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Low oh low
More pertinent -- much more so in fact -- is Daniel's second concern: bass. How to get that right? Here I'd like to split the question in two, one dealing with bass extension, the other with upper bass/lower midrange prominence. In simply quantitative terms, the Cornu surely fits the platitude often heard in the context of small two-way speakers: "Where's the sub?" In fact, this is one of the reasons why the Cornu CS puts a smile on people's face. They hear a big effortless sound with deep and springy bass they don't expect from a speaker of such modest appearance. But that's cheap. The Cornus' midbass isn't fake or bloated pretense. It's not disguised upper bass. In-room, they easily reach into the 50Hz region, perhaps even a bit lower. This is sufficient to give body to instruments that require these frequencies for correct timbre (not many). With instruments such as the piano where the presence of the lowest fundamentals isn't essential, the bottom register can sound wonderful (doing justice to the resonant body of the instrument in the piano's case). Of course, the Cornu CS cannot reproduce the lowest bass notes with power and slam. For a speaker like this, that's not a big minus as long as the first harmonics are there. And they are.

I'm not saying that the Cornu CS and listener couldn't be positioned such as to minimize this midbass potential to imbalance the sound towards being a bit bass-shy. But that's like the devil reading the Bible. In most circumstances I've heard these speakers, there's just enough midbass for the needs of any music that contains such low notes (duration-wise, that excludes 99% of classic music). The Adagio as the first movement of Bruckner's 5th Symphony famously starts with a downward progression of celli and double basses: b-a-g-f-e, with violas joining them in upward progression a moment later. The Cornu CS managed to support this convincingly [Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin under Günter Wand], not in a way a Grand Utopia would have but sufficiently to provide a correct feeling for the lowest bass notes. Quite enjoyable if you know what I mean. Unlike Daniel, I wouldn't be worried about the bass extension of his speakers.

What I would be worried about is the quality of the bass. By that I don't mean the conventional issues of box cabinets, e.g. woolly and muddy aspects of certain bass reflex cabinets. Any minimally knowledgeable person would not mistake the bass of the Cornu CS for the type of bass obtainable from a box speaker of any persuasion. It certainly doesn't resemble dipole bass either. It's very different. It's genuine horn bass for better or worse.

By quality I'm referring to a tendency for excessive energy in the upper bass and lower midrange transition relative to what comes above and below. Secondly -- and more severely -- to the somewhat uneven response throughout this region. Accentuated upper bass & lower mids may simply be a property of how the Cornu CS was intended to sound. But it could also be due to the fact that when the speakers are back to back with a wall, they emit sound in a half bubble, i.e. at only 180 degrees instead of 360. This boosts the upper bass and lower midrange by several decibels and must be compensated for to obtain a smoother response.

A means to avoid the problem is undoubtedly to distance the speakers from the front wall, this being the second advantage of not hanging the Cornu CS directly from the wall. As is well known however, this can make matters worse as reflections off the wall will cause peaks and dips in the response. Moving the speakers 0.5 - 1m away from the wall anywhere I tried didn't help at all. The upper bass & lower midrange turned out to be more satisfactory on the wall (and there were other sonic benefits, too). This was also evident on the basis of my measurements. Hence I'm pretty sure that despite the upper-bass/lower-mid inclination
to show up, the wall effect was well taken into account on the designing board of the Cornu CS. For most linear frequency response, these speakers really must be hung on the wall for best tonal balance. [The designer's listening room above].

Elevated upper bass & lower midrange resulted in unintentional success with certain music. For example, kettledrums benefited from roundness and reverberation that made them sound like kettledrums. Music like Vivaldi's Sonatas for Cello with Double Bass Accompaniment [NRDS 1] sounded simply hilarious - as if the speaker had assumed the role of the body of the instruments. But isn't there a problem that some notes in the upper bass & lower midrange region are elevated and protruding relative to their neighbors? Diffractions could be the culprit for such irregularities but two things speak against this assumption. The front panel of the Cornu CS is fairly wide with respect the size of the driver and the speakers are almost always listened to off-axis where diffractions are known to be less detrimental. Aslo, the likely effect of diffractions is higher up in the response.

