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Reader letters

Srajan, you were so impressed with the M3 that it was one of my favorite reviews this year. Now I'm wondering why the bigger M1 must be changed. I understood that Simon wants his own voicing. Like you explained, that's perfectly reasonable. Wasn't the M3 you reviewed already that except for a lower tweeter level? Doesn't it seem strange to you that it sounded so different from the M1 you have now? You know that l really like your reviews. You always put a lot of effort into covering all the bases and even include reader comments when you have them. Between these two reviews, something seems not quite right. Do you agree? In any case, I look forward to how your M1 review will finalize. As always, keep up the good work. Many thanks, Michael

I would agree. How this story unfolds is unusual, Michael. You remember our earlier exchange. When I reviewed the M3, it effectively still was a Simon Lee house brand model. It was designed and built in France, co-voiced by Simon and exclusively sold by him in his domestic market. After my M3 review published, Alain decided to expand sales globally. For that he created new brand Aurai Audio and I made that adjustment to the M3 review. As I just learnt during the M1 review, he now wants to revise the crossovers for the global models that aren't destined for Korea. Beyond that, he wants to remain flexible and respond to special customer requests. What that means relative to the M3 I reviewed I don't know.

Like you, I can't explain the present difference between M3 and M1. Going in, Alain was adamant. The M1 would be "the M3's young girl matured into a woman in full bloom". Like you seem to be asking, I wonder that if the M3 was Simon's voicing just with a softer tweeter setting, why would the M1 be so much warmer and slower? I don't have the answer either. Let's see what the M1 does when it returns. We do know that Antoine made a small mistake in the M1 crossover. His new resistors just didn't arrive yet and I already reboxed the M1 for a Monday pickup. Whether the wrong resistors alone caused the big difference or there was another mistake I'll ask Alain when he had a look. That's all I can do.

I also heard from Simon. "Here in my room, no competition between Model One and Three. Three is excellent but no comparison to One which has everything except for the speed where I think Model One is closer to concert sound, 3 more to real acoustics. I believe that you will have the solution very quickly since Alain is a fast worker as well as a no-sleep engineer when he works on something. So it will be no problem, just some bad wiring or positioning." Srajan


Srajan, I am an avid reader of your work and like your insights, discipline and fairness in writing audio reviews. In particular, I have come to appreciate your direct style in smoking out sub-quality or sloppy manufacturers and conversely highlighting the ones who deserve all of your (and your readers') attention. To be honest, I am puzzled by how much slack you are cutting the Aurai team. I have to admit that I too am a romantic and like to think that one can help the hidden artist get discovered and get the merit (s)he deserve. But here we have:

• speakers that are produced for the Korean market (Simon Audio provides the brief / tunes them / buys the production) by a 'private label' designer (Alain) who outsources a lot of the work to a third-party manufacturer (Antoine)

• after your initial very positive review of the Simon Audio M3 monitor (then rebranded Aurai after the fact) which Simon sent you with his new amplifier, Aurai makes a mess of their 'grown up' M1 model production & review process.

• the one issue that shocked me most is that even before you could correct the alleged problem with the 10Ω resistor, Alain @ Aurai "agrees with you" that the M1 sound is by design sub par ("too slow and audiophile, it is what Simon asked for") and that the speaker needs a deep overhaul to embody his personal philosophy (not Simon's)… only to discover afterwards that Accuton has changed somewhat the driver's specs. This could actually imply that the Simon-designed M1 is "right" in the first place in delivering a more mature M3 sound whilst keeping the speed & transparency you liked so much. In fairness to Simon, he stood by his convictions on the value of the current M1 when you had issues (which you are fully entitled to) and Alain kept agreeing with you (he much less so!!).

Too many things start not adding up: is Alain here to please a reviewer's taste or share with the world a creation he really believes in? Who is the real father of the M1 (and M3?) as it stood yesterday and probably tomorrow once the Accuton spec changes are factored in and the initial sound signature is back? King Solomon would say it's Simon's. Why does Aurai fully outsource the production, tuning and quality control of their M1 demo model for a review which could change the trajectory of their business? Will this happen as well for paying customers? Keen to hear your perspective & keep up with the great work!  Jeff Hammond

If cutting slack is short-hand for frank reporting, I fully concur. Just yesterday I pointed out to Alain that should the revised M1 I'm getting back sound like the M3 I reviewed (thus different from how he described the Simon voicing), the M3 I reviewed must already have been that new voicing. Which of course belies the time line. It's also strange because the brand Aurai hadn't been formed. The product was still branded Simon Audio. I must have reviewed an M3 tuning which Simon himself never heard? Tha'd be peculiar to say the least. What's more, why bother to subsequently send me an M1 with the original Simon tuning if the M3 hadn't been that; and when we now know how Alain really fells about Simon's sonic preferences? Wasn't such a decision bound to blow up Alain's promise that "the M1 is the mature woman in full bloom of the young girl of the M3"? Like you, I find that many things don't add up.

