When it comes to the provincial - er, imperial shores of our new world, Rolf Gemein's German Symphonic Line is an ultra-cred though not terribly well-known electronics brand. Klaus Bunge's Odyssey Audio brand won't readily explode name recognition for its Teutonic pater familias except with small-print readers. However, the priciest effort in Bunge's newly launched speaker line will, make no mistake, deliver to the greater "unwashed hordes" the sonic (though not necessarily connected) superiority of Herr Gemein. Quite in opposition to his family name's literal meaning -- ordinary, common and nasty -- per-formance of his chaste-looking Lorelei two-way tower speaker proved anything but.

Now add what for a SOTA effort in High-End audio is an uncommonly low asking price - $2,700 per pair. You'll appreciate why Klaus Bunge's recipe -- of repackaging Gemein designs and then shifting complete assembly of these Symphonic Line "fatherland derivatives" to our shores -- has met with such enthusiastic response. That's especially true for his celebrated Stratos amplifier which, in the brand-new Khartago, will soon welcome the arrival of a 110wpc heavy but merely $750 costly "baby" brother. Now usually, the terse term "derivative" connotes the opposite of the flamboyant and congratulatory "original". Not here. Finding ways to distill Ferrari performance into Honda-priced bottles while having Ferrari underwrite said venture? By any reckoning, that's quite a mean trick. But Sir Klaus pulled it off.

Named after a mythical creature of charms irrefutable even at a distance -- which, legend has it, regularly marooned unwitting but lusty boatsmen traveling Germany's Rhine, perhaps in a fashion not unlike that of the more famous Homerian siren who kept the steadfast wife of captivated Odysseus waiting -- the Lorelei's general stature and top-notch Scanspeak drivers recall efforts by Proac, Merlin, DeVore Fidelity and Meadowlark; or their models 2.5, VSM, Gibbon 8 and Shearwater respectively.

At 45" x 8" x 15" HxWxD and 80 lbs -- with claimed 6-ohm nominal impedance, 89dB sensitivity, 32-22,000Hz response; a 1" soft-dome tweeter and 6.8" carbonfiber/graphite composite mid-woofer affixed to a sloped baffle -- the review pair arrived clad in a very attractive natural Cherry finish. Its cleverly contoured two-tone edging motif displayed raw MDF as first implemented on Triangle Acoustique's stained MDF baffles, coming as a surprising statement of French chic.

If the mention of raw Medium-Density-Fiberboard now causes an aghast "Oh bloody no!" reaction with your inner designer, relax. Check out the images above. It's really a very trick and attractive detail not encountered before in this exact execution. A single set of widely spaced low binding posts, a rear-firing port and triplet of substantial floor spikes complete the dress code of Lorelei. The absence of performance-degrading grills spelled clear indication that this was meant as a serious effort at high-performance audiophile seduction. In our pretentiously preposterous scheme of things, this would make it a very affordable full-range loudspeaker, thus fitting nicely into Odyssey Audio's mission statement of offering more for less.

Carefully removing the mid-woofer from the enclosure for a candid look-see confirmed it to be the Scanspeak 18W/8545-00 that I had seemed to recognize from prior ownership of McGinty's Shearwater. It was wired up here with at least 10 AWG wire and properly silver-soldered to its terminals to avoid push-on or crimp connectors. The 1.5" long fixing bolts -- not screws -- gave away the desirable presence of counter T-nuts and significant panel thickness even before all 6 threads had been removed. The baffle turned out to measure 1.125" thick and its cross-section clearly indicated an upscale version of the ubiquitous MDF, possibly a hardwood particle iteration or higher-density variant. For a box its size, the absence of any internal cross-bracing seemed curious while the complete wall lining except for the inside baffle -- with thick, checker-board ridge pattern acoustical foam -- explained the equal absence of that dreaded hollow response after the customary knuckle rap. The tweeter too confirmed initial visual identification, by sporting the paper decal D2905-70000 on its substantial motor structure. Both drivers are luxo audiophile-approved parts routinely found in speakers above $10,000 - that is, until the Danish firm's various versions of the newer Ring Radiator displaced the more traditional soft dome geometry as the current 'in' darling of the speaker builder market. Reinstalling both drivers had me note that, particularly for the tweeter recess, the opening's requisite tolerance padding -- to avoid damaging the veneer when dropping in the driver -- was a bit on the generous side. It left 3/32th of a gap between dress plate and veneer edge on the bottom, just a bit wider than necessary to suggest that the next production run might want to adjust this measurement, of the program feeding the CNC router.

To learn yet more about the Lorelei's internal plumbing as it were -- crossover slopes and parts -- I'd have to fire off an e-mail to the ever-industrious Klaus Bunge. This is what he divulged after checking in with Herr Gemein in faraway Teutonia whose Kraft Reference amplifiers enjoy a stellar reputation to this very day:

The Lorelei is a Symphonic Line design licensed exclusively to Odyssey Audio and used to sell for $7,600 before strategic manufacturing alliances dropped said pricing unceremoniously into a bucket of ice water, shrinking it to a painfully puny 2 inches - er, $2,700. With the cabinets sourced from Canada, the crossover boards from Germany and final assembly performed in the US, the terminals shown earlier have actually been upgraded since, to now top-line Platinum-plated WBTs. Optional veneers are Oak and Black Ash, the crossovers 4th-order on the low-pass, 3rd-order on the high-pass. Klaus then began waxing rhapsodic about the network's overbuilt construction of Mundorf coils, Audyn and F&T caps. He encouraged me to flip the speaker on its back, remove its base and admire Gemein's creations up close and personal. Flippant SOB that I am, I happily obliged. To add insult to injury before then, Bunge now reminded me of the package price he had first announced at HE2003: For $4,500 total, a customer can purchase his Tempest/Stratos pre/power combo, a pair of Loreleis plus a pair of Gronenberg interconnects and speaker cables. If somebody sent a hit man to Odyssey Audio in Indianapolis, don't round up the usual consumer suspects, okay? Chances are, an overworked and underpaid competitor just saw red.

The inductive filtering of the hard-wired network proved to be as monstrous to the extreme as predicted. With three coils total, the biggest one sported an ungodly 4" diameter with nearly 3" in height while using extraordinarily massive conductor size. I kid you not - these coils were bigger than what you'd see in a 200wpc statement amplifier's choke-filtered power supply. Choked-with-envy bass performance, anybody? At the time of this off-handed remark, I didn't yet appreciate its unnervingly prescient validity. For that and further psychic readings, you gotta turn the page and make an appointment ...