The spiral horn inside the cabinet prevents vibrations, particularly in the central area of the front baffle. A coat of transparent lacquer makes it stiffer still. Regardless, I got the impression that the possibility of cabinet resonances (deliberate or not) adding their stain to the sound should not be ignored. (I tried replacing the adhesive felt pads behind the speakers with bitumen pieces to dampen cabinet resonances and felt it helped a little though I wouldn't wager my soul on it.)

Most horns have their own resonances, which can become intrusive when the speaker is played loud. When I pressed my ear very close to the mouth of the horn, I didn't sense that frequencies other than those intended were coming through. On the other hand, there are four horns per each speaker so resonances could indeed be the cause for the mentioned response anomalies.

Horns were the likely cause for another peculiarity of the sound as well which -- for want of a better term -- I shall call noise. By this I mean certain extra-musical sounds that can take the form of sighs and boom as though the speaker were gasping. These noises gave the sound a slightly hollow or echo-y feel, a sort of bottom-of-the-well effect. The impact of this on the music wasn't straightforward. Some music clearly benefited from the reverberant contributions but more often than not, I felt it unnecessary. Perhaps the pronounced presence and unevenness of the upper bass/lower midrange transition of the Cornu CS is a result of many factors. Whatever the precise reason, they exist and together amount to the following properties:
  • Sonic colorations are particularly noticeable on simple vocal and instrumental music (e.g. guitar) where individual notes are well separated (frequency sweeps were especially revealing in this regard). To what extent the colorations impaired the music varied according to the recording but when the conditions to arise were ideal for them, it could be distracting.
  • Discontinuity between bottom and upper registers. How integration is wanting was dissimilar from how the tweeter/mid transition can be discontinuous in a conventional two-way speaker with a poorly designed crossover. What separates the two bands in the Cornu is their textural difference, which separates rather than connects these areas.
  • Finally, the excessive sound energy around the boxes seems reinforced by the wall. The listener senses, more or less consciously, that too much is going on there. This feature doesn't really affect the music per se but can blur imaging to make the sound a little phasey and less cleanly articulated than it could be.

To say that these problems exist is of course to say that they existed in my room. To avoid or minimize their influence is absolutely essential to find a setup in which these speakers perform at their best. It's a further must because on the wall, the speakers are in an ideal position to excite all the room modes. Once the best spot on the wall has been fixed, the thing to determine is correct listening distance. So let's move to that next.

Ear vs. microphone
The careful reader might have noticed that I made some measurements (my microphone system and measurement software are custom-made by Risto Niska who carries out all the measurements for our Finnish HiFi lehti print magazine). Before you cry foul, please note that I didn't measure the speakers in order to verify what I subjectively heard (the proper pecking order is very clear in this respect). Nor did I want to measure their free-field response (impossible in a normal living room). By measuring the speakers, I tried to document the gross phenomena of how the speakers interacted with my room and then use this information heuristically to locate the best place for them.

Ear in one hand, microphone in the other, I finally settled on an optimal listening distance of 1.5 - 2 meters from the front wall between the speakers. The stereo angle in this setup proved too wide, with my ears off-axis by around 30 degrees. Moving the listening seat this close meant that the amount of bass was diminished within the overall tonal balance. But what was lost here was well compensated for elsewhere in the speaker's performance. The sound was calmer, more stable and more coherent. Music prone to colorations earlier was less colored now, this despite the fact that room nodes are most pronounced in the middle of the room.

Daniel's advice to have the listening seat on or close to the opposing wall produced plainly awful results in my room. There were huge resonances at certain frequencies that even a densely packed bookshelf was unable to absorb. Despite the final wide-angle layout, the HF performance of the Cornu CS was astonishingly competent. 95% of the time I didn't feel that I missed anything musically relevant at all. This must be due to the driver's small size and good dispersion characteristics. One very positive property of the speaker was that higher frequencies were spread uniformly into the room to sound uncompromised in a larger listening area.

