We are proud to announce our new partnership with world class cable manufacturer Swiss Cables from Entlebuch, Switzerland. We encourage you to take a moment and read over their innovative design philosophy, and core manufacturing principles.
In a high resolution and time-correct audio system, the quality of cables will prove as important as the quality of the active chain components.
Swiss cables products are the result of a complete blank sheet research approach, taking no pre-existent design paradigms for granted and leaving no stone un-turned to find better solutions and offer our clients with genuine sonic advancements and ownership value.
That said, we strictly believe that all theory is void when not confirmed in practice - clearly audible. We are confident that a few minutes listening to the Swiss cables products will convince even the most discerned listeners that these cables establish a new performance benchmark, offering true reference sonics at unheard of favorable pricing.
Selected Technical Highlights
Copper based custom alloy, produced by advanced casting in protective gas environment, tempered to resonance-optimized hardness, conductor surface treated for optimal field propagation, signal flow and energy transfer.
Custom field-balanced conductor geometry, yielding optimal field orientation and signal propagation while avoiding standing resonances found in conventional cable designs.
As a consequence, the signal flows more freely with minimal energy transfer losses and bandwidth equalization effects.
Advanced air-dielectric design, which eliminates MDI* and signal-reflection causing dielectrics and manufacturing methods, thereby avoiding the occurrence of multiple distortion sources and signal altering mechanical compression, damping and uncontrolled frequency curtailing effects found in conventional cables.
*MDI, micro discharge interface distortion. the micro discharge interface distortion effects were discovered - already decades ago - by Dr. Pierre Johannet, a researcher at the french national electricity institute in the context of very comprehensive signal processing research. In summary, MDI results from very steep, high-amplitude ultrasonic spikes which occur during all electrical signal propagation.
At frequencies relevant to audio, this discharge energy can take on sine wave character with significant impact on the audio signal, and can show up as measurable audible distortion by inter-modulation. swiss cables® in addition, MDI creates positive langevin ions (electrically charged particles in the room air), which, besides causing physical discomfort, have been found to obstruct natural sound field propagation in the listening room.
Research into MDI has shown that the majority of modern dielectrics, including the much lauded teflon, plain or foamed, are associated with an increase in MDI.
Listening-selected premium connectors and manufacturing methods
We have reviewed numerous cable termination technologies and countless connectors of different design and material composition to select those which provide the purest signal and overtone preservation, octave to octave energy equilibrium and energy transfer.
Unsurprisingly, we found that simplistic formulas like "minimum metal“ don´t do the complex realities justice and can easily be annihilated by the choice of a single unfavorable manufacturing method or materials. the new Swiss cables signal- and power-line cables are designed for listeners who value true fidelity performance and know it when they hear it. For those, a few minutes with these new generation products will be sufficient to recognize the groundbreaking performance and extreme value offered.
"The role of a quality Hi-Fi rack system should be to provide support and a form of isolation and/or coupling to combat vibrational distortions in order to allow the full potential of your components to shine. In the case of the new SGR Audio Model V Statement racking system, the above mandate has been met to the highest degree. The additive elements of six isolation techniques, most importantly the viscoelastic decoupling, the Corian ‘Energy Sink Isolation Pads’ inserts and the superbly solid machined aluminium supports, in my opinion, have proven themselves to provide worthwhile sonic improvements over the excellent last-gen flagship rack (and every other rack I’ve had in-house, for that matter). Sonically, of particular importance are the exactness in terms of low level detail, the gains in tonal and textural nuance and the added precision in image density and placement.
The above is enough of a clincher in itself, should you be weighing your options when considering the purchase of a top-level racking system. But there’s so much more on offer with the Statement rack. It features solid engineering principles built into its design, it’s beautifully styled and finished (aspects which also apply to the company’s lower rung options), is offered in natural or black aluminium with attractive platform insert veneer options. It’s the result of fabrication with a fervent eye to detail. What’s more, it’s built in Australia by a company which is pulsing with increasing power and interest internationally.
The SGR Audio Model V Statement Hi-Fi racks are a winner of a design and are now staying in situ as an essential component within the context of SoundStage! Australia HQ’s reference system."
- Edgar Kramer
Full review here
The new flagship Innuos music server takes Digital Audio to a new level, building on the award-winning ZENith SE.
Double-enclosure linear power supply
• New power supply architecture designed in
partnership with Dr. Sean Jacobs.
• Separately enclosed AC/DC conversion stage
to isolate transformer vibration and EMI
• Regulation stage within main system
enclosure to shorten the clean DC power path.
