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This review first appeared in the September 2007 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with whereby they will translate and publish select reviews of ours while we reciprocate with one or two of theirs each month. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end auto-links to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Source: audiolab 8000CD, Benchmark DAC1
Amplifications: Classic 6.6, Dussun V8i and Perreaux R200 I integrateds; Bryston BP25/4B SST pre/combo
Loudspeakers: Zu Audio Druid Mk4
Cables: Low-level - fis BF Studioline, Funk BS-2, van den Hul Integration Hybrid, Zaolla Reinsilber NF; high-level - Fast Audio Compact M6, Ixos 6006 Gamma, Zu Audio Libtec
Review component retail: starting at €11,200/pr

1995 it was or thereabouts. With a few raves behind me, I'd hit upon my style, Goa Trance, when it was put to me that I'd heard nothing yet. DJ Cosmix was the real deal. Did I have any plans tonight?

Word games really aren't my thing. I questioned what to expect from Monsignor Cosmix. But there are times when personal reactions promise little sympathy. Party time it was. I dug on the Goa sound of pulsing psycho sounds and beat-shifting drum machines, an ear worm acid line and distorted guitar sample here and there, all a cut above the usual trash techno which nonetheless was freakishly successful with the unwashed heathens.

So Cosmix kicks off his set and instead of opulent driving sounds, I get a plain, slow-moving bass line in endless repetition with some leftover hihat garnish, albeit all so stoic that I wonder whether cosmic dude has been secretly beamed up and replaced with
a mindless walk-in. Six or seven minutes later, such concerns have evaporated with the softly swooning, somewhat disoriented dance floor denizens, half chilled down into mellow mass hypnosis but still subliminally expectant when out of nowhere arrives a ribald femmy vocal à la "Oh yeah, let's make love!" Behind me a Roland TB-303 begins to crank, upfront some giant sound sails unfurl and begin to pulse and within 30 seconds the dance floor explodes, all reluctance shot to flaming hell. Not a half-bad intro after all!

Twelve years later, I no longer shuffle on the floor. I smooch on the sofa facing a hifi that represents the median annual income in Germany. Otherwise it's déjà vu. Even though the music spinning claims zero electronica (no overdubs, no loops, no additional electronics as the booklet slyly puts it), the plot seems familiar. With the same minimalism, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin manages to create a meditative but expectant vibe which just when you begin to wonder "okay, let's get going" kicks into high gear. The percussion enters, layer builds upon layer and what started out Zen simple turns dense sound collage whose dynamics and clever
hooks make for killer grooves. "Modul 26" on the CD Rea elicits sound bytes by yours truly, of the involuntary "Oh yeah!" or "Groovy bass line!" sort.

Forget the Nik Bärtsch effect over the car radio though. Even a decent hifi will leave many nuances under the table, never mind the true low bass which, to segue into today's review subject by German firm absolut audio, presents no issue at all for their absolut perfect speaker. This requires a sad sayonara to a small foregone conclusion of mine.

Isn't it mockery how a few cycles between 30 and 60Hz can make all the difference? Nothing thickens up. Rather, everything gets more complex. This is how it sounds when nothing's missing. I can already predict a foul mood when this review loan expires. Especially because the HF ribbon is so fast and detailed as to prevent the bass from taking over. Instead, it renders it the necessary antidote to such top
octave transparency. It leaves in its wake an impression of true full-range coverage without segmented highs and lows. Let's slow down though and start more properly at the beginning.

It's the nature of this beast to mount the horse from the rear. I am as curious about technicalia as the next audiophile but ultimately, it's the outcome that matters. Never mind the recipe. What's it taste like? With each new component, that becomes the initial sound check. After that, one gets educated about the how and why. As it happened, the first check with this very mature speaker stretched out to well beyond customary, with the usual check list of 'treble a bit opaque', 'where's the bass' or 'stage shifts' ending in a blank page, pen untouched, convention nearly a bit frustrated after an hour of zero complaints.

The house of absolut audio is headquartered in Berlin. They entered the hotly contested speaker market exactly two years ago. The two models on offer (the monitor compact and today's tower perfect) are even newer since it was only May of '06 when the last tweaks got settled for production to commence.

As young as the company is, the head and hands behind it are old: Herr Rüdiger Abel will be known to many, having labored for 17 long years at transducer specialist Arcus, then leading speaker developments at none other than Burmester from 2001 to 2004. No doubt about it, Herr Abel is an old fox of speaker design. When I asked what compelled him to go solo, his answer was brief and exacting: "Uncompromised conceptual implementations." This would prompt most to underline such bold statements with 20MB PDF files served up by instant e-mail. Not Herr Abel. Even theoretically, more understatement isn't possible. While some would cry marketing foul, I think it rather swell.