In general, I had very little to complain about the Cornu's treble performance. In absolute terms perhaps the highest frequencies could have sounded a bit more open and airy with a smidgen more finesse but that's it at most. In my room then, I got fairly good results with a kind of near-field array - less coloration, less secondary effects etc. But it was also clear that I never banished the colorations completely. At some point in time I then decided to (with

Daniel's permission) take my review pair to the main DIY event in Finland's Tampere to see how they would compare with small Fostex, Jordan and Tangband projects. It turned out to be impossible to make any meaningful comparisons but the trip proved not entirely useless because the room where the Cornu CS ended up on audition was spacious. Although some upper bass accentuation remained recognizable, the overall sound was more open, coherent and ultimately more believable than I managed to achieve at home. The sound at Tampere reminded me remotely of how the Cornu CS fared at ETF2004 (albeit such past aural comparisons are not very interesting). This is, of course, as it should be since even smaller speakers typically sound better in larger rooms.

Back at home and basically finished with my listening sessions, I still had a nagging suspicion that the sound wasn't as good as it could be and that the reason for it didn't rest exclusively with the speaker. So I decided to conduct some further experiments reminiscent of Mr. 'Wharfedale' Briggs' experiments with classroom speakers. I first placed one speaker in the corner of the short wall at the height of 175cm (measured to driver center) and the other about 1.5 m away on the long wall, i.e. in a 90° angle vis-à-vis each other. Not bad at all! For some of the music I used for critical listening, this obtained the best results in my room thus far, one explanation being that different room modes excited by one speaker were cancelled by the other.

As this customer to the left settled on, I then hung them equally high but on opposite walls facing each other and played them in phase and out of phase (for bass cancellation). Again very interesting and enjoyable depending on the music. Positioning the Cornus in such manners would be impractical of course -- not to mention soundstaging and imaging -- but what these experiments brought home was that it's even more worthwhile to play with different placements than I had thought.

As the final nail in the coffin -- and to put an end to all this speculation -- I dragged the Cornu CS to the trunk of my car and took them to a midsized room that by any criteria can fairly assuredly be called neutral. It is specifically treated for the purpose of testing different audio equipment. It doesn't add spurious room

resonances to the sound or if it does, it is well documented. The results of this trip could be summarized as follows:

  • The upper bass/lower midrange performance was duplicated by my own earlier results both subjectively and objectively (measurements), meaning that there were certain irregularities in the response over this frequency range.
  • When the speakers were moved away from the wall (1.25m), the response retained its characteristics but the midrange became elevated, clearly proving that the speaker was designed for wall placement.
  • Subjectively speaking, the most pronounced difference compared to my listening room was some harshness in the upper midrange resembling intermodulation distortion. This was particularly striking on vocal music. This phenomenon didn't go unnoticed at home (for example, van Morrison's voice produced such harshness) particularly when the listening volume was high.
  • Curiously, it became much more pronounced in this room than mine and I still wonder whether the high-power transistor amp on hand really was the best match.
  • Finally, the sound was lively, energetic and very extrovert, causing no mental efforts to decide what the music was all about.

Listening to the Cornu CS in the near field wasn't enough for best results. I soon found out that it's also very critical to use correct listening volumes. Fixing the playback level for each track and with regard to the capabilities of the room and equipment is a vastly underestimated issue in current HiFi discourse. With the exception of Jean Hiraga of La Revue Du Son, I don't know anyone else who has seriously addressed this issue. With the Cornu CS, correct playback levels are of the utmost importance. Recordings that are critical in this regard (cembalo for example) can be spoiled if played too loud. Because they are so critical to the volume level, some recordings with the Cornus may not be playable at the level they should be in order to maintain timbral qualities. This, however, is compensated for by the fact that sonic expressiveness does not collapse when the volume is turned down. This was a very positive feature of the Cornu CS indeed.

The valley
When the Cornu CS was on display at the Triode Festival 2004, it was equipped with a plastic front horn. Daniel was not secretive at all to reveal that there is a frequency response dip below 2000Hz and that the front horn was meant to remedy the problem acoustically without electronic filtering. When I received the review pair without such a horn, I was immediately contaminated by a presumption no matter how hard I tried to drive it away. I asked Daniel about this. He said that although such a front horn is under development, it's not yet ready and that "the spirals are appropriate for review as they are".

