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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.10 in direct/integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20, RWA-modifed Astell&Kern AK100
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent, Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; Crayon Audio CFA-02, Bakoon AMP-12R, Goldmund/Job 225, Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke Audio B10, German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Audio Submission
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt and Light Harmonic Lightspeed split USB cables, Tombo Trøn S/PDIF, Van den Hul AES/EBU, AudioQuest Diamond glass-fiber Toslink
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 + Vibex Two 1R on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Desktop system: iPod/AK100 digital transport, Wyred4Sound minT, Gato Audio DIA-250 [on loan], Gallo Strada II + TR-3D, Amphion Ion + [on loan], Ardán Audio Elevation stand
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: €1.250/pr

First there was nOrh. Or so I think when the subject of stoned speakers comes up. Based in Thailand, nOrh became known for solid Marble monitors. Shaped like a djembe drum on its side, they had drivers where the skin would be, drum opening naturally repurposed as port. Later nOrh added synthetic marble options. Then Mark & Daniel of Shanghai took up the compound marble recipe and launched a minor speaker empire. A Corian/Avonite Platinum Solo version also made the rounds and to this day there ought to be more speakers with synthetic stone baffles or perhaps entire cabs. I haven't kept track. And concrete too has its commercial proponents. Viagra for cabinet!

Into the circle of authentic speaking stones now descend Finland's Prime from designer Keijo Myllyoja. The country's natural soapstone* deposits in the Karelia mountains are a natural resource that's popular with Finns for their fireplaces due to its extreme thermal resistance.

Finnish soapstone quarry. It's here where Prime's quality control starts to assure the best quality stone to work with.

Stone of course is a perfectly natural very inert material which unless dropped hard to crack should outlast our own life times. With big speakers stone would get prohibitively heavy in a bleeding hurry and become ghastly to ship. Hence our primed Finns celebrate less is more and limit themselves to compact 2-way monitors handcrafted from certified Finnish soapstone. SEAS of Norway provide the drivers in either coaxial form for the perfect nearfield models (desktoppers ahoy) or as discrete tweeter and mid/woofer pairs. The Vuoluset Ky company in Polvijärvi manufactures the speakers in either natural waxed stone or paints them in various finishes including custom requests.

A show room in Joensuu 40km from Vuoluset Ky allows local visitors hands- and ears-on experience with the Prime speaker models.

* For the stoner geeks amongst use we're told that this rock species is a mix of talc and magnesite. Talc's percentage ranges from 30% for architectural grade (hard counter tops) to 80% for carving purposes when its hardness reduces to about 2.5 Moh. That's soft on the order of a copper coin. Garnet would be 7.5 Moh, rubies and sapphires 9 and diamond 10. Soapstone sports a density of 2.9 tonnes/m³. When heated to between 1.000 - 1.200 °C, it transforms into enstatite or cristobalite and ascends the Moh hardness scale to between 5.5 and 6.5.

Back on paint, matte black in fact is what my contact David del Olmo suggested for review. I instantly hissed like Blondie the cat. I hate black hifi. But never mind that. If I was going to spill ink on a natural stone speaker, I wanted one that looked the part and didn't hide under faux skins. Admittedly gray soapstone isn't sexy like veined marble or speckled granite but more of a concrete lookalike. Perhaps David worried that au nature would mean terribly roughing it to a Swiss Southerner? Hey, our good weather doesn't make us softies. So I wasn't having it. We were getting stoned uncut or not at all.

And really, there's nothing wrong with going on the town sans makeup. Just as with leather or wood you expect natural imperfections which parlay that it's not test-tube grown stuff but an organic material millions of years old.

These are cleverly clam-shelled affairs with tight vertical seams. Should your drivers go bust because the decades went by and these really should pass on to your grand kids—or the reckless brood blew 'em up—getting drivers swapped takes simple tools. So the folks at Prime think these are for the ages. How much Moh on the fiscal hardness scale? I asked del Olmo to run us the numbers whilst talking a bit of tech on the side through their tidy catalogue's choices.

Wherever there's real stone, composite stone is never far behind. This model goes soapstone dust + resin to drop the price.