Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref, AURALiC Vega, Jay's Audio CDT 2 MkII & DAC-2 SE
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE 300B/VT52 or Elrog ER300B/50; Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module); April Music Stello HP100 MkII
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT-3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; April Music Stello S100 MkII; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; SAG AIO; Bakoon AMP-13R; Simon Audio i5 [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Acelec Model One; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Fram Midi 150 & 120
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000/5000 and Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub, Puritan Audio Labs PSM156 & PS106-DC
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €3'200/pr and €3'800/pr, respectively
Stands for the photo op by Lawrence Audio
Chanel N°5. Even people not hip to perfume have heard of this iconic fragrance. Now aimed at our ears not nose are two Parisian double digits, N°56 and N°68. Even fine audio hipsters won't have heard of them yet. They're brand new, their brand Avantages Audio just a year old. Of course regular readers have already seen our reviews on the omnipolar César loudspeaker and add-on omni super tweeters to be perfectly hip on the subject.
Franck Tchang of acoustic resonator fame now hits the €3'200/pr and €3'800/pr price points with two monitor speakers. Both get the same 25mm tweeter which vapor-deposits diamond onto magnesium to push its first breakup to ~50kHz. Mid/woofers of nomex/aluminium and 15cm/18cm Ø forego ports in favor of paper-cone passive radiators of 18cm/22cm Ø. Weight is 6kg/9kg, sensitivity 85dB/86dB. A 24dB/oct. 4th-order filter sits at 3'000Hz or 2'800Hz. WxHxD figures are 18.5×30.5x16cm or 24x40x20cm. "All our own drivers again. The tweeter is the same as in our middle model omnipolar super tweeter [right]. Amazing frequency response for monitors" gushed their creator. By that he meant 40Hz-45kHz for the smaller model whilst the larger one extends to 30Hz!
Having been to Franck's atelier to hear his personal system whilst numerous of his acoustic resonators have graced our various listening rooms over the years and his Tango R speakers our first Swiss home, I expected far more immodest performance than simple box appearance would let on. So I was happy to accept this review assignment for what on the face of it did look like just more perfectly ordinary 2-way stand-mounts. But with Franck's sterling track record for thinking outside the box, that was destined to be deceptive.
Of late, passive radiators appear on a renaissance mission. From Amphion to Buchardt to Fram, from Golden Ear to iFi, Kaiser Acoustics to Tidal (the latter's Akira runs five per channel!), one spots ever more of them. By replacing the air mass of a port tube defined by its diameter and length with the moving mass of a motor-less driver, they serve the same purpose. Bass augmentation. They simply do so with less group delay—the ringing of ports which are resonant by nature, hence their other name Helmholtz resonators—and no possibility of port chuff. They tend to suffer less room interaction but are costlier to implement than a hole and plastic tube. For the N°68's bass range, its two cone drivers add up to 634.6cm² of surface area.
That's what a 28cm/11" single woofer would present without fitting into a 24cm wide cabinet. Nor would its transition to this tweeter be ideal. But it explains how the N°68 could claim a -3dB point of 30 cycles.
The obvious price to pay is low-ish 86dB sensitivity. It follows that old 2-of-3 rule. If the variables are small box size, low bass and high efficiency, you can have any two but not all three.
How did this project come about? "I'm working with Alban Sautour who recorded Joël Grare's Des pas sous la neige album and my demo sampler. So I designed these with monitoring and mixing in mind. It's why I used a steeper filter. For home listening, a 12dB/oct. 2nd-order slope is sufficient. A mixing monitor needs -24dB." Franck is no stranger to recording studios. He's often called to assist with improving their acoustics as well as those of performance venues including symphony halls. He plays guitars in clubs, his wife sings and they often have friends over to jam around the piano in Franck's atelier. He even has his own range of electronics based on personally tuned circuits built by Milan Karan of Karan Acoustics. For those who don't know, his career prior to hifi was at the Parisian diamond exchange. There he was responsible for bringing diamond jewelry into the Carrefour Group of stores. Franck Tchang is quite the renaissance man. He even designed his own guitar. It's why he also designs his own drivers and cables.
When asked about the most impressive feature for his new compacts, "apart from the choice of our drivers which are built in-house, it's the weight and extension these monitors achieve from small cubic volumes. Even many floorstanders don't manage that."
By March 6th, I'd asked about ETA. "You have the 6th sense. I was going to send you an email later today to say that I have run the monitors for three days and will ship them to you next week." Six moons, the sixth of March and a sixth sense… clearly synchronicity was at hand. Having our own stands, I told Franck not to bother shipping any. "Do you want the small and the big speakers? I can send them together as I have both in stock." I agreed. Don't interfere with synchronicity.
A ceiling grid of sugar cubes in Franck's atelier where this area hosts impromptu jam sessions.
"These are special monitors and very neutral and precise. I tested them live with my wife singing acapella. Then we plugged in the microphone and there was no difference. That showed no coloration from the speaker." With these Parisian boxes arriving right after Alain Pratali's Model 3 from Marseilles had packed up, the flag colors over our house remained the blue and red of France.
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