Said dip was clearly visible in all the measurements I made. Judging from the window of this depression, it could be explained by diffractions and internal cabinet radiation. Be that as it may, sometimes the valley was deeper, sometimes shallower. Sometimes it was wider, sometimes narrower. But even at best, it was deep and wide enough to potentially affect the playback. Did I hear it then with music?

At first, I didn't pay much attention to it. Slowly I began to feel "missing presence" on certain music. Philips has an LP on the back cover of which the average distribution of different frequencies during a cut is given in graphical form. A striking feature of the two piano pieces contained on the LP? There is hardly any energy above 2KHz. It was with this sort of music material -- piano in particular -- that the suckout (roughly between 600 and 2000Hz) made the sound a little uninspiring. While casually listening to the Cornu CS otherwise, it wasn't too easy to point the finger to the exact effect of this frequency domain depression.

Not being entirely happy with what I was hearing or able to hear, I decided to do what Dr. Green from TAS would have suggested I do, namely use a reverse method: see what happens if one leveled off the frequency response. So I hooked up a Behringer 1024 digital equalizer between my CD transport and DA converter. This is where such an equalizer should be inserted for minimally deleterious effects. It should be stressed that the aim of this effort was not a perfect equalization of the in-room frequency response. That would be a different task requiring more sophisticated equipment. Rather, by switching between the equalized and straight sound, I tried to trace down what music would be most affected by the aberration. There are very few fundamentals of any instrument in this region so the question became, what were the instruments whose most characteristic harmonics would hit this region? My choice for the test became piano, soprano, violin, cembalo and flute.

Piano fared as expected: there was a slight alteration in timbre and the lower end of the suckout affected the sound as well. Equalization affected soprano voice less than expected and in fact, the Behringer had a greater impact on male baritone voice. Violin has important harmonic overtones in this region and there was indeed a change with the EQ but the potentially most timbre-altering frequencies were well outside the suckout window. It truncated the cembalo's tone a bit mainly at the upper end. The flute remained essentially untouched. In conclusion then, the effect of this frequency irregularity on music was real but not obvious. The essential question is not whether one can hear it but how it affects the music. Even if one can discern it, music can still sound and feel good.

With the Behringer in the system, I couldn't resist to dial in some equalization for the two octaves below 600Hz. I became convinced that using proper equalization techniques (DSP with phase correction etc.) could be a very good idea not necessarily because the speaker requires it but because such corrections could greatly minimize the room interaction problem.

Amplifier control
Many manufacturers stress the importance of marrying their speakers to high-quality amplification. Every time I see that, my first thought -- given that the aim ostensibly is not to explain away certain design faults -- is that the manufacturer means to brag about how revealing his speakers are. I'm not saying that amplification is not a significant issue. On the contrary. But there's also hype involved. Still, my experience of single-driver speakers is that they are able to reveal the tone color built into an amplifier to an extent that is less common with other type of speakers.

Because of their sensitivity -- they sound far more efficient than their figure of 91 dB/W/m indicates -- and fairly easy load impedance, the Cornu CS is suitable for low-powered tube amplification. Consequently, I first mated the Cornus to 10-15 watts (according to certain distortion figures) of my PP amps (a 6V6 vintage and a Shindo Montille EL84), and then to 4 watts compliments of the Sun Audio 2A3 SET (thanks, Tapio). The speakers also got a taste of a 200wpc Densen B-330 power amp (thanks, Juha) and my workhorse, a 200-watt Sony integrated, which I mainly use for measurements.

The Cornu CS was less revealing of midrange timbral nuances than other single-driver speakers I have heard. Not that I couldn't detect the differences in tone -- or traces of them -- I normally associate with well-executed PP and SE amps or between the latter and SS amps, for example. But nothing extraordinary came from such considerations. Neither of the solid-state amps caused extra harshness in the upper midrange. When there was such harshness or congestion, it took place with both types of amps even though I now think that with tube amps, it was easier to avoid.

This doesn't mean that amplification would not be an important issue with Cornu's Compact Spiralhorns. It is but in a more traditional manner. It once was common practice to play with the damping factor of an amplifier in order to regulate the speaker's bass performance. In order to boost bass performance by a few decibels at the resonant frequency, one could insert a series resistor in the voice coil circuit of the speaker and thus reduce the damping factor of the amplifier (a very handy trick with small open back baffles).

