Martin Gateley's über monitor positioned up close and personal grants access to an immensely intense aural canvas that surrounds me with images to feel on-stage amongst them. Jacob George's creation cast a more distanced perspective that resembled an enormously sized wall right in front of me. That struck me as wider, taller and more massive. Although uniformly built from left to right and impressive, it was less enveloping hence shallower. Image outlines were less specific and the Vox's ribbon tweeter also had the upper had on oxygenation. The Rethm was nimble, elastic and keen to move lots of air so didn't feel stuffy but its opponent's sonic bubble opened up more to be quite unbeatable on that count. Aarka retaliated with bass that dug deeper, was bigger and slammed harder but given the respective drivers at work, that wasn't real news.
Aarka's tuning executed in such a coherent smart way make it universally appealing. It proved very happy with any tracks featuring e-guitars, quick synth bass, resonant tone wood of unamplified string instruments played very fast, growling vocal lines and even purposely applied overdrive distortion. Many consider this good stuff unlistenable thus unfit for elite widebanders. Aarka's readiness with such challenges was thus a rare virtue that made this whole encounter that much more interesting and special.
At this point Aarka's hybrid amps had to disengage to make room for Enleum's AMP-23R. That seemed ideal for this application and I soon learnt that it was indeed. As expected, this petite integrated marvel quickly steered Aarka's core gestalt from relaxed roundness toward extra light, higher speed, a wider color palette, longer decays plus more closeness, clarity and air. This transformation wasn't vast yet noticeable enough by extracting extra performance. Although Aarka now sounded sunnier, more refined though still spot-on substantial, several swaps between internal/external amp still had me like the former. That was telling. Rethm's hybrid circuit pitted against the best low-power amp I know didn't sound like an inferior afterthought. Quite the contrary. After this comparison I'd gained still more respect for what Jacob managed to achieve for Aarka. He's aware that this distinctively dressed complete package can still improve with a high-tiered external amp but making it so listenable already without such assistance was his goal which to my ears has been met. It's time to wrap up.
Rethm's visually complex still unorthodox Aarka is styled for either love or hate without allowing for any weak ambivalence in-between. Jacob George is an architect as much as audio designer so expecting the industry's typical aesthetics would be shortsighted. Since Aarka is an artisanal object made in small quantities by a furniture shop, its tolerances here and there are a bit loose but acceptable. On price/performance, in-room compliance, ancillary hardware needs and overall smarts however, this sealed fully active monitor scores very high and handled all music genres with equal aplomb to add to an already tall tally of attractions. As I see it, Rethm's Aarka is truly ideal for shoppers after the widebander flavor dressed in a reasonably priced box capable of bass far bolder than its compact frame could possibly imply. Put shortly, it's a lot of a speaker for the money and a job well done!
Publisher's PS: Comparing Dawid's findings to mine with the precursor, I had visions of a well-sync'd rerun except for one thing. Compared to Enleum's Bakoon AMP-13R precursor which I used at the time as comparator to Rethm's internal hybrid amp, the sonic difference seems to have been far larger than Dawid reported now. This suggests that in the interim, Jacob's design team responsible for their upper amplification module has managed to narrow the gap considerably. Ed.
Rethm respond: Dear Dawid, thank you for a comprehensive review and for taking the time to understand the product and its capabilities. I'd like to take the opportunity and get to the 'why' of something that Dawid has already very accurately identified. We took a very conscious decision to alter the tonal balance of the entire Rethm line so as to allow it to deliver greater density and warmth in the lower midrange and mid-bass regions. The slight leanness in this region has been a criticism we've had for many years and which we whole-heartedly concurred with. So the decision for a top-to-bottom redesign of the line after 10 years was largely driven by this one weakness. However, a denser reproduction in the 200Hz – 1'000Hz region almost automatically results in a perceived lessening of detail and resolution on the top. One goes hand in hand with the other. In reality the detail is all there – but it now shares its aural space with a denser matrix of other, lower, frequencies.
The aim in designing the new line was to ensure that the speakers do equally well on all kinds of music: from the delicate and subtle to the brash and powerful; from wonderful audiophile tracks to the lesser recordings we often see music lovers listen to – and all without losing their ability to provide the music lover with an emotional—and fatigue-free—connection to the music. We do not think that we have compromised on higher resolution. We believe that we have put resolution in its rightful place; in a more balanced tonal palette that makes it sound closer to real music. – Jacob George