What's more, why did Antoine's measurements and listening tests not discover the alleged problems with the driver/filter interaction? If my 8-inch Accutons were off spec, how many off-spec M1 are there in the field? It's hard to believe that, from his parts inventory, Antoine picked for my M1 loaners the first and only off-spec mid/woofers he ever received. Either his test gear is of insufficient quality; or Alain trained him insufficiently on how to properly use it and analyze its results. Antoine's listening skills also must be poor when we know that he play-tested this pair. And what possessed him in the first place to change resistor values in an attempt to "improve the sound"?

Which arrives at your question. Why use Antoine to finalize the speakers? Why not have him just build the cabinets and Alain do the final filter tuning and QC? It suggests a more appropriate division of labor based on apparent competence. Again like you would, I reminded Alain more than once. Their willingness to accommodate customer requests is admirable. A reviewer's job is simply to describe a default production sample. I can't deal with a moving target that's been voiced (from the distance!) with my own tastes in mind. So I don't know what to think. Part of my policy is that once a review is committed to by both parties, I see the process through. I don't kill things when the going gets murky. I'm well into this now so it's not about cutting slack. It's about finishing up my joint commitment to the maker and our readers whilst trying hard to keep personal assumptions and suspicions at bay. It's why I quote explanations straight from the horse's mouth. If that horse chat doesn't make sense… intelligent readers will know not to kill the messenger.

At this juncture, I must simply confess to being suspicious about holes in the narrative. Alas, I'm happy to see that how I chronicled this unfolding tale so far allowed you to trace all the steps and inconsistencies just as I see them. That tells me that at least on that front, there's proper transparency. For the other half, I can't take responsibility. But this tale isn't finished yet. I will try my best to still arrive at more clarity.  What follows is some relevant history from Simon. Srajan


Dear Srajan, thank you for transferring your reader's comments. Here are my answers. Who is the inventor of the M1, M3 etc. speaker line? Alain Pratali. Simon helped as producer, listener and reviewer. Alain has everything including manufacturing skills. But he can't do all of it especially the cabinets. So he asked Antoine to make them. The actual speaker design from concept to driver selection, modifications of drivers, crossover design, prototyping, tuning, retuning is all done by him. As the one who asked for this, I help with voicing whenever I visit Marseilles to listen together. Almost 20 years ago I visited Alain's home to hear his amps and speakers. I stayed in Marseilles for about two days. We had a good time listening and meeting his neighbors. During my visit I was so surprised by the sonic difference of his system with a modified Oracle amp and original Model One prototype which has been in my office ever since. When I returned to Seoul, I could not forget the experience. So I asked Alain to sell me the speaker I'd heard. He was very kind to sell me his only pair. I still have it. About six years ago, I had a chance to work with the ODE group, one of the biggest import companies in Korea. They wanted their own audio brand and I introduced them to Alain's speaker.

I wanted to give more people a chance to hear it by having it go into production. So I asked Alain to remake his tweeter and restart the speaker. By then Supravox was in poor shape and no longer could supply that mid/woofer. Alain switched to Accuton and Scanning drivers which I agreed with because he is the only designer who can make them sound excellent. His Model One and Three were very good but ultimately ODE decided against us by asking for more and more design changes we didn't agree with. Around that time I left April Music and started work on my new company Simon Audio Lab. I wanted to keep my dream alive and worked with Alain to make me 30 pairs of M3 and 20 pairs of M1. Those are still playing in Korea. It's very hard to find any 2nd-hand pairs. Alain and Antoine worked long and hard to support my dream. I then ran into cash-flow problems which delayed new sales of their speakers. It also meant that they were never introduced at any international audio show. That's when I introduced you to Alain and our M3 to start for him the process of global exposure. Some months ago Alain told me that he wanted to create his own brand to get involved in global sales. I immediately agreed that this would be the right way forward. My own support is insufficient. Our local market can't generate enough sales to justify global distribution. So now Simon Audio is just the importer for Korea and Alain and whoever he signs on as dealers or distributors will start handling the other markets. Simon Lee


Dear Srajan: I just read Jeff's letter to you about the Aurai review and your response. I've read the preview today and the latest additions to it. Unlike Jeff, I don't think you're cutting them any slack. You're just describing what happened. I will admit that it feels a bit uncomfortable to be exposed to such behind the scenes stuff which could be simple human error and some miscommunications. Ideally all that would be handled before a review, by whoever is in charge of the loaners. Things do happen though and then it only matters how they're being sorted. Who can claim to never make mistakes? I say carry on just as you have and let the chips fall where they may. With my best regards, Craig

It's a fine line indeed between dishing and omitting. I'm with you on human error, miscommunication (especially with Google translator as middleman) and my subjective reactions to all of it. And I likewise agree that doodoo happens and that it only matters what's done about it. On that score, I suspected that I had a product issue, the product was promptly recalled, the issue just as promptly confirmed and efforts are presently underway to address it. If those efforts are successful, we should be looking at a very fine product. Is it really that important then that getting there was just a bit more circuitous than it usually is? By reporting on the whole process, every reader hence prospective buyer can make that determination for themselves and I feel confident that I neither glossed over things or exploited them to punish someone for normal human error. Hey, next time I make a mistake, I hope people will give me the same break and opportunity to fix it. This isn't life 'n' death stuff. This is just hifi, with people trying to make a living from giving customers pleasure. Srajan