The problem with the Cornu CS, in my room, was not lack of bass but control. Some of the amps I tried worked better in this respect than others. Bass got tighter and cleaner, bringing improvements also in midrange clarity and transient response. This was quite noticeable. The demarcation line wasn't straightforwardly between tube and solid-state amps although the latter tamed the bass better.

I don't know the exact amount of negative feedback used in my tube amps nor the actual amount of output impedance at the speaker terminals. Based on my previous experiences, I would advise those intent on using tube amplification on the Cornu CS to pay attention to the amp's output impedance to keep bass under control. Although benefits gained in this manner may not
be in the same league as those gained by correct speaker/seat placement, they are not insignificant either. PP amps with high impedance pentodes or tetrodes and with very little or no NF provide the worst-case theoretical scenario but nothing definitive can be predicted without trying.

To see whether I was right about this, I switched the speaker cables of my 6V6 amp from the 8 to the 4-ohm tap (this should halve the output impedance at the speaker terminals). This did seem to help a bit. The whole presentation became a bit leaner and there was better grip in the bass though the change wasn't dramatic.

Somebody without the option of changing transformer taps could insert a resistor (say 8 ohm) in parallel with the amp's output. This drives down output impedance, increases damping factor but also reduces power. A similar but not identical effect could be achieved by connecting an extra pair of 8-ohm speakers in parallel. This recalls Daniel's tempting comment: "Using 4 spirals will result in powerful and deep bass everywhere in the listening room." I'm sure it has something to do with this.

Care should be taken, however, to not excessively increase damping factor in any of the above ways as it can also spoil the sound if not destroy the amp. You have to know what you're doing. Furthermore, higher degrees of negative feedback -- the reason why most solid state amps have a low output impedance and hence high damping factor - may not be good for the sound in other respects. Good sounding, low-powered solid-state amps can certainly be perfect partners for the Cornus CS.

Cables too can reduce the damping factor but only in special cases. The likely effect of cables lies elsewhere. I tried several speaker cables: Kimber, Chord, Nordost -- all at the cheaper end of the price spectrum -- and my favorites, silver-coated Belden and PHY. Again, I wouldn't exclude the possibility that someone with keen ears could obtain clear benefits from swapping cables but my efforts to that effect didn't result in any amazement.

Sound of Music
I've said some things about the sound of the horn but not mentioned specific music, the number one reason for why you should be reading this review in the first place. Rather than sharing with you so-called listening notes (the value of which I often fail to see), I shall first describe a property or quality of the Cornu sound and then try to explain how that property relates to music.

But first, speech. Speech reproduction, although calling for somewhat different properties than music, is a good revealer of sound quality. A speaker that fails the speech test rarely satisfies with music. Every now and then, I settled down to listen to familiar radio programmes with familiar voices. The Cornu CS passed the test fairly well. The only major complaint I had was some kind of choking in the lower register of human voices. Such voices didn't quite open up as they should.

With music, the first property I want to mention is a certain compactness of the sound. Putting aside occasional colorations in the bass & lower midrange, the sound had healthy uniformity - an ability to hold musical events together. A good example of this was big band music: whenever the ear was exposed to it, it needn't fear distracting anomalies.

The sound was compact also in a literal sense. Piano in a concerto could take on the tinkling sound of a children's piano and a similar 'narrowing' took place with some violin recordings. I know that friends of tiny wide bandwidth drivers fiercely disagree with me but presenting instruments with sufficient body and timbral maturity including their natural or semi-natural size is one area in which I doubt that a four-inch driver can achieve the same success as, say, 8 to 15-inch drivers are able to. But this is only my speculation.

Am I inconsistent now? I claimed earlier that the Cornus can have a surprisingly big and effortless sound. And so they can. They can easily fill an average-sized room with sound of notable width and height. They convey a feeling that the sound is everywhere in the room (except for on your face). Because of this characteristic, they offer a huge scenery for opera singers, for instance, to play out their roles. In this regard, there is something special about how these speakers load the room. This is not at all incompatible with the fact that occasionally, certain instruments will exhibit a miniaturized sound.

