Big-bore sound. Having already sold 70 pairs in their first year—including a reviewer coming from horns, widebanders and low-power amps—Ubiq clearly aren't alone in their thirst for old-school sonics. Like Zu did for their widebander, they decided that not to have a big midrange/woofer dominate in the listening seat due to excessive cone surface, a typical 1" dome tweeter just wouldn't do. Theirs had to morph into a dynamically far more aspirated compression-loaded BMS 4538 with polyester membrane, 1" throat and big 38mm copper-clad aluminium voice coil on a Kapton former. This loads into an 8" waveguide of Ubiq's proprietary profile. It is then response tweaked with a small LCR circuit. Again like Zu, they had to look outside the usual high-end suspects for their midrange driver. This meant mining the pro sector for reliability and high output. It led to this Neodymium-powered oil-coated Italian Faital Pro unit with 54mm voice coil and pleated fabric surround. That's some serious hardware!
True classic acoustic suspension relied on the restorative spring force of compressed enclosure air. Driver suspensions of spider/surround were tuned differently then. To properly accommodate their modern driver loaded into a truncated pyramidal chamber lined with bitumen then filled with sheep's wool, Ubiq exploit a very small pressure relief aka aperiodically damped hole.

We'd previously seen such 'breathing bores' in speakers by Franck Tchang of acoustic resonator fame. This equalizes the resistive offset between front- and rear-of-driver acoustic impedance. Finally, Ubiq's chosen 76mm voice-coil woofer is purportedly "indestructible" and a heavily vented driver from SB Acoustics. As such it was designed by a team of ex ScanSpeak Danes but then built in Indonesia's more cost-effective Sinar Baja plant which also supplies speaker enclosures for many top brands.

Just as you wouldn't hang a Hemi engine into a Toyota Yaris chassis, Ubiq didn't stick their high-output drivers into a mitre-folded MDF box. To bend their 4-layer curved boat-hull profile over a mold manually and not by machine, they rely on special Aucoumea klaineana or Okoume wood from the wider balsa wood family. That species is native to Gabon and the Congo Republic where it shows up in marine Plywood for its tight radius bendability. It's also used in French Avions Robin planes for its lightness.

The Model One again uses it for its solid-wood baffle to growl another throaty "hell no" at MDF. Aluminium end caps top and bottom finish off the solid wood casing and a Sonus faber inspired elastic string grill meets the eye.

All of it is the result of a 2-year tuning process in Igor's 85m² listening space; and a collaborative effort with acoustic designer Miro Krajnc of Soul Sonic and industrial designer Janez Mesaric.

One of the first 70 pairs went to the digital experts of MSB who in trade supplied Ubiq with one of their Analog DACs. This mutual admiration soon led to an OEM deal whereby Ubiq acquire complete Analog DAC guts for their new integrated amplifier. Ubiq then remove the single op-amp output buffer, replace the secondary power supply with their own and add extensive Duelund bypass caps before coupling the DAC's output to their mono amplifier sections powered by two 3KVA SMPS with massive capacitive filtering.

When a wealthy customer had requested Duelund parts for the Model One, Igor & team observed unexpectedly powerful* benefits from those bypass caps to eventually apply them to their Jantzen/Mundorf crossover. This led to the Duelund upgrade under review which became the new base version. A costlier Special Edition escalates to even pricier silver Duelunds. Naturally all crossover variants are point-to-point wired and undergo a 3-day pink-noise break-in whilst the drivers get their own 50 hours. Reportedly, the result of all these big-bore efforts had NYC's Avantgarde Acoustic dealer once call Igor to gush that the Model One's performance gave him the same intensely dynamic experience that he gets from his Avantgarde Trio set (of which Igor's distribution company has sold more than 10 pairs just in Slovenia over the years to know of that very comparison in situ).

* In a phone call, Igor giggled whilst admitting that the Duelund bypass caps are his way of having tubes without actually using any. Being familiar with valve amps, he feels that these Danish capacitors contribute some of their desirable attributes without the maintenance and sourcing challenges or any of their eventual sonic drift due to tube aging. And relative to his speaker inspirations, he not only has a pair of vintage AR 9LSI, he even obtained a 1968 pair of Altec Voice of the Theatre speakers from an old American church. As to the name Ubiq, the inspiration came from Philip K. Dick's famous SciFi novel Ubik.

As to what Igor listens to personally, it's a Kiwi-sourced Antipodes server with matching cables into his integrated, then a pair of Model One which he augments below 35Hz with prototypes of a 40cm cubed subwoofer that runs dual Ciare 12-inch bass drivers in push/push below their resonant frequency. Should these ever go into production—Igor is well aware of HighEnd's snubitude towards subwoofers and their incorrect employ of them—they would switch to the same class A/B amplification that's already used in Ubiq's integrated amp. If we survey our collected pre-audition evidence, Ubiq's Model One is a throwback classic—some might say, proper—12" three-way floorstander. As to its genesis, prior hifi repair techs can often make for the best of amp designers. They've inspected the guts of most the competition, traced circuits and schematics to know all their shortcuts and failings. Similarly, long-lived hifi distributors can make for excellent speaker designers or team leaders. They've seen and heard the gamut not only in the show room or on the trade-show floor. They've been to many a client's home to know what works and what doesn't; and how various design concepts actually interface with different rooms and ancillaries well beyond the gear they carry themselves.

Igor Kante in his shoppe - photograph by Walter Kircher

It's what makes Kevin Scott of Living Voice such a brilliant speaker designer. When he isn't designing or building his own speakers; or selling specialized hifi through their Definitive Audio shoppe and import house; he is out in the field installing and calibrating systems. It's in the trenches of hands-on experience rather than in the ivory tower of abstract ideals that things that plain work are minted. Plus, a distributor who is contractually charged with handling in/out-of-warranty repairs on his import goods not only knows what tends to fail. Once he markets his own brand, he is also genetically programmed to never wanting to see it again due to a Sunday evening distress call over a blown tweeter or shredded woofer.

By the same token, one expects in-depth familiarity with all the things the competition does very well including cosmetics and finishing. Another look at Igor's import catalogue reminds us. His standards must be very high. To compete at such a level—70 pairs sold by a new Slovenian brand in their first year certainly suggest he does—relies on equivalent levels of workmanship and fine detailing. That's not necessarily what one expects from just any newcomer. In the case of Ubiq's back story and their 1962 model-year leader, it's simply what seems to be on the menu.

First reviews by Roy Gregory of AudioBeat, Wolfgang Kemper of HifiStatement, Marek Dyba of HighFidelity and Matej Isak of Mono&Stereo certainly underscore that impression. But reading about it elsewhere and experiencing it in one's own room, roving eyes and fingers included, are two very different things entirely. Whilst clearly late to this party, I was nearly more tickled than I might otherwise feel over being first to break a hifi story from mainstream's hinterlands. To me, it all made perfectly glorious sense on paper. And the stock photos added up as well. Just how would it all translate in the unpacking then listening seat?

How come that Ubiq combine a sense of fashion and vintage is best explained by this photo.