8 independent power rails
• Reduces electrical noise generated by
regulators’ voltage conversions.
• An individual dedicated power supply for each
Custom designed components
• Innuos-designed USB board with a dedicated
5V power line.
• Independently powered 3ppb OCXO clock for
higher precision and lower phase noise.
• Ethernet reclocking.
• EMI-Optimised motherboard exclusively
designed for Innuos.
"Finally, there are those who always wonder about any catalogue's priciest and best. Here we recall Cristian Anelli's earlier statement about being so impressed with Lamm gear because, regardless of whether it uses tubes, transistors or both, to him it always expressed the exact same 'house sound'. He said that this mirrored his own philosophy for AQ. Comparing his pre-xHD Formula to La Voce, the latter was clearly cut from the same cloth indeed. Sure, its thread count was lower to be less suave, smooth and refined. But for many, the difference in price relative to the models' fundamental overlap should make La Voce S3 the clear favourite of this lineup. In short, don't overlook The Voice just because it sits at the bottom of the range. It drives on the same high-octane discrete R2R as its pricier siblings."
Full review here
We are proud to announce our official Distirbution partnership with SGR HiFi Racks here in the United States. Featuring 6 levels of rack isolation technology in a beautifully executed design, SGR rack's deliver the highest level of performance for your audio components.
Please visit www.sgrhifiracks.com for more information.
"Acoustic Quality Formula xHD DAC has now climbed up the ladder and reached the plane, where the sense of realism is more closely mimicking the real thing. Such, exhibited performance is usually reserved for the bigger and more expensive "players", so this alone makes a Formula Xhd DAC a serious contender at a "sensible" price.
For what it represents sonic-wise, for its modularity and upgradability and nonetheless for its given pricing (compared to the rivals), I'm happily giving out the Mono and Stereo Upper Echelon Product award."
Matej Isak - Mono and Stereo
Full review here
"The fantastic innards showed not a drop of stray solder and instead, large traces, clamps and bolts which were exceptionally orderly. The core circuit is based on multi-stage parallel filtration across seven main blocks. Phase control, surge suppression, DC blocking, compensation battery charging and entry-level filtration are all found in the starter module under the biggest hood next to the IEC socket. Then the current passes through highly conductive and massive C11000 cathode-copper rails to a double buffer loaded with high-quality compensation batteries designed by GigaWatt. The goal here is to increase current efficiency for non-linear loads like power amplifiers and decrease any power differences between the filter's input and outputs. Past this stage and prior to the outputs again via massive copper rails sit three separate sections powered in parallel. Each one is a bit different to work with different loads yet all sport RLC blocks with GigaWatt's proprietary filtering and decoupling capacitors topped with iron-powder core filters."
Full review here
"Aqua Acoustic Quality’s Formula xHD is an extremely fine-sounding DAC whose warmth and ability to decode files of extremely high resolution should win it many admirers. Many will also applaud its designer’s rejection of digital filters, oversampling, upsampling, and MQA. Thanks to the Formula xHD’s ability to smooth over digital’s rough edges, I don’t hesitate to recommend that it be auditioned by anyone with $17,000 to spare, and whose system suffers from bright or harsh sound, or who values, above all else, the warmth and bloom often ascribed to analog sources."
