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Exotic Speaker Roundup AXPONA 2017



  • Product Name: Beolab 90, Soho, Giya G1 Series II, Maracoli, No Limits, Akira, Ultra 11
  • Manufacturer: Bang and Olufsen, Scaena, Vivid, Sadumi Acoustics, Volya Audio, Tidal, Von Schweikert
  • Review Date: May 09, 2017 06:00
  • MSRP: $84,990/pr Beolab 90; $56,000/pr Soho; $68,000/pr Giya G1 Series II; $24,000/pr Maracoli; $33,000/pr (est) No Limits; $219,000 Akira; $295,000/pr Ultra 11
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
Brand Model Price (pair) Design Midrange Woofer Tweeter Weight
Bang and Olufsen Beolab 90 $84,990 3-way active Seven 3.4” drivers Three 10” bass drivers, one 12” bass driver Seven 1.2” dome tweeters 302 lbs
Scaena Soho $56,000 3-way Twelve 3” midrange  
12” subwoofer Nine ribbon tweeters N/A
Vivid Giya G1 Series II $68,000 4-way 3”Aluminum  midrange,
4.5” aluminum mid-bass
Two 11” subwoofers 1” aluminum dome 176 lbs
Sadurni Acoustics Miracoli $24,000 4-way 2” compression driver Two 8” servo subwoofers, 8” horn-loaded upper bass horn Fostex super tweeter N/A
Volya Audio No Limits $33,000 (est) 3-way 5” ceramic 11” ceramic / kevlar 1” ceramic 419 lbs
Tidal Akira $219,000 3-way 5” diamond Three 7.5 bass drivers, five 7.5” passive radiators 1.2” diamond 348 lbs
Von Schweikert 
Ultra 11 $295,000 5-way Two 7” ceramic Four 9” ceramic mid-bass drivers, two 15” carbon fiber subwoofer drivers Two 5” ribbon super tweeters, Two 1.2” beryllium dome tweeters, two 1.2” ambience dome tweeters 800 lbs

In this segment of our coverage of the AXPONA 2017 audio show, we looked at some of the more exotic, unusual, and extravagant speakers that we saw there. These speakers are all on the pricier side of audio with list prices starting from new car expensive and extending to new two-story house expensive. Even people who can afford such speakers will think twice about placing these things in their home.  Let's just say they need the right decor, aesthetically speaking. But those who do find a place for them will be rewarded with a real conversation piece along with great fullrange sound. 

Bang and Olufsen Beolab 90 MSRP: $84,990 / pair


The Bang and Olufsen Beolab 90 packs more technology in its 300 lb aluminum block cabinet than you can shake a sB_and_O_Beolab_90_pair_2c.jpgtick at. It has 18 drivers (seven 1” tweeters, seven 3” midranges, three 10” bass drivers, and a 12” bass driver), and each driver has their own amplifier and DAC. In total, the Beolab 90 has an immense 8,200 watts of amplification for each speaker. The drivers wrap all around the cabinet, but the speaker is configurable so you can determine the directivity of the sound projection. Directivity can even be controlled by a smartphone app, which also has its own room correction equalization program, likely needed since ordinary room correction routines would not optimally handle a strange beast such as the Beolab 90. In room, the Beolab sounded superb and had dynamic range to spare, and the B&O reps made sure you knew it. The Beolab 90 hit hard yet sounded clean. With grille on, it looks like a modern art sculpture, but with grille off, it looks like something that would be giving Dr. Who trouble. I wouldn’t mind owning a pair of these! 