Srajan, I do praise your effort for depth and clarity. Allow me to disagree (respectfully) with Craig’s comments. Some of the issues you spotted with Aurai are not inconsequential…

• buyers buying a M3 but getting a different sound than what you reviewed/praised with an award (if it was a prototype it should not get one)

• buyers buying a M1 and getting an off-spec Accuton/filter setup

• sloppy QC which might lead to other mistakes

People invest their hard-earned money on these products and deserve the best, always. I have come to trust 6moons over the years and I, like you, look forward to the unfolding of this story. Jeff  Hammond


Hi Srajan, this is my first letter to 6moons to ask for your advice. I was going to buy the Aurai M3 for my small 3.5x5m room following your review and Blue Moon prize to substitute 2 KEF LS50. I tried first to find a shop as you recommend to be able to listen to this speaker but nowhere in all of Spain can find anything (not even in the northern French cities or London or Milan). Is this normal? I am sorry but I am not as strong in hifi. Do I understand well from your letters this morning that if I buy an Aurai M3 today, I will not get the same model/quality you tested because they are changing it?  The problem with the Accuton is the reason for this or something else?  Do you think I should wait or buy another pair of speakers that have similar quality/budget? From my reading of 6moons I understand that Albedo Aptica or SoundKaos Vox3 are very good options. My current amplifier is a Devialet 250 Pro and my wife/daughter and I listen to classical music in particular opera (Verdi, Brahms, etc) and Baroque music (J Savall) and home cinema. Thank you. José-Maria Perez

Two things, José. The Aurai Audio brand is very new. The product used to sell only in South Korea where Simon Lee's company imported it. Over the last few months, the French designer and owner of the company decided to branch out to also sell outside of the Korean market. It's why there currently are no dealers. While the product has been around in Korea, for the rest of the world it is brand new so a dealer network must still be developed.

Two, the Accuton driver issue only applies to the 8-inch not 6.5-inch unit. I've already asked and been assured that the M3 selling now is identical to what I reviewed and what reader Paul already received (he is very happy). The adjustments are only necessary on the floorstanding M1 model.  Because you listen to a lot of classical music and use the Devialet amplifier, I think you would make a very inspired choice with this particular loudspeaker. To audition it, contact Alain the designer and ask where. His email is alain.pratali # Srajan

Thank you Srajan! But I am confused. In the picture Paul sent some days ago his Aurai M3 in the library has a front port.Your M3 had the port in the back. Paul also said his M3 was a different unique model. How can Alain say that Paul M3 is identical to what you reviewed? He thinks you and we are blind or else! You say in your letters that Alain also told you the 'M3 tuning/filters' is changing because he did not like what his South Korea partner had asked (the M3 model you tested). How can he now tell you that the M3 for sale today is exactly the one you reviewed? If it is, it means he decided to sell the South Korea M3 he does not fully like just because you liked it?

Sorry when I read the other letters I think I am not alone in being a bit lost with Aurai. I talked to a expert friend and he said this much confusion has never happened in his memory on 6moons. Why don't you ask Aurai to send you the final model of M3 (whatever it is, front or back port, his or south Korea tuning/filter etc.) when you test the new M1? I am ready to trust you because of your very extensive experience but I want to make sure I can buy the model you test and describe if I decide to. But honestly given your level of surprise with the M1 you received I am worried to purchase it today. It's already difficult to buy something without being able to listen first, it's not safe to buy it if the product is still prototype and an owner that seems not to have decided what to do (plus the quality issues you found). If you think I am wrong please let me know. My family loves listening to music and relax. Can you please recommend other speakers (budget 5-9K euro) as I sold my KEF speakers and would like to buy new ones before summer (KEF LS50 were really good, I would like better bass and more 'elegance' in opera voice sound). Muchas gracias por todo, José-Maria

In my M3 review it does state that port orientation, tweeter tuning, veneer options, even upgraded parts like Duelund caps and such are part of Aurai's customization menu. Paul's crossover includes upgraded Duelund parts. He asked for Walnut veneer in a matte finish, front ports and a specific tweeter tuning. The filter parameters that determine where and how fast the drivers fade in and out (the filter hinge frequency and attenuation slope) are fixed, however. Alain assured me that the M3 I reviewed was/is that same production filter tuning. And you're asking me about the M3, not the M1. If that answer doesn't satisfy you, do contact Alain directly. It's why I made his email available in the first place. I'm not his mouth piece. I don't work for him. I've never even met him. I can only pass on what I was told. In such situations, it's always best to go directly to the source. So write Alain. I've clarified things as much as I can based on the information I have. Now I'm done.

It's also not appropriate to insist that I review a second M3 with a different set of custom choices. The filter tuning will remain the same. The other choices are up to each buyer. Do you want me to review each possible version – tweeter hot, tweeter flat, tweeter soft, port front, port back, 100 different veneers, filter parts from Jantzen, Mundorf, Rike, Miflex? That would be silly. So again, contact Alain directly. Tell him your concerns and desires. Then decide what you want to do based on what you learn. Srajan