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The best-laid schemes of mice and men. When I pointed out to Stavros that his finish wasn't yet flawless because the Ply layers telegraphed through his final paint as faint textures, he already knew. "Yes, we need to have even more layers of base coat. This one had ten but still needed more which only showed up after final curing when it was too late to make the promised delivery date. We've already identified an alternate coating material of thrice the thickness for better finishing. Unfortunately we couldn't hit our exact target price of half the Gladius but we did make it to within €1.000. I just didn't want to compromise on the extremely complex filters of the Stentor. That's the main reason for its final tag of €12.000/pr. The 30+ parts-count filters per use the very same top-quality parts as the Gladius but between two to three times as many."

Manufacturing on the island—in March 2013 the European Union had authorized a €10 billion bailout as more than half the size of the €18 billion Cyprus economy—clearly frustrated our ambitious high-end hifi maker who couldn't get wood veneering done to his standards. He had to resort to the same painting nightmare which had other companies in industrially more developed nations long ago abandon their earlier stacked Ply constructions.

When dealing with large European mainstream companies like KEF, Sonus faber or Triangle Electroacoustique, you expect and are assured top-notch finishes which are routinely procured from mainland China. When you give your business to off-the-beaten-path artisanal firms like Lithuania's AudioSolutions or today's Aries Cerat, it's unrealistic to demand the same extreme standards. In trade one obtains greater value or a more intense focus on otherwise quite unreasonable performance aspects. But just as high speaker sensitivity, low bass and small enclosures don't coexist—you can have any two but not all three—one usually can't combine extreme performance, perfectionist finish and high-value 'offshore' pricing. Something has to give. Just a bit.

The Stentor sports a seriously beefed-up metal plinth with improved spike interface which now adjusts from the top. Undo cap nuts, set l/r spike height with the included hex driver and level across the front ledge—the plinth is threaded—redo cap nuts. Now set the laser guide atop the tweeter, put broom stick or similar upright behind listening seat marked at ear height, account for 7cm overshoot since the laser sits by that much too high, aim, adjust rear spike, repeat until right. Done. If you prefer to cross tweeter axes in front or behind you, move broom stick or tripod to the desired intersection. To get this dead on takes time. A tiny 1mm difference in spike height adds up to far greater offset at the seat. Think of calibrating spots in an art gallery to optimally light up an exhibit. It's tedious work but vital and rewarding. And yes, seeing Stentor lean forward like a miniature Pisa tower or drunk is disconcerting at first but necessary to get the otherwise too high ribbons with their vertically restricted dispersion to 'see' your ears.

Here one could wonder. Why didn't Stravros enlarge his footprint rearward as far as necessary? Without widening the attractively narrow baffle which is just broad enough to house the 10" woofer, this would reduce the speaker's height without giving up cubic volume. And that could bring down the top-mounted tweeter to ear level and avoid the cosmetically dubious lean forward. The Gladius sidestepped this issue by mounting its midrange above the tweeter.

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That said, the Stentor is the better speaker. One thus feels prompted to overlook this particular aspect rather than lobby Mr. Danos to revise his depth and height dimensions. When I joked with him on the phone that my assessment would kill further Gladius sales, he felt similar. Though he was quick to point out that were he to revise the design to incorporate all the crossover lessons learnt with the Stentor, the dearer model would once again eclipse it.

Before we tackle sonics, let's take a quick look at the crossover. Whilst Stavros vetoed my request for an assembled photo—with the external filter of the Gladius plainly visible behind translucent acrylic he was less secretive—he did prove amenable to showing the raw parts. "Here are most of them as used for just one speaker. Some foil transformers I get built to order aren't shown since I was waiting for the next batch."

If we reference the stacked-Ply Birch Audio Raven speaker with its 4 x 5" widebanders shown at left, it demands $7.500/pr factory direct yet doesn't include the Aries Cerat paint finish, massive aluminum plinth or staggered dormer top. It also doesn't use our Cypriot's costlier drivers or even a single crossover part. If we now add dealer margins which Aries Cerat pursues, this single example demonstrates how the Stentor's considerable sticker is really a recession buster value of the first order.