B_and_O_Beolab_90_single_grilleC.jpg      B_and_O_Beolab_90_single_no_grille.jpg


Scaena Soho Loudspeakers MSRP: $56,000 / pair


Scaena brought a new line array this year to AXPONA dubbed the Soho. The Soho uses twelve midrange drivers, each in their owScaena_Soho_pair_angleC.jpgn enclosure, nine ribbon tweeters, and one 12” subwoofer for each speaker. Each midrange enclosure is designed to minimize backwave acoustic radiation from interfering with the cone, and each midrange enclosure is separated from each other with elastomer compound balls so their individual vibrations do not transmit to other enclosures. By having such small enclosures, baffle diffraction problems are reduced, and the speaker as a whole is claimed to have very wide and even dispersion. One interesting fact about line arrays such as the Soho is that the reduction in loudness as a function of distance is halved in comparison to point-source designs; in other words, if you double your distance from a line-array, the SPL drop-off is only half of that of a typical loudspeaker. That, plus the multiplicity of drivers, give the Scaena speakers a tremendous amount of dynamic range. The sound in the Scaena room was superb. The reps were playing some female vocal backed with an acoustic guitar, and the sound was rich, clear, and vivid. 


Vivid Giya G1 Series II MSRP: $68,000 / pair


The Vivid Giya G1 Series II looks more like a musical instrument rather than a music playback system, or in its blacGiya_G1_S2_pair_angleC.jpgk color, almost like a treble clef symbol in musical notation. Though it may look strange, it sounded very good. In my time in the Vivid room, something operatic was playing, and the Giya G1 Series II speakers sounded surprisingly nice. I suppose I was expecting it to sound as strange as it looked, but I found the opposite to be true. The odd appearance isn’t just for show. There is function behind that form. The loopy structure at the top of the Giya is there to dampen backwave acoustic radiation that is generated by the rear side of the cones of the bass drivers. The looped top portion is a tapered tube that funnels the backwave radiation through a narrowing tube that is loaded with damping material. While this still excites cabinet resonances, they are much easier to control than typical loudspeaker cabinet designs. In the lower part of the cabinet the Giya has two 12” bass drivers which are mounted on opposite sides of the cabinet and are also mechanically connected together. This way they impart no rocking motion on the cabinet since the inertia of the moving masses are cancelled out. These are just a couple of the innovations of the Giya G1 Series II speakers, and you can learn more about them at the Vivid website.


Sadurni Acoustics Miracoli Product Page, MSRP: $24,000 / pair


In loudspeakers, there are horns and then there are horns. The Sadurni Acoustics MSadurni_single.jpgiracoli speakers are certainly a member of the later group. They may not be the first image that comes to mind when the phrase “home audio loudspeakers” is spoken, but they do have an unconventional beauty about them. They're a four-way speaker, and what may be surprising to those uninitiated with loudspeaker horns is that lower, large 3’ diameter horn is only for upper-bass output and does not play back deep bass. On the lower part of the main cabinet there are two 8” servo-controlled subwoofer drivers (courtesy of Rythmik Audio) in a dual opposed configuration that take bass below 100 Hz. The 3’ diameter upper bass horn is loading a specially made 8” woofer using a compression chamber and a 4” throat. The horn above that one loads a midrange driver that Sadurni claims to have one of the strongest magnetic flux densities in the industry. The tweeter at the top is a Fostex super-tweeter using a magnesium diaphragm. The speaker is rated at 110 dB sensitive, which may well make it one of the most sensitive home audio speakers available. Even a single watt amplifier can give these speakers an incredible amount of headroom. In my time in the Sadurni room, instead of listening to the usual demo material, we decided on some Fatboy Slim. It may not be the best content to exhibit the finer qualities of a loudspeaker, but on the Miracolis, it was still a lot of fun.


Volya Audio No Limits Product Page, MSRP: $33,000 / pair (est.)


One of the more eccentric speakers at Volya_No_Limits_single.jpgAXPONA was the Volya Audio No Limits set. The No limits speakers are shaped like enormous loudspeaker drivers. They are a 3-way speaker using an 11” bass driver, a 5” midrange, and a 1” tweeter. All the drivers are ceramic and made by Accuton. I tried to ask the Volya representative about pricing, but it was too loud in the Volya room to understand his answer since one of the guests asked them to crank some heavy metal which they enthusiastically obliged. Digging around the internet brings up a €30,000 price, equal to about US $33,000/pair. These speakers do more than just play heavy-metal; they are literally made from heavy metal and weigh nearly 420 lbs each.