Thirdly, these speakers are fast and agile, with no sense of delay or loitering. No lost sense of time and impeded tempi here. However, the speaker does not seem to be able to follow tinier variations in speed -- those that separate different interpretations from each other -- to the same extent that the best speakers can. The same is true of transient response, the speaker's reaction to dynamic variations in music. The CS can go from quiet passages to fairly loud quite easily but when it comes to smaller variations (e.g. from pp to ppp) their performance is rather approximate.

Fourth, the sound has a quality that could be described by such attributes as lively, unforced, unhindered, effortless. Orchestral music in general comes out easily and in a relaxed manner but baroque orchestras are this speaker's real bravura. Try something like J.S. Bach's Concertos for Cembalo and Orchestra e.g. BWV 1054. You'll be surprised. Also, I'm one of those who claims to love Beethoven's string quartets, even his later ones. What I require from the sound is absolute directness, liveliness and lack of any kind of suppression or inhibition. The Cornu CS did support these quartets and other chamber music in exactly this way.

Fifth and in absolute terms, the Cornu is musically not the most transparent. By this I mean that faint musical events were not as palpable as they could have been. They didn't gently force the listener to pay attention to the smallest details which is important for example with many contemporary music rich in color and effects. I found them to be better with music that doesn't suffer too much from the fact that it is served up in somewhat more enveloping rather than dissective manner.

Sixth and not unrelated, these speakers have what Jules Coleman would call a 'holistic' sound. To put it less sophisticatedly, parts are not for sale. This is not the kind of speaker that, despite of its somewhat dichotomized performance, is chosen for one or two of its characteristics knowing the price one would have to pay in other performance areas. One consequence is that the Cornu becomes insensitive to different source material: what sounds good sounds good, what sounds wanting sounds wanting. The more one listens to them, the more predictable they become. It follows that a test-CD/LP with variety of music offers appropriate material for assessing this speakers' musical competence.

Here's what happened with High Fidelity's Sample Record No. 54 (with the speakers' centers 1 meter from the floor and the listening distance between 1.5 and 2 meters):

1. Tim Christensen, Get The Fuck Out My Mind (rock): A little extra liveliness but otherwise making much sense;
2. Cornerstone, Straight To The Bone (pompous and heavily melodic): Split performance - vocal sections were pure and enjoyable but the bass too often overtook them;
3. Randi Laubek, Rely (easy and soft female vocal with xylophone, guitar and bongos): This didn't work, the bass ruined the performance and even her voice was slightly colored;
4. Trine-Lise Voering, The Princess (with double bass, both fully acoustical): This was good, the female voice came out attractively and the double bass was mostly under control;
5. Tintin & Hårtorrerne, Verden, Verden (pop & swing with brass section): The bass was not always in line with the rest but otherwise singer and accompaniment were well produced, lending proper support to the music;
6. Kjell Öhman, Crazy Rhythm (not too modern Jazz with sax solo and B3 Hammonds, with the upright bass recorded from a distance): This music was dealt with well;
7. Lars Erstrand Quartet, A Beautiful Friendship (Jazz with vibraphone, piano, drums): Mostly okay, vibraphone was slightly colored:
8. Manola Yglesias, Sigueme El Compas (solo flamenco guitar): Great fun to listen to, focused, lively sound;
9. J.S. Bach, Invention No. 14 & 8 (four guitars in a reverberant acoustic): The worst-case scenario! The record tolerates no colorations and turned out ultra critical with regard to listening position;
10. R. Schumann, Arabesque In C (piano solo by Stefan Lindgren): The sound of the piano may have been slightly unstable but otherwise no complaints;
11. Tchaikovsky, String Quartet No. 3 In E Flat Minor (New Haydn Quartet): Very good, the music's built-in intentions were well conveyed;
12. G. Muffat, Toccata Prima (organ, Insp Klosterneuburg Abbey): Not good, not bad;
13. Bruckner, Symphony No. 1 (Scherzo): Quite good, didn't feel I missed much;
14. Puccini, Lescaut (excerpt) (opera): Recorded from a distance both female & male voices came out without problems.

