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This review first appeared in the November 2008 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or AudiaZ. - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Source: Fonel Simplicité
Amplification: Pre/power – Fonel Emotion, Bel Canto Pre3/M300, Funk LAP-2.V2, Martion Mammut, Trigon TRV 100; integrated – Octave V80, Accuphase E212, Lua 4040C
Loudspeakers: Zu Presence, Thiel CS 2.4, Sehring S 703 SE
Cables: Low-level - Straight Wire Virtuoso; high-level - HMS Fortissimo, Reson LSC 350, Ortofon SPK 500, Atlas (Bi-Wiring)
Review component retail: €14.400/pr

Zero point zero zero three as rounded off "for that special sale". No, that figure does not capture my inner ear pressure 1.5 years into fairaudio. It's our tester's kilo-per-euro exchange rate. Well, with three grams per euro -- at 22kg/ea., this is a relatively lightweight affair -- we sit at the lower end of the totem pole today considering our archives. But this very fact about the AudiaZ ETA had me excited. Not the ratio per se which has relatively little impact on our reviews. What might it mean though when a speaker in this price range remained deliberately modest in mass and material excess (with the not insignificant logistics savings attached) to, hopefully, reinvest the gains into higher parts quality and more substantial engineering solutions?

Furthermore, high-priced speakers, contingent on application and available real estate, can do well not to parlay expense into blatant space hoggery. And that precisely was a core focus during the development of the ETA. Naturally, compact monitors offer plenty of alternatives in theory. But to trade in a one-piece speaker (i.e. one with a bass system operating with a larger volume) for a quality stand that'll be expensive but take up the same space when audiophile monitor speakers are chosen isn't necessarily the smartest solution either.

Tech matters
Contemplating the AudiaZ ETA, two aspects are instantly obvious: the uncommon (though not exclusive) drivers and the form factor. About the latter, its cabinet shape netted strong compliments during its stay. From hifi enthusiasts. Those less committed --
my girlfriend included -- had rather less happy words. Based on just these reactions, one might assume that the AudiaZ ETA was in fact designed for the connoisseurs. And they would instantly recognize the air motion transformer tweeter which here is further modified by Blumenhofer Acoustics for, so claims the maker, even lower distortion and higher voltage sensitivity. To recap AMTs, this driver breed gets away without the usual voice coil wherein it mirrors ribbons. Yet their surface is pleated like an accordion such that during operation, the movement of the bellows sits at a right angle to the listening axis to force air at high velocities at the auditioner. One advantage of this approach is a far more attractive mass/surface ratio over conventional tweeters. At 50 square centimeters of transducer surface, the ultra-thin Mylar membrane weighs just 0.08 grams. This tends to create good efficiency and clean impulse response and in the ETA's case, an upper cutoff of 40kHz also adds impressive extension.

Below the AMT sits a ceramic midrange with hi/lo-pass frequencies of 3.2kHz and 250Hz sourced from Thiel/Accuton Germany which AudiaZ believes to be the "world's best midrange unit" no matter how one regards such superlatives. The ceramic diaphragm's hardness is said to approach sapphire and avoid sound-degrading breakups. The black indents left and right serve damping functions. Again from Accuton and again using ceramics are the twin 15cm woofers which offer a special feature in their choice of voice coil former. To avoid eddy currents, the latter's conductivity should be as poor as possible yet offer great mechanical stability to serve playback precision. Hence Accuton's former eschews aluminum and hi-tech Kapton in favor of Titanium, a metal that's a relatively poor conductor but mechanically strong. The paralleled woofers load into a multi-chamber bass reflex enclosure which vents downwards. The thread length of the included anti spikes affords some personal leeway in adjusting the lower tuning frequency with the gap height.

I already referred to the polarization which the ETA's looks created partly by how the diagonal baffle lines intersect with the vertical alignment of the frontal drivers. Some onlookers failed to recognize visual harmony. Those similarly bothered might opt for the darker finish options which will dim the contrast ratio on this design element. More relevant to me was the functional background of these diagonals which kill two birds: First, the baffle's progressively minimized size increases stiffness. This lessens cabinet talk. Then there's lower edge diffraction. It's well known that sound doesn't eject laser-like from driver to listener. Due to wave bending, cabinet edges incite reflections which act as quasi sound sources to induce comb filtering distortion. The distance of driver to edge determines the frequency at which the reflection is triggered. Since the diagonal edge orientation creates dissimilar distances to the drivers, there's an attenuating spread-spectrum effect. Additionally, the ETA developers were keen on time coherence. Thus the offset between acoustic centers of tweeter and midrange mirrors the backwards rake of the baffle for phase fidelity. Clearly this speaker embodies plenty of thinking to stimulate lengthy technical discussions. Those would also have to include custom hookup wiring and the frequency divider network (AudiaZ relies on special internal cabling which is also offered as speaker cable). But we'll bow out at this point to focus on the essential, the...

I keenly recall the precise moment when colleague Ralph and I first slapped joint ears on the AudiaZ ETA. Amazement. And not primarily due to the impressive bass from a rather demure constellation (though we'll get to the bass momentarily). No, it was the speed and rhythmic precision which first hit us over the head. Badawis' album The Heretic of Either includes various Middle-Eastern percussion like zarb, daf and darbuka hand drums and in particular the solo drum track "Fatal Confrontation" is a gripping yarn of virtuoso velocity that downgrades many an expensive speaker as being somewhat sluggish and indistinct yet the AudiaZ ETA shorted our breaths. And forget careless sketching or noodling with all that dynamic speed, the short-lived attack phases were just as articulate as the ring-outs of skins to create realistic tone colors.