Like the owner, so his dog. Absolut audio's big speaker doesn't promise sensationalist reinventions of the wheel but the perfect implementation of proven concepts down to the dirtiest details. At 73kg each, the absolut perfect is quite the Rock of Gibraltar of German engineering. Sleepwalking ease of assembly this ain't but there are solid reasons for going the extra miles. To minimize cabinet talk -- and therewith phantom sound sources -- most in this field rely on appropriately massive MDF with a few choice cross braces. Ditto for the absolut perfect, 19mm around, 30mm for the baffle, all duly braced by virtue of four internal sub chambers. But hatred of resonance pollution required a rather heftier decision. This led to a 10mm outer sleeving of solid stone or glass. Forget the knuckle rap test. You might as well beat concrete. The perfect becomes sarcophagus for resonance. Eliminate, don't minimize is the motto here.

The customer decides on the exterior skin. Starting at €11,2000, there's black glass, my personal fave, or any of 1950 (!) other hues. Should you fancy a stoned dress code, choices become less confounding: Granite, marble, limestone or slate are on the menu. Should that leave you out in the cold, custom stone commissions are welcome. Aluminum skins or rare wood veneers? Lacquers? Anything goes. Despite its 27cm width, the baffle appears quite narrow since the absolut perfect stands a full 1.42 meter tall, maturely grown but no optical menace. Think grown up and endowed with a certain techno noblesse. Granted, you won't easily hide this but who'd want to in the first place?

The fascia demonstrates the meeting of acoustics and design. The most evident element thereof is the set-back ribbon flanked by two mid/woofers. Aficionados will rightly suspect time alignment. Why no modern sloping baffle then? The present D'Appolito array forbids it and with it, perfect time coherence but Herr Abel pursues a focused vertical wave launch and HF-invariant stable soundstaging. That's plausible since image drift between midrange and tweeter occurs in both directions. An
extra bonus is higher sensitivity and minimized ceiling and floor bounce.

Back to the "baffle step" - its slanted angles minimize edge reflections, a theme Herr Abel is adamant about to the degree of lecturing me about the ubiquitous wooden grill sub baffles which only serve to reintroduce reflective mass. Absolut audio's grilles are fabricated of thin wire and the fabric itself is so thin as to be mostly transparent to the drivers behind it.

This triangulated form factor reappears with the four bass reflex ports behind which hide two 34 liter chambers with their Visaton aluminum drivers. "Nice cosmetic motif, "I praise. "Minimized turbulences," Herr Abel retorts. He did experiment with various other shapes but the triangle ports proved out superior.

Know him who's got an answer for everything? Let's see...
fairaudio: Why not an aluminum midrange? That's a nicely lightweight but stiff material.

Rüdiger Abel: Granted, but aluminum's diaphragmatic
resonances rather forbid its use in the vocal range where it rings. Nomex as diaphragm material is an ideal combination of self-damping and stiffness.

fairaudio: What's the ribbon made of?

Rüdiger Abel: It's a magnetostatic made from Kapton, very light and temperature invariant. The vapor-deposited voice coil traces do heat up after all.

fairaudio: Why didn't you continue the D'Appolito array with the woofers?

Rüdiger Abel: With the driver distances involved, this would have created setup issues I wanted to avoid.

fairaudio: You use two discrete networks ...

Rüdiger Abel: Correct, one for the bass, one for the mid/treble band. It reduces microphony and cross coupling (bi-wiring/-amping are encouraged). All coils are enamel-baked. After application, the enamel is heated to bond the windings which prevents resonance, a further step in reducing microphony. The resistors are low-inductance metal oxides, the capacitors select M-Caps or Elkos of the highest quality. You want ultra-low loss factors to minimize phase shift and dynamic compression. Internal hookup wiring is 6mm thick oxygen-free copper. Which reminds me: Internal photos of the absolute perfect won't be in the cards. I've tied off all wiring very short to prevent mechanical oscillations.

fairaudio: What kind of break-in do you expect?

Rüdiger Abel: Not very long, we precondition the drivers with
low-frequency signal though you will gain a bit of air over time.

fairaudio: Any other technical highlights...

Rüdiger Abel: I could go on for another three days but who would be interested? All these engineering matters serve only one goal - a musically persuasive loudspeaker.

fairaudio: I couldn't disagree...

