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The piper’s price to pay is a steep low-frequency cut-off. The speaker goes so far and then no farther. Never mind closer wall proximities. Those will raise amplitude but not build out reach. By comparison bass reflex rolls off slower, sealed boxes even more so. And big horns can profit from boundary reinforcement. With the A90 for example, floor and rear wall continued the horn mouth and thus strategically supported its bass output. Because the Aurora is stand mounted, such a scheme won’t work. For the specified bass the Aurora actually is too petite. Here Gerald Hüpfel exploits a trick. Enter the front cover. It increases radiation resistance to build out the small horn’s bass power.

In the mid/treble bands the cover’s effect changes however. As a rule widebanders are forced to play far higher than equally dimensioned ‘standard’ drivers would. With the Aurora’s 13kHz this implies treble beaming. Of course one could aim the speakers so one sits smack inside this beam for the full output. That can work. Or it can grow too much. With the Aurora that’s unnecessary. At higher frequencies the perf cover acts as a kind of scatter lens. Sound is bent to radiate out more broadly. Hence this solution kills two birds with one stone.

The widebander itself runs an aluminium diaphragm and is augmented on high by a ribbon above 13kHz. That makes the Hornmanufaktur Aurora a 2-way system albeit one with an unconventionally high crossover frequency. The Aurora can be had in various finishes both real veneer and lacquer. The cover color can be specified as well. My loaners came in Birch and black to look very classy I thought. Through its hole-ridden acrylic plate this speaker exudes both a certain retro charm and somewhat exotic airs. The acrylic comes standard in black, white and grey whilst a surcharge adds yellow, orange, red, blue, green and brown to the option menu. The cloth behind it can be matched or one could go two-tone. Here the imagination of the owner is the only limit. Incidentally this speaker sells exclusively direct with a 30-day return privilege (in which case the customer pays for shipping).

With the vitals covered, how about der Klang? Does all this effort come together? In short, "Jawohl!" Let’s break it down. In the bass the steep fall-off mentioned is dead obvious. On Fatfreddy’s album Drop the lowest freqs were plainly missing – not subdued, not politely suggested but absent, period. This action was so conclusive that I wouldn’t miss a thing I didn’t know should have been there. I felt the same about The Kills’ No Wow. Bass monster the Aurora will never be. But there’s clearly life without the lowest bass. Normal music really doesn’t miss much. And above it this speaker clocks in with wonderfully quick, controlled and lean upper bass.

It’s best to hit the Aurora with standard musical fare though, not deliberately reach for bass torture tracks. Without paying close attention, one only subliminally senses what’s not reproduced. On Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley I was instantly impressed by how much gusto this compact box applied to the job. Besides precise staging, an expert drawing of Cassidy’s voice and the fireworks in the treble—all aspects I’ll still cover in detail—I related to this reading as astonishingly complete. The piano lacked no output even on the far left clefs. The percussion had forward swing or it applied assured accents during melancholic cuts. This had me appreciate how exciting it all sounded. Clearly live recordings were properly served. Enough to crack real hard though?
I switched to Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Live at Yoshi’s. This isn’t the end of the road on production values but captures plenty of live vibe and convinces with high-pressure percussion. And that rocked. Rarely have I heard this recording so energetic and direct. Rhythm and timing clearly sat very high on the Hornmanufaktur Aurora’s totem pole. Brilliant!