this pharaoh really is a commoner's chap. He's a blue-collar labourer with big lungs, stout legs, a hearty appetite and real brawn. This description gets us right back at unfussy and comforting, two antidotes to diva-esque and frou-frou. Except that comfort could also suggest a certain chill factor like feeling too full of stomach and a bit sleepy. And that would totally miss. Here it's a very fit muscular wide awake behaviour. It doesn't highlight soundstage layering and separation and image outlines or anything else that reads pretentious or seems 'advanced'. Rather, it's all about the size of the images, the pressure behind them and their apparent solidity hewn out of thin air. As such it really is an inversion of contemporary high-end values with their fixation on hyper detail, edge limning and micro dynamics. It's back to Acoustic Research, Altec Lansing and Cervin Vega. This funky-chunky aural aesthetic seems far more about the macro side of things: macro dynamics, large tone, powerful punch, the big picture. Harley Davidson raw iron, not plastic-shrouded slippery Japanese crotch rockets. This segues back into Friedl's earlier admission; about having grown bored stiff with 21st-century high-end sound and having to either stop altogether; or approach things from the other end. Hence this isn't any kind of obsessive sound. It's not about constantly checking this, that or the other whilst feeling simultaneously hungry and dissatisfied. This sound loads up your plate with piping hot food rich in calories. No seconds possible. No room for distractions. Like the appearance and touted ease of placement, it's all, and from the very beginning so, about being uncomplicated. Less fussy futzing, more fun and feromones. As such it might require that you have sorely worn out this disturbing fascination with fussy to fully appreciate what uncomplicated really has to offer.

That being so loudly the case, I'd do this speaker a disservice if I dissected it any further. It's not the analytical type. Fun reveals and validates itself. Fun is easy. Like falling in love, you know it when you have it. That makes it rather more elemental and fun-damentally satisfying than all those artsy-fartsy 'high-end' concerns like continuity & Co. Those abstract qualities might sound extravagant in discussions and mark you as an advanced insider. But they completely fall apart where the rubber meets the road. That comes when you ask yourself very honestly: how often do I actually listen to my hifi without bloody fretting over it? One must really stop doing that. Just to be cute and because it's also musically relevant, I'll call the Trenner & Friedl Pharaoh an unusually fretless loudspeaker. Should you need more verbiage because you remain in the dark and mystified by lack of officially sanctioned lingo, I'll wager an educated guess. You wouldn't really grok the Pharoah to begin with. You must first go forth and fret some more. Sorry, Andreas Friedl can't yet help you. You're still where he was before he designed the Pharoah, back in his days of MDF, narrow baffles and ceramic drivers. To meet our faux Egyptian on his own turf, one must be thoroughly disillusioned already with doing hifi in the precious fashion. Only then does plain and uncomplicated fun register as a higher pursuit which returns us to the beginnings... when we were young and poor... when hifi was simple and nothing but a means to a tuneful end... and we had as yet never chanced upon image specificity, dynamic linearity, Mosfet mist, triodes and all the rest of it. Or as the old proverb put its: "Until the lion has its own storyteller, it's always the hunter who tells the best story!"


Trenner & Friedl website