Jason Victor Serinus
Stereophile - June 2018
"The sound was lovely, warm and free, with fine depth...a delightfully non-fatiguing winner. - Jason Victor Serinus
"This combination of gear sounded incredibly smooth, resolving, with the right amount of tonal weight and timbre. Instrumentation and voices are precisely localized in the soundscape while effortless relaying quick and heavy dynamics." - Jay Luong
"The Well Pleased A/V room also had me shaking my head in disbelief. I really hit it off with Mark Sossa, the man behind Well Pleased. Charming, full-of-life, and blessed with boundless energy, Young Mr. Sossa hit one out of the ball park with his globally-sourced system: Rethm Bhaava loudspeakers ($4495 - India), Qualiton a50i tube integrated amplifier ($7500 - Hungary), Innuos Zenith SE music server ($7000 - Portugal), Aqua La Voce S3 DAC ($4750 – Italy), Gigawatt PC-3 SE EVO+ power conditioner ($6500 - Poland), and a fine Anticables loom (cable prices not listed - USA). While hardly cheap, the Well Pleased system delivered musical value all out of line with the asking price." - Maurice Jeffries
"The sound was beautifully warm and free from resonance. It floated a fine soundstage with exceptional depth and width." - Jack Roberts
"Another system perfectly suited for a small- to medium-sized room was displayed by Well Pleased A/V (wellpleasedav.com). I was very taken with the Rethm Bhaava ($4,495), a modest-sized speaker with an almost-fullrange 7 inch driver back-loaded to a labyrinth and supported by two eight inch drivers with their own power amp (rethm.com). Will it play metal rock? Maybe. But it will do brilliantly at classical and vocal music, and it’s neither huge nor expensive. If you move from the little room with Falcon speakers, the Bhaava might be the next, and final, step up. The Qualiton A50i ($7,500), an integrated tube amp running KT120 devices, looked and sounded good. (audiohungary.com)" - Richard Weiner
"The big bonus with a monitor like the Qln is that mechanically, we have lower box talk and smaller reflective surfaces to not feed our ears with constant hints of sonic origins. Psychologically, there's a smaller barricade to seeing those musical events which occur right behind the speakers. The more visually obtrusive enclosures get, the more they stand in the way. They take up space which our ears (try to) insist is really occupied by instruments. Closing our eyes removes this conflicting sensory message. But listening with our eyes open, there was no argument that the Signature 3 seemed to stage even more freely than our narrow floorstanding Audio Physic 4-ways. Time alignment, physically inert construction and compact cabinetry all combined to fully liberated 3D programming by the Staging Unlimited Corp. That equals a closer approximation of 'no boxes' with fewer contradictory subliminals. It's why soundstage freaks would love these Swedes when set up accordingly. They really do disappear."
Full review here
"The Telemann is a very well-engineered product and I have to admit I like the simplistic look and smaller form factor. The inclusion of galvanic isolation and a linear power supply is a huge plus. If only some of these higher priced DACs had linear power supplies or the option to use one.
I had a great time listening to the Linnenberg Telemann DAC. Its separation/layering and imaging capabilities are the best I’ve heard from a chip-based DAC. Depending on which digital filter you choose, the tonality of the Telemann could go from neutral and a bit on the brighter side of neutral. It’s smoother and isn’t abrasive or digital sounding like most of the chip DACs I’ve heard in the past. It also has the lowest noise-floor of any of those off-the-shelf DACs.
If you’re looking for a warm/lush/sweet/intimate/cozy DAC, the Telemann won’t be a good fit. However, it’ll pair beautifully with preamp/amps with tube stages and denser/richer sounding components. Regardless, even with solid state amps, I was able to listen for hours without fatigue. The Telemann’s explosively holographic and dynamic nature is simply addictive. It makes the speakers disappear and fills the entire room with wonderful music. Classical, acoustic, and small ensemble recordings sound particularly good. There are gains with higher resolution files such as DSD which has more finesse, incisiveness, and musical articulation. There are just more details in the bends and twists in the music.
That said, there’s plenty of low-end rumble and rhymic delight across all genres. The Telemann never loses its composure when played loud either. I think one of the beauties of this DAC is the seven adjustable filters which allow you to tailor for your system and sensibilities.
The Linnenberg Telemann is insightful, highly resolving, and snappy. Aural presentations are excitingly clear, airy, and pristinely dynamic. You’ll get a real sense of the acoustic space the recording took place in. Most importantly, musicality doesn’t get lost in the transparency and you’re always kept engaged and entertained."
Read more at https://audiobacon.net/2018/03/24/linnenberg-telemann-dac-review-a-german-excitement/#E8TBKrQR22iWUiB0.99
"That's the downside of top-class hifi. Like a constantly narrowing path, more and more potential mates disqualify themselves one way or the other - if one has opportunity to explore options at different performance strata. To 'stay on' path becomes more and more selective. That's how LinnenberG's Liszt walked it. At 200 watts, they turned out to be rare beasts of multiple refinements." - Srajan Ebaen
Full review here
La Voce S3 Discrete DAC | the evolution of technology
The La Voce DAC is a modular design, so aqua releases the new D/A conversion module for La Voce S3 with Discrete R2R Ladder DAC architecture.
Owners of the original La Voce can upgrade to La Voce S3 Discrete DAC. The update for La Voce consists of the following hardware / firmware modifications:
1. FPGA / decoding board cod. P608, high-resolution up to 384kHz PCM and DSD128
2. R2R Ladder resistors board cod. P607
3. USB board cod. P901 with new firmware
4. hardware modification of main board P601
5. hardware modification of I2S / USB board P603
Please contact us for availability and pricing.
