As first reported during my on-site preview of the Magico Mini -- no follow-up thus far since I haven't received a review loaner yet -- designer Alon Wolf at the time had been up to his elbows in finalizing his Ultimate, a heady four-horn 5-way attempt at the state of the art. It incorporates four Japanese ALE compression drivers and a 15" Aura monster woofer. Stephen Balliet of Reflection Audio has since contributed heavy modifications to the Australian DEQX preamp/digital crossover as well as similar mods for the requisite number of Benchmark Media DACs that handle 5-way conversion back into analog land. With ca. 110dB efficiencies for the horn-loaded majority of the frequency band (they vary slightly from horn to horn but remain within ca. 2dB from each other ), four of the five amplifiers which this actively networked system requires can remain of the micro-power persuasion. The ca. 88dB woofer meanwhile would do well on ASP1000 ICEpower modules or something equivalent. Output matching and time-alignment are handled in the DEQX's digital 32-bit domain.

Three pairs have already been built, two of which will be installed in the Bay Area, one in Los Angeles. The above is an actual photograph -- not a computer rendering -- of the finalized pair that's currently taking up pride of place in Alon's room to fine-tune crossover settings. Then it's bound for owner Doctor Jim Langham's house in Oakland.

At $229,000/pr without amplification or crossover, Alon himself can't afford a pair. "It's obviously a serious commitment," he understated. "I've been very fortunate to have found enthusiastic sponsors. By preordering three pairs, they helped me bankroll this ambitious project. As you stated in your preview, it's been a bit like having been taken under the wings of an 19th century Renaissance baron. I had three very serious patrons of the Arts who saw in this concept something they believed in and wanted to own. I don't think anyone has ever attempted an actual production hornspeaker for consumers of this magnitude before. When people learn about the Ultimates' existence and see and then hear 'em, they're invariably shocked to the bone. This includes industry members. "How come we've never heard of you before, Alon?" Good question. Perhaps I haven't paid enough attention to woo the press?"

Chuckles. "Of course that seems to be the age-old dilemma - spend money and energy on R&D or spend the same or more money and energy on sales and marketing, advertising and promoting yourself. It's pretty clear what I've concentrated on thus far. However, with excellent reviews on our Minis in a couple of Japanese magazines now, perhaps our period of relative obscurity is about to come to an end."

Once the Ultimates are set up in Dr. Langham's place, yours truly will trek to Oakland to sample the Ultimates with some of Jim's most excellent music selections. In the meantime, other members of the press might note their enthusiast's Jones rising and feel compelled to book their own auditions -- presently in Alon's Berkeley home -- to investigate what this expatriate Israeli has fashioned. In many important ways, it's the equivalent of a new Formula 1 race car that one day shows up at the track not from Ferrari or Daimler-Benz or Honda but from a virtual unknown. It's exciting news, never mind the punishing price of admission. After all, this project never was about reason but pushing the envelope as far as its designer could conceive of (and his first three clients were willing to underwrite). From the looks and sheer scale of the finished product, it appears that not only did they not restrain him but actually egged him on to let 'er rip.

Congratulations to Alon Wolf, his technical and mechanical collaborators and the three renaissance men slash first owners who jointly dared to dream big and then did whatever it took to make the dream take form and shape and, finally, make music.

Like you, I'm of course itching to hear what that sounds like. But nearly more important is the fact that these folks followed their passion, saw whatever challenges arose during the process through to the end and can now look at something unique and proudly think to themselves "I was there at the very beginning, personally involved and it now exists only because of it."

In a way, seeing an especially outrageous vision through to fruition and manifestation in the material plane is nearly more important than whether that "car" wins all the races or even enjoys commercial success. Having done it is gratification all in and of itself.
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