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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: APL HiFi NWO 3.0-GO; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; Yamamoto YDA-01
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright DM-36.5, Esoteric C-03

Amp: First Watt F5; 2 x AudioSector Patek SE; Pass Labs INT-150 [on review]; ModWright KWA-150 [on review]
Speakers: ASI Tango R; Zu Audio Essence [on review]
Cables: Acoustic System International Liveline interconnects, speaker cable and power cords
Stands: 2 x Ikea Molger, with re-purposed assorted Ikea butcher block platforms
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, with custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power option for 120V gear
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive Acoustic System resonator tuning throughout the house
Room size: Sound platform 3 x 4.5m with 2-story slanted ceiling; four steps below continues into 8m long open kitchen, dining room and office which widen to 5.2m with 2.8m ceiling; sound platform space is open to 2nd story landing and 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls, converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse
Review Component Retail: $8,900/pr

Among the small camp of time/phase-coherent aka 1st-order speaker designers, Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio is perhaps the only one who approaches the task as a serious mathematician. A stout extremist of this art, Roy insists on adjustable path lengths. This synchronizes the time arrivals of his chosen drivers at the listening seat. And by definition nowhere else. He also insists on minimum diffraction baffles. Those led him to pod-type driver modules. Over many models, iterations and generations, Roy has perfected a compound cast-marble Q-stone material from which to craft those modules as well as critical elements of his bass bins.

The whole concept of adjustability naturally entails certain concessions to practicality over looks. "Get over it!" is the pet reply of brand admirers to get on with discussions about performance. We've seen various modular attempts elsewhere (Ascendo and Blumenhofer come to mind) where proudly exposed chrome rails do the time-aligning job. For his Calypso and Pico Executive models (the former replaces the previously reviewed Continuum 3 as new flagship, the latter is a new model altogether but visually a downscaled Continuum), Roy uses a somewhat more pedestrian rail/lock-bolt system for the necessary fore 'n' aft offsets which physical time alignment requires. The shapes of the two sliding modules of his three-ways meanwhile mimic the two-way Callisto. Think organically continuous curves and an avoidance of corners, sharp edges and parallel walls.

The perhaps most unexpected aspect of the new Pico Executive HD are its dimensions. 30.625"H x 10.5"W x 12.75"D makes for an exceptionally stumpy floorstander whose foot print of less than a square foot is small as well. And while credenza and bookshelf placements are mentioned on the website, so is bog-standard free-air squatting on the floor. Lest you somehow think this a joke -- recommended room sizes are given as from 150 - 600sf, i.e. from small to medium -- consider the specs. While at 'em, be mindful that for some, most competitors remain mum altogether. This returns us to math, extremism, a man who knows his craft and takes pride in precision. And no grills.

In-room frequency is 45Hz to 24kHz -3dB, with claimed +/- 0.75dB linearity from 55Hz to 20kHz. Distortion is <0.5% harmonic 100Hz-12kHz, <1% intermodulation, both at 98dB at 1m. (I.M.D. is for any two frequencies separated by a 10:1 ratio.) Phase shift is +/- 2 degrees acoustically from 220Hz to 8kHz and won't vary with loudness. Rise time is <10 microseconds on positive or negative input and remains SPL invariant. Polarity is positive over the full bandwidth. Dispersion is omni at 45Hz,
smoothly decreasing to cardioid at 10kHz. Impedance is 5.25 ohms +/- 0.75 ohms from 150Hz to 20kHz and also SPL stable. Sensitivity is 90dB for 2.83V at 1m and sea level and dynamically linear within 0.5dB to 100dB. Max output is 105dB peak at 3m from stereo pair, first-arrival without room gain. Power requirements (amplifier's 8 ohm rating) are 7 to 170 Watts. Pair matching for amplitude is +/- 0.25dB, for impedance +/- 0.15 ohms from 160Hz to 8kHz and for all crossover parts +/- .15%.

If these seem specifications more for electronics than speakers, remember that compared to the former, speakers tend to be guilty of far higher distortion - to 1000 times or more. To address this ubiquitous state of affairs requires extreme measures and Roy Johnson's approach seems certainly mindful. The specs also reveal a given focus. Johnson is clearly critical of power compression, insists on phase and impedance linearity and demands high output potential. For 1st-order designs, SPLs are often believed to be compromised. Yet as tradeshow attendees can attest who've witnessed Roy's lead foot on the gas, it is blatantly not the case for Green Mountain Audio.

From the same specs, we can also predict a core quality of cleanliness. The less distortion a component introduces, the less of a self voice it has. Speakers are always considered the most voiced of components. That's merely sweet talk for being highly distorted. When a designer incorporates measures to address this distortion, we should expect a far more neutral product. Of course neutrality's specter of clinical boredom is always on the minds of audiophiles, particularly those who go for tubes and single-driver designs. Recording and mastering engineers meanwhile relate to neutrality differently; as a prerequisite for any working tool which is otherwise considered broken.

So... the Pico Executive HD concept is anything but a joke. Rather, its form-follows-function design is ultra serious. How execution translates to the ears of the beholder naturally is vital to audiophiles who don't shop on specs alone. While much more tech could be covered, the Green Mountain Audio website is unusually detailed. Those interested will do best to draw straight from the well. All we'll add is that the Pico Executive is a 6-inch 3-way with upfiring ported bass system and a 5.25" midrange mated to a 1" silk-dome tweeter. This particula review was organized by Wolfgang Rissler of FrohMusik, GMA's importer for German-speaking Europe who solicited us and then made a pair available by personal delivery from Freiburg. Roy Johnson explains the HD in Pico Executive in Sidebar 1.

Green Mountain Audio website