In Episode One, I had listened to the previous drivers in the Bhaava for two hours, then removed them and installed the new drivers. In the first two hours, many wonderful things were happening, but there was a nagging dry, papery coloration, only noticeable on female vocals. I let them rest over the weekend, pondering: is it the whizzer? Is it the transition from main cone to whizzer? Is it a reflection of the rear wave off the rear of the top of the labyrinth coming through the paper cone? Will it go away with break-in? I all but dreamed about it over the weekend.
Yesterday, returning to the same system as before, having neither touched nor moved anything, it was gone. Perhaps the drivers just needed a rest after flying halfway ’round the world. Jetlag? Who knows? But it was gone from the first minute.
As the Auqua HiFi La Scala MkII Optologic DAC, (hereafter referred to as the La Scala; I’m tired of typing all that), Shindo Monbrison and Shindo Cortese F2A warmed up, extraordinary things began to happen.
The musicians and instruments appeared across the front of the room, hanging in the air like holograms, but not as some translucent, anemic waifs from beyond, but rather fully kitted out with blood, breath, bones and sinew. Not typical of widebanders/FR. (Looking at you, Lowther, Fostex.)
I tend to sit on the couch, reading, writing, or fending off the dog, and music plays, but I’m not necessarily caught up in it, especially when I’m putting something through initial break-in as I am now. That’s not happening with the Bhaavas. Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, SRV, all DEMAND my full attention. Not only are voices and instruments unique in timbre, dynamics, pitch accuracy, etc, differences in recording and mixing declare themselves with a clarity I don’t think I’ve experienced before, certainly not at this price level. Each album is unique in its approach and execution. Audio Note refers to this as comparison by contrast. Never mind comparing what you hear to some abstract absolute; that’s nonsense. The ability to communicate the differences in all aspects between recordings tells you a very great deal about what kind of a job a component, or system, is doing.
What I’m hearing from the Bhaavas, what I’m hearing from this system, tells me that its doing a truly exceptional job. I think this is what I’ll be using to evaluate the recording sessions with The Royal Boys, a local bluegrass/Americana/roots trio, next week.
In the meantime, I’ll just settle in, give the recordings I have on hand my full attention and ENJOY!
Full review link here
"The Rethm Maarga is a unique speaker with little competition. Yes, there are other speakers based on wideband drivers, but none that I know of that offer its combination of high efficiency, low-frequency performance, and value. The Maarga is an extraordinary combination of sound and vision. I found it well suited to music lovers such as I -- those whose stereos are in the living room, not tucked away in a dedicated listening space. When they weren’t turned on, they were lovely pieces of furniture with high Wife Acceptance Factor. When they were turned on, they provided lively, enthralling sound that was immersive, real, and completely non fatiguing. Given the Maarga’s fantastic sound quality at low volumes, it should also be well suited to the music lover who wants to listen late at night as the family sleeps. The Maarga might also be the ideal speaker for the music lover already smitten with low-powered amplification and/or tubes and who seeks a high-efficiency speaker at a moderate price (for the high end). The Maarga positively bloomed on that first watt, and needed no more than that to fill my living room with sublime sound.
That’s not to say that owners of high-powered solid-state amps couldn’t also fall in love with the Rethm Maarga, but such overkill would miss the point. If a big, beefy power amp is your thing, the Maarga’s allure will likely escape you. Think of a pair of mature, well-broken-in Maargas driven by a high-quality, cleverly designed, small-batch, low-watt amp as a long, complex, and magical marriage -- a wonderful, many-layered mystery tour to your favorite musical places. I found that the Maarga’s strengths -- microdetail, speed, soundstaging, coherence, layering, nuance, presence, depth -- came alive with just the tiniest bit of power. With a pair of Maarga's wisely driven by such an amp, prepare to exit the audio-upgrade merry-go-round.
Maarga is Sanskrit for path; the word is often used in the context of seeking the path to enlightenment. Is the Rethm Maarga your path to audio nirvana? I’ve found it to be mine. A must-listen for the music lover with worthy amplification."
. . . Tom Mathew
When was the last time you had an epiphany in your audio life? Something that put a rift in your paradigm shift? A real game changer, like ping pong to rugby? I had one just a couple weeks ago involving the Inuos Zenith MkII server and the Aqua La Scala MkII Optologic DAC.
