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Description: For a full description, see Srajan’s pieces here and here. The Vox Olympian is a four-way satellite speaker with a fifteen-inch bass driver and mid, high frequency and super high frequency compression drivers all in a horn-loaded configuration with either inboard or outboard crossover electronics. There’s probably something subliminal that comes across as a smile emanating from the lower portion of the mid-bass cabinet and above it the complex semi-helical fabric that moves from a concave curve below to a convex curve at the top and gives the visual signature to the whole. It’s a very satisfying shape and a pleasure to look at. Above that sit the symmetrical cheeks of the upper-mid horn which lend further sculptural harmony.

The bronze trumpet of the tweeter horn is less obtrusive from the front than one might think. The upper sections have a slight classic yacht feel to them, presumably from the bronze and wood effects. Behind the quality and feel of the rheostat panel is quite something. The cabinets are built exclusively to order and made in the materials and finishes of the client’s choosing.

The cabinets pictured are finished in a rather special veneer of English New Forest-grown American Walnut with lacewood lipping and stringing over an immensely strong solid beechwood carcass. This calibrated laminated beech is visible in the mouth of the midrange horn.

The pair pictured are in an astoundingly opulent hand-rubbed French polish finish that takes the total man hours for the cabinet work from 550 for the standard finish to over 2,000 for the pair pictured (and this is for the cabinets alone not including the crossovers or drivers). Truly an Olympian effort.

While not small, they don’t necessarily dominate or swallow a room in the way some mega speakers do but on the other hand, that’s not including the subs. If you count them, then one has to say the total is pretty gigantic. The mid, upper mid and super tweeter drivers can all be time-aligned individually to allow for variations in the speaker/room interface. This is not a job to be undertaken lightly and in fact will be performed by designer Kevin Scott whose expertise is critical in order to achieve the desired result.

In the Living Voice listening room the speakers have a muted but harmonious presence and a satisfying blend of curves and straight lines. Aesthetics are of course a personal thing but for me these speakers have a harmonious and almost relaxing feeling to them. They are not showing off or trying to dominate or impress with scale or weird shapes. It’s easy to see that the whole is informed by the same value system. The curves resonate with themselves. No post modern borrowings or pastiches even if you could not be sure if they were made today or in the fifties. As befits a speaker of such quality, even the grill cloths are bespoke knitted fabric.

The immediate impression on hearing the Olympians is that the musical presentation is majestic, effortless and of a sheer scale of sound I for one hadn’t experienced before. At the same time however and almost magically they are capable of a whispered delicacy, nuance and intimacy. One also notices they resolve what seems like an order of magnitude more than anything else - certainly than I‘ve ever experienced. Anyone who has played with horn drivers even minimally knows full well how promising they can be yet how ultimately frustrating. They offer Everests of promise but the difficulties of building transparent crossovers and getting the textures and colors and speed of the drivers to integrate are hard to surmount. People spend a lottery fortune on exotic Japanese pressure drivers and put them in dedicated rooms and the result can sound like listening to four different systems fighting each other. Most complex horn systems I’ve listened to had a number of problems. Yes they resolved a lot but so many had further issues of speed integration between the subwoofers, woofers and the rest of the spectrum. So as much as part of the sound can be beguiling, I personally have heard very few I could live with or commit to. It’s a bit like looking at the same picture through different sets of magnifying glasses and never getting a good overall take that makes sense.

It’s taken years to achieve but the Vox Olympians to my ear don’t suffer from any of these problems. In fact if you didn’t know you wouldn’t necessarily think they were horns at all apart from the level of resolution. And that is very attractive. It means we can enjoy a musical experience as a whole rather than find ourselves forced to analyse parts of things. 

Schubert, Berg and Wolf performed by Christianne Stotijn on Onyx [Onyx Classics 4009]: One’s whole body relaxes into the music, into its ease and musical essence. Never have I so quickly moved beyond the sound and into the musical experience. And with an unfamiliar piece of music within seconds the thing that I go to music for happens, that which takes hold of your heart and makes it sort of gasp, squeezes it like a lemon, raises the emotions and blends them into something new and unfamiliar like a Zen koan.