Austrian/German distributor Kircher Hi-Fi dispatched to me a burled Walnut loaner in semi-gloss. The same €13'500/pr would buy various other veneers, even RAL lacquers. High-gloss demands an extra €1'500. The centrally fixed mid/bass driver distinguishes itself with an uncommon profile. It's the 20cm Fostex Fe 208EZ Sigma, a banana-fibre widebander whose extra stiff hyperbolic/parabolic shape is popular with hornspeaker designers; not that Proestakis uses his stock. One of the modifications he can talk about is a post treatment with three unspecified substances which merely add 0.3g to the moving mass but enhance stiffness by a factor of 10. He also doesn't run his Fostex wide open but attenuates it with 6dB per octave at 2'500Hz.

That's where a Titanium dome 2.5cm compression tweeter takes over. It loads into a 22cm Tractrix horn whose brass coupler to the cabinet's inside enables height and tilt adjustments. The brass plate also decouples the horn from the enclosure via a felt spacer to isolate it from mechanical mid/bass perturbations. A pot can adjust the tweeter's output by ±2dB, useful for overdamped vs. lively rooms. Unfortunately our loaner's pots scratched badly when turned. I couldn't hear consequences during playback but still felt compelled to inquire. Athens quickly hitched a white peace flag. The scratching is perfectly normal. Their auditions simply preferred less common wire pots whose side effect is mechanical scratching whilst turning them. Sorted.

The terminals are massive brass affairs as are the quite pointy adjustable conical footers. Total weight of the assembly is a just about manageable 42kg but sheer size suggests that two extra hands will still be appreciated during setup. Rough-in will be quick since neither front nor sidewall distance is overly critical with the built-in off-axis attenuation of all horns. And this floor-firing back horn resists boom even with corner placement. A bit of toe-in will be helpful to fully focus the musical action between the speakers. Now a few words on suitable amplification. With their higher efficiencies, horns are often ideal partners for valve amps, particularly those of the low-power persuasion like single-ended 2A3 or 300B. At 97dB/W/m/8Ω, the Marvel fits that profile but Mr. Proestakis wouldn't exclude transistors even if he does favour circuits with fewer gain stages and lower feedback, i.e. sonically sophisticated amps of often not ultimate driver control [higher output impedance; natural transistor candidates could come from the FirstWatt stable – Ed.].

At 240wpc, my DSP-controlled class A/D Devialet D-Premier didn't seem to fit that frame. But since it was in the rack, it became the instant witness for proof of life. That it would remain leashed up beyond such a quick initial check was likely due to its Class A genetics. The clearly pre-conditioned Marvels played it surprisingly liberated and easy, sharply focused and suitably bassy right off to promise much. The French super integrated could stay on a bit longer. After a few day, things did mature with better more seamless integration of individual sounds. At first, the Brahms Piano Trios with cellist Tanja Tetzlaff had exhibited swing but also felt a bit as though the three virtuoso players were on a loosely knit Jazz outing. By now the trio had meshed into locked unity and felt as though the players paid far more attention to each other. Every instrument now contributed to a fabulous group sound which far better expressed the compositional wholeness.

Next in line was Steinmusic's Stateline Signature integrated. At €2'700, this deck from Mülheim an der Ruhr manages a tidy 30 watts per channel but won't hesitate to be judged against more established competitors if mated to the right speakers. And the Marvel seemed just right. Where the Devialet ruled with a tight leash to render particularly voices slightly strict, with the Stateline the buttons opened to free the virtual breath. From this arose more natural timbres which broadened the palette of sonic nuance. This held true also for Stacey Kent's latest Tenderly with its fragile vocals reporting on what our wispy heroine has been up to "in the wee small hours of the morning". Not endowed with a very wide range, each small throaty wobble or vocal quiver becomes all the more important and the Marvel horns didn't seem to swallow up any of these fine signs.