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98dB sensitive, with isobarically loaded dual 6-inch active bass systems per side, the Saadhana is tailor-made for low-power amps tube or transistor. Its reflexes are so honed as to demand matching amplifier agility. Weighing down the Saadhana with the ballast of lazy reflexes dilutes its core trait. At the Saadhana's voltage sensitivity, your listening will primarily take place within that infamous first watt. There most amplifiers aren't quite awake yet. Thus the ideal amplifier mate for this speaker kicks into high gear right out of the gate and does so without any operational noise. The DX-55 Lowther magnifies noise like efficient horns do. Add a few meters of breathing room behind the speakers -- side wall freedom is far less critical -- and you've catered to its basic needs.

The rewards for the right kind of listener are great. With Rethm's compression cone behind the Lowther's magnet to avoid reflections of the rear wave returning through the thin cone; and the trademark modified twin-skirt whizzers with wooden phase plug; the shout all know of who otherwise never heard a Lowther has been eliminated 90%. However, there does remain a significant nonlinearity. It's not a frequency but dynamic component. My ears calibrated now to Franck Tchang's triple 8-inch Tango R speakers in a room personally resonatored by the master and cabled with his LiveLines identified this without even trying.

Alora, this speaker is noticeably more dynamic in the midrange than bass. Extension is into the low 30s. For most intents and purposes, this makes it full-range, with bass quantity linear if properly adjusted [provisions below]. Being rear-horn loaded, omni-vented and of modest cone area, the nonlinearity pertains to bass quality. It's less immediate, forceful and direct than the upper Lowther bands. It manifests as diminished kick and transient ferocity, not lack of amplitude. At first it could seem loudness if one's comparator was endowed with significant woofer 'conage' and -- important -- was front-firing. Drivers facing the listener energize the room differently; big or paralleled woofers move a lot more air.

This dynamic discontinuity can't be addressed with the level control beneath the hatch. That only sets quantity. The quality is intrinsic to the design. As such, it's fixed. That's likely deliberate. It plays directly to a very special quality. By focusing dynamic acceleration on the midrange, vocal intelligibility (openness, suchness) and emotive transmission (the release of the encoded emotional charge) are amplified.
What the Saadhana does for voices and instruments which share their frequency window is an injection of adrenaline or cobweb-clearing clarity. It heightens communicativeness. It does contain a touch of wiriness but is not intrinsically a function of truncated textures unless the partnering amplifier was harmonically bereft. This regional acceleration creates/releases excitement.

Were the bass equally 'wiry', immediate and direct of character, one might approach a degree of relentlessness. Long-term, nobody enjoys being slapped about by sheer intensity. Hence the effect has been localized precisely where human perception is most sensitive and hence, appreciative. Recognizing vocal rightness is no acquired skill. It's something we all trained in since recognizing mother's voice in the womb. Ditto for mundane noises like doors slamming, windows creaking, dropped keys clanging, underfoot branches breaking. We're exposed to percussive transients in the midband on a daily basis without listening to any music at all. When a music system then reproduces voices and percussive transients with that lightningy rightness (compliments to the Ratatouille flick for the term), it underscores a heightened sense of realism without overdosing us with wideband zing and blister
. Check N° 1 for a core Saadhana virtue.

The point source ideal has been endlessly abused getting associated with anything but point sources. In the Saadhana, only a free-floating pulsating sphere would go farther. Around the upper half of the Lowther, the cabinet simply sleeks away to present no boundaries. Around the lower half, the very simple but effective silk-shrouded foam covers on the enclosure side walls absorb reflected higher frequencies. This lowers enclosure participation as a contributing sound source. Until a hi-tech company like Wilson Audio applies anti-sonar paint to the outsides of their speakers, how uniquely the  Saadhana approaches this stealth goal might just be the most cost-effective and hence cleverest way it's been attempted yet.

The practical upshot becomes that 70Hz+
sounds radiate from one small pretty much unencumbered driver. What this does for soundstage holography is quite spooky. This is check N° 2 on what makes the Saadhana special. And both virtues interconnect. A gargantuan stage floating unmoored behind the speakers is fabulous as far as that goes. But if its performers don't communicate across space and into your lap, it becomes remote viewing of sorts.

To make the connection relies on liberated dynamic impulses - how far the range of quietest and loudest sounds within a melodic passage can be stretched. It's not predominantly a function of macro dynamics (the SPL of the highest peak) but those fluctuations which are embedded in a phrase where certain notes carry emphasis, others hooded shading and many more fall in-between to varying degrees. It's that wealth of mini waves, the proverbial tempest in the tea pot, that wins the bid for best communication.

This need not be a full-range phenomenon to come off. While popped and slapped bass or kick drum won't imprint themselves with the same speed and impact on your ears as Joscho Stefan's guitar strings or Yasmin Levi's Sephardic pipes, one feels spoken to and addressed personally. The extent to which the Saadhana accomplishes that is quite unique. In fact, I propose it's a direct function of the strategically focused dynamic burst zone.

