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Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Audio Note CD-3.1 [on loan]
Integrated amplifiers: Audio Note Meishu, Audio Note Ongaku and Jinro [on loan]
Cables: Crystal Cable

Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 7m W x D with 3.5m ceilings connected via an open staircase to a 400 cubic meters upstairs.
Review Component Retail: €20.000/pr introductory price, €24.000/pr thereafter

Little did we know what lay ahead when we received the review solicitation for the Pnoe hornspeakers. We scanned the website of the Greek manufacturer and learned that the Pnoe—pronounced pno ay and meaning wind or breath of life—is a huge and foremost slippery smooth design. The people in Athens spent almost a decade perfecting their dream speaker without compromise.

Many large back-loaded horn designs are made of wood and boxy at many junctures. That's understandable. There are limits to having practicality and desirability meet. This however is not true for Arcadian Audio. Their pursuit goes well beyond practicality to instead aim for perfection. What they wanted was the smoothest pathway for the wave front from the back/throat of the speaker to the final exit/mouth of the horn. The only way to create such a path is by building a continuously expanding round duct like a wind instrument, say a tuba. Beside the mathematical challenge to determine the optimal flare rate, curvature and length of the horn there was also the minor challenge to materialize the design off the drawing board into a real three-dimensional manufacturable structure.

Arcadian Audio has access to manufacturing resources able to fulfil the complicated tasks of constructing a huge round cross-section hornspeaker. The basic building block is fiberglass enveloped in composite sandwich skins. Many trials and errors led to the best material combination to end up with the necessary structural rigidity and musical cooperation. The final structure had to be free from resonances originating from within its mechanical construct.

Many available drivers already found their way into various commercial or DIY single-driver horn designs. Lowther is one of them and popular. Arcadian Audio however did not choose Lowther but after many listening sessions selected the German AER MD3B driver. In combination with the particular horn materials the Pnoe champions this particular driver matched best musically and electronically. In combination with the hornloading the driver performs at 100dB sensitivity and presents an amplifier-friendly 16Ω load.

We already mentioned that the Pnoe is huge. On paper the dimensions are 2.20 meters high, 100cm wide and 90cm deep. That's quite imposing even in the imagination. A small(ish) room would be out of the question but we are fortunate enough to have a very large listening room. There was a wrinkle in the plan however. The final destination was on the 2nd floor. We measured the stairwell. With a weight of 52 kilos, it seemed theoretically feasible to get the Pnoe into the upstairs room. The combination of design, materials, size and weight had us accept the review solicitation.

It took time to conclude the final arrangements with Arcadian Audio and the transport company but on a somewhat hazy Wednesday the doorbell rang at 07:00 AM. Two gentlemen from the Dutch Jansen Value Added Transport announced that they had a delivery. We have received many loudspeaker deliveries over the years so large card box boxes are no surprise. The biggest issue we had regarding packaging thus far was a pair of Quad ESL 2905. Their slip box made it necessary to unpack the speakers in the hallway of our apartment at that time. The indoor ceiling was simply too low. But when the tailgate of the delivery truck now lowered we were awestruck by the size of the wooden crates. Fortunately one of the added values of transport company Jansen is that they were to store the crates and return with them when the time for a pickup arrived.

Another added value of Jansen is that they insist on installing the goods they deliver. They do not merely dump the crates on the sidewalk, have you sign the receipt and take off wishing you good luck. They offer more. The frame of our front gate is 1 meter wide and plenty sufficient for normal use but not for the Pnoe crates. 90 centimeters of depth make for the smallest dimension of the horn. The mouth is 1 meter wide. Now add padding material on all sides and you end up with a very large crate that would never make it through our entry. There was no other option but unpack the Pnoe on the sidewalk and move the nude speakers inside.

When the crates were opened a fair amount of Styrofoam had to be removed to unveil a still veiled Pnoe. For extra protection the Pnoe came dressed in a kind of elastic body suit. Uncrating this 52kg speaker was not as simple as it would have seemed. The speaker’s surface is glassily smooth. A hard grip becomes very hard to purchase. The jumpsuit made it more impossible yet. That cover had to go as soon as the Pnoe emerged from the crate. Ever so gently the delivery men unpeeled one Pnoe from the crate and passed it through the gate with great care. The next hurdle was the front door. Ours is standard sized. At 92cm wide it left only 1cm of clearance for the Pnoe. Fortunately their bottom which is the heaviest part sports two short square feet near the horn’s mouth and one longer one at the back. These handles made steering and carrying the horn a bit easier.

Both horns were uncrated and temporarily stored in our hallway which doubles as atelier. The time had arrived to meditate on the stairs leading up to the living room. Was there fuzz in our navels? Between railing and wall we had 90cm plus a few millimeters and ample room above the railing. We figured that where 90cm proved too tight, lifting the speakers above the hand rail would do the trick. The delivery men frowned instead. “These are not going to make it” was their conclusion. Armed with a spring ruler they again examined the stairs with the same head shake. These men are used to handling all manner of valuable and awkwardly shaped goods like grand pianos. Yet these Greek hornspeakers were too unwieldy to manoeuvre without chancing damage. Now what?

The Pnoes sat in a hallway of fair size at nearly five meters wide, almost 7 meters long and 3.5 meters high. The ceiling is a dropped affair and the tiles—how appropriate—are Rockfon. The open stairwell connects the hall with the 400m³ upstairs living room. We were very lucky to find this house, really.

One thing lacking in the hall was appropriate audio gear in case we decided to leave the Pnoe downstairs and convert the entry into a temporary listening room. Over coffee with the delivery men the idea of the makeshift second listening room began to materialize more and more firmly. The cubic volume and acoustics of the downstairs space were fine. A few extra ASI Sugar Cubes on the glass panes of the front windows and some reorganizing of the tables would do. The only unavoidable disadvantage would be that the two horns had to sit close to each other to not block the front door and interrupt plain living. It could work. Aw shucks. We waved the delivery men goodbye who took the empty crates with them in their truck.