Let me back up and get a running start at this. From around 1984 until 2002, I tolerated CDs. I didn’t do any serious listening with them EVER. Then, from ’02 until about ’15, I actually enjoyed CDs via Audio Note transports & DACs, but still leaned heavily toward vinyl for serious listening, (with the exception of one show in Milan when I found myself neutral between the two formats. It only took a $250,000 transport/DAC combo to get me to that point!)
Around 2015 I started trying to use computer files at shows so as to not appear outdated as buggy whips, but feeding my MacBook Pro through an SP/Dif->USB converter and on to the Red Book DACs was inconvenient as hell and seriously unsatisfying, uninvolving, all too easy to ignore in favor of either vinyl or CD.
For the last year or two, I’ve tried to get interested in music servers, but reading about server this, end point that, network bridges, power supplies, exotic Ethernet cable, etc, made my eyes glaze over, followed by pitching forward into my laptop. Now, I started with computers in the punch card and acoustic phone coupler modem period, serving as a teaching assistant in a grad level Computers in Communication course at BU, so it’s not like technology overwhelmed me; I just wasn’t interested in running a Higher Ed gauntlet for the privilege of playing music.
Then, in the last couple of months, several dominoes fell over in rapid succession. First, I bought an Innuos Zen Mini server to use at home. The promised ease of use was really my entire motivation. That part was well satisfied. Import a CD? Load it into the slot. The Mini will convert it to FLAC, scoop up metadata, note titles, etc, organize it into your onboard terabyte library and spit the disc back out when it’s done. Roon is an easily implemented option, (although Innuos’ proprietary library system is very good), TIDAL is at your fingertips, and you select your music via your smart phone or tablet and wifi from anywhere in the house. If it finds something weird about a disc during importation, the Mini puts it in quarantine where you can review and correct it later.
I was taking an absolute minimalist path at home: the Mini fed the internal DAC in my Cambridge Audio integrated, which then propelled signal along 30 year old zip cord under the carpet to a pair of ancient Snell Type K speakers sitting on the floor. Eek! Still, what I heard told me that the Mini was providing clean, clear punchy signal to the DAC/amp combo. The Mini beat out my MacBook Pro on musical points and thrashed it on ease of use. Two thumbs up, but for the Forge, I wanted more.
So I bought the ZENith Mk 2. Goodbye switching, wall wart power supply; hello linear power supply with ultra low noise regulators, Nichicon MUSE caps and medical mains filter. Dual ethernet ports with isolation transformers. Fast, silent SSD storage. Quad core Intel CPU, 8GB RAM, 4GB in-memory playback. Ultra low noise USB output. Yum. Contemplating all this plus a purpose-designed OS, I begin to see why a tricked out, kludgy laptop might not be the best solution anymore.
While the ZENith sounded wonderful with various DACs feeding the Leben CS-600 integrated amp and DeVore Fidelity O/93 speakers, the penny – no make that a pound coin – really dropped when I received the Aqua La Scala MkII Optologic DAC.
I bought it for its discrete R2R ladder converter, FPGA decoding, non-oversampling, no digital filter, fully discrete, valve-MOSFET, Class A, no negative feedback analog stage, etc. A big plus is its modular construction. The Optologic Conversion System, which first appeared in the flagship Formula DAC, was integrated into La Scala’s most recent upgrade and older units can be upgraded. (Take that, digital obsolescence! I hereby resign my component of the month membership.)
But the reason it’s never leaving is the resulting sound and what it does for music. 50 hours in, this combination is hypnotic, immersive, compelling, detailed but not etched or edgy, punchy but liquid, PRATty, then languid by turns, swinging, swaying or marching as required by the music.
These 2 boxes contain a world of clever tech all slavishly devoted to music. Will they replace my analog sources? No. Am I spending a lot more time exploring on TIDAL, browsing and buying on HDTracks and enjoying it all on a deeper level than I ever expected? Yessir!
By the way, you are cordially invited to Old Forge Studio to hear what I’m struggling to describe!
“Kick back and let your ears roam free!”
Review can be found here
"The Linnenberg Telemann is an absolute top DAC, which could be underestimated due to its inconspicuous appearance. Even if one has to forego a fully machined housing and other attributes that many other manufacturers clearly consider indispensable, and that would significantly increase the price of the Telemann, it is important to do without: technically and acoustically, the Linnenberg DAC operates at a level that only a few devices can reach. It offers a combination of tonal neutrality and highest resolution, is sound and thus transports the maximum sound quality that allows the recording. In subtle but audible nuances, the sound character can be adjusted to your own sound ideals by choosing different digital filters. The built-in volume control and the ability to "jumpering" the cinch output to the analog input, and thereby controlling another source, creates additional flexibility. In a reduced setting, the Linnenberg Telemann can thus replace an additional preliminary stage."
