During the 3-day Granada meet, I spoke with two importers who represent—or did—Magico. Both shook their heads at the typical Soulution/Magico show demos. Independent of each other, they felt that those demos did little to further the speaker's prospects. In fact, they both questioned Magico's setup skills. One of them confessed that it personally took him a year to learn how to set up these electronics and speakers to make sound concomitant with their price, for public events in his own country. The other outright dismissed the Swiss electronics in this context. He instead champions Vitus. My intent here is not to dismiss specific brands. It's to underline that no matter the pedigree, everything in audio relies on careful calibration. Everything comes with a flavour or personality. That needs happy mates which play to or bring out its strengths, then complement or cancel out its weaknesses. What exactly constitutes the latter isn't just or ever objective. It's foremost personal taste. Talk about moving targets.

For many years, Wilson exhibits with transistors had many detractors. Once those heard the same speakers with Lamm tube gear, quite a few had come-to-Jesus moments. Which reminds us. Critiques in isolation—x speaker is bad or sounds like so—are immature and not based on a complete assessment. By the same token, no single design philosophy may claim superiority or exclusive rightness. Stick around long enough. You'll hear brilliant and poor demos of them all. If there's no other guarantee in audio, this one is etched in stone! That's important when one discusses a new or different way to execute a loudspeaker. If it's effective; or hits all a critic's hot buttons; it's reflexive to bestow upon the concept higher rightness. This makes everything else wrong or not quite as right. That's silly. It's important also to mention that many hifi shoppers don't decide purely or even primarily on sound. Many shop on agreement or sympathy with certain concepts which to them make the most sense. At the very least, those concepts guide their selection process. Things opposing them don't ever make it on their list for sampling and consideration. If you sympathize with the dead-box notion, a live-box variation will seem technically wrong. Why bother? And vice versa, ad infinitum.

The curious thing is that dead boxes can sound like their description: dead. This means overdamped, mechanical, dry and prickly. Relatedly, live boxes can sound fuzzy, too strongly coloured and congealed. One may hear their box tuning indiscriminately imposed across everything as though through tinted glasses. It's why former contributor Wojciech Pacula's reference system combines Soulution control with Harbeth give. It's why I prefer our solid tonewood speakers with FirstWatt transistors not tubes. If you like your sound 'in the middle' but use transducers with more personality, you'll need a counter personality in the electronics to stay on path. It's this creative mix'n'match which for many audiophiles is their means of self expression. It's how their notions on the ideal sound get manifested and presentable.

From Julieta's tech descriptions, her designers value a middle path. Their drivers mount to a maximally inert quasi amorphous structure which, unlike wood or metal, exhibits no overt grain. As Siltech's Edwin van der Kley Rynveld explained to me at a show, the suspended aluminium particles of Corian & kin act like stressed members of a bridge. They exhibit particularly effective resonance control.

For Julieta, a rigid structure becomes solid base off which two moving drivers launch their waves. Meanwhile rear radiation activates the internal tonewood structure. After all, the loudest part of any box speaker is inside its enclosure. Here half the output is confined to a cubic volume far smaller than the room. With Julieta, captive air pressurization releases through two rear-firing ports. Their output adds deliberately seasoned sonic elements. It's this carefully dosed injection of musically consonant instrument values which sets it apart from what I call the concrete bunker brigade; those designers who believe that a speaker enclosure must be a Rock of Gibraltar bank vault. As it happened, both of Kroma Audio's presentations in Granada used expensive Ypsilon monaural amplifiers. Those combine small-signal tubes in their input stage with transistor outputs. From a matching perspective between amps and speakers, we'd probably call this a meeting of two slightly voiced partners, not a clash of extremists simply chosen for 'opposite polarity'.

To complete the backdrop against which Julieta is judged, here are four competitors I've tested: the €9'900/pr Apertura Kalya, the €14'690/pr EnigmAcoustics M1, the €15'000/pr Crystal Cable Minissimo and the €16'200/pr Kaiser Acoustics Chiara. All of them include custom stands and sell for half or less. Of them, the Kalya is alone in using MDF, albeit with two strongly curved side panels. The M1 gets Birch Ply, aluminium and black glass. The Minissimo does German Krion. The Chiara sports tankwood. Only it extends a cabinet into an integral stand of the same material. To play Julieta's general league—or above—honours go to a $26'500/pr Magico Q1 or $49'500/pr Wilson-Benesch Endeavour. For a compact 2-way, that went well beyond my own event horizon. TIme to strap on a richer man's perspective.

The TNT shipment from Spain to Ireland took six days. Delivery was in two mitred MDF crates with foam liners and a neoprene-type bag over each speaker/stand assembly. Before I got busy with the electric drill, Blondie the cat had to read the fresh-off-the-press Granada Daily. Absorbing the olfactory headlines took her just a few minutes. Then she was off to better things and I got into the boxes.

With another speaker review wrapping up in the big system, the newcomers got duly frogmarched into the entertainment room. Here they temporarily displaced our usual German Physiks HRS-120 to limber up from their journey and let their wooden bits acclimate to the new far lusher surroundings. Cueing up the Flamenco/Qawwali shindig between Miguel Poveda, Duquende and Faiz Ali Faiz on DVD quickly showed these boffins to be ultra resolved and articulate even cold out of their coffins. We'd use them here for a few days watching the Shetland BBC series before taking a more serious pulse in the big music room. Initial suspicions with an Oppo BDP-105D, Esoteric C03 set to "passive" no-gain mode, Job 225 and a pure-silver Ocellia loom were that I'd probably go after warmer gear like our Pass Labs XA30.8 with Fore Audio DAISy1 valve converter for the real test. Noteworthy already at this early stage was excellent off-axis response. Being used to the full-bandwidth German omnis here sets a top benchmark in a discipline where Julieta far from embarrassed herself. She also got high marks for very finessed layering on ambient fill as it shows up behind and around film dialogue. 'Ominous mode' LF energies which soundtracks mix in nearly subliminally to suggest dread came off uncurtailed. That's not the bombast of submarine rocket launches but the barely-there stuff which smaller speakers can easily miss. With its outward flare toward the back, on both sides and the top to only leave the front/rear baffles in parallel, this cabinet obviously locked in very low lossiness to magnify very fine detail across its bandwidth. Such absence of common box-talk fuzz made for very sorted staging and all'round high intelligibility. We found that particularly useful on the Shetland episodes whose often thick Scottish brogue can make following each word challenging for non natives. Finally, the speakers looked very elegant and fit our décor to the 't'.