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With his sloping front baffle, Sven wisely opted to inset the Raal ribbon vertically. Given the inevitable triangulated window ledge of such an arrangement, the entire driver is surrounded by dense foam which is obviously shallower at the top than bottom. Like the four green dots applied to the widebanders, there's four white equivalents on the ribbon mounting plate.

Below are the hairline cracks in question. Sven would never sell this speaker and seeing these cracks develop was a first. Hence I suggested we show them. The motto is 'like leather, wood is natural, not man-made; irregularities are a sign of authenticity'. Whether one should expect anything of the sort during long-term ownership is likely a function of temperature and moisture exposure, the stability or fluctuations of those values and the particular staves of solid wood used. Bonding together thick staves of Spruce Fir for the blocks from which the final cabinet is routed obviously entails different grain patterns for adjacent layers, thus different propensities for absorbing final finishing oils. Some layers will darken more than others. A slightly striped look would be intrinsic to the construction method.

Here is the terminal/hi-pass plate with one wooden knob removed to show the silver loudspeaker post. Serial N°.003 confirmed this being on earlier effort.

One track into the preliminary listening session showed a significant upper-bass prominence. Prepared with four rolls of Monacor MDM-3 speaker damping pads of 300g/m² each (order No. 12.7880), Sven rolled up two forearms' worth and stuffed them into the two line exits of each W20 SE. One should apply care with the upper line since higher up one gets into the fine silver wiring of the terminal plate (arrow shows end of roll).

This immediately and very effectively cured the problem. It also attenuated the amount of useful amplitude at the very bottom of the range. The designer was confident that after four days of settling in -- he knows the effect but can't explain it -- not only would the bass fill out, I might be able to remove the damping in part or entirely. I would track these promised changes and experiment with removing the fill at a later time. Off the bat, this proved so efficacious as to make bothering with it unappealing.

Concluding introductions, Sven Boenicke clearly approaches loudspeaker manufacture like that of musical instruments. Unlike the PHY-based school around Ocellia and Musical Affairs whose makers mimic stringed instruments with their thin-walled Spruce enclosures, Boenicke mimics woodwinds. Think oboes, bassoons and clarinets which are made from thicker harder woods with internal bores and no damping. "Often, there is a huge difference between a material that is neutral (meaning linear) to measuring equipment and therefore to the mind; and a material that is neutral (meaning true to the live sound) to our ear and body. One kind of material proves to be more neutral and therefore more natural to the human ear than most other materials. The kind of material whose inherent sound is most similar to the inherent sound of the material of which our physical hearing mechanism was and, despite all technical 'improvements', still is made of... is flesh and bones. The second best solution is solid wood."

Despite the very affordable precedent of nOrh's wooden drum speakers from Thailand, solid-wood speakers remain a rarity. Before one frets over wood splitting and splintering like bamboo furniture, violins and guitars properly cared for -- and properly made in the first place -- aren't prone to cracks. Clarinets have been in my family for decades without any. The avoidance of temperature extremes is only good common sense of course. I'd keep away from active fire places and radiant heaters and otherwise not worry.