January
2020

Country of Origin

France

N°68

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
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Acelec Model One; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; 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: €3'800/pr

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 people hip to fine audio won't have heard of them. They're brand new, their brand Avantages Audio just a year old. Of course regular readers will have already seen our reviews on their 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 super tweeter which vapor-deposits diamond onto a magnesium substrate to push first breakup to ~50kHz. Mid/woofers of nomex and aluminium of 15cm or 18cm diameter forego a port in favor of a passive paper-cone radiator of 18cm and 22cm diameter respectively. Weight is 6kg or 9kg, sensitivity 85dB or 86dB. The 24dB/oct. 4th-order filter sits at 3'000Hz or 2'800Hz. WxHxD figures are 18.5 x 30.5 x 16cm or 24 x 40 x 20cm. "All our own drivers again. The tweeter is the same as in our middle 360° super tweeter. Amazing frequency response for monitors" gushes their creator. By that he means 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 the N°68's simple box appearance would let on. So I was very happy to accept this review assignment for what on the face of it did look like just another perfectly ordinary 2-way stand-mount. But with Franck's sterling track record for thinking outside the box, that was destined to be pure deception.

Busted?

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 sees more of them than before. By replacing the air mass of a port tube as defined by its diameter and length with the moving mass of a motor-less driver, they serve the same purpose of 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 than particularly rear ports but are obviously 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 or 11" single woofer would present. Such a one simply wouldn't fit 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 demonstration sampler so I designed these also with monitoring and mixing in mind. It's why I used the steeper filter. For hifi listening, a 12dB/oct. 2nd-order slope is sufficient. A mixing monitor needs -24dB." Franck is no stranger to recording studios and 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 had his own range of electronics based on personally tuned circuits by Milan Karan of Karan Acoustics. For those who don't know, his career prior to hifi was at the Paris diamond exchange where he was responsible for bringing diamond jewelry to the Carrefour Group of stores. Franck Tchang is quite the renaissance man who even designed his own guitar. It's why he also designs his own drivers and cables.

When asked about the most impressive feature of his new monitors, "apart from the choice of our drivers built in-house, it's the weight and extension these compact boxes achieve from small cubic volumes. Even many floorstanders don't manage that."

… to be continued…