Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Enleum AMP-23R, Goldmund/Job 225 on subwoofer; Headamp: Cewn.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf + sound|kaos DSUB15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €6'600 ex VAT as reviewed
Z. Today it's not the Zombie apocalypse. Zat is goot. It's not the sign of dashing Zorro either. Sorry Antonio Banderas. No, today it's just the prefix of a now 4-square range of monitors from speaker auteur Alain Pratali, ex Merchant's Marines engineer, now retired labor-of lover in sunny Marseille. Here instead of aw shucks, the locals say zut alors. That circled our Z. Now 165 is simply 6½" in millimeters. Voilà, the rear-vented mid/woofer's diameter. As you saw, it goes with a polymer dome tweeter inside a machined Delrin donut horn. It only seems ready to roll off at a push. It mounts very securely; and for a surcharge can double up back to back to become a Janus affair. "Hello Srajan, je souhaite te presenter ma dernière creation qui est a mes yeux le meilleure petite enceinte que j'ai réalisé avec un 165mm en papier traité, une caisse Z sur pied. On terminé le travail et je reviens te presenter le projet avec les pieds on a teste une laque blanc nacré du plus bel effet. Salutations et à bientot." Just as I do, I'll leave you to Google Translator for the fun. I replied that these days I only do monitors crossed actively to subs. "Je suis arrivé a la même conclusion avec Z. J'ai développé cette ligne pour cela." In typical Alain manier, this was accompanied by a perfectly raw response without any cosmetic smoothing. And it certainly wasn't by chance that my love of the classic ivory tint from Mercedes Benz's old German taxi fleet now gaZed at said color exactly. Alain played me like a fiddle.
Of course being solicited to review a monitor actively crossed out at 80Hz/4th-order is rare. Most designers labor hard to outfit even smaller boxes with the most bass they can hang. Having a reviewer unceremoniously kneecap them with a sub isn't their idea of a prize; as though their offspring needed a cane to walk upright. Being asked to report on one from the belt up was lovely for a change. This segues back at Alain's 3-way Lieutenant. I'd acquired it prior to my stereo 2.1 course correction. Once I determined that Ripol bass from twinned 15" woofers gives better results than any passive tower could possibly match, I soon felt ill at ease promoting floorstanders good to 33Hz in this way. It's why Lieutenant moved on to a new owner in Galway; and the previously upstairs sound|kaos Vox 3awf downstairs. Why pay dearly for low passive bass—we know how making it lower and louder costs disproportionally more for each few cycles gained—when a monitor -3dB/55Hz is perfectly fit to let an active sub handle 80Hz and below? A two-way's mid/woofer is far happier not seeing any low bass on its voice coil in the first place. A proper fixed analog active high pass is superior to a passive version. Controlling the frequency and slope of the high and low pass in the same external filter box assures a truly seamless phase-consistent handover. Active bass trumps passive bass any day. Cardioid very directional bass à la Kii III much diminishes reflective delays and associated boom.
This form of stereo 2.1 is a win/win all around. It simply requires the right tools. Those I've discussed at length before. Today the Z165 goes under the loupe; or will once it arrives. For now you might peruse our archives. They contain four prior Aurai reviews. Those will give you a truly comprehensive background on the brand, Alain and his very specific design ideas. Catching this Z means once again Birch Ply to start; and a slot port built from internal bracing to become solid part of the box. It means Alain's own ultra-lightweight 96dB tweeter whose efficiency is tailored to a given model by small add-on magnets not padding resistors. It means a cellulose mid/woofer based on his long-standing collaboration with Supravox so an old-timey recipe of cone geometry, voice coil, former and motor. It finally means an exclusive crossover which he calls resonance-free. Assuming from the looks just one more 2-way monitor—yawn—would catch the wrong Zs for a change. Aurai Audio may be a small boutique at the outermost fringes of notoriety yet their approach is anything but me-too. It's why Alain is the chosen speaker designer for Seoul's Simon Lee—ex April Music now Simon Audio Lab—who for his domestic market imports custom models made to his specs.
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