The profile of Linnenberg Telemann:
- The Telemann reproduces the bass with forcefulness, taking care of an exceptional control and accuracy, the precision is exemplary, the ability to differentiate enormously. Where there are only low notes in other components, the Linnenberg still finds structures, timbres and information.
- The same can be said about the treble. There is clarity, tidiness and precision. Finally, everything falls back on the recording here.
- The mids are tonal in a balanced relationship in between. Everything is right here too, nothing is over- or under-represented, but it sounds enormously clear.
- Generally: resolution, fine-tuning, detail reproduction - these aspects take the Telemann to a new level. Unbelievable, what he is able to elicit normal 16-bit / 44.1-kHz recordings. And of course, he appreciates HiRes material, but you do not even need it.
- Rhythmically the Telemann mimics the model boy. He plays with perfect timing, everything comes straight to the point.
- Like all devices that reproduce music in a very differentiated way, the Telemann does not "make" any rousing dynamics. He also sounds incredibly differentiated and makes the finest nuances audible. If necessary, however, it comes to impressive level jumps and batch changes from ppp to fff. Rough as well as dynamic, everything is perfect.
- The spatial representation is also beyond doubt. He illuminates large concert halls deep and deep, with precise positioning of instruments, the proportions are right on live recordings, it is impressive how the Telemann can arrange the audience around one another and thus make everything "right" in the atmosphere.
Qln speakers and I go way back; I owned a pair in the early eighties, but my pair procceeded the Classic Signature model. I purchased mine from Mike Shotts’ Soundtracks audio store in Auburn, AL, probably back in the day when Bo Jackson was still running up and down Jordan-Hare field at Auburn if this gives any of you college football fans a pretty good reference on time. The picture above shows the Qln Signature models from the Classic Signature through the current model, the Signature 3.They were black truncated pyramids with a very stunning midrange. So when Mark Sossa of Well Pleased Audio Vida sent me the wonderful Qualiton A20I to review, and when I went to his website, I was very surprised to see that he also imported Qln Loudspeakers from Sweeden. Then at RMAF, I got to hear the new Qln Signature 3 and immediately asked for a pair for review.
Just a little more history to tie these speakers to the company’s great past. Qln started in 1977 with an idea about how a loudspeaker should be designed to best reproduce the soundstage and music. This fundamental ambition has been there in every iteration of these speakers over time. In the early 80’s, they were available in Europe, North America, and the Far East, however, there were some years when their availability in North America was rather spotty.
Starting in 2003 through 2012, the Qln brand was owned by another company making products under the brand. In 2013, the original owner bought back the Qln brand, and Qln is now back and is making an all-out effort to continue to make the unique products they have been known for over the years. Qln likes to say, “We want you to listen to music, not to loudspeakers.” This is a goal that I agree with completely.
The present designer’s approach seeks to refine the Qln Signature platform that was already an elegant performer. Their design goals were to further reduce distortion, increase presence, timing, timbre, level of detail and micro/macro dynamics, regardless of level, scale and complexity of program material. This is a worthy, and I would even say lofty goal for a small, two-way speaker.
The cabinet itself is a big part of any speaker design, but back in 1980, the Qln cabinet work was quite innovative. The new Signature 3 uses a slanted solid 28 mm baffle that provides close to perfect time alignment between the woofer and tweeter. The cabinet’s rounded edges help avoid baffle diffraction while the slanted cabinet suppresses any standing waves inside the cabinet. In 1989, Qln developed a unique Qboard® product of superior damping sandwich technology to come as close as possible to eliminating structural resonances. A whitepaper on Qboard® technology is available online here.
On the new Signature 3, Qln has completely redesigned their crossovers. They are hardwired with high-end, oil-filled capacitors and baked coils to avoid any internal component resonances. Another goal was that the crossover would have perfect timing throughout the entire frequency range.
The bass/midrange and treble drivers have been custom developed by Danish driver manufacturer, Scan Speak, for Qln. The Signature 3 offers the latest in 21st-century driver technology compared to the Signature 1 and 2 speakers. The bass and midrange are played by a coated Kevlar driver with a built-in copper ring in the magnet system. The goal is to offer a more symmetric drive and higher dynamics in the midrange while concurrently suppressing intermodulation distortion. They call their tweeter an Illuminator tweeter. The tweeter’s large roll surround and textile dome diaphragm is said to provide a flat frequency response above 30 kHz with outstanding off-axis dispersion. It uses what they call an AirCirc magnet system.
