Country of Origin


Vox 3a

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 as USB bridge/SD transport, JAVS X7-DAC MQA & Clean Power [on loan], Nagra Classic DAC [on review]
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature, Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module), LTA MZ3 [on review]
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, SIT3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; Bakoon AMP-13R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Simon Audio i5
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 ZL 3000 & 5000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt 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, LessLoss Entropc C-MARC between wall and rack for upstairs & downstairs systems
Equipment rack: Artesania 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
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: €8'795/pr in solid oiled/waxed solid walnut or cherry, €9'688/pr gloss lacquer over wood in client's color choice, €445/pr wood or metal stands

"Even initially critical Chris—who quipped that the 3f sounded pretty good already so why did we need another—now concedes that it is worth the extra coin." So joked Swiss auteur Martin Gateley of sound|kaos, about design partner Christien Ellis of CE Electro-Acoustics who also worked on Node Audio's Hylixa and Q Acoustics' Concept 300. Their initial disagreement was the new Vox 3a. Whilst its first three letters and number indicate a proper 3-way with four drivers, the final 'a' points at AlNiCo. That's the magnet material on a proprietary 11cm Enviée paper-cone widebander with pleated surround in a bronze basket. It's the main distinction from the previously reviewed Vox 3f whose ferrite-based 4" widebander is an off-the-shelf TangBand.

"Our carbon-fiber 5" woofers are usual high-standard Galm Audio drivers. Ours were made to Chris' specs with carbon-fiber membrane, 37mm 4-layer voice coil and neodymium motor. These voice coils are complex beasts that require very tight tolerances. Made especially for this project, they sit on our usual 2ndorder filter. They come in around 200Hz in a sealed compartment with three 10cm² aramid honey-comb pads for some velocity damping. As you know, I'm no fan of soft fluffy stuffing which seems to go all woolly. The ceramic foam pads you know from Audio Physic sounded cooler whereas the final paper-based diffusers are slightly warmer and fuller. It's amazing how different materials have an effect. Our curved port is tuned to 35Hz. The widebander runs fully open at the bottom with a gentle roll-off at ~10kHz where it hands off to the small Raal 64-10 ribbon. This again is on a 2nd-order with a single cap. I had Raal adjust their transformer windings so we need no shelving resistors. It also has a custom 2mm bronze face plate."

"All in, we managed 35-35 bandwidth Hz to kHz, pretty amazing for such a small speaker. An earlier front-facing ribbon version sounded very good but two side-firing woofers had its spectral/spatial image bassy. It needed a similar halo effect in the HF hence the upfiring position. It also cleaned up our cosmetics where two drivers on the front looked a bit cramped. Working with Armin on our own widebander, our main issue was the small 4" diameter-to-cone-depth proportion. It seemed to create nasty dips in the 3-4kHz region. Initially I had a Chinese wood cone driver which I was quite fond of. Due to the same issue, we finally had to ditch it. We then experimented with a shallower cone profile and I looked at various diaphragm papers. I had some high-quality Japanese Washi and papyrus papers on my scope. I also went through real wood veneers which on such a small cone are notoriously difficult to control. Their irregular fiber structure has forces pull in all directions. Other people have been there already but hey, if you really want to know, you must have a go at it yourself."

Behind that casual last sentence hide time, money, many dead ends aka abandoned experiments and a renaissance man's curiosity over the big picture which wants to cover all bases.

Living in the Swiss alps certainly stimulates the imagination and enlarges that big picture in a postcard-perfect way.