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Image-HiFi Review of the Auditorium 23 SoloVox

(translated from the original German)

Auditorium 23 Hommage SoloVox

by Roland Strength, photo: Rolf Winters
Test report from image hifi No. 59, 5/2004

High time for a new provocation - the last one dates back already four years!

But I suppose I will not succeed to get you in rage as I did in image-hifi no 33. After my report about the Rondo speaker of A 23 the discussions went pretty rough, what was reflected only very incomplete in reader letters. And the stories producer observed not without amusement how the opinions jumped between enthusiasm and incomprehension, sturdy threats - one even wanted to withdraw the author from writing any longer - and, God be praised, interested tolerance.

But now, four years after, we find us in an entire different situation: Widerange units are so to speak fit for society. And not just few of those who would have liked to get their gun or to declare the tester for totally crazy are stating now to have it always known and to quasi have it invented. An effect not really unknown to the tester, it was just an iteration of what had happened to him some years ago with low output tube amplifiers.

Also at A 23 one enjoys a certain popularity in concerns of Rondo, but meanwhile with a laughing and a crying eye, because some fans of this unusual speaker are going so far to enthusiastically plagiarize this technically high ambitious construct. By the way, an enterprise that will not be more than a nice attempt; the deeper secrets of the Rondo don't reveal on the first sight and just not at all on photos. Certainly the plagiarizer benefit from a helpful human peculiarity: being able to judge the own workmanship only in exhausted transfiguration.

Would it really be that simple, also the inventor A 23 chef K.A. and the magician in woodwork N.G., would have let follow a "bread-and-butter" model on their meanwhile just no longer contested artwork since the Rondo speaker can't just be considered as a discount offer.

To play the ball much lower was consistently the defined target of the Frankfurt creativ-connection, who well did not think about to simply find a cheaper production for the same speaker or even - as usual - just to breed out a smaller layer of a "top-model". Aside from the necessarily simple kept DIY-suggestions which are offered to users of the French fullrange unit, an affordable finished speaker was desired which is able to represent the abilities of the Salabert-drivers; one whichs enclosure must not unconditionally be a resonating one as those of Rondo.

What now has developed of this project looks very different, though also here the principle of a baffle has been chosen. And, of course, again heretical thin wood has been employed, but not resonating in the way as it does at Rondo.

Under the new name "Hommage" is planned a series of speakers to come who's first representative is named "SoloVox" - for adepts a reference to a glorious past when, according to the conviction of A23, the masters of speaker building were operating a bit more clever then nowadays. Looking from the rear the SoloVox shows again the bronze basket of its fullrange unit, but integrated in a, well, "appliance" like "two wings", which define a certain sonical disperse.

As well as the Rondo speaker the SoloVox, mounted on a integrated stand, can't be measured with the valid principles in speaker building. And as a further difference to Rondo, the light weight SoloVox, in comparison to customary speakers, is placed on spikes with a minimal slope to rear. Because of its driver SoloVox belongs again to the 96 dB-group.

Against all expectations - but understandable if one imagines the sound wall unfolded - the driver is able to provide low frequency enough to give the SoloVox entirely convincing weight. A weight on which such a balanced sound arises, totally free of breaks and so entirely in the inner context that the widerange legend finds its confirmation in the most beautiful way. Even in the most elaborate 1 "multiways" the crossovers between the units are not completely to eliminate, the more since often entirely different drivers are wildly mingled.

Also here the connoisseur will not miss any tweeter, since the little miracle called PHY-HP is able to produce highlights and atmosphere even when you have decided to put the stereo triangle ad acta. The coloration - a very sensitive point of mine - is shining in contrary to the majority of widerange units as clear as fresh fallen snow. And like already Rondo the SoloVox serves qualities in illustration which are to diagnose even without adhering at your listening place. In contrary to the provoking 2 instrument body requires the newcomer no sufficient distance to the rear wall, it's planned with regard to smaller rooms. It can find its position close to the wall where it enfolds a big picture in which it becomes entirely invisible and disappears. Even virtual sound sources which can be located to 99% in one of the channels are produced as part of a homogenous occurrence instead of staying disturbing at the membrane. Simply spoken, if you were on the way with closed eyes, you'd rather knock down the speakers than to locate them - absolutely fascinating.

The mentioned picture SoloVox draws - if desired - also beyond the stereo basis. And actually, if one wants to emphasize one of the many chocolate sides of this speaker, it's the ability of illustration, which lets arise nearly awful precisely entire landscapes in sound. In this point SoloVox may probably excel even over the Rondo, which takes in the listener with its incredible emotional qualities. Unfortunately the SoloVox doesn't put its hat no less into it....

The fact that the A23 crew probably has overtaken themselves and has mixed up the hierarchies could lead to a broad grin, because SoloVox is nearly half the price of Rondo. The author, who is married with Rondo since more than 4 years and still equipped with that certain smile that normally would make any escapades impossible, were not disinclined for an adventure the first time. Not at least for the reason because as well the capabilities of differentiation as the 3 dynamics in touch lets one become very reflective, the more since it sometimes exceeds even over the big sister whose limitations are anyhow far beyond usual borders. She serves a bit more volume in low frequency, 4 draught and weight.

If I were asked to find any faults on this new concept the only thought that comes in my mind at all is that a bit more weight in low could be fine in case the speaker is placed a bit too far from the rear wall. A matter of taste, and certainly easy to compensate with the right amplifiers.

Entirely independent of its price the SoloVox is a musical instrument of highest class, blessed with much more fascinating potential and naturalness than many of those tons weighing hightech monsters of five digits pricing. Decidedly suitable for small rooms the speaker makes already a lot of fun with tiny amplifiers, but is also capable to present the values of most sophisticated electronics. And already at very low volumes fully "there".

1 (speakers employing 2 and more units)

2 Rondo

3 f.e. the touch of a piano keyboard (not sure how to express)

4 expression ???

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Tone Imports is the North American Importer and Distributor for AcousticPlan, Auditorium 23, EMT, Leben Hi-Fi, LigoLab, Line Magnetic Audio, Sentec, and Shindo Labs