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Due to ongoing research and development, we reserve the right to change our specifications without notification. The first indication that the Saadhana as reviewed had undergone a modification came by way of Turkey. Hakan Cezayirli, editör of Turkish online magazine Stereo Mecmuasi, had forwarded a link to his latest third edition. It featured a multi-page writeup of Jacob's visit to Turkey and the first formal Saadhana demonstration by Turkey's new Rethm importer. Since I can't read Turkish, Hakan had attached two pictures with a small comment about new silk panels, assuming -- rightly -- that those would pique my interest. Said panels were to be attached to the Saadhanas' sides. At first, I was bewildered by this seemingly outlandish concept. I couldn't figure out how it worked nor what it was supposed to address.

An e-mail to Cochin confirmed it. Jacob felt the smaller Maarga model below the Saadhana soundstaged on an even grander scale. He proposed that sidewall reflections of the Saadhana enclosures might be the culprits. To test this theory, he authored absorption panels nattily fitted inside silk coverings. Via contractor's tape, they can attach permanently and apparently neutralize the Maarga's disappearance advantage.

Hakan heard the change right away. What's more, he recommended it. But there was another, even newer twist which Jacob had dreamed up since that visit to Rumi's country, this one directly in response to a statement I'd made in my review.

"When I send you the panels and stands, I am also going to send you a new pair of compression chamber cones. Ever since you reported that you were unable to play large-scale classical on them, I have been mulling over the problem. I finally figured that the throat size in the compression chamber was probably what contributed to this issue in some spaces. I changed the geometry on the back cone and the change is quite extraordinary even in my studio where I actually never felt I had the problem and therefore never experimented further. Now I see that what the older cone was doing was actually 'compressing' all music, not just classical though probably being most audible on large-scale classical. The music now seems to flow 'free and unfettered'..."

Reviewer critique -- if come by straight and honest and taken as such by an untiring maker -- can occasionally help improve an already very good product. In this instance, Jacob couldn't replicate my complaint but thought hard on how to address it regardless. "I assume that if you can easily hear the improvement in a space you were content with already, it should be dead obvious in mine." A strong affirmative returned from Cochin. "You'll definitely hear it right away. One other very interesting thing you will notice with the new compression chamber cones once you install them is that they also greatly improve treble extension. After one tries the new cones, the older versions sound rather limited in the treble.

"My friend Chandra from Pune (the guy who does purist recordings of Indian classical music for whom I designed the performance theatre) was in Cochin on Sunday. He
commented on the fact that it was only with the new cones that the reproduction started approaching the reality he hears all the time while recording live music."
Surfing Saadhanas? Threaded for standard-shank casters, a quick trip to the hardware store had my custom Rethm stands rolling. Even though the customer ahead of me thought the board under my arm was from the beach, he'd have been closer thinking it a skateboard. Metallic paint and contours a perfect match, this part of the Cochin package wasn't so much a performance as convenience feature for ornery writers. Skating Saadhanas are so much easier to move in and out of a permanently revolving rig.

It wasn't until I laid eyes on the dress boards that I realized just how ingenious and revolutionary they were. As hard core audiophiles, we belabor early reflections from hard surfaces but to a solider, we fail to appreciate the enemy that is our speaker cabinets. Ideally, they'd be made up of sandwiched panels which are inert in the middle, then porous, soft and absorptive inside and out to minimize captive and external sound reflections.

In very cost-effective and attractive fashion, Jacob's add-ons do exactly that. They transform the hard sides of his speakers into absorptive/diffusive panels. The thin foam lining hiding beneath tautly stretched raw silk will be active only at higher frequencies, reasonable considering the Lowther's bandwidth. The Medite board holes and square cutouts meanwhile double as diffuse elements, all in a smart package about 3/4" thick. Double-sided contractor's tape attaches it permanently to both cheeks of each speaker.

Naturally, this covers up the wood veneering except on the base on those Saadhanas authored prior to this change but the silk color and grain-reminiscent textures are so cleverly matched as to fool the eye from a few feet away. It really does make a unified cosmetic statement. My inner geek meanwhile felt terribly amused that it took an Indian architect to invent such a simple, crafty but effective solution to arrive at a quieter outer enclosure. Not that anyone studying Rethm speakers would need further evidence on the thinking out of the box going on at this firm...
Pointy hats anyone? Comparing original [left] and revised compression chamber cones [right] was another reminder on a major-key running audio subtext - that execution is everything and the devil in the details.

The two cones really don't look that different. Ah, but once installed, the apparently little that does differ is no small matter. Without inviting locker room gab, the very apparent result is what I'd call deeper-throatedness.

It's what you hear in a talented young singer prior to stage fright, commercial concerns and a stressed, strained voice. There's a pervasive sense of ease, openness and playful power. Dynamics crest unrestrained; high notes are plentiful and easily reached; pianissimos remain full-bodied; and the state of flux, from quiet to loud, high to low, hooded to full-throttle, is natural, fluid and spontaneous, not forced, stepped or strategic.
This combination of spontaneity and freely gushing ease that's not showy, put on or self-conscious is tremendously appealing. You needn't play loud to feel spoken to and involved. But when a singer leans into it or a French clarinetist on a Gypsy swing number tears into high G with full vibrato and loose lips, you get lifted by the charge.

