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This review first appeared in the January 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 whereby they will translate and publish select reviews of ours while we reciprocate with one or two of theirs each month. 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 - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Source: C.E.C. TL51XR, Fonel Simplicité (variable outputs), Audiomeca Obsession II
Amplification: Pre/Power - Bel Canto PRe3/M300, Myryad MXP2000/MXA2150, Funk LAP-2.V2; integrated - Myryad MXI2080
Loudspeaker: Quadral Phonologue C Rondo, Spendor S3/5, Volent Paragon VL2, Sehring 703 SE
Cables: low-level - HMS Sestetto Mk3, Straight Wire Virtuoso, WSS KS1 Silverline; high-level - HMS Fortissimo, HMS Al Cinema, Ortofon SPK 500
Review component retail: €1,600/pr

Newsworthies from Erlangen...
Nope, hifi wasn't it. My first hobby -- besides soccer of course -- involved the sun, moon, stars and sundry celestial bodies whirring about the galaxy. Granted, 'twas a somewhat odd field of interest for a first-grader but I wasn't entirely alone: my circle of friends did include one other budding astronomer.

With differences to be sure. One of those were his rather more supportive parents who gifted junior with a real and impressive telescope one Christmas. The other was that I would not have dismantled said treasure come New Year's, stripped it of all its optics and used it to send rockets and howlers airborne.

Our review loaner's name sake however -- the star constellation Kassiopeia -- won't be familiar exclusively to diehard star gazers. Its bright polar star has served navigators from times immemorial after all. The name meanwhile dates back to a figure in Greek mythology famed for vanity and conceit. Far be it from me to suggest that vanity was godfather during Kassiopeia Superieur's christening. Alas, the development team at Marker does seem possessed of a certain flair for outer trappings, bequeathing, as per their own descriptions, an entire month on the 12-layer piano gloss lacquer skins. Granted, that lacquer isn't mere optical extravagance but makes "a not insignificant contribution to the acoustic abilities".

(The involved process includes, in sequence: raw cabinet excess glue removal; sanding of cleaned areas; 6 hours oven drying at 45°C; sealing; 4-hour air drying; sanding; first lacquer layer; 1-hour air drying; 2nd lacquer layer; 12-hour room temp drying; 6-hour oven drying at 45°C; 240-grit sanding, 320-grit sanding, 420-grit sanding, 600-grit sanding, edge sanding; intensive cabinet cleaning; clean-room lacquer applications of lacquer layers 3 through 12 at 25°C - 28°C under controlled 50% - 60% humidity (each lacquer layer with 6-hour drying in clean room, 100-hour drying at room temp, 6-hour oven drying at 45°C, sanding at 240, 320, 420 and 600-grit, edge sanding, quality control); followed by wet sanding at grit 600, 1000, 2000; quality control; general polishing; edge polishing; rough polish; fine polish; super-fine polish; quality control; hole routing; quality control. Phew.)

Even without having read any of this yet, it was readily apparent to me after peeling eyes off today's speakers that the lacquer protocol from the house of Marker goes well beyond a vulgar spray canister. Since 2004, Viktor Marker has run his family enterprise out of Erlangen. Yet considerations about optimal loudspeaker form factors and building materials have for more than 10 years haunted this engineer whose first creation was a wind tunnel-inspired ceramic enclosure.

Still quite unknown in his native Germany and with spotty domestic distribution, foreign distributors in Switzerland, Holland, South Africa and China have taken the lead, prompting Marker to open his own home for on-site auditions, just a phone call away for German audiophiles without a local dealer.

Obvious from appearances, these about 8kg/ea. monitors subscribe to the 2-way concept with a 25mm Titanium dome tweeter above 3kHz and a 16cm Carbon fiber mid/woofer said to be especially immune to breakup modes. Internals include van den Hul hookup wiring and a 2nd-order 12dB/octave filter network that follows the typical recipe of twin capacitors and coils, the latter sourced from high-end suppliers Mundorf and Rifa.

Upon closer inspection, the very upscale appearance of the Kassiopeia Superieur betrays a rather - um, idiosyncratic terminal bay. I'll refrain from further comments save to add that the relevant "hole" impresses with a diameter of 4.5cm. Herr Marker candidly admits that his Kassiopeia Superieur does not pursue ultimate test bench neutrality. During final voicing sessions, the reactions of his experienced listening panel became paramount. In short, the house of Marker is self-confident enough to trust its ears and places a strong value on proper vocal reproduction, stating how it is "...public knowledge that a smaller cubic enclosure volume will hamper the timbral signature of a speaker." This consequently leads them to a minor but deliberate goosing of the lower frequencies as "essential for the vocal band."

The cure
Approaching this speaker from its presumably weak side, one might assume it from the above to be a "warmishly voiced 'un with a cushy loose bottom." No sooner assumed, no sooner tested - with Klinik's "Touch" no less. Given the right speakers, I nearly don't know of another cut that dishes out (electronic) bass drum with such dry, brutally hard beats. This brooks no thickening agents nor jello but never fear when the Kassiopeia Superieur mixes it up. Granted, this speaker isn't so dry down low as to raise dust on impacts yet relentlessly hard beats are delivered with due punch and speed. Expectedly a mite fatter around the belt line than the norm, there's little to criticize about the low-bass gestalt and most certainly not about how speed and attack continue across the remainder of the audible band.