Got the picture? The Cornu discriminates between source materials but the discrimination is not so much between music rather than between styles and recordings. For example, one solo guitar recording acquits itself splendidly while another can sound so colored as to be unlistenable. The same is true of small acoustic jazz ensembles for instance.

On the other hand, listening to the CD Supplement No. 418 of the Diapason Harmonique music magazine with Gregorian chant, Mendelssohn's oratorio, Arriaga's symphony, Berlioz' song poem, Fibich's piece for solo piano, Kapsberger's music for female voice with lute accompaniment, Dowland's guitar, J.S. Bach's cantata, a Brahms Lied, Beethoven's piano sonata, Spohr's opera, Ernst's solo violin and Lalo's opera provided (with the proviso that the level was correctly set) trouble-free listening throughout that was very pleasant and consistent without any listener fatigue.

A final point that doesn't directly relate to music - without knowing the exact reason for it, I've noticed that single-driver speakers often complement analogue playback particularly well. The Cornu CS was no exception. LPs came out clearly intriguingly and not only because the troubling properties appeared to be less present than with CDs. Benny Goodman's recordings from 1937-45 [Swing, Swing, Swing, 1960] provided a good example of very happy listening, and not just some forgivable ballad but also more energetic and aggressive sounding compositions.

The same was true of analogue broadcasted music. I remember one (live recording) occasion in particular. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra performed an orchestral arrangement based on Thelonious Monk themes (Round about T. Monk arranged by Eero Koivistoinen). It was wild and convincing, with the Cornus in full service to the music. If you thus own a turntable system that isn't just there for gathering dust -- or you're a keen radio listener with a decent tuner -- you should
consider yourself in possession of an extra argument on behalf of the Spirals, provided you like them otherwise.

This is a very brave speaker. It never even attempts perfection. "I am what I am", she says, "take me or leave me". Unlike many speakers struggling to hide their character mostly in the vain hope that somebody would mistake their performance for neutrality, these speakers are proud to have character. They can be shamelessly controversial in how they sound. They can be markedly selective with respect to music and recordings. They make fun of all the so-called all-around or universal speakers.

There were times when they gave me a headache. There were times I was only frustrated. There were times when I immensely enjoyed them. There were times when I wanted to dance with them. If you consider yourself a serious person, don't choose the Cornu CS. If you think you're judgmental or categorical, avoid 'em. If you're a control freak who believes in following rules to the letter, think twice. If you prefer that everything be solid and objective rather than artistic and subjective... all those character traits are perfectly justifiable in this hobby but the Cornu CS does not cater to them.

Even if you do enjoy a "correct mind setting" for them, you have to be alert to these Germans' idiosyncrasies. You need to do real work finding the correct setup (both their place on the wall and the correct listening distance) unless you're lucky enough to have a large room - then there's less work. You need to be prepared to make changes in amplification (and cabling) if what you own now turns out to be inappropriate for this speaker. You need to adjust your listening habits to listen to music at loudness levels that best suits the music/room/recording/equipment combination (which is what you need to do anyway). And you need to accept as a fact of life that not all musical styles and recordings will work equally well.

Once you're ready to do all that you possibly need to and have finished your puzzle, the Cornus could be the one. It can rock, it can do drama, it can paint, it can do many of those positive things we value in sound. Value for money? This really comes down to what's already been said. Based on appearance and judging how much unconventional thinking took form here, the European price of 1400 euros appears more than reasonable. Those who love what they do to the sound and how they present music must find the price very moderate indeed. Those who are allergic to the ways in which these speakers are cutting corners may agree that the price is fair yet still abstain from acquisition. As always, it depends on preferences. I'm not sure that anything more could or even should be said about this.

There may not be much "right" in how these speakers sound but there certainly is much good although not categorically so. Before you buy them, make sure that how they sound good correlates with your expectations.

Post Scriptum:
The form of Cornu's Compact Spiralhorn makes them an object of aesthetic value. They look like a work of modern art, a relief. Furthermore, the speakers are optionally available with frames and can be made from plexiglass. They can also be surfaced with a silk painting to completely hide their speakerness. Cornu has a list of artists who fashion such custom silk paintings, with two samples above.
Manufacturer's website