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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; WRAD 300 [on review];
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk 1.5; Gallo Reference 3
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial and Ibis, Zu Cable Birth on Definitions; Stealth Audio Cable Indra & NanoFiber [on loan]; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $18,995/pr

Ars Aures - Audible Art. By the time you arrive at that Italian firm's Midi Sensorial, there's no immunity from impunity - on price. Finished in any imaginable finish -- US importer Lee Landesberg remembers a painted wood finish custom-matched to a client's chip such that it looked more real than the original wood and stresses that 'any' means just what it says -- my review loaner was finished in Ferrari automotive Aubergine. Reflective as sin and a sheer dust rather than babe magnet, I thought of Walt Disney in his cryogenic sleep. If you can afford the Sensorials, you can afford the maid to dust 'em daily, the air-conditioned mansion to do them justice and the lifestyle to bequeath a cool 20 Gs on a loudspeaker.

Shaped a bit like the Alien in profile, the Midi Sensorial sure looks the luxury part save perhaps for the lightweight driver artillery of dual 4-inchers surrounding the exposed Revelator. Ah, misdirection, that. Because then you're told of the 11-inch band pass Focal woofer that hides inside the rakishly contoured massive cabinet to commune with your room's air via a sizeable front-firing slot.

Lest you think Ars Aures is all flash and no substance, remember my HE2005 show coverage. I awarded this very speaker "Favorite Sound of Show" in tandem with Art Audio's tube amplification. With Litz-coil 1st-order filters, Kimber Select wiring and rear-
ported Seas mids, the cannily christened Sensorial did New York in very sensuous fashion indeed. As well as excellent bass. That's always a contentious hope in hotel rooms.

Though dapper as Dan, Lee Landesberg advises against the marble plinths by the way. He favors old-fashioned spikes or cones for proper floor coupling. Says it clearly benefits articulation. Self-explanatory are the lacquered Utopia-style dress plates whose magnets attach to the driver mount screws. Those you naturally take off for listening.

Confession time: The deep metallic automotive lacquer and rippled baffle got the better of even my most valiant efforts to capture properly on memory card. Mirroring their surroundings and telegraphing the tiniest specs of dust, cleaning things up by software proved far easier than actual cloth dusting and blocking.

I should reiterate that these speakers are flamboyantly expensive. And they're not from any of the established design houses either to suggest outright necessity. You know, the ones where expense weighs down your spirit just the same but the thought of spending the dry bread gets lubricated by cachet, a hi-tech story, resale value and other intangibles. Not here. All that newcomer Ars Aures has to fall back on is the high-art decor angle -- completely custom sex appeal -- and sweep-you-off-yer-loafers performance. With its narrow 10" face, 48" size, clean lines and flawless finish (applied with actual Ferrari colors), the Midi cashes in heavily on its first asset. The audiophile is further attracted by 110 lbs worth of 1.5" - 3.5" thick HDF cabinetry and the lack of grills. The decorator is appeased by the magnetic dress plates to hide the hardware when not in use. With price and appearance out of the way, we're now free to focus on performance. Specs. What would these luxo towers like to see by way of power? 89dB, 4-ohm nominal, 3.5 ohm minimal - say 50 to 100 watts. I had 50/100 stereo/bridged sand power by way of the AudioSector Pateks and 160 watts of push/pull glowing glass power by way of the WRAD 300 from Ohio's Western Reserve Audio Design.

While I was uncrating the Midis to maneuver them into position, I asked Lee Landesberg. Did he or his Italian associates have any further tidbits to share, on this design in particular or Ars Aures in general? The woofer is deliberately restricted to work below 120Hz. Rather than attempt 20 cycles in the Midi, designers Giuseppe Nizzola and Maurizio Salvo aimed for 30Hz. They wanted to retain the midband clarity centered on paralleled speed from reduced excursions and extend it low enough to satisfy on symphonic music. The crossover itself is said to be the result of a year's worth of refinement and Lee believes that it and the cabinet tuning are the two secret ingredients that set Ars Aures apart. Plus the high-level in-house artisans that are clearly magicians when it comes to lacquers.

The tweeter comes in at 3kHz with a single Solen Litz coil on the midranges which run wide open below sans electrical cut-off. The network on the internal woofer is an electrical 6dB slope handing over to the mids while its band pass twin-chamber alignment means an acoustical 12dB roll-off at its lowest reach. The chambers are irregularly shaped, lined with a special felt and one is closed, one open. The rectangular port is solid wood.

Conceptually, the Midi Sensorial thus belongs into "the only musical crossover is a 1st-order network or none at all" school. Unless the 3 visible drivers just so happen to align their acoustical centers automatically on the non-stepped non-convex baffle, time alignment -- which varies with listener distance to only ever be fully correct when adjustable like Green Mountain Audio -- seems to agonize the designers less than phase coherence. This is further suggested by the internal woofer with its side-firing orientation. It further seems likely that the bass alignment might respond best to the higher damping factors that come from lower output impedances such as are achieved by push-pull rather than single-ended designs.

As a dealer for and regular collaborator with Joe Fratus of Art Audio, Lee Landesberg confirmed as much, saying he feels that Art Audio's push/pull amps get even better bass from the Midis than their single-ended stable mates.

The crossover on the Focal woofers is apparently rather complex - as are the particulars of the asymmetrically shaped chambers. All of this together is said to be the secret of the Midi Sensorials' performance. The bass alignment and integration is something the Italian designers have truly sweated over and won't elaborate any further on except to kindly make available the right image for an insight into the chassis structure.

I did ask for some in-house generated measurements and again, the Italian gentlemen complied with the request and forwarded the following two graphs.

The vertical scale in dB above shows a very tight window of +1/-0.5dB variance from 30Hz to 20kHz or what, in the mechanical/acoustical domain of loudspeakers, equates to essentiall ruler-flat frequency response.