Indeed, very fetching is the keenly dialed balance the Kassiopeia Superieur walks between analytical insight and long-term comfort. For example, this track nearly hides a sampled didgeridoo far in the background which is duly swallowed up by a number of speakers yet not by the Kassiopeia Superieur - nor does she pursue such detail with any hardness which this dense potpourri of sequencers and metallic beats would readily convey as upper midrange aggression. With today's speaker, everything gets accounted for, nothing challenges your nerves. Even metallic impacts are cleanly rendered yet interpreted with just the appropriate infusion of warmth.

Admittedly, "Touch" isn't the ultimate track to make conclusive statements but it and a few other CDs did raise quick suspicions that particularly the midrange was just wonderfully well served by this speaker. Thus it became high time to inspect the Kassiopeia's presumed chocolate layer in earnest. Authentic vocal reproduction after all is the litmus test for all serious hifi components. Whether it was Francoiz Breut (an early protagonist of the Nouvelle Chanson movement in 90s' France); or Dolores Marguerite C. (vocalist for 25-years-and-running Brit formation In the Nursery and specialized in classically arranged opulent songs) on the 2003 album Praxis...
these ladies' voices arrived full, warm and colorful in my listening room and were presented with appropriate intimacy. With these boxes from Erlangen, tizz, anemia, hard glassiness or related troubles never once will occupy the same stage as female vocalists. Swell.

Norwegian sax man Jan Garbarek's Officium with the Hillard Ensemble sports no less than four male voices which he accompanies on Renaissance and Gregorian chant. "A deeply introspective coalescence of vocals and instrumentals" is how a liner commentary puts it a bit abstract but fitting. Just as fitting was the sonorous, seamless, bodacious Kassiopeia Superieur commentary. The fragile atmosphere of the voice-led numbers and the particular sensibility of their delivery were honored exceptionally well, clearly no easy task for any speaker. Now add the sheer effortlessness whereby the music remained de-correlated from the physical enclosures (which certainly wasn't exclusive to these cuts).

However, it's not just voices that play to the particular strengths of this duo from Erlangen. Acoustic instruments like the saxophone and accordion of Oneidas' "Lavender" on The Wedding benefit just the same to confirm that when it comes to fidelity in the all-important midrange, the Kassiopeia Superieur takes no prisoners. Clearly, identifying a €1,600 speaker that eludes all criticism (a questionable quest even when money is no issue) is a fool's errand and the Kassiopeia Superieur clearly is no fool. While the Titanium domes resolve well and are admirably free of undue sharpness, I would wish for just a bit more what the English-speaking hifi press calls air. What exactly do audio components serve up so subliminally in those barely audible uppermost registers? Aside from a particular fleet-footedness or aerated elasticity in the soundstage, there's also an increase in spatial awareness and better height of the virtual stage ceiling.

In this regard, the Kassiopeia Superieur erects no dramatic height above the actual boxes though frontal projection is good. Those who fancy a more energetic treble or are used to airier renditions might, on occasion and while hunkering down with the Erlangen units, raise one or the other eye brow.

In its price class and without doubt, the Kassiopeia Superieur is a loudspeaker that already a few short bars in will get pegged as spontaneously sympathetic and musical and remains so over the long haul. I am and remain thus convinced. For good reasons too: During its R&D phase, the House of Marker hasn't sold out to mastering-console correctness over joie-de-vivre, emotionality and freedom from fatigue.

In fairness and to those who are used to perfectly flat-measuring boxes, the lower bands are deliberately more saturated and pronounced to make appropriate electronic and wiring ancillaries anything but irrelevant. Personally, I had great results with the inherently lean but otherwise timbrally correct loudspeaker cable Al Cinema by HMS.

Not least due to its rear-firing port, the Kassiopeia won't be suitable for shelf placement. On the other hand, free-space placement in larger rooms won't invoke the no-can-do syndrome even in matters of loudness.

Should you choose the Kassiopeia Superieur, you'll have a speaker
  • Whose transition from midrange to treble is exemplarily seamless
  • Whose compellingly colorful mid band projects particularly vocals and acoustic instruments with true body and conviction
  • Which suitably de-correlates the soundstage from the enclosure while offering sufficiently sharp localization cues
  • That's properly resolved without introducing undue hardness or directness by way of its Titanium dome tweeters
  • Whose deliberately elevated midbass is fatter than neutral but doesn't impact punch or articulation even on rhythmically challenging fare
  • Whose fit'n'finish particularly in the lacquer treatment is exemplary
  • Whose small terminal cup limits cable choices and cramps fat-fingered style
  • Whose relative absence of uppermost air might explain the relatively limited soundstage height
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Marker Audio website