Confession time. I was concerned that the absolut's bass prowess could prove overkill for my room. My DIY bass traps would certainly see more action than usual. My resident transducer, Zu Audio's Druid Mk IV, cannot plumb these depths, nothing I knowingly missed - emphasis on knowingly. And I did only mean to engage a short low-bass fitness test by way of an Erykah Badu disc, a lady not averse to serious low freqs. As I learned, my room doesn't boom even way down low.

My troubles were of a different kind. This was a full frontal assault on missing knowingly. Hot damn. There I thought I could do without. "I want the rimshot, hey, digidigi, the rimshot, hey, come on!" Oh yes, this was relaxed sexiness and I'm not talking Erykah but the extremely low-kicking groove. Did I ever miss things! Dear
two-way dwarf champions, you're all good to go? Sure? Right, I know all about holographic disappearance acts. Matters little, though. The true foundation and drive of music live down low. Way low. Don't pretend, you'll want the same. Spin the 4Leaf Clover pressing of Mrs. Badu's debut album Beduizm. Good luck with your dwarves, says I. Should a chance open up to hear that piece on the absolut perfect, take it. Or not - if you don't mean to add to your hifi again. I can already see it coming, the saucy asides from certain friends: "Hey, Ralph has turned soul boy on us!" Whatever. All I've got for you in return is: "Hey, digidigi!"

To wrap up the subject of bass, in this class it's not just about sheer mass and slam. Precision is at least as vital. Here the absolut perfect avoids all possible missteps. Bass runs have structure, texture and grippiness - just about an octave lower than with most speakers. That 30-40 cycles aren't quite as grippy as three octaves higher is the nature of things. That's not merely fun, it's a revelation also for "clean listeners". One could readily misappropriate the term the room opens up -- customarily applied to treble quality -- to the basement of frequencies, surely no later when this speaker dedicates itself to the low, sonorous decays of the piano.

Onward and up now. The absolut perfect employs a Swans magnetostatic tweeter. Look closely and you'll spot the fine voice coil traces through which the signal excites the foil suspended inside a magnetic field to transfer into mechanical motion. Theoretically, ribbons have the
acceleration advantage by virtue of optimal "surface mass versus applied force", making up for diminished excursion with greater surface. The element of speed is factual. I can't determine whether there's possible dynamic compression on high since none was evident at the happiest levels I dared attempt in my inner city rental.

To return to speed and the associated wealth of playback detail: To follow a Jazz trio at the lowest possible levels remains fun when you can make out the slightest swishes on cymbals as perfectly nuanced and precisely rendered. Where other speakers wash out or miss entirely, the absolut perfect tracks the tiniest of impulses. And as quickly as the ribbon starts, it stops. When the hi-hat closes, there's the characteristic mild 'tschimp' follow-through to become a nearly visible action.

This is scarily precise, albeit never to the tune of 'correct but boring' (for which it's simply too fast) or fatiguing. Details without end, yes; but no exaggeration or distortion of any kind, not the merest specter of aggravating
any nerves. There's simply nothing to criticize. I'm convinced this would hold true even with thrice-pointier ears than mine. This is brilliant, very high resolution stuff combined with speed and accuracy to reveal the tiniest of treble actions while being equipped with long-term comfort factor. Soul boy could turn ribbon maven one of these days...

The hand-over to the midrange seems seamless (at 2.5kHz at 18dB/octave, incidentally). You want a rimshot? Help yourself. The crack is dry and instantaneous, with nothing lacking on the sudden transient. Vocals are terrific, with all song as close as touch and authentically present. The narrator's voice on "Song Of Alice" [Keren Ann's Nolita] was never this fully developed before. And there's something else I've previously noted with the playback of guitars: The absolut perfect doesn't suffer the bigger-than-life syndrome but scales instruments appropriately rather than pump them up. No 2.5 meter long guitar necks here. This speaker maintains realistic proportions, something that's not completely common even among statement efforts. The motto 'let's impress the customer' does occasionally go sadly haywire.

Long winded commentary on timbral fidelity especially in the midrange is unnecessary since everything is just as it should be. Ultra-clean broadband linearity is the guiding light. From this follows that different instruments come alive in the smallest of shadings and differentiations. The absolut audio
knows no lazy corner anywhere in the audible frequencies. She serves all sounds with equal relish - ultra transparent, neutral and real.

