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With Arcadian’s Michael and Nikolaos all the way over in Athens, the Pnoe in our place, their crates in the south of Holland and a show coming up in Rotterdam, logistics became key. One, a hotel close to the show needed booking. Two, transport of the horns in their original crates had to be organized to be picked up at our place and transported to Rotterdam where we in turn had to be on time to accept delivery in good order. Having a trusted transport company made things easier but to get the desired delivery men familiar with the speaker’s idiosyncratic handling requirements already is not easy with any fairly large company. It worked out very well in the end however and the Pnoe were transported to Rotterdam on schedule and unpacked in the large—very large—foyer of the Doelen concert and congress complex.

While all these arrangements were in full progress—and believe us, such an endeavor takes more time than expected—we had ample occasion to listen to the horns in combination with first the Audio Note Ongaku, later the Jinro from the same UK company. The Ongaku is a beast. Weighing about 45 kilos, this integrated is a whopping 66cm deep. Width is comparatively modest at 30cm and height is 28cm. Placing the amp on any audiophile approved standard rack is out of the question but a mover’s dolly makes for an ideal alternative. The hard nylon wheels provide very small contact areas with the floor and being casters they make moving around a piece of cake. Ongaku’s weight is mainly due to the fair amount of iron in the transformer cores which are wound with 4N Audio Note silver. There are a few kilos of silver wire, Tantalum resistors, a handful of Black Gate electrolytic capacitors to get the two NOS 5R4WGB rectifiers, two NOS Telefunken 6463 drivers and a pair of New Old Stock General Electric 211 in the output stage working in tandem. The combination delivers around 25wpc and is available at near €90K euro which also gets you five line-level inputs.

We connected the Ongaku on its dolly to the Pnoe with long lines of Crystal Cable. On the input side an Audio Note CD3 was commissioned to active service and attached to the amp via Nanotec interconnect. We listened to this combo for many hours but even heavy swapping of cables never really let the genie out of the bottle. It could have been the near 16Ω load presented to the 8Ω amp outputs or maybe the all-silver concept. In any case there was a definite mismatch resulting in dry, grainy and sometimes compressed sound. But we were very lucky and could swap the Ongaku for its all-copper Jinro sibling. Based on the same footprint and chassis, the Jinro sometimes goes by Baby Ongaku. It lacks the lacquered copper top plate and underneath the silver transformers and wiring. Instead Jinro uses high-quality Audio Note copper throughout and is finished in a stylish eggshell black. This more modest use of materials reflects in a price tag down to ‘just’ €20K.

Because we had tubes at hand, we used the NOS GE 211 from the Ongaku on the Jinro to join its two 5R4WGB rectifiers and 5687 drivers. In the Jinro the Pnoe had a much better companion. Where the Ongaku had too many disagreements, the Jinro was a better team player and the previously encountered graininess and compression were gone. Over in Greece Arcadian Audio’s Mike builds his own amplifier based on the 300B [below]. Out of curiosity we thus shlepped our Audio Note Meishu downstairs. Equipped with WE 300B, this integrated has undergone certain Peter van Willenswaard modifications. Once hooked up to the Pnoe, the first note already spoke of an ideal match. The typically open, transparent and ever so slightly rounded Western Electric 300B sound combined with a wide and deep image was neither hindered nor altered by the horns. The wideband and thus crossover-less design and smoothly flowing wave emission path formed a perfect complement.

While happily listening to the Pnoe with a wide range of music, in the back of our heads gnawed the question what ancillaries the Pnoe should be matched with for the show. Our Meishu was too off standard and possibly underpowered. Next we hoped to draw little attention to accompanying gear to keep the full spot lights on the horns. In one of the many contacts we had with show organizer Tom Gosselaar, he told us about how happy he was with the all-in-one Devialet D-Premier DAC/preamp/amp. That conversation triggered the rest of the setup. Keeping to as clean and clear as possible, a combination of D-Premier fed from a PS Audio PerfectWave transport would make for a complete system of only two electronics. Connect all with ultra-thin Crystal Cable and Bob’s your uncle!

The main rationale for Crystal Cable was its light construction. The Pnoe use Eichmann CablePods binding posts high up on their backs. Any heavy and/or inflexible cable puts undue strain on those to risk breakage (ask us how we know). Dutch Devialet distributor D&D is also Crystal Cable’s man. He too would be present at the show. That simplified logistics, never mind that D&D could also lend a rack. Show co-organizer Multifoon could provide a matching silver PWT. To cite ‘Hannibal’ Smith, we love it when a plan comes together.

Until the day the Pnoe were to be picked up, we listened for hours. We noticed how the horns got more and more intimate. Even though they were placed quite close, a little extra toe-in helped to widen the image and detach the music from the speakers for deep and effortlessly suspended images between them. Voices trained or raw got body and gestalt. More and more we realized how the untold efforts of experiments, trials and errors plus considerable investment Arcadian Audio had put into this project over many years paid off big time. With many single-driver horn systems, bandwidth is limited. Not many cover the treble all the way up, let alone in combination with fairly lower bass. The Pnoe achieves a respectable 40Hz no problem and with some room aid a little more extension is very possible. High-frequency harmonics show no compression. Neither do transients. The chosen driver is very fast and capable of more than enough sound pressure to fill the room. With 100dB sensitivity a few watts go a long way. Integration of high, mid and low frequencies is flawless. It was a real pleasure to listen to these organic shapes for so many hours.