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Geoffrey Armstrong. I think it's great you're reviewing these before they come to me. I'll be grateful also that they'll be quite well run-in by then. Just to clarify, yes the customer in question did have a slight preference for the Maarga over my older pair of G1 Duo Omegas at an earlier audition. When he came for another audition last week though he had a clear preference for my new AG Duo Omega G2 which aren't quite run in yet. He may have heard some of the improvements of G2 over G1 and the placement was different to perhaps favor the horns. I also used the Audiopax Model 88 Mk3 which suit the AGs very well. He's still very impressed with the Rethm sound but concerned that certain instruments sound 'different to what I'm used to' and 'a bit thinner than what I expect and how they sound through the AGs, piano in particular'.

Interestingly though, some years ago Artur Pizarro came to Sound Galleries and listened to the original Saadhanas just prior to giving a concert at the Salle Garnier in Monaco. He told me the sound of those Saadhanas was exactly like hearing himself play* when he's in the studio and not at all like the sound of what he's used to from studio monitors behind the desk. It honestly amazed him because he'd never heard speakers that were capable of this. Bear in mind also that he records for Linn Records who are no slouches at producing high-quality recordings. So this all relates to your concept of 'tonal density' which Jacob and I have been having a debate about. Jacob's take on it is of course that his approach corresponds more closely to the sound of live un-amplified instruments.

* Having played clarinet for a good 15 years I can say categorically that how a musician hears him/herself isn't shared by anyone else. That perspective is exclusive to the performer and very different from the audience.

Jacob George. Geoffrey and I were having an interesting conversation about the differences between the Rethms and Avantgardes—apart from price of course—as this whole exercise started with the customer trying to decide between the two. This conversation then took on greater meaning because a good friend here in Cochin just bought a pair of the AG Uno Nano (everybody likes a different flavor of candy) and I helped him set them up and have heard them several times since. My opinion on the AG is irrelevant in this context but the rest of our discussion may be of interest. It has to do with certain voicing decisions taken for the Rethms which do involve the 'tone density' issue you often talk about. Geoffrey and I finally zeroed in to agree that, other differences apart (and there are many just as there are similarities), those who prefer the AGs over the Rethms seem to prefer their thicker tone density. And I warned Geoffrey that whilst the Saadhana does almost everything better than the Maarga,  the customer is not going to get greater tone density for one very important reason. The level of density with Rethm loudspeakers is intentional and no accident. Whilst developing the new 7-inch driver, we in fact tried one that had more of that denser flavor. For that prototype we used a heavier paper. And sure enough it did sound 'smooth and beautiful'. I even discussed it with a few folks including Geoffrey since I suspected that the average audiophile would probably prefer that tonality. I finally opted to go with the driver that was closer to the Rethm house sound because I ultimately believe that it sounds more real. I had to go with my personal convictions even though it may not be every customer's preference. 

Saadhana widebander. "It doesn't look sexy with its stamped basket but a cast version wouldn't have done anything for sonics except drive up the price which I decided against."

A lot of people claim that they listen to live music and I'm sure they do. However those who hear lots of live music at clubs and similar venues almost always hear sound that has been piped through amplification. I've noticed that sound reinforcement for live performances tends to hype macrodynamics. It makes everything sound bigger to fill the venue. Concurrently it also loses a little of the microdynamic subtleties. It therefore somewhat thickens the sound. However good a guitar may sound over its pickup, it sounds very different if one unplugs it and listens to the complexity of harmonics straight off the body and strings. One of my favorite performers is L. Subramaniam. He uses a regular violin connected to a pickup. I frankly think it kills the beauty of the instrument. It does not sound like a violin at all which I'm very familiar with because I learnt to play the instrument.

