A threesome duo from the Netherlands. Over a relative short period, we had opportunity to review two Dutch loudspeakers which share some quite remarkable similarities. We talk of the Grimm Audio LS1be and Æquo Audio Ensis. Both manufacturers have their stomping grounds in the same town of Eindhoven which became known worldwide for originating Philips. This year the company celebrated its 125th birthday over which period they had a lead role in transforming the Eindhoven area into the Dutch high-tech center of today. With its renowned technical university and many Philips spin-offs like chip machine manufacturer ASML, the area also exudes international glamour.

So it isn't strange to see innovative products coming out of Eindhoven. Both of our speaker makers exploit cutting-edge techniques to reach their shared goal of designing and building the perfect loudspeaker. Both arrived at a three-way loudspeaker with active bass and extra attention to high-frequency processing. There the similarities end and each design goes its own way. Grimm Audio went with an extra wide baffle while Æquo opted for a very narrow one. The beryllium tweeter in the Grimm LS1be is equipped with a CNC'd aluminium waveguide with a symmetrical shape while Æquo's soft dome speaks through an oval lens made from artificial stone. More Æquo tweeter trickery is added by a semispherical phase plug spring loaded via carbon rod to very gently exert pressure on the dome membrane. A backward rake of the baffle ensures time alignment of tweeter and 5" midrange. Adjustable feet under the loudspeaker offer personalization of the sound in the listening position. A bit more tilt and the sound will be a tad tempered. Grimm went fully active with time alignment just like the xover handled in DSP and nCore-based amplification for their tweeter and midrange.

Grimm also went active and electronically controlled for their upfiring subwoofer. A separate box between the speaker legs contains that driver and its electronics including nCore power and unique digital motional feedback technology [a digital servo]. Their placement propagates the low frequencies evenly. Æquo went non-digital for their bass. Just like Grimm, their woofer is housed in a sealed cabinet but their bass driver fires sideways at an angle relative to the baffle. Being mirror-imaged, the listener has a choice for woofers in/out. Toe-in determines the angle at which the subwoofers fire. There are two further adjustments possible in the analog domain. One dials in room size; the other bass balance relative to wall proximity. The latter offers compensation for natural bass amplification by nearby walls which together with the floor can form an effective horn.

For our reviews of each, we had the luxury of our 100sqm living room with high ceilings. Here we could drive the speakers to our own maximum SPL, ringing ears to be avoided at all costs. Some experimentation with toe-in and inward/outward firing subwoofers led to the conclusion that whilst Grimm's recommended toe-in is quite steep, it was the way to get the maximum from the LS1be. Ditto for the Æquo Ensis' recommended toe-in. We honoured that angle but preferred the subs firing out. At the recent Dutch X-Fi audio show, both companies hosted large rooms filled to capacity on a regular basis. Large rooms with some 30-50 listeners are a tough cookie for any system to deliver its message. All the bodies in the room absorb a lot of energy and the loudspeakers need plenty of volts to energize the air volume. In the Grimm room, Guido played mostly vinyl. With the complete system any LS1be is, turning the volume up or down was the only possible 'tweak'. Of course this setup duplicated their customary steep toe-in and had been tweaked before the doors opened. Over in the Æquo room, the Ensis looked positively tiny; too tiny to get the room rockin' properly. But rock out this system could and did. Assisted by an SGM2015 server putting out DSD512 from local disc or Tidal into a LampizatOr Golden Gate DAC, this hardware was followed by a Bespoke Audio passive preamp, then Mola Mola Kaluga power amps for more nCore control.

Guido Tent of Grimm Audio

Both loudspeakers have garnered our Blue Moon award. Both cater to the seasoned music lover. One simply aims at the music lover who already went all out before, has tweaked to his heart's content and possibly exhaustion to now just want to select a source and turn the volume up or down. The other aims at a music lover who wants just a bit more control over the peripherals.  Both offer one thing in common: peace of mind that this could be the final loudspeaker (at least for a very long time). While their avenue of approach isn't identical, clever engineering and hi-tech solutions birthed in Holland's Eindhoven have arrived at two fantastic solutions to compact speakers. Both offer full bandwidth and adaptable in-room performance that delivers in average listening rooms, not just dialled-to-the-max dealer demos. Sometimes being Dutch and going Dutch is a thing of pride indeed. Today's takeaway message might be that fully or at least partially active speakers are a very effective solution. In these examples it has matured well beyond basic pro speakers to become fully audiophile-approved objects of desire. Eindhoven to the rescue!

Æquo at the Dutch X-Fi show