The internal cabling is Qln’s own special design that uses a 12-pcs solid core, pure copper wire design with polypropylene isolation produced in Sweden. They use non-metal terminal plates and pole screws to avoid induced currents. Speaker terminals are made of pure massive copper coupled with easy to use grip-friendly screws.
When I get a speaker in for review, there are two responsibilities I am very aware of. I need to be sure that they are set up correctly and that they are matched to an amplifier that lets me hear the best from the speaker, but more on this second point below. I am sharing the picture from RMAF here to point out some important things about setting these speakers up. First, notice the speaker stands. These speakers need really good stands that are sand-filled, or even better, filled with a mixture of sand and lead shot. They produce too much bass to sit just any metal or wood stand as they literally need to be held still by the stand.
Next, notice the placement. No, they don’t have to be quite that far from the wall behind them as in the picture, but they do need lots of room to breathe. It is important to get them away from the walls, get the toe-in correct, and, this is important, do not put a tall rack or a television between them. You don’t need to be afraid to pull them way out from the walls. I know with speakers this size you might be worried about the bass if you pull them out like this, but don’t worry. They have plenty of bass, and by the way, really good bass. Placed correctly, the Signature 3s produce a sound that will make you look around the room for the subwoofer, and for that matter, where the speakers themselves are located. To do this, however, they need plenty of uncluttered space around and behind them.
I used the Signature 3s with several amps, the Electrocompaniet PI 2D integrated amplifier that outputs 100 watts per channel into eight ohms, the Pass Labs XA25 and the Pass Labs XA 30.8. I also hope to do a part II of this review where I use it with the Digital Amplifier Company’s MEGAschino at 1000 watts per channel into four ohms and the wonderful Qualiton A 50i I heard with the Signature 3s at RMAF at 50 watts per channel.
Of the three amps I had on hand when writing this review the Electrocompaniet integrated specs out with the most power, but the Pass Labs XA30.8 sounded the most powerful. Don’t get me wrong, the Signature 3s with the Electrocompaniet PI 2D sounded great together. The Pass Labs XA 25 sounded good, but I felt it and the Signature 3s were cut very much from the same sonic cloth and ended up being a little too much of a good thing.
Just like in the story of the “Three Bears,” the Pass Labs XA 30.8 was “just right.” It had plenty of power and took control of the bass in a way that made the bass sound better than it does with most floor standers. The midrange was alive, and the system had a great sense of aliveness. So, for this part I of the review, I used the Pass Labs XA 30.8.
My reference system consists of a pair of Teresonic Ingenium XR-Silver speakers driven in this case by the Pass Labs XA30.8 pure class A stereo amp. The linestage duties are carried out by an Emia Remote Autoformer. The source is my AMG Viella V12 turntable and the AMG 12-inch Turbo-Tonearm. I used the DS Audio Master1 Optical Cartridge. All the cabling was Duelund except for the tonearm cable and power cables which are the Audience Au24SX. Everything is plugged into an HB Cable Design PowerSlave Marble power distributor.
The overall sound of the Qln loudspeakers is quite remarkable. Their ability to produce a “reach-out-and-touch-someone” soundstage was one of the best I’ve ever heard in my house and that includes some mini monitors that cost well over $20,000. Their inner detail and imaging were also in the same class as speakers that cost six figures. They had dynamics, scale and slam that you would be thrilled with from any speaker of any size. Yet, they have a sound I seldom hear from stand-mounted speakers other than those from Audio Note. They have rich harmonics and beautiful timbre.
Well, let me get on with more details. The Signature 3s produced a very coherent midrange for any speaker with a crossover that I have heard. They are not the very last word in transparency, but they make up for the tiny bit they miss by focusing the listener on the performance instead of on the audio traits of the speaker. A speaker’s ability to resolve small amounts of information and keep them separated from each other and at the same time produce a coherent sound is one of the things that elevates good speakers to great speakers. The Signature 3s let you hear inner detail with an ease and grace that never shouts out “aren’t we detailed and transparent.” So often, speakers that are described as very detailed are really more etched-sounding than live music ever is. I’m glad to say that these speakers reproduced detail in a very natural and musical manner.
I always spend a good bit of time listening to male and female vocals as well as piano music when doing a review. Voices, both male and female, sounded beautifully natural, which is not so easy to do as many speakers that get the female voice right make the male voice sound thin. There wasn’t the least bit of a nasal tone or over emphasis of sibilance.