Theory already predicts that the DX-55 must be quite removed from textbook flatness in the frequency domain. So are most others of course if their graphs aren't first carefully doctored by averaging and smoothing. The point here is that any transgressions from flat are mellow enough to not skew the whole. Rethm has defanged the Lowther sufficiently to quit annoying us. But it's not been neutered in turn. We successfully harness its raison d'être: musical tangibility.

Granted, Rethm's Saadhana is neither neutral nor perfectly balanced. Its professed mission is not the literal recreation of just the sounds of the recorded event. It's alliterative. It means to stimulate a compelling emotional response akin to how live music triggers us. Just as carefully dosaged chili peppers increase food tension and the dynamic range of our taste buds (while too much shuts them down), so the Saadhana spikes up the presentation with a regional turbo boost of dynamics. If the means justify the end -- and if you compare this end to another just as Vital Gbezo did in his room at the Munich show -- Jacob George's ongoing obsession with this driver becomes predestined. It's quite a burden too. Any good wife hates watching her husband try so hard for so long for so few rupees. It's that unreasonable labor of love thing.

Equally clear is that the means here step outside generally accepted hifi notions. The Saadhana plays a trick to achieve its effect. If you agree with the effect and desire it, you accept the trick's quintessentiality. No chili pepper, no rush. It's as simple as that. The nonlinear 'flaw' in the dynamic behavior is the secret sauce and weapon.

Put differently, this speaker is somewhat of an extremist. It begins with the cosmetics, continues on with a builder's nightmare of complex folded lines and how to conceal them from view, includes a very healthy appetite for real estate and pickiness about ancillaries and finally culminates in the actual audio performance. If the latter gets under your skin, nothing else I know can quite duplicate it. If you're a foodie, you'll appreciate that hole in the wall with the lousy service and bad views. Still you keep coming back for the food. Likewise can the Saadhana be criticized here and there - all of which utterly pales against what it serves up. Bottom line, the Saadhana is a high-order stimulatrix.

It works best with reasonable music. By that I mean ensembles which your space could physically accommodate if you invited the performers. Large-scale classical demands bass power from air displacement that's beyond the Saadhana. Power Rock or a closed-mike'd drum set will lack low-down brutality and crunch. Practically though, nearly 100% of the music I listen to is well served. Pleasure for me ties not to bombast or the death-defying stunts of demo material.

The curse of an uncompromising vision
This speaker demands a very particular listener. It most appeals to emotional junkies. Reading standard hifi commentary, that's not the general consensus on why folks bother with audio these days. That and the other factors explain why commercial success continues to elude the Saadhana. The looks are unusual to say the least. Not many dealers carry it. That kills both chance encounters and planned auditions. For money reasons, Rethm trade show participation prior to 2009's HighEnd was mostly compromised by lack of space and hence, not fully optimized demos. Made in India carries no prestige but could well trigger unnecessary concerns based on perception. Lastly, lack of consistent advertising to create ongoing visibility makes this speaker mostly invisible to the mass consciousness of audio.

And yet, Rethm has continuously evolved their approach over a full decade. How much longer can Jacob George be expected to 'waste time' on a project that's seemingly too outré for mass consumption? Having followed his efforts over many years, I know he's fully committed even if he'll never make it big. His architectural main business continues to fund Rethm as a labor of love. Something about that is heroic. The rewards are in the doing. But then there's the occasional punter like your scribe -- and soon Vital Gbezo I reckon -- whose responses to the Saadhana confirm to their maker that he's not alone thinking them very special indeed. Hopefully there'll be a goodly number more admirers over time. The Saadhana deserves them. If you fit their particular psych profile, most highly recommended. Again!
Quality of packing: Very good. Four cardboard boxes with thick foam liner on all sides, speaker modules enclosed in fabric shrouds, metal bases wedged between foam layers.
Reusability of packing: Multiple times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy since not overly heavy but because the Lowther DX-55 now comes preinstalled, take care not to inadvertently pierce it with your finger while unpacking.
Condition of component received: Perfect.
Completeness of delivery: Power cords for active woofer sections not included.
Easy of assembly: None required per se but the two modules must be docked behind each other and on the metal base. This one-time process is a bit fussy but not unduly so and quite improved from before.

Website comments: New and improved.
Human interactions: Always very responsive and helpful.
Pricing: Considering performance, complex build and features, still competitive.
Final comments & suggestions: This is a highly tweaked product made for a very specific listener. Partnering amps can be as micro on the power meter as 2-watt 45s but must be dead quiet and dynamically alert and fast. Side-wall distance can be as little as a half meter but the distance from the front wall should be a few meters. A middle of the room placement or at least 1/3rd placement would be ideal. This is not a speaker for small spaces. Nor is it really for headbangers and bass crunch admirers. It's a civilized speaker for soundstage freaks and energetic projection fiends.

Rethm website