Lovers of detail will embrace the ETA which does not mean she merely elucidates apparently tertiary stuff between the lines. While she does that too, there are also micro dynamics. Granted, high resolution and micro dynamics often go hand in hand to have you wonder whether one is fully possible without the other. But it's certainly worth noting that the laissez-fair and airy flair whereby ETA pursues its detail retrieval is far from common. Some of that can be determined by the minuscule (which I did only in doses not to worry). For example, the persistent tracking of a special effects-induced rush underneath a reverb-surrounded piano on Spiritualized's song "Harmony" [Songs in A&E] is artificial but, over the ETA, simply became more informative and as such, more 'right'.

Or take the sampled breathing of "Death Take Your Fiddle" also by Spiritualized. Mere analysis or vivisection of such a 'signal' would merely undermine its effectiveness. This speaker, in a quite subliminal way, simply conveys an extra dose of believable immediacy. While this example per se seems irrelevant and I never did pay this element much heed before, I suddenly clearly heard, without volition, that this breathing came from someone using their nostrils exclusively. To be sure, such precision, transparency, agility and suggestiveness are all great fun and convincingly wedded to the virtues of naturalness and long-term comfort. Even during tumultuous string passages [Shostakovich, Symphony Nr. 8 in c-minor, Leningrad Philharmonic, no audiophile pearl but very atavistic and emotional] the AudiaZ, amidst all the ardor and its facility for scaling the steepest heights, retained the ability to avoid hysterics and appear effortless and - well, clean, clean, clean.

So - quick, effortless, unburdened, transparent from head to toe (with bass unbelievably intelligible and dry as well which I've failed to explicitly mention thus far) and all of it without sharp corners and edges unless called up by the music... this all sounds beautiful already but does anything else call on us? Yes, two further items:

First, soundstaging. To return to Enter the Heretic, it's utterly convincing how clearly separated cello, bass, hand cymbals and drums take their requisite stations on stage. Nothing blurs, each actor is geographically unmistakably defined and there's no hint of artifice or 'separatist' deconstruction. That's how it ought to sound. Add a goodly dose of bloom as the English-speaking mags refer to it fittingly and the edges of acoustic happenings demonstrate good airiness to not seem razor-cut. Impressive too is from where you can observe all of this when the ETAs take pride of place. Even in my farthest room corner and as such wildly outside the sweet spot I felt more or less in the thick of it. That's rather unusual. In matters of stage depth and decorrelation of the music from the enclosures, results vary. In mostly free space i.e. about 60 - 70cm away from the walls, I enjoyed impeccable outcomes. As per AudiaZ, the ETA also works well much closer to walls. But the more I moved them back against the front wall, the more squashed and two-dimensional the stage got just as with any other speaker. Enter my second point.

As hinted in the intro, the ETA was deliberately developed for small to medium-sized rooms to become quite a problem solver. Floorstanders in this price range usually aim the opposite direction and hit their stride only above 30 square meters and even then insist on a lot of breathing space. This might explain why in my space (ca. 30sm, ca. 3.4m ceiling) the bass and lower mids acted a bit reticent and less full-bodied than usual to veer into the lighter side of the equation (naturally also contingent on cabling and electronics). To be sure and to repeat, the ETA was never in danger to clam up and simply played with far too much finesse, accuracy and no compression.

Close-wall proximity affects tonal balance and reduces aforementioned three-dimensionality. You can experiment with the gap height of the vent/floor distance to flesh out the bass a tick. As always, the final voicing follows personal tastes and the constraints of one's own four walls. Attractive then is the ca. 150-euro delivery and setup option to enable an on-site audition for a complete check of health before committing.

Do you enjoy speakers which, across the entire bandwidth, beckon with blazing rise times, transparency and precision? Which never tip the balance into undue hardness or artifice? Is your room on the smaller side - or bigger but you fancy a less buxom sound? Then the AudiaZ ETA is, without hype or doubt, the stuff speaker dreams are made of. A few closing remarks. Bank on first-class ancillaries. Valves are welcome as this speaker isn't a beastly load. But don't leash up such precision transducers with wires or gear that's biting or sharp. The ETA will convey any such line crossings without hesitation. Which would be a shame.

AudiaZ' ETA floorstander is characterized by...

• an exceptionally exacting, rhythmically in the pocket, dry and highly resolved presentation.
• long-term suitable, realistic detail magnification contingent on copasetic electronics and rooms. Vital in this context is that the ETA plays ultra clean, i.e. undistorted.
• exceptionally good microdynamics.
• an attractively open, airy and developed tonal balance into the stratosphere.
• a highly intelligible, gunk-free mid and lower band.
• a realistic as well as precise soundstage.
• a perfect no-nonsense fit 'n' finish as you should expect in this price class.
• a comparatively lithe, less pouty-lipped balance without ultra low bass aimed at smaller spaces.

• Model: AudiaZ ETA
• Design: 3-way bass reflex
• Finish options: Cherry or Maple veneer standard; other veneers, lacquer (including piano gloss) and black-anodized diaphragms available by request
• Sensitivity: 89dB / 1W / 1m
• Nominal impedance: 6 Ohm (linearized)
• Dimensions and weight: 210 x 1070 x 210mm (W x H x D), 22kg/ea.
• Other: Specifically conceptualized for smaller spaces

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