Pianos, like most instruments, benefit from the coherency of this speaker. When listening to piano music, it is easy to hear both the attack and the decay for an appropriate time. The extended top goes way out beyond my hearing, but it never sounds bright or etched. The Signature 3 is a speaker that gets the tones of music right, and that makes listening to them a very enjoyable experience.
The bottom octaves of music played on the Signature 3 speakers were simply wonderful to listen to if the speakers are positioned correctly in the room. Most people would say they are shocking for their size, and that could be true. Except, I didn’t find the bass shocking in any way. It was just musical, and I didn’t say wonderful for their size. That’s because their bass is wonderful for any speakers of any size.
I do admit that I have different taste about how much bass is needed for a lifelike, emotional musical experience, but I can’t imagine many music lovers who would feel the need for a subwoofer. If you do, I don’t think they would be hard to blend with something like a REL, but most people who visited me while I was listening to them asked where was the subwoofer. The Signature 3s hit a nice niche between the sound of speakers with rigid aluminum constructed cabinets that do not resonate at all and live cabinets like those of Audio Note or my Teresonic speakers. The speakers from top to bottom were fast and quick, but with a nice bloom. They do not sacrifice the bloom of the two octaves below middle C to achieve their tight bass. They allowed the bass transients in the lower range to have details seldom heard other than in live music. Their leading edge was just about a perfect balance with their decay. They let you hear the sticks or mallets as they struck drums as well as they let you easily discriminate the location of each drum but still hear the decay of the drums. Likewise, the finger work on a stand-up bass came across fast, taut and realistically deep.
The dynamics were exceptional for any speaker, not just for a small speaker. When listening to Muddy Waters sing the blues, I was very satisfied with the sound. This was in part due to the speakers’ dynamics and micro-dynamics. Adding to this, I have never heard his voice sound more articulate, and it had a very special sound. Another thing that made Waters sound so good was the Signature 3s’ scale. Now, they didn’t have the same kind of scale as the Teresonic Ingenium XRs, but that’s not because they don’t have scale as good as those speakers, it’s just different.
Those of you who read my writings regularly know that sound staging isn’t the most important thing to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good one. When it comes to soundstage specifics, different audiophiles surely are looking for different things. For time’s sake, I’m going to divide them into three types. First, there is the huge and powerful type that if placed in a large enough room can produce a “they are in your room” soundstage. These speakers usually produce a soundstage that extends behind, in front and to the outside of the speakers. Type two are speakers, normally planers or Walsh types, that seem to have the music float up and out of them. They produce a very big, spacious and natural soundstage. The drawback with these is that sometimes they lack specificity. This type of soundstage often sounds whole and very coherent, though. With type 3, the speakers are capable of producing a soundstage that hangs in the air behind the speakers and to the outside of the speakers. These speakers seldom have sound that comes from in front of them. If this is done really well, it seems like nothing is even coming out of the speakers, and surely the sound is being produced by some unseen speakers behind them. In fact, non-audiophile visitors often ask where the speakers that are playing are located. This is the kind of soundstage that many audiophiles “go gaga” over. I understand why, but if it’s not done very carefully, this type of soundstage can be very distracting from the music. Done correctly though, this kind of soundstage is very captivating and very addictive.
It is this third type of soundstage that the Signature 3s produce, and they do it exceptionally well. I’ve spent a lot of time with some of the classic speakers with this kind of soundstage, and these speakers do a magical job of producing this soundstage with none of its weaknesses. The soundstage is huge and coherent; I wish all speakers had this ability.
I have only two caveats with the Signature 3s, the first is that they really need to be set up well out from all walls. This isn’t unusual with mini-monitors, but it will rule them out for some people. The second caveat is their price, $6,999 is a lot of money for a pair of speakers, so be sure you have room to set them up and equipment that is up to their caliber of performance. Having shared these two things, I still promise you these are exceptional and that while there is plenty of competition at this price point, I promise you the Qln Signature 3s are among the best. I look forward to sharing with you how they sound with a couple of other amps soon.
Impedance: 8 ohms
Amplifier requirements: 25-250 Watt RMS
Sensitivity: 87 dB SPL 1 Watt 1m
Low frequency performance: -3dB 42Hz
Cabinet: Dual density Qboard®
Terminal: Single wire
Dimensions (HxWxD): 370x265x365
Weight: 12,5 kg each
Finish: Walnut, White satin, natural oiled Oak