January
2020

Country of Origin

Switzerland

Liber|8

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, Sonnet Pasithea, Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro + hi/lo-pass filter; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar 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 D100Pro SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro SE; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, 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;  Headamp/DAC: Singxer SU-2, iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: DMAX Super Cubes
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Integrated amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: TBA

The British Dartmouth Brands Group owns eight smaller watch brands. Styled wildly different, they are Ballast, Deutsche Uhrenfabrik Türingen, Duxot, Earnshaw, Fjord, McCabe, Spinnaker and AVI-8. The latter revolves around vintage aviation themes. It's represented at right with their Hawker Harrier II automatic model.

What if time became sound? What if you were a speaker gestating on the drawing board of a British/Swiss designer? What if you put eight cone drivers on an open baffle yet already shared that general concept with the Libération model for freedom from box talk?

What would you call yourself? Unless you were gaudy, not Liberace.

Given this opening, the inescapable name just had to be Liber|8.

The designer in question is Martin Gateley. His brand is sound|kaos, a cheeky wink at his kaosevents firm which designs, assembles and takes down enormous exhibition displays for clients of Samsung size. Anyone who's done trade shows knows. Time is of the essence. Vital things can and do go wrong. They require on-the-spot ingenuity and serious work ethics to sort. For regular attendees such events are over in 3-5 days. They remain blissfully ignorant of any chaos being managed beforehand, behind the scenes or afterwards. Martin on the other hand knows all about it. Kaos being his middle name, it just had to figure in his labor-of-love speaker projects.

At Munich's alternate 2019 Hifi Deluxe show in the Marriott, our master over sonic chaos teased a driver cluster on a still conventionally rectangular baffle. He wanted feedback on sound and size. Whenever one says o-bee not "oy veh" to call out OB so open baffles, one anticipates domestic war over undue width and height.

After all, clients who fancy big room dividers tend to go for luxuriously carved and lacquered antique Chinese jobs, not modern panel speakers.

Having returned with encouraging feedback to his home of Feutersoey in the Swiss Alps just outside the ski resort of Gstaad, Martin put pen to paper. Next wood went to Simon Oehrli, his local master craftsman and wheel wright who has fabricated all solid-wood sound|kaos speakers from day one. The right angles of Munich went oval, green American Walnut in 40x90mm sections hit a steam press followed by gentle drying to acquire then hold the desired shape. By early 2020, the visual concept had netted a first harvest of wood pieces awaiting finishing and joinery. We spot some raw spline sections in the overlay on Martin's exhibition.

As to what was beneath those rectangular bronze mesh covers in Munich to transition to the new oval form factor?

Count 6 x Enviée 8" paper-pulp woofers topped by 2 x 8" Enviée widebanders—one with, one without whizzer—bracketing a Raal ribbon. Paralleling six papery moons, Liber|8 tops Libération's solitary 18" woofer. This lot arrives at a compound 19.6" diameter. Spreading the work across six motors and suspensions, stroke per driver shrinks drastically. Lower inertia ups speed and downs distortion. Here it's a 10 x gain in lower moving mass, from 210 grams for a 46cm Beyma to 20 grams for a 21cm Enviée. On the concept drawing, the oval baffle shows no wider than 56cm, no taller than 113cm. These are surprisingly friendly dimensions considering the combined fire power of costly custom drivers from Germany's Armin Galm. By getting into this story early, we follow its evolution until final production. If the gods of timing and benevolence smiled upon the Liber|8, would we see a finished ovoid at Hifi Deluxe 2020? The global pandemic of C-19 cancelled that event plus 2021's usual May date.