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The speaker system described herein is too costly to allow for the usual in-home audition that's the basis for formal reviews. What the writer did instead is listen to the system in the designer's show room over many consecutive visits which spanned iterative versions of an ambitious project approaching production status. It thus was neither approached as a standard equipment review nor is it now being presented as such. Rather, it's a quasi meditation on the experience itself. It does not analyse and quantify. As always, that would have to rely on the reviewer's credo of "only change one thing at a time". In cases such as these, everything the writer is familiar with gets changed - the room and each piece of audio equipment in it. Commentary then becomes about the totality of all factors and their interaction as an indivisible whole. It's not about a test score that assigns which part contributed what. - Ed

Edward Barker

In Western cultures people describe mental illumination primarily through three types of experiences. At the most basic level we have insight where we ’see within’ an issue or a problem and understand it on a deeper level. It’s that ’aha’ moment when you understand how something fits with something else or even why. A friend once described seeing a generator in French Guyana that a local carpenter had repaired with a wooden piston. It would take insight to understand why that’s not going to work. The next level is epiphany, the discovery of profound hidden connections typically within our lives. Epiphanies often work like a photographic negative, showing us what is not within reality more than what is. The moment we work out that money or fame or success will not necessarily bring the happiness we crave is the typical epiphany of our age.

At the highest level we have enlightenment where those fortunate enough to experience it cross some life-changing boundary into a new paradigm and value system which results in a far deeper way of experiencing reality. The discovery of Newtonian physics ushered in the Age of Enlightenment. Buddhists journey towards enlightenment as a perceptual shift which reveals a simpler and deeper connection to reality as it unfolds moment by moment. 

Each of these three states has a musical equivalent which correspond roughly to one where our minds and nervous systems are being engaged and transported; to a major shift such as when we discover and become passionate about a new genre or type of music; and finally to a state where our spirit feels connected to a universal reality. When I think back on the last ten years writing for 6moons, I remember a number of musical experiences that stick out particularly. Live I think of  Eugene Onegin at Covent Garden; the Erasmus Quartet playing late Beethoven at the Wigmore Hall; and  Leonard Cohen at Glastonbury. Recorded there was Christina Shaffer’s Winterreise; Shostakovich’s The Execution of  Stephan Ravin; Vivaldi’s Gloria; Miles Davis’s Live around the World; and Arvo Pärt’s Marsyas.

Most if not all of these I remember hearing on the prototype or pre-production models of the Vox Olympian with Kondo electronics. And each in their way has etched its emotional, visceral and spiritual content or essence deep into not just my memory but into me humanly. A couple were insights, others were epiphanies. One or two—-or maybe just the equipment itself—had something beyond the  power of music where perhaps retrospectively one realizes the experience has changed and deepened one’s entire relationship with music itself.  

As audiophiles or music lovers we see our equipment as a means to achieve as close as possible a connection to the musical experience, an attempt to genuinely inhabit music and have it come to life within us. When really moved, we experience some kind of strange transcendence which points almost physically to the existence of a reality which reveals a profound harmony or beauty within the essential fabric of existence as we experience it. This ‘being moved’ or ’transported’ is addictive, hence our compulsive obsession with gear that might get us just a bit closer to that ineffable light.

When we find a piece of equipment that really does this for us, it’s like discovering a new more powerful class of drugs - or their opposite, an experience which is both supremely hedonistic and yet ultimately simple and spiritual. 

The Living Voice Vox Olympian has been in development for more than five year and now is finally available for sale.  Together with the Vox Elysian bass system, this speaker creation is insanely even tragically expensive but though it may belong to our dreams only, it’s important nevertheless for us as music lovers to experience and come to terms with what has been achieved here. It offers not just a superb audio and musical experience. It is supremely capable of communicating the musical equivalent of profound human states, those moments of insight, epiphany and even enlightenment that we live for as music lovers.