One subject I wasn't sure of yet: How the d'Appolito geometry affected tonality and especially whether Herr Abel's claim of frequency-invariant, stable soundstaging would be verifiable. Admittedly, voices cast higher than I'm used to. But there's two simple reasons. One is my couch, a rather low-slung affair for deep slouching; the other is that I'm ultimately seated a bit too close to the speakers. My long-wall setup favors spatial width and image definition (side reflections are weaker and delayed) but due to the room's limited overall size, listener distance can become an issue especially when positioning a speaker of the absolut perfect's size and driver array. In fairness, I trust that a 40m² listening room will elicit a tad more depth and spatial awareness from this speaker than I managed. Which takes nothing away from how undiva-like the perfect played my 26m² space. The classic choice of 'woofers and ports upfront' may have freely aided and abetted here. With down-, rear- or side-firing versions, I surely would have looked for the proper spot rather longer. Chez moi, the perfect plays freely and assigns precise localization cues to all sounds. And considering how the rather tall baffle sits a mere three meters from my seat, driver integration is downright phenomenal. Granted, I'd love to move my couch 1.5 meters back but that's the neighbor's domain..

Apropos D'Appolito: Joanna Newsoms' song is beset with very high and lightning-quick turns, all very well and even better when there's no image drift between midrange and tweeter at least to the subjective ear. The virtual in-room sound source remains rock stable. Even more impressive is the recreation of piano. It's not uncommon to have certain speakers generate a laterally canted impression whereby subjective placement of keys rises with frequency to have the signal rush up and down a ladder. The absolut kills this unnatural effect and gives us horizontally aligned ivories. Even better, you can tell how the piano stands in relationship to you, whether the artist faces you or sideways. The notes wander, depending on recording, from left to right or back and forth. Combined with the tremendous resolution, this generates dimensionality of a sort I have not previously experienced.

Claimed sensitivity is 93dB/2.83V/1m, a bit higher than average. But don't be misled, you'll still want a current-happy powerful amplifier. Good damping factor never hurts in the bass and certainly not here. Due to its innate transparency, the absolut speaker conveys the quality of your ancillaries. Dussun's V8i gave a decent showing, perhaps not completely resolved and a bit overdone in the bass (though fully in control) but not at all weak considering its price relative to the speaker. JungSon's JA88D resolves the upper mids with more finesse but goes soft in the bass, not a perfect marriage since energetic timing gets damped as well.

With adequately price-matched amplification, the perfect gains nicely, nothing drastic but clearly a step forward across the board. Bryston's pre/power combo might render the bass too dry for some and perhaps too damped but since everything conveys equally clean, this is a very good match up. Equally commendable is Perreaux's top integrated. I'm not clear on why the physically most lightweight amp in matters spontaneity had the edge but whatever, it took the rhythm cake. For those who believe the Bryston too cool, there is a touch more life here but just a touch. Ergo, gift the absolut perfect with proper amplification and especially timing and liveliness will benefit. But that nearly goes without saying for any speaker in the €12K class.

About the impulse response: The treble driver due to the magnetostatic principle has such diabolical reflexes as to not hit any limiters regardless of fireworks. Midrange and bass are very fast too if not quite as diabolically so. For example, my Zu Druid has the edge in rhythm and timing but this comparison drags a bit since the underlying concepts and sonic goals are simply too different. The absolut perfect is a lively speaker and given the right amplifier, timing and dynamics are compelling.

The absolut perfect loudspeaker...
  • ... sports vault-like construction well beyond your typical "box".
  • ... proves that the oft cited form follows function wisdom needn't be mere propaganda. The perfect is without frilly embellishments. Every cosmetic detail is backed by sound acoustic reasons. This speaker shines with a cool and modern techno look.
  • ... is tonally completely even, no area emphasized or depressed, true showcase material.
  • ... is spatially ultra precise and cleanly separates, with piano replay of ultimate caliber.
  • ... is unbelievably nuanced and transparent, effortlessly detailed without becoming analytical or hard.
  • ... with proper amplification, plays very lively and with PraT. Dynamic range (micro and macro) are no challenge nor are useful SPLs.

Crossing off performance aspects is necessary but ultimately misses with a speaker of the absolut perfect's caliber. The core point is that this speaker has mastered all aspects without serving up specialized items on a silver platter while relegating others to the late shift. In the best sense of the word, this speaker is complete or -- phrased negatively -- has no character: It's neither subtractive nor additive, neither tonally, dynamically or spatially. Simply put, listening to music over the absolut perfect is a massive blast. Hey, digidigi!
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