Srajan Ebaen, Marja & Henk
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Rethm Bhava [on loan]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: starting at €12'500/pr [ex VAT] depending on finish

Not ubiquitous! "My name is Igor Kante. I am the owner of the Ubiq Audio company. Last year we started with our first product, the Model One loudspeaker. Since then we have signed up more than 20 distributors and already collected some nice reviews. We tried to make a different kind of speaker for which our inspiration was the old Altec VOT A7 and AR 9LSI. Why Altec and AR instead of Sonus faber or JMlab, you ask? We wanted to make a speaker which could play at low and high levels, do Rock or classical equally well and which would never be harsh, analytical or boring. Finally, we also wanted to build a beautiful object. Not an easy task.

"I must admit that my English is poor and that I dislike writing emails but - it was time to contact you. Congratulations on your work and honesty. You really are a hard worker. I am like you. I believe in computer music and solid-state electronics. My company is an old distributor for Sonus faber, Avantgarde Acoustics, Nordost, mbl, Burmester, Clearaudio, Hegel, BAT, ARC, McIntosh and we've been in business for more than 25 years already. I can safely say that we tried many different things from some of the best brands before we set out with our own design. We started that because in our small country of Slovenia, we can't sell much of our import high-end products. Our market is too small. If you can review our speakers, we could send you the Model One in the Duelund version. I believe they could work very well in your new room."

When Magico rose to prominence, they immediately championed sealed loading quite as though to counterpoint the established ports of Wilson. When Stenheim introduced their large reference speakers, they did likewise. That makes sense. Ambitious brands often target a perceived genre leader to create their own identity by way of an alternate (better?) solution. And their sealed distinction as point of differentiation has served them well. It avoids the group delay of ports which, by design and definition, are ringy devices. Their technical term Helmholtz resonators spells it out.
Duelund xover

Sealed bass thus sports superior transient response. It also avoids port-induced room interactions which can lead to boom zones in or outside the sweet spot. But since there's no free lunch, sealed alignments must make up in cubic volume (aka size) what they lack in the strategic amplitude boost of ports to go equally low and loud. And if port loading is used to increase speaker sensitivity rather than F3, a sealed competitor may need more amplifier power because it's less efficient, here 88dB. If you're not a Magico or Stenheim buyer/fan but still desire a current production not vintage sealed-box speaker for its superior timing and damping, your options are slimmer today than they were during the heydays of Acoustic Research and their acoustic suspension boxes.

With that, things fall into place. The Ubiq is a sealed speaker. That'd force it to be rather sizeable if tuned for <25Hz reach*. To remain a domestically acceptable 42x37x118cm WxHxD, the -3dB down point is 40Hz. Viewed from current conventions, it also celebrates "bigger than necessary" drivers** to be a 12-inch three-way with an 8-inch mid and 1.5" tweeter. To complete strolling down memory lane, it says a decisive "hell no" to metal or ceramic diaphragms in favour of paper and polyester.

If that conjures up visions of gas-was-cheap era US muscle cars; or cool dudes rocking out to JBL and Cerwin Vega; none of it would be too far fetched. From its concept, we expect the Model One to go loud. We expect it to be tonally chunky and dynamically boisterous. We expect it be extra potent in the vital upper bass of the musical engine room aka power zone where a groove's rhythm makers of bass and drums work out. And finally we expect the sort of image density and tonal substance which for a decade already has Zu stuck on their favourite 10.3" widebander, the two Heco Direkt models on big Kraft paper drivers. We don't expect a bright, lean, pinched, off-the-rez hyper dissective sound with small-woofer bass and polite dynamics.

None of it makes our retro Slovenian Ubiq Audio boxes ubiquitous. Rather, they stand out as rare alternatives to modern sound's reliance on small hard long-throw drivers which are augmented by ports and often multi-paralleled. And by putting its woofer close to the floor for deliberate coupling, the Model One also wants to avoid typical upper bass suck-out. Cue Steve McQueen's Ford Mustang GT from Bullitt. It celebrated a different kind of green than today's environmentally conscious correctitude. Bada vroom!
* Unlike a ported design's steep 24dB/oct. roll-off, sealed bass rolls off at a much shallower 12dB/oct. That can mean rather more useful lower in-room bass than the anechoic spec suggests.

** A Keep-It-Honest feature which I wrote for Berlin contributor John Darko's site riffs on this very subject at more length. A smaller version of the Model One is already on the books. It will use the same tweeter and midrange and even its woofer will be of the same range and catalogue, just a 10" version optimized to work in half the cubic volume. The rendering at left shows the Model One Mini's size [€9'950/pr] relative to the Model One. There's reportedly even a Model Two coming down the pike which increases width and height to 58 and 140cm respectively to accommodate a—hold on to your wig—18-inch woofer. Funkin' hey. This warrants a YouTube clip of just the right movie snippet from Ruthless People.
At left, the actual driver complement with the mask removed; at right, the finished look.