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The OBX-RW proved really annoying. From the first piano sounds released when Lynn and Kevin Scott delivered and set up the fully preconditioned loaner pair and asked to hear Javier Perianes play Blasco de Nebra's Piano Sonatas [Harmonia Mundi], I knew that my silent reluctance over the speaker's price vs. material gravitas and 'basic' ingredients had been annihilated before it had a chance to properly germinate. The same auroma I'd so enjoyed in the Scott's Midlands home with their Rosewood OBX-RW fronted by a Kondo Ongaku reasserted itself. Even more annoying was that eventual substitution of my own interconnects and speaker cables for pricey Kondo equivalents merely magnified that flavor for the full Monty from far more modest electronics. For the Living Voice house sound Kondo electronics are merely optional. The bloody cables meanwhile are obligatory. Frog figs!

Running through my assortment of resident amplifiers and preamplifiers, Kevin Scott was very taken by Nelson Pass' FirstWatt F5 fronted by Esoteric's C-03 preamp in 12dB gain mode. Final unchallenged consensus of our 4-strong listening panel was however that my Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya 6P14P-EV monos run off the same preamp exhibited the most magic. The F5 made for a day-time sound. It had maximum lighting, seamless scaling of amplitude differences and unwaveringly holographic lock of fine detail.

The white monos meanwhile made for a twilight sound. That had deeper tone colors, more connective tissue between the sounds, greater elasticity of musical flow and richer half tones and shadows. Both perfumes were equally viable. Both were endowed with powerful we-wantz attributes. But as Kevin put it succinctly, "I'd want what the Serbian tube amps do more often". Given that the speaker's entire gestation was built upon valve amps from Art Audio, New Audio Frontiers and Kondo it's not surprising that this sound in its fullness—instantly recognizable if you've been to Definitive Audio aka the Living Voice showroom—depends on superior tube amps.

As the photos indicate, the OBX-RW is a very social animal. Listening well off axis implies no punishment to true enjoyment. The recommended setup is tweeters inside, boxes toed in for no visible side panels from the main listening seat. The crossover boxes wide like a standard hifi component sound best with their 8 terminals—incoming biwire quartet, outgoing biwire quartet—pointing up. "The three inductors inside the outboard crossovers are deliberately spaced and oriented to avoid inductive coupling. The hookup wiring is our forward/backward cryo-treated affair. There we determine the crystalline directionality of the conductor by ear, then reverse the return leg. The wire-wound resistors and premium caps too are laid out properly to insure that regardless of amplitude and signal complexity the filter behavior remains perfectly stable."

It helps knowing that the designer listens to a lot of classical Western music and adores Schubert and Strauss lieder, Arvo Pärt and Scarlatti as well as classical Indian music. Where much modern music is based on taut rhythmic structures, classical music breathes more freely. It ebbs and flows fluidly. Exclusively acoustic instruments meanwhile explore fine tone modulations. They play heavily with timbral shifts over an often rather more expansive scale of microdynamic values than much modern music. There three core values of less loud, loud and more loud span just 10dB. Given this backdrop the OBX-RW quite predictably excels at the waft & wane factor of temporal incertitude—rubato in music speak—and likewise at tracking minimal microdynamic fluctuations. Here solo piano becomes the make-or-break challenge. This the top Avatar model handles splendidly. For complete tonal saturation a valve amp might be mandatory unless transistor amps in the Kondo realm exist which can fully compete on that count. That's beyond my scope of familiarity.

It seems arbitrary or wanton to pin on a speaker attributes like the above. They seem so outside measurable parameters like frequency, step or impulse response. Yet swapping the Avatar OBX-RW out for my usual ASI Tango R reaffirmed it. This flavor or mode of presentation was intrinsic. What its material constituents of parts choices are is wholly immaterial. It's academic to consumers. What matters is that if you fancy these breathing and burnished qualities, this speaker is unusually keen at retrieving and liberating them from your ancillary hardware and favorite software. Naturally Andy Narell's rhythmically charged Trinidad steel-drum Calypso plays just as well as a Rock anthem or Bavarian oompah marching band. Still I'd imagine that the customer most thrilled with the OBX-RW will be one whose preferences in music mirror those of its designer. A primary 'hippety-hoppety' listener even with an Escalade in the driveway to blink not an eyelid at the OBX sticker should prefer something with more sub-40Hz stamina, sharper transients and more overall slam.