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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: iPod Classic 160GB, Wadia iDock [on loan]
Preamp/Integrated: Dayens Ampino, ALO Audio Rx, April Music Stello Ai500 [on loan], WLM Minueta [on review]
Speakers: Era Design SAT 5
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stands
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail : €900/pr

Crowd control

Two is company. But with loudspeakers, it's already a crowd. Loudspeakers ought to speak with a single voice. One obvious solution is the so-called widebander. Amphion from Finland would point at dynamic and bandwidth restrictions for just a few reasons why they prefer multi-ways. But they don't deny the issues which has the single-driver crowd avoid crossovers. Amphion's particular solutions could be called crowd control then.

If the ideal is one voice, one driver but no full-bandwidth driver has the desired performance, then the crowd of two or three drivers must be made to act as one. Amphion applies wave-guided tweeters which to the room appear like the 5-inch midranges to which they're mated; a crossover point at 1200 rather than 2500Hz where human sensitivity is down 10dB and where the wavelength of the crossover frequency is longer than the distance between the drivers to avoid detection on-axis; and aligned voice coils so the ear can't distinguish two discrete drivers off-axis.

Amphion does not reserve these items for its top-line speakers. They apply them to the newest Helium 510 entry-level model under review, a 5-inch desk-top or stand monitor with 1" Titanium tweeter and rear port. Call it fully inclusive trickle-down philosophy. One size fits all.

By how widespread their use is up north, a web-surfing student of Finnish speaker design might think the Finns invented waveguides. Like a spherical horn but with very shallow depth, rapid flare and no compression chamber to boost sensitivity, waveguides can blur the line of disparate dispersion patterns, in our case that of the lowest range of the small tweeter and the highest range of the bigger mid/woofer. The associated term is controlled dispersion or directivity.

If one does not mount the drivers dual-concentrically to occupy the same physical space, two drivers of dissimilar size and by necessity discrete—even though closely spaced—locations can be similarized in behavior. Equalizing the dispersion patterns in the crossover region hides the overlap seam to simulate a single sound source. And that's Amphion's technical design brief for their entire line. Crowd control.

Cosmetically, Amphion speakers are quintessentially Scandinavian if that translates into clean, contemporary and timeless lines. With white the new black since iPod & Co. achieved world domination, I requisitioned the all-white version of the new Helium 510. This even whites out the perforated metal grills. In a clever bow to life-style accessorizing, the Finns offers a number of mix 'n' match options between grill color, waveguide color and enclosure color. The full palette of the round-cornered Ion units in the showroom photos above remains reserved for the costlier models but the baby Helium 510 is plenty adaptable in that regard. Foam port plugs can create a nearly sealed bass alignment to also sonically adapt the speaker to different environments.