Also in the Volya room was an individual Bouquet speaker on passive display which brought together audio equipment and visual art in a more feminine manner. The Bouquets are individually hand-painted by a Ukrainian folk artist in a style known as Petrikovsky painting. Painting the Bouquets is done very carefully, and, because if this, each pair takes from four to six months to complete. Why choose between having speakers in a room or a painting when you can have both? The design on the Bouquets were lovely and intricately detailed.

                                   Volya_Bouquet_1c.jpg    Volya_Bouquet_2c.jpg


Tidal Akira Product Page, MSRP: $219,000 / pair


If there is an equivalent brand to Rolls-Royce in audio, it most certainly is Tidal. Tidal manufactures some of the most luxurious audio devices ever conceiveTidal_Akira_emblemC.jpgd, and few manufacturers can match them for opulence. The Akira loudspeakers certainly carry on in this tradition. They are filled to the brim with high-value materials. For example, did you think the diamond tweeters in the B&W 800 speakers were decadent? Well, you might want to sit down for this, because the Akiras have a 5” diamond midrange driver, and not diamond coated either; the cone is made of 13 carat diamond through and through. The binding posts are made of silver, as are many of the electrical components of the crossover such as the capacitors, resistors, and inductors. The cabinet is made from a proprietary material that Tidal calls Tiralit, which Tidal claims has the rigidity of hard materials like metal but with the resonance absorbing behavior of soft materials like wood. Probably the only way that the Akiras could be more lavish is if the cabinets were made from solid gold (but perhaps we shouldn’t be giving Tidal any unwholesome ideas). The sound that I heard while I was in the Tidal room was quite good; a blues recording was playing and the imaging and detail was crisp and well-defined. I definitely wouldn’t mind having a pair of Akiras in my listening room, over-the-top luxury construction notwithstanding.


Von Schweikert Ultra 11 Product Page, MSRP: $295,000 / pair


The Von Schweikert Ultra 11 speakers had to be the most discussed speaker at AXPONA this year. Every yeVonSchweikert_Ultra11_single2c.jpgar there is always one manufacturer who brings their totally over-the-top, excessive flagship speaker, and for 2017 Von Schweikert decided to be that exhibitor. This nearly $300k speaker set was quite intimidating and resembled a gloss black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey when viewed from a side profile. They did sound very good and had headroom to spare. If Tidal are the Roll-Royce of speakers, these things would be something like the Bugatti Veyron. They are very powerful, with an array of drivers nearly adequate to fill a small concert venue. From the middle going outward of this ‘expanded MTM’ design we have a 5” aluminum ribbon super tweeter, two beryllium dome tweeters, two 7” ceramic midranges, and four 9” midbass drivers. On the back side, there are two 15” subwoofers (looks like they used Dayton Ultimax drivers), another 5” ribbon super tweeter, and two more dome tweeters aided with wave-guides. Each 15” subwoofer driver is given its own 1,000 amplifier. There are all kinds of different ways to adjust the sound of the Ultra 11s and obviously they are intended for larger rooms. The Ultra 11s sounded terrific, but there is something vaguely sinister about their appearance, as though they could be the subject of a Stephen King story, but perhaps that is simply my overactive imagination at work... I hope.

VonSchweikert_Ultra11_singleC.jpg     VonSchweikert_Ultra11_rear.jpg


This article concludes our coverage for AXPONA 2017, and we decided to go out with a bang. The speakers covered here are not for everyone, but even for those who could not afford them or would not be able to fit them in their house, one can't help but appreciate the interesting designs and ideas put forth by these manufacturers that deserve attention. These products expand the range of possibilities about what a loudspeaker is and what it can do. They are all on the exotic side and approach problems of speaker design in unique ways. None of them sounded bad at all, although there were those whose sound I preferred over others. Room acoustics of the hotel could have had a major influence there, as did the differing music content, so I can not at all fairly judge the sound of speakers in the brief moments that I listened to them. I can only fairly say that I would not mind spending more time with any of them.I hope they all make a reappearance at next year’s AXPONA, because I certainly intend to.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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