This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Digital Source: Musical Fidelity A5 CD, Esoteric P05/D05 [on loan], Accuphase DP55
Analog source: Acoustic Solid Classic Wood with RB300, Ortofon RB520mkII
Amplifier: Musical Fidelity A5, McIntosh MA2275, Genesis Reference amplifier [in for review], NuForce Icon, Sphinx Project 10
Speakers: Nomad Audio RPDs, FJ OMs, Rogers LS 3/5a
Cables: Zu Varial, Zu Gede, Zu Libtec, Slinkylinks RCA, Cobalt Ultimate Speaker
Power Cords: Cobalt Ultimate, Zu Bok & Mother
Powerline conditioning: Monster Power HTS5100mkII
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics, Standesign stand
Room size: 15' x 30' x 9' opening to 3 other rooms, short wall setup, suspended wood floor, sheetrock walls and ceiling. 15' x 12'x 9' office, long wall setup, suspended hardwood floor. 20' x 20' bedroom, cathedral ceiling, carpet.
Review component retail: $2,000/pr
Some reviews I agonize over for weeks. Today's Ridge speaker assignment certainly was not one of those. Like its maker, the Ridge is very upfront in telling you what you need to know. In the case of the speaker, it translates to easily-heard differences depending on what gear it likes to be paired with and what gear it does not. There's no guesswork involved.

The Ridge is manufactured in New Jersey and distributed by Robin Wyatt of Robyatt Audio. If there was any doubt about Robin's ability to identify truly unique sounding components and match them for utmost synergy, I would only have to refer you to Michael Lavorgna's
RoadTour 3 and 3B which cover in detail all of Robin's systems which, as you would expect, have continued to evolve since Michael wrote his articles. As I went to pick up the Ridges in Northern Pennsylvania, I was lucky enough to enjoy a private audition of the Zeus/Churchill system described in RoadTour 3B. It was every bit as powerful, unlimited and overwhelming as Michael described. The installation of a screen and projector since have added home theater capabilities that are downright scary in intensity.

Over the three Road Tour interactions and subsequent visits, Michael and Robin have become friends. When Robin contacted 6moons for a review of his newly produced Ridge speaker, Michael sagely decided to pass on the opportunity despite the fact that the Ridges are far more in his area of expertise than mine. He wanted to avoid tainting the outcome with suspicions of favoritism and collusion which are so quickly raised by the self-professed internet watch dogs. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did have two espressos and two Dunkin Doughnut munchkins at Robin Wyatt's house while collecting the speakers for review. Although I love coffee and doughnuts, I like to believe my objectivity survived this obvious attempt at bribery.

As mentioned before, the Ridges are hand-made in New Jersey following a Vented Transmission Line design (VTL) made publicly available by EJ Jordan on their website and developed to host the highly regarded 4-inch Jordan 'full-range' JX92S. Widebander would arguably be a more accurate term to describe the 40Hz to 20kHz range covered by the Jordan alloy cone but 40 to 20,000 cycles out of four inches probably deserves a little bragging. Obviously this single driver speaker does not need a crossover of any sort. Yet at only 86dB sensitivity, it does not really play in the same leagues as the Fostex or Lowther horns. However, the very uniform impedance curve varying gently between 5 and 10 ohms as well as the smooth phase angle changes make the Ridge a very benign if not very sensitive load to drive.

The cabinet design being public, the Ridge is not the only speaker using it. The most famous to date is probably the implementation by Konus Audio, popularized and distributed by Sakura Systems (47Labs), which relies on resin impregnation and multiple lacquer coats for a fully resonant and visually stunning cabinet which, at $4000 a pair, they should. An alternative is also offered by Carolina Audio built out of MDF for a far more inert cabinet than the Konus - depending on where your allegiance is on inert or lively cabinets, you can choose between the two. It will cost you the same.

If your allegiance is not yet made or primarily to your wallet, enter the Ridge. At half the price of the other two, it offers a cabinet made of MDF for the back and sides and more lively Baltic Birch for the front panel - potentially the best of both worlds. The modified base also allows for very close wall placement, with the only negative to this design evolution the tendency to 'fall forward' if the base is not mass-loaded with books, bricks or anything heavy (the speakers are normally delivered with short spikes but can also receive 5/8" carpet piecing spikes on request). Checking with Robin Wyatt, he recommended large cans of tomato sauce to stabilize the speakers, the Hunts adding a big bassy American sound while the Barilla has a more liquid Italian flair (that's at least as credible as little shiny stones and digital clocks as tuning devices and it certainly proves that Robin Wyatt doesn't lack for humor). In addition and to finish with aesthetics, the speakers can be painted pretty much any color your interior designer may want for an additional $100 and wood veneers are also available and priced per job.

Speaking of our better halves, mine just fell for the looks of the Ridges. Words like "cute", "tiny" and "matching the bedroom bookshelves" that would never cross my mind in conjunction with evaluating a pair of speakers had me on the double moving the Ridges to our bedroom without even a chance of arguing that it's the worst-sounding room in the house. Thankfully I was allowed to move them back to my office or the living room for a few hours at a time to assess how they sounded in other systems. I have never been so grateful for light speaker construction.

As I have discovered over the weeks, the Ridges are very accommodating when it comes to room placement or even the quality of the room you put them in. From corner loading with the vents facing outwards to inches away from the front wall with vents inward; from a smaller and well damped office to a large and extremely reverberant bedroom; the Ridges managed to pull realistic imaging, dynamics and even bass weight from their single four-inchers. Yet there was no doubt that those speakers preferred being placed about 2 feet away from the front wall for an optimum compromise between boundary reinforcement and midrange opacity. I did prefer the speakers about 6 feet apart with their axes crossing behind me but Robin Wyatt recommends to have the drivers' axes cross about a foot in front of the listener. In that configuration I could not get the imaging to lock and was left with a very diffuse sound of no solid origin. With the speakers' axes crossing a few feet behind me, imaging became more defined and precise although never razor sharp. Whether a side effect of the large baffles or transmission line I don't know but you'll never mistake the Ridge for a mini monitor. An instrument's sound will emanate from a stable area but will never have its boundaries as precisely defined as over the best narrow-baffled monitors. Loving omnis and open-baffle speakers myself, I felt much at home with this aesthetic but it may not be to everyone's liking.

In all cases, the good news is that you can have it mostly your way by tweaking toe-in until you find the presentation you desire. As the off-axis response shows clearly, output in the treble region rolls off sharply (red trace) and toe-in can therefore also serve to titrate the amount of treble energy that reaches the ears. It is not a bad thing to remember since the lower treble is certainly accentuated by a few decibels and depending on the associated gear, can become a little obnoxious.

All in all, the Ridges are very flexible speakers whose limited cone area probably accounts for the much better than average performance in our bedroom where the usual nodes and reflections remained mostly silent even at relatively lively levels. The FJ OMs and their upfiring mid/woofers
make the same room ring like Notre Dame, with echoes and decays lasting for seconds longer than normal. Even the Ridges' side vents, despite their at times boomy bass, managed to remain unobtrusive as long as I kept the speakers a few feet away from corners and walls, relatively easy to do in a 20' x 20' room. Of course, the better sounding the room, the better performing the Ridges will be. They can't offset poor acoustics but they certainly proved that they could make do in a less than ideal room far better than any other speaker in the house, even the Rogers LS 3/5as designed to monitor recording sessions inside a BBC truck.