January
2020

Country of Origin

Switzerland

Liber|8

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 
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B, Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; 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; Acelec Model One
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000 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
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: TBA

The British Dartmouth Brands Group owns eight smaller watch brands. Styled wildly different, those go by Ballast, Deutsche Uhrenfabrik Türingen, Duxot, Earnshaw, Fjord, McCabe, Spinnaker and AVI-8. That last one revolves around vintage aviation themes as 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 dipole concept with another model in the same catalogue called Libération 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 as a cheeky wink at his kaos|events company which designs, assembles and takes down enormous exhibition displays for big clients of Samsung size. Anyone who's ever done a trade show knows. Time being of the essence, vital things can and do go wrong. They require on-the-spot ingenuity and very serious work ethics to sort. After 3-5 days, such events are over for regular showgoers who 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 show in the Marriott Hotel of 2019 called Hifi Deluxe, our master over sonic chaos had teased a raw driver cluster on a still conventionally rectangular baffle. He wanted customer feedback on sound and size. Whenever one says o-bee not "oy veh" to suggest OB aka open baffles, one anticipates all-out 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 filmic 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 2018 exhibition.

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

Count six Enviée 8-inch paper-pulp woofers topped by two 8-inch Enviée widebanders—one with, one without whizzer cone—themselves bracketing Martin's signature Raal ribbon. Paralleling six papery moons, Liber|8 tops Libération's solitary 18-inch woofer. This lot arrives at a compound 19.6" diameter. Spreading the work load over six motors and six supensions, the stroke needs per driver obviously shrink drastically. That 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'll follow its evolution until final production locks in. If the gods of timing and benevolence smile upon the Liber|8, we might see a first finished ovoid at Hifi Deluxe 2020?

Good things come to those who wait.