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This review first appeared in the February 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Castle. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe, Miyajima Laboratory Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature Version with Regenerator power
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω version
Interconnects: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (on all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Acoustic Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD player and preamplifier. Pro Audio Bono platform under Leben CS300
Review component retail in Poland: zł8.900/pr

It is assumed that history may be generally viewed in one of two ways – as a straight line with a definitive starting and end point where we talk about development; or as a circle where we deal with a kind of fatalism or historical inevitability where there is no true beginning, no true ending but at most a constant transitional period of a history whose inescapable fulfillment and completion return to its beginning. If these ttwo visions describe history well, then Castle brilliantly supports the second view.

The Castle Acoustic company was founded on September 3rd, 1973 as a spin-off from Wharfedale. The Wharfedale Wireless Company established in 1932 remains one of the oldest still active audio companies. To a large extent they were responsible for British hifi with its development and bloom. In the 60s and 70s Wharfedale experienced such extraordinary growth that they changed from manual to mass production. This would soon reflect on the quality and looks of their loudspeakers. It’s why a group of directors and managers left Wharfedale to found their own company Castle Acoustic, locating it in Skipton just north from their old firm. They returned cabinet manufacture to domesticv workshop labor, used natural veneers and such to become their new identification mark. Almost twenty years later two of the founders retired. The younger generation—in fact another group of Wharfedale directors—acquired the company to introduce new blood and a new order but honour the things which distinguished Castle from other companies.

The beginning of the 21st century was not very kind to Castle. The company teetered on the verge of bankrupcy when their home-grown cabinets with costly veneers no longer competed against cheap Chinese labor (whether the Sino equivalents were better is another story). That’s when Castle was bought by brothers Michael and Bernard Chang, the owners of IAG. Their International Audio Group is one of the most interesting of hifi companies. It was created out of true passion and is led by music lovers and audiophiles, millionaires who decided to funnel their money into their passion and grow it into one of the biggest such companies in the world today. Their portfolio includes Quad, Audiolab, Mission, Luxman, Castle, Wharfedale Pro, Quad Industrial, Apogee Lighting, Coef, FAL, IAG Yachts, Surgex and – yes, Wharfedale. This is how history comes full circle. Two companies so closely bound together once again have a common owner and their loudspeakers are manufactured in the same factory, albeit fully separated production lines with their very own cabinets, drivers, cabling, passive parts etc.

Of course the brothers Chang do not manage Castle alone. The head of the brand is Peter Comeau, the head of engineering a son of one of Castle’s founders. The engineering bureau and executive offices are located in Great Britain, all production has been transferred to China. The politics of IAG are based not only on buying a brand name but also the entire infrastructure to employ the original designers and workers and—wherever possible—buy the original machinery all of which then gets transferred to China. This maintains the maximum of a given company’s heritage but adds new production capabilities. I’ll just add that the Castle marketing and sales departments are located in Huntingdon five miles from the original 1932 Wharfedale location in Yorkshire.

Sound. A selection of recordings used in the test: Daft Punk, Homework, Virgin, 8426092, CD (1996; David Sylvian, Sleepwalkers, P-Vine Records, PVCP-8790, CD (2011); Dinah Washington, After Hours With Miss “D”, EmArcy/Verve, Verve Master Edition, 760562, CD (2004); Jean Michel Jarré, Equinox, Dreyfus/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 678, gold CD; Jean Michel Jarré, Téo & Téa, Aero Productions/Warner Bros, 2564699766, CD+DVD (2007); Melody Gardot, My One And Only Thrill, Verve/Universal, 1796783, CD (2009); Nosowska, 8, Supersam Music, SM 01, CD (2011).