5.1 Maarga system as shown by India's dealership Absolute Phase

Raw specs. The free-air efficiency of the widebander is 98dB/w/m. As loaded into a 2.4m long rear horn, this increases to 101dB. The response of this driver without the active sub is 50Hz to 18kHz. With sub the speaker extends down to 18Hz. The low-pass filter is continuously variable between 75Hz and 150Hz via an 18dB/octave 3rd-order passive network. The bass system's front horn is 1.1m long. Its thrice-paralleled isobaric** woofers sit in-line one behind the other firing from the end of their folded horn out into the down-facing reflectors. The built-in amp driving them is a 270-watt into 2Ω Mosfet affair. Overall dimensions of the Saadhana are 108 x 70 x 30cm HxDxW. Weight is 55kg/ea.
** First introduced in the 1950s by Harry F. Olson, isobaric loading for subwoofers ideally has two drivers front to front but they can also be placed cone to magnet in phase or magnet to magnet out of phase. Such twinned drivers behave exactly like one of them would in a cabinet twice as large. The same effect could be achieved by doubling the moving mass of the single driver whilst halving both its compliance and impedance.

Saadhana custom woofer

Familiar with quite a number of Jacob's prior efforts, my prime curiosity now focused on his latest active bass system. In the past I'd felt that his were texturally different—less direct, immediate and impactful—than his front-firing widebanders. I rationalized that perhaps this was due to their indirect purely reflected dispersion similar to how downfiring or sidefiring woofers often exhibit a less visceral attack than woofers facing the listener. I thus had an 'evil' experiment in mind. Having just reviewed Martin Gateley's soundkaos Wave 40 widebander which naturally attenuates below 55Hz, I'd had absolutely brilliant results adding Zu's giant Submission subwoofer placed centrally between the two with a 40Hz low-pass at low amplitude but with a narrow one-octave 6dB boost centered at 26Hz. To see how Jacob's true stereo solution would compare, I'd simply not power up his amp section and run the Submission instead.

My secondary curiosity fixed on the upper treble. soundkaos defies the usual widebander ethos by not only adding a Raal ribbon with a 1st-order 6.8kHz high-pass above their 8-inch Alnico-powered Enviee driver but by low-passing the latter to eliminate what in their oval tonewood enclosure became a more ragged hotter response around 9kHz. In that review I'd said that "... regardless of propaganda, I hear more finesse and extension with the Raal ribbon than—with due apologies to Rethm, Lowther and Voxativ—one ever gets from even the snazziest of whizzers". Would the Saadhana have me eat those words? I'd also said that "not yet having heard Jacob George's magnum opus of latest unibody Rethm Saadhana, I must reserve judgment on how it would compare safe to say that previous encounters would have the Wave as the tonally fuller and more generous". Here I expected advances from Jacob's new larger driver. I simply couldn't accommodate his known preference for valve amps. Over 2012 I'd strategically divested myself of my entire inventory to instead pursue SETransistors with the Nelson Pass FirstWatt SIT-1 monos. So I'd run those plus the equivalent SIT-2 stereo amp and Bakoon's 15wpc AMP-11R which had worked so well on the Waves and Zu Druid V.

Saadhanas in a big undamped room with plenty of hard reflective surfaces chez Jacob's.

Jacob. I do think some speakers may be more suited to a transistor front end than others. This apparently has to do with the driver design, the kind of paper used, diaphragm weight and efficiency. Clearly there's some relationship between driver type and how it interacts with the type of amp fronting it. It almost seems that the higher a speaker's efficiency, the more it favors valves. Higher efficiencies rely on lighter faster drivers which seem more suited to valve amps. It would be interesting to find out why. Unfortunately that's beyond my scope of expertise.  As you know better than most, the bottom line is that system synergy can make or break the listening experience. One of my customers in Dubai—a great fan of yours—buys most of his gear based on your reviews. He ordered Maargas without prior audition. Loved them with the Red Wine Audio amps but wanted more resolution. He then bought the SIT monos but found them "too analytical" with my speakers. He's currently back to using the Red Wine amp while shopping for a suitable valve amp. I don't know how well or not the Saadhana will get on with your current stable of transistor amps. It may help the cause if you can get hold of a valve unit just for another perspective. 

From Chicago's Axpona show: Finally heard the SIT1 in Jon VerHalen's Lowther America room. Whilst I listened only for a few minutes and can't give detailed feedback, I will say that my first impressions were most positive as it sounded very non solid-state. Jon swears by them and says that the only area where they perhaps may lose out to a SET—and then only to the very very best—is in midrange bloom. I was impressed enough to consider buying a SIT2. Since you also think so highly of them, this may be a good solid-state reference for me to have in my studio.