A perfect example thereof is The Rosenberg Trio's latest [Roots, Iris 3001970] that sees Stochelo paired up with Bernard Berkhout on clarinet. Bernard uses a reasonably stiff reed to imbue his tone with tension and his playing style is wiry, too. Stochelo's monster chops on the guitar for once are a bit sublimated for added lyricism and esprit. Hearing those two play -- in the sense of a kitty playing with a crumpled paper ball -- against the tight shrum-shrum of the rhythm section in that inimitable swaggering swing whose stride is far harder to hit than it appears... well, it's now become the de facto calling card for the decompressed Saadhana.

Additionally, Jacob's promise of more expansive treble proved factual. Not lit up per se as though to suggest undue energy on top, this change is most apparent in very pellucid upper harmonics. They feel airy and fluffy, not sharply brilliant. Again, easeful is the operative word.

The end result of all this is wicked normalcy, i.e. with eyes closed, nothing now betrays an unconventional, tweaky freaky driver, the esoteric backhorn/transmission-line/dispersion lens/isobaric/whatever-it's-properly-called loading or that whole wonky widebander/zero-crossover niche-ism. Until you revert to a really normal speaker that is. It'll sound ponderous, fuzzy and staid by comparison. Then you'll begin to appreciate the innate speed and reflexes of the Lowther, how it tracks the smallest of signals that elude lesser drivers but does so without front-horn loading which only works properly over less than two octaves to require 4- or more-way driver arrays. It's only then that one can begin to appreciate the sheer enormity of effort pooled into the Saadhana to strip it of the usual telltale giveaways of the genre (the limited bandwidth, the upper midrange rise, the overt response nonlinearities). With the rough felt fitted behind the diaphragms, the new cones and side panels installed, this Lowther has finally come home to utter normalcy. Thereby, it has wiped out all the compulsory counts against it.

Needless to say, had this thrown overboard the qualities special and unique to the Lowther, all good reason to use it in the first place would have vanished with 'em. Plainly, Rethm has not castrated, homogenized or otherwise crippled and neutralized the DX55. It's been set free. The result is very high but natural, unforced resolution. Integration with the active bass system is truly seamless in amplitude and texture and the adjustments inherent in the controls guarantee room adaptability. With a single pair of speaker cables running to the custom terminals, your main amp sees an unproblematic and efficient load that requires little power but benefits from all the finesse and quality you can throw at it. The only thing somewhat unusual from a user perspective are the two power cords which, depending on how far into the room you move the speakers and where the closest power outlets are, might have to be quite long. And, the Saadhana is rather deeper than conventional speakers. In that, it mirrors Corey Greenberg's original he-man speaker of yore, the NHT 3.3.

It goes without saying that classical music of the sort reasonable folks would play in an 18' x 24' x 10' room no longer presents any issues either, compliments for which must go to the DX55s' new pointy hats. It's a credit to Rethm's designer that he kept laboring to really leave no stone unturned and finesse his new flagship model to this level of perfection. (A crassly self-referential translation might read "I'm sure glad I bitched about that classical bit" because with the new back-flow guide, all types of music benefit equally from the new 'deeper throat').

Concluding a long review which unwound in various chapters, Rethm's Saadhana now joins Nelson Pass' First Watt F4 amplifiers as the highest relaxed-resolution devices I have in my stable of reviewer tools and pleasure machines. I'm committed to the polygamous audio lifestyle for reasons of refreshing variety and to support component matching as well as comparisons. Hence speakers like Zu's Definition Pros extend even lower into true sub bass and WLM's Grand Viola Monitors have feistier kick and denser tone. But when it comes to high fidelity as in, retrieving the tiniest of details while keeping the listening fun and compelling rather than anal-and-ytical, the Saadhanas presently take the crown in Casa Coral Bay. For that and everything else already mentioned, this latest incarnation now deserves an award, wholly and unreservedly. This is a spectacular speaker. Also -- and this will only be relevant to the obscure cadre of Lowther freaks -- it is a landmark achievement for a Lowther that's run wide open and uncut. After exactly one decade of ongoing obsessive work with this transducer, Jacob George has finally liberated it, truly and fully. Whoa, wow and well done. Over and out!

Quality of packing: Ships in four fully foam-lined cardboard cartons which showed little evidence of wear.
Reusability of packing: Easily once.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: One set of spikes missing, quickly rectified by separate mail.
Quality of owner's manual: No manual provided but one is being prepared.
Website comments: Stylish and informative.
Warranty: No information provided.
Global distribution: Through a small international dealer network. Contact Rethm directly for contacts.
Human interactions: Professional and courteous.
Pricing: Couldn't be made and sold for the asking price if produced in the US or Western Europe.
Application conditions: Needs very little power but very quiet amps that sound good below their first watt. If you fancy mass and warmth, harvest it from the amps. Not for headbangers.
Final comments & suggestions: Seem to blossom when rather far out into the room. Might then require two rather long power cords. Very modern appearance in four designer trim options. Physically deeper cabinet than most. A product for connoisseurs that makes the Lowther as mainstream as possible.